5 Things I’ve Learned From Mindful Eaters

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About ten years ago, when my kids were little, we brought them to Disney World and had dinner at the “50’s Drive-in Diner” style restaurant.  At the end of the meal, I was horrified when the waitress gave all five of us “Clean Plate Club” stickers.

Yes.  That’s right.  All 5 of us got the stickers.  That was a long time ago, and as a family, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about healthy eating since then.

I took a long, hard look at our eating habits.   Why did I eat so fast, and eat up every bit of food that on my plate?  And how did I manage to set that example to my sons?

It probably stems from being the youngest of 8 kids, and whoever got to the food first simply had more to eat.  But that was decades ago!  I’m not that little kid elbowing my way through a bunch of older siblings for food anymore.  I know that I’m going to eat again in a few hours, so why do I stuff myself full?

I started noticing how some of my naturally thinner friends ate.  They seemed to pay more attention to what they ate.  They didn’t just gobble the food down quickly.  They “savored the flavor.”  And in the end, they usually ate less.  Hmmm.  Maybe there’s something more to it.

Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed that these “mindful eaters” do differently:

1)  Mindful eaters are fussy.  If they don’t really like it, they don’t eat it – as if they’re picky kids.  It has to be “worth it” for them to eat anything.  They don’t waste their appetite on food that’s just so-so.  They don’t eat it just because it’s there, like the leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts off their kids’ plates.  (Takes one to know one!)

2)  Mindful eaters don’t keep eating until they’re “full.”  They only eat until they’re satisfied, or until their hunger is gone.  They know that they’ll eat again in a few hours.

3)  Mindful eaters eat slowly.  We live in such a stressed-out society that we even apply that mindset to eating.  But mindful eaters engage in the conversation, and enjoy the entire mealtime experience.  One of my friends says that’s how her parents taught her how to make conversation at the dinner table – she was taught to put the fork down between every bite, engage in the conversation, and then pick up the fork again.  (PS – She wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in my home!)

4)  Mindful eaters are forgiving and flexible.  Once in a while, they overeat.  But they don’t waste time beating themselves up the next day.  They say, “That was delicious, but I overdid it.”  Then the next day, they eat a little less.  They skip the self-recrimination and judgment.  They don’t say, “Well, I’ve ruined my diet, so I’ll just throw in the towel now.”   They just move forward.

5)  Mindful eaters just eat.  They sit down and pay attention to what they’re eating, rather than multi-tasking or just grabbing food in a rush and eating it while standing over the sink. They use more of their senses:  they observe how the food is served, they taste and smell the food, and then they savor the flavor.

Many times it’s not about WHAT you eat, but about HOW you eat.  Being a mindful eater is not as easy as it sounds, but it can make a profound impact on your eating habits.  Try just one of these mindful eating tips for a week, and let me know how you make out.

Healthy Weight-Loss Habits That You Can Start Today

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Those who know me have followed my weight loss journey.  As a teenager, I did crazy fad diets with 20-pound gains and losses.  Then 3 pregnancies with 50-pound weight gains, followed by 50-pound weight losses with Weight Watchers.  Although I maintain my weight now by eating Paleo, I still incorporate a lot of habits that I learned as a Weight Watcher member.  Below are some of the most successful and healthiest weight-loss habits that have worked for me.

1.  Eat nothing after dinner.  Let’s face it; nobody eats anything healthy after dinner!  It’s usually empty calories like chips, or sweets, or drinks.  You can keep your hands busy by painting your nails or knitting.  Bleach your teeth with whitening strips at night to stop the sweet cravings.  Or just go to bed!  Then you’ll wake up hungrier, and eat your normal, healthy breakfast.  This is how my brother started his 107-pound weight loss journey!  This is a great habit to start with.

2.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Put away the candy dishes!  Studies show that if you can see the food, you’re much more likely to eat it.  The reverse works as well.  Try keeping healthy snack foods, like carrots and hummus, or cut-up fruit, at eye level in the fridge.  That way if you open the fridge looking for something to eat, the healthy stuff appears right before your eyes.

3.  Carry a huge bottle of water with you.  Not only is drinking water good for you, but it will make you get up more often to use the bathroom.  (Hey, every little bit counts!)  I’ve even used this habit to make deals with myself:  “I’ll let myself have ________ as soon as I finish one more bottle of water.”  Nine times out of ten, I forget all about it!

4.  Enjoy it, but just one serving.  If you already ate one serving of it, you know exactly what another bite of it will taste like.  If you’re still unsatisfied, allow yourself seconds of vegetables only.  Keep the serving dish on the counter rather than at the table.  That way you’re not staring at the dish, and if you want seconds, you’ll have to get up from the table to get it.

