Category Archives: Changing Lifestyles

head

5 Steps to a healthy you – starts in your head

Making lasting lifestyle changes really does start in the head.  A house isn’t built with random placement of studs.  It takes a good foundation, a well thought-out design and careful construction.  Similarly, building a healthier you takes planning and good groundwork so that you will succeed.  If you follow these 5 steps, you will have a good foundation for building an awesome path to great health!

1. First you have to know what you really want.

What’s bothering you now about your current self and what do you need to change?  Most of my clients tell me initially they just want to lose weight.  I try to get beyond that.  With a little more probing I hear things like:  wanting to be able to look in the mirror with pride, being able to move more easily, gaining more confidence or having more energy.  Our emotions drive our behavior.  The more you connect with the emotions around making lifestyle changes, the more you will be able to resist the pull from old unhealthy habits.

2. Have a plan for obstacles

If your mornings are rushed, plan to make your breakfast and even lunch the night before.  If driving by a certain fast food place is a trigger, then take another route.  If seeing candy, chips, donuts or other junk food is a temptation, then find a way to get your work and home environment to support you.  If you know watching TV leads to snacking, then watch less TV and maybe go to bed earlier.  Do you come home famished in the afternoon?  Keep a snack size almonds in your car.  If you know a vacation or business travel is coming up, search on-line for restaurants that serve healthier preparations or buy healthy snacks like fruit and nuts once you arrive so you don’t go overboard when you eat out.  Know your patterns and triggers and make a plan.

3. Start small

Most people are overambitious by doing too many changes at once.  It can be overwhelming, lead to feelings of deprivation, negative self talk and failure.  The key is to make small enough changes so that you can feel confident you can follow through.  New to exercise?  Start by doing a little bit every day.  For new routines to become habit, it is better to find something small to do daily in order for them to become better embedded in your routine.  The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise weekly.  Doing as little as 10-11 minutes of vigorous exercise daily will not only boost your cardiovascular health and ramp up your metabolism, but won’t stress your schedule.  Examples of vigorous activity include: walking up a steep hill, biking at 10 mph, race walking or jogging, or even jumping rope.  I can remember my dad for years used to do 500 jump ropes most days of the week and would even bring his rope with him when he traveled.  The 7 minute workout app is also a great way to get vigorous exercise.  You can find many others on Pinterest.  Why not find a nice hill in your neighborhood and go up and down that a few times?

4. Link your lifestyle changes to your regular routine

Link you bedtime to your morning routine.  Get to bed earlier to allow for the earlier alarm.  Switching to a healthier breakfast?  Save time by letting your oatmeal cook while you’re in the shower.   While you are cutting up veggies for dinner, make extra for lunch the next day.  Trying to break the habit of hitting the vending machine in the afternoon?  Ask your coworker to go for a walk with you instead.  Trying to drink more water?  Put reminders in your cell phone and keep extra water in your car and at your desk.  While you are getting ready for bed, take your exercise clothes out for the morning.

5. Pay attention to what you notice

This is what is meant by mindfulness.  The scale is not going to change overnight.   But you will notice other positive changes beginning immediately.  The first day you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch and cut out the junk, you will have more energy.  That lull in the afternoon will disappear and you won’t need a pick-me-up.  After a few days, you will notice you have less bloating, you’ll think more clearly and you will feel better.  After a week you will notice your clothes will start to become looser.  You will sleep better and wake up rested. Your conversations will be more positive.  Your relationships will take a different direction.  You will see yourself with kinder eyes and you will start to feel more confident.  You will notice that your new ways of living will become more comfortable and require less convincing and more just doing.  You won’t even have to get on the scale to notice all the payback for your decision to get healthy – you will know you are heading in the right direction!

