I just heard the first Christmas song on the radio yesterday! Yes, the holidays are upon us once again. This is the season for egg nog, cookies, candy, . . . all in excess. That makes it a good time to take a closer look at sugar.
Most of us consume too much added sugar. If you think you don’t, you might want to do a quick assessment.
There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. While it is easy to look at packages and see the grams of sugar, it is more difficult to visualize what that amount looks like. For most of us, that number in grams means very little. ” Is that a lot?” we wonder.
And then the next question arises. After you have tallied up the number of teaspoons of added sugar in your diet, what does that mean for health?
There are different recommendations about upper limits for health. Obviously, the less the better. We do not need added sugar for any biological function to work optimally. In fact, added sugars from processed foods appear to increase the risk of heart disease by contributing to increased triglycerides and causing unhealthy cholesterol particles to form.
One recommendation I have read suggests that women should aim to keep added sugars under 7 teaspoons a day (28g), and men should be under 10 teaspoons (40g). Sound easy? Start looking at packages and watching the sugar you add to food (and beverages!) yourself. You may be surprised.
If you are already meeting the recommended amount, look at this as a way to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. There can never be too many opportunities for that!
Motivators are so individual. I have seen people work toward health or weight loss goals with the incentive of “earning” a special bowl or vase they might not otherwise buy. . . or maybe they would, but somehow it is different when they “earn” it. Others will work for mere stars on a chart.
One of my clients told me about his recent motivational technique, one that is working very nicely for him. He gives himself money – tracked in a notebook log – for accomplishing certain behavior goals. Not eating after a certain time at night earns a dollar amount, etc.
He applies his “earnings” to clothing purchases. Granted they are items he needs and would probably buy anyway, but he explains that “it just feels more like I earned it.”
I love creative ideas like this. The fact that he came up with the plan himself makes it even better – it is customized to his personal motivators. We all can get discouraged – or just plain bored – working for a long time toward a goal. It helps to offer a personalized “carrot” to keep us moving forward.
Is this just a game we can play with ourselves? Of course, but who cares if it is effective. There are plenty of mental games we play with ourselves that work against our goals. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity to get mind games to work for us instead. That’s what I think!
If you flip the direction of these arrows to point downward, this is how sustainable weight loss really happens. Why? Because success (the human factor) is a wiggly line too. We are wiggly creatures.
Just as one could feel quite discouraged and unsuccessful at a low point on the wiggly graph above, a person can also feel that weight is not coming off when the scale measures higher than expected – “It’s not working!” Anyone who has weighed themselves on an “upward wiggle” day knows what I mean!
Remember (I know I sound repetitive) . . . you are weighing more than your fat stores. Your fat stores are your measure of stored energy. They do not vary much from day to day. Your fluid stores are much more “wiggly” and can vary by pounds each day. They do not store energy. Water has no calories, so fluctuations mean NOTHING relative to fat storage.
The real problem results from reactions to what we see. Then behaviors can be dramatically altered. If the scale is higher than expected, people will often assume it’s not working, so what the heck?! . . . “hey, that cheesecake looks pretty good . . . it doesn’t matter anyway”.
Good advice: Watch overall changes (trends) and don’t pay too much attention to little short-term fluctuations.
William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States, battled obesity constantly during his lifetime. A recent New York Times article discusses his struggles.
What struck me first was the title, “In Struggle with Weight a Century Ago, a Diet From Today”. Not much has changed in the world of dieting during the last century.
Working with a personal trainer, then called a “physical culture man”, and a personal physician, Taft had no better long term success than many dieters today. He followed the all-too-familiar cyclical pattern of starving and giving up that so many people still try in their desperate quest for quick weight loss.
He was constantly hungry on his low-fat diet that included small lean meals that would leave even a small person constantly craving. When will we learn? Constant discomfort is not sustainable! Your body will kick back, and the psychological effects are often even more devastating. A lifetime of food obsession is no way to live, yet this is what happens when the human body is denied enough food to feel alive and well.
Quick weight loss understandably feels good when looking at the scale, but anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off will have to work with their body, not against it. Subtle changes, refining eating habits, and listening with curiosity to messages the body sends: these are the tools that will allow the best possible outcome.
It doesn’t matter if you are a US President or Oprah Winfrey. The human body will not cooperate with this craziness.
It has been over 2 weeks since my last post, quite unusual for me! My son got married in Seattle on Sunday, October 6, and I decided to give myself a break from technology during my 2 weeks on the West Coast.
Congratulations to Brent and Marina! May they be this happy for the rest of their lives together. Once I sort through pictures, I will post a few on my blog, but for now my readers will be saved from this over-enthusiastic mother’s public displays of affection.
Keep reading and I promise a reference to food and eating, but first let me tell you a little about Mt. Rainier! I spent 3 days there as the third wheel with my brother and his girlfriend. Despite rain every day and the government shutdown on our second day, we reminded each other how perfect everything was. (This started as somewhat of a joke, but in reality it turned out to be true.)
From a personal standpoint, it was a nice quiet retreat before the wedding’s high energy excitement. I have wanted to see the park for a long time, so this was a check mark on my bucket list.
The trails were actually perfect (really!) in the rain. We had rain gear and there were almost no other hikers out. With a little guidance from our cabin’s owners, we were able to identify and gather many chanterelle mushrooms along the way, placing them carefully in our jacket hoods for safe transport back. The variety and beauty of mushrooms was astounding!
Of course, chanterelles are edible and tasty. We spent a good amount of time between Yahtzee games planning just the right way to use them for a gourmet feast.
The result? Butter and garlic sauteed chanterelles over fried eggs. Delicious! We lightly fried patties of leftover mashed sweet potatoes to create a nice slightly sweet bottom layer for our masterpiece. A simple salad and a glass of white wine on the side. Beautiful!
As if this getaway was not peaceful enough without cell phone reception, we had the perfect “yoga studio” – the upstairs bedroom of our cabin. I gave daily yoga classes to my two companions, complete with lavender oil neck massages, which made my status as third wheel all the more tolerable!
How can you watch your eating in a way that really makes sense to you . . . that you just GET? This is an important question. The standard way is usually some form of food journaling that looks at calories or points or some other measure of energy intake.
I have seen this method work well for many people, especially if they use tracking when they really need it and learn other methods to make life easier in between.
Recently one of my clients tried a different approach. Instead of tracking what she ate, she tracked her general feeling after eating. She looked more at the experience of eating. The question she asked herself after she ate was . . .
Did that feel kind?
What a great way to really notice the spirit of eating. It can certainly be kind and nourishing, but it can also feel self-abusive, or at least somewhat less than supportive. In the case of this individual, this is probably the biggest determinant of how healthy her eating will be, making it a brilliant method . . . for her.
We are such individuals, so it is important to work with your temperament and tendencies. Forcing an artificial-feeling method on yourself is not useful. In this case, this method worked brilliantly. There is a more warm and fuzzy feeling attached to the whole process – for her – and the weight is coming off better than it had been before. Hooray!!
Experiment if you don’t like how your current method is working, and remember that things change and we change. What feels right today may not work as well in 6 months. Remaining curious and kind – what a gift!