Keeping Focus During the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This time of year marks the start of the wave of parties, meals and other events that we have come to cherish.  While parties are great and large family meals are delicious, we have to keep focus on what is really important through this season.  Family and friends are important and so is our health.   It has been said that the average American consumes as many as 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner alone! OUCH!  The average American also manages to gain one to two pounds during the holidays which unfortunately become “permanent” after the holidays are over.   Many experts suggest that around the middle of November switch your focus from losing weight to maintain and allow yourself a few treats and then begin with renewed fervor at the New Year focusing on weight loss

Make holiday memories not holiday bulges! Create non-food projects to do with your children or grandchildren such as; playing games, making ornaments, a walking tour of the holiday lights or make wreaths.  Start traditions of service; prepare a care package for a needy family, volunteer to serve meals at a community center, find ways to help someone else have a good holiday that might not have family.

If you have been asked to bring a dish to a meal, or are the host or hostess for a celebration, prepare a healthy dish that you know you can comfortably eat and is something others would enjoy as well.  Include lots of vegetables, leans meats, seafood, whole grains and lower fat or fat-free dairy when planning your holiday menus.  Make light appetizers instead of deep-fried batter encrusted items.  Whole grain crackers, with reduced fat cheeses, vegetables with light yogurt dips, shrimp cocktails and fruit kabobs.  Avoid serving appetizers which are either fried, or contain high fat sauces and gravies.

Skinny down those mashed potatoes by using skim milk, fat-free chicken broth or fat free sour cream instead of whole milk and butter.   Eliminate the crust on your pumpkin pie and substitute egg whites (2) for a whole egg in recipes.  Topping cakes with fresh fruits or a dusting of powdered sugar instead of using the traditional heavy frosting will trim down the amount of calories and fat consumed at a holiday dessert table.   Enjoy that delicious roasted turkey without the skin and eliminate saturated fat.  Make gravy early as possible and chill in the fridge and then skim off the extra fat and also eliminate a of saturated fat!  Trim the dressing down by using less bread and more fruits and vegetables in the dressing.  Substitute low-fat broth or applesauce for butter.

One of the worse things you can do is to skip meals to indulge later! Before attending that amazing holiday feast, try munching on raw veggies or eating a piece of fruit before your arrival and to make it a goal to not arrive feeling famished which will set you up to over-indulge.  Get a smaller plate, if available, and look over the buffet table before adding any food to your plate.  Select only your most favorite dishes and avoid any that you feel are just so-so.  Balance any rich high calorie selections with extra vegetables and fruits which are simply prepared without heavy sauces or cream.

Eat smaller portions.  Sit down, relax and chew your food.  Savor the flavors of the season and you’re your brain time (about 20 minutes) to know you have had enough food.  Enjoy the company around you and focus on conversations and not the food.  Eat only until you feel satisfied.  Do not eat until you feel stuffed.   Plan an after dinner walk, make it a family tradition! Just a short 10-15 walk can help relieve the stress of the holidays and help offset over-indulgences.  If you know you will be having a large meal or had a large meal, go smaller on the next meal.   Remember it takes an extra five hundred calories a day for seven days to gain one pound.  One slice of pumpkin pie or cake will not derail your entire week!  Be proactive and keep weighing yourself during the holidays.  Any weight gain you see, stop it and do not let it creep further up!

Planning is the key to success for the holiday season. Create a plan.  Know what you are going to eat and how you are going to react to the temptations of the season.  Visualize yourself in situations and walk through various scenarios and prepare your mind for what you will be facing food wise.  Try, and I dare say try,  to keep sugary food intake to a minimum.  Sugar tends to make you want more sugar so eat sugared foods sparingly.  Take only a half a serving instead of a full serving and savor it!  Remember you can say “no” when you are offered something to eat or drink that you know isn’t a good choice.  Be assertive and be your own advocate!

Avoid alcoholic drinks as much as possible.  Alcohol and its effects can encourage you to over-indulge and most drinks are full of calories and sugar.  Eat your calories, don’t drink them!  Choose to drink extra water to flush out the rich calorie laden foods of the holidays!  Alcohol can leave you feeling dehydrated, chase that alcoholic drink with a big glass of water!

