Is holiday time a bad time to start making lifestyle changes?

What do you think? I hear a lot of people making statements like “I know the holidays are a bad time to start anything . . . .”, “I might as well wait until January . . . .” . . . . . etc., etc. Is this a bad time to try making any changes at all?

If you are one of the many who wait . . . and wait . . . and WAIT for the perfect time to start making changes, I have a different point of view on the subject. I think any time, any day, is a perfect time – THE perfect time to start if that moment is now. Why? Because this very moment is the only one any of us has to make changes.

This is your moment to do something different, whether it is July, or September, or Thanksgiving Day. Keep putting it off, and the postponement becomes part of the plan. “I will start (again) tomorrow (Monday, in January . . . ).”

The avoidance of looking at change is often rooted in the belief that change needs to be dramatic and sudden. In reality, I believe that lasting changes are built from little adjustments created by changes in thinking. If you believe that this is a horrible time to start, how can positive energy toward new actions arise? Most likely no change will happen, and your usual holiday lifestyle will be sustained through your thinking.

What if you adopted a new belief this year, one that did not assume that change has to shake up your world? What if that belief allowed you to gently ease toward a more healthy holiday season – and you could give yourself credit for those little changes?

In the spirit of possibilities, remember that this very moment is the perfect one to start. Planning for minor improvements is a real opportunity for a healthy dose of comfort and joy!

Don’t take my green tea latte away!

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Imagine a favorite pleasure food, one you can truly savor and enjoy without losing control.  Is it a small piece of dark chocolate?  Or does chocolate of any kind cause you to lose control too much to truly savor it?  Maybe a single ice cream sandwich is pure pleasure without the panic?  This is so individual.

For one of my weight loss clients, a green tea latte from Starbucks is the peak of pleasure.  It causes her to feel satisfied physically and emotionally; it is pleasurable without the downside of losing control.  She told me she has even “lightened” it up by having less syrup and now uses skim milk.  It has about 250-300 calories, and “oh, are they worth it!” she says.

I believe her.  Listening to her describe the experience, I want one too – not the green tea latte, but the experience!  You see, green tea lattes are not my thing, but I understand what she is saying.  For her, green tea lattes provide a relaxing, enjoyable experience that starts when she walks into a Starbucks store to place her order.  I feel that way when I order an ice cream cone.  Pure pleasure!

During our first meeting together, we set out to find the source of calories keeping her from losing weight.  The conclusion:  candy at the office was probably responsible for an extra 500-800 calories per day, almost every day.  Along with the candy she had an extra helping of guilt and lack of control, none of which happened when she had the green tea latte.

But . . . instead of getting the candy out of sight and and saving herself from the chaotic spiral downward, she had given up the lattes on the advice of a well-intentioned trainer.  While for many of us, giving up the latte would be easy, for her it was torture and deprivation.  Giving up the candy, she told me would be much easier.  In fact, having none would be easier than tempting herself with a little and losing control.

I asked, “So, when you didn’t have the lattes, how did you do with the candy?”  Her answer:  “Terrible, worse than ever!”  A strong (and emotional) feeling of deprivation was fueling her candy binges.

The plan was easy to figure out after that.  Get rid of the candy that added so many extra calories and did not give true pleasure.  Add back the lattes.

It turns out she had really understood all along, but didn’t trust herself:  “You know, I thought that giving up my lattes was probably not a good idea, because they satisfied me so completely, but I was told they were a waste of calories.”

It pays to listen to that little voice inside.  A waste of calories for one person may be a very intelligent use of them for another.  Are you listening to your needs and treating yourself kindly?

 

Sparkly Pink Jeans and Food Cravings

 

glitter pants hanger pinkLet me tell you a quick story, one recently told to me by a young woman as we discussed a topic unrelated to eating . . . but then again, it was.  How we interact with food in our lives is so often a reflection of our tendencies in general.

So, here’s the story, as told by a yoga classmate while we considered our own reactions to rules imposed upon us:

Back in junior high school, the boys were allowed to wear blue jeans; the girls were not.  We could wear colored jeans though . . . seemed so unfair!

It really pissed me off because it made absolutely no sense.  So I got a really obnoxious pair of pink jeans – the most obvious, ugly pair I could find.  They had kinda sparkly things on them, and they were really, really PINK – I mean BRIGHT PINK!

I wore them every day, even though I didn’t like them, just because the rule was so stupid.  I mean the boys’ jeans were so beat out.  We (the girls) actually had nice-looking jeans.  UNFAIR!

I really hate it when people set rules that make no sense.  I feel like I just have to break them.

Bingo!  She hit the nail on the head.  People are often the same way when it comes to eating rules.  If they don’t make a conscious choice to follow a particular rule, it is just like someone arbitrarily telling them they can’t wear blue jeans.  The response is similar:  “I can’t eat any chocolate, huh?!  Watch me!!”  Then they eat an entire box.

Just like my friend wearing her pink pants, they really don’t want to eat that much chocolate.  They want to choose the rules (call them guidelines, if you prefer) that make sense for them.

