Thursday, April 29, 2010

Knowing that 5 minutes can make a huge difference

Whether related to Exercise or Eating five minutes can make the difference between making progress toward your goal, or just wanting to progress.

Some days I have to steal my exercise moments in small bursts and each moment I spend building my muscles or raising my heart rate is a gift I give to myself.

When I am exercising at home, more often than not my 3 year old daughter joins me. Which usually ends with me picking her up, she's 27 pounds, so it is like wearing a walk vest -- a walk vest for people who aren't familiar with the concept looks like a life jacket, but has weights in it.

This past Sunday I got out an old exercise DVD Self Magazine's "Bikini Ready Fast" led by Ellen Barrett. Ellen also has a series with Crunch Fitness and she is a very good teacher. I like the Bikini Ready Fast because there are three sets for the exercises, and each set is a variation on the one before so it goes by much more enjoyably. I was reminded that one good thing to do, if you can is to put a mirror so you can see yourself in it to the side of the DVD. This way, I notice if my arms aren't lifted as high as I feel like they are, or I'm getting down into the same squat position etc. I also know I keep my core muscles more engaged (ie: I suck in my gut) and my posture is better.

It is easy to overdo it when you are doing exercises you haven't done before/recently. I was able to keep up with the entire DVD, but the added 27 lb weight (my daughter Caitlin) really made the lunges way more challenging than I am used to. Monday I felt the burn... but I made it through the day in part by forcing myself to pick up my pace when walking down the hall at work to try to stretch those muscles that were for lack of a better way to describe it, freaking out.

When it comes to eating, five minutes can make a huge difference, and not always in the same way.

Yesterday afternoon I was in the coffee room and someone had left a tray of girl scout cookies. I saw them and thought, "What evil person put these here?" I filled my glass of water and I heard someone behind me say aloud, "Evil, who left these here, these are my favorites." and she took one. I was trying to convince myself that they really are just like cardboard and horribly old and unappealing when this same person came back, picked up the tray and walked them into the meeting room next door. I was rescued from having to make the choice, because within a minute they were all gone and there wasn't anything left to choose.

Another way that five minutes can make a difference is to eat like a connoisseur --if it isn't delicious, don't eat it. If you have a bite of something that looks too good to pass up -- really take a moment to fully taste it.

I was fortunate in the days before John Scharffenberger sold his company to Hershey to get to attend tastings at the Scharffenberger Chocolate Factory. As part of the tour a plate of chocolate pieces was brought around and everyone on the tour listed as John instructed us how to taste.

We were told to take a bite and to let the chocolate melt in our mouth, and to think about describing what we were tasting. Adding that analytical moment to think about how this particular piece of chocolate really tastes -- fruity or caramel, nutty and then if the finish is bright, fleeting, or more heavy and lingering and how much this can change depending on the cocoa beans and the amount of sugar and milk added to it.

I also recommend the next time there is something you really want to savor because it is a treat, to try an experiment. Sit near a clock and take a bite. Wait until a minute has passed before taking the next bite. By slowing down, fully chewing and tasting the food we can tune in much more closely to how we feel about what we are eating -- and get more pleasure out of it.

We spend 24 hours a day feeling what it feels like to be in our body at our current weight.

Carrying excess weight makes even simple things more challenging. A thin person walks up the stairs and if they are exercising on a regular basis isn't winded. An overweight person's walk up the stairs is like doing what the thin person did, but carrying really heavy weights. Each day my daily life is a little easier as I grow stronger.


Learning To Listen To Your Hunger

There are cues to listen for to know that our hunger/desire is for a good feeling and not for food.

The next time you are feeling ravenously hungry, and you really want to eat -- ask yourself if you could eat an apple.

If your body/mind/spirit screams, "No, chocolate cake!!!" that is your clue that this isn't a body hunger.

Your body would rather have an apple. It can get really great energy from it very easily.

Your mind/spirit really wants you to give yourself cake. But that cake doesn't make your mind/spirit fat. Your mind/spirit experiences the cake at the sensory level. It feels the rush of endorphins that you release even thinking about tasting the cake. And it wants to be flooded with those good feelings. Those feelings, that pleasure is a sign of love and comfort.

Your mind/spirit has been taught to recognize your love in the form of a piece of cake, or a cookie, or a bag of chips, or whatever your treat is... but the key to rescuing yourself from a never ending battle between what your body needs and what your mind/spirit needs is to recognize that you are looking for something really enjoyable.

If you like going for a walk, then offering it a walk instead will work. If you hate walking -- then no dice.

You need to listen to your desire behind the surface desire.