Get your daily eight hours of rest.  Being tired does affect your eating!  A lack of rest can easily derail your weight loss plans and plunge you into a downward spiral of making poor food choices and avoiding the gym!

The bottom line— the holidays are about enjoying family and friends and not only about food.  Focus on people and not food!  Keep moving during the upcoming holiday season and celebrate in a healthy way.  Enjoy everything in healthy moderation and face the New Year with a renewed sense of a commitment to greater health and a greater sense of control over food.  It’s all about lifestyle changes, not diets.

 

Focusing on the Positives – Happy Anniversary!

Sometimes the scale does not give us the numbers we were hoping for or felt we deserved for all the hard work we have put into our lifestyle change.  When this happens, it is an opportunity for growth.  It is great to see a smaller number on the scale but is it also good to see smaller measurements too!  Occasionally we need to step back from the scale and look at the “bigger” picture to see how far we have come.  Where was I a month ago? a year ago?

I know nine months ago today, I was just starting my weight loss journey on Weight Watchers.  I know what size I was wearing then and what size I am wearing now.  Nine months ago I only dreamed of the size I am wearing now!  In the big picture I have been very successful.   The scale gave me only a slight down this week.  Yes it was disappointing but considering where I was nine months ago, I have reason to celebrate! I have lost 66 lbs. in nine months on Weight Watchers.  I have dropped 5 pant sizes!  I have lost 7 inches in my waist!  I am averaging 1.7 lbs a week lost!  I have regained a lot of my energy!  I have stopped having what was almost nightly stomach upset.  I am rebuilding my body strength back.  I have gained a sense of just feeling better all the time.  I like the saying “What will you gain when you lose?”  It fits me well.

I feel I have re-gained a more positive look on my life, despite some personal losses.   I feel like I am free again.  That one is harder to explain as I have felt very “weighed/tied down” by life and circumstances.  I feel lighter and untethered again!  I feel like a new world of possibilities has opened to me.   I didn’t realize that I had even stopped dreaming.  I can dream again.  And I like the expression that professional party planner David Tutera uses “dream bigger,”  I can now not only dream but dare to “dream bigger.”

While the last seven days showed a .2 lbs. loss, the last nine months have been a wonderful start to a life time journey of gaining greater health!   Happy Weight Watcher Anniversary to me!  Nine months, 66 lbs. lots more to go!

Self Love 11

Exercise and Weight Loss

There have been volumes writing on exercise and weight loss so the information here will be nothing new but maybe just some original thoughts injected into the mix.   The best exercise for weight loss isn’t a certain formula, set of exercises, or even high intensity interval training.  What you can and will do is the best exercise for weight loss.  You can own all the exercise DVDs in the world, be a member of the best gym in town, have access to personal trainers and have a home gym that everyone including the San Francisco 49’s envies, if you don’t do it/use it, it doesn’t matter.  It is a scary notion that 55% percent of adults are either obese or overweight in the United States.

The cold fact is that you lose weight by creating a calorie deficit whether you are doing Weight Watchers or another program; you have to create that deficit.   Most plans are based on creating that deficit by reducing the amount of calories you take in via smaller portions.  A way to create a greater calorie deficit is by doing a one two punch of not only taking in less food but increasing the amount of activity/exercise you do each day.  Not everyone can or even wants to hit the gym every day.  You can increase your activity by taking five minutes of every hour you are seated at a desk to get up and walk around just for five minutes.  Some chose to do exercises at their desk.   Just moving a little more each day can reap big results!  Do not think exercise alone will solve your weight loss issues.

It has been said that losing weight is eighty percent of what you eat and twenty percent of what you do (exercise).   Overeating even healthy foods will not help your weight loss.  Getting enough rest/sleep can help you lose excess fat.  Not getting enough sleep can promote the retention of fat.  Incorporating healthy fats in your daily diet can help promote the loss of excess fat.  Eliminating one entire food group is the basis for many popular “fad” approaching to dieting.  Bottom line, these do not work in the long run and can cause health issues.  Many who followed the “no carb” diet found themselves suffering from gout or facing lab results mimicking a diabetic.  Your diet (what you eat) has reflect what you like/enjoy.  If you do not like what you are eating, you will not continue to eat those foods.  Eating a balanced diet of real natural foods provides you with good nutrition and there is no need for pills, powders, potions and shakes to lose weight.  Healthy weight loss comes from the eating real food in proper portions, exercising your full body and being consistent in both diet and exercise.