Success in forming new healthy habits is mostly in the attitude, the planning, the setting of realistic expectations and the awareness.  It takes about 3 weeks for lifestyle changes to seem more natural and about 3 months for them to become routine.  If you know what you want and you make a good plan, you will get what you want in the end – a better feeling and better looking you!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Want To Lose Weight? Just Be Kind

random act of kindnessThe new year is upon us along with the resolutions.  I heard on the news this morning that instead of the common exercise or weight loss resolution, many are choosing to focus on being a kinder person.  With all the tension from the election, no matter who you voted for, the past few months have created a lot of negative energy that continues to linger.  What a great way to tackle the negative news fog by lifting spirits through kindness.  And the irony in this is that by focusing on kindness, you might actually lose weight.

Kindness and Weight Loss Connection

Many of my clients struggle with negative self-talk like all-or-nothing thinking, reality distortion, or being overly self-critical.  This kind of negative energy can derail the best of healthy-eating intentions and lead to emotional eating.  This is how it happens:  The day starts off wrong with a late start due to a poor night’s sleep so breakfast is missed and no lunch is prepared to bring to work.  By lunch time, that person is famished and overcompensates for the missed breakfast by eating some sort of high-carb, high-fat, high-calorie fast food that leads to guilt feelings later on.  When that person gets home, the all-or-nothing, reality distorted, self-critical self-talk starts:   “Well, I’ve already ruined the day by eating all that junk at lunch, I may as well as eat these cookies and order a pizza for dinner.  I’m such a fat failure.”  Now, had that person decided to focus on executing a planned act of kindness to others, the positive energy from that could help with a better night’s sleep, brought contentment from bringing joy to another, and prevented excessive negative self-talk.  The chain of events instead might go like this:  good sleep, more clear-headed in the morning, more efficient use of time, time for breakfast, time to make lunch, fulfill an act of kindness, which leads to kinder self-talk, and so on….  Making lifestyle changes and breaking old unhealthy habits takes lots of mindfulness, kindness to both self and others.  The positive chain of events can be self-sustaining by focusing on being a kinder person to others and self.

Being Kind Creates Positive Energy

Barbara Frederickson, a psychologist who has done extensive research on the benefits of positive thinking, has a two-minute test you can take to assess your positivity ratio.  Her research has found when people have a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts they become more resilient to adversity, are able to change their thinking patterns and are able to accomplish more that they could ever imagine.  Can you imagine if one good act of kindness changes one’s perspective of food choices?  Instead of thinking, “I can’t eat this”, saying “eating more of this is going to help me lose weight!”  Changing perspectives can happen by being kinder.

Being Kind

I can think of no better way to being kinder than through doing one daily planned act of kindness.  It’s my resolution.  I’ve had the pleasure of being able to help out a friend more recently and I love how good it makes me feel.  Doing one kind act daily fills me with positive energy, lifts my spirits and carries over to other aspects of my life.  Some days it takes a bit more time to come up with an idea or it may take a bit more energy to fulfill, but the payback of witnessing someone’s contentment can really get me out of a rut in my thinking.

One good act of kindness done daily can create a self-perpetuating healthy mindset that can generate the flow of positive energy to fulfill your weight loss goals.  At the end of the day, as you are going to bed, think of how you can do an act of kindness tomorrow.  Thinking about all those positive possibilities as you prepare for sleep can change your brain patterns, make the world a better place, and even lose weight – one act of kindness at a time.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

The Truth About Losing Weight

Our bodies want to stay the same.  You can trick them into losing weight for a short time, but they will make adjustments to help that weight come back on.  Oh boy, now that’s motivation to take the diet plunge…!

A May, 2016 New York Times interview with metabolism expert, Dr Kevin Hall from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a division of the NIH, examines the weight regain of the Biggest Losers over a six-year period.  Dr Hall has found that with weight loss, not only does resting metabolism decline, but it slows down for years after weight loss making it even more difficult to keep the weight off.  After following the contestants all but one regained their lost weight, but what surprised the researchers the most was how much their body’s metabolism had slowed down, even years after they had regained the weight.  One contestant in particular, Danny Cahill, had one of the worst declines in metabolism.  Just in order to maintain his weight of 295, he had to consume 800 calories fewer than other men of his stature.