How many things do you like / want in life that aren't food?

Those other things aren't usually as convenient to buy in the moment. Our desire to give ourselves a treat explains why we have machines that dispense treats at work. And they aren't usually stocked with fresh fruit. If you work in an office, you probably have a vending machine. The things in the vending machine are typically that great sugary instant feel better stuff.

One way I lost weight was to become more of a connoisseur, some days, having a snickers now compared to having a See's chocolate chip truffle later is worth waiting for. And more often not, that later becomes another time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Table for Two

How to lose weight with the rest of your loved ones

Weight loss is mainly won in the mind. Having a family eating all your old favorites while you are trying to be "good" makes losing weight anything from no fun to impossible.

Even if everyone in your household wanted to support you, or join you in making improvements to their diet - it's guaranteed that not everyone will follow the exact same path to get there.

How much weight you want to lose and how quickly is really person-specific.

I am fortunate to be part of a couple that works together to achieve our goals. I am also extremely lucky to have married a chef. I had already lost 50 lbs when Eric and I started dating. I told him I was working toward a goal, and he waved his hand and said, "yes, that's great" but he wasn't interested in hearing exactly what my plan was. I think it was his way of telling me he didn't care if I lose any more weight.

If I were to need to have 100% control over the way most of what I eat is prepared, I'd have to cook it myself. Not possible in our household. Eric says at this point I am capable of making ice-cubes and very hot water. The rest, I leave in his hands. I am working on making him write a cook book with me that would be a "beginners guide" to cooking the foods we eat on a daily basis.

My strategy is to communicate what my current goal is and Eric amazingly adjusts accordingly. What he serves me is presented with love and looks fit for a five star restaurant, but it is also usually enough food for dinner and tomorrow's lunch. In the beginning of our relationship I couldn't help but clean my plate. As a compliment to him... but over time I had to learn other ways to compliment his superior artistry by using my words instead of eating every last bite. "This is delicious, thank you so much for cooking. If I weren't trying to lose weight, I'd keep eating." All true statements, but it required effort to voice the heartfelt feeling instead of just devouring every mouth watering morsel. I had to replace that visual signal that I loved every bite with verbal signals.

Avoiding Sabotage

Knowing yourself, and the one you love helps.

I am really great at having ice cream in the freezer and serving a two tablespoon scoop and feeling satisfied. I don't know what went wrong with my brain that this is possible, but since it works for me, I just accept it as the gift that it is. Eric, on the other hand, is a normal person, and is great about serving a 2 cup serving, and would prefer not to be tempted.

I used to pick up ice cream from time to time as a treat, but it just sets him up for extra calories. I don't think he shouldn't eat ice cream (just like he didn't care if I lost any more weight), but if it is getting in the way of one of his other goals, then it isn't really a sign of my love and thoughtfulness to bring some home to him.

I do buy him chocolate bars now and then, I probably should work on other ways to show him I am thinking of him... Eric, speak up if you want me to bring you chocolate bars.

I wouldn't recommend competing with your loved one to see who could lose the most, eat the least, run the most etc. I think team work is a much better strategy. You want both people to feel like they are winning to build a happy healthy life.

Depending on your size, how much muscle you have and your own food preferences your needs may be very different from your partner.

New Habits to Consider - Together
Walking together after a meal would be a good habit to foster
Going out to dinner and eating salads and sharing an entree (and sometimes dessert)
Putting the former "treat" foods that aren't part of your success plan out of the kitchen; think about it this way, if it doesn't need to be refrigerated , isn't a fruit or vegetable and it isn't perishable -- it isn't going to help you lose weight.

Don't keep ice cream in your house if it's hard for one of you to control. Enjoy it from time to time if you want at the ice cream parlor and ask for kid size, or small.

Don't set your spouse or loved one up for failure. I can eat a tiny serving of ice cream and stop, but Eric won't so I skip it.

Put the foods that the family members don't want to give up that aren't on your list in a separate cupboard not reserved for normal food. Put the "treat" food in an opaque container, out of sight, out of mind works at least some of the time.

You can get to your goals and how much sweeter it will be to have done it together.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Adding Specificity To Your Dream
It is a pretty easy thing to say,"I want to lose X lbs."
When you have a desire like this, that you may think it is very clear and specific. After all, you have identified two things:
1) that you want to lose weight
2) how much weight you want to lose.

The more specific the desire, the easier it is for you to reach your goal.

What are some other things it would be good to add to that?

"I want to lose X lbs. by X date." this can happen without even realizing how powerful it is when we have an event we want to lose weight for.