There are lots of rules on the internet about eating.  Read carefully, and consider thoughtfully, before imposing them on yourself.  If they make sense, it won’t feel restrictive; it will feel nurturing.  If they don’t make any sense for you, they will feel like a pair of sparkly pink pants you wear just to make a point.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

We all need them – quick, easy, delicious, healthy, (and YES, pretty!) meals.  I made this last night to go with my baked walleye with almonds.  It took very little active cooking time.  I love creating dishes when inspiration hits!

When the air gets crisp, I crave fall vegetables in hearty dishes with rich flavors.  This combo of butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and white beans really did the trick.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place cubes of butternut squash and halved Brussels sprouts in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary (adds such a nice flavor).  Roast 20 minutes and remove from oven.  Add a drained and rinsed can of white beans (navy or other), toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until squash and Brussels sprouts are tender.

Remove from oven.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top and add a bit more olive oil if desired.  Add more sea salt to taste.  Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and enjoy!  (I think I will try some toasted walnuts on top next time.)

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Cultivate “awe” for a more health-friendly attitude! (And Happy Birthday, Brent!)

Airport Arrival - More Fun Than the Departure

Brent, with wife Marina and sister Becky

Today at around 9am EST, my first-born turned 30. He lives in Seattle, but this momentous day will be spent near New York City, close to his birthplace, while on tour with Allen Stone; my son plays bass.

We toss around the word “awesome” these days like we used to use the word “wonderful.” Break the words apart, and clearly the number of times either is used far outnumbers the actual moments in our lives that are truly full of awe or wonder. A sunset can inspire genuine awe and wonder; these words lose their impact after being repeatedly used to describe things like a trip to the mall or a hot fudge sundae.

During my pre-bedtime reading ritual last night, I picked up a Sierra magazine that just arrived. The title of the cover article is “The Science of Awe.” As I flipped open the pages, I thought, ‘there may be something in here to incorporate into my app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating).’ In fact, there is plenty to consider in terms of more mindful eating, but as I read the writer’s descriptions of awe-inspiring moments, personal memories took over my thoughts . . . and I felt open, hopeful, and positive – all from simply remembering my “awe-filled” moments.

One moment in nature popped up: a trip to Ecuador, where I walked barefoot out onto the most expansive beach I have ever seen, at night when it was all lit by nothing more than the stars. Other times in the outdoors made the hairs on my skin stand up (a sign, the author asserts, of being awed) even as a mere memory. At the top of my awe list, however, are the births of my two children.

Thirty years ago today, shortly after giving birth to my son Brent, I was in a very small, dark hospital bathroom with a single small window when I felt a sensation of complete happiness, that everything in the universe was “right” and everything was connected. Clearly, this was not the result of my surroundings, a bathroom that was far from the most beautiful bathroom I have ever occupied! I felt unlimited gratitude and a completely open heart toward everything and everyone. While I do not consider myself a very “churchy” religious person, there was no denying this experience; it was clearly much bigger than me, like the beach in Ecuador I would walk on many years later.

The Sierra article uses research to explain what happens to a person at times like this. We behave differently. We treat people better, we are more generous, we are simply nicer to “hang with.” While the article did not specifically mention health or how we treat ourselves, I’m going out on a limb to say that I believe awe is worth cultivating because of the health benefits it offers.

We know that being more mindful is better for our eating and psychological well-being. Since awe, which cannot be felt in the absence of mindfulness, seems to inspire the kind of good feelings that are connected with better self-care, it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that being in nature, nurturing relationships, and creating other truly “awesome” moments will cause us to treat ourselves more kindly.

That’s what being healthy is all about: being kind to ourselves. I’m feeling grateful today, just thinking about what happened in my life 30 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brent. You are truly a gift that keeps giving!

There is still no “one size fits all” plan for a healthy weight.

What is the biggest cause of on and off dieting, up and down weight, and frustration with weight loss? I believe it is the practice of any plan that doesn’t feel like a comfortable enough fit for you!

This meta analysis of different weight loss plans finds little difference in weight loss after 6 months between nutritionally different plans. People lost weight overall on all of the plans studied, and some may keep it off, but sustainability will depend on how realistic the changes are for the individual.

It always comes back to this: For lasting health improvements, make changes thoughtfully, considering all of your tendencies and current situational factors. Any plan will need to be flexible enough to allow for LIFE! A plan can be loosely defined (ie. choosing to eat more vegetables every day or simply being more mindful of hunger patterns) or it may contain more distinct components to it (ie. what each meal will contain or keeping track of carb grams if blood sugar is “jumpy”), but any plan needs to be “chosen” not forced. There has to be a reason that makes sense – to you. Attitude is the key.

I always return to the big question that seems to say it all . . . “Does what I am doing now feel KIND?”

Question: What Can You Fill An Avocado With?

The answer is . . . just about anything! Make a quick, delicious, satisfying – and healthy – snack or mini meal out of one of nature’s healthiest fats, an avocado.

Try stuffing half of one with salmon salad (I mix my canned salmon with plain Greek yogurt, celery, and onion), egg salad, a blob of hummus and diced cucumber, or cottage cheese and grape tomatoes. Go wild! Be crazy!

Peanut butter and avocado . . . well, maybe don’t go completely nuts!

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