Archives for 2014

Is Weight Gain After Weight Loss Inevitable?

Most people that lose weight gain some or even all of it back. If you’ve worked hard to get to your goal weight is it inevitable that you’ll experience a regain?

That’s a hard question and unfortunately research hasn’t been able to provide us with an absolute answer. There is even some confusion as to whether weight regain is due to a shift in metabolism and hormones or if people simply drift back into the old habits that made them overweight in the first place.

It’s probably a combination of the body’s natural tendency to want to return to its ‘normal’ weight and the dieter returning to their before-weight-loss eating patterns. Referred to as yo-yo dieting, the weight losses and gains can take a toll on a person’s physical and emotional well being.

Diet 2

 First, let’s take a look at what science is able to tell us.

Research Provides Some Insight

There are a number of studies that show that dieting is associated with accelerated weight gain and an increased risk of becoming overweight. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, wrote an article, Warning: Dieting Increases Your Risk of Gaining MORE Weight, for Intuitive Eating Disorders.com.  Tribole’s article discusses a concept known as dieting-induced weight-gain that scientists believe is contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Dieting-induced weight-gain suggests that, independent of genetics, dieting prompts weight gain. And, a cycle of weight-loss, followed by weight-gain, followed by another round of weight-loss pushes the baseline weight higher than the original weight.

The article cites several studies that show that dieting teenagers have twice the risk of becoming overweight. It also says the risk of binge eating increases with dieting and up to two-thirds of people that lose weight regain even more than they lost.

Some researchers believe the predisposition to regain lost weight is caused by nerves in the stomach that become damaged [in obese people] so that they no longer signal the brain to tell it when the person is full. One study out of the University of Adelaid in Southern Australia looked specifically at the effects of a high fat diet on the stomach’s ability to send fullness cues to the brain.

This study reported that even when people begin eating a healthier diet the signaling did not improve, nor did it improve with weight loss. What this means is that an individual who has lost a significant amount of weight would still not realize that they were full in time to prevent overeating.

Dieting Is A Slippery Slope

Trying to determine why people that lose weight will, more than likely, gain it back is a challenge. Hormones, the hunger control mechanism, and resetting of the metabolic rate may all be factors however the primary reason for regain is probably more about behavior change than people would like to admit.

When you lose weight your body mass decreases which means you require fewer calories than you did when you were at your heavier weight. Through the process of dieting you suffer deprivation and your cravings for a Dilly Bar or cheesy fries go unfulfilled.

Once you lose the weight you feel great. You’re getting compliments from your friends and co-workers, and you’re buying fun clothes in a smaller size. But slowly, as you begin to get used to the new you, the old habits start to slip back in. At first it’s only for special occasions, but it doesn’t take long before you’re eating more every day than you were when you on the diet.

You’re not consuming quite as many calories as you were when you were pre-diet, so it still feels like you’re giving up something. You’re still depriving yourself. A little. But you’re eating more than your body needs to maintain the weight you’re at now.

Plus because of the lower metabolic rate and suppressed satiation response you could be taking in quite a few more calories than you need.  You’re also disconnected from when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. You second guess every morsel.

What’s The Answer?

Tribole believes the answer lies in attunement with your mind and body rather than counting calories or Weight Watchers points. She calls this process Intuitive Eating which gives you permission to eat when hungry, eat for physical rather than emotional reasons, and rely on internal hunger cues to help you determine when and how much to eat.

Intuitive Eating doesn’t sound like the quick and easy fix that dieting is but if you embrace it you will begin to develop a healthy relationship with food.  To learn more about this concept check out the web site that has on-line support group at Intuitive Eating.org.

Most people determine how much weight they want to lose and a date that they want to lose it by. Throughout that time frame they are doing things in a dramatically different way. They eat less, exercise more, avoid sugary, fatty foods, and seek out motivation from friends, co-workers and the fitness instructor at the local Y.

These are things that should be done throughout our lifetime. Being at a healthy weight should be a life goal rather than a six week or six month battle with the scale.

What’s your strategy to maintain a healthy weight?

