I always find autumn to be a time of reflection. I am tempted to go outside whenever possible knowing that soon the extreme cold will limit my exploration. My eyes seem to gain acuity realizing they will be starved for months to come.
Over the past month on my hikes, quirky things have jumped out at me, which seem to be nature talking to me – little life lessons from nature. I think they are worth sharing because these images spotlight and mimic some common struggles we humans experience. You might get a different message from these pictures, but just contemplating them leads to a sense of peace and calmness. And sometimes calmness is a nice place to be. Calmness gives us energy for other areas in our lives.
Life Lessons From Nature: Know When To Let Go
Sometimes we hold on to opinions so deeply we lose sight of what the opinion was founded on. The attachment to that opinion becomes the cause of the fight. And like nature, where moisture, soil, sun and nutrients can change, conditions in our own lives change and warrants us always to try to observe with new eyes for more better understanding.
Life Lessons From Nature: Make The Best Of Your Gifts
We are all dealt our cards in life, our genetics that determine our personality, our health and our looks. It’s so easy to compare and judge someone else’s cards in life and forget to make the best of what gifts we have.
Accept your hand of cards, play them to the best of your ability and bear fruit!
Life Lessons From Nature: Get Out Of The Rut
It’s so easy to fall into a routine and become stuck in our thinking. I remember how hectic it was trying to balance raising three children along with work, managing the household chores and finding personal time. My form of adaptation was to always get up early and keep to the routine. I found over time that keeping to the routine was my own personal kind of rut. Over time I learned to be more creative with my use of time and break out of some of the conventional thinking I was raised with. I broke up household chores into small increments done daily between waiting for something to boil, preheat or bake. I was more mindful about the notion of cleanliness and with what frequency. I learned to look ahead and anticipate needs of my kids, work and home in order to avoid feelings of last-minute stress and keep a steady pace. Getting out of the rut affords the opportunity to be creative with how one thinks and acts on life. It’s energizing and empowering.
Life Lessons From Nature: Believe In Yourself
There are times in life when it feels you may be going against the current. The people in your life may disagree with your life choices but you need to follow your gut and be true to yourself.
Standing alone can be scary and cause uncertainty but those feelings come and go with conviction. If you are following your heart and you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
Life Lessons From Nature: Adapt To Life’s Challenges
If your current environment is keeping you from thriving, then decide to either change it or change your perspective on it.
Blaming the environment instead of making changes will stunt your growth and keep you from finding lasting happiness.
Life Lessons From Nature: Everyday Is An Opportunity
We all make mistakes and have regrets, but tomorrow is a new day. Wake up each day with renewed fervor. Make amends whenever possible, but otherwise, let go of the past because it is stealing your present. And today is the beginning of the rest of your life. All things are possible for you.
A carb overhaul means making your dessert indulgences tasty and healthy. It doesn’t mean less joy and satisfaction; it just means adopting new recipes and being creative with old ones. The Center For Science In the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy organization whose mission is to conduct research as well as to advocate for the consumer, posted a wonderful document in their Nutrition Action Health Letter on what a typical day’s worth of food should contain in order to meet the body’s nutritional needs. If you care about having your body perform at its best and reward you with great energy, sleep, less inflammation, less gastrointestinal issues, fewer headaches, better blood pressure, better blood sugar and less artery clogging fats, then pay attention now.
A Day’s Worth of Food is based on the Omniheart study which examined three different dietary approaches to reduce heart disease. A day’s worth of food was a hybrid of two of the diets with emphasis on more protein and replacing saturated fats with more unsaturated fats. The following daily guidelines is what is recommended to lower coronary heart disease risk:
11 servings of fruits and vegetables (with more emphasis on the non-starchy veggies)
4 servings of grains
2 servings of dairy
2 servings of legumes and nuts
1 serving of meat, poultry or fish
2 servings of oil and fats
2 servings of desserts
Wow, you say, actually 2 servings of desserts. That means one dessert after lunch and one dessert after dinner. No problemo.
Well, look more carefully at the bottom and see what they describe as a portion of dessert: one small cookie or 1 teaspoon sugar. Ok, that means I could have sugar in my tea and one cookie or I could have 2 cookies and no sugar in my tea or I could have no cookie and 2 cups of tea with sugar. All sugars are about the same whether its honey, Agave, molasses, maple syrup or brown sugar – they all deliver about 4-5 gms of carbs per teaspoon.
You Do Not Have to Desert Desserts!!
I do not despair; I look at this as a challenge. I ask myself, how can I stay within the recommendations without compromising my taste buds? With the list including fruit, milk, eggs, nuts and whole grains, it’s a no brainer to find ways to incorporate these into the dessert. Fruit is a natural sweetener allowing the ability to cut back on sugar without compromising the taste. Using whole grain flour or oatmeal is just as good in things like crisps, coffee cakes and even cookies (think oatmeal cookies). Adding plain fat-free Greek yogurt to the batter does nothing to disturb flavor yet adds dairy and protein. Flax seed is a nice oil substitute and adds heart healthy fiber and some inflammation reducing omega 3’s. Using cinnamon, nutmeg and even lemon can hide the decreased amount of sugar.