5.  Try the “no white at night” rule.  Rather than bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, try to have both a salad and a hot vegetable with dinner instead. Some people find that cutting themselves off from starchy carbohydrates at a certain time of day, say 3:00, is helpful. It’s not that this type of food metabolizes any differently at certain times of day;  the idea is to avoid those empty calories at the meal when most people pile them on.

6.  Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal.  At breakfast, you can have some berries, or mix some peppers and onions in with your omelette.  Lunch could include a salad or an apple.  Dinner could include a hot vegetable.  This habit displaces your appetite for other, less healthy foods.

7.  How about an afternoon veggie shake?  The protein will help with the afternoon energy slump, and the veggies will fill you up.  Click here for Precision Nutrition’s guide to making healthy shakes:  http://bit.ly/1yKQIu4

8.  Pack a healthy snack in your car or purse with you before you leave the house.  That way, if you’re stuck on the road without any healthy options, you’re ready.  My favorites are snack packs of nuts from Trader Joe’s or Quest Protein Bars from GNC (no, they don’t pay me to say that!).

 9.  Keep a big batch of vegetable soup handy. This recipe is famous among successful Weight Watchers:  http://bit.ly/1IYJRzn  It will fill you up for lunch, snack, or dinner time.  Yummy, nutritious, and very low-cal!

10.  Go to bed earlier.  Yes, this one is true.  The body perceives a lack of sleep as stress.  Stress slows down your metabolism and increases your cravings for sweets.  So, if you’d like to lose some weight, make it a habit to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Black out your room and cover all those digital clocks for a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

Only pick one idea at a time.  Keep it simple and focused.  As soon as one habit becomes second nature, add another one, building a portfolio of healthier habits over time.

What weight-loss habits do you use?

5 Easy Paleo-Friendly Swaps!

Yay!  Spring is here! And it’s time for me to clean up my act a little.  Over the holidays (weren’t they months ago?), some items snuck into my fridge.  It’s time for them to go!  I got caught red-handed when the photographer snapped this shot of me, with the beer and jarred condiments, front and center:

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It’s time for me to make some healthy swaps…..

1.  Homemade dressings and marinades instead of bottled. I know the bottled dressings are easier, but they almost always contain vegetable or canola oils (not good).  The homemade ones taste so much better, and at least I know what’s in them.  Here’s a link to a few good recipes:   http://paleoleap.com/salad-dressing-and-vinaigrettes/  I have yet to find a Paleo mayonnaise recipe that tastes good, so I just ordered a jar of avocado-based mayo from the new Thrive market online.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

2.  Almond butter instead of peanut butter.  This is a hard switch at first, but you get used to it. (And no one loves peanut butter more than I do!)  But there are several reasons that you want to avoid peanuts, even organic unsalted ones:  http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/12-29/peanuts-are-not-paleo/

3.  Zucchini pasta instead of pasta.  Honestly, I don’t try to sell zucchini pasta to my family, saying “It tastes just like pasta!”  The Romano men would never buy that line!  However, it tastes good and has a similar consistency and feel to pasta.  It’s delicious when I cook it with coconut oil, garlic and garlic salt.  You’ll need a vegetable spiral slicer – I use a Spiralizer:   http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Active-Spiralizer-Zucchini-Spaghetti/dp/B00MG6ZEZM

4.  Olive oil and coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.  This is a really easy swap!  I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, and I also use their coconut oil spray.  I use olive oil for room-temperature recipes, like dressings and marinades, and I use coconut oil for cooking.  If you have margarine in the house, please just throw it out.  If you use butter, use real clarified butter, and savor the flavor – try not to use too much because it’s so calorie-dense.

5.  Sparkling water with cranberry juice instead of wine or Diet Coke (I have to admit that I still have a hard time resisting Diet Coke).  If I sip this after dinner, the fizz satisfies my “mouth feel,” and the tartness of the cranberry juice keeps the sweet cravings at bay.  I’m not saying this works all the time (just ask my husband), but it works most of the time to help avoid drinking wine or soda at home during the week.

Do you have any ideas for healthy swaps?  Or do you have a good homemade mayonnaise recipe?

Are You Making These Common Mistakes At the Gym?

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have made ALL of these mistakes at some time!  And at least if you’re at the gym, you’re trying!  

But here are the top ones I see:

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Mistake #1: You hold the railings of the treadmill.

A lot of people hold the railings, perhaps because they’re afraid of falling.  But when you’re at the gym, that’s where you want to train for real life.  And in real life, your arms would be swinging while you walk.  Let go!  Be free!  It will train your balance better, be a more aerobic workout, help prevent rounded shoulders and even make you burn more calories!

