Is it worth it?

A vibrant life has many advantages. Lasting energy, protection against disease and quality of life are just a few.  Having great health doesn’t just happen, though.  It requires an investment of time, energy and resources, but most would agree that the payoff is worth the investment.

I have spent most of my adult life working with individuals on health goals and I’ve come to realize that their action, or inaction, lies in the strength of their motivation.  Too often, people lack specific information that provokes the right amount and type of motivation.  Generic goals such as “weight loss” or “better health” aren’t compelling enough to initiate or sustain change.  Most theories suggest setting SMART goals which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, and this certainly isn’t a bad place to start, however, I find that this formula does very little to stir people to action.  Wanting to be fit, for example, won’t magically make it any easier to get out of bed in the morning for exercise.  Setting a SMART goal for your blood sugar targets doesn’t make meal planning any more glamorous.  The fact of the matter is that achieving goals requires good old fashioned hard work and effort, and at the end of the day, you need to feel rewarded for your efforts.  It’s psychology 101.

YES, BUT WHY?
Goals are not enough.  As I said, even if a person does set SMART goals, this does not necessarily motivate them for action.  The only treatment for lack of motivation is understanding the “why” behind the desired change.  Do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to lose weight?  What will losing weight allow you to do?  Do you want to be fit?  Why do you want to be fit?  There are easily hundreds of different questions a person can ask themselves when they start digging in and asking the hard questions.  Eating vegetables is good for your health, but what if I told you that eating a rainbow of colored vegetables every day helped your body to fight inflammation, cancer and disease?  What if I told you that the food you eat could either fight disease or promote disease in your body? What if I told you that your genes are not your destiny, but that your lifestyle choices determined the fate of your health?  These are the types of questions and answers that motivates people to change.  Having information is not enough.  In order for a lifestyle change to occur, a person MUST ask the hard questions.  They must go deep and return with the answers to these hard questions that are unique to only them.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE REWARDS
Healthy habits should be rewarding and not punishing. The mindset must change from, “I have to workout” to “I get to workout.”  When saying “no thank you” to the person pushing you junk food, understand it’s not that you CAN’T have it, but that you are CHOOSING NOT TO.  That’s the big difference between being on a diet and a lifestyle change.  The former is about deprivation; the latter involves choice and the choice is, and has always been yours. When people change behaviors, they only do so because they recognize the rewards of the new behavior.  They shift from seeking instant gratification, to seeking long-term rewards and satisfaction.  It’s about empowerment.  No longer having to take medications for your diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol because your doctor says you no longer need them is rewarding.  Being able to get on the floor to play with your grand kids is rewarding. Enjoying food you prepared that is both nourishing and pleasing is rewarding.  People who have successful lost weight and kept it off have connected with the many rewards of a changed lifestyle.  In the end, it’s not about the number on the scale, and when they’re honest, they’ll tell you that it never really was. After deep reflection and a lot of wrestling, most people will say that the reason they finally opted for a lifestyle change is because they wanted a freedom that they didn’t have.  So don’t ever feel ashamed or discouraged, and don’t shy away from asking the hard questions.  Seek the truth, and you shall find it, but don’t forget to grab an extra dose of support and encouragement because you’ll need it along the way.

Stress Management for Weight Loss

This week we discussed the numerous ways in which stress affects a person’s eating and exercising habits.  We had a great discussion, but I feel we were only able to scratch the surface since so many of us live in a chronically stressed state.  For some of us, living with stress is the only way to live and to rid ourselves of stress would seem dull and unnatural.  In our culture, stress is glorified.  Stress is king.  Stress is how stuff gets done!  But here’s the thing:  If you want great health, you’ll have to make a commitment to manage the stress in your life differently.  If you want to lose weight or maintain your weight, chronic stress is public enemy number one.

Stress vs Chronic Stress
Our bodies stress response is actually a wonderful invention.  When our body perceives a threat, our endocrine and nervous system work together at a lighting fast speed to alert us to the danger.  We get a surge of hormones and chemicals that enable us to take immediate action.  Our pupils dilate, our heart beats fast and blood gets diverted to the large muscles of the body and this just might save your life.  This is called the acute stress response, otherwise known as “Fight-or-flight.”  Once the perceived threat is over, the body returns to a more balanced state.  Chronic stress, on the other hand, is what happens when the body stays in that stress response state.

Chronic Stress & Your Weight
The stress response affects your health habits both directly and indirectly.  Stress increases hunger hormones, which leads to increased appetite and cravings.  It also decreases your satiety hormones so that you don’t feel satisfied when you do eat.  Increased cortisol has been correlated with increased visceral adiposity— “belly fat”—which is particularly risky in terms of inflammation and disease.  This is the shortened version of what happens.  For a more detailed version, visit here.  Sometimes it’s good to have a little background info on what is happening from a biological standpoint so that you can develop effective strategies.  Too often people assume that they have a lack of willpower or discipline when the truth is that chronic stress is highjacking their biology.