Stress And Losing Weight

A NIH review of different obesity models discussed the psycho-biological impact of stress on eating habits in terms of the “wanting” and “liking” versus hunger and fullness.  Stated simply, you can like a food but not want to eat it, and you like be full and still want something you like.  If we lived 1000 years ago, we would have pretty slim pickings to choose from.  But given the wide variety of crunchy, creamy, chocolaty and sweet choices we have today we are constantly negotiating needs and wants, fullness and hunger.  Later in the article it discusses the different brain pathways between liking and wanting a food and how they are altered in times of stress.   Research indicated:  “Post-prandial (after eating) food choice and food intake in the absence of hunger are exaggerated under stress, especially in overweight individuals with visceral adiposity (excess weight around the waist).”  In other words, stressed induced post-prandial eating was linked to not only more “wanting”, but to reduced – “liking”.  Hence, the after dinner kitchen raid during times of stress.  And for those with extra inches around the waist, the message is even louder.

Losing Weight:  A Complex Solution

Obesity is clearly not just a matter of eating too much.  There are physiological barriers to weight loss:  the body’s relentless physiological hold on body weight, perhaps thinking it is preparing for famine.  Add stress to the picture and no wonder fruits and vegetables just don’t make the cut.  We know through the National Weight Control Registry that people can lose and keep weight it off, but it is clear that to do so, it has to stay front and center of one’s life.  It means constant coping with hunger, nutritional vigilance, getting regular exercise and management of stress.  Next few blogs will show you how to make it easier.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Weight Loss Success!!

weight loss journeyLosing weight is so much easier when you have the right weight loss expectations.   The focus should be on the process rather than the number.  Whether it’s a special event, a sexy swimsuit, or a little black dress, if there’s a deadline with a lofty pound goal, few achieve it and maintain it.  Once that deadline or event has passed, the motivation to continue evaporates.  It’s kind of like hiking:  If you only like the view from the top of the mountain, and not the climb, then the task can seem insurmountable.  But if you can go at a slower pace, enjoy the surroundings and views along the way, not only do you get to enjoy the view at the top, but you will enjoy the process in getting there.   Losing weight is all about making the process fun and interesting.

Setting Weight Loss Expectations

Here’s how you can enjoy the journey of losing weight while reaching your goal.

  1. Know that one pound is all anyone should lose in a week.  Aggressive weight loss requires too drastic a change in eating.  And losing more than two pounds a week will yield a loss in muscle mass, which will slow down your metabolism.  Each pound amounts to about 3500 calories.  If cutting out 500 calories a day sounds like a recipe for deprivation, then aim for a half pound weight loss a week.  Remember, this is not just a journey, but a destination you don’t want to leave.  If the changes feel awkward or tedious, they will not stick.
  2. Start by knowing where your calories are coming from.  Either use a tracking tool like Myfitnesspal or just track your fat grams which is much easier than tracking calories.  Tracking gives you information about your food choices.  Not tracking is like hiking a mountain without sign posts or cairns.  It’s going to take a lot longer to get to your goal and there’s a good chance you will get lost.  Tracking just fat grams makes is much simpler and helps rein in lots of calories since there are more than twice the calories in a gram of fat as there are in protein and carbohydrate sources.  The American Heart Association recommends getting between 25-35% of your calories from fat.  To determine what that looks like, take 25% of the average 2000 calorie diet, divide it by 9 to get about 55 gms of fat a day.   The Diabetes Prevention Program set fat gram goals based on weight with a minimum daily amount of 33 gms.  You want to consume at least 33 grams of fat to ensure  your body is getting all the nutrients it needs, especially vitamins A, D, E and K, but also eat enough in order to stay full between meals.  It’s a balancing act.
  3. Know your fat culprits.  The usual culprits are salad dressings, cheese, red meat, excessive noshing on nuts, chips, ice cream, full fat dairy and fried foods.  Small reductions can make a huge difference.  Skipping that piece of cheese on your sandwich will save you 10 gms of fat or 90 calories.  Cutting your salad dressing in half by adding more vinegar, low fat milk or water can save you another 100-200 calories.   Your heart will love you for reducing some of the saturated fats found in most of these.
  4. Eat 3 meals a day.  Do not skip meals.  Skipping meals slows down metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight.  Skipping meals will also make you hungrier and make you overeat at your next meal.  A meal can be as simple as a small low-fat Greek yogurt or a couple of Wasa crackers with peanut butter.
  5. Make sure you are getting enough protein at every meal, especially breakfast.  Don’t waste your time on cereal unless it’s whole grain.  Any other cereal will only make you hungry mid-morning because most cereals do not have enough protein and fiber.  Good sources of protein are fat-free or low-fat Greek yogurt, egg whites/eggs, lean meat, fish or tofu.
  6. Keep night snacking to a popsicle or a piece of fruit.  And keep sipping water, seltzer or some nice teas.  I’ve come to love my Wissotzky teas in the evening.  It gives me a unique ginger flavor and warm fluids that reduces my hunger and keeps me on task.
  7. Keep a supply of meals you can reheat in the freezer for those stressful days when you don’t want to cook.  Soups and small casseroles work really well and don’t take much time to make an extra one.
  8. Get family and friends on board!  Find and share recipes.  Get a Fitbit and have step challenges.  Reach out to them when you are stressed.
  9. Know this is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.  Weight usually comes on over many years, so naturally it should come off over a slow steady period of time.
  10. Weigh yourself no more often than once a week.  Weight naturally fluctuates depending on our activity, salt consumption and day-to-day food choices.  If you are someone who gets really discouraged if the scale hasn’t moved in a week, then weigh yourself every few weeks and use a pair of snug fitting pants to be your guide.

