Exercise

SEASONAL EATING: Don’t Get Tricked By Treats!

Isn’t October supposed to be sweater weather? I thought so! This year seems to be a little wonky with the weather but, “Hey, I’m not going to complain!” As of this moment while I am writing this blog the sun has been shining brightly all week long. And, I haven't had the heart to put my shorts and sandals away just yet either. I figure I’m going to hold out until the very bitter end of this weather! In fact for months I’ve been playing this little mind game with myself where I purposely look the other way of anything even hinting at “seasonal” decorations when I’m out and about. Which, I gotta tell ya is rather hard to do when the “stuff” starts hitting the shelves before July 4! (It’s not really happening if I don’t see it right?)

Sooner or later I’ll pull my head out of the sand and come to grips that its fall. Then I’ll buy a bag of Halloween candy— a small consolation to pacify me for awhile. WEATHER UPDATE: Since starting this blog the weather has finally caught up with the calendar and fall is definitely here! Okay, back to my blog.

As I was saying before the weather update, I’m slowly accepting that the season has shifted and Halloween is right around the corner. With that I have been pondering what all that entails. So I thought for this blog what better topic to talk about than what lies ahead for the next two to three months for us—At least gastronomically speaking that is!

Since I was a child I have always considered Halloween to be the official “kick off” of the holiday season. I’m thinking it had something to do with the yearly tradition of a bulging pillowcase full of candy I had all to myself. Sounds probable! Anyway, Halloween always brought excitement and anticipation knowing that the next month brought Thanksgiving and then the big one -- CHRISTMAS!

I also remember as the fall season rolled around my mom would switch up the daily menus somewhat. And with the cooler weather came more opportunities to enjoy the goodies from the oven, YUM! Although when I think back I don’t remember an over abundance of offerings and the recipes didn’t vary much either.

But, times are different today. Whereas my mom might have been privy to some new dishes to try that she saw in a monthly magazine, today, we are constantly being exposed to ever more appetizing (and typically high calorie) images of food thanks to food shows, Pinterest, newsfeed pop ups, etc. And should I even mention how the coffee shops like Starbucks or Biggby tempt us to drive thru and pick up their latest seasonal drink on our daily commute? Here’s a fun fact for ya, a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 48 grams of sugar and that’s without the whipped cream! Now toss in a pumpkin muffin and a couple of candy bars throughout the day (that you bought for the trick or treaters, wink-wink) and the extra sugar and calories consumed by nightfall could be called downright spooky!

So, does that mean that we shouldn’t try new dishes or enjoy some fall goodies? NO WAY! But, we should keep in mind  just how easy it is to let those extra calories “creep” in. Especially if we don’t pick and choose wisely on which new recipes to try. Therefore, I thought it beneficial to share some tips that will hopefully help you to not “fall” in the fall:

Be mindful: Eating increases in the fall
We have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. Maybe it’s a biological thing—putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. Or, could it simply be because fatty, high-calorie foods are more readily available during these months? Whatever the case, starting the season with a mindful approach will keep you a step ahead.

Eat The Autumn Colors
Autumn is the season of warm, earthy colors like deep green, dark yellows and brilliant oranges. Nurture yourself by eating fresh seasonal foods. They are typically packed with great nutrients, such as fiber, protein, beta carotene and vitamin C.

Set Goals And Limits
Remember to be realistic. Moderation is the key! If goals are too restrictive or vague, it will be much harder to rise to the challenge. Establish clear nutrition and health goals (dessert two times a week, one cookie instead of two, a thirty minute walk five times a week, etc.)

Pay Attention To Your Wardrobe
When your favorite pair of jeans start to feel a little too snug you will have your first clue that your goals and limits need a little tweaking!

LAST WEATHER UPDATE: As I was putting the finishing touches to this blog I kid you not I looked out my window and it was spitting SNOW! Ya gotta love Michigan! Sheesh! I’m going to go get another candy bar!

Okay, all jesting aside, I really do want to encourage you to be mindful in the months ahead of making good decisions regarding the celebrations. By all means celebrate to your hearts content. But I hope that by being mindful at the beginning of the season you won’t end the season with regret.

If you would like some assistance in helping you navigate this tricky season of treats please call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab to set up an appointment. Let the celebrations begin!

CHRONIC STRESS & WEIGHT GAIN — Are They Related?

 

If I were to ask for advice on how to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight what tips do you think would come my way? How would you answer? I’m thinking the suggestions would go something like this:

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Eat good, healthy food
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Exercise
  • Make healthy choices when eating out
  • Learn portion size
  • Limit alcohol intake

Did I guess any of your suggestions? I’m going to assume so. In fact I’ve written those same tips in several of my blogs—because it IS good advice! But sometimes even though an individual is trying to live within these good guidelines they still struggle with their weight.

So, what could be the problem then you ask? Well, what if I told you the answer might be stress? Yup! Stress! Or maybe I should say chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels. Being stressed not only plays havoc with our emotions but can also have a dramatic effect on our body physically as well. Cortisol increases actually cause cravings for carbohydrates which can lead to consuming unnecessary calories. Another effect is the storage of excess calories, which most often shows up as fat in the abdominal area and thighs. (Isn’t that great?) NOT!

Let me explain somewhat on how this happens. Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response. However, cortisol is much more than just a hormone released during stress. This hormone affects many different functions of the body. It is a life sustaining adrenal hormone that is absolutely necessary to homeostasis. Homeostasis is a process that maintains the stability of the human body’s internal environment during changes in external conditions.

For example, if you were to fall into very cold water (a change in external environment), your heart would beat more rapidly than usual (a change in internal environment) and the rate of your breathing would increase above normal. This would be an automatic response to being exposed to the cold water. After you scrambled out of the water and your body warmed back up, your heart rate and breathing would return to normal.

