Down but Not Out

Sam 3I recently wrote a piece about unintended consequences – and this post is somewhat similar except I want to share a really positive unintended consequence of attaining and then sustaining a healthy weight for 30+ years – and I have my dog Sam to thank for revealing this unintended consequence in such a real light.

I walk Sam every day and, at least 5 days a week, that is a two mile walk at a 4 mph pace.  Sam is a great work out partner as she (her full name is Samantha) is very insistent that we keep to this routine.  She’s been known to head butt me repeatedly until I lace up my sneakers and it the road.

Speaking of the road, the road Sam and I walk is a dirt road covered in gravel.  I live outside of town in the desert where dirt roads are the norm.  We love our road as it isn’t exactly what you’d call well-traveled so Sam chasing after cars (she’s a rescue dog and has a penchant for doing so) isn’t too much an issue.

Most of the time.

The other day we were almost back.  The mail lady had passed us, but she’s great because she always slows down as she already knows how much Sam would LOVE to chase after her vehicle.  The mail lady and I sometimes stop to have a little chat if I meet up with her at the mail boxes.  But today she’d already gotten back on the road.  She was hardly moving and decided to stop to say hello.

Not good.

As she rolled up Sam lunged with a vengeance.  She literally pulled my feet right out from under me and I fell with equal vengeance onto my back and, in an effort not to hit my actual head (which ultimately failed), my neck and elbow took quite a hit as well.  This wasn’t just a “little fall.”  Depending on your age think John Belushi or Chris Farley pratfall  on Saturday Night Live – except I wasn’t planning on taking that fall.  And let me tell you that a desert dirt road is as hard as any sidewalk or asphalt street.  If you threw some gravel onto the sidewalk and then jumped up and threw yourself to the ground with all your strength you’d have a similar experience – except it’s much worse when that fall comes right out of the blue.

Sam’s a lab, so she isn’t huge.  Last time we took her to the vet she weighed 67 pounds.  But most of those 67 pounds are pure muscle.  So it wasn’t too hard for her to take down a 120 pound, 5 foot 2, 57-year-old woman.  Actually, she didn’t even realize what she’d done as she was too busy trying to jump into the mail lady’s vehicle as she knew the mail lady was good for a belly rub.

To the mail lady’s amazement, I was able to get right back up.  Sure, I took a moment to take stock as I hit so hard and it HURT I knew there was a chance I might have broken something.  When I realized nothing was broken I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and got control of my dog who was still attempting to enter the mail lady’s vehicle for said belly rub.

me 3

Not as young – but healthy out on a hiking outing with son Ben and granddaughter Alice

So what was the unintended consequence of my fall?  Actually the unintended consequence wasn’t about falling.  It was about getting up.

For years and years (and years) I have exercised and been active.  And, sure when I was young I gave lip service to the idea that I did so as I wanted to “be good” to my body.  But, when I was a young woman maintaining my body’s ability to function wasn’t exactly high on my list of priorities.  It wasn’t my meaningful why for exercising and living an active life.  Truth be told, I wanted to “look good.”  Remember, I was young and healthy and when you’re young and healthy you pretty much feel good simply because you’re young and healthy.

But the day after my fall sitting on the couch with a hot pad on my “I can hardly move it” neck I realized how much worse it could have been.  I examined my road rash on my elbow and thought how lucky I was that I hadn’t broken it.  However, then it occurred to me that perhaps luck shouldn’t get all the credit.

All those years of running (then walking after sciatica reared its ugly head), biking, crunches, hiking, and light weights had done their thing.  My bones were strong because I have consistently engaged in weight bearing exercise for over 30 years.  My core is strong from those ab exercises I hate but have managed to do at least a few times a week over the years.  Not to mention making sure I eat healthy food filled with macro-nutrients (most of the time.)