It’s The Journey, Not The Destination

Even if you just lose 5% of your weight, that could be as little as 8-10 pounds, you will have significant health benefits with improved:

  • blood pressure
  • blood sugar
  • triglycerides
  • LDL

You will notice you move better, you sleep better and your outlook will be better.  Life isn’t about getting things perfect; it’s about making things better, especially with you.  One step at a time on your journey to your future destination of a healthier you.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.

Mole Hills, Not Mountains

This is the continuation in the series looking at the emotional side of the logistics of losing weight.

For some people anticipation is worse than realization.  The anticipation of starting a diet might as well be like climbing Mt Everest.  And in here lies the problem.   First of all, don’t think of it as a diet.  The word “diet” implies a beginning and an end.  You’re not heading for a destination; you are on a lifelong journey.  Secondly, if it feels like you are climbing a mountain, then you need to start back at the mole hills.

Get The Right Focus

Any change starts with a decision.  If the change is just for a destination, like looking nice in a bathing suit or for a wedding or for a reunion, then chances are one of two things will happen.  You will either not meet your goal or you will be like the 80% who regain their weight.  But what if your decision is not to reach a definitive destination but rather to feel better in your clothing, have more energy throughout the day and to take of yourself.  Imagine that, doing it just because you are worth it.  Shifting the focus from losing weight to eating healthier changes the perspective.  Making lifestyle changes to lose weight implies giving up and taking away, while eating healthier implies adding more and taking care.

Start And Stay With The Mole Hills

mole hillsThe second mistake that people make is taking on too much at once.  In my training as a health coach the emphasis was always on making changes based on the areas where a client feels most ready and confident to begin, and to start with small, action-oriented changes.  These are the mole hills that will take you down the path to taking care of yourself, while incidentally losing weight.

Examples of Mole Hills

What are some mole hills you could easily summit along your journey of taking care of yourself?

  • Find a buddy who will support you.  Spouse, friend, daughter or son, anyone who will take the journey with you and keep you energized and focused.
  • Start grocery shopping with a list and don’t shop when you are hungry.
  • Bring color to every plate through fruits and veggies.  Try to get at least 3 different colors on your plate.
  • Use a smaller plate, even a salad plate if you are not someone who likes fruits and veggies.
  • Drink at least 2 liters of non-caloric, non-diet fluids a day.
  • Shift to whole grain crackers, pasta, brown rice, and cereals.  If that’s too much to do all at once then go half and half.
  • Cut back on eating out.  This means being aware of how many meals you purchase over the week and reducing that number.  Instead, make a date night with a fun menu at home where you can control the salt and fat.
  • Wear a pedometer.  They do make people move more.
  • Keep your treats to the end of the day.
  • Watch TV less, read more.  Choose your shows and then turn the TV off.
  • Reflect back at the end of the day and recall what went well with each day.
  • Go to bed at a set time each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Any of these steps will help you to take care of yourself.  You will notice a difference in how you feel.  You will notice a difference in your energy level.  You will gain more confidence as you realize that you are worth it and that it doesn’t have to be this huge production or insurmountable mountain.  Even these changes will help boost your immune system with its daily fight against cancer cells, reduce the workload on your heart, and help your mind think more clearly, more positively.  Now that’s a mindset that will take you on lifelong journey, not just a destination.