Another example is if you suddenly found yourself in a dangerous situation. Your body would experience an adrenaline surge that would give rise to the extra energy you need to escape from the danger. This “fight or flight” response is your body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.

These examples I just gave would be considered a “good stress.” The kind of stress that motivates you to get something done or overcome an obstacle. You generally experience this kind of stress in short bouts. Once the threat is over your hormone levels go back to normal and you move on. Our ancestors more than likely dealt with that kind of stress mostly. It helped them to survive. The “fight” or “flight” reaction came in pretty handy when faced with the threat of being eaten by a lion, tiger or bear!

Now I don’t know about you but I haven’t run across any lions, tigers or bears…well, that is unless I was at the zoo. And I’m going to guess that neither have you. Most of the stresses we deal with today are more psychological than physical such as rush hour traffic, having an argument with our boss or spouse, living paycheck-to-paycheck, living a harried lifestyle, being stuck in a job we hate, etc. While these situations aren’t life threatening, our body reacts to them as a threat and activates the fight or flight system.

While it is a natural and vital response for our body to secrete cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event. Here in lies the problem—we live in a high-stress culture. Sometimes the stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal. Hence, our bodies being exposed to higher and more prolonged levels of circulating cortisol. Thereby setting our bodies up to hold onto those excess calories and leading to weight gain amongst other impairments.

Ideally, you want your levels to be neither consistently high or low, but rather fluctuate in a fairly rhythmic and balanced manner. You can actually learn to relax your body with a few stress management techniques. It’s also beneficial to make lifestyle changes to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. Therefore, I would like to offer some suggestions that might help you in aiding your body and mind to relax which will in turn help you to maintain healthy cortisol levels:

Change your external environment (your “reality”) - Evaluate your environment. Are you in a toxic, noisy or hostile environment? Sometimes this can’t be changed but if you are able and need to, DO IT! Whether it be physically or emotionally it is important to surround yourself with a healthy environment. This might mean moving, looking for a different job, getting out of hurtful relationships or any other action that helps to provide a safer environment.
Change the perceptions of your reality - Seek out techniques to help you view and respond to the events in your life in a healthy and constructive way. This includes your mental perspectives, attitudes, beliefs, and emotional reactions to situations in your life.
Physical exercise (you knew this was going to be in here right)? - When you exercise, you metabolize the excessive stress hormones which helps to restore your mind and body to a more calmer and relaxed state.
Give your brain a rest - Sometimes that toxic, noisy, and hostile environment can be located right between your ears—your brain! Do your thoughts race around like an endless, restless stream of incomplete thoughts, anxieties and negative self-talk? While we can’t exactly shut our brain off we can redirect the direction of where our mind wants to take us. This leads us to the next suggestion.
Relaxation - A good way to settle your brain down into a more quiet state of mind is to use relaxation techniques. Techniques such as yoga, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage, listening to calming music or learning to meditate.

Hopefully you can see that changing how your body responds to stress can make all the difference when you need to lose those extra pounds. I hope you have found this blog enlightening. If you would like some assistance in learning how to handle stress in a more healthy way I invite you to call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “contact” tab to set up an appointment.

 

EXCUSES- You Might Just Have to Eat Them to Lose Weight!

 

It’s a good thing we have excuses isn’t it? And, OH! How we rely on them! I mean, really! Where would we be without them? The simple answer is…"without an excuse." That’s where we’d be. And that’s one thing we humans do not like — to be left without excuses. For some of us, we cling to our excuses like an old friend. Always keeping them close by our side, knowing we can rely on them if we get in a tight spot.

We use excuses all the time for various situations. It’s something we learned how to do even as a child. One of those situations where we find it especially handy to reach into our bag of excuses is to justify why we can’t lose weight. And we all know there's no end to the excuses for not eating right and exercising. Listed below I want to go over just a few of them that are used quite frequently:

  • I have bad genes
  • Eating healthy is too expensive
  • I’m too busy
  • I’m too tired
  • I have a slow metabolism
  • I’ll start tomorrow

Let’s take a look at the word, excuse. We all pretty much know what it is. But just for kicks and giggles I decided to look the definition up. And where else would I go for this but my ole friend Google and here’s what I found:

  1. An attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify.
  2. Release (someone) from a duty or requirement.

Whelp, there it is, in black and white. We use an excuse to release us from the blame. In essence, we are stating, “It’s not my fault I can’t lose weight, there’s a reason!” Oh really? You don’t say? Well, let’s back the train up just a little shall we? Lets dig a little deeper into some of the excuses I listed above.