We don't even need to say, "by X date" aloud, because we know in our mind that we want to lose another 5 pounds by our cousin's wedding on July 17th and we picture ourselves at the wedding looking the way we want to look and off we go.

In addition to saying "I want to lose X lbs. by X date." try adding how you want to accomplish this. You may think of adding something like, "by eating the foods that I love and increasing the amount of happiness and joy I have in my life."

This is better, but "eating the foods I love" is vague.

Which foods do you love? How are you going to plan to incorporate them to reach your goal?

Also, increasing happiness and joy is vague.

Even More Specifically...
The more specific you can make your desire the more likely you will manifest it in your life.

Second - Set Your Sights On Your Goal

Here is An Example Of An Incredibly Specific Goal (Which I Achieved)

"I want to lose ten pounds by January 1, 2010. This will bring me to the 100 pounds lost milestone. I am putting on an invisible suit of armor, (I see myself at my goal and I am in great shape and I am fitting into a black outfit like the one Olivia Newton John wore in the carnival scene in Grease)

Side-note I remember hearing an interview where Olivia Newton John said she had to be sewn into those pants they were so tight. I'm not really interested in walking around in something that revealing, but the idea of stepping into something so form fitting felt empowering to me, so even as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I'm not editing it out.

I am going to wake up each morning and slip into that tight black outfit before I get out of bed. When I step on the scale I am going to flood myself with good feelings, no matter what the number on the scale says. If it is lower, I get to smile, if it is the same as yesterday, I get to smile, and if it is higher than yesterday, I still get to smile, because I have the power to impact today, which means tomorrow can swing back the other direction.

Then I Outlined The Actions To Take to Reach My Goal
On weekdays, I am going to drink a 4 oz glass of water in the morning before heading out the door to work. I am going to use Lowfat Soy Milk in my coffee instead of Whole Milk. I am going to eat my morning Oatmeal. I am going to get up from my desk and take a walk around the block before 11:00 am. I am going to bring my lunch and I am going to have a chocolate banana smoothie in the afternoon, if I am craving a sweet.

I am going to come home from work and eat whatever my husband has made for dinner -- but I am creating a special force field around myself. When I get home from work, I won't walk in the door feeling starved. It doesn't matter if dinner isn't ready, if it is another hour before dinner, that will be ok, I will grab an apple. get some time to focus on my two wonderful children and focus on listening to my husband's day at home with the kids. If I am really hungry I will enjoy a 4 oz. glass of water.

I am so lucky that my husband cooks! I will stay out of the kitchen. I will help set the table. As I am sitting at the dinner table, I am going to feel as if I have stepped into a time warp. I will see the food and I will stop and feel gratitude that I am so lucky to have this food to eat. I will thank my husband for cooking it, and I will feel that suit of armor. I will taste each bite. I will make it easier for my body to get the most nutrition out of it as possible by chewing lovingly.

I will help clear the dishes, put the food away. I will pack a lunch for tomorrow that is just right, not too big, not too small with a 3 ounce piece of meat and a 1/2 cup of rice, beans, or starchy vegetable and a cup of veggies. This will give me about one and a half cups of food which will be plenty of food for me.

I will focus on the full feeling I have and put the food away without eating another bite. I will load the dishwasher and if I am still wanting something, I will have another 4 oz. glass of water, then I will get out of the kitchen.

On some days, I may want dessert. If I am choosing to have ice cream I will have 1/2 cup serving. If I choose to have a different treat, I will have no more than one serving. I will get to sleep on time and will some days choose to drink a little water instead of any beer or wine.

By doing all this, I know I will reach my goal of losing another ten pounds, getting my body weight into the "healthy" range on the BMI chart, and I will do this by January 1st, 2010. I will enjoy food more every day as I don't feel guilty about what I am eating and no food is off limits but portion control and frequency of reward type food will need my attention.

This attention will feel like a powerful gift, and not a burden as I am making good wonderful choices that will put my actions in line with my intentions and desire.

I Outlined How It Would Feel Along The Way
I will enjoy food on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but those are two special meals, and not two months of eating with no thought to my desire. If I attend parties, I will shift my focus to the people I am with, instead of what is on the table. I will hunt for my very favorite thing, I will have one serving and enjoy every bite. I may throw an emergency apple or banana in my hand bag, because I have trained myself that those foods leave me feeling completely satisfied.
The next 10 weeks will easily bring me to my goal feeling strong confident happy and in control."

So far a few weeks have passed since I wrote that, and today I brought my lunch to work and went with a co-worker to pick up his lunch at a place that has really yummy chocolate oatmeal cookies. I grabbed an apple and by the time I got to the place, I was happy just to hang out and talk, come back to the office and heat up my food and stay on my plan.

