Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Backwards and Forwards

Look back at 2008. Take note of your accomplishments, and things you could have done better for your wellness. Use the following quote as a sort-of checklist:
"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make some goals for 2008. Think big broad year-long goals, and then refine them into smaller pieces. Then make some short-term goals too---not everything takes a year to achieve (i.e. making flossing your teeth a habit should take about 21 days---but that's another topic). Post your goals somewhere you can see them everyday. Why not? It has been repeatedly proven that those people who have goals are more likely to achieve things. Maybe its just because they're defining what "achieving" means, but maybe not.

Take a minute to make a list of the things you are grateful for. Don't just write the things down, feel it.

Have a happy and healthy new year. Make it your mission to do so---a positive and happy one :)

Today I Love Pine Nuts

I don't know about you, but a lot of the time my cravings for foods change on a daily basis. The standard way we think of dieting really doesn't support being able to address cravings. If you're trying to reign in your random acts of eating and maintain some sort of can't possibly just go with the flow of your cravings, right?

I think that is true for some people---the people who have not really reached a good healthy comfortable relationship with food. So, the first goal, is to make peace with food and eating (remember the post about not fighting?). Food isn't the enemy, and its even difficult to explain what it feels like when you've surrendered the fight----but when you do, you'll know. I talked to someone this week who is so excited about her new perspective on eating and success at weight loss without a single bit of restriction, that she could barely stop herself from announcing it to the whole office.

If you're still trying to reach this comfort level with food, keep at it. Try new things. Remind yourself to love and forgive yourself when you think you've screwed up---and then stay positive.

For those of us who are at a higher comfort level now, don't deny your cravings! A couple days ago, I bought some pine nuts with the intention of adding them to salad---instead I ate about half a cup of them by themselves. Later, I read an article about recovering from holiday eating and one of the tips was to eat pine nuts---great! But then it said to eat about a teaspoon of them a day to stave off hunger. Oops! For about 15 seconds, I got that old guilty feeling and started to strategize about fitting in an extra workout----then I relaxed. So what if I ate extra pine nuts? I'd just eat less later, and maybe workout a little harder if I felt like it.

The point is to eat what you want, with balance in mind. Today, I had hot chocolate for breakfast because we ran out of coffee---did I really need all that sugar? No, but I wanted it! I'll balance it all out later with carrots, and I enjoyed it more by not feeling guilty about it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year and New You?

I'm not really a believer in New Year's Resolutions in general, but this year I think I'll just spin the concept into a form that I think works.

What works? Well, read some of the stuff in the previous posts about figuring out what you'd like to change, why, and how to fit it into your life. Simple, right?

I don't think it's simple when you just look at the big picture or the overall goals, but I do think there's a way to do it that helps it feel easier.

Why not make a plan for the whole year?

What do you want to accomplish by the end of 2009? Weight loss? Quit smoking? Drink less alcohol? Manage your stress better?

Determine what you want to change, and then set a specific goal. The easiest way for this to work is to use numbers---then its more easily measured at the end.

Next, chop the year up into sections, and set mini-goals for each section.

The last part (for now) is to look at your first mini-section goal and make a plan on how to reach it.

Let's say you decided you want to lose 35 pounds in 2009. That's a big goal, right? Now let's chop up the year into mini-sections, or in this case, months. You have 12 to work with.

Take mini-section 1 (January), and break down what you need to accomplish in order to be on track with your overall goal. 35 pounds in 12 months means you'll need to lose 4 pounds in 1 month. Each week you'll need to lose a pound. So your plan will address how to lose one pound per week, or decrease your caloric balance by 3500 calories (3500 cal=1 pound fat).

It doesn't seem so bad when you set mini-goals, does it?

The word for this year is patience. Normally, we (Americans) have no patience. If we decide we need to lose 35 pounds, we want to do it NOW. But why? Won't it be easier and more realistic (and more likely to stick) if we give ourselves a year?