Bad GenesYes, you might carry an inherited predisposition toward (have and increased risk factor for) obesity. There are studies that have identified more than 90 genes associated with body fatness. The gene with the biggest effect is called FTO. This gene is suspected to increase the likelihood that a person with this gene will be obese by about 23 percent. However, that doesn’t mean you are off the hook and here’s why. Studies have also shown that individuals carrying this gene still respond to weight-loss treatments that use diet, physical activity, or medication. So the bottom line is, Genetics may influence weight, but it doesn’t dictate what you can do about it.
Healthy eating is too expensive - Let’s be real! It’s expensive to eat today period! BUT it’s more cost effective to choose your food wisely. Natural healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables can be the cheapest food around. Especially if you buy what is in season. You can usually get a 3lb. bag of apples for 3.99 anytime of the year. How does that compare to an 11oz. bag of potato chips or cookies for the same price? Eating artificially sweetened, overly sugary, over-processed and nutrient deficient foods will in the long run always be more expensive when it comes to your health. You can’t afford not to eat healthy!
Too busy - What? Come on. Let’s just cut to the chase. What you really mean to say is that you didn’t take the time to think ahead and plan, right? We are all busy. If you will be honest with yourself, you will have to admit that when you think something is important you somehow find the time to make it happen. So make healthy eating and exercise a priority in your life and you will find the time!
Too tired - Well, really, this is all the more reason to eat right and exercise! Our bodies rely on the energy and nutrients we get from food. A healthy diet of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fat from whole, unprocessed food over the course of any given day combined with exercise will go a long way in giving you the energy you need. So when planning your meals, ask yourself this question, “Will this food drain me or sustain me?” to help you make the right choices.
Slow metabolism - Sorry folks but contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain. (Shoot! I’ll bet you thought that was a good one huh?) Although our metabolism influences our body’s basic energy needs, it’s our caloric intake through food and beverages and our physical activity that ultimately determines how much we weigh. Even though some people seem to be able to lose weight more easily or quicker than others, everyone will lose weight when they burn up more calories than they take in.
I’ll start tomorrow - Remember that song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie? In the chorus she sings, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love ya tomorrow it’s only a day away.” The people that use this excuse could just as well be singing, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll diet tomorrow, it’s always a day away!” So, unless it’s 11:59 pm when you find yourself wanting to use this excuse, you need to be honest with yourself and just start TODAY!

You know I could go on and on to discuss all the excuses we make to justify ourselves regarding this subject. But I think you get the point. The fact is, the practice of making excuses can be the biggest barrier to successful long term weight loss and stability. Do you really want to lose weight once and for all to improve your health? Then the first order of business is to stop making excuses and just do it!

Granted, it might be easier said than done. But if you stop right there? — Well, you will have just used another excuse. So I am going to encourage you to adopt a “can-do” attitude to make healthy eating and exercise a priority. I believe you can do it! And if you need some help to get started, please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab to make an appointment. And let’s try to change those excuses of “why you can’t” into reasons of “why you CAN!”

 

 

 

Food Cravings? – Who hasn’t?

 

There I was going about my business one day and I started to get the “urge.” I pushed the thought to the back recesses of my mind and carried on with the business at hand. It worked for a little while and then, there it was again. This cycle repeated itself several times over the next couple of hours. Now, I don’t know how or when it happened but the next thing I knew I looked down at my desk and there was this pile of silver Hershey Kiss wrappers laying in a most accusatory fashion. I looked around for someone to blame — really hard! But, my door was shut and since no one had entered my office I eventually had to come to the conclusion that I, yes I, had caved to the crave.

Cravings — If you are alive, chances are pretty good that you have experienced them. People can crave all sorts of things such as attention, drugs, alcohol, etc. But in this blog I will be discussing food cravings.

I’ve never met a person who hasn’t had a food craving. And whether you have a sweet tooth or you tend to reach for a salty snack, I’m sure it has hit you at one point or another. And when you do succumb to your cravings, you probably feel guilty for having strayed from your otherwise healthy lifestyle habits.

Have you ever noticed how we can crave certain foods, even when we are not hungry? What’s up with that? Well, there is not just one answer that fits all people. So, below I will offer a few possibilities that are the most common reasons why we get food cravings along with some tips to help fight them:

SIMPLE CONDITIONING
One of the biggest psychological reasons people crave certain foods is because of conditioned responses to things such as certain activities, people or places that act as a trigger. Many of these can be from childhood where they learned through experience that certain foods made them feel better or made them feel emotionally satisfied. As an example, when you were young you were always offered something sweet after you had finished your chores or after losing a baseball game your family headed to the nearest ice cream parlor. If this practice became more of a daily occurrence instead of a once in a while one, it set up a pattern that you probably carried into adulthood where you find yourself rewarding yourself with the same kind of “treat” because you feel that you deserve it. Conditioned responses go hand in hand with emotional eating.

Tip: If you can figure out what triggers your craving, you will be better able to control the temptation. It’s actually a simple concept albeit a tough one to carry out. But it can be done. So to break the “habit” that has been established, the first thing to do is to identify when the food craving hits so you can see if there is a pattern. Second, take note of what specific foods you crave at those times. Think back on life experiences in which food was connected to a specific food. What emotions were connected to the food? (happy, sad, upset, anxious, fear) When you figure out the “why” behind your food cravings you can then start to actively fight them. Remember, tell yourself that your body does not need the food you are craving only that it has been conditioned to crave it, therefore, you can also condition the craving to stop!

ADDICTION
Have you considered that you might be addicted to the foods you crave? It’s entirely possible. Let me explain. While you can be addicted to any food, most of the time it’s going to be foods with a high sugar, fat or salt content. Eating these foods stimulate the reward center of your brain by producing endorphins in your body. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that are naturally manufactured in the brain. They are called the natural opiates of the body. Opiate drugs, such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium, are powerful painkillers derived from the poppy plant. These drugs alter pain perception, making it easier to tolerate, and elevate mood. Now isn’t it interesting that the human body produces its own opiates, called endorphins. So when we eat these kinds of foods and experience that, “feel good” feeling we want more—similar to the way drug users get addicted to narcotics. In fact, there are studies that show sugar can actually have a more intense feeling of reward than cocaine.

TIP: No real easy way to do this but if you are serious about wanting to break this habit, the first thing you need to do is “detox” your body by not eating the foods you are addicted to. That’s easier said than done because you will go through a withdrawal process. But if you can hang in there for about two weeks you can reset your hormones and break the food-addiction cycle. After the detox period, you can begin to introduce some of the foods back into your diet very slowly.