Using oatmeal in a crisp topping is a nice way to get a whole grain and is as satisfying as a piece of pie made with white flour. Adding cinnamon and nutmeg has a way of enhancing sweetness while allowing less sugar to be put in the crisp. Making a topping of crisp with just 3 tbsp of butter blended with a pastry knife is just as tasty as a two pie crust made with a cup of shortening. My Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp is as good as any pie and is even better if it is made from blueberries grown in your own yard. Blueberries are so easy to grow and give such a high yield for months each season.
Want something warm and soft for dessert with just a bit of texture on a cold winter day? My quinoa custard really hits the spot, delivers nice protein from the eggs, dairy, Greek yogurt and quinoa, has nice fiber, and tastes sweet yet is low in sugar. It dissolves in your mouth if you are a custard kind of person.
Feel like a cake? Try my Apple Crumb Cake. This dessert is high in protein with the eggs, Greek yogurt, and whole grains, as well as high in fiber and the McCoun apples and cinnamon make up for the difference in less sugar than most cakes contain. You could also use this same cake batter and make a lemon blueberry cake. Omit the crumb topping and use blueberries and lemon juice instead of the apples. Use plain fat-free Greek yogurt instead of the vanilla yogurt. And once it comes out of the oven squirt the juice from one lemon over the cake and dust the top with confectioners sugar once it has cooled. Both are so healthy you can have them for breakfast and no you are starting the day in a healthy way!
Want something cold and creamy to hit that sweet spot? My Mango Frozen Yogurt dessert is high in protein, low in fat, delivers a serving of fruit and dairy while being low in sugar. Even a cup of this creamy dessert would keep you within the two teaspoons of sugar allowance a day. All you need is an electric ice cream maker that you can find for under $30. If you want you can pour this mixture in popsicle molds to savor the taste a little longer. You could substitute any fruit for the mango.
Delicious and Nutritious Desserts
That’s my goal. I take ideas from old recipes that aren’t as healthy and I find a way to make them healthier depending on whether or not I want crunchy, cakie, soft or warm or creamie sensations for dessert. I look at batter as a vehicle for delivering wholesome, healthy yumminess. I look at Greek yogurt as a way to augment my protein. I look at fruit as nature’s sweetener. It’s all in the perspective. It’s all in the attitude. It’s all in what’s important: choosing to give your demanding taste buds anything they want or carefully considering what surrounds them on the way to nourishing your body to keep it at peak performance.
Ten years ago, I could never have written this article. My diet has changed significantly since then as a result of working with patients with chronic disease, especially diabetes and coming to terms with my own family history of type 2 diabetes. I still had a child at home who along with my husband was the recipient of my increased awareness and experimentation with different recipe recreations. Like the gradual shifting of the coast line of Maine, I gradually shifted my taste buds, food expectations, and purpose of food. It started with the tangibles of eating, but soon became the intangibles of eating like eating patterns, boredom, and meal planning strategies. These are the steps that helped me to overhaul my carbs.
Ten Steps to Your Carb Overhaul
This is a carb overhaul!
1.Eat more non-starchy vegetables. These aren’t carbs but they replace some of those not-so healthy carbs you might otherwise choose to go with your meat. I know many people say they hate them or just skip them all together. But the reality is those people haven’t really given them their best shot at trying a variety of them or finding a way to prepare them so they can at least tolerate them. You don’t have to love them. You just need to consume them.
Aside from all the vitamins, minerals and fiber, they will more importantly give you volume, color and jazz on your plate that the extra carbs used to take. Can you imagine the plate above. without all the tomatoes, onions, peppers and olives? I think I would be searching the cabinets before dinner was even cleaned up! I recommend keeping cut up fresh veggies to have with hummus or yogurt dip. Add a veggie to breakfast by having a smoothie or making an omelette. Sneak them in soups or puree them into tomato sauces. Mix them in your mashed potatoes. Add them to sautees. Play with it, find what works, and double up on what you like so you can get at least 2-3 cups in the course of the day.
2. Experiment with other grains. Nothing is more indicative of a carb overhaul than a flirtation and eventually an adoring relationship with grains. Grains like quinoa and farro have a nutty flavor and can be eaten for breakfast or are great added to soups and sautes. A quarter cup of dry quinoa has 5 grams of fiber and protein. I made a custard with quinoa instead of rice that was delicious. Not only was it wonderful for dessert but it made a great breakfast with lots of fiber and protein from the grain and eggs.
A quarter cup of dry farro has 7 grams of protein and fiber. I use farro and other grains instead of rice. I added farro to my chicken soup instead of rice or noodles. It gave it more texture and it handled reheating much better than noodles.
