Monday, June 15, 2009

Sweet Temptations

Let’s face it – if we have a weight issue – and who doesn’t these days? – it’s most often due to a lack of willpower. We tend to use food, particularly desserts, as a salve for other things going on in our lives that make us uncomfortable – things we’d rather not deal with - or forget - or gloss over with something we know we love, like food to switch our focus, if only for a moment.

Once you’ve decided to pay more attention to how much you are eating – you may decide that not having certain items in the house is the best way to battle temptation. If it’s not in the pantry or refrigerator, you can’t eat it, right?

A friend mentioned that she has bought several cupcakes with the idea that she will only eat one a day. If she can do that, keeping track of the calories, that’s great. But what is going to keep her from diving into a second one or a third or even all of them if temptation gets the best of her? Many of us wouldn’t stop at one. If we didn’t struggle with willpower, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. After the first cupcake – it would be too easy to start justifying the second one:

‘OK, so if each cupcake is X amount of calories, I’ll subtract the second one from tomorrow’s calorie count. It’s all about our total calories for the entire week, right? 3500 calories is 3500 no matter how you slice it. A pound is a pound, right?’

But you know what will happen. Tomorrow rolls around, you’re hungry for sugar – you not only don’t like the idea of subtracting last night’s cupcake from today’s calorie count, but you also don’t like the fact you won’t get today’s cupcake. And then there is the shrug-your-shoulders-and-eat-it-anyway, excuse. You only live once, right? And it’s only a cupcake for heaven’s sake.

May I offer a suggestion? Don’t buy desserts in multiples. Resist a full-sized cake or pie or a dozen donuts or anything that’s going to give you more than one serving of dessert, unless you have someone at home to share it with. You’re only making your battle with food, harder. Yes, if you can eat only one cupcake like my friend believes she will, you’ll feel proud of yourself in the morning, knowing you struggled and won the day. But how will you feel if you ‘slip’ and have two or all? You’ll probably feel physically bloated and a little ill from the sugar rush – but more importantly, you’ll risk feeling a failure – disgusted with yourself for not finding that elusive willpower. Not a good way to strengthen your resolve and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. We don’t get very far by taking two steps backward. Do yourself a favor. Buy one cupcake. Eat one cupcake. Be proud of yourself. Move on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Start Small

Just read a friend’s blog in which she said over the past couple of months, she has introduced little changes into her eating lifestyle to help improve her health: a few more low-calorie meals; yogurt in place of some desserts; introducing healthier items like oatmeal and fruit into her meals each week. It’s a wonderful plan. It’s hard sometimes, to go cold turkey – to get up one morning and decide you’re going to change the way you eat and how you see yourself and there will be no going back. Yes, there are those who can do it, but for those who find that too much change at once – it can set us up for a bad fall and then we end up going overboard in the wrong direction. A gradual change is a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce good habits into your life.

Why not do one new thing for yourself this week that is healthier? Maybe you slowly peel and eat an orange instead of scarfing down that slice of pie? Try a handful of nuts in the afternoon as a pick-me-up instead of that vending machine candy bar? Have a flavored bottle of water instead of that large cola.

It’s a start – it will help you feel in control of your life - and you are worth the effort. Do it for yourself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

No Quick Weight Loss Schemes

By now, you’re probably well aware of two major weight-related stories in the news. The FDA recall of the weight loss product Hydroxycut due to reports of liver problems that have claimed at least 1 life, and actress Kirstie Alley – famously seen on Oprah a couple of years ago after losing 70+pounds on Jenny Craig. A recent appearance on Oprah showed Alley has gained back all the weight she lost and then some. It’s so regretful that people get hurt by these artificial attempts at weight loss. It’s sometimes tough for people to accept, but it’s true. There is no real and/or healthy short cut to weight loss. It takes commitment, it takes discipline, and it takes a mental lifestyle change. That doesn’t include some quick-fix, “I lost 50 pounds in 3 weeks” diet drug or plan.

Save your health by doing it the right way – eating better and eating less. Put yourself first when it comes to your diet. Don’t finish what the kids leave on their plates. Don’t eat the leftovers in the refrigerator that nobody else wants unless they fit into your calorie count for the day. And don’t let getting into that wedding dress or looking good for your high school reunion prompt you to submit yourself to some diet scheme. When you go back to your old habits, (because you haven’t learned a new approach to eating), the pounds you might have shed will all come back, and maybe 5-10 more added to them. If done right, the weight does come off faster and easier than you may realize. And the effects last longer. Hopefully, a lifetime.

You do deserve better. Don’t you?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Visual Rewards

It’s critical that while taking the pounds off slowly, we keep up with what our bodies are doing every day, else we run the risk of becoming discouraged because we can’t ‘see’ progress. It’s why I keep a calendar on the wall of my bathroom, and each day after I step on the scales, I write down the number on that date.

I realize however, that some of you might not feel comfortable staring at the numbers all the time. Besides what’s most important is that you’re sticking to your new eating lifestyle another day. So, how about this? Instead of recording your actual daily weight on your calendar, why not put a symbol on the date to show how you’ve honored yourself and your promise with better eating habits that day? I like to draw a smiley face in one corner of the date box if I’ve come in at or below that day’s calorie limit. If I over-indulge, I draw a frown. By using a symbol to record progress, I’m not focusing on the results of my efforts – like a change in weight – as much as I'm seeing where my chief struggles lay – the commitment to myself.

You’ll quickly see whether you’re actually serious about your weight loss. If you can look at 2 weeks of smiley faces, or stars, or whatever you choose, and you’ve not lost a pound? You’ll know it’s not because you haven’t been trying. Hang in there. It will happen. If, however, every other day, or two days out of the week you have drawn a frown, then you just might not be serious about this after all – and in fact, you might be sabotaging yourself for some reason.

