Friday, August 29, 2008

No Eating Zone

I hope you had a great and successful week so far, giving yourself positive ideas and making better and smarter choices with what you eat and how active you are. This weekend I have an idea that might help you eliminate some mindless eating: Establish a "No Eating Zone". This would be a place where you receive subtle cues to eat whenever you approach, even when you're not hungry.

Maybe it's the chair in front of the TV, the sofa where you curl up to read a good book, or your bed where you have a late night snack just before turning in. Some people find they eat to pass the time when they're in their car, on the phone, or at a relative's house. Some places cue us to eat because there are snacks involved as part of the event, like a ball game or a movie theatre.

Where is this place for you? Your desk at work or your sewing room? Your front porch or your neighbor's kitchen? Figure out where you are consuming extra calories when you're not even hungry and decide that will not be a place for you to eat anymore. Food is eaten to nourish our bodies, to enjoy in the company of others during a meal, to savor the flavors... but not to be consumed as a past time while we're already doing something else we enjoy!

Tell us about your "no eating zone", what you used to eat there, and how you feel about giving it up!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weight Loss Solution: How Sally Lost Weight

Sally was not eating three meals a day when she came to see me for help losing weight. "I feel like I'm saving extra calories by skipping breakfast, and sometimes lunch," she told me. "If I can get by without eating then, doesn't that mean I should be losing weight? I'm afraid if I start adding all that extra food I'll gain even more." In the famous words of Dr. Phil I asked, "So, how's that working for you?"

Sally admitted it wasn't working. Sometimes she would get so hungry she would eat whatever she could find that was fast and easy--usually a candy bar from the vending machine or a convenience store. "And when I get home around dinner time I'm just too hungry to think of cooking an entire meal," she related. So dinner was usually something she could get quickly and lots of--like a buffet, or a Chinese take-out or a pizza. Obviously Sally had good intentions, but physiological hunger virtually always wins out in the end. Sally's body was talking her brain into feeding herself with the only regard being 'get something now'.

I told Sally about some research studies that showed convincing evidence of how eating more meals during the day helped people to weigh less. When subjects were given 2000 calories at one meal for six weeks in a row--and that's all they ate all day--they gained weight. As the same subjects had the same 2000 calories divided into 2 meals, then 3 meals, and eventually 6 meals a day for several weeks, they ended up losing weight. The same people, the same food: The only difference was they were eating it over a span of 15 hours instead of 50 minutes.

Sally agreed to try it. We came up with a simple and fast breakfast she could eat that wouldn't be time consuming for her while she was trying to dash out the door. We found several great options for snacks she could have during the day that were relatively low in calories so she wasn't so hungry just before a meal. Having planned snacks increases the chance that she'll think clearly at meal times, and make a wise decision about what to eat then. She could eat a fairly light lunch, since she was used to eating little at that time, and also because there was another snack to come in the afternoon.

After a couple of weeks Sally was adjusting to her new schedule and she was pleasantly surprised. "I actually enjoy my breakfast and have started looking forward to it," she told me with a smile ... "I can't believe all the food I'm eating and that I've actually lose three pounds!" Sally was no longer making candy bar runs mid-afternoon, because she never found herself too hungry to stop and think about what a smarter choice would be. She was arriving home at dinner time feeling only slightly hungry, and with enough energy to put some thought into preparing a balanced, low fat meal. She was getting comfortable with the idea that she could eat three meals (plus snacks!) on a regular schedule and not gain weight.

Try it out to see for yourself: Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast (or 2 slices of toast); bring some string cheese or a yogurt for a morning snack (you are likely to be hungry for lunch now that your body is getting fuel from breakfast and increasing your metabolism); have a 300 calorie frozen meal for lunch, or a sandwich, with a fresh fruit and a salad; bring a 100 calorie snack for the afternoon to be sure you don't arrive home so hungry that you raid the pantry; and prepare a nice healthy dinner (it doesn't have to be fancy) to round out your day. Chances are you can still have another snack in the evening (a low fat ice cream bar, or a few handfuls of popcorn) and find yourself on the road to successfully losing weight. Give it a few weeks and please post how you're doing here so we can cheer you on!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mind Over Matter

Yesterday I wrote about how going on a diet can set you up to fail. Today I ask you to think about how you talk to yourself and if that can be affecting how successful you are. If you desire to lose weight but are always saying, "I just can't lose weight; being overweight just runs in my family" or "I must just have a slow metabolism" you are justifying to yourself that it just won't happen. You are giving up without even trying. And you are bound to be unsuccessful.

If you have not been successful at weight loss (or other accomplishments) think about speaking positively to yourself and see where that gets you. If you think this won't work, I say give it a try--it sure can't hurt. And in the words of the famous Dr. Phil, "How is what you're doing now working for you?"

Here are some ideas of what you might be telling yourself and how you can phrase it more positively:
- "I can't stop eating these chips" becomes "I am going to put this bag of chips down now because I am making better decisions with how I eat"
- "I can't go for walk--I'm just too tired" becomes "I'll go for a short walk now because I know I will feel good when I'm finished"
- "It doesn't matter what I eat--I just can't lose weight" becomes "even if I don't lose 50 pounds I know I'll be in better shape by choosing lower calorie foods and eating more reasonable portions"

Try to catch yourself when you say negative things (even if you're not saying them out loud) and stop to phrase them in a more positive way. Think about other areas of your life where you are telling yourself you're no good; you may be establishing self-fulfilling prophecies. Saying (or thinking) things like "I'm just not an organized person", "I'm a lousy housekeeper" or "I'm just no good at math" reinforces these ideas in our brains. Sometimes we start believing these are true because we hear them over and over again--even if we are only hearing them in our own minds.