 

 

 

How To Fit Losing Weight Into Your Life

The next few blogs will focus on the most common emotional mistakes people make in their efforts to loss weight.  Today will focus on how to successfully lose weight for life.

FoundationYou’ve had some success with Weight Watchers or a low-fat or low carb diet, but now you’ve stalled.  The novelty of losing weight has worn off and now work and home life has caused you to lose focus in your efforts to lose weight.  This is a common mistake, it’s because you tried to fit your life into your diet instead of making your diet part of your life.

Mae West once said, “knowing what you want is the first step to getting it”.  The top two reasons people want to lose weight is for health and appearances.  Those are powerful reasons but keeping them front and center means addressing the issues that caused the weight gain in the first place.

What Works In Losing Weight

If you look at the National Weight Loss Registry that tracks participants who have lost at least 30 pounds for over a year, you’ll find that most maintain a low-calorie, low-fat diet and get an hour of physical activity – usually walking – a day.  Some have kept their weight off for over 65 years and have lost as much as 300 pounds!  Other findings are that participants tend to weigh themselves weekly, limit TV to no more than ten hours a week and eat breakfast daily.

How To Fit Weight Loss Into Your Life

There’s no getting around it.  Examining the patterns that lead to your weight gain is essential for lasting weight loss.  Yes, you’ll mourn some of those habits, but your weight will come right back on if you don’t address them.  The following are the three most common causes I’ve seen for weight derailment:

  1. Not putting enough value in a good night’s sleep.  People try to stretch the day by staying up late to finish watching a ball game, a late night show or playing internet games.  Before you know it, it’s been three or four hours since dinner and those high-fat, high calorie munchies in the kitchen are soon in your hand.  So not only to you go to bed full, but you wake up tired and not hungry for breakfast.  Lack of sleep is associated with a decrease in the hunger-blocking hormone Leptin, and an increase in the hunger-producing hormone Ghrelin.  Insufficient sleep causes weight gain.  Furthermore, waking up tired is not exactly conducive to wanting to work up a sweat.  At least during the work week make it a priority to get to bed at a decent hour, before you would be naturally hungry and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
  2. Develop a hobby instead of watching TV.  There is nothing more mind-numbing than watching TV.  And with all the food advertisements, it heightens the desire for snacking.  When you mind is busy, it’s off food.  Besides, having a hobby is a great way to cope with stress and boredom – the two most common reasons for non-hungry eating.
  3. Not believing in yourself.  Losing weight is not a sprint, it’s a lifelong marathon.  Anyone can lose weight quickly through a fad diet, but keeping it off means believing that you are strong, that you have willpower and that you are worth making the changes to the nonfood parts of your life that will help keep the unhealthy habits out of your life.  There will always be temptations, but they also diminish in intensity.  Have faith that you are strong enough to get through those moments and focus on what you are gaining.

Change Your Life And You Will Have Lasting Weight Loss Success

Losing weight begins with a strong foundation of getting to the root cause of your weight gain and going from there.  It’s not a diet, it’s a new way of living your life for the rest of your life.  It’s learning how to adjust your life in order to fit lasting weight loss, not fitting your life into a temporary diet.

 

Common Mistake, Packing The Wrong Snacks

The next couple of blogs will focus on common nutritional mistakes I see initially in my clients.

