Tag Archives: dieting

Too much? Too little? Ahhh . . . that’s just right!

Goldilocks knew what was "just right."

Goldilocks knew what was “just right.”

Oh, the beauty of balance!  Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.  A new study claims that people who run a lot – not moderately – tend to have similar risks of dying as those who do not run at all.

A little running – say 3 to 4 miles a few times a week – has health benefits.  Run too much and it loses its health benefits.  Of course there are individual differences as with any human studies, but logic always seems to come back to balanced living for better health.  Ultramarathoners: you would definitely not be considered moderate.  Isn’t 26.2 miles enough of a challenge?

Balance is not an easy concept to define with precision, but it is still a good basic guiding principle for healthy living.  Believe it or not, we all “know” where the point of balance is for our unique bodies.  The problem is that not many of us trust that we know.

Let’s face it.  We are addicted to information, and there is plenty of it out there:  the TV, magazines, newspapers, friends and acquaintances, and  the internet.  All of these sources are external input.  What about the internal indicators we might get if we tuned in more often to that channel instead!

With increasing information about what to eat, when to eat, and why to eat – not to mention the many versions of advice and “proof” – our diet-crazy culture has lured us away from the true messages of our wants and needs.

Too much?  Feel sick, stuffed?  It could be a response to thinking you need less than you do, failing at that craziness, and “blowing it.”  Or, it could be the result of not taking true care of emotional needs.  Emotions need balance too.

Too little?  Feeling starved, weak, deprived?  Your true balanced self would tell you it’s crazy not to eat!  External messages that imply (or come right out and tell you) it should be enough are not in your best interests either.  And what about all those ads that show what fun you will have if you eat all those tempting gooey treats?  Just more confusion.

Tune back in to your needs!  It will likely feel uncomfortable at first.  “Who me?” you ask,  “I’m the expert on balance?”  Yes, you are!   Here are a few tips:

1.  Feeling sick to your stomach = too much

2.  Irritable, hungry, worried about eating too much = too little

3.  Enjoyment of a balance of healthy AND delicious food in the quantity needed for a vital life and a mind that is not overly-fixated on the next meal = perfect balance

It’s really that simple.

Time Out! Change scenes. Shake it up!!

Ahhhhh!

Ahhhhh!

I am noticing my breathing again.  Sounds in our beachfront room appear seemingly out of nowhere:  waves, birds, wind, voices floating in and out.

I am on vacation, and I feel like I’m checking back in with the world.  In my everyday life, habits and schedules seem to rule, and time just clicks by.  November, December, January . . . February already!

I have my tools for taking time out on a daily basis, but it is so hard to keep nagging thoughts from interfering!  At home, I sit and take a deep breath, and the washing machine stops suddenly, reminding me to switch the laundry.  I begin to read a magazine, and my phone lets me know another e-mail just arrived.  And then I remember I really should check my voicemail messages.

I’m not saying that relaxation at home is impossible.  It is necessary, because I spend a lot of time there.  Still it amazes me how much easier and more deeply I relax on vacation.  The change of scenery is key:  fewer work reminders and less compulsion to stay busy.

It makes sense that when I have trouble unwinding at home, I find it much easier to do so when I leave the house (or work).  A change of surroundings really helps!  I can consciously focus on the new things around me.  A walk outside is the best, because I really enjoy focusing on the natural environment.

Unfortunately, this is not the best time of year for me to enjoy walking outside – it’s cold in Wisconsin!  That’s OK though.  A trip to the grocery store or the mall works too.

You can use a change of scenery to help break momentum when eating starts to spin out of control.  If this is a frequent challenge, try just stopping and leaving your space.  I realize this isn’t always possible, but if it is, it can be a powerful tool.  Leaving creates a valuable delay, and new surroundings break the momentum.

Once a binging habit starts to play out, eating becomes mindless.  What is really needed is a jolt back to present time, a break in the pattern of the habit.  This is precisely why a change of scenery helps.  Habits play out effortlessly in familiar situations.

Shake it up – get out – and see what happens.  It may not work every time, but at least it will put you back in the driver’s seat of your decisions. This is one of the many tools that can help with in-the -moment eating challenges.

In the Moment – Mindful Eating, the phone app I created to help my clients and others bring more mindfulness to eating, is now upgraded (version 1.1.5) and works on all iPhones that are 4s and newer.  An Android version is available as well.

Updates for In the Moment App Now Available!

Check out some new content:

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I love this new bubble choice: “I want to stop!”

 

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If you choose “I want to stop!” this is some of the content you will see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just received approval from Apple for the updated version (1.1.1) of In the Moment – Mindful Eating.  

