Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is Eating the Healthiest of Us All?

Have you ever talked to someone who conveys an air of superiority about how they are eating compared to you? Or, have you ever felt smug about your own attempts at eating healthy compared to someone else?

These days, I think it’s pretty easy to fall into either of these categories because there are so many ideas, often conflicting, about how we should be eating. I have listened to people who think that dairy products should never be consumed and others who think that only a lunkhead would consume white flour or sugar on their birthday. Some people feel that the only way go is to eat completely vegan, and while maybe that is right for them, it may not be right for the rest of us.

More and more, I have seen individuals take healthy eating on a as a competition with others. At first, it starts out as a few friendly suggestions of what the other person might consider doing better, but quickly becomes a daunting list of things that makes the listener feel like a total loser when it comes to eating healthy, and ready to give up.  

My Advice: Don’t engage in the competition. Eating healthy is not about doing better than someone else. Rather, it is about doing the best for ourselves in a way that sets us up for ongoing success. 

Click HERE to see a short and hilarious comedy sketch video by Studio C about two people who are trying to outdo each other with how healthy they eat. Great for a good laugh.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Power of Making One Change

In the past, when I've set my mind to taking better care of myself, I've oftentimes tried to make too
many changes at once and ended up failing gloriously to make any real changes at all. I don’t know why I’ve persisted in doing this again and again over the years after failing at it so many times, but I get it now – that for me, trying to make too many changes at once is the perfect recipe for failure. And I don’t want to fail anymore.

With that said, a question comes to mind – is it possible to make just one change and have that change make a real impact in our lives?

The answer is yes. There is probably not a time in my life that illustrates this better than when I started taking a weight-lifting class called Body Pump several years ago

I remember that first morning well. I had just walked into the gym when my friend Debbie (who also happens to be a fitness instructor) asked if I was there to attend her weight-lifting class. I had never attended before. I was not a fitness class person, but instead of saying no, for some crazy reason, I asked what time the class started.

Five minutes later, I was setting up my weights in the class, thinking, “Okay, I’ll do it just this once,” but on that first day I realized how much more I would get out of attending that class than lifting weights on my own, so I have returned twice a week, most weeks, ever since. And I am so much stronger than I was that there is no comparison to who I was before I started taking that class and who I am now – a woman who can easily do more squats or bench presses than I care to count.

So, if you, like me, wonder if maybe the best answer to better health might be making one real change at a time instead of attempting to make many at once, give it a try. Success is very likely just up the road.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Starting the Week with a Bang

It feels good to be eating healthier again today. I don't feel too bad about the splurges I had this weekend because, with less effort than in the past, I am back in the saddle today. It helped that I made an extra concerted effort to eat super healthy overall today.

For dinner, I kept it simple by focusing on fresh made hummus (yum) with celery and carrot sticks and broccoli as well as some fresh grapefruit. I am stuffed and satisfied and feeling terrific. And I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning feeling better than I did this morning when I woke with those post-splurge cravings.

A Different Kind of Pleasure

This weekend, I enjoyed some splurges – some Finnish Chocolates, a couple of fun-size Almond Joys, and a few pumpkin chocolate chip muffins as well as about a dozen of those Valentine’s Day conversation hearts. For some, all of that in one weekend may have been considered a binge. For me, it was a giant splurge because I’ve done worse. Much worse.

I enjoyed every bit of it as I ate it, but there was a heavy price to pay this morning. I woke ravenously hungry despite the fact that I had probably consumed more calories this weekend than I had in the previous five days. It was that terrible hunger that makes me feel like I can never get enough to eat, but I knew the answer – get back to the healthiest possible eating, so I started this morning with a big bowl of oatmeal and flaxseed with a small salad on the side, and I have felt quite a bit better since.

Not long ago, when my son and I sat down to share a perfect red grapefruit as a snack, he said, “Mom, eating healthy is a different kind of pleasure,” and I have to agree. When I eat something that is delicious and nutritious, the rewards go far beyond the moments I spend eating that food. Instead of feeling that terrible hunger, I feel energized and satisfied, which makes life overall a much greater pleasure. And who of us doesn’t want more pleasure in our lives? I’m up for some. And with that Monday morning bowl of oatmeal, I’m off to a good start. 

A different kind of pleasure for sure. My mouth waters just looking at it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

No More Constant Cravings!

I am about two weeks into a much healthier way of eating overall and I feel terrific. I’m in better control of what I’m eating than I have been in a long time, and by control, I do not mean that I count every calorie or even write down everything I eat. I mean that I am focused on eating from the food groups that will do me the most good health-wise – lots of vegetables, some fruits, and then the necessary proteins and whole grains.

I haven’t written much about proteins and whole grains, but for me, they are an essential part of a healthy diet. Having some protein at each meal (though not always at breakfast) keeps my blood sugar level steady, giving me more stamina. I will often have a protein drink after I run or lift weights too as it helps me to recover quicker from the workout. 

