Monday, December 13, 2010

Words of Wisdom from Glamour

"Don't try to mold yourself into something you're not. Stop trying to attain this unnatural state where you're skinny and plucked and shaved and waxed and Botoxed and have no hips - it's stressful for your body and mind, and it's not going to make you happy either. Believe me! I see it all the time these days: Women like that come to my office because none of it is feeding their soul." - Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Patience is a Virtue in the Weight Loss Game

This morning I weighed myself and have lost two pounds from the last time I weighed myself, two weeks prior. In that moment I thought, wow I only made small tweaks to my diet and exercise and am seeing results, how great! In fact, I can’t remember a day in the last two weeks where I felt like I was dieting or deprived or felt like I had to kill myself in the gym. Nope, I pretty much ate what I wanted, and stayed consistent about going to the gym 4-5 times a week. Losing two pounds was actually easy. And, then it hit me, we approach weight loss so backwards that it is no wonder we fail, it is no wonder we loathe diets, or can only last one day on a ‘diet.’

You see, whenever we’re on a mission to lose weight, we first determine how much we want to lose, then we figure out how fast we can lose this amount of weight, and therein lies the problem. Weight loss is a mathematical equation, and it is possible to figure out how many calories you need to cut each week to lose a certain amount each week. And if you follow the formula, yes, you will lose weight. Sounds so easy, right? But the problem is this, weight loss is also a mental equation. And, while our body can react to dramatic changes, our minds can’t always keep up. See, we usually want to lose the maximum amount of weight we can as fast as we can. So what do we do? We take our 1700/day calorie diet and cut it to 1150/day and then add in an extra workout or two. There are three problems with approaching weight loss like this:

1. Cutting that many calories from your diet all at once is going to leave you feeling deprived, which will in turn make you want to binge or crave “no no” foods more since you’ve made such a dramatic change to your diet.

2. Because you are exercising more, your body will crave and need more food to sustain itself, leaving you feeling extra deprived on workout days.

3. Because making such dramatic changes requires sacrifice, and a list of “no nos” we’re likely to act out just like children when our parents tell us we can’t do something. Yes, we’ll actually want to defy our own rules because the rules are telling us what we can’t do.

Yet, despite this illogical approach, this is the approach most of utilize to lose weight. And then, sure enough, we wake up one morning wondering why those 5 pounds we lost so quickly became 10 pounds gained back. The answer? THIS APPROACH IS NOT SUBSTAINABLE IN THE LONG RUN!! That’s all there is to it. You’ll start off doing great, you may even reach your goal weight in your desired time frame, but as soon as you hit your goal, you’ll start adding more calories back into your diet as a sort of ‘pat on the back’ for reaching your goal. And then, you’ll add in some more calories because you see your journey as complete. Then, you’ll add even more because you’ll see yourself as invincible from weight gain because you’re feeling confident about where you’re at. And, finally one day you’ll step on the scale and you will have gained back all the weight you lost and then some.

So what is the better approach you ask? The one where you make small, incremental changes. You should never feel like you are on a diet. You should never feel deprived, or ravenous. You shouldn’t dream about the cookie you can’t have all day or have a list of restricted foods or rules. All you need to do is make small changes. Once you are used to the changes you’ve made, make a few more. This way, cutting back doesn’t seem like an impossible challenge, but instead it seems doable, easy in fact, and gives you body a chance to adjust to the changes. If you’re eating 1700 calories a day and working out 3 times a week for 30 minutes, try eating 1600 calories a day and working out for 40 minutes those 3 days. I guarantee you’ll see a difference, and it won’t pain you to make these changes. Then, let your body get used to this. Then assess your diet and exercise. Could you work out a little longer? Or add another day in? Would you be ok with eating 100 calories less in the day? You’ll probably say, yup that’s totally doable. This approach allows you to lose weight slow and steady, gives your body time to adjust to your changes, without ever having to slash too many calories at a time or increase your workouts too much too quickly.

Now technically, you could keep cutting and cutting, but there is a limit, and I would never advise anyone to eat fewer than 1200 calories in a day. As you make these incremental changes, you need to assess the point where you feel that the changes you’ve made are unsustainable. If you keep cutting calories down to 1200 and working your way up to 7 workouts a week, even done incrementally, can still cause burnout and be unsustainable. As you cut back incrementally, you need to stop at a level you can accept for the long run. And more importantly, you need to accept what your body looks like at this level because this is where your body naturally wants to be. Just because our minds are set on being 120 pounds, doesn’t mean our body is. Your body knows where it’s happiest; listen to it, instead of forcing it into some ideal you’re set on.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It’s Not About the Food

I just finished reading a book titled, “Women, Food, and God” by Geneen Roth and its message really hit me; it’s not about the food. After finishing the book and watching the Biggest Loser last night I have come to the conclusion that this couldn’t be truer. If you turn to my blog because you have issues with your weight and you’re looking for guidance, it’s most likely because you have an adversarial relationship with food, whether you over eat or under eat. But, why is this? Is it really just because pizza is so damn good that eating anything less than four slices would be a sin? Or, do you eat the same five to six meals week in and week out because it is the only way to maintain your weight? Where do we even come up with this stuff? When you really repeat the questions back to yourself you realize how absurd these thoughts are. Yet, every day millions of people feed themselves these lies to justify what they do or don’t eat. But, it isn’t about the food.

Our relationship with food runs so much deeper than we care to be aware of. Ten seasons of the Biggest Loser has shown this time and again. Our adversarial relationship with food stems from how we perceive ourselves. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we’d see that the reason we under or overeat is to mask pain, avoid feelings, or confirm lies that we’ve fed ourselves for so long that we actually believe they are true. During contestants’ time on the Biggest Loser ranch, they slowly begin to uncover why they’ve let themselves go. For some, loss of a loved one made them turn to food to cope, to feel loved again. For others, being teased at a young age made them equate being thin with being accepted. Whatever the reason, they always seem to uncover the real reason they have struggled for so long, and it isn’t food that has destroyed them, it is their perceptions that have destroyed them.

I could give you a million tools I use to stay on track, but if you don’t understand why you have issues with your body, none of that will matter because you’ll be using these tools out of self loathing and not out of love for your body. Geneen Roth’s book has encouraged me to really look at why I’ve had ups and downs for so long. Now, I think I understand why, and I know that my perceptions are completely absurd. But, breaking through years of absurd perceptions is no easy feat, but a necessary one if you ever want to get to a healthy place spiritually, mentally, and physically. If you relate to what I am saying, I encourage you to read “Women, Food, and God.” While it may not be new information, it forces you to take a deeper look at yourself and your relationship with food beyond what is on your plate.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Do We Blame Our Bodies and Not Our Clothes?

It’s funny how each day you can look in the mirror and see something different. Some days you feel ‘small’ and some days you feel ‘big.’ And, yes a lot of factors contribute to how we feel about what we see in the mirror every day, some real, some imagined. Maybe you ate a lot the past week and really do look bigger. Or, maybe you are wearing a shirt that’s too small and you only feel bigger. Either way, we’re usually quick to blame ourselves for these real or imagined changes in our bodies before we point the finger at anything else. But, maybe, just maybe, something else deserves the blame more often than not.

In our image and size obsessed culture we’re always measuring our self worth by the size of our clothes. If we can’t look good in a size 6 then we feel we need to lose weight. If a size medium is too tight in the chest, then we must be fat. We seem to always point the finger at ourselves. And, I admit I am not immune to this sort of ridiculous and irrational thinking. But, when you really step back and think about it, you realize how absurd it all is. Why not turn the blame to the clothes? Why is it our bodies’ fault for not looking good in a size 6 and not the size 6’s fault for fitting our bodies? What if instead of demanding our bodies conform to clothes, we demanded that clothes conform to our bodies and accentuate our attributes? It’s amazing what a good pair of jeans will do for your self confidence, but it’s also amazing how an ill-fitting pair can derail your self image just as quickly. It leads me to believe that we tend to obsess over small changes in our bodies too much when in fact the real culprit eating away at our self image is our obsession with size.