3. Explore different beans. Dried beans are loaded with vitamins, fiber and protein. And they are cheap. Before you go to bed just dump the beans in a pot and soak them over night and slow cook them in a crock pot or a pan for a few hours. I freeze the extra I can’t use that day. Try my Three Bean Salad which lasts a week in the frig and is a wonderful side dish in the summer, full of fresh veggies, cilantro and lime juice.
If you can’t be bothered with that process then buy canned beans or try lentil beans which take only an hour to cook. A quarter cup of dried lentils has 5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. They make a great soup, can be mixed with other grains or can be a salad topper.
4. Determine your trigger carbs and get them out of the house. For me it was potato chips. I tried getting smaller bags, getting individual bags, and even substituting them for black bean chips, but I finally figured out that I just couldn’t have them in the house in any amount or related form. The black bean chips were tasty and a little less of a draw but I still ate too many of them.
I finally figured out that I was occasionally ok with getting the one or three ounce bag of them on rare occasions. For some people keeping them out of sight, like in the cabinet or closet can eliminate the temptation but from my experience very few people are able to do that. It takes just one bad day, bad conversation, or some other moment of weakness and they are quickly devoured.
5. Stop the juices, sodas, flavored coffees, vitamin waters, chocolate milk. Throw out the containers of orange juice or other fruit drinks or juices and instead, just eat your fruit. You will get more fiber, less processing and lots of vitamins. Juice glasses are bigger than in the past and 8 oz of juice will give you 30 grams of blood sugar spiking carbs with little natural fiber. Stop the sodas, even the diet sodas, they only elevate the bar for our taste buds. Try seltzer water or water with lemon. Your tongue will adjust.
No more mocha, choca, lots-of-carbs hot drinks. Invest in a coffee grinder, grind your own fresh coffee beans and get a frother. I LOVE my freshly ground coffee and can enjoy it with just a 1/2 tsp of sugar or a bit of Stevia and lots of fresh 1% frothed milk!
6. Change your expectations of food textures and density. Whole grain cereal, crackers and bread will be denser, nuttier and chewier. If you are one of those people who doesn’t eat the crust, this will take some time. Start with oatmeal bread. Try Triscuits instead of Ritz crackers. Add quinoa to your white rice. Try Uncle Sam’s cereal instead of Honey Bunches of Oats. Or maybe you just need a complete overhaul a few days a week and try something totally new instead of just trying to recreate a favorite meal. I started a couple of months ago making my smoothie 5 days a week and I really love it. It never really occurred to me until I saw my daughter making one. It just wasn’t in my repertoire until recently.
7. Make your desserts healthy. This is an opportunity to be creative. Get a serving of fruit and whole grains by making a fruit crisp. Get a serving of milk, fruit and whole grain by making a quinoa custard. Cool off in hot weather with a berry/Greek yogurt popsicle by combining the two in a blender until smooth and then pouring in popsicle molds. Or get an ice cream maker and try making your own fruit ice cream.
8. Get your family and coworkers on board. You can please some of the people at least some of the time. Get your people on your team. A carb overhaul isn’t a punishment. Food is not just about filling a void. It’s about giving your body what it really needs so it can work right and treat you right, plain and simple. Make it fun, it’s all in the attitude.
9. Have your LDL and blood sugar checked before and after your diet change. I tell my clients to give it three months. It takes about 3 months for awkward changes to be comfortable, for cholesterol to come down from all the extra fiber and for blood sugars to stabilize. If your LDL was high before, I guarantee you it will be lower. If your fasting blood sugar was elevated or approaching 100, I guarantee you it will be lower. And I guarantee you the changes you have made will be more comfortable, less awkward and your creativity will be sparked.
10. Notice how you feel over time. This is the payback. You will feel better. Your life will become a ten. Your energy level will become a ten. People will notice. Your spirits will improve because your body is getting just what it needs and it will perform at a ten. Just try it for three months and try your hardest. Don’t focus on what you are giving up, focus on what you are getting. I know this to be 100% true.
I have to admit, I love a good deal. There are few things as rewarding to me as buying an item way below cost, especially if the item is something I really need. And the weeks right after the holidays are one of the best times to get great deals.
Recently, I was on one of my favorite websites, Sierra Trading Post, prompted by an email promotion for free shipping and extra 30% off on clearance items. My impulse was to check out the online clearance items immediately but after spending 10 minutes on the website it occurred to me that I was not shopping with a particular purpose. I was shopping for the pursuit of “the deal”. The pants I saw looked wonderful and had great reviews and the price was ridiculously cheap, but I realized I was being sucked into the shopping vortex of aimless buying without a real need, just to take advantage of “the deal”.
I stopped myself, closed the window and said to myself, if I feel the same way about the pants tomorrow then I would consider purchasing them, but only after letting 24 hours pass. The next day, I realized that I really did not want the pants and my strong impulse to buy them had passed. I also realized that this impulse to shop online was triggered by a tempting email promotion. Had I not received the email, I would not have wasted 15 minutes of my day. This lead me to go through my emails and “unsubscribe” to several of my favorite clothing vendors. Get rid of the trigger, decrease the impulse.