So, start thinking about what you tell yourself and turning the negatives into positives. Write down three things you routinely tell yourself that are negative, and the new positive phrases you will replace them with from now on! Please, share some of them with us here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Reason Not To Diet

I say this a lot: "Going on a diet implies that you will eventually be going off your diet"... and then you have to consider what will happen when you go back to eating the way you were when you packed the weight on in the first place. Now here's yet another angle from which to view how being on a diet affects your mindset: Being on a diet is black-and-white thinking, also known as all-or-nothing thinking. It says, "You are either on your diet or you are off it".

So, what happens if you tell yourself you are 'on' a diet, and then you eat something that is not allowed on your diet? Bam! You are off your diet, just like that. Then what? Then the little devil in your mind says, "well, now that we've blown that, we might as well give in and have a piece (or two) of that leftover pie that's in the fridge".

What would be a better alternative to "going on a diet"? I suggest you tell yourself, "I am watching what I eat and making better choices most of the time". This gives you allowances for times that you are not perfect. And since none of us is perfect, that just makes sense. This way, if you have an extra helping of potatoes, indulge in a piece of pie, or accept the birthday cake offered at the office party and eat it before even realizing what you've done, you haven't blown anything. You've made a choice that didn't help you lose weight, but that happens. You haven't failed because you haven't set yourself up for failure.

From what I've seen, going on a diet sets you up to fail. There is little chance you can stick to a plan you set that doesn't allow for extenuating circumstances or even special occasions. So repeat out loud now, "I am watching what I eat and making better choices most of the time". And while you're at it, how about, "I am choosing to find a physical activity I enjoy each day and being active for at least 30 minutes".

Please leave your comments here and let us all know how these affirmations help you, or if you have another that works for you!

Friday, August 22, 2008

43 things to do this weekend

This weekend, instead of snacking, here's a wildly fun thing to do if you have to be indoors. (If you don't have to be indoors you should be outside doing something active, burning calories, of course!)
There is a website called "43 things". I don't know how they came up with the number, but it's a fantastic, motivating, and fun place to be on the web. The idea is this: come up with a list of 43 things to do. You decide what you want to do and when you'd like to accomplish these feats. They range from the divine to the disastrous. Some are inspiring and some downright ridiculous. But all of them are so much fun to read.
There are people who aim to quit smoking, lose weight, run a marathon, or skydive. Some want to read certain books, write a book, do something they've always been afraid to do, or tell someone what they really think. Many members want to learn a craft, learn a new language, change careers, or travel to some exotic place.
You don't even have to come up with your own list. You can browse what others have decided to do and tag on to theirs. Some goals have hundreds of followers with the same intent of accomplishment. Popular ones include losing weight, learning to cook or sew, exercising more, quitting a bad habit, becoming more organized and being on time.
Less popular ones include dying your hair pink, hosting a talk show, and making a violin.

Mine? I only have six right now (I haven't updated for a while):

1) get rid of all the clothes in my closet (and dresser) that don't look and feel great on me!
(I'm the only one with this goal so far) My closet has really improved since I posted this goal. I think it will take a little more than a year (I have to go through a few seasons) but it's always on my mind when I dress and when I shop.

2) coach 100 clients so I can reach a Professional Certified Coach level
(I'm the only one with this goal, too). It's quite a lengthy process for this level of certification. It's going to take about five years. If anyone is thinking about being coached, it would help me out at the same time, as I continue to log my hours over the next few years.

3) finish knitting the sweater I started for my husband last fall
(No one else has this as a goal, but maybe they have other knitting projects they've started and have yet to finish) I also have started a sweater (or two) for myself, and a couple of pairs of socks for friends and family members... I just couldn't bear to list all of my unfinished knitting projects. It makes me dizzy to think about.

4) complain less
(Surprise! This is a goal I share with 818 other people on the site) It is a good idea and it's a win/win for everyone. Next time you get ready to complain about something, just try to phrase your statement in a more positive way: instead of "Ugh! It's raining again--I'm so tired of this weather" how about, "the plants sure must be enjoying this--at least we're not in the hurricane region". Try asking for what you want instead of pointing out what you don't want: "Honey, I'd really appreciate if you put the seat down when you're finished so I don't have to worry about falling in". It sounds so much less like nagging and complaining, and then people know exactly what you want--not what you don't want!

5) Take a "one-year off" trip
(This one I share with 240 people who also have it on their list) Hopefully we will be able to start traveling early in 2009 and continue for most of the year!

6) write an e-book
(No one else on the site is striving to do this right now)
I have two of them started; one is outlined and one is almost finished. I just have to break it up into smaller goals now to get each step taken care of, one at a time.

Post your goals on the '43 things site' or leave some here in the comments. Let us know how you're progressing with them and if we can be of any help!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Laurie Lost Weight

This is me! And the story of how I lost 15 pounds. I preach it now, calling it "watch out for the once-in-a-while's".

I'm a registered dietitian: I know how many calories are in virtually every food; I know how many grams of fat there are in a serving, how many grams of carbs are contained, what a reasonable portion size is, and which foods have little nutritional value; I know how many servings a day I should have of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and starches.
I know all of that. So why had I gained 15 pounds over the past 5 years and why wasn't it coming off? I ate reasonably well--I didn't binge, eat fast foods often, have desserts after every meal, or go out for ice cream every night. I was already eating what I thought was a fairly low calorie diet (about 1800 calories daily), so what could I change?

Right now I don't remember when it hit me, but it hit me hard, and I never forgot it: I was thinking about how well I avoided high calorie meals, struggling to figure out where I was going to come up with hundreds of calories a day to eliminate so I could lose a few pounds each month. I hardly ever ate fast food--maybe just every other week or so. I rarely had pizza because I knew that was a high-calorie dinner, so I wouldn't order one unless it had been a couple of weeks since the last time. Ditto with our local buffet restaurant, take-out chinese food, and eating out in any restaurant which served rolls and butter before the main meal. I didn't eat desserts often at lunch, even though they boasted quite a display of them at the cafeteria where I worked, so I would treat myself just once or twice a week. I very occasionally would indulge in a donut or sweet roll for breakfast, so it was especially enjoyable when I would give in every week or so. Sometimes I would be on the road during a trip and I would loosen the 'rules' a bit, allowing for snacks to help pass the drive; but that was only four or five times a year.