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Five Weight Loss and Exercise Excuse Busters Just For You

Human beings are really good at coming up with creative excuses. When you’re in my line of work you hear a lot of them. Half of them are about not reaching a weight loss goal.  And the other half are about not being able to get motivated to work out.

Here are six of the most common excuses I hear regarding exercise and weight loss along with a way to bust that excuse so it goes away for good!

Excuses

Flickr photo by Krissy Venosdale

Icky Weather – I can’t work out today because it’s too hot or too cold, it’s raining, snowing foggy, or muggy. Unless you live someplace like San Diego, CA the weather is rarely just right which means if you use the weather as your excuse to miss workouts you’ll never get them done. If the weather does affect your motivation you’ll need to get acquainted with doing workouts from home and there are plenty of options.

Since Exercise TV stopped programming three years ago, the best at-home workout solution is Be Fit. At Be Fit there are tons of quality workouts in a variety of formats and lengths to choose from so you’ll never get bored. The best part? Be Fit is free!

Too Busy – I don’t have the time. This is the mother of all excuses.  It is the one used most often by most people. The folks over at Skinnyms.com say you only need two minutes a day to successfully lose weight. No, they’re not talking about the new ten minute workout that only takes two minutes. They’re explaining how important it is to have a food journal and how taking two minutes a day to write down the foods that you eat can help you lose weight. In the Skinnyms article, 2 Minutes a Day to Weight Loss Success there are also some good low-cal recipes to get you started.

No Results –Maybe you’re demotivated because you think you’re doing everything right but you can’t get the results that you hope for. It may be that you’re doing too much cardio.  Overdoing it on the cardio without a couple of days of strength training will burn up your muscle which will lower your metabolic rate making it harder to lose weight. Plus you’ll never get any closer to getting the toned body you’re coveting. Weight Loss and Training.com has a 30 Minute Workout to Get Total Body Toned.  If you do this workout at home you’ll need a barbell. If you don’t have one you could substitute dumbbells or a weighted bar. Or, you could do it in the gym before you head down to spin class.

Funky – You’ve got that general feeling of malaise going. Nothing’s really wrong, you’re just in a funk and can’t get moving. A steady dose of motivation is what you need. Fitness Motivation for Ordinary People has a Facebook page that will get your spirits up and increase your mojo without making you feel bad about yourself.  Facebook is the gift that keeps on giving so once you ‘like’ the page you’ll get Ordinar People’s motivational stuff in your news feed.

Hangry – Whenever you try to lose weight you find you’re hungry all the time and that makes you angry. You’re hangry! You’ve probably seen tips for keeping that hunger under control, but that can be easier said than done. Lifetime Weight Loss has some tips that can really help including practicing mindfulness which is always one of my favorites. Check out What To Do When You’re Still Hungry for some strategies you may not have thought of.

Do you have an excuse that you need busted?

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Senate Tells Dr. Oz to Stop Pushing Bogus Weight Loss Miracles

The Federal Trade Commission has an issue with the way Dr. Mermet Oz promotes quick fix dietary supplements on his show and they’ve told him he needs to stop.

Finally.

Dr. Oz is famous for baseless claims that tell people weight loss products like green coffee bean extract and carcinia gambogia is a fast, easy way to lose weight. On his television show and web site, Dr. Oz. promises that people will see dramatic results from using these products. He promises they will melt fat and double – maybe even triple – their weight loss. To date there is no proof that these products have any impact on weight loss.

Recently Dr. Oz was brought in front of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Committee to answer questions about his endorsement of these products.

Committee Chairwoman Senator Claire McCaskill asked Dr. Oz why he promotes these products as weight loss ‘miracles’ even though there is no evidence to support these statements. Dr. Oz, in his own defense, said that the feels it is his role to be a cheerleader for the audience when they think they don’t have hope.

Dr. Oz 2

Dr. Oz defends his promotion of weight loss miracles in front of the Senate sub-committee.

“I have things I think work for people. I want them to try them so that they feel better, so that they can do the things we talk about every day on the show [like diet and exercise],” Oz said.

“When I can’t us language that is flowery, that is exulting, I feel like I’ve been disenfranchised,” he added.