The idea of meeting my goal "tasted" better to me than the idea of the cookie.

The Result, I Achieved My Goal
It wasn't as easy as doing exactly what I outlined. I found I had to draw on new and old sources of inspiration. I shifted the carbohydrates for more vegetables even replacing my oatmeal with fresh fruit, and the weight melted off as easily and enjoyably as I had wanted.

Thoughts on Dreams
The world isn't waiting to make your dreams come true. Everyday the world is manifesting your desires and beliefs.

If you aren't thrilled with what life is offering you, then the great news is, you can change what you are asking of it.

Just saying you want something isn't sufficient. If you put all of your actions into working toward that goal you will achieve amazing results.

When you act in accordance with your dreams then you make your dreams come true.

If you currently weigh more than you would like, then there is only one person in the world who is going to be able to help you achieve your goal... and that person is YOU. And that is a good thing, because this means you are in the driver seat. So let's turn the car on and go for a ride toward the dream you.

Spinach Oatmeal with Berries and Banana

I make this at work with hot water, oats, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, raw spinach, almonds, banana, blueberries, and strawberries.
It is very satisfying, because it keeps me full for hours and is guilt free.

To Make
Chop spinach and measure out a few almonds
Boil Water
Measure 1/2 cup of Rolled Oats (not instant)
Add a teaspoon or two of pumpkin seeds and flax seeds
Pour 1 cup of boiling water on oats seeds nuts and cover with a plate
Cut up some fresh fruit


Saturday, April 10, 2010


Main Entry: 1nap
Pronunciation: \ˈnap\
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): napped; nap·ping
Etymology: Middle English nappen, from Old English hnappian; akin to Old High German hnaffezen to doze
Date: before 12th century

1 : to sleep briefly especially during the day : doze
2 : to be off guard

We measure our life in years, in decades but we live our life in milliseconds.

If you have a long term goal you are trying to reach, you can't plot out each millisecond moment, each minute, each hour, each day, each bite you are going to take.

I've read diet books that talk about planning your meals for the course of the week, but I can't imagine anyone actually doing this. I know some do, but I'm not among them.

I prefer to leverage my natural tendency to do the same things day after day, and to build in better choices into each day so I don't drive myself crazy with a mass of spreadsheets, tracked calories, and food journals. Now I know those are great tools for some people, but they make me sweat just thinking about them.

When I find that I have been making bad choices, I take a NAP approach.

N.A.P. Now Action Plan

Now - I set my mind on the present. It is a clean slate where I can focus on what it is I want to do now, and in the very near future. I don't worry about what I am going to eat tomorrow for dinner, I think about what I need now. If I just ate, then what I need now may simply be a good feeling I can get from a little exercise, or the refreshing feeling I can get from a glass of cold water.

Action - I pick something good to do. I want to create a feeling I can feel good about. Something that will make me feel like I am on track.

Plan - I think about what I could do to set myself up for continued success. Maybe I pick three or four things I know I want to take with me to work tomorrow that I can have that are really great - I picture blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and spinach mixed into my morning oatmeal. I know, it sounds weird, but I love it.

Take a moment to reflect, what good choice(s) did you make today, if you don't want to give yourself credit for anything you did, what could you do now in this moment that would start the pendulum swinging you toward your goal?

Wall Sit anyone?


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Super Easy Enjoyable Short Term Goals

I have had goals on my mind this week.

I'm calling on the brilliance of my favorite author on this topic, Martha Beck, who has written a lot about the value of setting "ridiculously easy" goals. She says to set the bar so low, that basically you know if you even half try, you will be able to achieve it. She likes this concept so much she mentioned it in her book, "The Joy Diet" and then wrote a whole book called "The Four Day Win". Martha cracks me up.

Here is an example of Martha's voice. Note: this passage made me laugh so hard tears streamed down my face, so I have to share it unabridged...

In "The Joy Diet" (which isn't about dieting by the way) she writes about the time she took up T'ai Chi "the venerable martial art that is usually practiced by going through a sequence of very specific movements veeeeerrrrryyy sssllloooowwwwwwllllyyy, like a bear trying to dance while hibernating. I was frustrated when my teacher taught me one simple gesture (set your feet should width apart, raise your arms in front of you until they are parallel to the ground), then he told me I had to practice it every day for a week before I could learn the next move. Oh, give me a break, I said. I'm a quick study. Why not throw caution to the martial-arts wind and teach me two gestures in a week? This suggestion was politely, but firmly declined. Before I can teach you any new movement, said my teacher, each gesture must feel as easy and unconscious as running your hand through your hair."

