Quick Start, Pause, Cool Down

Vacations are great for pausing to reset, but everyday practice is even more important.

Vacations are great for pausing to reset, but everyday practice is even more important.

These are the choices on the treadmill I use regularly:  quick start, pause, and cool down.  I can also enter a pre-programmed workout, but I always just press “quick start.”

Without an iPod this morning, and with no interest in the TV options, I found my pace and settled into my thoughts.  My eyes again glanced at the words:  “quick start, pause, cool down.”  They began to mean more to me than options on a treadmill.

“Quick start.”  I’m good at that, I thought.  Get going, just do it, take action!  I have that mastered!  I am someone who finds it uncomfortable – really! – NOT to be productive.

I started thinking about the potential down side to that.  Possible  drawbacks include anxiety, trouble sleeping, . . . all of the consequences that result from not using another choice on the treadmill:  RESET!

Everyone needs to reset hormones and brain chemistry, which in turn resets mood and restores a healthful balance.  Adequate sleep, healthy eating, enjoyable physical activity, and pleasant interactions with people all help to keep body chemistry “happy.”

It goes beyond that as well.  Balance brings more balance.  Erratic hormones and brain chemistry, left unattended, often lead to more chaotic emotions and a less balanced lifestyle.

Among the many benefits of attention to self-supportive care are better sleep, less anxiety, and all-around better self-care.  I know this sounds a bit repetitive, but my point is that good self-care leads to more good self-care.  Unfortunately lack of attention to self-care makes it all too easy to skip a workout, eat poorly or skip meals, and let unsupportive thoughts run wild.

What we do not see is how body chemistry that we create through our actions can affect how we act moving forward.  This is powerful knowledge!  Work with your body, because mere will-power is no match for body chemistry!

This is where a “pause” or “cool down” can be very helpful.  I’m right there with all of you overachievers and perfectionists!  This can be hard, but it is absolutely necessary for health.  For me, sleep is key.  I know I need to wind down and pause at the end of my workday and resist the temptation to schedule one more appointment, answer one more e-mail, or make that last phone call.   I know that ultimately this will lead to more efficient use of my time once I’m ready to “quick start” again.

I remind myself I can start again, but the most productive thing to do at that moment is to take a break and pause.  Do you notice how I managed to call a pause “productive”?  That is one way to make pausing a little easier for a productivity freak like myself.

Here’s the real secret to weight loss that lasts!

Right here.  Right now.  I am going to reveal the secret to the question that drives people to try every eating plan under the sun, spend billions of dollars every year, and endure endless suffering in pursuit of its answer.  The answer to the question – what is the secret to lasting weight loss? – is not as complicated as many make it.

I have watched many people as they move toward the answer.  Many start out thinking that they just need to know what to eat.  “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!  Tell me EXACTLY what to eat and when, and I’m good to go.”  Some remain stuck here for a long time, moving from one diet to the next, waiting for “the one,” the magic plan that will be discovered any day now.  In fact, each plan provides new hope, but little else.

Others think the answer is having something or someone control them, to save them from their out-of-control tendencies.  A task master who penalizes lack of results is what they think will help.  Fear of not following orders drives them to comply to avoid shame and disappointment.  This usually works for a while, but when results are not as expected, derailment usually happens, along with plenty of feelings of failure.

Supplements and formula diets appeal to many dieters, especially when magical claims are made.  Advertising can make it sound like the secret has finally been discovered in the form of a pill or powder.  “Melt fat instantly.  Lose inches and pounds in days.”  Don’t get too excited.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

So what is the secret?  Well, it’s not quick, or easy, or sexy, but it is real, lasting, and bound to improve the way you look at your entire life.  When I notice a client has stopped panicking and fighting with themselves, and is moving toward a more self-compassionate acceptance of their abilities at this time, I know they will succeed at healthier eating that will become a part of their lives.

When this happens, I hear things like, “I don’t know when it happened, but the healthier habits are just what I do now.  I don’t think about it, and it isn’t hard.  I’m not perfect, and I allow myself to have what I want, but what I want has changed.”

Asking “What is the best I can do for my health today” is a good practice.  Do the best you can at any moment.  If today seems hard, just know that not every day is the same.  Ride the waves.  Be kind – yes, to others, but mostly to yourself.  Feel good about what you can accomplish, and move on when your eating is disappointing.  This is a life-long process, because we are always changing.

When every eating experience feels like your choice, and when the choices feel kind most of the time, that’s as good as it gets.  But that is certainly good enough!