The shopping impulse is very similar to food cravings. The holidays are finally over which means gone are the many temptations of cookies, sweet breads, chocolate and other mouth satisfying seasonal treats. I can look back and recall the times I found myself in the kitchen reaching for the box of homemade toffee and wanting just a little piece. I also noticed that these cravings passed more easily on some days. It became a little game for me to witness my desires for all the holiday goodies and to create some personal rules to abide by. First of all I had to understand what made my resistance to temptation stronger on some days more than others. This is what I observed:
On days I did not eat 3 balanced meals, I had more cravings in the afternoon and evening
I noticed that days when I had more on my mind and was more distracted, I had more cravings.
I found that when I brought the whole container of tempting foods out to the room while I watched TV, I ate much more of it than I had intended and really regretted my choice.
I noticed that keeping tempting foods out of eye sight made a big difference in the frequency of my cravings.
I noticed that I had more cravings when I was bored, feeling anxious or felt justified to enjoy a treat because “this only happens once a year”.
Lastly I noticed that over time my cravings diminished in the course of an evening and that other things, like drinking hot tea, helped assuage my desires.
Next, I addressed each of the observations. I did not skip lunch – I had at least a protein and carb like low fat cottage cheese and fruit or a piece of whole grain toast. I made lists of the things I had to do to give me more focus and sense of control. I tried to make plans just for the next day and not jump too far ahead in my thoughts.
I put the chex mix out of sight and quit taking the whole container out by the TV. I changed my self talk to “you are going to regret the extra pounds you will put on if you continue to eat this way” and strongly considered the feelings of regret for the 2-15 minutes of splurging. And finally, I did not immediately react to my craving – I gave myself at least 15 minutes before acting on my temptations while also getting back in the habit of fixing a hot cup of tea around 7:30 in the evening. I find having something warm to drink is satisfying and diminishes my desires for something sweet or crunchie.
Lord Byron, an early 1800 British poet said:
“Time! the corrector when our judgments err”
Although, lord Byron most likely was talking about discernment of the heart, this saying can apply to coping with cravings as well. Giving in to impulses is usually due to poor judgment and lack of planning. Having a plan to control temptations and having a rule to delay immediate satisfaction will not only improve your sense of self-control, but will leave you with more time to do things you really want to do!
Forest Gump may believe life is like a box of chocolates, but I believe life should be like a bowl of Chex Mix – with the perfect ratio of ingredients. I believe a happy life consists of the right balance of work, relationships, responsibilities, fun and taking care of one’s self. An imbalance among these areas is like Chex Mix without the right ratio of ingredients.
Every holiday my family always has at least one discussion about what it takes to make the perfect Chex Mix. We know it takes the right balance of Rice Chex, to Wheat Chex, to peanuts and pretzels. It also takes the right amount of “hot kick” in the seasoning. The right amount of butter(and only butter) and just the right amount of cooking time. If one area is off-balance then I get “the message”. Life should be like Chex Mix – striving for the right ratio. When too much of your life is consumed by one area (or your life consumes too much of one area), then the other areas get diminished and out of balance. This imbalance impacts work quality, relationships, attitude, and our health due to chronic stress.
Chronic Stress Is Like Soggy Chex Mix Without The Crunch
I have learned to mix the warm, seasoned butter with the Rice Chex, peanuts and pretzels first, before stirring in the Wheat Chex. If I put the Wheat Chex in with everything else from the start, the Wheat Chex act like little sponges and become soggy. And if those sheets of Chex Mix are not baked for at least 20 minutes at 325 and tossed around half way, then the mix won’t crisp up.
Chronic stress leaves our thoughts half-baked, hearts soggy and life without crispness. Short episodes of stress gives us a boost of energy from the release of hormones that prepare our bodies for action. However, prolonged periods of stress with long-term exposure to these hormones, can not only cause headaches, indigestion, poor sleep, depression and anxiety but increased inflammation that speeds up aging. Furthermore, chronic stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even a weakened immune system.
It’s Your Life – Get the Right Ratio!
It’s so easy to put off taking care of ourselves. I hear people say frequently how unhappy they are in their job. It always makes me wonder if they have considered all possibilities like a change in jobs, moving, or reassessing needs and wants. It makes me wonder whether or not they have created their own financial prisons thinking they must have a certain lifestyle, house, camp, travel or multiple things that only bring temporary happiness.
I hear my clients say often that they will start exercising when “the kids go to school” or “when I have more time” or “when I go south in the winter” instead of just finding ten minutes to go for a fast walk that week. Or sometimes a client will talk about their loneliness instead of doing something about it by joining clubs or meet-up’s or getting active in the community.