Stress causes us to reach for comfort foods as a way to medicate the brain.  We crave high sugar, high fat and salty foods because that provides the instant gratification that we both crave and have been programmed to enjoy.  From a very early age, our brains learned to associate sweet and savory foods with rewards.  If we had good behavior, we were rewarded with a cookie.  If we were sad, depressed, happy or mad, we were given food to cope.  You may not remember all of the ways that food was used to medicate, but the brain does.  When we are stressed, we don’t reach for grilled fish and broccoli.  No, we reach for the foods that will provide us with that quick boost in mood and energy.  We fail to remember that the food never really solves our problems, but actually creates more problems in the long-term.

Chronic stress also means we don’t have time to arrange our world for success.  When we’re stressed, we are thinking about the here and now and we’re not taking time to nurture ourselves through proper diet and exercise.  We’re also not likely getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, which further feeds this vicious cycle of stress.

Strategies for Reducing the Stress
In many cases, it is possible to avoid stress all together.  In other instances, you can adapt or alter your response to it.  Stress is not something that happens to us, but rather it is how we perceive it.  It’s the classic serenity prayer:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Brain Food and Exercise
Last, but not least, consider diet and exercise as part of the solution.  Your diet is either feeding disease or fighting disease and it’s up to you to choose foods that heal.  Learning to bypass junk food and choosing nourishing foods instead is a process that may take some time.  Junk food provides instant gratification, whereas most nourishing foods provide sustained health benefits.  A healthy diet need not be complicated.  Find a system that works for you and stick with it.  Your diet should consist of whole, natural foods and should include plenty of vegetables, lean proteins and fruit as a dessert.  Reduce or eliminate added sugar in your diet by reading labels and ingredients.  In terms of exercise, the mantra is, “Just do it.”  The best exercise regimen is the one that you actually do.  Exercise is a one-two punch for stress and weight management.  Exercise, of course, is a way to manage weight by burning energy, but it’s also the treatment for relieving stress.  When we exercise, our body releases chemicals that calm us and makes us feel good.  Think of exercise as a way to burn off the harmful effects of stress—a way to decrease the amount of cortisol floating around in our bloodstream.

If you’re tired of jumping from one diet to another, look closely at the sources of stress in your life.  Can you avoid, alter or adapt?  Yes, you can. But it requires that you first take an honest assessment, and more importantly, take deliberate action to reduce the impact of stress in your life.   More tips found here:  http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

Creating a Wellness Vision & Goal Setting

I have the privilege of working with a diverse group of people who have this one thing in common—they want to lose weight and get healthy.  They know where they want to be, but they see the value in getting support in helping them reach those goals.  Most people are quite familiar with goals.  It’s drilled into our brain from an early age to set and achieve goals.  Some may even be familiar with setting “SMART” goals—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.  What is poorly understood, however, is how to set process goals, short-term goals and how to create systems that enable them to reach their long-term goals.  The problem with outcome or long-term goals is that they merely provide direction, but do not by themselves lead to actionable steps.  In fact, I have seen long-term goals have the opposite of the intended effect on a person’s behavior and motivation.  It’s easy to get discouraged when a long-term goal is so far off that it seems nearly impossible to reach.  That’s why it’s important to understand the detailed steps involved in helping a person reach their goals. We call this the process.

Convincing yourself to change

Before embarking on a life-changing journey, it’s necessary to reflect on WHY you want to do it.  Dig deep and take time to reflect on why you want what you want, and how you will get there. Some common goals such as “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get healthy” are too vague and generic.  This is where I might probe a little further and encourage the client to reflect on specific reasons why they want to be healthier or lose weight.  Change is hard.  When the going gets tough, it’s too easy to stay the same.  Of course, “easy” is a relative term.  Even if a person knows that their health is suffering, staying the same is at least familiar.

 Focus on the process and the outcome will follow.

Process goals are steps you take to reach your long-term goal.  If you want to get fit, your process goal might be to walk every day, but even that’s too vague.  How long will you walk?  What will your intensity be? What are the barriers involved in this process—time, energy, weather?  Process goals aren’t mysterious, but in order to set achievable goals, it’s imperative that a person understands all of the details involved.  For example, if you set a goal of running 3 times a week, you need to know that your mind and body might not be thrilled to follow through on that just because you made the decision.  You will need to arrange your world (set up a system) so that the behavior occurs without much thought.  That behavior needs to be encouraged by a system that allows it to occur through automation, rather than willpower.  The body prefers to be lazy.  Being lazy (conserving energy) was an evolutionary advantage at one time.  We know that we will feel better and reap the rewards of the exercise once it’s completed, but that does little to motivate us initially.

Set yourself up for success by creating a system.