All that talk about how “diet and exercise” could protect my body’s ability to function as I aged was actually true.      

dumb bellI have traveled far since my “gym rat” days.  I no longer have the physique of an in-shape 30 year old.  I have a bit of a meno-pot.  When I lift weights those weights are 5 lb dumb bells, not the 15 pounders I hefted 20 years ago.  I have a ton of energy but would be lying if I said I had as much energy as I did when I was 25 (those of us who say they do are very fortunate or don’t truly remember how much energy most of us have at 25.)  I can’t run anymore but I can walk.  I can bike.  I can hike.  I might not be able to use 15 pound weights when I lift – but by golly and I can lift 5 so that’s what I do.

The unintended consequence of that young woman wanting to “look good” all those years ago was to develop habits that allowed me to take a fall 30 years later that could have broken a hip or worse.

However the truth is you don’t have to have been living an active life and eating healthy diet for 30 years in order to help protect your body’s ability to function as you age – you can start doing them now.  Whatever age you are.  Whatever shape you’re in.  Unless you have physical limitations that truly knock being active out of the picture now is the best time to begin – or, if you’re already exercising and eating healthy, now is the time to continue doing so.

Proud of this pic - here I am with my son as along with my husband Tom we climbed to the second highest point of the Florida Mountains in New Mexico

Proud of this pic – here I am with my son (along with my husband Tom) as we climbed to the second highest point of the Florida Mountains in New Mexico

So Sam did me a favor by knocking me down.  I want to thank her for proving to me that my current meaningful why for continuing to eat well and stay active isn’t only meaningful to me, but practical:

“I am committed to meet and follow my daily “minimums” regarding my nutrition and exercise/activity.  My objective is to stay strong as I age.  Staying strong keeps me functional and being able to function at the highest and most optimal levels as I age allows me to do things I enjoy and improves the quality of my life.  I refuse to watch life from the sidelines until they drag me to the bench kicking and screaming.”

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

lawToo often those of us seeking to attain and sustain healthy weight and fitness tend to live in a state of “suspended animation.”  We don’t fully live our lives.  Instead we look forward to living our lives as our “future selves.”

  • Our self at a healthy weight.
  • Our self that looks good in a bathing suit.
  • Our self that no longer has to take blood pressure medication.
  • Our self that can comfortably fit into the seat on the airplane.

Our self that finally feels comfortable with who we are.

Unfortunately, it is this very kind of thinking that can sabotage our efforts to ever actually meet the future self we picture in our minds.

It may appear that I am directly refuting the notion that having a dream or a vision of a “more perfect future state” has the power to motivate us to do what it takes to achieve a goal.  That “positive thinking” is powerless when it comes to making our dreams, our vision a reality.

It may also appear that I am going against my own approach to attaining and sustaining life-long healthy weight and fitness as I base that approach on employing meaning, motivation, and method in a strategic manner.  And anyone who knows anything about strategic approaches understands that having a clear future vision of one’s “desired state” is essential to achieving that desire.

Appearances can be deceiving.

The Secret to the Secret

In 2006 a very popular book called “The Secret” was published that detailed the power of the “Law of Attraction.”  In her review of the book Elizabeth Scott, M.S. gives us a great snapshot of what the Law of Attraction regulates:

  • “If you focus your attention on achieving a goal and believe not only that you can do it, but that you already have done it, you can achieve virtually any goal you set your mind to. 
  • If you focus on what you don’t want, you are inadvertently drawing that into your life. For example, if you constantly ruminate on what is stressing you, you’ll actually draw more of those situations (and accompanying stressed feelings) into your life. Instead, the trick is to focus on what you do want in your life, and you’ll get more of that. 
  • The Law of Attraction, the principle that you attract whatever you focus your energy on (good or bad), works with relationships, possessions, goals, and anything else you are able to focus on — even your own health.” 

I essentially agree to some degree with all of the above.  But this post isn’t about the Law of Attraction – it’s about the Law of Unintended Consequences.

In the case of attaining and sustaining life-long healthy weight and fitness the unintended consequence of applying the Law of Attraction can be that we think in order to follow that law we need to negate and/or don’t appreciate who we are now.  And now is where we live.  Now is the only reality we will ever experience.  We remember the past.  We project the future.  But we live now.  Too often we can get so caught up in anticipating our vision that we don’t actually live our vision.  And if we don’t live our vision now, we will never achieve it then.

secretSo there’s a secret to “The Secret” – and that secret is to appreciate and validate who you are now as well as what you are doing NOW guided by a positive vision and focus.