Sometimes people take on too many responsibilities through work, family or volunteering and don’t ask for help or know when to say “no”. And sometimes people don’t have enough responsibilities and have too much fun so that they lose out on that feeling of personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
I believe getting the right life ratio starts with knowing why it is important and then re-prioritizing. The “life Chex Mix ratio” doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually everyone can find that balance of work, responsibilities, fun, relationships and taking care of one’s self if they really want it. My Chex mix was not perfect the first time, but I can certainly boast that today, after 30 years of making it, it is mighty fine with just the right amount of cereal, nuts and pretzels, “spicy kick”, butter and baking that is not soggy, nor without delicious buttery crunch!
Aside from Bo Derek’s movie, Ten, with her gorgeous body running on the beach knowing how good she must feel, the number 10 is important in health coaching. The number 10 is where we want our clients to reach in terms of their energy level. When someone rates themselves a 10, they are able to accomplish more, overcome obstacles, achieve hopes, improve health, and feel life is full of possibilities. The number 10 is also important in some areas of health. When these guidelines below are achieved, any individual can feel like a Bo Derek and reach a 10 in energy level.
Fiber – Ten Grams Per Meal
You laugh, but face it, without having a daily poop our comfort is compromised and we feel bloated. The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber a day – mainly from processed foods. The U.S. government guidelines recommend 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day.
But fiber does more than just make us happy in the morning. Soluble fiber helps lower the artery clogging LDL cholesterol. Insoluble fiber feeds gut flora that helps to boost our immune system and gives bulk to our morning constitution. Fiber has been linked to body weight regulation and helps to keep people fuller longer. Aim for about ten grams a meal by eating fruits and veggies, nuts, beans and whole grain breads, cereal, and crackers. And watch out for isolated fibers like maltodextrin, inulin and polydextrose that are processed fibers and do not give the same health benefits and can cause gas and bloating.
Exercise – Ten Minutes At A Time
The American College of Cardiology looked at the association between jogging at a leisurely pace and it’s impact on mortality and presence of heart disease in over 55,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 100. They concluded that even jogging at a leisurely pace for 5-10 minutes each day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes and heart disease. Imagine that as few as five to ten minutes will give you a healthier, extended life. If you have bad knees or joints then try an elliptical or the Arc, these are just as effective, and you can watch TV or be in your skivvies and no one will know.
Saturated Fat – Less Than Ten Percent Of Your Daily Calories
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 which are updated every 5 years, recommend no more than 10% of total daily calories come from saturated fat. For a 2000 calorie diet that would mean about 22 grams a day. For an 1800 calorie diet it tops out at 20 grams. For a 1500 calorie diet that would mean no more than 17 grams. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal fats, but also palm and coconut oils. Saturated fat is only part of the total fat on the nutritional label, but along with transfats, can lead to heart disease.
Saturated fats can add up. A Big Mac has 10 grams, a double quarter-pounder with cheese has 19 grams – adding an ounce of cheese to any sandwich will add about 6 more grams of saturated fat. A half cup of ice cream has 4 grams of heart-clogging fat. A venti Vanilla Latte from Starbucks has 4.5 grams of saturated fat. An apple crumb donut from Dunkin Donuts has 9 grams of saturated fat. You can quickly see how all these numbers add up. Awareness is empowerment so you can make an informed decision.
It’s All About Getting to Ten
Feeling like a 10 is possible. Eating using these guidelines along with getting even 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily is going to improve your circulation, digestion, immune system and satiety. You will have more energy to do what makes you happy.
It doesn’t have to happen overnight. It starts with getting familiar with food labels and eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Increase you activity by parking further away during errands, taking the stairs more and gradually work towards that 5-10 minutes of exercise. You don’t have to look like Bo to feel like a 10!
Do you need a simple diet that will help you lose weight and keep it off? You may have had success with Weight Watchers, Dr. Adkins, Jenny Craig and even a gluten-free diet but the weight has crept back on because it is too rigid and structured. As any one knows in health care, the hard part is not in losing weight; it is maintaining the weight loss. What if your strategy was not focused on losing weight by counting points. calories and reading all kinds of labels for carbs, fat, and fiber? What if the plan was to simply take away the chips, cookies or candy that might accompany your lunch, snack or dinner and replace it with something crunchy, colorful and low-calorie like vegetables. Not a temporary diet, but a whole new way of eating. Ok, so you laugh. But really, what if those veggies were really tasty and actually satisfied your taste buds? What if you actually found some recipes that were simple and delicious? Isn’t this the real barrier to adding the color to your plate aside from mustard and ketchup? I know not everyone is like Popeye, ready to pop a can of spinach down their esophagus, but this is a simple diet plan that never has to end and will help you to keep the weight off for good.