If you have a goal of exercising 3 times a week, here’s an example of how to set up a system to ensure that actually happens:

  • First, you prepare by getting everything ready the day before. If you are working during the week, as I do, you will make sure that all your meals, snacks and water bottles are prepared and ready to go.  You will make sure that your gym bag is packed with your work clothes, shoes and any necessary toiletries.
  • You will set out your workout clothes for quick grab and go.
  • You will set out your running shoes, as well as socks so that you can put them on in a hurry.
  • You will avoid any stimulants that night such as caffeine, large meals, social media or television so that you can get quality zzzzzzz’s
  • You will go to bed on time so that you get 7-9 hours of sleep.

When the morning arrives, the only decision you need to make is to start the first step of the process.  If you set yourself up correctly, everything falls into plan because you created the system to work that way.  When you do this enough times, it becomes a habit, and then eventually, hopefully, a ritual.  Everything hinges on how the previous day goes and that’s where many people neglect to plan.  Having a workout routine does not just happen on the day you decide to workout.  The routine begins in the 24 hours prior to that.  The other caveat to making this system work is that you must manage other aspects of your life so that stress and lack of sleep do not interfere with your process.  The number one challenge for most people is time management.  Most people I know suffer from chronic stress and sleep deprivation and therefore, the above system seems like such an enormous feat.  It’s all about choices and we all have the same 24 hours in the day. How do you manage it? That’s a good question for each one of us to reflect on.

Controlling the future?

Placing too heavy of a focus on the outcome can delay action (not to mention happiness) by causing a person to focus only on some future event.  Although long-term goals are helpful at directing, they may also prevent people from focusing their energies on factors that are entirely within their control.  If you were to sign up for a 26.2 mile marathon, you would hold that goal in your mind, but the real control lies in your training schedule.  You plan to finish, but the fact is that you have little control over that outcome; however, the months and months of physical training and nutrition are almost certainly within your control.

Commit to a process and surround yourself with the right people.

Systems and processes work.  Focus on your daily habits and rituals and the desired outcome will follow.  You may not see the whole staircase, but you can deliberately choose to put one foot in front of the other and adjust your steps as needed.  Another often neglected aspect in goal-setting is that of support.  Weight loss should never be a solo sport.  It’s an endurance event, without a finish line and it’s important to surround yourself with others who have behaviors you wish to emulate.  Support may mean that you have to develop new friendships and relationships, and let go of ones that hinder your growth.  It’s a painful reality, but your behaviors are a sum of the behaviors of the people you share your time with.  Are your friends and family inviting you for walks, yoga or bike rides?  Or are they pushing you for margarita’s and Mexican because it’s been a hard day?  Who you spend your time with most certainly determines how successful you will be, unless you are lucky to be one of those magnificently stubborn people—a born leader.  Most people tend to conform to the behaviors of those around them and that’s why I encourage my clients to build a robust support system.

There are so many wonderful articles on this subject, but I pulled a lot of idea’s for this post from James Clear http://jamesclear.com/goals-systems.  I highly encourage visiting his website for wonderful information about habits and goal-setting.

Power Up With Plant-Based Foods

What is a plant-based diet and why should you care?  I enjoy throwing around words like tofu, edamame and lentils.  It’s sure to evoke a response from people in the group, usually in the form of a scowled face.  Negative reactions to topics like vegetarianism and plant-based foods are understandable.  There’s a stereotype, often incorrect, that adopting a plant-based diet means giving up all meat and instead eating a diet consisting of lettuce with a side of seeds, and perhaps more lettuce.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A plant-based diet is one that focuses on plants.  It’s exciting, colorful, tasty and with lots of texture.  It does not necessarily mean that someone adopting a more plant-based diet abstains from meat all together.  As one woman protested, “I’m not giving up my red meat!” HA! Fair enough and thank you for proving the point.  You can adopt a more plant-based diet and still have red meat.  The difference is that your diet is plant-centric, seasoned with meat.  There are different types of plant-based diets ranging from Vegan (no animal products), to a more flexible approach such as the Flexitarian diet.  For our purposes, we discussed the Flexitarian diet approach which seeks to incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet.  So instead of subtracting or cutting out, we focused on foods to add—a concept known as crowding out.

Benefits associated with plant-based diets are too many to mention, but here are the most notable:

  • Lower body weight, weight loss
  • Eat more, weigh less (plant-based diets are typically lower in calories)
  • Decrease risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases
  • Reversal of atherosclerosis
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Healthy gut microbiome
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduce risk of cancer
  • Better brain health
  • Increased intake of important nutrients and fiber
  • Cost-saving

If you would like to learn more about the benefits associated with plant-based eating, visit http://www.nutritionfacts.org which is a website dedicated to providing evidence-based nutrition advice. Adopting a more plant-based diet is exciting and fun, but can undoubtedly be intimidating to some. Below are some practical and simple suggestions.  I’d encourage you to start gradually and build your culinary skills as you go.