 If you already have the app on your iPhone, just go into your “updates” and you should see it waiting for you.  If you have never downloaded it – and maybe don’t even know about the app yet – just go to the App Store and search the name.  It is a great app for support of your New Year’s intentions.  That darned human side (ie. emotional side) does seem to get in the way of healthy changes, doesn’t it?

To read more about the app, visit the Facebook Page.

This Year’s Holiday Food Pleasures and Disappointments

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Which treat was the holiday disappointment: the dark chocolate truffle or the caramel corn?

It’s two days after Christmas, the kids are gone, the house is quiet, and I am looking back at the eating pleasures and disappointments of this year’s eating experience.  This is my food version of Siskel and Ebert’s classic “thumbs up/thumbs down” movie reviews.  Keep in mind that these are MY pleasures and MY disappointments.  Yours are likely to be different, just as we will all prefer certain movies over others, but being more mindful means getting more of what you want from YOUR eating experience most of the time, during the holidays and all year long.

Disappointments (Thumbs DOWN)

Marbled Pound Cake (made by me with a special family recipe from my Grandma)

Why?  I ate a small piece while busy getting dessert for everyone else.  I was focused on serving, but hey, I always have a piece on Christmas Eve, so I ate it with my mind elsewhere . . . couldn’t even tell you what it tasted like!

Virginia Ham

Why?  I tasted a small piece at Christmas dinner.  It looked juicy and yummy, but I could feel my body dehydrating with each bite . . . too salty!

Caramel Corn

Why?   It came as part of a gift box, and to me this was just a waste of space that could have been better filled with nuts, chocolate, or fruit.  I don’t like caramel corn much, so I had no problem leaving it in the bag.  (It would have been more disappointing if I had eaten it.)

 

Holiday Eating Pleasures (Thumbs UP)

NOT eating the caramel corn

Why?  I don’t really like it, so why bother?  It saved room for . . .

 ONE Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle 

Why?  Mmmmm.  Perfect size for a treat.  Small, decadent, expensive (makes it even more special), all with the health benefits of dark chocolate.

Marbled Pound Cake

Why?  This was the same cake mentioned above as a disappointment, but the experience was completely different this time.  I ate it the day after Christmas in a quiet house . . . tasted and enjoyed every bite.

Tossed Green Salad (with pomegranate seeds, avocado, roasted beets, goat cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette)

Why?  Why not??  What’s not to like about that?  I kept going back for more.

Leftover Chicken Enchiladas (small amount of enchilada mixed with a huge helping of steamed broccoli)

Why?  This was the day after Christmas, and it was the perfect blend of clean food with the flavor of delicious homemade enchiladas.  It filled me up and tasted delicious.  It put me in a “back to normal” eating frame of mind.

Harry and David Pear

Why?  This was simply the best pear I have ever eaten.  We get a gift box with 6 of these from my financial planner every year (along with the caramel corn!), and they truly are a treat to be savored.  I would choose one over almost any other treat.  And it’s healthy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Why?  I just love them.  Roasted with a little olive oil and seasoning, they get crispy on the edges and taste delicious.  Nutritionally, they are super foods, and I feel healthy eating them.

Homemade Apple Pie with Hagen Daz Vanilla Ice Cream

Why?  This capped off a delicious Christmas dinner, and I had only a sliver (the perfect amount to savor).  The crust was crunchy, the filling was perfectly sweet and gooey.  Rich vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement.  I think I make a good apple pie, but this one made by a dinner guest was better than anything I have ever made.  I ate it slowly and enjoyed every bite!

My Holiday Eating Insights

1.  I am doing a good job of choosing what I really want.  My list of disappointments is much shorter than my list of holiday food pleasures.

2.  I will never make perfect choices all the time.  Sometimes it is is impossible to know without tasting, and sometimes I don’t make completely mindful choices.  I’m human!

3.  The eating experience depends on more than just what is being eaten.  Enjoyment is greater when I am relaxed and focused on what I am eating.

4.  “Healthy foods” can be tasty, and “pleasure foods” that are truly enjoyed can help make overall eating more healthy.  (There is nothing like deprivation to fuel a binge!)

5.  The holidays are to be enjoyed, and food is only a  piece of that experience.

Happy Holidays!  I hope most of your food choices feel kind.

 

 

 

“Coffee is far more than a beverage” and food is almost never simply fuel.

I had coffee with a friend recently.   Retreating from the cold Wisconsin weather, we settled in, warmed up, and savored the wonders of our steamy beverages:  the taste and warmth of the drinks, to be sure, but also the experience of connection in a cozy setting.