Instead of squeezing into sizes that don’t fit us or getting upset when not every pair of size 6 pants fits, maybe we should try to ignore sizes and go with what actually looks good. Hmmm imagine how much better we’d feel every day if we didn’t measure our happiness or success by what size we wore. What if we just bought clothes, regardless of size, that looked great and made us feel confident? Would we be as unhappy and self loathing? Or, would we walk around with our heads high proud of our bodies just the way they are?

Whether you need to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your current weight, you should go through each day feeling confident and beautiful. To stress, obsess, and berate yourself over your perceived imperfections will not benefit your mind, body, or soul. Furthermore, to convince yourself that fitting into one size or being one specific shape will equal happiness will only set you up for disappointment and failure because this simply isn’t so. What makes the world so beautiful is that there is an endless assortment of colors, shapes, sizes, etc. that all exemplify that one word. So accept yourself just as you are and dress your body in a way that makes you feel confident and accentuates your beauty. I encourage you to continue to focus on your goals, but in the meantime love your body just the way it is by making your clothes work for you and not the other way around because great-fitting clothes can make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Balance and Happiness before Vanity

Moving from the Bay Area back to LA was the best move I made this year. I am having an absolute blast living in LA with my two great roommates, friends, and family. I don’t think there has been a dull moment yet. But, as I alluded to in last month’s entry, my new lifestyle has been tough on my diet and exercise routine. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on where I was and where I am at now and whether I was happier then or now? Overall, I am happier now, but it is hard to accept that I am not in the same peak shape that I was in the Bay Area. I haven’t stepped on the scale since I left the Bay, and honestly I’m a little afraid to. I can tell by how my clothes are fitting that I’ve gained a couple of pounds through this transition back to LA. Sometimes I get down on myself for it too, but then I try to remind myself that this was a hard transition and even though I’ve been here two months now, I am still adjusting and trying to carve out a new life in LA.

I look back on my Bay Area days and realize that maybe what I achieved there isn’t going to be possible for me to achieve in LA. I might need to find a happy medium between what I was doing and what I am doing now (which isn’t quite enough). I work much longer hours in LA and I am surrounded by a lot more temptation and distraction, which isn’t all bad, but can really take its toll on your diet and exercise. But, to be at my peak would mean cutting out a lot of my social life and even some of my sleep. Is it worth it? Is it worth being at the peak if it means being alone? That’s what I’ve really been thinking about this week. I may need to accept that working out 5 days a week for an hour and a half and cooking 90% of my meals isn’t workable anymore. Maybe this lifestyle just isn’t a reality in the context of my new LA lifestyle. I don’t want this blog entry to be misconstrued as me justifying my sliding backwards a little bit or telling people to not work hard on their diet and exercise goals. That is not my point. My first point is that sometimes what worked swimmingly at one point in your life may not work as well at another point and you have to learn to accept that reality and stop beating yourself up. And, my second point is sometimes you need to really reflect on whether your diet and exercise goals are allowing you to lead a full life; don’t throw balance out the window for the sake of vanity. In the Bay, I feel that my routine worked perfectly with my lifestyle. I had the time to invest in it as much as I did and I didn’t have the social demands I have in LA. But, I am happier in LA now that I get to see more friends and family more. And, sure I indulge a little more, but I also feel more connected and fulfilled down here than I did in the Bay. I can’t imagine my Bay Area routine working as well here, and it’s not worth sacrificing sleep or isolating myself from friends and family for the sake of being 2-3 pounds less when I am still very healthy.

Nevertheless, now that I am starting to get used to my lifestyle here, I do see that there is room for improvement with my diet and exercise and I’m ready to take that challenge back on after a little bit of a hiatus (when I say hiatus I mean hitting the gym three days versus five, not letting myself go completely). I have really reflected on these past two months and I think that four days in the gym is probably most manageable for me. I’ve also noticed that I’ve indulged more at work than I should and I think I can easily cut this out as well. These are tweaks I can make that’ll help me manage my health, but still allow me to feel balanced and happy, and that is what truly matters.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coping with Change

A few weeks ago, I moved from the Bay Area back down to L.A. where I am originally from. I started a new job a couple days after I arrived, and will be moving into my new apartment today (I’ve been staying with my family these past few weeks living out of my suitcases). Life has been moving fast since I got here! It has been hard to have a normal routine when I am living out of suitcases and boxes and still feeling out my new schedule.

When I was up north, I would wake up at 7 a.m., leave for work at 8 a.m., get there at 8:30 a.m., leave by 4:30 p.m., and be back home at 5 p.m. I had a gym in my garage, so I would get home, put on my gym clothes and be done by 7 p.m., eating dinner and relaxing until bed time at 10:30 p.m. Ohhh the good ol’ days!! Now, my commute is two hours roundtrip. I wake up at 6 a.m., leave by 7 a.m., arrive to work at 8 a.m., and leave work at 5 or 6 p.m. to get home an hour to an hour and 15 minutes later. My new schedule makes it hard to figure out when to workout. Do I eat dinner and workout late? Do I ignore my hunger pains, workout first, and then eat? It hasn’t been easy to figure out. Plus, now I have to commute 10 miles roundtrip to the gym. Ohhh how things have changed!

It’s hard to stay motivated to go to the gym when life feels like you’re on the go constantly. I’m getting to bed later than I like just to fit it all in and I feel tired. I also feel like I don’t have time to just sit back and relax, or go hang out with friends as much. Now, I understand why our country is overweight. When you’re spending 10-12 hours of your day commuting/working it’s very easy to want to ditch the gym, eat dinner out with co-workers to wait out traffic, etc. At my new office, there is leftover food and sweets every day!! I feel constantly tempted and short on time since I moved. So I sympathize with everyone out there who doesn’t know when to make time for the gym, or how to say no to all the temptation. It’s HARD! I had it easy in the Bay in comparison – short commute, no food temptation at work, and gym at home. For me, there was absolutely no excuse not to be on top of my workouts and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. I had plenty of time to do everything I needed to do. I know with time I’ll adjust to my new L.A. life and schedule, but I would be lying if I said it’s easy to do all I did in the Bay. I have still been good about my workouts, and have tried to ignore the temptation the best I can, but I know I have more challenges to face than I did before.

So to everyone who knows how I feel, stay strong and positive! Remember that taking care of your mind, body, and soul is one of the most important and healthiest things you can do for yourself. When you think you don’t have the time or energy for the gym, tell yourself this is my ME time. It’s about shutting out all of the day’s stresses and doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. It’s hard, I know, but it’s worth it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don’t Be a Slave to the Scale

Recently, a couple of my friends commented that I look like I’ve lost some weight. But, when I stepped on the scale I still weighed pretty much what I’ve weighed for the past two years (give or take a couple of pounds here and there along the way). I tried to think about what I’m doing differently now than from the past that would make my friends think I look so much different when clearly the scale begs to differ. Funny enough, I eat more calories per day now than I did a year ago and I workout the same amount of days. So what HAS changed? I’ve focused more on my strength training, I eat protein at every meal and strive to get about 60 grams a day, and I continue to up the intensity (but, not the time) of my cardio sessions. So while I haven’t lost weight, I look leaner because I’ve swapped fat for muscle. It just goes to show you that sometimes the numbers on the scale don’t tell the whole truth. Don’t get me wrong, the scale is still a great indicator of your overall health. You should certainly utilize it to keep yourself on track, making sure that you aren’t gaining or losing large quantities of weight too quickly (both can be dangerous). But, when you’re at a healthy weight and you still think you need to lose five pounds, you may want to rethink your mindset. Instead of worrying about the numbers on the scale and focusing on completing more and longer cardio sessions, shift your focus to your strength training and protein intake. I guarantee that if you focus on eating approximately 20-40 grams of protein (20-25 for women, 35-40 for men) at every meal, eat frequently throughout the day, and spend more time on your strength training each week, you’ll look leaner and more toned! While strength training maybe doesn't burn as many calories as cardio, strength training does increase your metabolic rate more than cardio does post-workout so that you continue to burn calories for a couple hours after your workout. So don’t get stuck on the numbers on the scale. If you focus on incorporating more strength training and protein into your routine, you’ll see results!