Emotional Eating: The Pen is Mightier than the Spoon

runnersRunners will tell you what a high it is to “enter the zone.”  For anyone who hasn’t had that experience it is when the person running is in perfect harmony with their body and mind as they run.  So perfect that for many it is a form of meditation where that pesky little voice in your head shuts up and you experience a quiet, peaceful state of bliss.  You cease “thinking about” the fact that you are running – you become the act of running.  You become one with your run.  Many runners will tell you that they’ve had experiences where they “come back to consciousness” after running a few more miles than they’d planned. 

Unfortunately, you could take the above description and apply it to what so many of us experience when we engage in emotional eating – except in that case we’re in perfect harmony with the rhythm of the spoon hitting our lips with a nice chunk of Rocky Road ice cream, mesmerized with how wonderful it feels when that soft creamy cold stuff floats down our throat.  And many of us don’t “come back to consciousness” until we’ve eaten the entire carton (and maybe even move on that leftover lasagna.)

Of course when it comes to emotional eating we don’t want to “become one with our spoon.”

spoonUnlike the runner the goal isn’t to lengthen the spell of our food induced bliss – the goal is to break that spell before we become bloated with both food and the inevitable sense of guilt and worthlessness that follows us after an episode of emotional eating.  And that guilt and worthlessness is also what can send us back to the refrigerator – because the act of eating shuts that that voice up until we “come to” again.

A vicious cycle.

Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Eating

When we engage in emotional eating it can seem we are almost literally “swallowing” our feelings.  Instead of coping with these feelings we choke them down so to speak – and it should be relatively obvious to us that these aren’t “good feelings” because if they were we wouldn’t be so desperate to do something (eat) that blocks them out.

feelingsOur bodies process the food we eat by turning it into energy.  When we eat too much food our body processes it by storing it as fat.  What’s interesting here is that, emotional eating is a way of processing our feelings.  When we engage in emotional eating, what we’re really attempting to do with that bowl and spoon is process our feelings; especially feelings that make us uncomfortable or hurt us.  It may sound weird, but from where I sit emotional eating is a process that actually stores those not so good feelings as fat.  And this means emotional eating doesn’t accomplish what we want it to accomplish.

Emotional eating is way to distract ourselves from processing what we’re really feeling.  Emotional eating, in my opinion, is a form of denial and denial is a psychological defense mechanism humans use to protect themselves from things we think can hurt us.  If we deny our feelings by burying ourselves in a pile of mashed potatoes it should follow that those feelings won’t be able to hurt us or make us uncomfortable about ourselves and our place in the world.  But we all know that isn’t true – we just end up feeling worse.

The next time you feel the urge to drown your sorrows with food – try picking up a pen instead of a spoon or fork.  Here’s a technique you can put into play:

Make a deal with yourself.  Tell yourself you can eat anything, and as much, as you want but you’ve got to write it down before you eat it.

For example, you write down “I am going to eat a cup of ice cream.”  And you do.  Except you want to get that blissful feeling back after eating it and you want to eat another cup of ice cream.  But before you have that second cup you write:  “I am going to eat a cup of ice cream.  This is my second cup of ice cream.”  And, if you decide to throw out the whole notion of “eating a cup” and want to just start eating straight out of the carton – write that down.  “I am now going to eat all the ice cream in the carton.”

The above has saved me from an emotional binge too many times to count.  What this technique does is “pull you out of the zone.”  Being in the zone works for runners looking to increase their distances – but the last thing you want is to be in the zone when you feel an emotional binge coming on.  It works for a couple reasons:

You reduce your stress.  When you make this deal with yourself where you can have what you want but have to write it down first your level of stress is almost guaranteed to go down.  In fact, many times I’ve actually stopped before I started simply because that reduction in stress helped me cope with what I happened to be feeling at the time.