Start with the steps above, and then if you need help with your mini-goals, ask for help!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Forget the Point!

Today at work I had to say goodbye to a lot of people who I won't see again. I feel kind of sad about it because I've spent months getting to know them, and helping them on their journey toward wellness. However, life is full of beginnings and endings, and well, that's just the way it goes! Later in the morning, I was at another work location, and got into a conversation with someone who wanted to tell me all about what is wrong with the US government and why it's so bad (I do have issues with taxing regular soda and not diet, but that's another story). I could practically see his blood pressure going up as we talked, and it made me think about how worked up we can get about things we have strong opinions about even if they are out of our control.

I ended this conversation using one of my handy wellness coaching exit strategies, and then said happy holidays before moving on.... WELL, this really set him off onto another rant about how Happy Holidays is the stupidest saying ever. If he hears one more person say it, he's going to blow up (seriously?!). Apparently, it bothers him to not be able to say Merry Christmas, and he doesn't want to say Happy Holidays because that includes holidays like Kwanza and Hanukkah. As I watched his blood pressure go through the roof, I thought about how badly this person was really just missing the point! He was missing the point that it doesn't matter to him or anyone else what Happy Holidays means. He was missing the point that he was negatively impacting his health by perseverating on whose fault it was that the government is a mess (his words).

In the name of our health and wellness, when we focus on what the real "points" are in life, we are much better off. We can only control certain things, and this includes how we control our reactions to those things in life that we have no control over. Getting all worked up about things does not help our blood pressure, and negatively impacts our bodies and minds in many ways. Cortisol is a hormone released when we experience the stress response, and this (especially over time) has many negative effects on the body.

Why should you care?

In terms of whatever wellness issue you are working on, take a moment to remember the point. Once you are aware of the point, ask yourself if it makes sense. Ask yourself if you might want to change anything about what you're doing, or how you're looking at your issue.

A good example of this is regarding weight loss. Ask yourself why you're trying to lose weight? Is it for your health benefit? Or is it for some other reason (i.e. so you'll be happier, someone will respect you more, you'll look better than your neighbor)? If it's for some other reason, look into it----a lot of times what we think is the issue (or the point) really isn't. If your reason for losing weight is to fix a relationship, it's probably not the weight that you would be best off focusing on. Alternatively, sometimes you are right on target.

So The Point is------awareness, open eyes, empowerment to be improving your wellness on purpose in the way you intend, for the reasons you value.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Get Excited!

Sometimes when we look forward at making a lifestyle change it just feels like a drag. It might be hard and make us feel like we're missing out on something. We might fail.

All this is true! BUT---much of our chance for making our improvements into a sustained lifestyle depends on our perspective. Can you possibly get excited about changing?

It makes me think about when I was 16 and worked in a grocery store for a year. I HATED it. Every second of cashiering, stocking, (illegally) clipping coupons for the manager, sorting empty bottles and was terrible. Usually I worked from 4-8:30pm, and sometimes from 7am-1pm on Sundays. The Sunday shift sounds worse, but the problem with the afternoon shifts was that I wasted the whole day before I went to work dreading it. For an entire summer, I had this feeling of dread about going to work. I did nothing all day long, and then dragged myself to the store. The point is that it really wasn't that bad. I was getting paid minimum wage (which at the time was about $4.25 an hour) for 4.5 hours, but I was wasting an additional 8 hours everyday hating my job.

One day, I heard something on the radio about tricking yourself into being in a good mood. They said if you force yourself to smile and pretend you are happy, you will feel better. So I tried it while I was cashiering one day. And it worked. Not enough for me to like the job, but enough for me not to be miserable while I was there.

I think there are two layers of this related to lifestyle. First, if you are dreading making a change (giving up fast food, cigarettes, starting a workout plan, etc), pretend you're excited!
The second thing is to actually find ways that will help you feel some real excitement. Make a list of the reasons why the change is worth it. What will it feel like when you succeed? What are the benefits of change?