 

 

 

Breakfast

  • Vegetable omelet with black beans and salsa
  • Plain or Greek yogurt with berries and almond slivers
  • Steel Cut Oats with ground Flaxseed and walnuts
  • Tofu scramble with black beans, onion, spices and red peppers
  • Breakfast smoothie with almond butter, frozen fruit and soymilk

Lunch

  • Gingery Maple Glazed Tempeh on a salad of mixed greens with cashews
  • Black Bean, vegetable and cheese burrito
  • Chickpea, spinach and feta salad
  • Beef & Lentil Taco’s

Dinner

  • 3 Bean Chili
  • Tofu Curry
  • Tempeh Stir Fry
  • Edamame Pasta with meatless crumbles and marinara sauce

If you’re looking for an even lower commitment, start with a “Meatless Monday,” or pick one meal and replace the meat with a plant-based protein such as beans, seasoned tofu or marinated tempeh.  Gradually adopting a more plant-centric diet will produce dramatic health improvements.  Try it for yourself and see if you don’t feel better!

Weight Loss: Recipe For Long-term Success

Losing weight is hard; Keeping it off may even be harder.  For years, the mantra has been, “Eat less and exercise more,” but that has done little in the way of helping people to KEEP the weight off once they’ve lost it.  Two important points I would like to make before we go any further:

1) A healthy weight is not a number on a scale.  When we speak of weight loss, each person will have unique challenges and goals that they set for themselves.  I don’t set weight goals for clients, they do.  And if they set weight goal numbers, we have an understanding that the body composition matters more than the number on the scale.  Health comes in many shapes and sizes.

2) Whenever we speak of weight loss or weight gain, it’s important to understand that obesity is not a disease of willpower and therefore, it’s imperative that people who are affected by obesity are not subjected to stigma and bias. We need to embrace these facts.  We should also move away from talking only about the diet and expand the discussion to include specific strategies for keeping the weight off.  It’s not so much about which diet will work (many diets will work for weight loss in the short term), but instead it’s about which nutrition and exercise habits are sustainable for that individual over time.  There’s too much emphasis placed on diets, and not enough emphasis placed on the person’s lifestyle.  At Nutrition Solutions, we emphasize a personalized approach to weight loss and provide long-term support and education.  Some of the greatest, and yet modifiable factors preventing optimal health are poor nutrition, overeating, inactivity, chronic stress and sleep deprivation and we spend a lot of time working with our clients on these issues.  To sum it up, losing weight requires the right nutrition and exercise plan, along with stress and sleep management techniques and this demands an individualized approach.  There are some universal strategies that work (see NWCR ), but a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

 

The 4 tenets of weight loss success are Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Stress Management.  

Nutrition

If you want to lose weight, you must cut calories. This is paramount. To lose body fat a person has to burn more calories (energy) than they are consuming.  I won’t go so far as to say it’s simply a matter of calories in and calories out, but you can’t out exercise a bad diet. Eat more nutrient-dense foods; Eat less high-calorie foods.  Here’s the thing: Eating low calorie does not necessarily mean eating less.  When you adopt a diet that includes plenty of nutrient-dense foods, the volume of food you eat actually increases.  For example, let’s say you want to make a hearty beef chili.  Great.  Just make sure to use lean, and preferably local beef and bulk it up with beans or lentils, tomatoes, onions and whatever other vegetables you can cram in.  Essentially what you have done is create a lower-calorie, and yet completely satisfying meal.  Eat more nutrient-dense, low-energy dense foods.

Exercise

Exercise is EXTREMELY important for health, but in terms of weight management, its role is most important in the weight maintenance phase.  Exercise is wonderful medicine and it’s totally free for anyone to use.  To prevent weight regain, the ACSM recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, but stresses that some individuals may benefit from > 250 minutes a week to prevent weight regain. Exercise helps to prevent muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, which is important since a decrease in muscle tissue would mean a decrease is resting metabolic rate (slowed metabolism).  This is why we do body composition testing for all of our clients.

One overlooked side effect of exercise can be an increase in appetite.  Pay attention to how exercise affects your appetite and your thinking.  Does exercise lead to increased hunger and eating?  Do you find that hard workouts lead to rewarding yourself with food?  Pay close attention to how exercise affects your eating. It’s not uncommon for people to overestimate their calorie burn with exercise.

Sleep

The role of sleep in weight loss is getting more and more attention, and for very good reason.  If a person is not getting enough sleep, they likely won’t have the energy to spare towards meal planning and exercise.  Under stress, they are more likely to succumb to food cues in their environment and tend to crave sugar and high-calorie snacks.  Chronic sleep deprivation impairs your decision-making ability and affects your appetite regulating hormones, (the most famous being ghrelin and leptin).  This means you tend to feel hungrier and remain less satisfied when you do eat.