PHYSIOLOGICAL CRAVINGS
Some food cravings can be physiological or biochemical in origin, and could be caused by hormonal and chemical imbalances in your brain and nervous system. For example: Serotonin is involved with the regulation of mood and impulsive behaviors. Many studies have identified links between mood changes and low serotonin levels with food cravings. When serotonin levels drop or are deficient, you can develop cravings for carb-rich foods. Unstable blood sugar levels can be also be a physiological trigger. Whether from eating large amounts of carbohydrates, especially high-glycemic carbohydrates causing your levels to spike quickly then come crashing down or experiencing low blood sugar from not eating because of a too restrictive diet.

TIP: Keeping your blood sugar stable and eating high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of high-glycemic carbohydrates (cakes, cookies, processed foods, etc.) can help. Also, once again, exercise is good for you by increasing your serotonin levels and it might as well help to decrease your food cravings. Instead of totally cutting out certain foods (which can sometimes cause you to crave even more) try to substitute with a lower-glycemic food that is similar to what high-glycemic food you are craving.

So, as you can see, there really isn’t a “simple” answer as to why we experience food cravings. We are all different and each persons cravings can be caused by one factor or multiple reasons. But, if you can learn the basics of how your own body works, then you can make better food choices to control the cravings instead of the cravings controlling you. If you would like help in doing just that, please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or you can also click on the “contact” tab in the upper right hand side of the page. I look forward to your call!

Breaking the Cycle of Weight Gain and Depression

People are always looking for ways to lose weight. And for some, they will try every pill, gimmick, drink, etc., trying to drop those unwanted pounds. Only to discover after much frustration that nothing they buy or try will work. And as their weight hangs on or even keeps going up depression sets in—or could it possibly be the other way around?

What comes first, weight gain and then depression? Or depression first and then weight gain? Unfortunately, the experts don't know. But one thing they all agree on is that weight problems and depression are both heavy burdens to bear and they often go hand in hand. While some people experience weight loss with depression, weight gain is much more common and can lead to serious health issues.

So the question is, why, are depression and weight issues so closely linked? Well, to put it simply, the part of the brain responsible for emotion also controls the appetite. And when this emotional part of the brain gets disturbed in someone who is depressed, their appetite gets disturbed as well.

EMOTIONS AND APPETITES 
Emotional eating is when you eat not because of physical hunger but rather emotional hunger. When a person eats in response to their emotions, they are trying to soothe themselves by the food as it changes the chemical balance in their brain. Some foods, especially foods with high sugar and/or fat content may make you feel better, but only temporarily. And because the person associates the “feel good” feeling with the food, they want to eat more which leads to weight gain which in turn makes them feel bad about themselves which then leads to more eating and the vicious cycle has begun. Breaking that cycle can be quite challenging.

Because depression and weight are so closely linked, it is important to tackle both problems in order to get the upper hand on the situation. It’s not so important to figure out which problem came first but rather which one should get the most attention initially. If someone is severely depressed and overweight, the depression should be the primary focus. However if someone is exhibiting an eating disorder such as bulimia, and their eating is out of control, that would become the primary focus.

So assuming the person is depressed, overweight and is looking for help, what do they need to do? It might be surprising but the same tactic to control weight applies if you have depression—Decrease calories and increase physical activity. Now we know that when a person is depressed, they probably find it harder to muster up the energy to just get out of bed in the morning let alone make wise choices on what they are going to eat. However, it is critical to find a way to do both despite the effects the depression is having on them. So below I will offer some tips on weight management that will also help with depression.

BE MORE ACTIVE
Get moving! Most people with depression and weight gain have over time reduced their amount of physical activity. The low energy that comes with depression can be debilitating. But exercise is so key to treating not only the weight but the depression as well. Look at it as something you can do for yourself. And by taking an active role in caring for yourself it makes you feel good which in itself can be therapeutic.

And keep in mind that every bit of physical activity helps. It doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and lift weights or run on a treadmill—unless that’s what you like. If you are struggling with low energy start out small. Set a goal to get out of bed in the morning and doing some stretches for a few minutes every day for a week, then add a walk and then other activities that bring you pleasure. By building on these small changes, overtime you will feel more in control, have a more positive outlook, and become more motivated to exercise.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES
Depression and food unfortunately results in unhealthy eating choices. People with low self-esteem often use food as a way to stuff their feelings of inadequacy and depression. So to turn this beast around examine the relationship between your depression symptoms and food. Consider the feelings you have about your weight and be mindful of how and when you use food. Food should be seen and used as a source of nutrition, not as an outlet for depression.

To help you start each day with the intention of eating healthy, I am going to give you a list of affirmations I found in an article by Self-Esteem Experts that I really like. Each day pick an affirmation from the list below or make up your own and repeat it to yourself throughout the day.

  • Today I choose to eat healthily because I love myself.
  • I eat for nutrition, not for boredom.
  • Today I replace sugary food with healthy choices.
  • I forgive myself for overeating. I will make healthier choices today.
  • I eat food that is good for me.
  • I make wise food choices.
  • I nourish myself with water, exercise and healthy food.

FEEL BETTER
Ahhh, that will be the reward!—To feel better. By taking charge of your life a step at a time and addressing the relationship between your weight and depression it will help to create a better body image. And as you decrease your weight by eating healthy you will also find that it will lead to higher self-esteem and a feeling of empowerment and content.

If you would like some help as you journey through this process of making the connection that by feeding your body you are also feeding your mind I encourage you to make an appointment with me at (616) 516-1570 or clicking on the “connect tab.” I look forward to helping you down the path of emotional and physical well-being.

ON YOUR WAY TO HAPPY AND HEALTHY!

 

There’s a well known drugstore whose advising slogan is that you can find their stores at the corner of “happy and healthy.” I know it is implying that they have what it takes to help you to be just that—happy and healthy. I get it — it’s a catchy slogan. The store fills much needed prescriptions, vitamins and other health related aids. And I even frequent their stores quite often. However, we all know that we need more than the corner drugstore to make us truly happy and healthy.