It doesn’t matter what you use – what’s important is to recognize that we are visual creatures. Isn’t that why a plateful of cheese fries or chocolate brownies gets us every time? It looks so good? Therefore, we should fight the battle with something visual, too – a visual confirmation if you will, to our commitment to do the right thing. We can be in control and we can win the battle!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding Comfort Elsewhere

What comforts you? Oh, we all know food is at the top of our list! But what other thing comforts you? What makes you feel secure, warm and fuzzy – what other thing makes you feel nurtured and rejuvenated if not food? That is the thing you want to find.

As indicated in the previous entry on stress eating, we know that food is the one thing so many of us turn to first when we are feeling stressed or otherwise overwhelmed. But in the long run, it adds to our stress because the extra weight it creates gives us more to worry about!

The idea is to break that instinctive reach for food and instead replace it with a ‘reach’ for something else – the next best – and positive - thing. Whether it’s great art, crossword puzzles, or sex – replacing the automatic and thoughtless habit of eating, with something that can focus our attention elsewhere for that moment, can help interrupt that laser beam that draws us to the kitchen! The result just might be the same if not better sense of satisfaction that will in turn, better enrich our lives and fill our souls without over-filling our bodies.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stress Really Bites!

Stress eating. I think it hits all of us who struggle with the pounds. It’s about comfort. Stress makes us feel upset, unsure, and unstable - stretched and pulled all different directions. A child can hug a teddy bear, but where do adults go for that feeling of security and balance again - to recapture our peace and calm? Well, for many of us, it’s our refrigerator or pantry. What’s more comforting than sitting down to a bag of cookies or a big piece of pound cake? (Aptly named, by the way.) Or perhaps instead of a sit-down nosh, your stress eating manifests itself in grazing all day long. Sort of like a smoker who is comforted by the feel of their lips curled around a cigarette – some stress eaters are comforted by mindless hand-to-mouth nibbling.

Of course the obvious problem with this kind of self-comforting effort is the additional stress we inflict on ourselves when we see the results we’ve “gained.” More weight on a body that doesn’t need it and a mind that doesn’t want it, equals what? More stress. Yikes! The very thing we’re trying to salve only gets worse.

Here are 8 tips, (thank you to help us get over or at least get through stressful moments and hopefully keep us from wrapping ourselves in a blanket of calories to feel better.

1. Anger Management – practice letting go, making a conscious effort/choice not to become angry or upset – too much energy and thought is wasted on this often unproductive emotional state.

2. Breathe – slowly and deeply. Take three deep breaths and release them slowly before reacting to the next stressful situation.

3. Speak slowly – slowing down our speech enables us to think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations.

4. Time management – select one simple thing you’ve been putting off and do it now. Return that phone call, make that doctor’s appointment. Having an undone task or responsibility hanging in the backs of our minds adds to our daily stress level.

5. Get out – fresh air really does help! Don’t be deterred by bad weather or a too full schedule. Take a few minutes – even 5 – standing on a balcony or on your front porch – it can rejuvenate you.

6. Drink water – dehydration can add to our feelings of anxiety and stress without our realizing it.

7. Straighten up! - Check your posture. Stooping or slumping can lead to muscle tension, pain, and what? Increased stress.

8. Reward yourself – plan an end of the day reward like a nice hot bath or a half hour with a good book – putting aside work, housekeeping, or family concerns for a few minutes before bed so you can fully relax and get the rest you need. Don’t spend time planning tomorrow’s schedule or trying to catch up completing chores you didn’t get around to all day. You need time to recharge and energize so you’ll be better prepared to face the next stressful day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eating Out Calories

It’s so easy to underestimate the amount of calories that go into commercial foods. While perusing the menu at a popular food chain or walking down the line of steaming entrees and veg at a tried and true cafeteria, I think of how I might perhaps fix similar items at home. I think about the ingredients I might use to make that same dish, thinking that, well it can’t be that bad, what would be on it/in it that would make it so high calorie?

I decided to check out my latest edition of The Calorie King Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter book. If you haven’t got one, run to your nearest bookstore or on-line seller and buy it. You’ll be glad you did. It’s invaluable. Anyway, in the back of the little pocket-sized book is what I consider a pretty reliable nutrition list of menu items from popular restaurants and fast food chains. Some of it will scare you! I’m not saying don’t eat these things or go to these places. What I am saying is to be sure you know what you’re getting. More information allows you to make an informed decision.

Listed below are a few items I found in the book with their calories written alongside. If you're limiting your calories to around say 1500 or even 1700 a day, many of these dishes would be totally out of the question. Check it out.

Appleby’s – Fiesta Lime Chicken – (entrée with sides and sauces) – 1285 calories! (at least Appleby’s does have a listing of Weight Watchers items on their menu which are not too bad.)

Burger King – Original Whopper sandwich – 680; Whopper Jr., (no cheese) – 370

Cheesecake Factory – per slice - Brownie Sundae – 970; Original Cheesecake – 630

Chili’s – Classic Nachos – with fajita chicken – 1630; with fajita beef – 1740

Dunkin’ Donuts – Powdered Cake donut – 310; Bagel – plain multigrain - 410

IHOP – Buttermilk pancakes – short stack (3) [without butter and syrup] - 330

Macaroni Grill – Primo Chicken Parmesan (dinner size) – 2220!

P.F. Chang’s – Lo Mein Beef (per whole dish) – 1375

Ruby Tuesday – Lemon Grilled Salmon (entrée without sides) – 505

Zaxby’s – Chicken Finger Plate – (regular entrée without sauce) – 1055