Veggies Are Hot
Yes, veggies are really sexy. Lather them in a bit of olive oil and a smattering of oregano, salt, garlic powder and they are roasting hot. Let them dance in your chili and your meal will have an extra eye-stimulating allure. Braise your fish or cook your eggs in them and you will be hopping all night – and I don’t mean to the bathroom. Veggies leave you full but not stuffed, they satisfy the mouth and the waist. They leave you feeling happy and not guilty. What other food does all that? If that is not sex appeal, then you must think that candy bar, those chips or cookies are completely guilt free – and notice these are plural, most overweight people are not eating just one serving of these.
Your Simple Diet Plan
Be aware that not all vegetables are created equally. There are some vegetables that are starchy and naturally high in carbohydrates which will raise your blood sugar. Adding too many of these with other carbs that might be on your plate can lead to a spike in blood sugar and insulin, making your weight loss plan stall. Starchy vegetables look starchy or taste sweet, and have less water. They include potatoes, corn, peas, winter squashes, pumpkin, parsnips and even beets and carrots if eaten in large amounts (greater than one cup). When I eat these I combine them with large amounts of non-starchy veggies. Here are some ways you can add more sex appeal to your simple weight loss plan. The highlighted words will connect you to some delicious recipes.
1. Four or five days a week try making a smoothie for breakfast. My recipe takes 5 minutes and it is naturally high in protein and fiber and low in carbs and calories.
roasted cauliflower and potatoes
2. Try roasting an assortment of veggies. I like to toss them in some olive oil and season them. I am mindful of the oil I use – one tablespoon of oil has 120 calories. You can use whatever veggies you like but I love roasting cauliflower and Brussels sprouts together. If you want some extra color you could add some beets and carrots. I cut the vegetables into similar size pieces and roast them on a cookie sheet at 400 for about 30 minutes. I make a bunch of these and have them for leftovers or you could even have them as a snack for that mid-afternoon hunger.
3. Try cooking your fish or eggs in a simmering pot of tomatoes with veggies. I serve this on a bed of brown rice or bulgar. As a step saver, when I make rice or bulgar I make several cups to have for several meals or freeze the extra for a later time. This is a one pan meal with easy clean up and little preparation
4. Add a couple of bags of frozen chopped veggies like broccoli, spinach, or cauliflower to your chili or any kind of soup. It’s a great way to stretch a meal and to get everything you need in one pot, one bowl.
5. Make a chicken/slaw wrap. I take leftover chicken breast and shred it. I take a large whole grain tortilla wrap and top it with a large amount of prepared slaw mix, you can even use broccoli slaw. Then I add the chicken, 1/2 can of black means, salsa and low fat grated cheddar cheese. The whole meal is in your hands, ummm. Now that is sexy.
6. Make a frittata. Frittatas are like crust-less quiches but much more flamboyant and sexy baking in a well-seasoned cast iron pan, coming out of the oven all in a huff and a puff! I like to slice a leftover piece and put it in a whole wheat tortilla on a bed of arugula.
6. Cut up enough celery, carrots, cucumbers and cauliflower for the whole week to have with some hummus. You could even package them into individual bags to have them ready to grab when you know you are going to be out of the house during a meal time.
Why not look at getting healthy as a permanent lifestyle change. Going on a “diet” implies rigid structure and a lot of time. By just cutting out the cookies, chips, candy and desserts on a regular basis, and adding more colorful, fun veggies in a variety of ways you will get your sexy back and keep it!
Are you feeling like your life is tedious and overwhelming and you really want to lose weight? Happy, happy, joy, joy as Ren and Stimpy would say! Actually, I’m not being sarcastic. Why can’t we look at losing weight as gaining health instead? It’s not like we really can’t find the weight in our thighs, belly and behind. And it’s not like we want to be deprived or suffer from the loss of weight. Why can’t it be thought of as “gaining health”? After all, aren’t improved blood sugars, cholesterol, blood pressure, appearance, relationships, energy, mood and sleep a huge gain????
half empty or half full?
Barbara Frederickson, a reknowned psychologist, has done extensive research on positive psychology. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that uses scientific research to study and determine positive human development. Dr Frederickson has discovered that experiencing positive emotions changes cognitive pathways in the brain so that people are able to become more resilient to challenges and feel empowered to accomplish what they could only dream of in the past. Her research supports that a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative thoughts creates physiological changes in the brain. Her website has a test and tools you can access to assess and improve your ratio. Some of her tools include meditation and Day Reconstruction Method which involves self-reflection on the previous days to explore patterns and how time was spent. There is also a tool for analyzing social interactions and the emotional connections felt during interactions.
Why Get To A 3 To 1 Positive Ratio
Emotion drives our behaviors. Imagine if you come home from work in a negative mood feeling like your boss doesn’t understand you, your bills are piling up, your kids don’t appreciate you, your spouse has it easier than you and you still have to take the kids to evening activities, figure out dinner, do laundry, and finish up some stupid work assignment. Now that is the frame of mind that’s going to open up all kinds doors of possibility, right? No, it will probably lead you to open up the door to the stash of chips.
