Monday, April 29, 2013

Stop Fat Talk in its Tracks!

What would you call a week when on Wednesday you fit into some goal jeans from way back when that you found in the back of your closet left over from some fad diet attempt, and on Friday you're out running and catch yourself thinking, "I'm so fat"

Crazy, that's what. But, that's what happened to me last week.

On Monday, I got into a convo with a friend about the difference between cropped pants, ankle pants, and capri pants, and what Stacy and Clinton would say about whether we should be wearing them considering our respective body types. This is what women talk about. The next day, she sent me a picture of herself in her ankle pants and we agreed she should not wear them. The day after that, I found a pair of pants in my closet that were somewhere between cropped and capri, and which also happened to be some goal pants from about five years ago, back when I started eating clean. So I put them on and to my shock and awe, they fit! Woot! Happy dance for me.

So after I texted her a picture of myself wearing the pants (we never did decide whether they were capri or cropped, but I should not wear them either), I spent the day being quite satisfied with myself that I could get these jeans on and zip them up, even though I had the impression of the seam on my leg for about an hour after I mercifully took them off at the end of the day. Whew!

On Thursday I wore stretchy pants because a girl's gotta breathe once in a while.

On Friday, I went out for my 9 mile run, and around mile 4 I caught myself thinking, "ugh, I have really gotten fat."

Hold on a minute. What?!?

Luckily, I caught this temporary moment of insanity before it turned into full-blown fat talk, because that is just bananas. So like the good wellness coach that I am, I asked myself what was making me feel fat. 

And after a little soul-searching, I realized that I feel "fat" because my stomach isn't in the best shape it could be. Whew that was close! Here I was being all mean to myself when actually, I'm just a little soft in the middle. But the rest of my life is so hard!

Fat talk is something we all do: women, men, and kids too. Girls as young as 5 are known now to go on diets, and young boys compare muscles on elementary school playgrounds. And, it doesn't change as we get older.

"Feeling fat," usually isn't about being fat. Research shows that "fat" is a word commonly used to describe any feeling of unhappiness that can't be named. When we're off, we're "fat." 

Often, we don't even see ourselves accurately. This video from the Dove Real Beauty campaign shows just how different our own perceptions of ourselves can be from how others see us.

I know why I was feeling fat last week - I've been traveling, socializing, and beer sampling a little more often than usual, and its catching up with me. Literally stopping in my tracks during Mile 4 and pinpointing where that feeling was coming from helped me see that. I'm glad I was in-tune enough with myself to stop the fat talk before it turned into something really crazy.

Like capri pants.

If you're fat talking, here's how you can stop:

1. Become aware of your fat talk, and if you don't think you can, then ask a kind and trusted friend to make you aware of it. When you catch yourself, acknowledge it and apologize to yourself.

2. Become aware of the physical things your body can do, and the physical aspects of your body that you like. Make a list and post it in a prominent place so you see it frequently.

3.  For every negative thing you say to yourself, list three positive. They don't have to be about your physical self. You have a brain, too!

Get out there and get healthy....even if you felt fat yesterday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Power Hour: Advanced Food Prep Made Simple

I've updated this post because I keep finding myself sending it around to people, but it needs some more oomph. So, if you think you've already read this one, read it again!

I hear this a lot: "Sure, it would be awesome if I could reach into my bag and pull out a healthy snack on the go! And when the elves who also clean my house while I sleep and fold all of my laundry get around to putting said snacks into said bag, I will definitely be all over that."

Sound like you? Well guess what, you DO have the time. You know how long it takes to get snacks and lunches ready for the next week? About as long as it takes to look at your friend's cousin's wedding pictures on Facebook. Uh huh. Busted.

Now look - this is what I call my Power Hour: the 60 minutes or so I spend on the weekend chopping fruit and veggies, putting oatmeal into little bags, counting out almonds, and generally getting my you-know-what together because come Monday morning, everything gets started whether I am ready or not. The Power Hour makes sure that 3:30 on Thursday is just as healthy as 7:00 on Monday. 

Yes, this takes organization and work. But once you get a little routine going, it takes less of that. And, even if it didn't get easier, you're worth the trouble so turn on some HGTV and get to work! 

Here's just a sample of what your Power Hour could look like this weekend:

  • Put a boneless turkey breast or chicken in the oven to bake (350 degrees for about an hour, depending on what you're cooking). Then…

  • Prep five egg scrambles and put them in with the turkey. They need to bake for 40 minutes. Then...

  • If you're making a salad that requires baked apples (like this one), chop 'em up! Then...

  • Chop bell peppers, pears, and peaches, peel oranges, slice strawberries, chop carrots, etc. and put them in containers for snacks later in the week. Then…

  • Portion almonds (16 is about 100 calories) and raisins in baggies for on-the-go snacks. Then…

  • Portion oatmeal and raisins in baggies for breakfast each day. Then…

  • Line up containers for salads, and put three handfuls of spinach in each one. Add a snack-size baggie of with feta cheese and chopped fruit to each one to add to your salad (keeping the salad ingredients separate prevents the salad from getting mushy). I use strawberries for my Change Your Life salad and baked apples for my Fall Harvest Salad.