It wakes you up.  You can think of this technique as your “snooze alarm” when it comes to emotional eating.  Sometimes we hear the alarm and jump right out of bed.  Sometimes it takes few snooze alarms before we pull ourselves up and get ready to face the day.  Same with this technique.  Sometimes you’ll wake out of the emotional eating zone after writing down what you’re going to eat before you even eat it.  Sometimes it might take a couple snooze alarms.

Keeping it Off: How to Avoid the Danger Zone

fdasfsadfasfIt isn’t unusual to find posts on Facebook by those of us who’ve lost weight and gotten fit that celebrate how great we look and feel – and it’s a good thing to acknowledge and celebrate reaching goals that we’ve set for ourselves. 

However, most of these posts are made by people who have recently reached those goals.  And by “recently” I mean within the last five years or so.  And, while five years is a long time (heck keeping it off for a year is a great accomplishment) – we all know that too many of us end up gaining the weight back.  And most of us do that within the first five years.

There are tons of studies and articles out there that provide us with reliable information based on research that meets scientific standards as to physiological reasons why it is difficult to sustain a healthy weight after losing weight.  All kinds of hormonal things are going on and let’s not forget the fact that our fat cells don’t disappear after losing weight.  They’re still hanging out ready and able to do their thing.

It’s important to pay attention to this research – that way we can act accordingly.

But over the last 30 years I learned a few things about how to sustain acting in ways that support attaining and sustaining healthy weight and fitness – and the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that not only does following a plan that includes eating healthy foods in moderate amounts and making sure you get that activity in – you’re almost sure to gain it all back if you don’t incorporate your principles and values into that plan.

Case in point

I just read a post (a quite courageous post I might add) where a male blogger shares that, after losing over 150 pounds he feels “incredible” and his confidence level “is through the roof.”  Not only that, women are coming on to him “a lot.”

Sounds great!  Good for him.  I know from personal experience what a confidence booster it is to have the opposite sex show some interest in my after I lost weight.

But some issues can arise when we suddenly find ourselves somewhere we may have never or seldom been.  The issue that came up for our blogger is that he’s been engaging in casual sex and is even concerned he may be in danger of developing a “sex addiction.”  He thinks maybe he’s trying to make up for lost time after having been rejected so many times when he was heavy.

Now, I have no way of knowing if that’s actually the case – but what I do suspect is that having casual sex goes against this man’s principles and values.  And that places him in the Danger Zone for gaining it all back.

When our behavior after attaining a healthy weight goes against or does not support the principles or values that are meaningful to us it can seem that we can’t live principled lives that express our values and sustain a healthy weight at the same time.  But since not all of us are going to have issues around engaging in casual sex – let’s look at another scenario, one from my personal experience.

fdaafafsdfaI was a young, single mother when I got my show on the road and reached a healthy weight.  One thing I didn’t do when I was heavy was go out on the town with my friends.  Who wants to go dancing knowing you’re just going to be the “fat one” sitting there by yourself while all your skinny friends are out there having a good time?  And I felt uncomfortable going out after work for dinner  with the girls on a Friday night as (once again) I’d be the “fat one” at the table.

Of course those feelings changed once I’d lost the weight.  Not only that, I actually got invited out on dates.  Now it was fun to go out – so I did.

My meaningful why for attaining a healthy weight at the time had been focused on being a better parent to my son.   Sure going out got in the way of getting out for my run and lifting those weights but that wasn’t the real issue for me – I feeling uncomfortable spending so much time away from my son – which often led to a binge.   And, yes, going out often got in the way of getting out for my run and lifting those weights.

jkjkjkljkljlkNow – there’s certainly nothing wrong with a young single Mom going out and having some fun with her friends.  That wasn’t the problem.  But instead of listening to that little voice in my head telling me “You don’t really want to go out – you want to play Chutes and Ladders with your son”  similar to our blogger I got caught up in “making up for lost time.”  Why?  Probably because I was afraid it wouldn’t last.  I’d lost weight before and gained it back.   And if I didn’t say yes and go out with my friends or on that date maybe people would stop asking…

But then one day my girlfriend called and wanted to go out.  I’d been planning on popcorn and watching my son’s favorite TV show with him that night.  My knee-jerk response was to say yes I’d go, but I knew I really didn’t want to – so I did something different, I said no.  That night I made a deal with myself:  If I felt like going out with my friends I would.  If I’d rather stay home and spend time with my son I’d do that instead.