I know, I know, it might seem like I’m making too much out of it but just bear with me a minute. I want to ask you a question. Who or what really has what it takes to accomplish what the drugstore is advertising? What’s your guess?

I’ll tell you where I found the answer just in case you are wondering on where to look. In fact it’s super easy for anyone to find the answer. All I had to do and what everyone else needs to do is look in a mirror. Yep! That’s all there is to it. It’s me, it’s you. Okay, I hope I didn’t just pop someones bubble right there but it’s true!

Now let’s go back to the drugstore for a minute. I’m glad we have them because they are much needed. But let me point out something to you. To get a prescription, bandaids, cold medicine, vitamins or what ever else might be needed from there, you have to go to the store to either pick up a prescription or buy what you need right? Now if you wander around in the store a little it won’t take you very long before you come across some items that might be on the temporary “happy” list but are definitely not on the “heathy list”

And don’t even get me started on the after holiday candy sales! Ugh! I say, “Will power don’t desert me now!” It really should be against the law to sell chocolate at 50 or 75% off. Isn’t it ironic we can go into a store, buy a weight reducing product and then get tripped up on the way out by those “great” deals we just can’t pass up. Go figure!

But getting back to the point. Sure the drugstore is filled with good and healthy items for us to use and that’s great. But you can also pick up not so healthy items. So you see in the end the responsibility lies with us.

Now! Even though I pointed out that the ball falls in our lap, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use some help along the way. Nor did I say that it’s a cakewalk either. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have use the word “cake” in my statement. Sorry about that!

Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice. It’s not a “one and done” kind of choice either. It’s an ongoing commitment we have to make to ourselves and for ourselves. A commitment that involves maintaining healthy eating habits and engaging in regular exercise. So let’s break those two commitments down into practical daily living.

HEALTHY EATING

  • I think we tend to forget a very simple fact. And that is that food is fuel for the body. I’ve said this before but it’s good to repeat it. “We don’t put junk fuel into our vehicles so why do we put junk fuel into our bodies and then expect our bodies to run efficiently?” Not going to happen!
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products. These foods contain the most vitamins and minerals that will provide you with quality energy for the least amount of calories.
  • Limit processed and prepared food such as take-out, fast food and convenience foods which usually contain high amounts of calories, sodium, added sugars and fat. Ironically these types of food contribute to health related problems which could eventually require a trip to the drugstore I mentioned earlier to fill a prescription.
  • Learn and practice eating what the appropriate portion size is for the various foods you eat. In the long run it’s not always the best deal at a restaurant when they give you enormous portions for the price paid. It might be cheap food but it is an expensive price to pay if it leads to bad health.
  • Make note of when and why you eat. Are you truly hungry? Do you eat when you are bored or stressed? Or perhaps you are happy or sad? Practice mindful eating which is paying attention to your hunger cues and your level of fullness.

ACTIVE LIVING

Contrary to some peoples opinion, the word “exercise” is not a dirty word. Rather it is a “healthy” word. Physical activity is an important factor in healthy living. I’m not saying you have to run a 5k but most everyone can walk around the block. Whether it be by aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening (very important to the over age 40 crowd) or any other activity that gets your body moving regularly, staying active helps with the following:

  • Weight control
  • Minimizes stress level
  • Maximizes energy level
  • Improves sleep
  • Enhances mood
  • Reduces risk for chronic disease
  • Strengthens bones and muscles to prevent injury

So if you desire to lead a happier, healthier life, making the necessary choices are up to you. If you can wake up every morning and incorporate eating healthy and staying active into your daily routine it won’t be long before it becomes a good habit. And then, you will realize that you've arrived at the corner of happy and healthy.

Holidays, Menopause – No Need for Weight Gain!

holiday-food

Well, here we go. I can’t deny it any longer. Time obviously did not get my memo to slow down. Thanksgiving is really knocking on my door now and I guess I am going to have to answer it and quick!

Now once I open that door I know what’s going to be on the other side. Temptation! That’s what! Do you know what I mean? It’s really the start of a two month long food fest known as the “holiday season” Literally! Whether it is well meaning neighbors sharing their goodies or office parties, family gatherings, you name it. But I am determined to remain strong and still enjoy the holidays! Who’s with me? — Hey! Where did everybody go?

COME ON! We can do this! This advice can be for anyone, but today I’m going to focus on us women who have entered the middle age era of our lives known as menopause. Yep! Those of us who have gone through it or are going through it. Gone are the days of nibbling on that yearly tradition of eating the 5 lb. tub of Grandma’s homemade chocolate fudge that she keeps making for you (bless her heart) without some lasting consequences.

Something happens to our metabolism as we approach that time of our lives. It mostly sneaks up on us gradually until one day we look into the mirror and we think, “Well, how in the world did that happen?” It can be quite frustrating because you know you haven’t changed the way you eat and yet either the pounds kind of crept up on you slowly or the pounds you have always carried somehow have shifted to other parts of your body where they are not supposed to be.

I have heard from women who say they had never had a weight problem until they turned 40. And the weight just doesn't want to come off like it used to. It can be depressing, or cause anxiety, anger, and even lead some into falling into an attitude of “why bother?” and give up entirely. So today I am going to give us all a pep talk (myself included) and say, “Don’t fall into those kind of temptations (attitudes) either.”

Besides, there is way more to enjoy about the holidays than what we eat or can’t eat! You know, it’s crazy if you really think about it. But for some reason it can be hard not to indulge in everything laid out before us. But, if we really put it into perspective there’s nothing on the table that can’t be made any other time of year. We don’t have to gorge on all of it right now. Sometimes I find that’s when I have a talk with myself and say, “What do I want more, that piece of whatever, or do I want to feel good about myself later on?” This year, it’s going to be that I want to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from me making smart choices. Choices that benefit me in the long run.