It's just another strategy for inching closer to lifestyle change without making it a struggle or a fight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hiding and Seeking

A lot of times the reason we can't conquer our issues (did I really just say that after encouraging people not to "fight" their issues??!!) is because we play a complicated game of hide and seek with them. We hide our issues from other people and ourselves. We seek to find out what causes our issues, and sometimes we find the answers!.....but then we hide from the solutions. Or we even experience success (i.e. weight loss, quitting smoking, getting in shape, reducing our stress), and then we slide back into our old routine. We rationalize and deny the truth so we can stay in our comfort zone, even if it's not somewhere we want to be.


Think of yourself as two people. One is the person who wants to be the best you can be and knows how to do that. The other is the person who desperately wants to KEEP EVERYTHING THE SAME. We are creatures of habit, and our ego, if you will, thrives on these habits. Your ego "protects" you from seeing the truth. Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror one day and had some major revelation about yourself ("Oh my God, how did I get so fat....old....out of shape....etc)? Why didn't you realize it while it was happening? The perfect example is a person who is 20-40 pounds overweight, and all of a sudden is in a panic to lose the pounds instantly. But----those pounds gradually accumulated over time, they can't go away instantly. Why didn't we see the extra pounds when we only needed to lose 5? That would have been much more manageable, right?

The answer is complicated , but your brain (a very general term) protects you from seeing change. A study was done on weight gain, and showed that people literally could not see a difference in their appearance when they lost or gained 5 pounds. If you think about anorexia, it's almost like this phenomenon gone haywire. Then consider how gradually most people gain weight---your brain is going to be very slow at realizing how different you actually look.

In my personal experience, men are much more likely to not "see" their weight gain. In fact, I've had 300+ pound men tell me they know they could lose a couple pounds, but they're not fat or anything.

The bottom line here is that you have a few physiological things going against you when you're working on improving your lifestyle because your body/brain is preventing you from fully grasping your current status and also is trying furiously to keep you just how you are. What can you do?

1. Look at yourself in pictures---it's easier to see the truth when you're not looking in a mirror
2. Be honest with yourself when you feel yourself rationalizing behaviors---even if you don't change that time, acknowledge what you're doing.
3. Don't beat yourself up for having a hard time sticking to a plan
4. Make really small changes, experience small successes, and build on them.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Does Beer Make You Fat?

Lots of people tell me they know they could lose weight if they stopped drinking "so much" beer. I'm not sure how much "so much" is, but it probably depends on the person. The effects of stopping drinking it are individual too. In fact, women are often quite bitter towards the men in their lives who seem to be able to declare on a Sunday that they will stop drinking beer......and then by Friday, they've lost 5 pounds. That would never work for a woman!

This is why:

1. it is metabolically easier for men to lose weight than for women.
2. beer has a certain number of calories in it, and if a guy is drinking a few days worth of calories in beer each week and then stops, he'll easily lose a few quickly (remember one pound of fat=3500 calories).
3. women don't (generally) drink as much beer as men do, so even if they quit drinking it at all, it wouldn't be creatng as drastic a decrease in caloric intake.

Ok, so back to the concept of beer as a promoter of being overweight. It's not actually beer itself that causes people to become fat, its the carb-y caloric intake in conjunction with the other foods that are often consumed with beer. Think: fried foods, junk food, pizza, wings, etc., etc., etc.....
If you consume a lot of beer (or other carb), and the carbs are broken down and enter your bloodstream, AND you are not in need of using them for energy.....insulin levels will remain high, and will tell your body to store fat. Thus, you gain weight.

When you have this beer-carb-high going on, and then you eat more carbs combined with lots of're just overloading your system with yucky stuff it doesn't want to process. You get bogged down, and your body stores fat.

So beer can be considered a sneaky accomplice in the journey toward weight gain. Nutritionally, it's not horrible for you---it's high (ish) in antioxidants, helps increase blood flow to the heart, and has even been touted as having prevention properties for certain types of cancer (however, that's really hard to verify).