Winning feels good, and the more you win, the more you want that good feeling. If that feeling is driven by good addictions centered around being healthier and happier you have a greater chance of making your healthier happier dreams come true.

Chris Downie, author of "The Spark" uses this concept of short term goals as a center piece of his book and website He refers to these short term goals as "streaks" a la "winning streaks". The purpose of the streak is to motivate you to see how many days in a row you can do something you are tracking.

These short term goals are very specific and that is where their power lies.

When trying to develop a new healthy habit (something that isn't inherently something you want to do; on every level) - routine is a great tool for changing your behavior. I love to joke that I have heard it takes 21 days to form a habit, but my "eat a chocolate croissant for breakfast" habit only takes 1 day.

One reason the goal has to be specific is, we are really good at giving ourselves credit for something if the goal is vague. Great for feeling like we are doing great, but not so good for actually achieving anything. Alas.

I could set a goal of going to the most expensive gym in town every day, and people could say, "Wow, how do you afford the membership fee?" I could smile sheepishly and explain, "Oh, I don't actually go inside..."

Go to the gym - Check!

Vs. the better goal of "Go to the gym, ride for 30 minutes on the exercise bike at an average of 22 miles and hour, seeing if I can make it a quarter of a mile further than the day before. (I'm stoked I went 8.5 miles in 30 minutes Monday, and then 9 miles in the same time on Tuesday.)

Setting a specific goal is something we are all good at, once we know what it is we want. Think about it -- when you head out the door to go to work in the morning, you don't wander the streets aimlessly, wondering which turn to take. You have a route you follow and you know where you are going. You get to work, you have achieved that goal. Well done, goal achiever!

Trying to do something like lose five pounds without little mini supporting goals is like getting in your car and turning here and there, avoiding this pothole and that pedestrian without any plan on how to get where you are going.

Setting a specific goal, "I will not drink any wine tonight." sounds great -- because it is measurable. But as I have mentioned before, the word "don't" doesn't get registered in our brain without associating it with the thing we want to avoid. So, I highly recommend thinking of what we do want to do instead of what we should do.

Actually learning to prefer the thing we want to do; not because we should, but because we have grown to love it is the key. That is the moment when you really free yourself from the diet mindset and jump into your healthiest happiest life.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stress Eating

Food is amazing.

It is required to keep us alive and it gives us tremendous pleasure.

When things feel out of control in our life, it is natural to turn to food for comfort and pleasure.

Making the connection between what is good for us at a deeper level and what tastes best to us requires a meditative attention to detail. To discern the amount of joy we are getting from a bite of something loaded with vitamins minerals and photochemicals compared to something that has no nutritive value happens more in the mind than in the mouth. The mouth tastes the sugary pastry, the crunchy baguette and says, "Yum!" but the mind may be telling us something different.

I have been in the middle of a high stress situation for the past two weeks, so my old friend "Stress Eating Monster" has been camping out on the couch. He goes with me to the grocery store and stands next to me in the kitchen as I bake a few dozen chocolate chip cookies.(Current favorite recipe is to follow the directions on the pack of the Guittard chocolate chips.)

(taken from their website)

Yield: 7 dozen 2 inch cookies

2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in chips and walnuts.

Drop by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

My old nemesis "The Scale" is like a ship turned the wrong direction, and my paddles are giant spoonfuls of ice cream.


Well, everyone has these moments in life. Part of the trick to maintaining a healthy relationship with food is to not turn it into a battle between good and evil.
Over the past two weeks in addition to the chocolate chip cookies, I have made a few amazing salads and really enjoyed them.

Both salads started with chopped raw spinach.

The first salad was a combination of black beans, strawberries, blueberries, grapes and 2T balsamic vinegar. The black beans were a little odd with the berries, but if I paid attention to what I was eating and alternated between a mouthful of spinach with beans, and a bite of strawberry or blueberry with spinach it tasted heavenly.

The other salad I made took advantage of some leftover roasted parsnips, turnips and sweet potato with some red wine vinegar (mixed with a little black pepper and red wine and a hint of olive oil).

By focusing on good things to have around the house (avocado, blueberries, spinach) and putting the worse choices in the back of the cupboard in opaque containers so they are out of sight it makes it easier to feel what I need to feel instead of numbing the pain.

Bad food choices in moderation aren't the end of the world. Tilt the scale so you are making more good choices than bad and you will continue to make progress toward your goal of being the happiest healthiest version of you that you can be.

That is my wish for you,