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Mistake #2:  You only use the cardio equipment!

Cardio equipment has its place, but if your goal is to lose weight, you want to hit the weights, too.  Did you know that your body returns to its pre-workout calorie-burning level as soon as you leave the gym if you’re just doing long cardio sessions?  But if you want to burn even more calories for 24- 48 hours after your workout (known as “EPOC,” or excess post-oxygen consumption), you’ll want to lift weights and do some high-intensity intervals.  So if you’re using the treadmill, check out some of those interval programs.

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Mistake #3:  You saw someone do an exercise and, without instruction, 

you try it on your own.  

I love to get new exercises ideas at the gym, but more often than not, I see a lot of what NOT to do! One of the most dangerous gym crimes I see is bad kettlebell swings.  Kettlebells aren’t really that different from weights, but when you start swinging around all that iron, you’d better know what you’re doing.  Check out this link for an excellent kettlebell swing lesson: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/exercise-spotlight-kettlebell-swing/

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Mistake #4:  You use the equipment incorrectly.

There’s a reason that most gyms offer a free session with a trainer to orient you to the machines.  Yes, they want you to sign up for personal training sessions (and by all means, sign up!).  But the other reason is so that you don’t get hurt.  Take advantage of the free session.  Most gyms also encourage the trainers to circulate the gym while they’re not with a client so that they’re available for your questions.  So ask away!  That’s why they’re there!

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Mistake #5:  You eat your profits after your workout.  

I will always remember the time I saw someone all sweaty at Starbuck’s, wearing a t-shirt from the new gym in town.  I asked her how she liked the gym, and she said that she loved it.  “The workouts are so hard that I always come here and reward myself with a crappuccino.”  (Okay, I added that last word.)  But seriously, even an intense workout can be canceled out with the calories of just one muffin!  Make the most of your exercise by having a whey protein shake immediately following it!

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Mistake #6:  If you still look pretty after your workout!

Some people read books, talk on the phone, or distract themselves so much that they leave the gym without having worked up a sweat at all.  If you still look cute, you probably didn’t work out hard enough.

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Mistake #7:  Lifting weights that are too light.  

This infraction ties in with Mistake #6.  If you can lift that weight more than 20 times, it’s time to bump it up to a heavier weight.  While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want your workout to be worth your time.  Oh, and don’t worry about bulking up.  It takes months, if not years, for weight lifters to get that bulked-up look.  And they lift the big weights down at the end!

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Mistake #8:  You don’t go to the gym at all!

This gym looks so lonely!  I love to see the gym in January when it’s full of people enthusiastic about exercise! I think the biggest mistake people make is being over-zealous when they first start out.  Just start easy, and keep going.  Never give up.  It’s intimidating at first, but it will get easier over time.  In fact, most of the trainers I know were very overweight or out of shape at some point in their lives, and their efforts to become healthier actually brought them to their present careers.  So if anyone would understand, it’s the other people at the gym.  The door is always open!  Who knows?  Maybe you’re the next trainer-to-be!

10 Ideas To Spring Into Action

I can’t wait to get outside after this looong winter!  The sun is finally shining, I hear the birds again and the snow is slowly melting!  It’s a great time to change up my workout and get outside. So here are my top ten ideas for taking things up a notch for this season:

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1.  Get yourself some new kicks!  Sneakers only last about 4-6 months.  If you can’t remember when you bought your sneakers, it’s probably time for new ones! I love the feeling of lacing up some new colorful sneakers and feeling cushiony new socks (I love my Thorlo’s!) under my feet.  It literally puts spring in my step!

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2.  Commit to an upcoming event.  Look around for a local 5K walk or run.  Maybe a Mudderella or Warrior Dash!  Having that deadline will give you a goal to strive towards.  Okay, you don’t have to get as muddy as we were, but you get the idea!

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3.  Get a friend or family member to exercise with you.  Exercising with a buddy makes it more fun, and makes you more likely to stick with it.  Commit to regular early morning walks or weekend tennis matches.

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4. If you’re still listening to December’s music, splurge on a new playlist!  I just created an 80’s playlist that really makes me move!  (I just posted it on my Facebook page if you want to check it out here).

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5. Try outdoor exercise!  If you’ve always wanted to try canoeing or hiking or even yoga on a paddleboard, you can start now and be ready for some real adventure by summer!  (You can tell from the three colliding canoes above that my family always makes these sports violent, as in jousting on canoes.)

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6.  Change up how you’re fueling your workout. Spring is a great time to overhaul your snacks. Try some different seasonal fruits and veggies in your smoothie, like fresh berries, spinach, and arugula.  Watch your juicing, though!  If you wouldn’t eat a banana, an apple and a pint of blueberries in one sitting (that’s a lot of food), why would you drink it?