Are you seeing what I now see? I was trying to limit each of these indulgences to a reasonable frequency, but there were so many of them I wasn't being smart about all of them; I wasn't getting the meaning of eating the sum of them. I was, in fact, ingesting an extra 500 calories from something or other practically every other day: If I hadn't had pizza that week I got the extra calories from chinese and fast food meals; if I didn't have dessert I had already taken the calories earlier in the form of a donut; if I walked off the ice cream cone, I didn't exercise enough to walk off the cake from the office party too!

I thought I was keeping these "once-in-a-while's" down to once a month, but in fact I was "limiting" my choice 15 fattening foods to what amounted to 15 times a month--once a month for each of them--I had found the hundreds of calories to shave off my diet.
My new plan was to eat a high-calorie meal once in a while--only one. I could choose one day a week to have pizza or fast food or dessert or a donut. I couldn't rationalize that I hadn't had a cinnabon for six months if I just had a twice-a-year candy bar yesterday--that would never bring me the negative calorie balance I needed that week to lose weight.

I struggled with the idea of giving up pizza when it was so tempting to order out instead of cooking; giving up my favorite drive through restaurant when I was out and about and started to feel hungry; giving up my favorite donuts--just because I like donuts. But in the long run I realized I wanted to lose 15 pounds more than I wanted to eat donuts. There are plenty of foods I do like, and it's really just as easy to focus on all the delights I can enjoy than it is to pine away for the foods that bring me nothing but extra weight in the long run.

So I savor my fruits at snack time, munch on carrot sticks instead of potato chips, enjoy finding new and simple recipes to make for dinner, search for low calorie ice cream treats for the evening munchies, and plan ahead for times I don't feel like cooking. We eat out much less often and declare how much we've saved in money, gas, and calories at the end of our family dinner. It feels good to eat healthier almost all of the time instead of half the time. And, the bottom line for success: it feels much better weighing whatever I want to weigh than it does eating whatever I want to eat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So, You Used to be Skinny

Many of us in our 40's and 50's long for bygone days when we were thin without even trying (too hard) to maintain our fit figure. What was different then? Why does it seem so difficult now to keep those extra pounds off? Some think weight gain just naturally comes with age, but I think a few other things need to be taken into consideration. What is different about your lifestyle now, compared to how you lived when you were in your 20's and early 30's. Consider these ideas:

1. When I was in my 20's I always ate at home. And sometimes a meal was a bowl of cereal. I didn't have the money to eat out in restaurants very often. At some point, eating out became a social event, a time of relaxation, a way of escaping cooking another meal at home. And when we eat out, we get all the calories that come with a restaurant meal: the bread while waiting for the main course; the large salad with the regular dressing (if the restaurant doesn't have the kind of diet dressing I like); sometimes an alcoholic beverage before or with the meal; the large portions we eat too much of; and the offer of a dessert tray. That can make a huge difference in our weight if we eat out a few times a week. It's about a thousand calories more than a bowl of cereal!

2. How easy is it to get food now compared to the way things were 20 or 30 years ago? I go grocery shopping two or three times a week now and I'm always sure to have great snacks available in the house. When I was in my 20's there might always be cereal around, but not always milk; there might be a box of stale cookies, but there just wasn't a huge variety of food to choose from in my pantry. Chances are, I took a look in my fridge, saw nothing tempting, and went off to finish the magazine I was reading and forgot about having a snack. How much food do you keep around you now that you have money available, go shopping frequently, and want to make sure there's a tasty treat around in case you want one?

3. How much do you exercise now compared to when you were younger? Didn't you always have time to go to the gym then? Now there always seems to be a reason why we're too busy to work out. I remember always having the energy to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the other end of the mall instead of driving, ride my bike to a friend's house instead of taking the car. That way of life kept me burning more calories every day.

4. What do you do for entertainment now? Didn't we used to just hang out with friends, laughing, telling stories, playing cards or board games; maybe we went for a bike ride or a hike; lots of times we went out dancing. It seems now all our activities revolve around food! "Let's get together for dinner one night," we invite a friend. "Do you want to go out for ice cream?" we ask our spouse. Think about what you used to do for fun when you were younger (and thinner) compared to what you do now. We might have gone camping for vacation then, whereas we go cruising now--can you imagine the difference in calories we take in (and also the calories we burn) between those two different options?

I have concluded that weight gain is not inevitable simply because we age. Rather, we change habits that have kept us thinner, and our new habits are what causes us to gain weight. Think about what your lifestyle was like when you were a smaller size, and try to get back into some of those great old habits! Find some enjoyable activities that don't involve eating, and that do involve moving around a little bit more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Help for the Hungry

What time of day does it hit you? "I'm hungry! And it's not time to eat."
Sometimes you are really hearing your stomach growl, and other times you might be stressed or bored. Nevertheless, the part of your brain screaming, "FEED ME!" is bound and determined to win over the sensible side of you, whispering, "it's not really time to eat right now, though".

So what can you do? Be prepared! Have lots of healthy options where you can access them easily. Do not eat the first thing you think of (candy bar, potato chips 'since there's a vending machine just down the hall') or the first thing that comes along (cake someone hands you during an office party, cinnabons and cookies that smell good and seem like a good idea 'as long as you are in the mall anyway'). If you don't have access to fresh fruit or vegetables or a 90 calorie yogurt (and you should definitely have these with you if you are near a refrigerator) here are some items that will keep just about anywhere, and keep away the hunger.