One of the most popular trends in exercise is to think that by strength training you can really boost your metabolism.   Research has proven that if you add one pound of muscle, it will burn five to ten calories extra a day which can be done by something as simple as chewing gum.  I wonder if talking burns calories too, you have to move your jaws muscles to talk! J  Hands down cardiovascular exercise is the best way to burn extra calories.   Fitness experts agree that successful weight loss is keeping it off not just losing it.   The recommended amount of cardio exercise in a week is at least 200 minutes per week.  If you are just starting to exercise start by shooting for a much smaller weekly total of something like, fifty minutes of exercise a week.

The most effective fat burning exercises combine cardio with resistance.  What is the best workout?  First quick answer, the one you will do.  The best workout doesn’t require a gym or lots of special equipment or gadgets which targets your whole body and gets that heart rate up and that you can do 2-4 times a week.

Research has shown over and over again that the combination of exercise with a proper diet is much more effective than either dieting or exercise alone.   For seniors, this combination isn’t about increasing life expectancy as much as it is about improving the quality of life.  Aerobic exercise combined with resistance training over a period of eight months showed greater weight loss and fat loss in a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Below are tips to help you adhere to a weight loss workout and meet your goals.

  1. Everyone needs an accountability factor, if it is a friend or your faithful dog.  If it works to keep you honest, use it.
  2. Make time for yourself; schedule your time to exercise/workout/move!
  3. Ease into a regular exercise routine.  Doing too much too soon can lead to extreme soreness and a lack of interest in continuing to exercise regularly.
  4.  Start small, for example, five minutes on the elliptical and gradually increase your time or start with two-pound hand weights and only increase the weights by half a pound.
  5. Keeping a journal of your exercise will help you to see what you have done and learn ways you can push yourself a bit more each week.  Set goals and try to “beat” them or exceed your goals.  Success breeds success!
  6. Improve your cooking skills.  Cooking at home not only allows you to control what goes into your recipes/body but saves you money! And who knows, some of your friends might enjoy your new-found expertise!
  7. Increase your daily water intake and limit the amount of alcohol you consume daily and weekly.

Honesty: The Basis for Life and Weight Loss

One of the hardest things in life we need to learn is honesty.  This honesty transpires to every aspect of our lives.  If we cannot be honest with ourselves, then who can we be honest with? If we lie to ourselves, who will tell us the truth when we need it the most?  How can we ever know the truth if we lie to ourselves all the time?  When we over-eat, we can either admit what we have done or deny it ever happened.  When our pants get too tight we can chose either to believe that the washer shrunk them or we have to face we have not been eating properly.  When we are fighting indigestion on a more frequent basis, we can either chose to make dietary changes or take increased amounts of medications to settle our stomachs.  How were choose to look at things determines our “personal” honesty.

When we want to lose weight, we have to make some tough choices appropriate life changes to accomplish the goals we choose to set.  Once we have chosen goals, we must make an action plan to reach those goals.  An action plan might look like this:

My Ten-Step Action Plan for Success

  1. Plan out my meals and snacks each day.
  2. Research what proper portion sizes for all types of foods.
  3. Keep an accurate record of everything I eat and portion sizes.
  4. Weigh and measure my food to insure I am getting proper portions.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables each day.
  6. Increase the amount of movement I get each day.
  7. Incorporate healthy fats into my foods daily.
  8. Have at least two dairy servings a day.
  9. Take a multi-vitamin every day.
  10. Drink at least 8 glasses (8 ounces each) of water each day.

If these ten items sound familiar, they should if you are a Weight Watcher!  One of the basics of Weight Watchers is to track/record everything you eat, the amount and the points plus value.  Honesty about what and how much you are eating is essential to the program and your personal success.  “Fudging” about what and how much you have eaten in your tracker, only hurts you.  There is an expressing “your body keeps an accurate record of what you eat, no matter what you write down.”  You can write down that you only had one doughnut but your body knows you ate six and the scale will reflect the six doughnuts not one.