The solution was simple.  I simply needed to live by what I valued.  I valued time with my son.   Sure – I valued spending time with my friends – but I valued living with integrity more.  The end result was striking a balance – a balance that was heavily weighted towards my children.  Of course as time went on and my children grew older things changed.

And that’s the whole point – our meaningful whys change over time.  The trick is making sure that your meaningful why resonates with how you can live with integrity by sticking to what you value today.

Low Carb Pizza? You Bet! Here’s the Recipe

pizzaI just posted on how glutenous carbs can trick many of us into a binge as well as point to research that indicates grains are likely contributors to metabolic syndrome – even Alzheimer’s!

So I thought it only fair that I follow that post up with a grain-free recipe that deliciously mimics one of America’s favorite foods – pizza!

There are many recipes out there but I like this one the best.  Not only do you get a “more-like-crust-crust”, Megan’s recipe on her Detoxinista website provides a great tutorial with easy to follow directions and great pictures to guide you.

Here’s the link to Megan’s recipe which provides us with “The Secret to Perfect Cauliflower Pizza Crust” (who knew?)

How to Un-Trick Your Trigger

 

 

Source: Scientific American

Source: Scientific American

Most anybody reading this knows there are foods that trigger at best unhealthy eating and, at worst, going on a binge. 

When I read people’s posts to Facebook I see many references to “food addiction.”  And, for me, that really resonates.  Remember the old Lay’s potato chip commercial – “Betcha can’t eat just one?”  Well, it turns out there’s a reason for that – which has very little to do with whether or not we have the “will power” not to overindulge.

For most of us trigger foods usually are those that either have a ton of sugar and/or gluten.  Here’s a brief list of common trigger foods:

  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Ice cream
  • Bread or flour based foods
bodybuilding.com

bodybuilding.com

All of these foods have something in common: they are carbohydrates – but not just any carbohydrates.  These particular carbohydrates mess with both our ability to think straight and our ability to stop eating them.  There’s plenty of information out there regarding the fact that sugar “gets us high” by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.  Which is why we can’t eat just one.   Who wants to stop feeling good?  We felt great when we ate that first handful of chips or slice of cake – and those endorphins make us want to keep eating those chips (or move on to a bowl of ice cream and then maybe a few cookies.)

The real bummer is that these foods send a message to our pancreas demanding that it produce more insulin.  This is what leads to something called insulin resistance which can result in developing metabolic syndrome:

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. – MayoClinic.com

breadOf all the foods listed above, most of us probably think that bread or flour based foods are the least likely to send us off on a binge.  Not so.  It turns out that bread has the highest glycemic index, which means that when you eat bread, other flour based foods (such as pasta), and cereals the demand on your body to produce more insulin sticks around even longer than a candy bar.  And it gets worse.

Recent research indicates that we’ve been sold a line of goods when it comes to basing our diets on “whole grain goodness.”  Turns out that all grains have a high glycemic index.  Research also indicates that whole grains are a factor in developing not only metabolic syndrome – but even Alzheimer’s!

Untricking Your Trigger

Make a list. Make a list of all foods that, for you, come under “betcha can’t eat just one.”  These will be foods you will scratch off your grocery list. 

Hide but don’t seek. If for some reason you need to purchase these foods (for instance your spouse of roommate insists that since they can eat just one they shouldn’t have to “suffer”) keep them in a specific cabinet or drawer reserved only for high-glycemic carbs (preferably in containers you can’t see through.)  This place is your own personal “No Man’s Land” – meaning a place you simply don’t go.   Additionally, limiting your opportunity to see these items as you go about food preparation also limits how often you are exposed to these trigger foods.