The point is that beer itself has a bad rep, and this may not be totally fair. As in most wellness decisions you make, you will be able to justify whatever actions you take: If you choose to overindulge in beer in the name of increasing blood flow to your heart, you are only deluding yourself. Moderation is key, and if you choose to drink beer, moderate drinking in conjunction with a healthy diet is the way to go.

Pumpkin and Green Beans

Last week I handed out information and recipes to my friends at Con-way Freight that included some info about pumpkin and why it is good for you. I had two different people tell me that when their dogs were overweight, the vet told them to mix canned (plain) pumpkin or green beans into their dog food. It would bulk up the food without adding a lot of calories-----and the dogs would love it. It sounds gross to me, but maybe better than dog food itself!?

I was thinking about it and how people try and do the same kinds of things---ever hear of the Fiber 35 diet? It's based on the idea that the more fiber you ingest, the fuller you will feel and the fewer calories you will consume and absorb (plus some other health/heart benefits). I've also been asked for lists of foods that can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Did you ever hear that rumor about celery? That one that says it takes more energy to digest celery than the calories in the food? I think it is called a negative calorie food, or something like that. Well, don't believe it! Munching celery might encourage weight loss---but it's because you're eating a low cal food that is high in water and fiber and will encourage a decrease in the other foods you eat (and therefore lower your daily caloric intake).

Below is my list, by no means complete, of a bunch of foods that can be consumed at high quantities without worrying about overindulging calorically.

As much as you want:
Celery (best!)
Cucumbers (best!)

Large quantities when eaten by themselves (but not unlimited):
Air popped popcorn (without butter or salt---try adding pepper or other herbs for flavor)

Tea, unsweetened

Friday, December 12, 2008

Raw Ice Cream

This ice cream is SO GOOD, and healthy. Note: if you choose to add milk or other processed liquid, its not really raw anymore (but it's still healthier than regular ice cream!).

I don't measure for this---you'll see why!

frozen bananas (cut up bananas and freeze them)
dates (take the pit out---they're really sweet, so just add one at first and then add more as needed. This will depend on what other fruit you put in and how sweet your bananas are. See why I don't measure?!)
vanilla extract or real vanilla (optional)
Other fruit (optional)
almond milk (my fave), soy milk, regular milk, or water

Add all ingredients to blender and blend till smooth. Taste, add more of whatever you want and blend again.

Today I used 1 banana, 7 strawberries, 1 date, some almond was awesome!
You could also try avocado to make it creamy.

Let me know what you try and how it worked out :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Use It!

I was watching an infomercial this morning---for Tony Horton's 10-Minute Trainer program (for only 3, no wait, 2 easy payments of $39.95!). This program is guaranteed to make you lose 1 jeans size in just 10 days. The thing is....I bet it works. Most of these programs do---although I dislike the ones that make irrational promises, like losing 4 inches of your waist in 6 workouts.

The point is, it's not really which program you choose that is going to be the key to your success (although it has to fit your personality and needs), it's whether or not you do it! The Firm looks pretty good----Billy Blanks' Tae Bo is effective----Walk Away the Pounds can work...

They all have that one thing in common---you have to do the workouts and be consistent for them to work. Think about this when you're trying to make those exercise and activity improvements in your life. First pick something that suits your needs, but then focus more on your strategy for making the new plan a lifestyle.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Trial and Error.....and Success!

Evolution is something we often think about in regards to humankind and the evolution of man. However, each person undergoes his/her own personal evolution throughout life (not always in a positive way---which doesn’t actually qualify as evolution, but it’s still a form of change). I want to share with you a great example of this positive evolution in regards to wellness and lifestyle.
I met this person back in June, and she had been trying to lose weight for quite some time. She was already physically active and even had a pretty balanced diet. The one thing that jumped out at me from her nutrition log was that her diet was lacking in the area of leafy greens----and then she told me she does not like salad. I suggested she may try adding spinach to her fruit smoothies and she (thought I was crazy, but) tried it. She started with just two tiny spinach leaves, and when she couldn’t taste that, she gradually added more day after day. Now, you might say she’s drinking a salad every morning!