We are not getting any younger. And sometimes you just have to make a stand and say, “today is the day, I am going to take charge!" So if that’s you, I’ll list a couple of tips to help you through the next couple of months.

LIMIT THE ALCOHOL AND SUGARY DRINKS
It’s inevitable. Where there’s a party, there is usually going to be alcohol, sugary punch or soda. And people usually drink more alcohol during the holidays than other times of the year. Those calories really add up fast. Something else to keep in mind is that alcohol actually reduces the amount of fat your body burns. So don’t drink your calories.

LIMIT THE APPETIZERS
A lot of times these little bits might taste great but can add up to 1000 calories before you know it and you haven’t even sat down for the meal yet. Look for a low calorie appetizer that will take the edge off your appetite so you eat less of the rich food offered.

PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
Pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. Pause to enjoy and really taste the food you are eating. Don’t get so caught up in the festivities that you are just mindlessly eating what is on your plate and before you know it, you look down and it’s all gone and you didn’t listen to your body telling you that you might have had too much.

BE CHOOSY
Go ahead and enjoy your holiday favorite but be choosy with the rest of the meal. Look for a tradeoff, if it’s a high-calorie side dish you really want then go easy on the dessert or vice-versa. Make your portions smaller and don’t load your plate with all the “sinful” pleasures.

SNEAK IN SOME EXCERCISE
Yes, it is possible! I don’t know about you but it seems like I am always going to the store for something. Park your car farther away from the door. Bundle up and go for a brisk walk even if it is for 15-20 minutes before a meal. It will rev up your metabolism. Watching a movie? Don’t sit the whole time, do some sit-ups or push-ups, lunges, or squats for 20 minutes. And the best way of all? Play with your grandkids. They have a way of helping you to burn energy you didn’t know you had in the first place!

In closing, I would like to say that maybe us women might face some challenges, such as hormonal changes that can lead to weight gain, loss of bone and muscle mass during this time, but you know what? People of all ages face some sort of challenge throughout life so let’s not make that an excuse not to do something about it.

As long as we are still up and kicking we can make a decision to educate ourselves and take the bull by the horn and tackle it. AND be successful! So when you open that door on Thanksgiving Day, focus on your family and friends coming through the door. Be thankful for the good things in your life. Even be grateful for the time of life you find yourself in. It has it benefits too! So, have that piece of Pumpkin Pie (with whipped cream even). Sit around and take a moment to relax, laugh, revisit memories with loved ones. Whatever you do, ENJOY the moment! Thanksgiving Day only comes around once a year! And one more thing, don’t forget to send the leftovers home with someone younger!

Is Menopausal Weight Gain a Trick?

life tricks 2

 

I have come to the conclusion that life likes to play little “tricks” on us. How so you ask? Well, it starts out when we are little. We want something such as candy, ice cream, etc., when we are young and our parents say, “No, it’s not good for you!” Now, our little minds really can’t understand that and so we say to ourselves, “When I grow up I am going to buy all the candy I want” or “When I grow up nobody is going to tell me how much ice cream I can eat.” Do any of those statements sound familiar?

Then we get a little older and one day we’re given some money from Grandma or some chore done around the house and when somebody finally takes us to the store we sadly find out that we don’t have quite enough money to purchase all the candy we want. However, in all of our 7 year old wisdom we know that when we grow up and get a job, THEN we’ll have enough money to get that candy.

Well, you know how that works out. By the time we get that job in our teens we aren’t thinking about the candy anymore. We have moved on to important things like clothes and movies. (wink-wink). And so goes the “wants” and “means” as they evolve over time going through many phases.

So I was just thinking one day on how as kids we want something and an adult tells us we can’t or shouldn’t have it and we have no choice but to accept it either willingly or kicking and screaming at the check out . And then fast forward to the day when we find ourselves being the adult and having to tell ourselves, “No, you can’t have that, it’s not good for you” even though we have the freedom and the means to buy it for ourselves. This being one of the many little tricks that I was talking about.

Wow! I said all of that to say this. I am now considered a “mid lifer.” That is someone of middle age for those of you that don’t know (yet) but hold on you will eventually. And with that middle age comes something called menopause for us women.

Now when we are let’s say in our mid to late 30’s we might be thinking, “Come on menopause!” It’s time to move on from “certain issues” in our lives and we think menopause will solve some of those. But au contraire, anyone who has truly reached menopause knows that in fact your so called “certain issues” have just been traded for “other issues.” Hence this being another little (or big) trick depending on what’s going on and how your body has reacted to the “change of life.”

But for the sake of this blog I’m just going to talk about one of the new issues that seems to pop up, (or should I say pop out) and that is weight gain. Even though we know we haven't changed our eating habits we wonder in frustration what in the world is going on when we try to fasten our favorite jeans.

Menopausal weight gain has been reported to be one of the most frustrating symptoms of menopause. Have you noticed a change in the size and shape around your abdomen? Maybe a bulge above your waistband that you didn’t have before? Some people refer to it as the “Middle age spread.” This is usually caused by a change in your hormones.

Even if you have never had a weight problem in the past, you might find it harder now to manage your weight when you find yourself approaching menopause. Many women gain around 10-15 pounds during the perimenopause to the actual menopause period at a rate of around 1 pound per year on average. And you will probably notice that your weight is not distributing itself the same as it used to be. And while some women might not see an actual weight difference on the scales the proportion of body fat has increased. Can we all just say, Yippee, Yippee Yay?

Now remember when I said that the weight gain could be attributed to hormones? Well, that is just partially true. Our hormones do play an integral part in influencing menopause and weight gain in relation to our appetite, metabolism and fat storage. However, there are other factors as well.