Stress Management

Chronic stress affects weight both directly and indirectly.  A person under stress rarely has time or energy to think about planning nourishing meals and they certainly don’t have time for exercise. The biological effects of stress creates a strong drive to eat highly processed food-like substances (aka, junk food).  Junk food is cheap, legal and socially accepted as a way to medicate emotions.  If you want to get a handle on your food choices, you’ll first have to identify and eliminate sources of chronic stress in your life.

Losing weight for life requires a complete transformation in all areas of mind, body and soul.  Long-standing habits and behaviors must be challenged and replaced with life-giving behaviors.  People who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are determined to get at the root of their negative behaviors.  They are persistent and tend to surround themselves with people who are also committed to improving their health.  There’s a special quote from author Steve Maraboli and he says, “if you hang around chickens, you are going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles you’re going to fly.”

Are you a successful loser?  Join the national study at the National Weight Control Registry:  http://nwcr.ws/

Exercise Is Medicine

What if there were one pill you could take daily that protected against disease, cancer, aging and a host of other maladies?  In addition, it might cure depression and counter the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.  And then, what if I added that this pill was FREE and without any unwanted side effects?  As it turns out, exercise is that magic pill.

Exercise:

  • Improves memory and cognitive function
  • Improves mood, induces happiness and sense of well-being
  • Reduces risk of colon, breast, lung and endometrial cancer (and likely many others)
  • Improves cognitive function by enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplastisty (new brain cells and synaptic connections)
  • Improves function of endocrine system (naturally balances hormones)
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Improves self-confidence
  • Reduces pain
  • Reduces blood pressure naturally
  • Promotes blood sugar control/increases insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Improves immune function (get sick less frequently)
  • Increases muscular strength and flexibility
  • Prevents weight gain

Most people understand that exercise is good for them on a surface level, but they’ve heard the same recycled message over and over.  Simply knowing that exercise is good for health doesn’t automatically translate into someone adopting it as a health behavior.  So the question we all need to ask is, how specifically is exercise good for MY body?  The challenge here is that oftentimes we won’t know the answer to this question until we have been practicing the behavior for some time.  For example, you wouldn’t appreciate the mood-boosting effects of running until you were 20 minutes into the run, and you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full health benefits until running became routine, instead of something you did just once or twice.

It’s worth pointing out that exercise should ultimately be something you enjoy, and it certainly doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you have been inactive for some time, there will be discomfort as your body adapts to the new physical demands.  But once you build an aerobic and fitness base, you will come to need physical challenge much the same way you need to eat and sleep.  Movement and physical activity is natural.  Being sedentary is not.  Bodies are designed to move and not sit for 8 hours at a time.  At its core, exercise should work the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system.  This means cardio + building or maintaining muscle and bone tissue.  Bone, by the way, is living tissue.  Incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine helps protect against sarcopenia and osteopenia.  Translated, this means strong muscles and strong bones—a sturdy frame that you have the privilege of using while on this earth.  This body is the only one you have, so take good care of it.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not all or nothing and any exercise is better than no exercise.  Find some movements and activities that you can do and just start doing them.  Get creative with your exercise and try new things.  One of the most important things you can do in the beginning stages is to surround yourself with others who are committed to an active lifestyle.  Try some group fitness classes or hiking groups.  Spend money by hiring a personal trainer who can encourage, inspire and push you to do more than you thought you could.  Whatever you do, just get moving and stay moving.  Practice.

“The most effective way to do it, is it to do it.”–Amelia Earhart

Motivation

Motivation in just 3 words: Just Do It! –Nike

Just do it. That’s really all there is to IT, and if you really want IT, you’ll do IT; If not, you’ll find an excuse (paraphrased quote from Jim Rohn). There’s nothing magical about behavior change, EXCEPT, what happens when you don’t just do it? Well, then perhaps it’s time to dig deep and assess your “why.”

Motivation for weight loss usually starts out high. But then a rough patch hits. Perhaps it’s a job change or a health condition, but it’s enough to bump you off course and you struggle to get back on track. This happens to nearly everyone. That’s why it’s important to be clear about your reasons—the “why” behind your efforts. Goals must be flexible and instead of setting unrealistic goals, sometimes I recommend setting a wellness vision for yourself. Think of your wellness vision as the beacon in the ocean.  You may have some storms that push you off course, but you know where you’re going and you’ll get there no matter what.

Motivation must be deeply personal. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to your nutrition and exercise. We’re all so different in terms of our biology, genetics, lifestyle and preferences and so it stands to reason that our motivating factors would be different. You can’t do the diet that your friend Sally is doing and expect the same results. Find your own flame.  What makes you tic? Weight loss is a mental challenge more than anything.  What are the unique motivating factors that keep you pressing on? Generic reasons such as “better health,” or “to lose weight” are generally not enough to keep you going. Think of your motivation as a fire. If you don’t tend to it and add more material, it will eventually flicker out.