Weight Loss Gimmicks Do More Harm Than Good

But Paul Fidalgo, a spokesperson for the Center for Inquiry wasn’t buying it. He told the doctor that “too often celebrity gurus lure consumers into wasting their money and pinning their hopes on pseudoscientific concoctions that are at best useless, and at worst dangerous.”

Fidalgo is right. Dr. Oz appears to want what’s best for his audience but he’s doing them a huge disservice by gaining their trust and then convincing them to spend money on gimmicks that don’t work. He’s been running this scam for years and it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to give it up just yet.

McCaskill told Dr. Oz that they had not called him to the hearing so they could “beat up on [him]” but rather to ask him to be part of the solution. Dr. Oz responded that he has toned down his language but doesn’t plan to stop promoting the weight loss products to the public. “I do personally believe in the items that I talk about,” he said.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True . . . .

The Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center when it comes to weight loss claims there are seven statements that tip you off that if it sounds too good to be true it is:

– Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise.
– Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats.
– Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product.
– Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight.
– Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks.
– Causes substantial weight loss for all users.
– Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

I would add three more to this list. Any product or program that will ‘torch calories’, ‘melt fat’, or ‘guarantee dramatic weight loss’ is a gimmick. These key words equal scam.

It’s impossible to second guess what Dr. Oz’s intentions are.  He may have his audience at heart. He may get a kick-back from the products that sell as a result of his show and web site.  He might just want to be a cheerleader for people that are struggling to lose weight.

But it’s good that the Senate committee and FTC have reined him in so that people who are wondering if they should buy a Dr. Oz’s miracle now know the answer to that question is a definite No!

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Do You Really Know How Many Calories You Burned In That Work Out?

Most of the nifty fitness trackers let you to add the calories that you burn during workouts back into your daily calorie allotment which can lead to weight loss sabotage. Unless you know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is you can’t know how many calories you’re burning at rest or at play.

Getting an accurate  BMR measurement isn’t easy. To accurately calculate your BMR you will need to undergo an indirect calorimetry test which means you’re hooked up to a machine that measures the volume of oxygen consumption and the volume of carbon dioxide output.  The test is done in a lab or clinic where they have the equipment to properly administer the test.

Since it’s not possible for most people to get their BMR measured in this way they do the next best thing.  They use an on-line calculator that has them enter height, weight, age, gender and activity level. The web page then calculates your BMR and provides you with the number of daily calories you need to consume.

BMR 2

On-line BMR calculations are a guesstimate at best. In fact, The American Council on Exercise says these calculators can be off by as many as 1,000 calories!

Most People Overestimate Calories Burned During A Work Out

Where people get into trouble with calculating calories burned during exercise is it’s difficult to properly estimate activity level. Most of us think we’re working harder than we actually are which means we think we’ve burned more calories than we have. This was the focus of a study being done by a team of researchers at the University of Ottawa.

At the U of O, researchers had a small group of participants take a brisk walk on a treadmill until they were told to stop. They were then led to a buffet table where they were instructed to consume foods that would equal the calories they spent in their workout. Not surprisingly, the group consumed two to three times more calories than they had burned on the treadmill.

A follow-up study in the UK had participants exercise at 60 to 90 percent of their V02 max.  They maintained that intensity until they had burned 450 calories or a treadmill. As in the Ottawa study they were then led to a buffet and were told to match the number of calories that they ate to the amount they burned on the treadmill.

The results were similar to the first group however this group underestimated the number of calories they burned. That did not stop them from overeating. They overate to the same extent as the people in the Ottawa study did.

What This Means For You

I’m not anti Fitbit, Jawbone or MyFitnessPal. I think they are all excellent ways to track calories and activity and keep you motivated.  But I worry that too many people are relying on these devices and apps to accurately tell them how many calories they’ve burned doing a workout. Then they think it’s okay to put those calories – or more according to the studies – back in to make up for the loss.

Fitbit calories burned

Flickr photo by Nagu Tran

Your Fitbit cannot possibly know how many calories you’ve burned on a four mile run.  It can tell you how much the average person of your height, weight and gender might burn. But it can’t tell you how many you’ve spent.

