Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's a Big World?

Rumor has it that the Small World ride at Disneyland is being revamped to increase its weight capacity due to boats bottoming out and getting stuck. Back in 1963, the ride was designed with the average male and female weights in mind (175 and 135 pounds, respectively). Today, the average weights of males and females have skyrocketed well above that, and with that there are consequences, even at The Happiest Place on Earth.

Now, I’m not really sure if this rumor is true. In fact, Disney has not confirmed it. However, the point is that the weight of Americans is rising steadily over the decades and it is a function of how we live. Hundreds of years ago, people consumed less sugar in one year than we now consume in a single day! This is scary------and when we combine this with our unhealthy fat intake, we are setting ourselves up to get bigger and bigger in the future. With the rate of obesity increasing so rapidly, theoretically every American will be obese in the next couple decades. Ok, so this won’t actually happen because there will always be people who eat healthy foods and exercise.

Have you ever heard of the concept of social change? Social change is what happens when the trends of what is accepted and “normal” in society change. This can be anything from the acceptance of gay marriage to the reduction in cigarette smoking (Read the book, The Sticking Point---it’s really interesting and a quick read!).

Have you ever heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? This is a common response to the American way of wanting instant results and gratification---if a diet doesn’t work in 3 days, chuck it and try something new. Pretty soon, you can just conclude that NOTHING WORKS. (This tells me there’s something wrong with the WAY we diet, not just that the diet is flawed)

Put these two phenomena together---

We want to down-size Americans, and we know we can’t do it overnight….and the same thing won’t work for everyone.

So how do we do it?
1. We start with baby steps, one person at a time. You. Me. Your kids.
2. We learn how to love ourselves independent of how we eat or exercise. This includes not pressuring ourselves to meet unrealistic goals, and giving ourselves credit for what we do well.
3. Learn what the real issues are and then deal with them. Weight is a symptom not an issue!
4. Deal effectively with physical addictions. This includes food, inactivity, cigarettes, depression, mental patterns, etc.
5. Make a plan.
6. Adjust the plan.

I’ll end on that for now, but there is a lot more to talk about. Think about it. In addition to your gratitude list, try making a list of all the things you like about yourself. Then give yourself credit and be thankful for those things too!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Intention and Determination

I personally don't think it should be "hard" to eat healthy foods and to not overeat on holidays. In fact, in my own life, I expect everything to be easy. The issue is that it doesn't always turn out that way. It's not just the temptation of large quantities of food you want to eat, but it's also the company you celebrate with, the expectations of others, and the issues you bring to the table. We've learned psychological and physical habits throughout our lives, and deciding to change all at once is not as simple as just making the decision.

When I was a kid, I hated Thanksgiving food---all except the green bean casserole and pie. I used to eat all the stuff I didn’t like first as fast as I could, so I could save things I did like for last. I think a lot of people have this mindset, or at least just feel obligated to eat food because it’s there. I got to a certain age when I decided I’d no longer eat the food I didn’t want at Thanksgiving---but then when the day rolled around, I'd end up eating more than I intended anyway. This happened especially when I was at someone else's house or out with other people. I had made the decision, but practiced my old undesired habits anyway and this was frustrating. Year after year (and not just on Thanksgiving), I kept making these decisions and not following through. Finally, it dawned on me that (duh!) it takes more than just making the decision.

Intention is the first step---that's the decision part. What is your plan? For instance, this year, my plan is to eat only what I want (even if I'm worried about being rude!).

The second step is to be determined to stick to the plan. That's the part I was missing in the past-----determination! You can't be successful at your plan unless you are determined to stick to it. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a secret to becoming determined, but thinking about it seems to be the first step. Think about what has worked for you in the past, and what the pros and cons are of sticking to your plan. It might seem like hard work to be determined, and maybe it really is, but after you do it once it is easier the next time.

I'm really looking forward to having macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving this year! What about you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Natural Skin Care, Twinkies, and Pumpkin Seeds

In the spirit of New-vember, I thought I'd just post some random health information...