Later she sent this:

Yes!  We eat – and drink – for reasons that are complex and interconnected.  Do we ever eat simply for physical hunger and nourishment?   If so, it is rare, at least in developed countries.  I understand the metaphor of a human body as a car, and we want to use good quality fuel, but it’s not that simple!

We are human beings, not machines, so eating decisions are always interesting blends of physical hunger, pleasure seeking, and emotional needs.  We often weigh these factors unconsciously, so food decisions can seem to be controlled by factors beyond our control.  “I don’t know why I ate those cookies.  I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t even really like them that much.”  (In reality, the cookies may have been a mindless attempt to meet an emotional need, one that might have been more truly soothed with a non-food solution.)

I believe that one reason we tune out and don’t hear our genuine needs is that our diet-focused culture seldom encourages that kind of non-judgmental observation.  Why would we be curious about that if we believe that we should just follow a plan no matter what?!  Why question that craving?  Just resist it!

People who blindly try to follow a rigid eating plan do not always realize that ignoring real needs does not make them disappear.  In fact, the opposite is usually true; ignoring them is more likely to cause uncontrolled eating that appears to have no logic other than “I have no willpower, and I’m a total failure.”  There’s not much insight in that kind of thinking!

This is not to say that having a plan is a bad thing.  It is actually a very good thing if a plan is defined as having an intention to do something, but any plan that will work long term must be chosen, not imposed.  That means it should make sense for your body and be realistic for your life.  Maybe most importantly, any good plan for human beings needs to be flexible.

We know what we need if we pay attention.  If we listen, true needs (sometimes for physical nourishment, but sometimes for more complex things like warmth or comfort or pleasure or pain avoidance) become less mysterious and we can choose to honor them and care for them kindly, or we can decide to ignore what would be truly supportive and act outside of our best interests.

Either way, a choice is better than mindless default.  Choice always leaves the door open for a kinder approach next time, and choice is less likely to cause regret and disappointment, guilt and shame.

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating: Not the Usual List

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I don’t know about you, but I am tired of reading the re-runs of holiday eating tips this time of year.  Every time I see the teasers on the cover of every magazine in the grocery store rack, I can’t resist looking to see if anyone has come up with something different than “Bring a veggie tray to the party” or “Don’t go to a party hungry.”

Those who struggle with weight know that the biggest calorie gluts come during the times they feel defeated, hopeless, or simply tired of trying so hard.  “I give up!”  or “It doesn’t matter anymore; I’ve already blown it.”  Strategies for these times and these moods will save far more unnecessary calories than choking down endless carrot sticks and celery at a party while simultaneously exhausting willpower by resisting even the smallest bite of anything pleasurable.

Before the pent-up tension sets the same old pattern in motion again this year, or if you are one who just “punts” until January 1, try my tips instead.  They are not tips for a “perfect” eating plan, but they are tips for improved eating this season, improvements that can continue into the New Year and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope your feast includes delicious food as well as many happy moments with family and friends.

Life itself is the proper binge. – Julia Child

Kim’s Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating  

1.  Look at your holiday eating beliefs.

  • Are you going into the holidays believing you will gain weight? Do you believe you can’t control yourself?
  • What you believe is powerful! Thoughts can become actions. Try entering the season with a more curious attitude. (“I have had trouble in the past controlling myself around holiday baked treats. This year I will stay more mindful and observe what happens.”)

2.  Consider your stress level and simplify (not just food, but holiday expectations !).  Stress can – and often does – affect eating.

3.  Modify your plan and be “intelligently flexible”.

4.  When facing an eating decision, ask these questions:

  • What am I looking for right now (body nourishment, pleasure, something else)?
  • Does this feel kind?  Please treat yourself kindly.

5.  Do what you can to balance your brain chemistry for better self control.

  • Don’t go hungry.
  • Control blood sugar levels and mood by eating plenty of high fiber fruits and vegetables, along with a good portion of protein.
  • Eat concentrated sweets in moderation.
  • Get plenty of sleep, sunlight, laughter, exercise, friendship, and positive thinking to keep brain chemistry in a happy balance.

6.  Stay present: If you disappoint yourself, remember that you only have this moment to make changes. You cannot have a re-do, but in this moment you can do something more important – forgive yourself and change your long-term thinking.

7.  Try the app I developed to help people with the human side of eating challenges (In the Moment – Mindful Eating).  

Put the entire situation into perspective. How many days of “holiday” are there – really?  What will you do and how will you treat yourself on all of the many other days in between the few special events?

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.

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?”