Is “Excessive Celebration Syndrome” Making You Gain Weight?

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The Fourth of July Weekend Is Here!

It’s time to celebrate, kick back, relax, and enjoy the long-awaited celebration!   Enjoy the fireworks, the hot weather, and the “Everything Under the Sun Buffet!”  On the menu: cheeseburgers, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, buttered corn on the cob, ice cream, and lemonade!  It only happens once a year, so go ahead and splurge!  Yippee!

Wait – hold on a second!  Didn’t we just say that last weekend at our Father’s Day barbecue? And the weekend before that at the graduation party?  And the kids’ end-of-the-year school party?

Is this really a special celebration, or just the featured celebration of the week?

Actually, the “celebration mentality” happens way more often than we like to think!  Sometimes it’s for a whole season!

Think of all the family birthdays, celebrations, and vacations that happen throughout the year.  Then add all of the official calendar holidays:

January – New Year’s and Martin Luther King Weekend

February – Valentine’s Day and February Break Week

March – St. Patrick’s Day

April – Spring Break Week and Easter – maybe a vacation, too!

May – Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day

June – Father’s Day, graduations, weddings and school end-of-year celebrations

July – 4th of July,  multiple barbecues and lots of hang time

August – Vacation

September – Oh shit!  Weighing in after a fun summer!

October – Halloween

November – Thanksgiving

December – Multiple parties and Christmas season (which adds an average of four pounds to September’s weight)

That’s a lot of celebrating!  If we were to enjoy each one of these occasions with a whole day of splurging, and then add the entire seasons of summer and Christmas, that’s a lot of “festive” eating! That’s more of a weekly pattern, not a special event!

Managing these occasions is key to successful weight management.

What I observe from my clients is that ones who are the most successful at losing weight are the ones who stick to their healthy habits consistently, even at parties.  They have their head in the game.  When they splurge, it’s never overboard; it’s usually one drink or dessert.  They choose their splurges wisely, and rarely drop their guard completely.  On the occasions when they do let themselves go, they get right back on track the next day.

How do you handle celebrations and barbecues?

Photo credit:   FourthOfJuly-2105.com

Is Your Exercise Stressing You Out?

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 Maybe there’s a reason it’s called “Insanity!”

One of my favorite things is taking a group cardio class, and catching everyone in the mirror in perfect synch with the music.  I love that!  I get a rush when there’s a great bass line thumping away, pumping everyone up.  I still get a rush out of high-intensity cardio like kickboxing.   I love a good cardio workout.  I’m one of those chicks who whoops and hollers when it all gets flowing.

However, rather than relieving stress levels, as most people think, those types of high-intensity workouts might be increasing your stress levels.

According to Holistic Health Practitioner Paul Chek, the body perceives high-intensity aerobic exercise as a stressor.  To a certain extent, that’s a very good thing.  That’s how you get stronger.  But if that’s the only kind of exercise you get, then you’re actually putting your body into a chronic state of stress, activating the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight-or-flight response.  That, in turn, increases the body’s cravings for starchy carbohydrates, sugar in particular!  Furthermore, that exercise could be slowing down your metabolism because of all the increased stress.   (It’s a cruel world, isn’t it?)

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What can you do?

Chek says that we need to balance our work OUTs with work INs! 

Working IN would be something like deep breathing, massage, yoga, Pilates, or his favorite, Tai Chi.   Those types of exercise help the body slow down, relax, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  That speeds up metabolism.  (For example, did you ever hear your stomach growl when you’re getting a massage, but you know you just ate?  That’s why.)  You’re finally calm enough for your body to start digesting normally again.

So be sure to mix up your exercise.  If you like to spin until the wheels burn off the bike, try out yoga and see what happens.  If you’re the type of person who says,”Yoga would drive me CRAZY,” then you’d benefit the most.  Really.

So try out a work IN this week, and let me know what happens!  You might like it!  Mikey did!

Is Your Body a Bank Account, Or a Chemistry Lab?

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Like so many people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food.