1. I have a few boxes of 100 Calorie snacks in the trunk of my car. Not just so I can eat them on the road, but so if I'm running off somewhere where I know I'll be stuck for a while (on a train, in a waiting room, in the airport) I can grab the box right out of my car on the way, even if I hadn't planned far enough ahead to buy a box at the grocery store. The hostess mini muffins are great, as are animal crackers, wheat thins, and nutter butter cookies. Some of the 100 calorie treats are handfuls of what amount to chocolate candy--not enough to tide you over for more than 10 minutes after you finish the bag. Look for items that have more content in the bag, either by weight or by volume. You want a dense hundred calories.

2. Another favorite to keep in your car or office are granola-type bars. Here's my favorite, but they also have varieties with different nuts, or without nuts. They are great to take on hikes and bike rides too, as they are light, but filling. Most have under 150 calories.
Quaker makes good-tasting bars, too. Nutrigrain bars are great if you like a more cookie-tasting snack as opposed to salty and crunchy. My new favorites are Newtons Fruit Crisps--only 100 Calories for the 2 bars in the bag, and they come in mixed berry or cinnamon apple-- yum!

3. In the evening if you get the munchies while watching TV, you can easily consume hundreds of calories over the time it takes to watch a sitcom, let alone an entire movie. That's just a frightening thought. Make those calories last by eating popcorn. Not the kind with butter and not the entire big bag. Several brands make 100 calorie microwave bags now so we can do the right thing!

Find packaged items you like: in addition to the above suggestions, they can be the packages of four or six peanut butter cheese crackers or cheese-on-wheat crackers; energy bars; or small portions of dried fruit and nuts. Stick to those that have less than 150 or 200 calories if you are watching your weight, and only have one serving per day. Don't give in to the temptation of visiting the snack cart for a candy bar that will cost you over 200 calories and give you little in the way of nutrition. Don't break down and drive through a fast food window where you could gulp down a thousand calories because you didn't have anything healthier available. Be prepared and eat something your body, and your mind, will thank you for later!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Motivation Monday: "How much did you lose" versus "How much have you changed"?

I'll ask someone who I know has been eating healthier and exercising, "how much weight have you lost?" and the answer sometimes comes back, "I haven't lost a thing!"
"Nothing?" I ask. "You've been making lower calorie food choices consistently and going for your walks every day for two weeks and you haven't really lost anything?"
"Well," they reply, "just three pounds".

It is so frustrating to hear people discount the successes they have. Three pounds! In two weeks! Why, if you keep that up for a year you'll be 39 pounds lighter!! That would be a very acceptable amount of weight loss for the average dieter.

Why is it that one pound a week--or even one pound a month--isn't enough to satisfy someone? It is important to put things into perspective. The ideal way to lose weight is not to starve yourself and produce those magical weight loss numbers of four or five pounds a week. If you have ever done that before, you know how short lived the success story is. As fast as it comes off, it comes right back on. That is not how anyone likes to spend their days: starving, losing weight, and putting it back on as soon as they look the other way and eat a decent meal.

Here is how you can lose weight and live a good life at the same time:
1. Avoid crash diets that severely limit your calorie intake in attempts to lose several pounds a week. They will make you feel starving, deprived, and miserable; you won't be able to keep with it for very long; and you'll gain back whatever you lose in this manner.
2. Change your eating habits to make one or two better choices at a time. Learn to subsitute high calorie desserts, snacks, and drinks for lower calorie choices; drink plenty of water instead of sugary soft drinks; reduce your portion sizes; and learn to stop eating when you are no longer hungry, instead of stuffing yourself until you are full.
3. Go about your days striving to learn to live with these new and healthier habits--not to see how many pounds you can lose this week. The goal is for permanent weight loss, and that will only happen with permanent changes.
4. Be happy you are not gaining weight; even happier if you are losing a pound or two a month. Remember how much weight you will lose after a year of living like this and think about where you want to be a year from now instead of how much you want to lose in two weeks.
5. Focus on the new habits you are developing. Maybe you no longer snack in front of the television, or you take a walk each evening after dinner. These small changes will only show up on the scale as a pound or two a month. But keep your eye on the big picture. As the years go by you will be lighter and fitter. You will weigh 10 or 20 pounds less next year, and another 10 or 20 less the year after.

We all want weight loss to happen right away but fact is, that's not humanly possible. It took you a while to gain the pounds you are carrying now, it's only fair to give yourself time to lose them. Do it the right way. Change the habits that took you to the place you no longer want to be. Stop the dieting and weighing. Live a new way, a healthier and smarter way. End up lighter as a result of the way you eat and exercise, not because of how you diet!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are You Tired?

Maybe you're just not getting enough sleep. Did you ever think of that?

Most people believe they have a vitamin deficiency, or that taking a supplement of some sort will give them the 'pep' they are lacking. Many search for herbs or beverages with an ingredient to perk them up. Others ask their physicians for B12 shots or some other quick fix they hope will make them stop dragging themselves around, day after day.

If it seems you never have enough energy, are always sleepy in the afternoon, never feel peppy enough to exercise or even to get up off the couch in the evening, consider this: You may not be getting enough sleep.

"But my life is too hectic," you argue, "and I'm up past midnight taking care of things that have to be done. There's just not enough hours in the day to spend two more of them sleeping!"

Well, what really has to get done? Are there things that can wait until tomorrow? Anything that can be delegated to another person? And what about hours spent surfing the internet or watching TV? Sure, they are relaxing and enjoyable hours for you, but would they better be spent sleeping? I think the answer is a resounding YES!

What can you do to start getting the sleep you need?

First of all, shoot for eight hours. I know you might believe that six hours is enough, but didn't you just say you feel tired all the time? That's a good indication that six hours (or whatever the hours you are currently sleeping) isn't enough for you.

Secondly, where can you find these hours? What can you give up during the day to be ready for bed at a decent hour? Can you watch one less hour of TV? Give up one hour of housecleaning to delegate to someone else? Save the paperwork for tomorrow at work?

Finally, set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. Set an alarm if you have to. Let's say 11 pm is a reasonable bedtime. Do you get caught up in some activity until you look up and it's suddenly 1:30 am? Set your kitchen timer or wind up alarm clock for 10:50 pm. When the alarm goes off, wrap up your work--and I mean now. Get yourself into bed at 11:00 and get a decent night of sleep for a change.