While I'm on this topic, let me say one more thing about the scale. There is no need to weigh yourself more than once a week. If you weigh yourself every day, throughout the day you're going to drive yourself crazy because your body's weight naturally fluctuates. To stay on track, weigh yourself once a week at the same day and time, using the same scale each time. Preferably, you should weigh yourself first thing in the morning when you're naked. Weighing yourself once a week is plenty to monitor your progress accurately.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Healthy Summer Salads

Who doesn’t love a salad with their meal during summer? Pairing a salad with a meal is more refreshing than eating a heavy baked potato when it’s 90 degrees outside. Here are two great, easy, and healthy salads that I love during the summer. Both salads are filled with fiber and protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied and either goes great with grilled fish, chicken, or steak. So, forget the fattening Caesar salad, and serve up one of these healthy and yummy alternatives instead! Enjoy!

Spinach Strawberry Feta Salad (serves 4)

1 bag of pre-washed spinach
1 cup of reduced fat feta cheese
50-60 raw, unsalted almonds (or almond slivers)
2 cups of sliced strawberries
½ cup of Annie’s Naturals Fat Free Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Calories per serving: 225

Apple Walnut Salad (serves 4)
1 bag of pre-washed romaine lettuce (or whatever type you prefer)
½ cup of Sargento shredded parmesan cheese
2 medium granny smith apples sliced or chopped
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup of Trader Joe’s Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette

Calories per serving: 200

What's great about salads like these is that you can mix up the nuts, fruit, and cheese for an entirely different salad. Try pear with gorgonzola cheese. Or add cranberries to the apple walnut salad. Or, eat these salads as entrees by adding grilled chicken breast on top. Be as creative as you want!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Magic Pill?

This past weekend, I was reading my new Glamour magazine while I laid out in the sun (wearing SPF 30 sunscreen of course) jamming along to my iPod. I got to an article that asked if there was a magic pill that could…

• Slash your chance of getting breast cancer
• Help get rid of headaches
• Cut symptoms of depression almost in half
• Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 50 percent
• Make it easier to get pregnant when you want to
• Boost sexual arousal by 100 percent
• Improve your body image
• Make you fall asleep 40 percent faster
• And help you lose a pound a week
…would you take it? Of course, after reading the exact list above in my Glamour, I was nodding my head in agreement, thinking duh who wouldn’t take a pill that did ALL of that!

Guess what that magic pill is? Exercise! That’s right – 30 minutes a day will truly keep the doctor away! That is pretty powerful stuff! Like I’ve said in past posts, the benefits of exercise reach far beyond transforming your physique. If you want to feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally every day just get moving for 30 minutes! I can’t name one other single thing you could do that would have such an extensive impact on your overall health. What a small price to pay (if you even want to think of it like that) for such a great benefit! Talk about an amazing return on your investment!

Remember, exercise comes in all forms. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get in shape. Go outside and walk for 30 minutes, take a yoga class, go for a hike, go swimming, dance the night away, play tennis, work out to an exercise DVD or with Wii Fit, play volleyball, do jumping jacks and run in place, basically do whatever excites you and gets you MOVING for 30 minutes. Everyone has 30 minutes in the day so find the time and reap the rewards!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Insider’s Guide to Restaurants

For two years during college, I worked in the restaurant industry, working my way up from hostess, to to-go service, and finally to server. And let me tell you, working in a restaurant teaches you a lot! I have so many crazy stories from my restaurant days from my boss getting in a fight with a drunk customer, to a senior citizen choking and dying on a piece of steak right in the restaurant, to a woman flinging her baked potato across the table because it was wrong, to a mom spiking her underage son’s coke practically in front of my eyes. But beyond the crazy stories, memorizing the menu, and learning a lot about human behavior, I actually learned a lot about food (and no, we don’t spit in your food if you send it back, we may mock you and vent, but we don’t spit). Here’s just a few of the things I’ve learned while working in the restaurant industry:

1. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is cooked in butter. So the next time you think you’re being extra healthy by ordering a chicken breast, steamed veggies, and a baked potato with the toppings on the side, think again! The chicken breast is basted in butter, the veggies are soaked in butter, and the jacket of the potato is covered in butter. If you’re really trying to be healthy when you go out to eat then specify that you don’t want the extra butter on your meal. Most of the time, servers are more than happy to ‘86’ (remove) the butter for you.

2. A server’s job is to sell! If a server gets you to order an appetizer and/or dessert then your bill just went up and hopefully so did their tip! I don’t care how sweet and cool your server is their job is to sell you what you don’t need. And a lot of times, it’s hard to say no because people go to restaurants to relax and enjoy food, not to count calories, worry about every bite, and penny pinch. Nevertheless, you should still be weary; the most popular appetizer at the restaurant I worked for has a whopping 3,000 plus calories! Think about it, if a server successfully gets you to order an appetizer, dinner, AND dessert, just imagine how many calories you’re eating!?! It’s astronomical!

3. Nine times out of 10 the most frequent customers are obese. If you don’t believe there is a strong correlation between the amount you eat out and gaining weight, think again! From two years of working in the same restaurant, I can tell you that our ‘regulars’ were usually obese. And, really it isn’t rocket science. When you go out to eat versus cooking dinner, even if you order what you would cook at home anyways, the restaurant meal has 10x the amount of calories, fat, and sodium than the home-cooked meal does. Plus, you end up eating things you probably wouldn’t have eaten at home. Say you planned on cooking up sirloin steaks with veggies and a baked potato at home, would you necessarily pair that with a loaf of bread, Caesar salad, bottle of wine, and then finish the night off with dessert? Probably not, unless it was a special occasion or you were entertaining company. So imagine if you’re doing this once a week, or even twice a week at a restaurant? It adds up!

4. On a similar note, ‘regulars’ who have kids tend to also have obese kids. I was astonished at what parents would let their kids order when they were out to eat. One kid’s mom let him have three or four refills of coke. One parent convinced their kid to choose an even worse dinner than she originally wanted. This little girl wanted to order macaroni and cheese (which, is still ridiculously high in fat and calories), but her mom convinced her to get fried chicken fingers with French fries and ranch dressing, which is even worse! I just felt so bad for these kids when I worked in a restaurant. The choices these parents let their kids make, or made for their kids, do nothing but contribute to their obesity and declining health. Chilis chicken crispers for kids have a whopping 600 calories, 39 grams of fat, and 1,610 milligrams of sodium! Adults shouldn’t even consume this kind of meal on a regular basis, let alone kids!

5. Even those so called “healthy” meals on the menu aren’t that great. Cheesecake Factory’s Weight Management Grilled Chicken entrée still has 580 calories and 13 grams of fat. I could make grilled chicken at home, with a baked potato with a tablespoon of butter, and a side of asparagus for roughly 375 calories. So please, don’t be deceived by restaurants’ “healthy” menus. In all honesty, most restaurant items should have the nutrition facts of the so called “healthy” items and not even be labeled “healthy” because they’re still not that great. I guess it’s all relative though. If you’re out at Cheesecake Factory, the weight management chicken looks mighty healthy when you compare it to its Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken, which comes in at a whopping 1249 calories and 30 grams of fat. It’s pretty pathetic that the 1249-calorie chicken makes the 580-calorie chicken look healthy because neither is really that great! Personally, I’d rather stay in, make my 375-calorie chicken dinner and enjoy a glass of wine and strawberries with some whipped cream for dessert all for less than 550 calories.

The lesson here is to be mindful when you eat out. Trust me, I love eating out. It’s great to have someone serve you, not have to worry about cleaning up after dinner, and eating food you wouldn’t normally cook at home. I totally understand the appeal! But, if you’re really trying to watch what you eat, you need to either cut back on how often you eat out or be very specific with your server about what you do and don’t want in your meal. And trust me, cutting back on how often you eat out is a lot easier than going to a restaurant and making the healthy choice. For me, it’s real easy to tell myself all day that I’m not going to eat that bad when I go out to eat, but in all honesty the second I step into a restaurant my self control goes right out the window!