Go ahead and track your calorie intake and do your daily workouts but don’t add back the calories you’ve burned working out. Let those goes. Think of it as a bonus then see if you have more success reaching your weight loss goal.

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Two Tips To Help With Motivation And An Exercise For A Deserted Island

Everyone is always searching for the secret sauce for exercise motivation. Even if you’ve found a workout that you love, there are days when you don’t want to do it.  Days can turn into weeks, which turn into months and before long you can’t remember the last time you went to the gym or did your before-work Tabata training.

You probably think that staying motivated has something to do with a magical internal force that you blame yourself for not being able to control. But new studies show that there are some specific practices that will help you reach your goals.

Below are a couple of tips to help you get moving when you know you should but can’t.  They might not be the quick fix strategies like drink this potion twice a day and don’t eat these three foods that you’re looking for. However, they do provide insight into some long term changes that you can make that will work if you give them a try.

As an added bonus, I threw in some exercise advice from Bob Harper should you ever find yourself on a deserted island.

Lazy Cat

I know I should try and catch that mouse, but laying here feels so good.

Mindfulness Meditation

Learning to live in the moment can have a huge impact on your productivity, weight and health. Now it seems that mindfulness meditation is a topic that is being studied in sports medicine. According to Gregory Cherok, a sports psychology consultant with the American College of Sports Medicine, research shows that mindfulness meditation improves attention and sharpens impulse control.

But, the simple skill of living in the present isn’t as easy to acquire as it sounds. Our human brains have a tendency to skip around from past, to present to future throughout the day. This is a distraction that takes us away from what is happening in the here and now.

Chertok says that mindfulness training is a critical skill in sports. Performance occurs in present time and focusing on past failures leads to anxiety and muscle tension. He believes that mediation can alleviate exercise boredom, one of the main reasons people have trouble sticking with an exercise program.  Chertok also suggests that people use one of the many meditation apps that are available

Tip – Shut out the noise and distractions for a few minutes each day and focus solely on your goals. Mindfulness meditation will keep you centered and provide relief for the stress that goes with trying to find the time to do the things that are most important to you.

If you want to find an app to help you get started with the practice of mindfulness meditation, check out Simply Being Guided Meditation or Meditation Helper at iTunes or the Google play store.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

It seems that night owls struggle with exercise motivation more than their early-to-bed peers do.

A new study recently published in the journal Sleep, suggests that people that come alive when the sun goes down have difficulty finding the time or the motivation to exercise.

The study measured the habits of 123 healthy adults that slept for an average of six and a half hours a night. Over the course of a week each participant’s sleep was monitored with a wrist actigraphy and a sleep diary.

One of the lead researchers of the project, Dr. Kelly Glazer Baron, an associate professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Northwestern University in Chicago, said that the average exercise was 83 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

“This was a highly active sample averaging 83 minutes of vigorous activity per week,” Baron said. “Even among those who were able to exercise, waking up late and being an evening person made it more difficult.”

Baron says that the study shows that circadian rhythms need to be considered when recommending exercise programs and interventions. “Sleep timing should be taken into account when discussing exercise participation,” she added. “We could expect that sleep timing would play even a larger role in a population that had more difficulty exercising.”

Tip – If you’re a night owl and have a hard time adhering to an exercise routine, this news should be key in helping you identify and overcome motivational barriers that you may not have been aware of.  Adjusting your sleep patterns so that you get to bed earlier and up earlier may be the first step towards better exercise adherence.

The Deserted Island Exercise

Since we’re on the topic of exercise motivation I saw this today and had to share. Bob Harper, trainer on NBC’s Biggest Loser, says that the Burpee – hated by many and loved by a rare few – is the best exercise for, well, for anything!

The burpee that you learned to despise many years ago in grade school has not only made a comeback, it has now been endorsed by Bob Harper as being the one fitness move to take with you to a deserted island.  That’s kind of a funny analogy but I get what he’s saying. You can do a burpee anywhere without any equipment.

Burpees strengthen both the upper and lower body, enhance mobility and balance, and kick up your metabolism. “It does it all,” Harper says. “You will get the workout of your life.”