In order for a skin care product to be called “natural,” up to 99% of the ingredients can be manmade. Since you absorb up to 60% of any substance applied to your skin, you could absorb up to 4.4 pounds of manmade chemical into your body in this way each year. (The Green Book, Rogers and Kostigen)

Glucose, the form of sugar that adds bulk and sweetness to Twinkies’ crumb and filling, also adds glossiness to shoe leather and prolongs concrete setting.
Only a small percentage of the 750 million lbs of cornstarch that’s manufactured annually goes into food like Twinkies. Two-thirds is used to make paper, cardboard, and packaging peanuts. (Twinkie Deconstructed, Ettlinger)

Raw pumpkin seeds are high in tryptophan, which works with tyrosine and zinc in the body to improve one’s mood, and increase levels of serotonin in the brain, alleviating depression. Pumpkin seeds have also been said to relieve stress, promote relaxation, and help insomnia. Make sure you eat them raw because cooking them destroys the tryptophan! (Eating for Beauty, Wolfe)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Story of Your Life

I was asking my friend today if she had any ideas for what I could write about in relation to wellness and the Maintain Don’t Gain program---it’s not that I’m out of ideas, it’s just that I’m more of a research or academic writer, and frankly, that stuff is not always interesting. I had passed along a couple blogs to her that I read on a regular basis: This blog is written by one of the most famous “Mommy Bloggers” who supports her family through advertising on her blog. She’s a very sarcastic and outspoken woman----so beware if you’re easily offended! I think this blog is related to wellness because it’s about just being who you are and not worrying about what people think. Don’t be afraid to just be yourself! This blog is written by a dietician named Liz who I met at the conference I went to in Santa Fe a couple months ago. She’s got two kids and I think the blog appeals to me in the realm of wellness because it’s about a real family trying to be healthy, but it’s also realistic about food and kids and exercise in the process. Lizzy’s philosophy on running a race---if it hurts, walk because it’s not worth the pain!

So, I don’t necessarily agree with or support everything in both of the blogs (and all the food and recipes are not healthy), but I think they’re interesting people. The real point of this post is to share with you that it’s important to think and read and decide how you feel about stuff in general as well as about your own life. As you live your life, you’re crafting your own story. You don’t have to go so far as to write a blog about it, but you’ll be surprised how you begin to interpret your story as you go along if you just think about your life that way.

I like to tie in the real world to the research world as much as possible, otherwise what’s the point of research, right? I did my dissertation last year on the topic of what makes women choose a healthy lifestyle and also sustain it over time. I didn’t want to help people change (at least not for that project!), I just wanted to find out why and how people made health a high priority in their lives. I used a methodology called Narrative Inquiry and it was all about making interpretations from the stories the women told me about their lives. I didn’t really uncover anything revolutionary---everyone’s story was different. But maybe that was the revolutionary finding? As a wellness coach, if I tell you what to do to reach your goals without taking a lot of your personal details into account, (1) you won’t do it, and (2) you won’t like it.

My goal is to help you figure out
1. Where are you now?
2. Where do you want to end up?
3. What steps fit into your life and with your personality that will help lead you in that direction?
4. How can we adjust your plan to make it work better?

These are things you can start to think about on your own, and then ask me for help! I’ll tell you more about the stories I collected another time. For now, think about your story!

Knowing yourself is the first step in successful lifestyle change (and we’ll talk about liking yourself later!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gratitude vs. Manners

The Gratitude Symbol:

Maybe it’s because I interact regularly with a kindergartener, but I have been thinking a lot about manners lately. It occurred to me, as Matthew begrudgingly said please in order to have me help him open a container, that the words “please” and “thank you” really don’t mean very much to us. We say these things out of habit, similar to how we ask, “Hi, How are you?” when we address someone. Do we really expect any answer besides “good”? (that is unless you’re a wellness coach :) !)
I think Thanksgiving brings the concept of gratitude to the forefront of many peoples’ minds, and I’d like to think we have the power to expand that focus on thankfulness to the rest of the year.
I found this website about The Gratitude Challenge
The Challenge encourages you to:
· Spend three minutes every morning writing down a few things you are grateful for that day
· Devote a full morning or afternoon to composing a more detailed gratefulness list. (One tip: think both about what you are grateful for and also how you can show that gratitude)
· Make it a habit to encourage at least one person every day
· Review your finances to make sure they are in order and aligned with your values
· Plan something fun, like a trip to somewhere you’ve never been
· For one day (or more), say something positive to every person you meet

If you think some of these suggestions are a little too much to start with, then pick one and try it! See how it makes you feel. I started with making my three-minute gratitude list.
The last part of the Gratitude Challenge is to pass the challenge on to others.

Here’s my three-minute gratitude list for today:

Mom, Matthew and Joey


All different friends who I love for all different reasons

My job--- all of the people I have connected with through it

My gym membership and yoga

Living .2 miles from Wegmans

Being finished with school forever!