Quick and Easy Roasted Veggie and Hummus Wrap

I came home hungry today with no patience for a complicated lunch preparation.  The wrap I made was so easy, and this was the best lunch I have had in weeks!  I had leftover roasted veggies – always a good idea – and the homemade hummus was leftover from the weekend.

The wraps I found are new at my grocery store.  They are high  in fiber and protein and made with sprouted wheat instead of flour.  As long as you tolerate wheat, this is a great choice since it is less processed than flour products.

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Ingredients:

Sprouted wheat tortilla (or other kind)

Hummus (homemade is easy; try the Barefoot Contessa’s super quick and delicious hummus recipe)

Roasted veggies (I used mushrooms, fennel, red onion, eggplant, and carrots)

Avocado slices

Just wrap and eat!  

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Don’t let nutrition information paralyze you!

“Paralzyed by information.”  This is a term a client used today.  I thought it was a brilliant way of describing what so many people are feeling in these times of information overload.  The definition of paralysis is “a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord.”

What my client meant was similar.  She felt a loss or impairment of voluntary movement, but in this case it was behavioral movement toward health improvements.  As long as we are looking at definitions, lets consider the slangy abbreviation “TMI.”  When a person has too much information, it tends to muddy up the head space, leading to an inability to move forward with any kind of certainty or hope for improvement.

Information is great.  I love research.  I love technology.  Still, without a reliable system for weeding through it all to come up with what is truly valuable for an individual, it is just plain HARD to make sense of it.  Vastly different philosophies about how to eat all present information that seems factual.  Long lists of references make them all seem legit.

I try to be very honest about what I believe to be accurate and what seems less conclusive.  The unfortunate truth is that there is simply no style of eating with completely conclusive evidence that it is THE WAY for everyone.  Personally, I don’t think there ever will be one best way for everyone.

The positive side of that is . . .

You get to decide for yourself!  For those of you who hate any uncertainty, this is disappointing.  You would really like to have a black and white, 100% proven method to (at least try to) follow.  Eating is just not like that.

That is good news for those of you who want complete freedom of choice.  Ultimately this is the best way for all of us – choice.  We are much more likely to do something we feel we have chosen.

So what do we do with all of that information?  How do we choose what is best for us?

Sort through it, test it if it seems like a good idea.  See what happens FOR YOU.  It’s not a double-blind placebo study, but it is really the gold standard for your best health.  Studies are valuable, very valuable, but nutrition studies are only pieces of information to consider along with what you notice about your own body’s reaction to different eating styles.

A carefully considered, mindful assessment of information is the best cure for information paralysis.  Trusting personal observations and instincts will always lead to more certainty and forward movement toward better health – without all the worry!

Roasted Vegetable and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

IMG_0510Hunger grabbed me around 3pm today – not unusual.  When I’m home on the weekend, that is when I tend to drift into the kitchen and start searching for just the right snack that can hold me over until dinner.

Today I used some leftover roasted vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, carrots and red pepper) and a couple of slices of avocado to fill butter lettuce leaves.  After a light splash with good quality balsamic vinegar, I rolled them up and enjoyed a delicious, albeit messy snack.

There’s no shame in procrastinating! OWN it for better eating.

I can see myself doing it.  I’m procrastinating again!  I have a work project I had intended to work on today, but I keep getting up from my desk.  “Just a little snack . . . a couple of nuts . . . then back to work.”

Who am I fooling?!  I’m just not going to finish this project right now, so I may as well do something else.  I am a disciplined person.  I like setting deadlines for myself, planning out my work, keeping on target.  So why would I advocate just quitting for now?

The simple answer is that I AM quitting right now.  I can either embrace it, OWN it, lose the guilt, and do something else (productive or just plain recreational), OR I can keep pretending I’m working on my project and keep drifting into the kitchen for that little “something” to give the illusion of taking a needed break.

I’m not hungry!  I don’t need to eat, so why do I do this, as so many of us do?  I think it is because eating in small little spurts like that is “really not much of a break” and “It’s not like I’m sprawled out on the couch watching soap operas or anything!”  In short, I am justifying.

When I hear myself doing this, I laugh.  It really is ridiculous, don’t you agree?  We are the masters of fooling ourselves, especially when it comes to eating.

I can usually spot this pattern quickly, now that I recognize it for what it is.  This has taken lots and LOTS of practice.  I now find that admitting to what I’m doing is the beginning of the way out of the habit.  Then I can decide if it is realistic to expect myself to buckle down and do my project now, or lose the guilt and do something else.