Try this for one week and see if you notice a difference.
Post comments here to let us know!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Five-Tip Friday

Another successful week, another weekend to look forward to! Keep up with your healthy eating habits and don't let the weekend schedule sabotage your plans. Here are five more tips to keep you on track during your days off:

1. Count to your age before you indulge: This gives you a few moments to think before eating and become aware of what you are about to ingest. After you've counted--slowly--to your age, if you still want to eat your treat, go ahead! By then you know you've thought about it and it is now a conscious decision.

2. Drink plenty of water: The signals from your brain can get confused, and you may think you are hungry when you are really just thirsty. Have a glass of water if you have the urge to eat between meals, and see if this has any effect on your appetite. The worst that will happen is you will become well-hydrated!

3.If you have people over for a meal, send the leftovers home with them: I can't tell you how often clients tell me they overate 'because we had company so I bought a pie--there were 4 slices leftover, and I ate them monday, tuesday, and wednesday'. The list goes on with desserts, chips and dips, and other foods best not kept around the house when you are trying to keep your habit of eating low calorie, nutrient dense foods! Gift them to your guests and let someone enjoy them who is not working on watching their figure.

4. When having a snack, take pretzels, chips, cookies, etc out of the box or bag and put your serving on a plate. This way, the end of your snack is not defined by the end of the package!

5. Don't skip meals. Keep on the smart schedule, having a breakfast and a lunch and a dinner every day, even if you sleep in a little bit later. Focus on eating something nutritious--like fruit or cereal--if you're not very hungry for breakfast. Enjoying low-calorie, high-fiber foods earlier in the day will keep you more full and you'll be less likely to overeat at dinner time.

Keep up the great work and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weight Loss Solution: Alice and the Apple

Today is Thursday, the day I like to feature a client situation to see if you can relate to her story: maybe it will help you!
I had a client we'll call Alice, who was extremely overweight. She couldn't even weigh herself on her bathroom scale because it only went up to 300 pounds. She came to see me when I worked in the hospital as a registered dietitian. Her doctor had sent her to me to help her lose weight because of her many health problems.
The first thing I like to ask people who are trying to lose weight is to finish this sentence: "My problem is ____________".
Different people have different issues: one diet definitely does not fit all. Some people know their portions are too large; others skip meals and then gorge at dinner time; many find they snack at night while watching TV; still others eat to satisfy some emotional emptiness. Finding out what a client knows about his or her "problem" around eating gives us a starting place.
So, I asked Alice to finish the sentence. "My problem," she said, "is that I don't know what a medium sized apple looks like. I can't tell if I'm eating one that's too large".

Let me just say, "Wow!" This woman weighed over 300 pounds and believed it was because the apples she ate on occasion may have been too large? An extra 30 Calories on a few instances, and suddenly she was over 300 pounds?

No. What Alice was really saying was that she didn't know where to begin. There is too much information bombarding people who are trying to diet: There is no clue where to start. There are "good carbs" and "bad carbs"; "low fat diets" or "low calorie diets"; "fat burning" potions and "fat-blocking pills"; advocates of prepackaged meals, and six meals a day. Where does someone start when they weigh 300 pounds? For that matter, where do you start when you want to lose ten pounds?

Good question.
Start with what is reasonable.
1. Start by looking at what you eat. This will require keeping a food record. Before you say, "I don't want to--that's too boring/ time consuming/ annoying", let me just point out that the simple action of keeping a food log has been proven to promote weight loss in people trying to lose weight. The mere action of stopping to think, "I'll have to write this down" stops people from eating some foods! And the result is, they lose weight. Without 'going on a diet'. Try it.
2. Become aware of what you eat. Look for the obvious: Are you consuming multiple times what the label calls a portion? Are you eating a whole bag of chips or a whole box of cookies at one sitting? Things you know are extremely high in calories? Do you have a habit of having a milkshake every day, or a 2 liter bottle of soda (that's not diet), or cleaning your plate when you go out to a restaurant when you know the portions are unreasonably large? Try cutting back on the large portions; take a handful of snack food out of the package and sit down to eat it; take half of your dinner home when dining out. Nothing drastic; just sensible.
3. Check out the Food Guide Pyramid (at and see what the national nutrition experts recommend. Here you can calculate the number of calories you need, and how many servings from each food group you should be eating. Try establishing an eating pattern relating to what your body needs for a couple of weeks, instead of whatever your eyes or your mouth tell you they want, and see how that works for you.
4. Be reasonable. If you are snacking constantly throughout the day, or eating from the minute you leave the dinner table until the minute you retire to bed, you are consuming too many calories: find a way to change these behaviors.

So, Alice and I started with small and simple changes in her diet. We talked about what she ate, and we found places she could cut back a little. A smaller portion here, a lower calorie snack there, an awareness of eating when she was just bored. It wasn't going to be a drastic diet; it wasn't going to get her to lose six pounds a week. It was going to be a place where she could start. A strategy for her to establish new habits. One habit at a time, one week at a time, a few hundred calories a day. Now she is on her way to becoming a healthier person, at a healthier weight. Slowly, but surely.

I invite your comments: What is one thing you can change about your diet that can help you cut out a few hundred calories a day? What is reasonable? We can all help each other with tips!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gratuity Journal

I was telling my good friend ML, who is French, about my gratuity journal the other day before she'd had a chance to read what I had posted. "What is a gratuity journal?" she asked. So I told her. And she said, "Oh, isn't that 'gratitude'? 'Gratuity' is like a tip".
Okay, grammar isn't my strongest attribute. I looked it up, just to be sure there wasn't an alternative definition, making my journal name appropriate at least in some language of origin. But 'gratuity' is French in origin, and it means, 'a favor or gift [usually money] given in return for service'.