Also remember, if you do have kids, really be careful about eating out too often because kids’ menus are really pretty disturbing! Remember, your kids are not old enough to always understand the consequences of their decisions. They often turn to YOU, their parents, to help them make good choices because they value your opinion. So please, help them make the good choices when it comes to food. Most restaurants post nutrition facts on their websites. It is not a bad idea to scan the menu before dinning out to help your family make the right choices.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Need Some Inspiration?

I admit, there are days when I just really don’t feel like working out, where putting on my gym shoes feels more like a chore than an exciting challenge. I know how hard it can be to stay motivated and make exercising and eating right a consistent habit. Think about it, if it were so easy, we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic we currently have in this country. After a long day of work (and being in high heels), it’s not always easy to come home and hop right into the gym, but without fail I manage to make myself do it every single time (unless my body is super sore and really needs a night off) because life just isn’t that HARD and I have no excuse not to take care of my health! In fact, no one should make excuses to not take care of their health. And, being physically active is an integral part of being healthy.

Whenever I’m feeling uninspired about working out or eating right, I watch or think about the Biggest Loser on NBC. When I watch that show and see how hard the contestants workout in the gym, I think hey I can do that too! These contestants are 2-3 times my size, and push themselves way harder than I do. Now, I know it’s a reality show and that they are there for one single purpose, and that’s to lose weight. They have amazing trainers, 24-hour access to the gym, and no other responsibilities or obligations holding them back; they can fully focus on their goal. Nevertheless, what these contestants are doing is not easy. To get up every day and spend hours working out and being pushed to workout harder than they’ve ever worked out in their lives is AMAZING! And, every time I watch that show and see their progress and hard work I’m inspired. Whenever I am feeling unmotivated, I think about what these contestants do and think I have NO excuse not to get in my gym and workout. I have a young, fit, able body and I feel truly blessed for that. If people 2-3 times my size can do things 10x harder than I do, I truly have no excuse not to push myself.

If you ever feel like you CAN’T (I hate that word with a passion by the way) do something, watch this show and get some real perspective. You can overcome anything you want to – genetics, years of bad eating and exercise habits, low self esteem, etc. The only thing holding you back is YOU! If a 350-pound contestant like Michael (who started at over 500 pounds) can run a 5k on the treadmill for the first time in his life, anything is possible! You can change your circumstances at any age, any weight, any time. And, more importantly it doesn't matter what you did in the past, it matters what you do NOW, and what you plan to do tomorrow. So, please don’t say “can’t” and don’t come up with excuses. You CAN and you SHOULD exercise and take care of your body, no ifs, ands, buts about it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sweet Potatoes – A Year-Round Super Food!

We all know how important it is to get our fruits and veggies (especially fresh ones), but how many of us really do on a daily basis? It is much easier to grab processed, pre-packaged foods than it is to peel an orange or steam fresh broccoli. Even if it takes a little extra effort, it is worth the time it takes to eat fruits and veggies because they are loaded with the nutrients our bodies crave. Plus, you really get your bang for your buck with both because you can actually eat a good size serving of either for under 100 calories!

One of my new, favorite veggies to make is sweet potatoes. I grab a bag of pre-cut and pre-washed spears or cubes, which you can find in the produce section of any supermarket. Sweet potatoes are a great compliment to any meal, and are so sweet (as the name implies) and delicious. Here’s my recipe for making delicious sweet potatoes:

1 bag of pre-cut and pre-washed sweet potato spears or cubes
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more or less as desired)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy! It’s really that easy!

Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. And, the best part of all is that sweet potatoes satisfy my craving for something sweet!
To learn more about the benefits of eating sweet potatoes, click here:  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Information Overload

Every day I feel like I learn something new when it comes to nutrition and exercise. There are so many tips and tricks out there, that at times, it can be overwhelming to process it all! New studies come out all the time about new ‘super foods’ or how much exercise we really need each day. Then, there are all the different types of diets out there with varying approaches to weight loss. How does one navigate through so much information? To me, it’s kind of like fashion trends. Every month I get a new magazine updating me on what’s hot now and what ‘must have’ items I should invest in. It would be expensive, time consuming, and nearly impossible to follow every single trend out there. The same goes for nutrition and exercise, there is a lot of great information to choose from, but it would be simply too difficult to incorporate every single tip and trick you read about. Just like with fashion, you find the trends that work for you. And the same applies to nutrition and exercise, you have to find the tips and tricks that work for your lifestyle. Even when 80s fashion is the BIG thing, I just don’t go there because it isn’t my thing, no matter how cool it may be. It's not that it can't be cute on others, I just don't think it's cute on me. Well, the same applies for something like tofu, it may be a great healthy food, but it just isn’t my thing. But, that isn't to say it may not work great for someone else.

I know sorting through all the information isn’t easy, but don’t let it overwhelm you! Just pick out the information you feel you can successfully incorporate into your lifestyle. As I’ve said before, what works well for me, may not work well for you and vice versa. We all lead very different lives and have different advantages and disadvantages going for us. For me, I’m very fortunate to currently have a gym in my garage. It makes it very easy for me to workout at any given time. I’m also fortunate that I only have to cook for me. I can only imagine that it would be much more difficult to have a family depending on me for meals. On the other hand, I have a busy schedule between working full-time and going to school part-time. Also, I’m always on a budget, so I just can’t splurge on groceries for the sake of trying new foods all the time. We have to learn to make nutrition and exercise work for the lifestyle we have NOW. Just like we have to shop for the clothes that work for our bodies NOW, not the bodies we hope to have in three months when we lose 10 pounds. So, take a look at your life. What advantages do you have that would aid eating right and exercise? What road blocks do you have to navigate around? The sooner you identify these things the sooner you can tailor a plan that works with your specific lifestyle. For me, because I am busy and on a budget, I buy a lot of the same foods over and over again that I know are quick and easy to make. As much as I’d love to be a Martha Stewart and cook fabulously, healthy meals with tons of fresh ingredients every night, that isn’t my reality. Two nights a week I’m eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner as I literally drive to school. Of course, it would be great if we all had personal chefs and trainers helping us stay healthy, but for most of us that is never going to happen. Nevertheless, don’t let your circumstances hold you back or the overload of information bog you down. Understand your advantages and disadvantages and incorporate the tips and tricks that best work with your lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Clara County Gets it Right!

I couldn’t be more proud to live in Santa Clara County (well, for the mean time) right now!! Santa Clara County is the first county in the nation to put a ban on selling happy meals to kids. Although I generally believe less government is a good thing, this is one area where I think government regulation is crucial in leading the fight against (or waging the war for that matter) childhood obesity. Parents and private industry have FAILED miserably to look out for our children’s best interests. Here are some shocking facts from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office on obesity:
  • Two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. more than doubled (from 15% to 34%) among adults and more than tripled (from 5% to 17%) among children and adolescents from 1980 to 2008.
  • An obese teenager has over a 70% greater risk of becoming an obese adult.
I hope you're as outraged by these statistics as I am! I am ecstatic that government is taking action and targeting the fast food industry. Kudos to Santa Clara County's elected officials for prohibiting the fast food industry from luring kids in with toys. We cannot continue to market (what did you think the happy meal toys were for??) this processed, fattening garbage to our kids, because it is killing them!

Watch the ABC news clip about Santa Clara County’s proactive campaign here:

Also, check out this blog on the Los Angeles Times website:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bring on the Questions!