If you’re motivated to exercise, and specifically, motivated to do burpees, here’s a quick how-to video for you.

Don’t be discouraged if you start out only being able to do one or two.  Keep adding a couple of burpees to your workout and eventually you’ll be able to do a full Tabata workout using just the burpee.

A Tabata workout is 20 seconds of movement followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight cycles. In other words, do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then start again.

Interested in a 30 Day Burpee Challenge? Click here.

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Improve Hydration and Recovery With This Home Made Sport Drink Recipe

For years you’ve been told to drink eight or more glasses of water a day. People bring a bottle of water to work meetings, have another bottle in the cup holder of the car for short trips across town, and ladies carry them in their purses. We’ve become obsessed with drinking water.

Drinking enough water is important, and if you’re exercising or working outdoors in the heat you might think that increasing the amount you drink is the best way to avoid dehydration or heat related illnesses. But excessive water intake can flush your system of important nutrients resulting in a condition called hypnotremia.

What’s Hypnotremia?

Hypnotremia, or water intoxication, occurs when you drink so much water that your blood and sodium concentrations (electrolytes) get out of whack. Early symptoms of hypnotremia are similar to dehydration. Symptoms include feeling light headed or dizzy, nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation and confusion. Untreated, hynotremia can result in more extreme conditions including seizures, a coma or even death.

Many athletes and people that work outdoors at length in the heat need to do more than just increase the amount of water they drink. They need to increase their sodium intake too. Most do this by drinking Gatorade, Powerade or other commercial sports drinks that advertise that they are effective in maintaining electrolyte balance.

It’s true that these sports drinks contain significant amounts of sodium. They also have artificial colors, phosphoric acid and a ton of sugar.  Gatorade has three and a half teaspoons of sugar per eight ounce serving. The low calorie versions replace the sugar with controversial artificial sweeteners.

You can avoid all of the ‘extras’ that commercial sports drinks have to offer by making your own using a quality sea or Himalayan Mountain salt.

Home Made Sport Drink Tips

My rehydration solution uses green tea as a base, Real Salt and Chia seeds

My rehydration solution uses green tea as a base, Real Salt and Chia seeds

Here are a couple of tips before you get busy making your own sports rehydration drink:

1. Choose A Quality Salt –Not all salt is the same.  For your sports drink you’ll want to use a quality salt that contains additional minerals. I did my research because I’ve been hearing about Himalayan Mountain salt being the mother of all salts, however, there are numerous articles that say Himalayan Mountain salt is no better than regular table salt. I couldn’t find a Himalayan salt that listed any ingredients other than ‘sodium’ on the label so I decided to buy Redmond’s Real Salt that provides a full disclaimer of contents. Redmond’s salt contains 10 minerals in addition to sodium.

Real Salt

 2.  WHO Rehydration Solution – The recipe below is based on the World Health Organization’s oral rehydration solution.  Be aware that it will taste saltier and not nearly as sweet as the commercial products that you may be used to. You can adjust the amount of sodium and sugar or add the solution to a juice or tea to dilute it more and add flavor.

3.  Add Cucumbers or Fruit – Fill a glass with ice, pour in the sports drink and then add slices of lemon, lime, and orange.  Try adding sliced cucumbers and other fruits to enhance the flavor and increase the nutrients in the water.

4. Be Creative – Use coconut water or brewed tea as the base and add additional enhancers like Chia seeds and Emergen-C.  You can get creative with your concoction, find out what works best for you and turn your beverage into a rehydrating energy drink.

Basic Home Made Sports Drink Recipe

This recipe is based on the oral rehydration recipe published by the World Health Organization:

Ingredients:

– 1 quart of water, brewed tea or coconut water
– 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably Redmon’s Real salt, sea salt, or Himalayan Mountain salt).
– 1 -2 tablespoons sugar or sweetener. (You can use honey, aquave nectar, stevia, etc.)