As a teenager in the 70’s, I remember my well-respected pediatrician writing down the simple formula for weight loss on a little sheet  of paper: “One gram of carbohydrates
has 4 calories, one gram of protein has 4 calories, and one gram of fat has 9 calories.  So eliminate fat, and you’ll lose weight.”  Wow!  That sounded so easy! And I was good at
math. So I tried it.
“Thus began the calorie-counting, fat-free, processed food era of my life.”
In my mind, I associated dieting with self-deprivation, so I began looking for caloric
“bargains.” It was just like the doctor said; if the food said “fat-free,” it was way
lower in calories.  If it was lower in calories, that meant I could eat more of it and
avoid being hungry!  If it said “sugar-free” AND “fat-free,” I could eat even more!
Over time, I was no longer eating to satisfy hunger or to nourish my body.  It was all about scouring the labels and bargain-hunting (calorie-wise) for the lowest-calorie food.  I had completely lost touch with whether or not I was hungry.
Weren’t we all playing the same game?
This rather disjointed view of food continued into adulthood.  All three times I was pregnant, I gained a whopping 50 pounds. After all, I was eating for two, so I felt entitled to more food.  It was good for the baby, wasn’t it?  (I must have forgotten that one of us only weighed a few ounces!)  In order to lose the weight after each pregnancy, I would start counting things again – sometimes food exchanges
(remember those?), sometimes points, and sometimes calories.  But as soon as
I stopped counting, measuring, or else inevitably started cheating the system,
the weight would start to sneak back on.  Looking back, I see that I was treating my body like a bank account, counting debits in (food) and credits out (exercise).
For the record, counting calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that method backfired on me, and perhaps it backfired on others as well. Yes, counting calories can be a very successful method for weight loss.  Research does show that when people start writing down their food, they begin to eat less simply because the act of writing makes them more aware of what they’re eating.  I get it.  And it’s absolutely true.
But as I learned more about nutrition, I knew I was eating way too many chemicals and processed foods.  The media started to report that fat was GOOD for you, and that it was necessary to eat it.  But I still wouldn’t “splurge” for it, calorie-wise.  Everything was
sugar-free, fat-free and processed. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t a healthy way to eat.
I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the food I was eating.
I don’t know how or when it finally dawned on me what my mistake was;
IT’S NOT ABOUT MY WEIGHT, AND IT NEVER WAS.
In the end, it’s about HEALTH.
THE HUMAN BODY IS MORE LIKE A CHEMISTRY LAB THAN A BANK ACCOUNT.
 It’s all about the QUALITY of the food and how it interacts with the body.
That’s when I made a shift in my eating habits.
The shift is that now I look for nutrition bargains instead of caloric bargains! I look for the food that has the most nutrients per serving instead of the least calories.  Wow!  What a concept!
One by one, I changed each meal around:  coffee and a veggie omelet for breakfast, using coconut oil in the pan; a salad with chicken or fish, some nuts and FULL-FAT dressing (GASP)!  Snack is my splurge – usually a high-protein Quest bar.  Dinner has 2 hot veggies and some lean protein again.  And wine sometimes.  And I thoroughly enjoy a gooey chocolate dessert once a week.
I feel so much better now.  No more counting, no sweet cravings, no energy dips, and no frustration over the scale anymore.  It takes care of itself now because I’m eating much more nutrient-dense food.  My food and I now have a healthier relationship.
Does calorie-counting work well for you?  Or did you have a similar experience to mine?

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?

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!

 

 

The Most Inspiring Workout I’ve Ever Seen

10514684_10152855161295435_4579993386483610974_nI am a gym rat and I’ve seen a lot of amazing athletes there.  I’ve seen one-arm pull-ups, jumps onto a Swiss ball, and dead-lifts that bent the bar.  But the workout that I’m thinking of was a few years ago.  I was feeling sorry for myself because I’d had tennis elbow surgery on my right arm, which rendered my right hand and fingers useless for the time being.  Due to Hurricane Irene, we had lost power for a week after the surgery, so I was doing everything one-handed and lefty.  Try putting on a bra with one hand.  Or cutting anything with a knife.  Or even opening mail.  Woe was me!  It was about the same time that a movie came out about the surfer whose arm had been bitten off by a shark, and previews showed her tucking her surfboard under her good arm, happily running back into the water.  I felt so sorry for myself, but there she was, a story of the triumph of the human spirit.  “Show-off,” I thought.  She was made me look bad, so I turned off the TV.  “No one is that good.”

During that time that I would stoically go to the gym and do whatever I could with one arm.  I had already done a year of physical therapy before the surgery, so I was used to the single-arm workouts, but I was in a full blown state of mental martyrdom after the surgery. “Unable to even hold a pen,” I would tell anyone who asked about the sling.  As I started my warmup, I saw an empty wheelchair, and nearby there was an older woman face down on the floor!  I thought she had fallen, but as I looked a little closer, I realized she was with a trainer, who was guiding her through a barely perceptible motion with her leg. The trainer counted, “Eight, come on, come on, nine.  That’s it.”  You could see the determination in her eyes, and you could see her leg shake as she lifted her foot just a few inches off the floor.  She was so proud when she got to 20!  Heck, I was proud of her, too.  And a little ashamed of myself.

When I thought of not just the physical strength, but the mental fortitude it took, I was blown away by her.  God only knows how she became wheelchair-bound, or what she had gone through just to get to this point.  I could only imagine that this was probably an improvement from wherever she was before.  Just think of her sustained determination: to make the appointment, arrange the ride, and then go out to a public gym to work out with a trainer!  Later the trainer helped her back into the wheelchair to do some more exercises, and she was still there when I left the gym.

There were a few lesson there for me.  The first was that I am only a victim if I choose to see it that way.  The other way to see it is that I was fortunate enough to have an excellent surgeon to restore proper function to my arm and hand.  I was also lucky enough to have a hand with five fingers that would work properly again one day; for me, this was only temporary.  The final lesson was never to underestimate the power of mental strength.  I will always remember that woman when I say to myself, “I can’t do that.”  The question really is, “What CAN I do?”  That’s where I’ll start.  That’s the only place to start.  And then I won’t quit.