Someone who’s been reading my blog posts asked me a great question today that I’d like to share with everyone. This person commented that I seem very forgiving of my slip ups since I’m at my goal weight, but wondered how strict I was on myself when I was 15-20 pounds away from my goal weight. In the beginning, when I first decided to change my eating habits, I had to be very strict. To quote Albert Einstein, "The thinking that got you where you are today, won't take you where you want to go tomorrow." I couldn't continue to eat the way I was and expect to lose weight, so I pretty much cut out ALL bad food. I said NO to all the things I knew were holding me back including, dessert, dining out, office junk, big servings, high calorie and fattening foods, baking, etc. I also cut out my mindless and emotional eating especially when I wasn’t hungry. I had to learn to hold the power over food versus food holding the power over me. As I started losing weight, I slowly started reincorporating some of the foods I loved, but had cut out. Nevertheless, instead of eating them as often as I did, I ate them maybe once every 10 days and didn’t overdo it when I did. I learned to add back in the foods I missed, but also let go of the foods I could live without.

Another question this person asked me that I thought I’d comment on is that she noticed I don’t post how many fat grams are in my meals. This is because I know that my diet is mainly lowfat and the fats that I do eat are the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats in foods like peanut butter, avocado, almonds, olive oil, etc.

I just want you all to know that I welcome your comments, questions, concerns, ideas, suggestions, thoughts, etc. If you have something to say, please leave me a comment on my blog and I’ll address it. This blog is meant to help YOU the reader so bring on the comments!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Put it in Writing

I was watching the Biggest Loser a couple of weeks ago when personal finance expert Suzie Orman made a guest appearance. Based on all the contestants’ finances, Suzie Orman predicts who will win the Biggest Loser contest for the season. She accurately predicted last year’s winner mid-way through the season. This year, she was going to pick one contestant based on his finances, but when she found out that he didn’t write down and track what he was eating every day while on the show, she decided to bet on a different contestant to win.

You may be thinking what does the shape of your finances actually have to do with whether you’d win the Biggest Loser? And furthermore, why is writing down and tracking what you eat every day such a strong indicator of your success with weight loss or management? I’ll address the first question now. Budgeting and weight loss or management actually require many of the same principles. If you don’t watch your finances, or what you eat the numbers can really add up, and quick. The more you watch and manage both, the more successful you’ll be. I know exactly how much money I have in any of my bank accounts at any given time. I have a spreadsheet tracking my income and expenses so that I know what’s left over each month. Whenever I log into my online banking, I am never surprised at what I see, I know exactly what to expect. If I spend a little more one week than anticipated, I compensate the following week and spend less. I use these same principles when it comes to managing my weight. Every day I write down what I eat (or if it’s the weekend, I at least tally it in my head). At the end of each day, I write down my total for the day. If I eat more than expected one day (i.e. a birthday dinner, weekend BBQ, holiday, girls’ night out, etc.), I compensate the following day by getting right back on track and eat healthy. Again, just like my finances, I’m never surprised with where I’m at and this puts my mind at ease. It is a much better feeling to know that even if you overdo it now and then whether it’s financially or with food that you have the ability to do so because 1. You’re fully aware of your situation and know that you can do so and 2. You’re responsible 80% of the time, so you can allow yourself to be “out of control” every now and then without risking your progress. I would much rather be aware of both my finances and food choices than ignore them and one day wonder why I’m in debt or gained 10 pounds. If you stay on top of both, you’ll never have to be in that situation.

As for the second question I posed about writing down what you eat, I believe (and apparently Suzie Orman does too) that this is ESSENTIAL to being successful in losing or managing your weight. Now, of course there are plenty of people that don’t have a problem with their weight and don’t write down what they eat. Lucky them! But, there are A LOT of people (me included) who need to write down what they eat to be accountable. I’m getting to a place where I am pretty in tune with what I’m eating that I don’t have to write it down anymore, but I still like to because it really does keep me accountable. If I write it down, I won’t want to eat an extra this or that because I know I’ll have to track and face it. If you’re not writing down what you’re eating and trying to lose weight, how do you know what the problem is with your diet? It’s much easier to eat a few chips, have a few pieces of candy, or a bite of this and that when you don’t have to write it down. If you had to write down all your little unaccounted for nibbling throughout the day, you might be shocked how all those little things can add up (just like how all those cups of coffee at Starbucks can add up at the end of the month). Also, I’m guessing if you’re not writing it down then you’re probably not measuring out what you’re eating or conscious of nutrition facts either. As I’ve said before, most of us don’t know how to eyeball a correct portion, or how much fat or calories are in some of the foods we eat. If you’re aware of what’s in your food, measure out correct portions, and write it all down, how can you not be successful in managing what you’re eating? It forces you to come out of DENIAL. It forces you to see your problem areas and address them.

My advice is this, if you’re struggling with either losing weight or maintaining your weight, write down everything you eat for one week without making any tweaks to what you eat for the week. In fact, write down what you ate yesterday too so you really can’t tweak anything. At the end of the week look back and reflect on your choices. What did you learn? Did you learn that you’re not sure if you ate a cup or two cups of cereal in the morning? Are you unsure how many calories are in your dinner? Are you constantly snacking on candy at work? If you really want to understand what to change, you have to first know what your problems are, just like your finances! I challenge you to write down what you eat because it truly will help you succeed in your goals. Also, understand that all your small decisions add up, so remember to look at the big picture. Let’s put it this way, if you buy a tall cup of coffee at Starbucks for $1.50 (doesn’t sound like much) five days a week, you’ve spent $30 on coffee for the month!! Think how much you could save each month if you just bought a $14 bag of Starbucks coffee and brewed it at home for the month? Same applies to food, if you find out that you’re eating 150 calories in candy at work every day that adds up to 3,000 calories a month. Personally, I’d much rather eat the 250-calorie bowl of ice cream once a week and save 2,000 calories than eat unsatisfying junk everyday at work.

So remember, the more aware you are the more easily you can address any issues that arise with minimal effort. Track what you eat, and you’ll never get on that scale and wonder how you gained 10 pounds. The more you know the more power you have!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nutrition and Exercise Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

Nutrition and exercise are like peanut butter and jelly, you just can’t have one without the other (well, at least if you expect to see lasting results). Most people wouldn't just make a peanut butter sandwich without jelly or vice versa. While a peanut butter sandwich alone is still good (I’d have some doubts about a jelly sandwich), it isn't as good as it could be if you added jelly. Most people have their peanut butter sandwich with jelly, because we all know that together it is a dynamite and much more satisfying combination. The saltiness of the peanut butter just meshes so well with the sweetness of the jelly. Well, the same is true for exercise and nutrition. Sure, they're both good alone, but together they're a dynamite and much more effective combination. They mesh just as much (if not more) as peanut butter and jelly!

When it comes to exercise and nutrition, we all love to cut corners. Often, our mentality is to do whatever achieves the quickest and easiest results. Because changing the way you eat and incorporating exercise is a huge lifestyle change, many people will do one or the other, but not both. Ironically, doing one or the other is the LONG way to achieving results and is much HARDER! Some people continue their regular diets, but exercise and wonder why they don’t lose weight, and on top of that why they actually are finding themselves eating more. Others change the way they eat, but don’t incorporate exercise and wonder why they aren’t getting toned as they begin to shed fat. The obvious solution to these conundrums is that if you want the total package (i.e. lose weight, gain muscle and tone, have a faster metabolism, etc.) you have to do both. This is especially true if you want lasting results. Like I said, by only doing one or the other, you’re making the process that much longer and harder on yourself.

3,500 calories consumed equals one pound of fat. If you want to lose a pound a week (if weight loss is your goal), you need to cut 3,500 calories from your current diet. Now, you can go about this several ways. You can cut out 500 calories worth of food every day, burn 500 calories every day exercising, or do a combination of both. I love food way too much to cut out 500 calories a day from my diet, and I can't imagine spending seven days a week in the gym working out vigorously (because burning 500 calories through exercise calls for high intensity workouts), so in my opinion, I take the easy route and do both. Now, my goal isn’t to lose weight, only to maintain my current weight, but doing a combination of both allows me to easily stay where I’m at, eat healthy while still enjoying my favorite foods, and be active. Of course, eating healthy and being active have a host of other benefits beyond keeping me at my current weight. Eating healthy foods means I am getting more nutrients my body needs (and less artery clogging fats for that matter) and exercising means I am keeping my muscles, bones, and heart strong, as well as building my endurance; these are amazing benefits that will serve you well for your lifetime. And, one of the best benefits of exercising consistently is that once you reach your goal weight, exercise will help keep you there.