Directions:

– Place slightly warmed liquid in a glass container.
– Add sea salt and sugar or sweetener
– Stir or shake until the ingredients are dissolved.
– Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Adding back the sodium that you lose when you sweat is critical to eletrolyte balance that can’t be restored by drinking plain water. Making your own sports drink is a healthier option and less expensive than buying the store brands. In my concoction (pictured above) I used green tea as the base, then I added lemon slices and chia seeds.

Do you have a favorite recipe for hydration?  Drop it in the comment section below.

*Note – People that have hypertension or other conditions where limited salt intake is recommended should check with their doctor before trying this recipe, or consuming any of the commercial sport drinks.

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Mediterranean Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

Most parents are emphatic about their role as the guardian and care giver of their children.

A parent puts their child in car seat to drive three blocks for a play date. They do exhaustive research and check the references of the local day care centers before making a choice to leave their child there. At home the cabinets are secured with safety latches, the fire detectors have working batteries, and a camera keeps an eye on babies and toddlers while they sleep.

The parent needs and wants to make sure that their children stay out of harms way.  But that’s not all. As a parent, your goal is to raise children to be healthy, active, productive adults.

If you’ve watched the Fed Up movie trailer and follow the trends on childhood obesity and diabetes you know that raising a healthy child is getting harder. Currently 17% of our children are overweight or obese. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to 25%. Each year nearly 4,000 children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Fed Up isn’t the first movie to make these claims.  The HBO documentary, The Weight Of The Nation tackles the same issues and presents a startling and scary look at what is happening to the health of our children. The Weight of The Nation says that unless you do something different than the average American your children will grow up to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that your child is probably not predestined for overweight, obesity or diabetes.  There is not an unstoppable force that you, as the parent and guardian of your children, can’t do something about. You can make sure that your child doesn’t becomes a statistic and it might be easier to do than you think.

Child eating fruit

Flickr photo by Bruce Tuten

Mediterranean-Style Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

A recent study suggests that adopting a Mediterranean eating style will help prevent overweight and obesity in children.  The study looked at the weight and eating habits of more than 9,000 children in eight countries for a two year period.  The children’s weight and body fat was measured at both the beginning and end of the study.

The study found that kids that followed a Mediterranean style diet were 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not follow that type of diet.

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries,” the researchers said. “Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.”

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria. Until then they’ve published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary.

Adopting a Mediterranean Lifestyle Can Help You Too

The Mediterranean diet was first publicized by Dr. Ancel Keys and became popular in the 1990s. The ‘diet’ is based on mimicking the eating patterns of the people that live in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea; Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, to name a few.

Along with a longer life expectancy, people that live in these areas are found to have lower rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Ironically these are the same health conditions that are on the rise in the United States and Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet is similar to the Paleo plan in that it calls for eating whole or ‘real’ foods but does not go to the extreme of eliminating entire food groups.

The diet calls for eating an abundance of plant foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts and whole grain cereals such as oats, barley, corn and brown rice. Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat. Cheese and yogurt (with no sugar added) are the main sources of dairy. Moderate amounts of fish and poultry are consumed. Eggs are limited, and so is read meat.

Below is a picture of the Mediterranean food pyramid that shows the foods that are to be eaten in quantity and those that are to be limited.

Mediterranean pyramid

Flickr photo by alenjandromercer

There’s nothing particularly epic about the eating plan. It is based on applying common sense to the way we eat so that most of the foods we consume are dense in nutrients and low in calories, sugar and fat. The diet also calls for healthy amounts of physical activity throughout the week.

Getting children started at a young age eating fruits and vegetables, lean sources of proteins, and whole grain cereals may be the best prevention there is to make sure they don’t become an overweight teen or young adult.

My call to action for you is to change the way you eat by starting a Mediterranean Project in your household. There’s no need to go it alone. Invite you friends and family join you!

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Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step

Changing A Behavior Is Easy.  Making it Stick?  Not So Much.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man that has lost over 140 pounds. His story was amazing and we talked for awhile about how it did it, what strategies he used, and what he’s doing now to maintain the weight loss.

Maintaining the weight loss proves to be the most difficult part.  He says that the pounds are starting to creep back on and he is struggling to keep doing the behaviors that helped him lose the weight. He finds he’s slipping back into his old habits.