Build momentum. The hardest part of any new behavior is getting started. Don’t aim for perfection, but instead aim to get it done.  How many times have you finished a workout and thought, “wow, I really regret that I made myself exercise.” No way! You feel incredible after you exercise and you wonder why you just don’t do it everyday.  Just get started and chances are high that you won’t want to stop. Avoid the trap of all or nothing thinking and remember that anything is better than nothing. The interesting thing about motivation is that it usually occurs after you’ve started taking action on the new behavior, and not before. Only after your morning yoga can you be grateful for the effects of the practice. It may not have sounded like a good idea while in the comfort of your warm bed, but the rewards of the exercise are what you’re after.

Put decisions on auto-pilot by creating habits and rituals. So many people make the mistake of believing that if they only had more willpower then they would commit to healthier lifestyle habits, however, this kind of thinking is a trap. Willpower is a limited resource. Think of willpower as a teeny-tiny muscle and the more you use it in a day, the more fatigued it becomes. This is partly why so many people struggle with overeating later in the day. Successful people understand the limitations of their willpower and instead of the constant struggle, they have created habits and rituals that take the decision making out of the equation. They keep their home environment free from junk food. They pack their gym bag the night before. They schedule the yoga class as a recurring appointment.  A clean diet and daily exercise occurs only by building the habits.  If you leave it to chance day to day, it likely won’t happen.

Focus on the rewards.  Being healthy and whole, inside and out, does not just simply happen.  Good health requires an investment of time and energy, but hopefully you find that the payoff is worth it. Simply put, the benefits of weight loss must outweigh the cost involved. The author Steven Pressfield says it best: “At some point the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.” In other words, when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, then you will commit to doing something different.  Growth and change is painful, but staying stuck in poor health is painful.  Will you choose the temporary discomfort of change in order to achieve great health, or will you choose the pain of staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong?

Motivation is a necessary component of weight loss, but motivation alone will not lead to lasting changes.  In order to successfully navigate the lifestyle change, motivation must be coupled with support and the right tools.  Stay tuned in 2017 because we have some excellent educational opportunities with our lifestyle classes, grocery tours and cooking classes.  Happy New Year!

Change Your Eating Habits

What’s your eating style? Are you a stress eater, a convenience eater, or do you simply just have a difficult time with balanced portions? Most of us would answer “YES to the above.” There’s no guilt or shame in recognizing that you may be an emotional eater. We live under chronic stress in a food-abundant culture. As I always say, food is cheap, available and socially accepted as a way to enhance or soothe your emotions. The first step to changing any unwanted habits is to recognize the patterns.

Chronic Dieter

This person tends toward all or nothing thinking. They are either on the diet, or off the diet. They may use words like “bad” or “good” to describe their eating. “I’ll get back on track tomorrow… Or Monday.. Or after the holidays… Or once the kids go back to school… or when things settle down.” The reality is that we are all on the journey all the time. There is never a time when we are off track and mistakes can be excellent teachers. Create a vision of yourself for next year, or 10 years from now. What do you see? If you desire health and quality of life, then make adjustments to your daily habits so that you will be healthy. If your goal is weight loss, then set your mind to it and make it happen. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science either.

Tips for the chronic dieter:

Get rid of the all or nothing, black and white thinking because it will weigh you down. Banish the word diet from your lexicon and instead focus on tiny habits approach. Don’t major in the minors, but get serious about going after the low-lying fruit, e.g., worrying about gmo’s and gluten doesn’t matter much if you are overeating and not exercising.  Focus your energies instead on eating more vegetables, lean proteins and reducing intake of sugar in all of its forms (sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc).  Stay involved with Nutrition Solutions by coming to classes so you can continue to learn how to lose weight without being on a never-ending diet.

Emotional eater

This person uses food to cope with emotions. Whether happy or sad, stressed or angry, this person has learned that food can be a powerful way to alter their emotional state. Simply saying “no” to food without addressing the underlying emotion isn’t very helpful.  It’s not for a lack of willpower that these individuals stay stuck in unhealthy habits.  Eating habits start very early in life and so it’s likely that a person’s eating style has been ingrained for decades. Think about the way in which adults reward a toddler’s good behavior with a sweet treat. That child’s brain learns early on that savory foods are associated with feeling good.  The answer for emotional eating is to go after the root and address the underlying emotional source of overeating.

Tips for emotional eaters:

Identify alternative ways to cope with strong emotions. Instead of using food, try walking or exercise. Prayer, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can be very helpful at reducing stress hormones. More than likely, a person will have to go deeper by restructuring their entire schedules so that they can live a more balanced life. You are in charge of creating the life you want and need. Come to the lifestyle group classes at Nutrition Solutions and draw strength from others by being supported.