Age and lifestyle are the main culprits. Aging is associated with slowing of the metabolism. In fact most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade. And because metabolism slows as women approach menopause, they need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. Our lean body mass also decreases with age while body fat accumulates throughout adulthood. Another Yippee Yay right there right? Also, women generally become less physically active as they go through their 40’s and the years beyond. So it’s really not hard to see that because we are less active our weight and fat mass increases and with decreased activity our muscle mass decreases.

So, what are us “mid lifers” to do? Do we have to accept that it is inevitable we are going to gain weight? Not necessarily. Although there’s no magic formula to avoid weight gain as we age, the strategies below can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:

  • Be proactive. Get ahead of the game. Knowing that weight gain is in the cards don’t wait for the weight to add up before switching to a healthier lifestyle. One interesting fact is that menopausal women who manage to retain their “youthful figure” are usually those who have always been active and continue to do so. They might notice a change in the distribution of their weight but overall they look trim, fit and healthy.
  • Increase your physical activity. Find an activity that you enjoy (think aerobic) such as jogging, dancing, cycling or good old fashion walking, and do it on a regular basis for at least 45 to 60 minutes four to five days a week thus boosting your metabolism which aids in burning fat.
  • Do strength training. Exercises such as weight lifting can boost your metabolism as well as increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. Use resistance bands or use your own body as resistance and do push-ups, squats, or lunges. Even heavy gardening such as digging or hoeing weeds can be classified as strength training. Building muscle mass is also more likely to protect against future weight gain.
  • Watch your diet. You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Take a good look at your diet and see what you can do to improve it. I’m sure you can find some refined carbohydrates hiding in there somewhere that can be cut out. It doesn’t hurt to look at portion sizes either, remember, women need about 200 fewer calories a day just to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. But don’t forget to keep up with the daily calcium requirements if you are simultaneously trying to lose weight though as women are at an increased risk of bone density loss at this age.

Whew! that was a lot of information. Hopefully you are not dealing with menopausal brain fog and you got all of that. Okay, a little humor there! Well, that’s it. I guess we have more control over weight gain than we would like to admit. We can’t just blame it on menopause. We have some responsibility too.

So if you are nearing or in the “change of life” time frame and would like some coaching to help you put these strategies into motion to ward off menopausal weight gain, please call me at (616) 516-1570 and together let’s just see if we can’t play some tricks of our own on menopause.

Get Moving on Diet and Exercise!

 

get movingPeople, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the squirrels are having fun playing, “Tag - You’re It!”  (At least I think that is what they are doing.) So why then are you inside sitting on the couch? Watching T.V? Come on — our spring and summer season is so short for us Michiganians you need to seize the season and take full advantage of it.

I know, it’s easy to get in a rut though isn’t it? You work all day, come home and just want to veg on the couch. But if you find that you are sedentary for most of the day and you know you should be exercising I am here to encourage you to get up and out and get moving. That’s right, get moving! If you are someone who hates to exercise, now, is the perfect time to at least be more active. Try to change it up and enjoy new outdoor activities. There is SO much to do out there. Besides, if you work inside all day wouldn’t it be more fun to go for a walk outside than back inside on a treadmill?

Think about where Michigan is located. You know, Michigan is surrounded by the five Great Lakes and for us who live in West Michigan we are only minutes away from the beautiful Lake Michigan shore. If you don’t like to swim, go for a walk along the waters edge. Or, go to the park and play Frisbee Golf or take up gardening. Just find something you enjoy outside and then—well, enjoy it!

Remember, changing your exercise routine is good for your body and increases the calories you burn. Because your body and muscles are working harder it challenges your muscles and increases your metabolism.

Now with that being said, I must bring to your attention though that if you are looking to lose weight you can’t do it with exercise alone. You still have to be mindful of what you eat. There’s a reason that the phrase “diet and exercise” seem to always go together. While many people might try to do one without the other it is just simple math that if you are not burning off more than what you consume you will not lose weight. And that is especially true if you need to lose more than just a pound or two. You might be best friends with your treadmill but if you eat more calories than you walk off, basically what you end up doing is just taking your extra pounds you carry for a daily walk.

Now don’t get me wrong. Exercising does help you increase the calories your body is burning, but, It’s often not nearly enough compared to the calories you’re consuming. So if you are willing to cut back on food and exercise you will see a much better result faster. And just to be clear, I’m not necessarily saying to eat less food but to be mindful of what kind of food you are consuming. However, if you know that you do overeat then it’s a given that you need to eat less.

Studies looking at different weight loss methods such as diet-only, exercise-only, and a combination of both have concluded that programs based on physical activity alone are less effective than combined BWMPs (behavioral weight management programs) in both the short and long term.

Maybe there are behaviors that you have regarding eating that you don’t even realize you have. For some, it started in childhood whether it was being told to always finish your plate even if you were full or were punished or rewarded by food. For others, food has become a way of dealing with stress or a way of comforting themselves in bad times.

If you can accept that your habits or behaviors have contributed to your weight gain, then you can realize that it is more than just a matter of reducing calories to lose weight. To make a permanent change you must change those behaviors that caused the problem in the first place.

That is where Behavior Modification Therapy which has been shown to be very successful can be helpful to reduce or eliminate behaviors and habits that are destructive, unhealthy, or undesirable and learning more appropriate behaviors. Just because there is a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” doesn’t mean that it is true. And just because you might have learned a defective approach to diet and exercise somewhere along the way does not mean that you can’t unlearn those behaviors and replace them with a new and healthy way of thinking.

