Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Eat Whatever You Want, Have No Guilt, and Never Gain Weight

That sounds really great doesn't it? Well it is. But it's not what you think.

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with my sister (Hi sis!) about our latest annual trip to the Big E. I was telling her that I felt awful and didn't sleep well that night after the fair. I told her that next day I felt kind of hung over and even went for a skate to try and sweat out the toxins from the junk food I ate. Well, she misunderstood what I was saying and thought that I felt bad because I felt guilty about eating all that stuff.

The truth is I didn't feel guilty at all. I may have felt a little regretful as I tossed and turned that night unable to sleep, but no guilt.

When I'm at the Big E I eat whatever I want. I have no guilt about it. And I never gain weight. How does that work?

For one thing, I'm not a fan of regularly scheduled cheat days or cheat meals. So, my regular diet is pretty darn healthy most of the time. Once in a while, sure, I indulge, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Often times I realize that I'm thinking about an indulgence because of an emotional trigger. I'm stressed or tired or bored. If I can recognize that my craving is emotional rather than a genuine desire for the less than healthy food, I won't do it. Now, I don't always catch myself in time, but that's another story.

Another factor is my attitude going into it. When I go to the fair it's not about a compulsion to eat everything in sight or even to eat certain things. It's about simply allowing myself the freedom to eat whatever appeals to me.

In case you're wondering, here's what appealed to me this year: 1 corn dog (my very first ever!), a couple scoops of cashew caramel ice cream in a waffle cone (delicious), 1 big ole slice of cheesy peperoni pizza, and last but not least a Big E cream puff (it's a tradition). 

The point is that I'm not getting into a lack mentality. I don't worry that I'll never have the chance to indulge like this again. I don't worry that there's some goody I'm going to miss. I'm relaxed about it and make sure to remember that there's more than enough.

I also avoid the perfectionist mindset. Since I planned to let myself eat whatever I wanted there's no reason to feel guilty when I actually do it. There's no need to feel like I've ruined everything in that one junk food filled day. I just go right back to healthy eating the next day.

In addition to my approach to food, I try to stick to my workout schedule. After all there's no better time to make sure I'm getting in a good fat burning session then the days around going to the fair. Despite it being a very long day I even fit in a workout the morning we went. It was a quick, very intense 10 minute workout.

While I do eat junk food from time to time, my policy is that I have to make it from scratch (I even bought an ice cream maker earlier this year). I stick to this with very few exceptions. So, when I eat junk food I may get too much fat and calories, but I don't get all the HFCS, trans fats, preservatives and other chemicals  that you find in processed foods. My theory is that the reason the junk food from the Big E made me feel sickly was not that it was a departure from grilled chicken and kale (for example), but all the nasty chemicals that were probably in it.

Does this mean I'll try to eat healthier next year when I go to the fair? Well, we'll see...

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Does It Really Take To Get (and stay) Fit?

photo credit: dierk schaefer via photopin cc
If you really want to get and stay fit the first thing you need to address is your mindset. Start by being honest with yourself about whether you're ready to make your health and fitness a priority.

I've seen it over and over. A new client says that they want to get in shape. They tell me that they want to lose weight or tone up or whatever their goal is. Then I notice in the questionnaires I have them fill out that they've stated their commitment level as a 7 or 8 and I know they're not ready. Of course it's more than just the answer to that one question that tells the story, but that one is a tip off. I always hope that once they get started and gain some momentum things will click. Sometimes that happens, but often it doesn't and I'm not surprised when they quit.

I'm not passing judgement here. All I'm saying is that they weren't ready. If you're not ready, if you don't have the right mindset in place, you won't succeed in getting and staying fit. Moving from a lifestyle and habits that don't support your health and fitness to a healthy, fitness centered lifestyle requires a lot of changes and what may feel like (at first anyway) a lot of sacrifices. If you don't have the right mindset you won't be able to get yourself to do what it takes.

The key is that you must decide you want it and commit to making it a priority. If you're not 100% sure at first, then the thing to do is to jump in and take action. Set your resistance and your doubts aside and go for it. At worst you'll find out, pretty quickly, that getting fit is not truly a priority for you. You might find out that it was a should or that it was something you were doing because others expected of you.