We talked about what that one thing might be that he could start doing today to get back in motion.  After talking to him I was reminded of this post that I wrote almost two years ago and is what I encouraged him to do. Just take one small step.

Start

Flickr photo by jackandlindsay

How long is it from the time you download a phone app to motivate you to track your calories, steps, carbs or whatever it is you feel you need help in controlling before you’re no longer using it?  Three months?  Six months?  Five weeks?  Two days? I’ve downloaded several apps that have helped me drink more water or deliver positive affirmations to get me through a rough spot but after a few months I stop using them.

The company I work for has made an investment to provide employees with a wellness web site where we can track nearly everything we do.  We get points for healthy behaviors and a cash payout at the end of the year if we acquire enough.  You’d think everyone would sign up, but the participation rate is about 10 percent.

People lose weight and gain it back, spend money on gym membership and not go, decide to give up fast food, admit how much better they feel without it, and then end up back at McDonalds.

This question of how to stay motivated, and to me even more important – how to keep other people motivated – is perplexing.  Is this back and forth, stop and start, inspired then uninspired cycle that most of us seem to go through the trade off for having a brain that is complex enough to be able to make choices? Certainly it does have to do with our ability as humans to participate in a decision making process above and beyond basic instinct.

Why And How People Change Health Behaviors

Several years ago the book “Why and How People Change Health Behaviors” attempted to reveal the secrets to successful behavior change.  The book is written by Joseph Leutzinger, PhD and John Harris, MEd, who decided to throw off their ‘scientific research hats’ and put on their ‘curious but not judgmental’ hats to seek out individuals who had been successful at changing one or more behaviors.  The book is a collection of stories gleaned from those interviews.

Leutzinger and Harris found there were some recurring themes in the stories they heard.  Here’s what the interviewees told them:

– Do what works for you
– Be well informed about the change you are making
– Be ready – don’t go in unprepared or lacking confidence
– Set SMART goals
– Make a total commitment
– Take it one day at a time
– Plan ahead for scenarios that you find threatening
– Control your environment
– Take small steps
– Seek support from others
– Realize that compliments from others are motivating
– Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success
– Know that one successful change leads to another
– Reward yourself for success

Pick One

That’s a good list with plenty of suggestions to help with adherence. But, if I had to pick the one most critical to successful behavior change it would be “Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success.”

This darn brain of ours allows us to make choices.  Sometimes they’re good choices, sometimes not so much.  Both can gain momentum.  Once we get started practicing a ‘good’ behavior – for example taking a thirty minute walk before work four days a week – we get in the pattern of doing that.  It feels easy to do and we enjoy the aftereffects of knowing that we’ve kept our commitment and met our goal.

Then the day comes when we decide to go for a couple of birthday drinks with friends after work.  The following day we don’t feel like getting up early to walk so we stay in bed.  The next day it’s raining.  We know there are rainy day options; at home work out DVDs or the stationary bike in the spare bedroom, but we sleep in instead.  Before you know it, two weeks have passed since our last early morning workout that made us feel good all day long.

Take The Smallest Possible Step Forward

I read an interesting blog post yesterday on Daily Blog Tips about procrastination.  The author, Daniel Scocco, was working on a software development project that was overwhelming to him.  It wasn’t that he had no interest in working on the project.  Just the opposite was true, but because of very specific guidelines he had to follow he was having trouble getting started.  Day after day he pushed the project around his desk but couldn’t bring himself to tackle it.

After a couple weeks of this he decided he would try a new strategy.  He would take one small step. He would type the title of the project on a blank page.  That was all.  After he typed the words of the project into the word processor, ideas started to flow and within a couple of hours he had written over 1,000 words.  Daniel says, “Taking that first step is the hardest part for most projects and things, so if you are procrastinating with something lately, simply take the smallest possible step forward, and the rest should start flowing more easily.”

The Law Of Motion

The difficulty we have getting started again once we’ve stopped is the basic law of motion.  The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”  It may take a little more effort to get the resting body back in motion, but it can be done.

Are you letting a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success?  What is the smallest possible step you can take to initiate the law of motion?  Take that step today!