So, I will officially change the name of my evening recordings to 'My Gratitude Journal'.
However, it opens a whole new place for me to log some bright and positive spots in my daily adventures, which I absolutely love: my gratuity journal.
In my gratuity journal, I will record the tips and favors and gifts I returned in appreciation for the service of others each day. It makes me feel good to give people things, to let them know I appreciated something they did for me, to have a reason to brighten their day, just as they made mine better in some way.

Here are some of my gratuity entries:
1. I sent a 'Thank You' e-card to a woman who helped me earn some new clients by featuring my picture and a paragraph about my business in her monthly newsletter. I hope the musical e-card made her smile, as well as let her know I really appreciated what she did.
2. I gave my husband a big kiss and a hug and let him know I really appreciated that he cooked dinner for us (and even cleaned up afterwards)!
3. I took a friend out to lunch for taking me horseback-riding:I haven't been for years and I really enjoyed it!
4. Whenever I go through a toll booth I give the attendant a fun-sized candy bar (you can't imagine how their faces light up!)

It is so pleasurable to be able to treat people to something to let them know how grateful you are for the help they extend you, or for the joy they bring you in a moment of your day, or to be acknowledged for the job they do every day.

Here is my favorite gratuity story:
One day I found a wad of money. It was a lot of money, and there was no place to turn it in, no way of identifying who dropped it. Sad for the person who lost it. We had just moved to town and were still living in a hotel until our house was ready. I was grateful it came my way, but I wanted to share it since it just fell into my possession and it didn't seem right to keep it. So my husband and I decided to 'pay it forward'. Starting that night at dinner, we were big tippers. We gave some really nice gratuities to the waitress at dinner, to the bartender in the hotel, to the bellhop who carried our bags.
It was so much fun to see them pick up the tip as we snuck around the corner to watch as they found what we left! And it taught us a lesson: It feels good to share the wealth, to give graciously, to help others out when they provide a service to us, to surprise them with a gratuity that says we noticed how they treated us and we liked it.
And so we keep doing that. Every time we are out to dinner or being served by someone who is doing a really great job with a really great attitude, we show it with gratuity: One so nice we know they will have to tell someone about it; we know they will go to bed that night with a smile on their face because they received something to let them know how much they were appreciated.

Please post your gratuity stories here!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake are now nine to eleven per day.
How can you get more of these into your daily diet? I have a list of 10 ideas:

1. add vegetables to your omelets for breakfast
2. top your breakfast cereal (hot or cold) with fruit: raisins, blueberries, bananas
3. drink pure fruit or vegetable juice instead of other beverages (orange juice, tomato juice, V8 or V8 splash)
4.have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch or as a snack

5. make desserts with fresh fruit, like an apple crisp or peach cobbler or pumpkin bread
6. cut up vegetables and keep them in a bowl of water in your fridge so they are visible when you open the refrigerator door; grab some for a snack whenever you feel like munching
7. when you order a pizza, top it with mushrooms, green pepper, olives, onions, or pineapple instead of sausage and pepperoni
8. serve a salad with supper. Not just lettuce: add tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower
9. add vegetables to some of your favorite dishes, like pasta, or meatloaf, or casseroles
10. make a fresh fruit smoothie: freeze fresh fruit slices, then add with skim milk to your blender for a fat-free, low cal healthy tasty treat!

Think of 3 of the above techniques you can start employing this week!
How many more fruits and vegetables can you add every day? Give yourself a goal and go for it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Motivation Monday

It's Monday. The day we promise we'll start over again. The day we plan to start our diet, our exercise program, our proper skin regimen, or any of a dozen other routines we know will be good for us, but haven't had the motivation to keep up.

Well, I have some news for you: Motivation only gets you started. It might last a couple of weeks, but then what do you have to keep you going? You can't stay feeling motivated for weeks or months at a time. What has to happen to keep you going is that you have to establish new habits.

Easier said than done, but think of all the habits you have now. Even if you have bad ones, like biting your nails or smoking cigarettes, those took time to establish in the beginning--but you stuck with it! And there are other activities we perform each day, that we may not think of as habits: brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime; checking to see that the doors are locked before you retire for the evening; putting your car keys in the same place each time you come home so you'll find them the next time you look for them.

These are habits you took the time to learn and follow through with at one point in time, when you realized they were very helpful in the long run. If you don't floss, you'll pay for it at your six-month dental cleaning; if you don't take your make-up off before you go to bed, your eyes will be sore the next day or your skin might break out. There is always a habit established when we can easily see the benefit.

So what habit do you want to start, and what is the benefit?

For example, what good will come of you committing to take a walk each morning? Is there a payoff for you?

If you can't figure out what it is, you're not likely to stick with it. You'll start with the feeling that you are motivated, and soon you'll find it easy to talk yourself out of it: The little devil on your left shoulder says, "it's pretty humid out" and "I'd be much better off, really, with another 30 minutes of sleep"; and the angel defers and says, "you're right; let's hit the snooze button and get up later".

Think about the habits you'd like to have in the future, and work on figuring out how you can fit them--the exercise, the breakfast, the sunscreen--into your daily routine. Most importantly, know what the payoff is, and frequently remind yourself of that end result you want, when the little devil in you tries to talk the angel out of it.