However, if you do find out that you really are ready and you have the mindset in place then here are a few tips to keep you going.

Have a plan. Planning helps eliminate having to make decisions in the moment. The trouble with decisions in the moment is that they rely on willpower. As you may have discovered (I know I have) willpower is notoriously unreliable. Plan out your workouts for the week. Plan out your meals. You don't have to get super detailed with your plans, but the more details you include in your plan, the fewer decisions you'll be faced with later.Your plan will help make staying on track a no brainer

Find the program, diet and exercise, that works for you. Never pick a program and decide it's that or nothing. There is no one size fits all. If you try out a routine and it's not working with your schedule or you just don't like the type of workouts, pick something else. If the diet plan is boring and leaves you hungry all the time, adjust. Find new foods. Figure out if you need more calories (it happens all the time!).

Do not aim for perfection. A great saying is, all or nothing always ends up being nothing. Finding the right diet means a diet that you enjoy or at least satisfies you. It also means making room for allowances and treats now and then. Because if you insist on perfection and you constantly feel deprived and restricted eventually you'll rebel (a.k.a. binge). The same logic goes for your workouts. You need to work hard and you need to be consistent, but if you never take a break, you'll get burned out or worse, end up injured. Some days you're body will need to go a little easier. Other days your body will need a rest. These things are part of a plan that us normal (i.e. not perfect) humans can actually live with.

Lastly, create a new identity. Change the things that define you. Practice the new ideas until they become automatic. For example you might decide that eating at fast food restaurants doesn't support your fitness goals and you want to stop doing that. Decide that you are a person who does not eat at fast food restaurants. Say you want to commit to daily workouts. Decide that you are a person who works out every day. Begin to identify with these statements. Take ownership of them.

It won't take long before you find yourself with the option to eat at Micky D's and the choice is clear... you don't eat at fast food restaurants. You might be tempted to blow off a scheduled workout, but then you remember... you are a person who works out every day. Redefining your identity around these things means there's no willpower needed, there's no choice to be made, it's just who you are.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Food Logging - Is It Worth the Effort?

photo credit: Eric Rice via photopin cc
Seriously. Doing food logs is a drag. It's laborious, tedious, boring. Not to mention you keep forgetting to do it. Then you've got three or four days worth of meals to log to get caught up and it's completely overwhelming. What's the point anyway? You know what you're eating, right? Maybe not.

Are you working out regularly? Do you think you're eating right, but can't seem to lose weight? You need to log your food. I'm not saying you need to log everything you eat or drink for the rest of your life. All you need is a good solid week's worth periodically. However, you may find it sort of addictive and find yourself logging for several weeks at a time. Here's why...

What will food logging do for you? It gives you a wealth of information that you can use to reach your goals. It tells you how many calories you're eating and calories do matter. It also matters what those calories are made of. How much fat are you eating? How much sodium is in your diet? How much sugar? If you have this information  it can help you make dietary adjustments that will get you results.

When I talk about keeping food logs I'm not talking about pen and paper, although that is certainly an option. I'm talking about using one of the many online sites that offer this service for free. Specifically, the one I have in mind is myfitnesspal. I've found it easy to use. It's got a good database of foods and lots of great features that make it a really comprehensive site for food and exercise logging too.

You've probably heard it said that weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet. Maybe you've heard the expression, "Abs are made in the kitchen"? How about, "You can't outrun your fork."?

The idea is not that exercise isn't important. It's just that diet has a lot of power and people often think that they can exercise their bad diet choices away. It's very easy to eat back the calories you burn in a typical workout. While it feels like you're putting the most effort into your workouts, it's your diet that requires the most time, focus and planning.

It's true that we are hard wired to enjoy food. That fact is part of what keeps us alive. So, all this regulating, counting, planning, calculating and logging might seem counter intuitive. It seems like we should simply be able to listen to our bodies and know what to eat, when and how much. The trouble is that all our triggers have gotten mixed up in a world of over abundant cues to eat... not to mention what the food industry has done to our food to cause confusion in our bodies systems that regulate hunger and satiety (if you'd like to know more on that, this is a great book on the subject, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite).

So, as un-fun and unnatural as it may seem, food logging can be an incredibly helpful and sometimes necessary tool in losing weight as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

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