Sometimes just stepping away, even when a deadline is looming, allows my head to clear.  Then, magically, creative thoughts start flowing and I’m engrossed in my endeavor – and loving it!

To be able to say, “Yes, I am procrastinating, and while I’m at it, I intend to do an incredible job of it!” eliminates the guilt surrounding it.   A psychologist friend recently told me that guilt is an emotion that has absolutely no positive side to it.  I believe it usually just drives procrastinators into deeper pits of paralysis, which leads many of us to munch on food we don’t really need or want.

How many unnecessary calories do you think you consume while procrastinating?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  It’s hard to really know, because procrastination is often so mindless.

My phone app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating) addresses this issue, so it may help the procrastinator in you to be more self-compassionate during these times.  Here is a screen shot that gives a glimpse.

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Ahhh, now I feel better.  This post is a perfect example of productive procrastination.  Now I think I can go back to work on my project – refreshed.

Eat More Vegetables: A Diabetic’s Perspective

This came to me in an e-mail from a particularly creative, artistic client.  In the past she kept a journal where she illustrated her food journal with the food she ate – in color!  It was worthy of framing.  Blood sugar is a concern for her, so if this is something you watch, here are some convincing tips:

I put vegetables at the top of the list of foods we should eat–even over protein, which is crucial to our diets–because let’s face it: NO one (except perhaps for those living in certain areas in the world where people can’t get much of anything but plant based food) eats enough veggies!

Vegetables are carbohydrates–however, the calories and carb grams are so low (in most vegetables) that they barely count. What they do have are: lots of nutrients, high water content, fiber, antioxidants, and beautiful colors. You just CAN’T eat too many! Well, maybe eating ten heads of iceberg lettuce in one sitting could send your glucose numbers up but–is that really practical or even desirable?

We’ve all seen those plate-up diagrams given to us by our doctors and dieticians: 1/4 carb, 1/4 protein, 1/2 vegetable–representing the standard balanced meal. The idea is to make vegetables the most dominant part of the meal.

Here’s the simplest way to add more veggies to our diet: cut up raw veggies–carrots, celery, peppers, anything else you like–and keep them in the fridge for instant snacks or ready for cooking. Why is it so hard to do that? Because it takes FIVE minutes longer to prepare them than to open a box of crackers!! Excuse me, I better go practice what I preach…be right back, chop chop!

There is nothing as beautiful on a table as a large assortment of crudités accompanied by dips or sauces, perhaps a nice olive mix. I guarantee you–because I have done this many times and it works–that if it is out on the table (and especially if there is nothing else), people WILL eat it. I mix raw ones with partially cooked: I blanche green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and other firmer ones. Belgian endive and the small leaves of hearts of Romaine lettuce make wonderful dippers, or little canapés. I think of veggies as “crackers” Sure, I’ll put a few crackers of chips or bread slices out, but I try to eat mostly the veggies and alternate them with some starches.

A good lo-fat dip or two is great with these. I combine whatever I have around; a mix of some or all: lo-fat sour cream, mayo, cream cheese, yogurt, with various additions like garlic, onion, seasonings, herbs. A great light dip is Tzaziki–Greek yogurt, minced or diced cucumbers, a little lemon, garlic and lo-fat sour cream. Yum! Great with pita bread. (I didn’t say NO bread….!)

Guacamole and hummus are great dips too, adding more plant based food with a bonus of some protein and slower glucose-rising carbs; I can make a meal of this!

Frozen veggies are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century! They are about as nutritionally good as fresh ones; they can be cooked in a flash, they are pre-cleaned and pre-cut; great in a veggie emergency, when you haven’t had time to shop and the fridge is empty. Steer clear of brands with added salt and sauces.

Roasted vegetables are fabulous! Even ones I don’t care for raw–such as cauliflower–turn into something completely different when tossed with a little olive oil and roasted; they become tender, nutty, almost sweet.

Veggies can become a main dish. How about:

Meat or grain stuffed eggplant or peppers?
Cooked spaghetti squash makes a good bed of “pasta” for sauces, cheese and meats.
If you combine some cooked, pureed cauliflower with mashed potatoes, you cut way
down on carbs and callories, get better nutrition, and no one will know the difference!
(But add some sliced green onions, maybe, and real butter….)

Eating vegetables is just plain good for us: they keep us hydrated, are great for our “plumbing”, good for the skin, maintain and improve our immune systems, clean our teeth; did I miss something? They are also great for painting still lifes!