Convenience Eater

This person’s eating habits are driven by a need for convenience. They have not created a space in their schedule for planning meals and snacks and so they rely on fast food and processed food products. They’ve outsourced the responsibility of deciding what to eat to corporations and as a result they eat high-calorie, heavily processed foods that ultimately makes them feel tired and sluggish.  Often times they skip meals or snacks and may eat only once or twice per day.

Tips for convenience eaters:

Plan ahead. Take pride in your body and all the ways it works for you.  Make the commitment to fuel it with high-quality foods. No one would think about putting economy-grade fuel into a Ferrari so don’t fuel your bodies with junk food.  Come to lifestyle group classes, particularly the ones pertaining to nutrition and meal prep. Attend as many grocery tours and cooking classes as you can so that you can develop skills necessary for meal planning.

The overeating health foodie

This person is knowledgeable about nutritious foods and they might describe themselves as eating very healthy. They tend to be well-read on recent trends in nutrition and they may even take pride in their meal planning and cooking skills, however, they simply just eat too much. This person also may not realize that even extremely “healthy” foods must be eaten in moderation (extra-virgin olive oil comes to mind).

Tips for the overeating foodie:

Practice using measuring tools and sticking to recommended serving sizes initially so that you can retrain your brain to understand what a balanced portion size is.  One tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has 120 Calories. Two measly tablespoons of hummus contain about 50-60 calories.  Be aware of foods with health halo’s and nutritional buzzwords such as organic, gluten-free, natural, coconut oil, superfood, etc. Know that when a person thinks they are eating “health” food, they likely overeat. In my opinion, raw and lightly steamed vegetables can be eaten without limitations, and in fact, it’s a good strategy to increase intake of fiber-rich foods due its effect on satiety (not to mention for the nutrition).

In general, changing eating habits takes time. It’s important to understand the internal and external factors that influence your eating decisions.  Healing your relationship with food requires planning, intention and mindfulness.  Put thought into what you will eat, how you will eat and with whom you will eat, but also make sure to employ balance.  Eating should be a pleasurable experience, but it should not feel out of control.  Check out thecenterformindfuleating.org and use some of their resources and tips to get you started.

 

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Instead of pursuing weight loss during the holidays, a better strategy might be to focus on preventing weight gain. Why such a conservative goal? Ask anyone who is actively trying to lose weight and they will tell you that the stretch between Halloween and New Year’s Day is the most difficult. Instead of focusing on the health challenges (which we are all familiar with), we can focus on strategies for overcoming.

First of all, meditate on the rewards of living a healthy lifestyle. Why not just indulge yourself for the remaining weeks and get “back on track” in January? That’s what a lot of people do, but it will not be any easier in February than it is right now. New Year’s resolutions fade quickly. When you get off track, take a deep breath and refocus. There are many reasons not to delay, but here are the most compelling reasons I’ve heard:

  • Feelings of empowerment. For once, food is not controlling you, but you are in control of food
  • Decreased feelings of guilt and shame
  • Increased energy
  • Weight maintenance or weight loss
  • Better control of diabetes
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased mental fatigue
  • Greater mobility
  • Better health
  • Less stress (You’ve planned for success and you know what to expect)

We always, always talk about the rewarding aspects of eating well and exercising. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much you may think you want to lose weight, the rewards of the lifestyle change must be greater than the cost involved. Many sacrifices are involved in losing weight, but I don’t know of one person who would say that the results are not worth it. So again, just get clear about your personal motivations for losing weight and adjust as you move along in the journey.

So if you decide to go counter culture and commit yourself to balance during the holiday season (while most others are literally eating and drinking themselves sick), then here are some practical strategies to help keep you on track. Most of these strategies have been tested by scientist and expert Brian Wansink who runs the Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. He is also the author of Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, which I highly recommend reading if you are trying to lose weight. Visit his website here.

Strategies to help you avoid holiday weight gain:

  • Survey, then change your environment. Set yourself up for success by keeping junk food out of sight and out of mind. Clear the home and work environment, and if that’s not an option, distance yourself as much as possible from the polluted environment (i.e., stay out of the work break room)
  • Don’t arrive to parties famished. Have a meal or light snack ahead of time so you won’t be physically hungry
  • Wear your best belt or fitted clothes
  • Fill up on crudites and vegetables (fiber)
  • Don’t drink your calories. Sparkling water, unsweet tea and zero calorie, zero sugar beverages only
  • Eat off of a smaller plate. This has a profound psychological effect causing you to eat less
  • Have some protein! Lean proteins such as boiled shrimp or grilled chicken help with satiety
  • Don’t hang around the buffet table. Take the conversation in another room. Better yet, get outside or take a walk
  • Distract your hands by drinking herbal tea or La Croix
  • Chew gum
  • Just say no and practice being assertive

Finally, have the right mindset. What are your intentions when you attend parties and gatherings? Ultimately, each person is unique in regard to their goals and motivations. Attitude and “how” you eat is almost more important that “what” you will eat. If you’re intention is to lose weight during the holidays, that’s great. If you are dedicated and committed to this goal, you WILL lose weight during the holidays. If your goal is to maintain weight during the holidays, that is also noble. If you stay focused, you will avoid the holiday weight trap that so many Americans fall into.