The whole grains give me the fiber I need to feel satisfied and full and to keep my digestive system in good check. There is no one food group that does it all for us, and I’m glad I have struck for me what feels like a balanced diet with room for some splurges. 

I still experience some cravings, but they are dramatically subdued now that I am focused on eating healthier overall. And subdued is great because there have been too many times in the past when I have felt ruled by cravings. Subdued cravings feels like a big success.

Accountability Check-In 14 Hours Late

I missed writing an accountability check-in yesterday, so I'll do it now.

My husband and I attended an important event last night and didn't get home until late. I was hungry, very hungry on the drive home. I contemplated the ice cream in the freezer but chose instead to have a more benign splurge - two pieces of whole grain toast, spread with a little butter and honey. It was good. And I felt satisfied afterwards though a little guilty.

When I tried to decide if I was going to splurge or not, I thought about just going to bed hungry...that I'd be glad I did in the morning. And sometimes, that's just what I need to do, but last night, the success for me was choosing a smaller splurge instead of an all-out ice cream pig-out. Instead of being hard on myself, I'll take that success and build on it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Run Couch Potato Wanabee, Run

The greenbelt I walk or jog down in my neighborhood. It is especially beautiful in the springtime. 
I walked into the house yesterday afternoon after a full day of teaching and felt like doing nothing more than plopping myself onto the couch in front of the fireplace, and staying there for a few hours, greeting the kids from the couch when they came home, waving them over to tell me about their day. I'd have a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and a pillow under my head. I'd be lying down, but I'd make make room for them at the end of the couch. I was completely ready to channel my inner-couch-potato self, but then the thought flashed through my mind of how disappointed I'd feel and probably tired if I didn't get my run in before the first child arrived home 40 minutes later.

So, instead of sitting on the couch for even a moment, I changed into my running gear before I could change my mind and headed out into the windy, cold afternoon, Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" blasting through my ear buds. And then, just 30 minutes later, I was back and relaxing on the piano bench as I looked out the window and down the road, waiting for the first child to arrive on the bus. I felt energized and glad I had run after all.

There are times when it is perfectly okay to let our inner couch-potato come out, but most of the time, we just need to tell ourselves, "Run couch potato wanabee, run!" We'll be glad we did.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oh To Be Well-Rested!

Some nights I wear an eye-mask as my way of shutting the world out so I can get some shut-eye.

I haven’t slept well on a regular basis in years, maybe not since I was a young adult and that’s been awhile. I didn’t appreciate a good night’s sleep back then because I hadn’t really gone without, at least not on a long term basis. But after years of attending to little ones at night and then years of staying up late waiting for teenagers to come home, and given some of the sleepless nights I’ve experienced due to stress, and the fact that I was thrown into menopause at a very young age because of cancer, I just don’t know what it’s like to get a good night’s sleep night after night. 

Exercise helps me sleep better than I otherwise would. And meditation too, but getting enough sleep is still a struggle overall. I got only four hours of sleep Sunday night and they weren’t quality hours, so Monday was a rough beginning to the week. The thing that kept me from cratering completely is that I am eating healthier these days. I would have been a completely non-functioning mess if I hadn’t been eating food that gives me energy – lentils, salads, and whole grains.

As far as sleep goes, Monday night was better. So tired from the previous night’s sleep deprivation, I fell asleep easily and slept for nearly eight hours, and Tuesday I woke feeling like a whole new person, someone who has a reserve of energy and no fatigue headaches, someone who is well rested. And that’s how I would like to feel more often – well-rested.

So, as I continue to eat healthier than I have in a long time, I’m ready to start getting more sleep on a regular basis. Here are a few things I think I can do to make it easier –

Limit screen time in the evening. After I fall into bed at night, I pick up my smart phone to set my wake-up alarm and then end up doing one last check-in on social media, emails, and the news, and inevitably, I stay at it longer than I intended and the bright glow of the screen gives me a second wind, which makes it hard to fall asleep anytime soon. So, going forward, I will set my cell phone wake-up alarm earlier in the day and cut the computer off at least an hour before I call it a night. 

Wind down before bedtime. Overall, I need to be more conscious of winding down earlier in the evening whenever possible. Often, I go through the day full-throttle and then dive into bed as if I should be able to fall directly asleep, which is impossible because I never took the time to unwind ahead of climbing into bed. I will make a conscious effort to wind down earlier in the evening, so I will be able to fall asleep earlier.  

Establish a regular bedtime. I have read again and again over the years how much having a set bed time and wake-up time can do for the quality of our sleep. According to Lawrence Epstein, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School and an expert in sleep disorders, “Keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on weekends - maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.” I’m ready to give it a try.