Become a great imitator. Snack on low-glycemic carbs and, yes, most vegetables qualify.  Make is your business to find recipes that “mimic” high glycemic choices.   For instance, if you’re into ice cream, seek out recipes for healthy smoothies.  Are you addicted to potato chips?  Learn how to make your own vegetable chips.  Warning:  many gluten free products and flours are high on the glycemic index.  I know, that’s a bummer – just be careful about what you buy.  For example, almond flour is a better choice than most “gluten free baking flour.”    Here are a couple great low-glycemic recipe resources:

Recipes from Prevention.com

Recipes from SparkPeople.com

I’m not suggesting that everyone completely stop eating grains.  What I am suggesting is that you educate yourself about the impact of a grain-based diet and then make your decision according to what you discover.

For those of you who just aren’t buying into the notion that grains (even whole grains) and other high-glycemic foods are toxic to both your body and your intentions to attain and sustain a healthy weight, here are two books you will want to read where you can find all that research I’ve been talking about (they link to their respective websites so you can check out what they have to say for yourself.):

fafdafafdadfaWheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.    

 

 

grain brainGrain Brain by David Perlmutter, M.D.

 

Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room

File this under:  How Not to Gain Weight During the Holidays

CaptureI’m writing this on November 7th – which is a really special day as it the day my first son was born.  But it is also a day that, for me, has always marked that time of year when an elephant is about to enter the room AND, if I don’t pay attention and make plan, there’s a good chance I’m going to get trampled.

The elephant in the room is the holiday season.

If you’re reading this it’s because you’re either on the path to attaining a healthy weight and level of fitness – or you’re looking to sustain the same.  Unfortunately “Tis the Season” isn’t just about being jolly.  It is a season that brings a very special set of circumstances that should not be ignored.

The circumstances are all too familiar:

  • Too much food
  • Too little time
  • Too much stress

It’s essentially a given that you will have less control over your exposure to food.  Those cookies and candies are going to start coming into the office real soon.  There will be pot lucks and parties galore.  Time to get everything done will be even scarcer than it already is as you add all the things you need to accomplish during the holidays.  Which totally stresses you out.

Recently we all “fell back” when we readjusted to daylight savings time – it’s important that we don’t fall back into old habits that don’t support attaining and sustaining a healthy weight and level of fitness during the holidays.  But we will if we ignore the elephant in the living room.

How to Avoid Getting Trampled

Here are a few things I’ve done over the years to get me through the season.

Make the Decision.  It you’re actively in the process of losing weight first and foremost you’ve got a decision to make – do you want to continue losing weight during the holidays, or does it make more sense to you to maintain your weight?  This is a big decision – and one that requires you to be very honest with yourself.

Revisit Your Meaningful Why.  If you don’t know what that is take a few minutes and read my Home, About (where you will find the Meaning Why discovery process), and What is FP? pages (should take about 15 minutes.)  Make sure that your meaningful why can stand its ground during the holidays.  You may even want to create a meaningful why specific to your quest to either continue to attain or sustain during the holidays (which is the reason it is so important you make a decision.)

Set a Minimum.  I wrote a post that deals with setting a minimum (read it here) but I have learned the hard way to always set minimums instead of maximums.  Here’s a really quick way to understand the difference:  Normally my goal is to spend 90 minutes a day being active (which for me is walking, stationary bike while watching Jeopardy, and light weights.)  However, my MINIMUM is 20 minutes.  I may not always have 90 minutes in my day to be active, but I always have 20.  You can also set a minimum with your food plan.

Learn a few Tricks of the Trade.  I’ll be posting (and re-posting) what I call “Tricks of the Trade” periodically during the holidays.

For instance when attending parties or meals with family or friends that you just KNOW are going to be VERY insistent in their quest that you eat more be sure to bring a few food containers with you.  That way when Auntie Mame wants you to eat a piece of pie you can fain you would love to, but are “just too full” – but you’d love to bring some home with you so you can eat it later.  As a matter-of-fact, you brought some containers with you just for that purpose 🙂  Once those containers are in your possession it is up to you as to whether or not you will, in fact, eat them – or toss them.  “Yes, Virginia, it is OK to throw food away!”

The point here is that you will have much more success if you invite the elephant into the room during the holidays than close your eyes and pretend it isn’t there.