So, enjoy your summer and all of your new outdoor activities. And if you decide to be more active by traveling our beautiful state and hiking, walking, swimming or whatever, just be mindful of the goodies you might find along the way. You know, like Coney dogs, ice cream at Captain Sundae’s, Mackinac Island fudge (no, I did not just say that. Okay, just a little piece!) Who knows, by the time the cold and snowy weather comes back around you just might be in better shape to go cross county skiing or tobogganing with the kids… OKAY! Maybe I shouldn’t have brought that up now? Summer people, yes, let’s focus on summer!

Weight management involves adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a knowledge of nutrition and exercise, a positive attitude and the right kind of motivation. If you would like to explore the idea of Behavior Modification Therapy and how it could help you with your eating and exercise habits please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab at the upper righthand corner of your screen. I look forward to meeting with you!

Eating Healthy for Life

 

family-eating-together

This might have been out there for a while but I just recently saw for the first time a meme on Facebook that said, “ Apparently you have to eat healthy more than once to get in shape. This is cruel and unfair.” I laughed because I thought it was funny and got what they were meaning but is it true? Well, it probably depends on your concept of eating healthy, getting in shape, cruel and unfair treatment. I will try to break this to you as gently as I can okay? YES, it’s true! Well,… at least partly. You WILL have to eat right (healthy) more than once and sometimes it will SEEM cruel and unfair to get in shape. There, I said it!

I think the cruel and unfair feelings come into play when we think about the people we may know that seem to never struggle with weight no matter what they eat. You know, THOSE people! Where do they come from and how did they get to be so lucky? I do not know the answer to that. But they are out there and we hate them don’t we? No, not really, I’m just being a little facetious right now. Just to put things into perspective, EVERYBODY at some time or another will have their own issues to deal with. So if your struggle is weight, rest assured THOSE people are wrestling with their own problems. Nobody gets through life without struggles of some kind. So keep that in perspective okay?

They say we are what we eat. Oh boy! For some of us that is quite scary. But really, if you really think about it, if we continue to eat unhealthy and neglect our bodies by getting and staying out of shape, couldn’t you classify that as being cruel and unfair — to yourself? Ouch! That should make you get up off the couch put the Snickers down, huh?

Now, back to the issue of eating healthy more than once. Yes, most of us are not so blessed to have the metabolism to eat whatever we want and instead have to choose wisely what we eat on a consistent basis to get AND stay in shape. And yes, sometimes it can seem hard but being out of shape can be hard also don’t you think? The choice is yours to make — you determine which way you want it. Either become disciplined with healthy choices right now and start to enjoy the benefits of being in shape or enjoy every morsel of food that comes across your path no matter if it is good for you or not and have a hard time later on as you huff and puff your way through life. Does that make sense to you?

You know, I actually believe most people do want to get in shape and eat healthy but let’s face it, it takes motivation, determination and discipline. And there’s the rub. That can be the hard part. We’ve all jumped on a band wagon at some point in our lives to start some new diet that came along and thought, “This is it!” We probably went to the store and bought all the foods and supplements that were suggested and allowed. Or, we plunked money down on some kind of exercise equipment that was recommended. And then after all the excitement and expectation died down, the day of good intentions was met by the days of reality and pretty soon the fresh vegetables turned moldy and the equipment eventually found its way to Craigslist. So how do you find the motivation, determination and discipline?

MOTIVATION

Motivation is what gets you going. It’s the daily spark that ignites a change in the way you think about a situation. It’s what gets you up and off the couch to make you take the first step to do what you want to do. The best way to get and STAY motivated long-term wise is to find a lot of different reasons that are specific to you to eat right and get in shape. Your reason for getting in shape might be different than someone else. Some examples are:

  • Wanting more energy
  • Being at your ideal weight
  • Eliminate or decrease health issues
  • Wanting to be able to be more active and be able to keep up with family, (kids,grandkids)

Figure out how eating healthy benefits you and make your own list. That way you will have more than just a vague idea of “getting in shape” to help you stay on track.

DETERMINATION

Determination is what keeps you going after the spark of motivation. It will help push you through the hard times. Even though you might want to give up, determination makes you dig deep and give it your all so you can succeed at what you are trying to do. Some helpful tips to stay determined:

  • Give yourself a pep talk - Be positive, write or state your goal and cheer yourself on.
  • Find a support system — Family, friends, online support groups for encouragement.
  • Reward yourself for successes along the way - Think pampering or money jar, not cake.
  • Focus on the benefits of reaching your goal.

DISCIPLINE

Self discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish any goal and especially when we are talking about eating and exercise that will lead to long-term success. Self-discipline allows your choices to be made by informed, rational decisions instead of by impulses or feelings. Some people might find this surprising but self discipline is actually a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in your daily life. Some methods to help you to be successful:

  • Be realistic in setting short term and long term goals - Short-term goals should be benchmarks that lead up to long-term goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, set a six month goal, but break it down into smaller pieces, such as losing one pound every two weeks. When you reach the mini-milestones it helps to keep you motivated which in turn then helps to maintain your self discipline.
  • Remove temptations - Why have junk food sitting around calling your name. Removing the distraction from your environment is a crucial first step while you are working to improve your self-discipline.
  • Plan ahead and have a schedule - Don't leave your eating up to chance. Waiting until you are hungry is not the best time to figure out what you are going to eat. Know what you will be eating and have it ready.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice - Think of any great performer that you admire. Even if they started out with natural talent they still had to practice to perfect it. The more they practiced their talent, the easier and better it got. The same applies for self-discipline. You will find the more you practice it the better you will be at it.

So, how’s your motivation, determination, and discipline? If you need some help to get you going or keep you on the right path, call me today at (616) 516-1570 and soon you will be making the changes of eating not WHAT you want but eating FOR what you want and that is, “Eating healthy more than once and getting in shape!”