Once you have set up your action plan, the next step is to follow it every day.  Some days will be better than others.  Some weeks will be better than others, but that is ok as long as you keep trying.  You will not fail unless you choose to quit.  Sometimes even quitting is not final, sometimes it is only temporary. Life can get in the way, there are things we can control and things we cannot.  How we choose to react to the things we cannot control will help determine your success.  Set your strategies.

My Success Strategies (planning for the unexpected)

  1. Always have healthy snack choices on hand in your desk drawer.
  2. Keep some quick meal choices in both the pantry and freezer.
  3. Keep your refrigerator stocked with great choices of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Keep a variety of lean meats in your freezer.
  5. Plan for the possibility of eating out; select 3 or 4 local places where you know the menu choices and their points plus value, so you can be successful when you choose or have to eat out.
  6. Make a grocery list and stick to it (this helps your budget as well!).
  7. Focus on whole foods.
  8. Eat fewer processed foods.
  9. Prepare my own foods when possible.
  10. Study foods and know the best choices in many categories.

No matter how much life gets in the way, do not give up.  Keep moving forward toward your goals.  You are worth it.

Surviving the Bermuda Triangle of Weight Loss

Surviving the Bermuda Triangle of Weight Loss

A friend said we are approaching the Bermuda Triangle of Weight loss (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) and asked everyone what their choices/plans are for the season.  The choices she posed: put weight loss goals aside and just “forget it”, try to maintain the loss you have already achieved or keep focused as you press forward and continue to lose not letting the holidays detour your journey.

With only a couple of exceptions, all chose the last option.  The reality is, most people will end feeling like the first option is the only way when the holidays come around.   At New Year’s they will choose to start over with a new year’s resolution to be healthier.   Why will most people fall into the first option?  I think for various reasons, but the first reason is a lack of planning.   Being successful in times of food temptations requires pre-planning.  “Winging it” at a dinner party usually will not yield great results.

The second reason I think people often fall into the “forget it” category is that the desire to eat is greater than the desire to be healthier.  You have to want to and no one can make you do anything you do not really desire to do.  Try sitting down and writing down all the reasons why you want to be healthier and keep this list handy.   When the temptation comes, pull out that list and read it.  Do the reasons still apply?  If so, step away from the fruit cake!  If not, you need to explore what has changed and write down what is now valid.   Again, keep the list and pull it out when you are feeling the need to speed feed!  (E.g. overeat, binge)

Lastly, I think the reason many will fall into the first option is just too tired/overwhelmed/stressed out.  With so many activities going on, I think we often over commit ourselves and when we are tired and overwhelmed were not able to make the best healthy choices.  Simple tasks seem difficult.  Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier and making a list of things to do but assign a priority of “one” to things that HAVE to be done in the next 24 hours (e.g., a bill is due, a performance must be attended, an appointment) a “two” to the things that can be done in a couple of days (e.g., getting groceries, doing laundry, filling up the car with gas)   and a “three” to things that aren’t’ really necessary but ‘nice’ (e.g., picking up an extra gift, decorating the guest room,  etc.).

During the holidays simplify your life as much as you can.  That is a tall order but prioritize your responsibilities, your body will love you for it! To help manage stress, do not let your workout plans fall by the wayside.  Make exercise a daily priority.  Even if it is taking a brisk walk around the mall before you begin your shopping, move daily!  Park your car as far as you can from the store, walk a few extra steps.  When doing housework, turn on your favorite music and dance as you dust and vacuum though the house.  Do squats as you are picking up toys, clothes from off of the floor.    Lunge to the laundry room.  Run up the stairs.  Skip to the mail box.

I realized that I do not have the Bermuda Triangle to be concerned about; I have more like a Bermuda Hexagon!   I not only have those holidays, I have a birthday, a cruise vacation, and a  wedding to attend during that time!   Yikes! I have to get my planning done and really watch my priorities during those times too!

Don’t let your efforts to live a healthier life get lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Weight Loss this year!

  1. Make a choice
  2. Make a plan
  3. Work your plan
  4. Get plenty of rest
  5. Prioritize your responsibilities
  6. Exercise daily