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Sweet Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing

This recipe has been circulating lately so I decided to try it for the holiday weekend. I needed a new salad since I always seems to fall back on my favorites, broccoli salad, and corn and black bean salad.

This was delicious but I must confess that I did not grill the corn as the original recipe suggested.  I was in a rush and didn’t want to heat up the grill.  I had some delicious sweet corn that I boiled gently for about eight minutes then let it cool until I could hold onto the ear to cut the corn off of the cob.

This salad is excellent! The secret is to have quality sweet corn, semi-ripe avocados and tender cherry tomatoes.

Corn Avocado Salad Ingredients

Ingredients:

4 ears of sweet corn
Small carton of cherry tomatoes
2 medium avocados
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons Canola oil
Juice of one lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cilantro
Sea salt and coarse black pepper

Directions:

Grill or boil the corn until tender, then remove the kernels from the cob.
Halve cherry tomatoes (You can use as many as you like. I used about a cup and a half)
Peel, core and chop avocados
Dice onion and celery
Mix altogether in a large bowl

In a small bowl mix the lime juice, garlic, honey, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Salad Dressing

 

Toss the corn, avocado, tomato mixture with the dressing.

Corn Tomato and Avocado Salad

Delicious!

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Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.” — Peter McWilliams
 

Human beings are the only species that deliberately sabotage their own best efforts to improve their life. We have the intellect to know that the behaviors we’re clinging to are holding us back from reaching our goals yet often times we can’t change.

You know that you need to lose weight and cut back on sugar yet you continue to order a large sweet tea at McDonald’s on your way to work each day.

You’ve promised yourself that you’ll get up and take a 20 minute walk before you start your day but when the alarm goes off you hit the snooze until it’s too late to go.

You’ve made a delicious salad and put it in the fridge at work, but when co-workers say they’re going to Pizza By The Pound for lunch you easily dismiss the salad and join them.

Why?

Comfort Zone

Flickr photo by Steve Heath

Is it because we are a bunch of pampered, lazy sloths that we can’t get motivated or tolerate any discomfort that might come from the process of changing the bad habits we’ve developed?

I don’t think so.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m a wellness coach and program administrator. If you know a psychologist, go ahead and ask them what they think.  Their answer might be different from mine.

I think people find it very hard to change their behaviors because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. And most of, fear of being uncomfortable, maybe even miserable, during the process.

I don’t think that, as a species, we’re a bunch of lazy sloths.  I do think that most of us like to be comfortable. We like routine. We avoid change. We are content with the status quo. We make excuses, procrastinate, and avoid.

As soon as you set a goal and realize what action steps you’re going to have to take to achieve it, the repetitive self-defeating thoughts inhabit your brain. It’s too hot or too cold.  You’re too tired. You don’t have enough time. You never see the results fast enough. You need a break. You’re burnt out. It doesn’t matter anyway. What difference does it make?

Get Comfortable With Discomfort

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy
 

What is it that you want to do but know that in order to achieve it you’re going to have to suffer a little?

Maybe you’d like to try the HiiT class at the Y but you’re afraid you’ll feel funny, look clumsy, or won’t be able to keep up. Being the new person in an exercise class is very uncomfortable.

Three months ago you signed up to run a 10K that’s now two weeks away. You haven’t kept up with the training program. You can probably get through the race but it won’t be as easy as you’d like. You’re going to suffer a little.

You just came home from your annual physical and the doctor pointed out that you’ve gained 10 pounds since she saw you last year. You know you need to lose weight but there are so many other things going on right now. You don’t have time for work on your diet and exercise. You need a magic wand to make this happen.

This behavior change stuff is hard work. There’s no easy way for it to happen. You have to do the work and you’re going to have to sacrifice and suffer. A little.

But on the other side of that discomfort, awkwardness, and misery is something special.  There’s a feeling of achievement and reward that’s waiting for you that is greater than all of those things that held you back. If you’re feeling too cushy, too comfortable, too settled into your routine it probably means you’re not reaching, growing, or moving towards your goals. It’s time for you to get uncomfortable.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

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