There is an alternative reality. Perhaps your boss does see your side of an issue but he has pressures from his boss that he hasn’t shared. Perhaps your kids do appreciate how you support them and take them to their activities but can’t truly understand how you feel because they are only kids without enough life experiences and are dealing with their own social pressures. Perhaps your spouse is working as hard as you but managing other household responsibilities that you hate doing. Perhaps you haven’t sat down with your spouse to find alternative ways to simplify life. Perhaps if you did more planning and cooking on the weekend in bulk and froze meals for the week it would make weekday dinners easier. Perhaps if you delegated some activities like laundry or meal preparation it would relieve some stress. Perhaps if you looked at how you managed your time at work you might not be bringing work home.
Negative thoughts can muddle thinking, undermine attitudes and drive us to unhealthy behaviors. Imagine if the above scenario happened to someone in a positive frame of mind. That person might come home from work after having a good talk with their boss to clear up some concerns and feel empowered to address the issues at home. He or she would have the energy while driving home to think about dinner plans, perhaps call the kids to enlist their help (which would empower the kids). The chores of the evening could be shared with opportunities to talk to each other and connect. All these actions lead to empowerment and open communication just by shifting perceptions and would most likely not end up with raiding the pantry!
If you are trying to gain room in your clothes and regain your health, start with how your are wording it and then develop that 3 to 1 ratio of positive thoughts. You might find that just changing your thinking might lead to less unhealthy snacking and improved health with no effort at all.
I was talking to a friend this week about the process of dieting or ending any self-destructive habit is really a matter of dealing with a sense of deprivation. Viewing dieting as just giving up foods that are loved and not looking at the whole process naturally makes one feel like the pumpkin has arrived for good and the glass slipper is gone forever. Viewed in this manner, it is no wonder that people hate dieting.
How Are You Framing Your Dieting?
Dieters tend to lump the act of dieting into one process and surround it with negativity. In reality, the process of losing weight should be viewed as a series of small steps that happen over time based on self-knowledge and planning. From my experience the five biggest mistakes that people make in their attempt to lose weight are: not having a clear and strong reason for losing weight, having an all or nothing mentality, not understanding what drives their unhealthy behaviors, not having a satisfying “what to do instead” plan and not defining and being aware of “the payback” for all the hard work. Without addressing these five areas it’s no wonder that most dieters feel deprived and do not have success at keeping the weight off.
Address These Five Areas First Before Dieting
1. Have a clear and strong reason for losing weight. Are you losing weight just to look good? Ask yourself why is it important for you to look good. Get to the emotion behind it. Are you tired of people making comments about your weight or food choices? Are you tired of having to squeeze into small plane or theater seats? Are you not having the passionate sex you were having before? Are you not able to twist your body into those wonderful yoga twists without the belly fat getting in the way?
Get to the meat of why changing your physical appearance is important to you, not just “to look better”. If your reasons include health, then know specifically why. Is it because your father had a heart attack in his 50’s? Is it because you’ve seen how hard it is for you mother who has diabetes to give herself insulin? Is it because you had a close family member have a stroke?
If health is an important motivator, then have your cholesterol and fasting blood sugar done before you begin and repeat them 6 months later. Perhaps track your blood pressure and know how any medications you are on work. Losing weight often means some blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, gastric reflux and even asthma medications can be reduced or stopped.
If your reason is to lose weight for your spouse or significant other, then be cautious. External motivation, especially if you are feeling pressure from your partner to lose weight, is not always a strong motivator. Making lifestyle changes for someone else can lead to resentment and the belief that success can only be determined by the other person, not yourself.
2. It’s not all or nothing. Learning to eat differently is not easy. We have to eat to live but we don’t have to live to eat. There are many ways to reduce calories while still enjoying your favorite foods. Dieting doesn’t have to mean giving up all those foods you love but it does mean planning for them and being strategic so that you get the outcome you want in the long run. There are going to be some days where your willpower will be stronger. Give yourself permission to eat more than you wanted of something or to give in to urges but look at those occasions as opportunities to learn.
So you ate a pint of ice cream. Examine why you did it. Were you bored? Did you not eat enough at dinner? Are you worried about something? Did you stay up later than usual and you were hungry? Did you not have a night snack back up plan? Did you keep a really tempting ice cream in the freezer? Could you have waited ten minutes for the craving to pass? Could you have had some hot tea or a frozen Light and Fit Yogurt container instead?
It might take a few weeks or even a month to give up the old habit of snacking on ice cream at night. It’s natural for it to feel uncomfortable and for you to waiver but begin to notice how you feel about yourself the next day when you have success at getting through an evening without ice cream. Even if you can get to the point of having a serving of ice cream, in a bowl and not out of the container twice a week on the days you plan for is a huge improvement! Life is about the journey, not the destination.