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7.  Reward yourself!  Find an awesome summer top that you can reward yourself with, and post a picture of it in your kitchen so you’ll be inspired by it throughout the day.  Then buy it for yourself when you accomplish your goal.  For me, it’s absolutely anything from the Boston Proper catalogue!  (Oh, and always get the earrings, too!)

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8.  Get a fun new water bottle!  Let’s face it – drinking water isn’t the most exciting thing, but having a cute water bottle makes it just a little bit easier to stay hydrated!  The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink.  Keep it next to you all day long.

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9.  Take lessons in a new sport!  Tennis or golf lessons are great ways to get outside and meet new people.  And lessons make the sport so much more enjoyable (Sorry, Frank.  I saw this photo, and just had to put it in!)  Bonus:  What’s more fun than shopping for new tennis or golf clothes?

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10.  Plan an family outdoor adventure vacation!  Book the ultimate escapade for you and your family.  Hike one of the national parks, or ride horses at a dude ranch, or climb an island volcano.  I think I just talked myself into it!

Whatever you do, enjoy it!

 

 

What Are The Best Carbs To Eat? A Quick Guide

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Carbs, Glorious Carbs!  

Good carbs, bad carbs!  It’s so confusing!  Just out of curiosity, I googled “carbohydrates.” There is an amazing amount of conflicting information out there.  Food Network had a really questionable top-ten list that included popcorn, and WebMD had a completely different list that included whole grain bread and pasta.  So who’s right?  Who should we believe? And should we care?

Yes, we should definitely care!

As the daughter of a Type 1 diabetic father and a Type 2 diabetic mother, I know that how your body processes carbohydrates has a profound impact on your health.  What many people don’t realize is that if they eat a lot of processed foods, they are probably on a very high-carbohydrate diet.  And research shows that a high-carbohydrate diet can lead to health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even mild cognitive impairment.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware that processed foods, sweets, juices, sauces, and dressings are loaded with sugar, which is a very poor source of carbohydrates. Those are the obvious carbs to avoid.

But what about starchy carbs like bread, cereal, rice, potatoes and pasta?

Well, they break down into simple carbs, too, and can ultimately have the same effect on your body as sugar does, so you want to avoid those foods as well.

Fiber?

But what about whole grains, high-fiber breads, oats, corn, wheat, and brown rice? Aren’t they good for you?  Don’t we need the fiber they provide?

The government says that whole grains are so good for you that you should get a whopping 45-65% of your calories from them!  However, the truth is that many people have health problems like arthritis, inflammation, and auto-immune diseases due to the gluten contained in those foods.  And while there is some fiber in those foods, they can still make your blood sugar levels spike.

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Most people think of carbs as just starches and sugars.  But don’t forget that fruit and vegetables are carbs, too!  

Last summer at a blueberry patch, I chatted with a man who proudly told me that he no longer had diabetes because of his no-carb diet — as he popped blueberries into his mouth!  Not to take anything away from him, because he totally had the right idea.  He had replaced the unhealthy carbs with healthier, complex ones (like blueberries!).  But like a lot of people, he only considered carbs to be sugars and starchy foods.  But fruits and vegetables are carbs, too!  And they’re the carbs we want to eat!

The healthiest carbs to eat would be kale, broccoli, lettuce, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, snap peas, artichokes, onions, etc.  They are much lower in calories, more filling, higher in fiber and loaded with nutrients.  Even the American Diabetes Association and The American Heart Association recommend eating these foods over empty grains!

 The bottom line: there is nothing that a starch can do for you that a vegetable can’t do better!

 

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Don’t we need carbohydrates to survive?

I thought you’d never ask!  Here it comes….

 There’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate!

There.  I said it.  It’s true!  Ask your overweight doctor and watch him squirm!  While we need to eat essential fats and proteins, we don’t need to eat carbohydrates. The body can produce carbohydrates from the fat and protein we consume.  We only need to provide enough carbohydrates to meet the needs of glucose-dependent tissues like the brain, 50-100 grams per day for most people (exceptions: athletes and other highly active people).

So What Are the Healthiest Carbohydrates For Me To Eat? 

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The best carbohydrates to eat are in the produce section of the grocery store:

Veggies like:

onions, peppers, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, zucchini, cauliflower, mixed greens, spaghetti squash, broccoli, carrot sticks,  cabbage, lemons, garlic, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.

And fruit like:

Berries, apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons.

These simple changes can put a healthier diet and a healthier life well within reach.  

See you in the produce aisle!

What do you think?