The next time your arm reaches out to hit the snooze button, listen to the angel talking: "I'm going to feel so great after the walk--it's such a refreshing way to start the day, it's good exercise, and I know I can develop this life-long habit that will help me stay fit and healthy"!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The "Total" Truth About Healthy Breakfast Cereal

I saw a commercial the other day for Total cereal. They were showing the Nutrition Facts panel, which you can see here on the left. They stated at the end of the commercial: "Kashi cereal doesn't have 100% of the daily value for all of these vitamins".
I take issue with this advertisement: They were definitely implying that Total cereal is more healthy than other cereals because it has 100% of so many vitamins and minerals. And that's just not true.
True, Total does have more vitamins in a serving than other cereals. But this is not because Total is some fantastic and unique grain that is so packed with vitamins and minerals that it naturally contains all you need for the entire day! It is because the manufacturers added vitamins to the cereal. In other words, you can eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, take a multivitamin, and end up with the same nutrition intake at that meal as a bowl of Total. Okay, maybe not Frosted Flakes, because at least Total has a few grams of fiber... maybe Frosted Mini Wheats, or Grape Nuts, or Post Raisin Bran, or Kashi.
Nutrition isn't just about getting enough vitamins and minerals. It's about eating a variety of foods to get a variety of nutrients (while you keep your intake reasonable enough to maintain your ideal weight). Eating a bowl of Total is not a healthier option than eating a different brand of cereal and popping a multivitamin. It's not better than having a hot breakfast of eggs and toast, and then taking a multivitamin. It is, in fact, the same, because the makers of Total have added the equivalent of a multivitamin to their cereal.
Taking a multivitamin isn't a bad idea, especially if you know you fail to get enough fruits, vegetables, dairy, or whole grains on a regular basis. But it doesn't guarantee that you will be well-nourished: Only that you are less likely to get a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
There can also be a downside to eating highly fortified foods. How many people do you think limit their cereal intake to the recommended serving size? Most of the people I know include at least two or three 'serving sizes' from the label on the box, as one of their servings in the bowl! This means people who eat a big bowl of total may be getting 300% of the daily value for many of these vitamins. Then, of course, they are taking in vitamins naturally contained in the foods they eat during the rest of the day. Most of the time, getting 200%--or even 500%--of the daily value of a nutrient isn't harmful, but there are cases where getting "too much of a good thing" can lead to problems: especially with fat soluble vitamins; folic acid (in people with an undiscovered vitamin B12 deficiency); and some minerals. People rarely 'overdose' on vitamins from natural food sources, but taking extra vitamins in the form of a tablet (or as an added ingredient in food fortification, such as the case with Total) could result in quite large amounts being taken consistently over a period of time.
The best way to get your vitamins and minerals, of course, is by eating a balanced diet and including good food sources of these nutrients--what we call 'nutrient dense' foods. Fortified foods are misleading to the consumer when it is implied that this food is a better source of nutrition, and these foods, in fact, should be consumed in moderation.

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Five-Tip" Friday to get you through the weekend

My clients often tell me they do so well on their diets all week, and then find the weekends difficult because they're out of their routines. Here are five tips you can learn now to help you get through this weekend without eating more than you'd like:

1. Plan your meals ahead of time: know what you're having for lunch and dinner before you finish breakfast
2. If you're going out for dinner, look up the menu on line ahead of time so you can decide what your best choice is before you get to the restaurant--and then stick with it. Using, you can check out the lower calorie items in restaurants within your own zip code
3. If you're already out and not sure what to eat, send a text message to 34381 (diet1) with the name of the dish and the restaurant... this website will text back the calorie content (for free!) This can help you decide that an afternoon iced coffee drink which contains 750 calories isn't really worth the calorie investment--you can have a zero-calorie iced tea instead, and enjoy a nice dinner later!
4. Plan a healthy dinner at home for one weekend evening--make it a fun one, whether you decide to grill out, invite friends over, or have a romantic meal with your loved one :)
5. Have an activity in mind so you're also burning off calories during your days off--go for a hike, a bike ride, or a new class at the local gym. Keep active and you'll keep right on track with your plan to balance your calories right up until Monday.

Don't let the weekend throw you off balance and lead you to regret your indulgences come Monday. Keep up with your plan every day of the week and, remember, the results will pay off both sooner and later!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Weight Loss Solution: Betty Bride

I'd like to feature a client every week (not necessarily real ones!) and let you know about a problem we solved to help each of them move forward with their weight loss. My hope is that you may have a similar issue going on and can benefit from these stories.

This week I'd like to tell you about "Betty Bride". Betty came to me because she wanted to lose about 15 pounds before her wedding, which was three months away. This is not an unreasonable amount to lose--just over a pound a week--and you could tell she was very determined to do what it took for that period of time. We reviewed her usual eating habits. At first glance, I was at a loss as to how she could eat much better: She enjoyed a healthy breakfast, a light lunch, a balanced dinner with controlled portions, and she snacked very rarely. It didn't look like there was opportunity to cut back very much.

And then we went through her day again, reviewing everything she ate and drank. Bingo! There it was . . . A morning latte (200 + calories), a late morning fruit punch (nearly 200 more calories), a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew with lunch (another 200), and more soda later in the day. Well, suddenly there appeared an excess 800 calories we had to work with!

It only takes reducing your daily intake by 500 calories each day to lose one pound a week. We had just found the 500, plus some! Betty was quite surprised at the number of calories she ingested each day just by drinking. She was agreeable to finding beverages without all the sugary calories--like water, diet sodas, unsweetened teas, and crystal light--and start substituting those in place of the high-calorie drinks she was used to.

And the story has a happy ending, I'm glad to say. Betty lost all the weight she wanted to, and fit beautifully into her wedding dress. She also kept up her healthier habit of drinking low- or no-calorie beverages and stayed two sizes smaller as she enjoyed her new married life :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Life-Diet Balance: Don't let life get in the way!

It seems all too often that life can get in the way of following our good intentions to eat healthy and exercise. When things are going well, we have the time and energy to sit down and focus on a plan to help us lose weight, eat more vegetables, drink more water, or establish an exercise routine.

Then, "life" happens: An argument with a friend, an extra high stack in our inbox at work, bad news about the health of someone close to us . . . and all that dedication to a healthy routine goes out the window. Who can worry about making a low-calorie lunch at a time like this? Why deny ourselves an afternoon candy bar if it'll make us feel better, temporarily? What will one day of missed exercise really matter if sitting on a couch with a glass of wine seems to be what makes us feel better right now?