After this evolution was well underway, I suggested she consider another change. This one had to do with integrating more raw food into her diet and being aware of the way combining different types of foods affects digestion. Again, she thought I was nuts at first, but stayed open-minded, and tried the new idea in small ways a little at a time.
Today, I got an email from my new wellness friend telling me about how excited she was about the dessert she made last night.
It said this:
So I know it's a little crazy to send you a picture of my dessert from last night. Actually, it might be more crazy that I took the picture... But I was SO excited. I had to share because I think you're the only person who would appreciate this.I used the frozen bananas and it made my raw ice cream much thicker and more like soft serve ice cream and less like soup. I was so excited. It's awesome to have a dessert that is honestly good for you, full of nutrition and void of bad fat and toxins!

What’s the point of this story? This individual has perpetuated her own evolution over the last six months. She stopped fighting diets, and started thinking about nutrition and how food can make her body healthier and have more energy. She tried things one at a time, and while some worked---some didn’t. But she didn’t give up, and she didn’t conclude that there was something wrong with her when an idea didn’t work.

Today, she’s eating 50% raw food and loving it, feeling better, and the weight is melting off. Your journey will be different than hers, but navigating your way through to a higher level of wellness is possible!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Be Nice...But Stick Up For Yourself!

I just talked to a friend of mine who is rather needy. She's one of those people who asks me to do something with her, asks me what I'd like to do, and then when I suggest something----she says, "Nah, let's do ______ instead." I usually go along with it because I am an agreeable person. This has gotten me into all kinds of situations in the past, generally ending up with me being inconvenienced or out to dinner somewhere I didn't want to go. For the most part, I don't mind because I love my friends, but I've been contemplating recently how my lifestyle could affect others and how that could all possibly work out.

I don't want to be one of those people who has special food needs at restaurants or at peoples' houses. I don't want to call attention to myself or have someone think I'm being rude or picky. At the same time, I don't always want to go eat cheesy greasy Mexican food on a Tuesday night. I'm working on crafting my lifestyle into one that is mostly healthy, and I need time and consistency to be successful at it. My roadblocks come in the form of friends and family, and having to have kid food in the house. I don't want any of those people to change or go away, but I need to be able to have what I want too and not feel guilty about it.

My friend recently met my boyfriend, Joe. It's been a couple weeks since we went to dinner, and I haven't talked to her much since then. I invited her and her husband to go out for sushi last weekend, but they declined because she doesn't like "weird different food like that"---however she called me back to see if we'd go out to get Mexican, and Joe said no because we had been planning to get sushi. I was uncomfortable saying no---in the past or by myself, I would have gone for Mexican because that's what they wanted. But it really made me think that I have to start sticking up for what I want. Funny thing, when I talked to my friend today, she mentioned that she isn't sure about whether or not Joe is right for me. I guess she liked the old Lisa better--the one who just did whatever she wanted to do.

I'm not embarrassed that I like to eat healthy food, but I am the first to admit how easily I am persuaded into other options. My goal for the rest of December is to be honest with my friends and family and tell them what I do and don't want to do or eat. I'm guessing no one will really care, except maybe that one friend who is quite possibly more in this friendship for herself anyway.

What is your goal? Do you put your health and wellness plan aside for the convenience of others?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stop the Insanity!

Do you know the definition of insanity?

When you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

This often applies to wellness in the realm of habits like food, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, stress, and many many more. When we try a new diet without changing the way we think about food, we're setting ourselves up to be unsuccessful. Many people do it over and over again---try the latest diet (low carb, low fat, calorie restriction, weight watchers, LA WeightLoss.....SlimFast, NutriSystem, etc....), and then when it doesn't work blame themselves. The problem is that you can try a new diet by saying you're going to do it and learning the new protocol....but you're not changing anything about the way you think and feel about food. In fact, many times you're thinking more about losing that 10 pounds.