  • Take out the egg scrambles and stash them in the fridge for breakfast each day. Then…

  • Take out the turkey, slice it up, and portion it where it needs to go (salads, in a container for pasta later in the week, or in a pot of soup).

  • Store it all in the fridge to create your own little grocery store at home!

Reaching for something healthy is as easy as making sure it is there for you when you're ready. This hour is packed, but worth it. At the end, you'll have breakfast, lunch, and snacks (and maybe even the makings of some dinner if you also boil some pasta and make a pot of rice!) ready to go. 

I'm feeling healthier already.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fuel and Cool: How to Make Your Own Sports Drink
Sports drinks like ... um ... a couple that end in "ade" are popular on soccer fields, at race water stations, and unfortunately, in kids lunchboxes. But, at about 300 calories a bottle and including ingredients like flame retardants, they aren't exactly the healthiest thing to toss back after a workout. Yes, we do need to replenish our bodies with liquids and electrolytes after a tough workout or a long run, but there are clean and natural ways to do it without all the sugar and chemicals.

The whole point of energy drinks is to replace the sodium and potassium that we lose when we sweat. Its important that we do this so we don't get muscle cramps or get dehydrated, and so we have enough energy for our next workout. Some foods that are naturally high in sodium and potassium, and therefore great options for a real-food alternative to sports drinks, are:

Potassium and Sodium-Rich Foods 
  • yogurt
  • orange juice
  • bananas
  • raisins
  • potatoes
  • pretzels
  • kiwi
  • iron-fortified cereal and milk
To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself without clothes before and after an hour of exercise and note the difference. Each pound lost is about  700-1,000 mg sodium, and you can easily replace those losses with one of the snacks listed above. If you want to have a sports drink to accomplish that, keep in mind that most sports drinks are simply water, sugar, and salt. Remember, the goal of companies that make miracle gels and potions is to to sell them to you, not necessarily make you healthier.

Workout recovery is as simple as diluting some orange juice with water and eating a banana, or creating this recipe from Web MD:

Homemade Sports Drink

  • 1 quart (950 mL) water
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 g) salt substitute (potassium-based), such as Lite Salt or Morton Salt Substitute
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar
It's not neon colored, but it'll get the job done.

The key to pre and post-workout nutrition is to keep it real: real foods and water are what athletes relied on before the wonders of food technology, and they are still our best bet for a sustainably healthy life. Get out there and get healthy today, even if you don't sweat neon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm Too Old for This $#^%: Metabolism and Aging

Okay, I'm not actually old. But when I turn 37 in June, I will be the oldest I have ever been! And while age is just a number and we're only as old as we feel...let me tell you my friends, I am feeling old.

Mostly because its come to my attention in the past six months or so that as I approach my 40s, everything that I have heard about aging and metabolism, all of those things that I know and understand but have doggedly assumed would not actually happen to moi, are in fact happening.

It's taking my body longer to snap back into shape after a vacation. I'm having to work a lot harder at maintaining my weight, much less trying to shave off a few pounds when I want to. And, I am starting to see wrinkles on my face! The wrinkles I could actually not care much less about. But the waistline is another story.

Is middle-aged weight gain inevitable? Is it something we have to accept? Well, as in most things the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Hopefully not my middle.

But yes, we do lose muscle cells as we age. And yes, those muscle cells do get tired and less efficient. That's why strength training is important at any age, but especially as we age.

But does our metabolism slow down as we age? Yes and no. Metabolism is determined by how effective our bodies are at burning calories. And since we lose muscle cells as we age, and more muscle means more calorie burning, we often see a decrease in our calorie-burning potential because of that decreased muscle. Not necessarily age.

But you know, when it comes to a slower metabolism, I'm not all that concerned with the "why?" as with the "how do I fix this?"

The answer is what you probably think I am going to say: keep building muscle! 

What this means for me is a few things:

1. Stop expecting to be able to fudge my calories on the weekend or on vacation and then snap back into shape a week later. That rubber band has lost its spring. 

2. Keep workouts focused on building muscle, not burning calories. Include strength training - challenging strength training - in your workout no matter how old you are.

3. Watch this video frequently and laugh about the whole stupid thing!

Wherever you are in the aging process, no matter how springy your rubber band is, and even if you are just getting started in this health thing, just get out there and get healthy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Got a cold? This Immunity Blasting Juice made me a believer!