So remember, incorporate both exercise and nutrition into your lifestyle for lasting results. Doing both is much easier than placing the entire burden on one side of the equation. You’ll actually be able to stick with this course of action since it requires smaller tweaks to your diet and exercise routine. Trust me, you will feel and look better if you do both, and your body will thank you!

For more information on exercise’s affect on weight loss, read this recent, interesting article from the New York Times,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Look Back at My Own Journey

When I was younger, I used to envy people who could eat whatever they wanted and still look great. I would think why can’t that be me? Why do I have to be conscious about what I eat and workout so hard to achieve what comes naturally to others? Now, I look back and laugh. I am actually incredibly thankful that I have had to struggle because it’s made me a much stronger, healthier, and more appreciative person. I’d rather have to eat healthy and workout hard to stay in shape than be the person who eats whatever he/she wants (good and bad), never works out, and still manages to have a nice body. I guess it’s because I know that even though me and that other person may look the same on the outside, I’m 100 times healthier on the inside, and that’s what really counts.

I’ve always struggled with my weight ever since I was little because I’ve always had an extremely healthy appetite. I was the kid who didn’t want to order off the kiddy menu at the restaurant and the kid who ALWAYS had room for dessert after dinner. My dad recently reminded me that it was because I had two great chefs cooking for me (my mom and dad), and he’s right. My parents are both amazing cooks, and I grew up eating like a queen! While I never became obese, I was overweight for my age during most of my adolescence. I participated in sports and dance all through elementary, middle, and high school, but it wasn’t enough to combat the portion sizes and junk food I ate. A few times I went on diets and actually slimmed back down, but because diets are short-term fixes, the weight always came back (a quick note on this: even though I wasn't always happy with my weight, I've NEVER used extreme measures to lose weight, even then. I've never thrown up my food, starved myself, eliminated entire food groups from my diet, fasted, been on any liquid or other crazy diet, or taken over-the-counter weight loss pills). In high school, my weight struggles continued, and I reached my heaviest weight ever. I look back now and completely understand why. My friends and I were living off of fast food, pizza, and cookies. When I went to college, I slimmed down some, but as soon as I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with my two friends, the weight went right back on. Having two great friends as roommates equaled many pizza and ice cream runs, dinners out at our favorite restaurants, and 10 extra pounds.

At the end of 2004, I got serious about working out. Something just clicked one day for me and I wanted to be more active. I was paying money each month to be apart of San Diego State’s athletic club and I was using it maybe a few times a month. I decided that I wanted to make working out apart of my lifestyle, not just something I did once a week. From that point on, I never looked back! I have consistently worked out at least four times a week since I made that choice in 2004. I’ve also taken ownership over my food choices and have managed to maintain my current, healthy weight, eating habits, and workout schedule no matter what life throws at me. I am 30-40 pounds lighter than I was in high school and college and now have a healthy body mass index.

I remember what it felt like when I was insecure about my body and I never want to go back to that place. Knowing how far I’ve come makes me feel so good about my hard work. I used to be the girl who hated running, to the girl who runs three miles five days a week now. I used to be the girl who ate too much junk food, to the girl who makes the healthy choice 80-90% of the time. The changes I’ve made have changed my entire life. Not only do I feel more confident about who I am on the outside, I feel better about who I am on the inside knowing that my body is healthy. I am able to do so much more physically than ever before and it is beyond gratifying to see how much hard work, consistency, and determination have paid off.

When it comes to losing weight or leading a healthy lifestyle, you have to be in it for the long haul. Don’t workout and eat right for just a short-term goal like a vacation or wedding. While it is great to have short-term goals to keep you motivated, don’t forget the big picture. What keeps me motivated every day is how far I've come, how much I am able to physically accomplish, how rarely I get sick, how much more I can enjoy life and food without worrying what a slice of cheesecake or cheeseburger will do to me, and how nice it is to know that all my good habits will have a lasting affect on my vitality. Being in control of my life is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put into getting healthy. I am thankful everyday that I had to learn the hard way!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eat This, Not That

As I've alluded to in a previous post, not only do we not have a sense of appropriate portions in America, but we also really don't understand how many calories and fat are in some of our favorite foods. And trust me, some nutrition facts can be really scary!!

A great tool I discovered a couple years ago from my mom is the Eat This, Not That book from the editors of Men’s Health magazine. The book has become so successful that they now have five different versions of the book focusing on areas, including navigating supermarkets and restaurants, healthy food options for kids, and also a book detailing the absolute worst food in America. If you really want to have a better understanding of the choices you’re making in the supermarket or at your favorite eatery, grab this book and keep it handy. It’s a great tool when you’re out and want to know the healthiest options available to you whether it's at the mall, McDonalds, or Outback Steakhouse. This book has information on many favorite chain restaurants and fast food eateries comparing some of their healthiest options next to some of their worst options (and a lot of times they will surprise you). Or, if you are craving something unhealthy, it'll tell you which option is the lesser of the two evils. It also compares the best and worst options available in the supermarket from yogurt to lunch meat to frozen TV dinners. Finally, the book helps you navigate holidays, mall food, alcoholic beverages, and more.

To learn more, click here: This website has lots of great information, so go check it out and educate yourself about what you're putting in your mouth!

Friday, April 16, 2010

What’s on My Menu for Today?

Now that I’ve given you some advice on how to get healthy, you’re probably wondering what I eat in a typical day. Lucky for you, I write it down (I’ll be blogging about why you should write down what you eat in the near future). Along with what I eat in a typical day, I also drink 10-12 glasses of water every single day. So, here is what’s on my plate for today:

Breakfast – 7:15 a.m.
Quaker Oats High Fiber Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal with ½ cup of Silk Light Vanilla Soy Milk
Two cooked egg whites
Coffee with four tablespoons of Coffee-Mate Fat-Free Vanilla Creamer

Calories: 350
Fiber: 10 grams
Protein: 14 grams

Mid-Morning Snack – 9:30 a.m.
½ cup of 1% cottage cheese and pineapple chunks

Calories: 150
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 14 grams

Lunch – 12 p.m.
Chicken breast pita sandwich with hummus, lettuce, and tomato

Calories: 310
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 30 grams

Mid-Afternoon Snack – 3 p.m.
Medium banana
100-calorie pack of almonds

Calories: 200
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 5 grams

Dinner – 6:30 p.m.
Taco Salad: 4 ounces seasoned extra lean, ground turkey with lettuce, tomato, 2 ounces of avocado, ½ cup black beans, and 2 tablespoons of light ranch dressing

Calories: 400
Fiber: 12 grams
Protein: 42 grams

Today’s Grand Total
Calories: 1410
Fiber: 32 grams
Protein: 105 grams

I hope by seeing what I eat you understand that, 1. You can actually eat a good amount during the day and still be healthy and lose weight, if that is your goal (this one's especially important for the ladies to understand since so many of you think you should consume less than 1,200 calories a day, you know who you are), 2. You should eat frequently throughout the day (no skipping meals) and spread your calories out fairly evenly among your meals, and 3. There are actually a variety of yummy foods you can eat when you're trying to be more health conscious. My menu for today is just one example of foods I eat during the week, but I have plenty of other meal and snack options too. I make sure I have a lot of variety in my diet because that's what keeps me happy and satisfied!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh So Easy, Oh So Good!

This might just be my new, favorite supermarket find: Foster Farms All Natural Zesty Lemon Herb Breast Fillets (for detailed product information, click here: I threw these fillets in the oven Tuesday night for 25 minutes and out came delicious, juicy, already marinated and seasoned chicken! Talk about easy! Each package, which runs about $8-9 dollars, has approximately six servings in it. So far this week, I’ve eaten the chicken for dinner with butternut squash and broccoli and had it for lunch in a pita with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese. I think tomorrow night, my leftover chicken will make for a great salad!