As always, I’m so encouraged to be surrounded by people that do not choose the path of least resistance and instead choose to put their health first. You inspire others without knowing. Kudos to you for working hard all year round and get ready to encourage those New Year’s Resolution health seekers. January 2017 here we come!

10 Things You Should Know (Sincerely, Nutrition Solutions)

This week in class we talked about our programs at Nutrition Solutions.  If you weren’t able to make it, here’s the main points:

  1. We care and we are here to support you.  You are emotionally invested in your transformation and we are right there along side with you. It’s like having a team work for you.
  2. We are the nutrition experts, but you are the experts over your health. Sustained weight loss occurs when a person begins to understand their personal reasons for weight loss (Intrinsic Motivation), which is very different than extrinsic motivation. Your ability to communicate honestly and openly with your coach, friends and family is an integral part of your success. We probe. We listen. We ask more questions. It’s a personalized approach and it’s what works.
  3. Meal replacements work, but it’s not a diet. We provide evidence-based approaches for weight loss, but if you approach this as just another diet, well, that’s just what you’ll get. Diets alone will not cause the transformation necessary for sustained weight loss. It’s important to understand the challenges involved in weight loss such as environment, support, stress and sleep, in addition to the nutrition and exercise.
  4. Hyperpalatable foods are highly addictive. Hyperpalatable foods are “food-like” substances (credit Michael Pollan). It’s all the foods that are engineered to taste really, really good. Betcha can’t just eat one! Think Dorrito’s, Ben & Jerry’s and just about almost all processed foods you find packaged in a grocery store. These foods are so rewarding that it’s almost nearly impossible to put down after just one bite. I find that when a person understands how these foods affect their biology, it actually sets them free. When they began to eat whole, unprocessed foods their body begins to heal and portion control happens more naturally.
  5. Take advantage of the full program. This ties into number 3. We provide educational group classes, one-on-one coaching, cooking demo’s, grocery tours, chef-prepared meals and online tools. What this amounts to is a lot of support, education and accountability. Your time and effort in the program will be worth it.
  6. You have to be active. People that lose weight and keep it off commit themselves to daily exercise. A minimum of 150 minutes per week is necessary, but some individuals need upwards of 300 minutes per week. There’s no one-size fits all approach when it comes to exercise either. It’s important to vary the intensity and duration as well. If the word exercise conjures up negative feelings for you, reframe it. Think of it as movement or activity. I personally like to think of it as the best anti-depression/anti-anxiety/anti-aging/immune-boosting/pain-relieving drug ever known, and it’s free. Exercise is not optional.
  7. Weight loss is not simply going on a diet. Causes of weight gain are complex and so the treatment should be comprehensive. What to eat is pretty straightforward and I’ll quote Marion Nestle: “Eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and don’t eat too much junk food!” Exactly how to accomplish that requires no less than a complete lifestyle change for most people.
  8. Come in when you least want to. Whether it’s coming to weekly classes, or meeting with your dietitian or weight loss coach, showing up is half of the battle. We understand it’s hard to come in when your week hasn’t gone as planned. Maybe stress got the best of you and you fell back on some old eating habits, or maybe you’ve attended one too many holiday parties. Regardless of your feelings, show up. Don’t let guilt and shame interfere with you getting the support and encouragement you need.
  9. To lose weight (and Keep it Off), you must get more sleep, manage stress and find support.  Sleep: aim for 7-9 hours. Stress: find ways to respond differently. Chronic sleep deprivation and chronic stress make it nearly impossible to lose weight. We discussed some of the biological causes for this in class, but a quick google search will convince you. Support: who do you have in your inner circle? If your friends aren’t fully supportive of the new you, it may be time to prune back. Surround yourself with people who are committed to healthy life-giving behaviors–friends that will ask you to yoga, or bike ride or take a walk.
  10. Weight loss is a journey. Weight loss is rarely a straightforward process and a person will cycle through a variety of setbacks. THIS IS NORMAL. It’s quite likely that no one ever discusses this fact, but if you ask anyone who has lost weight, they will share their personal struggles and relapse. It’s especially important to practice self-compassion in the times when you feel the least worthy of it. It’s a bumpy journey, but a journey worth taking. And finally, breathe in. Breathe out. The holidays are almost behind us and a new year awaits you. Get ready for 2017. It’s going to be great.

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