It's good, I promise.
I am a juicing skeptic. Its not so much that I don't believe in the power of juicing because I do. I just believe more strongly in the power of chewing. I call it the Chew Factor: that human need to, well, CHEW things periodically throughout the day. The few times that I have tried to replace actual meals with liquid calories, I end up cranky and frustrated. Slurping down 300 calories simply whets my appetite for more. No, I want to chew, and I want to do it a lot.  You can read more about the Chew Factor here:

But, my friend Joyous Health convinced me that juicing has its place in the world of immunity-building, and explained to me that she uses juices for their therapeutic benefits. When we're sick or getting sick, that fast infusion of nutrients in liquid form gets into our blood stream faster so it can get to work on making us better. That made sense to me, and I remembered her advice about a month ago when I felt a cold coming on. I had 13 miles to run the next day so I really wanted to be in top form. So I got to Googling and found a recipe that sounded like I could actually swallow it.

And dang it if I didn't feel better. I was seriously surprised! I woke up the next day to drastically diminished symptoms and made another batch to squash it for good. I began to feel even better, and my 13 mile run was cold-free. I made a superstitious third dose of it to replace the energy I had burned while running, and I never did get that cold.

A few weeks later, I got a cold while out of town. I made the juice when I came home, and began to feel better.  Sure, there was likely a placebo effect at play, but it made me a believer in the power of juicing when my immune system is compromised.

Juices are healthy, but they still contain calories. This recipe is about 250 calories. Yes, I entered it into MyFitnessPal and logged it, because it had to count as a snack. Just be aware of that when you consider juicing - healthy food has calories too.

Okay, here's the recipe. You will need a juicer.

Immunity Blaster
2 carrots
2 oranges, peeled
1 ounce lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic. I started with two and worked my way up!

Put them all into the juicer and belly up!

If you don't have a juicer, look for a juice bar near you or head to your local Earth Fare. They'll juice whatever you buy in the produce department!

Get out there and get healthy today with a blast of immunity!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Is it Time to Eat? Listening to Hunger Cues for Weight Success
Hunger: it's a tricky thing! Striking that balance and eating the "just right" amount of food is one of the most challenging parts of eating. You'd think that, as evolved humans, we would have mastered feeding ourselves by now. But no, we all struggle with figuring out what, how much, and when to eat.

I cringe when I hear people say that a diet plan worked for them because they "never feel hungry." If they are never hungry, how do they know when to eat?

And I wipe away a tear when someone tells me that they hardly eat because they never get hungry. Their mind/body connection is so severed that their body has completely given up trying to communicate and gone into survival mode by slowing their metabolism down to a crawl to compensate for the lack of fuel. That is just a damn shame.

Then we have the flip side: allowing ourselves to get so hungry that we'll eat anything in sight. As a chronic "go go go" gal, I used to fall victim to this one a lot. I would stall on eating, trying to hold out until my next meal because I was counting calories, and enter my house a starved maniac at 5:45 PM. Then I'd eat an entire meal's worth of calories while I was preparing dinner, and sit down no longer feeling hungry but eating a meal anyway because I had just prepared it. That's just plain stupid.

So over time, a few valuable lessons about eating managed to get through my thick skull:

1. My body will tell me when it needs food, and I need to respond even if it's not "time to eat."

2. Not having healthy food prepped ahead of time to eat when I get hungry is a bad, bad situation.

3. Eating food actually helps me lose and maintain weight, and not eating food keeps me fat. Or "fat," whichever applies at the time.

And then over some more time, I actually started implementing these lessons into my life! The result: I more easily manage my weight when I respond to hunger signals, and I feel annoyed and irritable and "fat" when I don't. That happened enough times in a row to convince my brain that the first plan is better and we should just stick to that.

Hunger is our body's way of trying to be our partner in health. It's saying, "hey, I could use some more food." Instead of pushing it away, its our job to respond by giving it some food. Actual food, not processed junk posing as food. But that's another soapbox for another day.

Today, the trick is listening for that signal and answering back. If its been a long time since you have felt hungry, that signal may be a whisper. Hunger should feel like a definite rumble in your stomach. Not quite burning, but distinct. When that feeling strikes, its time for part two: eating food.

Success happens here when you have taken the time to prepare a snack or meal just for this kind of situation. An example might be some raw almonds and a sliced apple. Or, some unflavored yogurt with a chopped up peach and some walnuts mixed in. Maybe a chopped bell pepper and some cherry tomatoes with hummus. Whatever. Just have it handy and eat it. Then when the feeling hits again in a couple of hours, do it again. 

I know, its not quite that simple. Waiting to get hungry can be scary, and sometimes we really aren't sure if we're hungry. If you haven't felt hungry in a long time, start eating breakfast. You should feel hungry again in a few hours. That's not a signal that eating breakfast is bad because it makes you hungry. That's a signal that eating breakfast is good because it makes you hungry! And being hungry means that your body is burning fuel, not storing it. That's a good thing.

Decoding (and sometimes, getting to) hunger can be tricky work, and developing a trusting relationship between you and your hunger cues can be difficult. If you feel like you need help, seek a Certified Wellness Coach. It just so happens that I am one. How convenient! A coach can guide you through the process of becoming a partner with your body again. How nice!

Get out there and get healthy today...even - and especially - when you get hungry.