3. Understand what drives your behaviors. A client I worked with recently stated that she notices she eats binges on unhealthy foods when she is bored. She realizes that she may need support for her food addictions. This was a powerful statement that took some courage to state and wisdom to acknowledge. She has strong personal motivation to lose weight and realizes that part of her strategy to lose weight is to address the emotional side of eating and plans on joining Overeater’s Anonymous. I believe the more structure and outside support she puts into her daily routine the more success she will have.
The more you understand your patterns and triggers to your unhealthy food choices, the more success you will have with having lasting weight loss.
4. Have a “what to do instead” plan. Ok, so you have been night snacking on those crunchy, munchie, salty, crispy ,colorful chips and crackers for years. Do you really think that beginning tomorrow you are going to suddenly give them all up? Talk about all or nothing deprivation. Making these kind of changes calls for some serious thinking and planning. Can you pre-portion some snacks that are less tempting but still satisfying? Can you experiment with different healthier foods like fruit or air popped popcorn? Can you turn the TV off and make some nights a reading or game night? Can you go to bed earlier? Can you get some really nice special teas and sip on them instead? Can you suck on one lollipop? Can you eat a bigger, more satisfying dinner? Can you keep the night snacking to just Wednesday and Saturday nights? Can you get the other people in your household to get on board with you by keeping certain trigger foods out of your house? The more you plan, the more is in your hands!
5. Define and be aware of the payback. What are you going to define as success in your weight loss endeavors? Is it to not fall asleep in the afternoon? Is it to get your fasting blood sugar or LDL below 100? Is it to slip into that little black dress comfortably? Is it to participate in a road race? As you begin your weight loss journey, notice subtle shifts in food attitudes, emotions, energy level, responses from friends and family and physical changes. Be aware of the feelings of accomplishment when you successfully navigate night snacking, exercising regularly, cooking healthier meals, mastering self talk and see changes in your body. Notice your energy levels two hours after meals and the difference you feel when you eat balanced meals versus ones that are not. Become aware of how your body responds with less heartburn, less belly pain, more regular bowel movements, better breathing, better energy. Notice if you have a more positive outlook on life, you’re smiling more. Notice if you have more success in other areas of your life – like improved relationships, more daily productivity, and better sleep.
Deprivation or Desperation
If your dieting leads you to constant feelings of deprivation then no wonder it is a drag. But sometimes there needs to be a feeling of desperation to make lasting changes. Sometimes it takes a feeling that “I can’t keep going on like this because I know I deserve better.” As they say in health coaching, in order to make lasting lifestyle changes one must be sick and tired of being sick and tired. When someone gets to that point, any action is a positive action and any feelings of deprivation are way overshadowed by the payback in making gradual lifestyle changes.
Did you start out of the diet gate with great energy, focus and determination? Did the first ten or fifteen pounds come off easily but now you are struggling to lose even one pound? Your story is not unique, and it is not a sign of failure. The National Weight Loss Registry has tracked over 10,000 people who have lost and kept off 30 pounds or more for one year or longer. And the average member has lost 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years. So we know that lasting weight loss is an attainable goal, but the difficulty comes in keeping the weight off. I had one client who had come to my weight management group after having lost and regained over 100 pounds five other times. When he came to my group he had already lost another 100 pounds and was at his goal weight, but he wanted the added support from the group in order to maintain his weight loss. As of this writing he has continued to keep the weight off for over 4 years. I will discuss some motivation tips over the next few blogs.
Motivation Tips: #1 Ease Up
The biggest mistake I hear from my clients is the word “diet”. I tell my clients that they are not on a “diet”; they are making lifestyle changes. Using the word “diet” instead of “making lifestyle changes” is like the difference between taking a closed book, “fill in the answer” test on a specific date versus taking a multiple choice, open book test, to be completed when you are ready. The first type of test demands that you cram the information in your brain, take it at a time not of your choosing, and regurgitate what you have learned. The second test type implies that you will know how to think through the test when you are ready and with the help of resources. The effort in losing weight is similar to test taking because it requires some preparation, planning and knowledge of yourself and what you are eating.
Motivation Tips: #2 You Are Not On A Deadline
If you start the process of losing weight by calling it a diet you are saying to yourself that there is a beginning and an end, a right way and a wrong way, and there is a deadline. If you move away from the concept of diet and towards “changing a lifestyle” your perspective becomes less static and more dynamic. Changing lifestyles implies experimentation, a playfulness, a learning process, and a self-exploration. It implies that in the process of exploring there may be some ebbs and flows, some mistakes and some successes but the movement over time will shift from feeding the body, to fueling the body. Connections are learned from food choices and hunger patterns, food triggers and mindfulness, food cravings and stress level.
Unlike the answers to test questions, there is more than one way to lose weight! There are many paths you can take to help you lose weight. Some things will be easier for you than others. As you have more successes in some areas you will gain confidence and willingness to make other changes. Some days will be easier than others but be kind to yourself and ease up! You are not on a diet, you are on a journey to a healthier you.