 

There’s 23% more snacking going on this year than last.  I bet even Santa is packing a few extra treats to get him through the night!  According to Mintel’s research, Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015, half of adults snack two to three times a day.  And while older generations grew up rarely snacking, millennials (age 21-38) report snacking four or more times a day and mostly snack for emotional or functional reasons, to cope with stress or improve energy.  For older people snacking is associated with special occasions like games and gatherings.  Sadly, nearly a quarter snack due to boredom.  And probably the most significant finding is that 62% of people snack to satisfy a craving.

Is It A Snack Or A Meal?

The first thing to consider before judging snacking habits is to understand the intent.  Millennials apparently often use their snacking in place of a meal.  The other reasons – special occasions, boredom and cravings are a different animal.  Each requires a different strategy.

myplate_blueIf someone is using snacks to make a meal their combined snacks should make up a healthy plate – with veggie, protein, fruit/whole grain carb and dairy.  See below for some ideas.

Many of my clients in the beginning are surprised that the chips, nuts, cheese, ice cream and baked goods from snacking are providing sometimes a third of their total daily calories – and not giving their body the nutrients it needs.  Most people are unaware of the serving size on the label and are eating directly out of the container.  And yes, nuts are high in those heart healthy unsaturated fats but 1/4 cup contains 200 calories.  One ounce of most cheeses have over 9 gms of mostly saturated fat – amounting to over 100 calories.  Some ice creams have over 7 gms of fat in a half cup serving.  And ice cream, chips and baked goods are double villains, not only high in fat, but delivering a good portion of carbs – up to 22 gms in just one serving.

If It’s A Snack, Then Make It Deliver The Right Nutrients

Snacking should be a time to get some veggies and fruit.  Not only are they low in fat and calories (providing the dip is low-fat), but they will help move number on your scale downward.  The OmniHeart Trial determined that a diet focused on vegetables and fruits reduced systolic blood pressure, as well as heart disease-causing LDL and triglycerides.  These foods can also reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer.  The OmniHeart study recommends 11 daily servings of veggies and fruits based on a 2000 calorie diet.

I recommend my clients aim to get a veggie or small carb and protein as their snack.  Putting more emphasis on non-starchy veggies will reduce the calories, provide good fiber and water.  Add a good dip like hummus, whipped cottage cheese with chive and spices or herbed plain fat-free Greek yogurt will give you the protein to stave off hunger.  Here are some good snack ideas:

  • Wasa crackers topped with low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of fruit
  • 1/2 peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Cut up veggies with hummus, whipped cottage cheese dip or Greek yogurt dip
  • Low fat cottage cheese with fruit
  • Hard-boiled egg with fruit
  • 2 tbsp of nuts with 1 tbsp of raisins
  • 3 cups of air popped popcorn with spray oil and light salt

But You Say You Want A Little “Some’in, Some’in” To Snack On

Well, I get it.  We all need a little something chocolately or crunchie or creamie.  But how about if things actually still fit my goal of having adequate protein and slow burning carbs?  Some of my desserts contain more than the usual amount of protein and are high in fiber.  Both these things are important because they prevent a sudden rise in blood sugar which is the precursor to most cravings.  Want something chocolaty?  My Divine Chocolate cake is made with oat flour, cocoa powder and chia seeds making it high in fiber and higher in protein than most chocolate cakes.   Want something creamy and crunchie?  My Quinoa custard is made with Greek yogurt, quinoa, raisins and eggs also making it high in protein and fiber.  My Mango frozen yogurt is made with fruit and Greek yogurt, making it high in protein.  Every dessert I make I try to enhance my adding ingredients to boost fiber, protein or both.

Breaking Old Snack Habits

I was a chip-aholic before I knew better.  And I confess there still are times where the craving hits me.  But on those rare occasions I keep it small by buying a small serving.

In general, what has worked for me and for many of my clients who successfully lose weight and keep it off, is to eat a breakfast with adequate protein to help control hunger, keep unhealthy snacks out of the house and out of eyesight at work, drink plenty of water, seltzer or tea,  and pay attention to hunger levels, never allowing ravenous hunger to develop.  Snacks have many purposes but packing healthy ones will keep you from packing on the pounds.