Because chicken is already so versatile and easy to make, it’s a great way to not only stretch your dollar, but eat a variety of healthy meals throughout the week with little to no effort. Throw the chicken in a salad, wrap, or taco, or eat it with veggies, brown rice, or pasta. For only 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 23 grams of protein in a serving (half of a fillet) you can eat healthy, fill-up on lean protein, and never be bored with all the different ways you can incorporate it into meals. The best part is that there are three other marinades to choose from: garlic and herb, teriyaki, and fire roasted chipotle. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Measuring Cups are Your Friends!

No one really wants to admit they measure their food. No one wants to be caught counting out how many chips or cookies they are going to have. No one wants to be found reading nutrition labels before a meal. It’s funny that so many of us are ashamed of being aware. But, sadly, we all know how this looks from an outsider’s perspective; doing these things seems obsessive, unnecessary, and indicates you’re on a “diet,” which in their eyes is unfounded. Don’t feel ashamed if you do measure, count, or analyze nutrition labels because, honestly, most people have no idea what one cup of milk or half a cup of vegetables looks like.

In a society where everything is ‘super-sized’ and more is always better, we’ve lost our sense of what a reasonable portion is. Measuring things out helps us either re-learn what we’ve long forgotten or never learned. Thankfully, as people become more conscious of what they're eating, companies have FINALLY wised up by making smaller, healthier portions of items (i.e. 100-calorie packs). Between measuring cups and healthy, pre-portioned items you should have the tools you need to understand what a reasonable portion is and make educated choices.

I fully admit that I measure my food on a daily basis (unless, I am allowing myself to eat whatever my little heart desires). If I didn’t measure, one cup of milk would become a cup and a half, four ounces of chicken would become eight, and two tablespoons of peanut butter would become three or four. You’re probably thinking, “How could that be, doesn’t she know what a reasonable portion is by now?” Well, yes, I know approximately what a cup and tablespoon each look like, but I also know that I have the tendency to ‘super-size’ my portions because I love food. For whatever reason, we always believe we need more food than we really do because our minds react before our bodies have the chance to. Remember that it takes approximately 20 minutes before your body registers that it has had enough food. Measuring forces you to become aware of what you're taking in, understand what your body really needs, and ultimately, become accountable to yourself.

How can you truly be accountable for what you’re eating if you have no clue how much you’re eating? If you’re really trying to lose weight, know you’re not good with portion control, or have no idea what a recommended serving looks like, I suggest you start measuring your food until you understand what a reasonable portion is. It’ll change your attitude about the foods you eat when you realize how many calories are in each serving of your favorite foods.

Did you know the recommended serving for ice cream is half a cup? Dreyer’s Loaded Cookie Dough ice cream has 130 calories and 4.5 grams of fat in half a cup. Not too bad, right? Now, do you know what half a cup looks like? It’s about the size of a tennis ball. Raise your hand if when you scoop yourself ice cream from the carton that it’s about the size of a tennis ball? Is your hand down? Mine is (this is exactly why I like pre-portioned ice cream)! This is a great example of why you should measure food. While most of us understand how many calories are in a portion, few of us know what a portion really looks like.

I’m not suggesting that you become so uber-conscious about measuring that you don’t eat something unless you know that food’s nutrition facts and portions. That’s a little extreme! What I am suggesting is this, if you don’t feel that you have a basic handle on correct portion sizes and nutritional information about the food you eat, you really should invest some time in measuring out and learning about the foods you love. Once you have a better understanding of these concepts, you’ll be able to make informed choices, which will lead you to making healthier decisions. It’s much easier to eat Cheesecake Factory’s Four Cheese Pasta when you have no idea when you’ve eaten one cup of pasta, or what the entire entrée’s nutritional content is. It’s much harder to eat that same pasta when you realize it's probably 10x the recommended serving size for pasta (which is half a cup) and a whopping 1,240 calories!

So please, don’t be ashamed of becoming more aware through measuring because you’re the one who will benefit from this information. Knowledge is power my friends!

For more information on portion control and weight loss, click here

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the Weight Loss Game, Know Your Own Weaknesses

I get a lot of questions from people about whether they should or shouldn’t do something, or what would I do in their situation. These can be tough questions because what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. My best friend can count off eight chips and two tablespoons of dip and feel satisfied that she got to eat what she wanted, but didn’t over do it. This can be a great weight loss strategy, but for me it wouldn’t work. How do I know this? Because too many times eight chips has turned in to “hmm I wonder how many chips I’ve had, I lost count.” Another friend of mine asked me, if I knew I was going to a restaurant where I’d be tempted by greasy appetizers, would I eat a snack first to ward off any cravings for appetizers? Again, this can be another great strategy for some people, but for me it wouldn’t work. I’d be the person who ate the snack thinking this would be a strong enough defense against the appetizers, but then break down and eat the appetizers too. My advice to anyone reading this is to learn your own weaknesses. There are a million and one weight loss tricks you can employ to be successful; find the ones that work for YOU.

Through a lot of trial and error and acceptance, I’ve learned to stop lying to myself about what I can and can’t handle. Trust me, you will feel a lot more free if you own up to what does and doesn't work for you. Here’s a list of my weaknesses and how I stay strong against them (if and when I need or want to):

1. Buffets or Spreads – There is nothing more tempting and fun to me than walking into someone’s home where there is a table full of delicious food options. For me, if I stand by that table and start eating a little of this and that, it’s going to turn into a lot of this and that. I am powerless over buffets and spreads where the food is so accessible and in my face. I recognize this and have two options. If I want to partake, I don’t count or stress out about how much I am eating because I already know I’m going to eat what I want and how much of it I want. If I don’t want to partake, I steer clear of the food or I only load my plate up with veggies and fruit.

2. Anything Sweet That is Not Pre-Portioned – If its chocolate, cake, ice cream, or anything else that's sugary and it is not already in a nice pre-portioned size it = DANGER for me. I can’t buy a gallon of ice cream to keep around the house unless I accept exactly what is going to happen to that gallon. I would be lying to myself if I really believed that I was going to grab a measuring cup and only eat the recommended serving size of half a cup. Honestly, if I am helping myself to a bowl of ice cream I am probably serving myself four to five times that. I know I am weak in this regard. So, instead I buy pre-portioned ice cream because I do much better that way. Same goes for cake. If you ask me to cut myself a slice, trust me, it won’t be 1/16th of the cake; it’ll be more like 1/5th of the cake. I am much better off eating a cupcake, where I don't have to decide on the portion to serve myself. Again, if I am in the mood for cake or ice cream from the carton fine, but then I recognize and accept that I am not going to have just a taste or a small serving.

3. Baking – I cannot bake without eating the batter and frosting throughout the whole process. So if I’m in the mood to bake, I fully embrace the role of ‘taste tester.’ My best friend on the other hand, can bake for all sorts of events and not lick the bowl. I don’t know how she does it!

4. Leftovers from Work – this is a new realization I’ve come to. In the past month or two there have been leftover goodies from events or holidays that I will ignore all day at work, but then someone will say, “Why don’t you take some of this home?” I say “yes,” truly believing I will give it to a friend. But, what happens? I eat it before the poor goodie even has a chance to make it in to my refrigerator or cupboard. I’ve decided to stop lying to myself. If I take it home, I’m taking it home for me, and if I don’t want it, then I’m better off leaving it behind.

5. Bread at Restaurants – I love how I tell myself before I go to a restaurant that I can and will ignore the bread basket. I won’t. I accept that now. I love bread, especially from Italian restaurants where I can dip it in olive oil and I realize I am not going to ignore it. This leaves me with two choices, I can either factor it in to the night or forgo going out to dinner. I can’t lie to myself about this one anymore.

6. Mexican Food – Mexican food kills me! It’s not the entrée so much as it is the chips and salsa before dinner and that grande delicioso margarita (pretty much the most calorie-laden alcoholic beverage you can order) I enjoy. If I am going to have Mexican food then I better be prepared to indulge myself because it will happen.