Green smoothies, sushi, and pizza

Plans for Thanksgiving this year

Having heat included in my rent and a garage

Share yours?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pepperoni-Sausage-Butter-Mozzarella Stuffing?

Usually when I’m on the treadmill I watch the Food Network. Sometimes it’s torture, but in general I just like to watch something that will be mildly entertaining without requiring a lot of focused attention because I like to people-watch too. The other day, FN was showing Thanksgiving meal preparation shows ALL DAY. It was interesting for a little while, and I did learn a few interesting tips, but one thing in particular really caught my attention. A woman whose show I’ve never seen before was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her friends, and her stuffing recipe was definitely the most unhealthy I have ever heard of. She first cubed pepperoni and sautéed it with butter (!), and then she sautéed the celery and onions in the drippings. Next, she browned some sausage and set it aside, added chicken stock to the grease so she could scrape the pan and dumped all the above ingredients in a bowl together. After all that, the woman proceeded to toast some bread and then butter BOTH sides, cube it, and add it to the stuffing mixture. Next, she chopped up a ball of mozzarella cheese and added that too. Voila! Stuffing?! As if that wasn’t bad enough, she next took a piece of cheese cloth, drenched it in melted butter, and draped it over the turkey in order to allow for more saturation into the meat.

In the name of Balance, please make some smarter choices as you make your stuffing this Thanksgiving.
In fact, check out this link for some healthy ideas:

p.s. As the show ended, I looked around to see who was working out, and across the row of treadmills was a pregnant woman walking pretty quickly, which I find commendable. This woman, however, had only a sports bra and shorts on. I do think there’s a limit to the “You go girl” phenomenon.
In the name of Modesty and Respect for Others, pregnant or not, please cover yourself at the gym!

p.p.s. I always disliked stuffing because it was so mushy and soggy, but I learned a cool trick on FN—bake your stuffing in a muffin pan. You get nice serving-sized portions of crispy stuffing balls. Do you have any tips you can share about Thanksgiving foods?

Monday, November 17, 2008

First Days and Maintain Don't Gain

Saturday was the first day of hunting season. For my nephew, Matthew, this meant transforming my coat closet into a tree stand and hunting imaginary deer for most of the morning. I left for a while to go to the gym, thinking the boys would have things cleaned up when I got back (ha!), and while I was on the treadmill I started thinking about the whole concept of “first days.” In our society, we tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to action items. For example, we either completely adhere to an exercise program or we do absolutely nothing. At this time of year, with the holiday season approaching, many people decide to throw their healthy habits out the window and plan to restart after January 1st. After all, if I’m going to overeat on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, and at all the parties in between, why don’t I just let loose and do whatever I want for the next two months?

Truth be told, this is not a great time of year to begin a weight loss program and the reason isn’t because we can’t do it, but mostly that we’re more likely to screw it up with the higher number of temptations. I’d like to tempt you to try and alter the way you think about the holiday season in terms of your health. This doesn’t mean I’m trying to ruin the holiday eating season for you, just that I hope you can make some changes regarding the way you think about eating and exercise.

Concepts to consider:

Ask yourself how much and which kinds of food you really need/want?
We tend to see parties and shared meals as a time for overindulging on EVERYTHING! Why not just check out the choices, and then eat just what you really want the most? Eat slowly and enjoy the food—you’ll eat less in the long run.

Which days are you going to be tempted to overeat (or skip your workout, etc)?
Identify those days and then plan how to eat just a little bit healthier (or workout a little more) leading up to and after those days. Or if you’re going to have a heavy evening meal, compensate by eating less before and after. Your body does not give you a score each day for how strict you were, but it is significantly affected by how you treat it over time. This means that if you compartmentalize your unhealthy eating to a defined number of days over the next 45 days, you will be impacted significantly less than if you just decided to get back on the diet or exercise wagon after January 1st.

Today is not really the First Day of another new program to be healthy---it’s just another day of your life. If you can think about what kind of person you’d like to be in terms of your health and wellness, there’s no time like right now to just do more things that lead you in that direction. This is not an All-or-Nothing world, and your wellness is not that way either. Maintaining your health (and weight) throughout the holiday season is not about restriction and struggling. It’s about strategizing and being aware of what you really want and enjoy.

The journey toward wellness is different for everyone—one thing we all have in common is that we’re not perfect! We all have things we can improve, and evolving into the well person you want to be is not something you do overnight. So in the end it isn’t about a first day or a deadline or someone else’s ideas about what you should do. Identify your goal (Maintain Don’t Gain?), and then figure out ways to reach your goal while enjoying yourself throughout the process!