I do not think for a moment that my busy lifestyle is suddenly going to let me get enough sleep every night forever more. After all, there are nights when I am up late out of necessity or by enthusiastic choice, but if I make a few basic changes, I’m confident I will get more sleep overall. And I’m more than ready to live my life well-rested. I’m ready.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Minimal Cravings

I am happy to report that I have now eaten healthy enough for enough days that my cravings have decreased dramatically. I did not experience the terrible hunger today that comes from eating foods that fill me with cravings, mostly sugary foods in my case, and not eating enough of what's good for me. My husband had a small chocolate bar tonight and I was only fleetingly tempted. Not for a second do I think I have somehow arrived at a place of never experiencing cravings again. I'm sure I will, but maybe not the way I have in the past if I continue to take better care of myself overall. I'm feeling great!

The Secret to Having a Splurge?

My pizza splurge (I had a second much-smaller piece) was accompanied by two bowls of salad and a protein drink.
A few days ago, I read that the secret to having a splurge that doesn't spike your blood sugar is to make sure that you eat something healthy along with it, especially a vegetable or some protein, so Sunday night, I gave it a try and it worked for me.

As a planned splurge, I ate two pieces of pizza along with a protein drink and large salad, and I didn't feel the usual white flour/sugar rush afterwards that inevitably spirals downward, leaving me feeling sluggish and filled with cravings for more of what's not good for me.

Instead, I felt just fine. I had had my splurge and didn't feel the need for anything more, not even those chocolate chip cookies my daughter made. Yes, I kind of wanted one, but I pretty easily said no, which is unusual for me.

So going forward, I want to continue to be conscious of having planned splurges instead of impulsively eating things that aren't good for me. And I want to eat smart when I have a splurge, meaning I will plan on eating a vegetable or some protein about the same time I have the splurge, maybe a little before. I am committed to doing this and will let you know how it goes. I don't plan on having more than two splurges a week, maybe only one. We'll see how it goes. I think I've had a breakthrough on splurges.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Feeling Tired but Satisfied

It's been a good day despite the fact that I'm terribly, terribly sleep deprived. I could not fall asleep last night and ended up with 4 lousy hours of sleep before I woke for the day at 5 a.m. And as tough a day as it's been in terms of fatigue, it's been better than it might have been if I hadn't been eating so healthy.

For one thing, I rocked it on the vegetables and solid protein and whole grain sources. And I exercised. If I had eaten poorly today, including sugary and white flour things, I'd be a mess right now in terms of mood and ability to function. I definitely need a good night's sleep tonight, but I'm glad I made it through this day short on sleep as well as I did. Eating healthy can make all the difference. Would love to hear how your day went.

What's Working: One-Month Weigh-in

While my runner's feet could use a good pedicure, I'm definitely feeling good about the direction the scale is heading.
 I weighed 173.8 pounds at the beginning of the year. Today I weigh 167.4, so I've lost more than 6 pounds since the beginning of January.

And that feels like a great start to the new year, especially considering that while I've had some good, I've also had some really bad days in the last month, including days where I have fallen completely out of the saddle in a big, big way. Even so, clearly, I've had more good days than bad days. And I feel like I'm just beginning to accumulate some really good days.

With a month of eating healthier overall behind me, here's what I think is working for me so far:

First, starting the new year by making the simple choice to eat more fruits and vegetables was a big help because it was a very manageable first step to changing my diet. In fact, it was much more doable than suddenly implementing a no-sugar rule, or banishing certain foods. If I had done that, I would have been miserable, hyper-focused on what I couldn't have instead of all the delicious healthy things I can have. Also, beginning with eating more fruits and vegetables gave me more nourishment right up front, giving my body what it really needs and diminishing cravings overall, making it even easier to eat what is good for me and turn down what's not.

Second, I learned that you don't have to let bad days mean a total failure in striving to eat healthier and lose weight. In the past, I allowed myself to become so discouraged by a bad day that I would fall off the horse for days, weeks, and even months, eating and gaining instead of eating and losing. This time, I've told myself that a bad day is just a bad day and to keep going by eating a salad as part of the next meal or having a protein drink to curb the cravings that result from an especially bad eating spell. I've definitely learned that you can make progress by consistently having more good days than bad.

Third, I've learned that the more I nourish my body over time, the more easily I can have splurges without it turning into days and days of overeating. This past week, I had just two splurges - some lasagne Thursday night and two slices of homemade pizza (made by my teen daughter) last night. I am certain that the biggest reason the splurges didn't turn into binges was because my body was getting the nourishment it needed overall. Last night, I ate the pizza but turned down the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and that's a great feeling, physically and psychologically. A big success for me.

Fourth, holding myself accountable works. In recent days, I have added a brief blog post at the end of each day, reporting back about how I've done that day. Keeping that accountability report in mind makes me think twice about how I eat on any given day. So, yes, I am having less troublesome cravings overall because I am better nourished than I was a month ago, but holding myself accountable also helps to keep me in line when I might otherwise slip up. Holding myself accountable works.

An Invitation: Consider holding yourself accountable. I will write a post every morning and a brief accountability check-in every evening (though I may not post on Sundays). Feel free to post a comment in the morning with your early morning thoughts and/or commitment for the day, and then check-in at night to share how you've done. Being accountable works. It's made a big difference for me. Let's do this together.