7. Donuts and Pizza – I love donuts and pizza! If either is around, I’m either going to have multiple servings, or I’m going to have to pretend they don’t exist all together. The choice is mine.

8. Cheese – I would rather lose a limb (well, ok not really) than give up cheese. I never met a cheese I didn’t like. You can only imagine what a deadly combo it is for me to be at someone’s house where the spread involves lots of cheese!

On the flip side, there are certain bad foods that surprisingly don’t tempt me in the least, and I never have to worry about going overboard on them:

1. Salt – I crave sugar, but I don’t have the salt craving. I can pass on fries, popcorn, mashed potatoes, chips (well unless they are tortilla chips when I am out for Mexican food), you name it.

2. Pastries – I love donuts, but pastries don’t do it for me. I’m just not interested in croissants, muffins, jelly or chocolate filled pastry puffs, etc.

3. Candy – unless it is chocolate candy, I don’t crave it. I could be surrounded by Skittles, jelly beans, and licorice and not be tempted one bit!

4. Hot Dogs and Cheeseburgers – I really like both, but neither sends me over the edge the way pizza does!

5. Fast Food – I never crave fast food. I only have one exception; occasionally I’ll want In-N-Out. But, other than that, I never crave McDonalds, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., etc.

6. Soda – I will occasionally drink a diet soda, but I never miss drinking the real thing.

7. Mayonnaise – I can truly take it or leave it when it comes to mayonnaise. I like it on some sandwiches, but I never feel deprived if I don’t have it.

8. Fancy Coffee Drinks and Smoothies – I don’t feel like I am missing out by not drinking frappuccinos with whipped cream and chocolate syrup or extra large Jamba Juice smoothies. I actually like my Starbucks skinny vanilla and caramel lattes. I guess I am not one for drinking my calories, well, unless it is in the form of a margarita.

The key to being successful in weight loss is to know which bad foods or situations are “triggers” for you and how to handle them. Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve lied to yourself about what you can handle. Try to reflect on this because power comes from knowing your own weaknesses. And, if there is something you are weak for, accept it, and learn how to deal with it. I’m never not going to love cheese or margaritas, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this!! I am not eating these things every day; I’m only having them on occasion. At the same time, if it’s a time I need to avoid them, I know how to do that too. And, don’t just focus on your weaknesses; think about your strengths too! If it makes you feel better, write a list of all those bad foods or situations that you can pass on without flinching (these might be the same foods that would make someone else weak in the knees). It’ll make you feel better to know that while you’re weak in some areas you're really strong in others. So, stop telling yourself lies, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and learn to use both to your advantage.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Healthy Snack You’ll LOVE to Eat

Are you looking for a healthy snack that doesn’t taste like cardboard or artificial sweetener? Well, look no further because I have the perfect snack for you! I learned this one from my mom when I was a little girl.

1 English muffin (try whole wheat)
½ cup of lowfat (1%) cottage cheese
4-6 strawberries sliced
1 tablespoon honey

Toast an English muffin (I like the double fiber wheat ones by Thomas) and top each side with approximately ¼ cup of lowfat (1%) cottage cheese. Then, add sliced strawberries on top of that and finally drizzle it with a little honey. Each side of the muffin has approximately 150 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber (if using the double fiber English muffins).

This is a perfect midday snack or a great compliment to scrambled eggs or an omelet on the weekend instead of waffles or pancakes. Bon Appétit!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC

If you haven't watched this show yet, DO! Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution airs on ABC on Friday nights and it is truly an eye-opening show. It's sad to see how backwards our mindset is in America when it comes to eating healthy. To me, what's even more disturbing is how much junk food is marketed to our youth and sadly, how many unhealthy food choices are made available in our public schools. Without getting too much into this subject right now (because I could write a 30-page paper on the issue), watch the following clip (about the first minute of the clip) from Jamie Oliver's show

I hope you're just as outraged as I am that French fries are considered a vegetable in public schools. And we wonder why more than 35% of America's youth (from ages 6-19) are classified as overweight according to the Center for Disease Control.

Support Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution by clicking here:

"Falling Off the Wagon"

There’s no more appropriate time to talk about “falling off the wagon” than as the weekend comes to a close and Monday nears. How many Mondays have you said, “Today is the day I am going to start my diet” or “today is the day I am going to get back on track?” Haven’t we all said these things? It’s probably because we had a great weekend with friends and family filled with dinning out, BBQs, family dinners, dessert, pizza and a movie, etc. Yep, you know what I’m talking about, those wonderful weekends that have you asking yourself Monday, “Why oh why did I eat all that food?” My question to you is, “Why oh why must we beat ourselves up so much over the foods we enjoy?”

What I am here to tell you is that it is ok to fall off the wagon. That’s probably not what you would expect me to say, but really, it is OK (for quite a few reasons in fact)! But, before you get too excited, let me just say this, when I say it is ok to fall off the wagon that means on occasion. I am not promoting that you should feel free to spend all weekend gorging on junk food without a care. What I am suggesting is that you allow yourself to eat something you really want (even if it's bad) every now and then without feeling bad about it.

So, let's get right to it. I’d be truly worried about you if you told me that you eat ‘perfect’ seven days a week and workout five days a week. Let me explain. If you suppress your desire to eat your favorite foods, whether its pizza, lasagna, or a double bacon cheeseburger, your restraint will only backfire on you. Think of it this way, if you always hold inside your true feelings when you’re feeling mad at your roommate or sad about something your partner did or didn’t do, what will happen? That’s right, sooner or later all those little things you hold inside are going to push you over the edge and you’re going to explode at that person. Wouldn’t it be better to just express how you feel once in a while and move on than hold it inside and then say things that are probably 10 times worse and more dramatic than need be? The same applies to food. If you tell yourself “I am going to be ‘perfect’ every day,” what do you think is going to happen? That’s right, one day you’re going to break down, and instead of just having two slices of pizza you craved a week ago, you’re going to have half a pizza pie, plus ice cream, and popcorn. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there!

I think my absolute favorite food is pizza. I haven’t had it in a few months (and not because I’ve been suppressing a craving, but because I haven’t really thought about it). Last night, I ordered a pizza and ate five amazingly delicious slices! My old self would probably beat myself up for that, think about it for hours, and make myself miserable over it. Then, you want to know what would happen? All that stress over what I ate would just make me eat even more!

Now, I don’t view eating the things I love as a bad thing or something worth stressing over. Instead, I enjoyed my delicious pizza, even had a little frozen yogurt for dessert and didn’t think twice about it (well except of course to write this blog). Why doesn’t it bother me anymore? Because I work hard! I workout five days a week, I eat healthy most of the time, and I’m consistent with both. I work hard, to play hard (i.e. eat pizza and frozen yogurt if I feel like it). What’s the point of working hard, if you don’t reap the fruits of your labor? I’m not suggesting that eating healthy and working out is all work and no fun and that I do it to eat more and eat bad. Not at all! I love working out, I love how it feels after I’ve ran three miles in under 30 minutes. And, I love eating healthy! I love salads, veggies, fruit, grilled chicken, etc. I don’t have to force these things down my throat at all. I’d gladly eat an apple with peanut butter over Oreos as a snack. I just love eating – I am weak for some things that aren’t so healthy for you like an In-N-Out animal-style cheeseburger and pizza, but I also crave cereal topped with fruit and turkey pita sandwiches with hummus.

The point is you can’t beat yourself up for enjoying the foods you love. This will only cause you to stress out and eat more. Instead, enjoy the foods you love, even if they’re bad, just don’t forget to love the foods that are good for you just as much and eat them more than the bad foods. The key is moderation and balance! If you remember those two things, you’ll honestly be just fine. Do you want to know the best part about enjoying the junk you love? It actually keeps your body guessing when you break up your routine, which in turn revs your metabolism. So go ahead, eat your cookie, but please wash it down with a fat-free glass of vitamin D and calcium-rich milk!