So why is this a problem?

Humans are creatures of habit. We spend our lives developing our habits (based on our genetics and our experiences), and then we decide we want to change something and expect to do it instantly and to get results instantly.

Our bodies actually develop neural pathways according to our habits. Do you ever feel like you're on autopilot? Even if you don't, if you do things the same way for a long time, your brain and body are actually conditioned to keep doing it that way. The insanity part comes in when all we ever do (through whichever diet we choose) is try and break those pathways instantly and switch to a new lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it works (think quitting smoking cold turkey or changing diet all at once and following it for the rest of your life). In those cases, there are many factors present---you may call it "mind over matter" or just having the sheer determination to make the change. We are all capable of this, but in general, we do not have the deep down determination, faith, and follow-through to make it happen in an instant. That is not a weakness, it's biology.

For most of us, if we take a more gradual approach, we will be more successful and make it a lifestyle change as opposed to a crash or yo-yo diet. What this means for practical application is that we have to recondition ourselves about the way we think about food. Ease into it. Pick one thing you could change, and plan a way to do it slowly in a way that's comfortable to you. This isn't how we normally try and change ourselves----but haven't we proven that the old way doesn't work?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Positive vs. Negative Perspective

We often have the perspective that if we want to be healthier we have to take unhealthy things out of our lives. For this week, instead of looking at it that way, see if you can just add at least one healthy thing to your diet each day.

Try these ideas or find your own!

Maybe it feels better to add enriching things to our lives than it does to take things (habits) away. Over time, if we gradually add more and more good things, the not-so-good things will be phased out (Ok, so it's not that simple----but it's a start, and every little improvement counts!).

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Surrender!

"We are always fighting. We are fighting for the job, we're fighting for the relationship, we're fighting our partner or parents to be a certain way, we're fighting to maintain our fixed agendas. We're fighting to get people to understand us, we're fighting to get our body a certain way, we're fighting to make money, we're fighting to avoid failure, we're fighting to be what we think we should be. All this fighting hardens us, and makes us sick. Fighting has to do with getting. And a get state of mind is not a receptive state of mind. When we put out a get mentality, we'll be got. But when we surrender, we receive." --Baron Baptiste.

So what does that mean in regards to your health and wellness goals? Well, you decide.

If you're trying to lose weight, and you try and fight your way to that goal by doing things like:
> Punishing yourself (for real or just in your head) when you mess up
> Wearing clothes that are uncomfortable to remind yourself you're too big
> Depriving or starving yourself

...and you feel badly about it,

You're fighting. Take a few minutes, put down the boxing gloves, and surrender.

It reminds me of one time when I was in 5th grade when I saw a teacher of mine running on the weekend. She looked horrible---miserable, sweaty, in too-tight-too-short shorts. I remember being kind of surprised she was trying so hard at something like that. Coincidentally, in school the next Monday I heard her talking to another teacher about running.

She said, "I went running on Saturday, but I decided it's just not for me. I'm just going to be fat and happy for the rest of my life."

So---that's not the kind of surrendering I'm talking about! I'm talking about the kind of surrendering when you stop beating yourself up to help you reach your goals. Yes, you have XYZ about yourself that you are not entirely fond of. However, working WITH it instead of AGAINST it will yield better results.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now is a great time to focus on your health---you have time before Christmas comes around to balance out any overindulgances you may have experienced in the past week.

Pick something that will help you. Here are a few ideas:
>workout one extra time this week
>eat an extra salad this week
>try a green smoothie!
>go on youtube and find a guided meditation that seems interesting, and meditate/relax for 10 minutes
>do yoga

Whatever you do, make it be a positive experience. If you feel a little chunkier than normal this week, find your most comfortable, flattering outfit and wear that!