It's so easy to sabotage our efforts with reasons why we can let the healthy habits slide, ''just this once". But "once" might turn into "this week", and many weeks of these excuses can lead to lost habits that we once worked so hard to establish.

Try to keep focused at these difficult times by reminding yourself of a few important points:
1) When you think of 'cheating' on your diet, remember that you are only really cheating yourself.
2) Think about how good you feel physically when you do follow through with your exercise routine, both during the activity as well as afterwards. It may prove to be a lot better mood-booster than a candy bar or a glass of wine.
3) Take just a few seconds to have a conversation with yourself about what your options are and what the best choice really is, considering the circumstances. Then reward yourself for following through with your good habits when you do tough it out and take the high road.

Of course there are times when an event seriously impedes us from following our routines. But there are many more times we choose to use a slight inconvenience to give ourselves an 'out'. Take the time to stop and think about what's really important, and how much our good intentions mean to our health and well-being. When you take the actions you originally intended--the ones you decided on during the time you were focused and thinking clearly--you'll find yourself reaping the benefits, both sooner and later.

Monday, August 4, 2008

On the Life Balance Side

Keeping A Gratuity Journal

I fell off the wagon for a while, but I'm going to get back to writing in my gratuity journal again today. I started one about 2 years ago, after hearing repeatedly about the benefits of keeping one:
1. It makes you focus on what's positive in your life
2. It is a great start to your day, if you journal in the morning, or a great way to end the day and relax happily before bed if you journal at night (I prefer the latter)
3. You end up looking for the positives in everything during the day because you know you'll have to find something to write about later on (I remember Oprah, herself, making this point about keeping her own gratuity journal, saying "You see a squirrel and you think to yourself, 'I noticed something good today'--I'm going to remember that I saw a squirrel, because if nothing good happens to me the rest of today I need to have something to write down"!

You know how when something unpleasant happens (the line in the post office is terribly long, someone cuts you off when you're driving, the business office screwed up your paycheck) you fester about it and make a point to remember it because you have to be sure to vent to your spouse/friend/neighbor? Well, keeping a gratuity journal makes you focus on remembering anything good that happened all day! Instead of walking around holding on to the 'bad stuff', you end up spending free moments listing the good stuff in your head. If you feel like nothing great happened that day, just remember all you have to be grateful for in general, and write a few of those in your journal (I have a roof over my head, I have a job, I have a great family, my cat loves me, etc).
I like to keep it to three sentences, to make it easy--if there are more to add that day I love to extend my list to 5 or 6!

Here are mine for today...
1. I got a great haircut, which I've been needing for too long now!

2. I started with a new client this morning and I really enjoy talking with her ... some people just make our jobs fun, don't they?

3. I have this really unique pen pal relationship going with a woman I ordered a book from on ... it turns out she's this famous feng shui interior designer, and she is such a warm and interesting person... I just love meeting new people.

Please post your comments below about what you're grateful for today: we could all use a list of reminders and 'extras' for those days we're not really sure what went so right....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Help for the Dinner-challenged

I'm very excited about my brainstorm this week; A "virtual dinner coach" manual!
I have had numerous clients over the past several months ask me for help with dinner. Women who have 'a life' often don't have the organization in place to plan dinner meals. This is because planning dinner is complicated: It means planning entire meals for days ahead of time, making a grocery list, going to the grocery store (or sending someone reliable enough to pick up what's on your list), remembering to thaw out what you're making ahead of time, and--my personal biggest challenge--having all the food you're cooking be ready at the same time! Throw into the mix all of the different food preferences of others in the house, and it's tempting to just throw your hands up in the air and order out.
But having a healthy meal at home is very important family time. It's an opportunity--and sometimes the only opportunity--where everyone sits together, facing each other, without the tv on (at least that's the rule in our house!), and gets to talk about how their day went. You all have each other's undivided attention. Of course there are numerous research studies that show children who eat at home with the family more nights than not, do better in school, are less likely to have problems with substance abuse, and are far less likely to have weight problems as they grow up. Here's one example of a movement to encourage parents to have dinner with their kids at home:
So, what does the busy Mom do about shopping, cooking, planning meals??? Well, I have a simple formula and a simple routine: Dinner is (1) an entree, (2) a starch, and (3) a vegetable or fruit. Sometimes, if I have a lot of extra energy, I might even have garlic bread or a salad on the side! If I have a whole extra hour at some point, I even make a dessert :) To help me plan meals ahead of time, I have a recipe binder I keep in the kitchen. It has recipes I've been handed, cut out from magazines, or found on line over the years. Most of them are very simple and I use the same dozen ingredients regularly. They take 30 minutes or less, and I take total advantage of the conveniences offered in supermarkets today: From the rotisserie chicken I can just take home and eat, to the boxed mix of sweet potatoes, a healthy balanced meal does not have to take hours to plan and prepare.
I suppose it's because I've been working on this for years that it seems simple and routine to me. Although I do remember numerous times having my mother reassure me, "with practice, all the dishes will be ready at the same time--it takes practice". I realize after speaking to so many women that it is still one of their biggest challenges. So, I'm thrilled to be putting together this 'virtual meal coach' to show others that planning a dinner meal can be worked into your household routine, and become a healthy habit that doesn't overtake the rest of your week.

Included will be the binder with several recipes each for poultry, beef, pork, and seafood; there will be suggestions for side dishes included with most entrees; one section has potato, rice and vegetable recipes and ideas; one has a few dessert recipes; I'll have sample menus for 2 weeks; and a list of basic pantry items to stock so it's easier to go grocery shopping without worrying about forgetting what you'll need for a recipe.
There will be the option of receiving the binder, all put together, with the recipes each in their own plastic slipcover (so you can pull it out, cook dinner, and just wipe off any spills from the plastic before putting it back in its place!); or you'll be able to just download all the included sheets yourself and put your own binder together and save on the cost of the notebook, shipping and handling, etc.
Send me your comments and suggestions so when this is all put together (very soon, I hope) it will be something you will find useful for your household!