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May 21, 2014

Snack attack

4:10 pm - Posted by Gregg

What’s worse? Cheating on your diet? Or not enjoying it when you do?

Okay, first of all, let’s drop the word “cheating” from our lexicon. Dieting isn’t about being “on” or “off.” This is real life. And whether being careful about our food intake to lose excess weight or doing it to maintain the weight we’ve already lost (and don’t want back), there are going to be times that we have a cookie or some other kind of treat — whether planned or not. (For more on this, see my recent post on the topic of being “on” and “off” of a diet.)

The question then becomes, are we really enjoying the treat? And I mean really-really. Too often, those of us with a dieter’s mentality will devour a decadent food without enjoying the actual consumption of it. It’s as if we go into some altered mental state while chewing the cookie or whatever the said offender-to-our-diet is (or was — burp!).

I remember back in the day, when I was attempting (over and over again) to lose 250+ pounds of excess weight. While trying every kind of diet out there (usually on a Monday or Tuesday and then again the beginning of the following week), I would often catch myself standing at the kitchen counter, chewing the remnants of my treat (AKA “cheat“) and realize I hadn’t even enjoyed the full experience. I was eating as if I was a caged animal that had broken into the kitchen (“the forbidden zone” as it were) and snuck a treat before being caught. When a better tactic would have been to take the cookie, chocolate bar — or whatever — and put it on a plate, then sit down and enjoy every last decadent morsel of deliciousness.

Do you understand the difference between these two scenarios? One is about ravenous eating before getting caught (or, perhaps, catching ourselves) and one is about true enjoyment. And no, it’s not “wrong” to enjoy a treat even when you’re on a diet of one kind or another. Life is about moderation. So if you’re going to treat yourself, do so in the healthiest mental state possible. This could equate to meeting a friend at an ice cream parlor to split a sundae, getting a freshly baked cookie at the mall and sitting down near the fountain to enjoy it while people watching or even (gasp!) picking up a delicious looking apple at a farmer’s market and then enjoying it with a few teaspoons of all-natural peanut butter.

Yes, that’s right, healthy snacking should be as enjoyable as the more decadent kind of snacking. But no matter which type you’re doing, you really should be enjoying the whole experience and not eating like a vampire that’s afraid of dawn’s first light. It’s this kind of eating (scared, fast, unconscious) that’s one of the likely reasons we’ve ended up at the undesirable end of the scale in the first place.

So next time you have a craving, take a breath. Decide if you’re really hungry and then if you really want the treat. And if it’s really worth it. Assuming it’s a “Go,” then make the actual eating of the treat a metered and enjoyable experience. Really savor every moment as much as you’re savoring every morsel. Then, when it’s over, take another breath. There. Now you’re eating (and treating) like a “normal” person. And that’s what you are. Normal. Whether you have some excess weight you want to lose or not.

(And remember you can always feel free to go for a walk after the snack to burn off some of those decadent calories.)

Snacking should never be about guilt, anxiety or desperation. Put the full range of enjoyment back into snacking and see how much it can help your overall eating plan and goals.

Oh, and if you need someone to split that ice cream sundae with, I’m definitely available.

Photo Source: watchfit.com

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9:24 am - Posted by Gregg

As a lifelong “dieting type,” I learned about being “on” and “off” of a diet from an early age. And I mean really early – from around first grade, when I began to show signs of gaining excess weight. Because of this, my parents — thinking it was for the best — put me on an overly strict diet. (Burger patty and cottage cheese, anyone?)

Even though very young, I realized that being “on” the diet that my parents prescribed was very different than when I was “off” of it. In fact, as a way to reinforce their strict eating rules, my parents removed all junk food and candy from the house and even put a lock on the cabinets containing crackers and other carb-esque contraband. (True story.)

We can debate my parents’ war against moderation all we want, but suffice it to say, I taught them a thing or two about being “off” of my diet. Not only did I start eating cake, candy and other kinds of junk food at every opportunity that presented itself (thinking I might never have such food again), I eventually began stealing money from my dad’s wallet in order to buy my own supply of sugar-tastic food from the local market. Of course, I could never let my parents find my secret stash, so I would eat most of it in one sitting (no matter how stuffed and miserable I felt afterward).

OnOff.

And the pattern continued. All the way up until post-college, during which time I weighed over 450 pounds. I know it was over, because my scale would only read ERR (short for “error,” I later learned after consulting the manual, since this particular electronic scale wasn’t programmed to register anything over a certain weight).

I’m happy to say that I eventually did take off all the excess weight (over 250 pounds of it) and have kept it off for over a decade. But along with healthy eating, plenty of exercise, getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water, I also had to tame my on-off-itus. And no, that didn’t happen easily. Even as I successfully dieted, I would have “on” days (on which I didn’t eat a morsel of food that wasn’t part of my eating plan) and “off” days (on which I would eat enough for two — myself and the state of California).

Being “on” or “off” usually leads to a cheater’s mentality. And that doesn’t serve us well whether we’re trying to lose the excess weight or simply working to maintain the weight loss.

It took years to retrain my psyche, but eventually I learned to “just have the cookie” if I really wanted one. Now, I should point out that we’re talking a cookie, as opposed to a bag of cookies (sprinkled over a vat of ice cream, in my case). The key is thinking like someone who eats and enjoys food in a healthy fashion. Yes, we really can have one cookie. Or one helping of potato chips (or whatever) on occasion and not wreck our commitment to eating healthy and looking amazing. And that’s because we can learn that unlike what we think when “on” our diets, we can have another cookie (or whatever) in the future, when a healthy opportunity presents itself.

Let’s face it — one cookie did not make us fat. It was eating whole bags full that did that. And much of our binge-worthy behavior is a result of the “on/off” mentality that being on and off diets has taught us over the years.

Remember that you and I are not trying to “cheat the system” by maintaining that old standard which dictates that being “on” a diet today means we’ll be “off” of it come the weekend. Instead, join me in learning that fine art of balance. Sure, that means sometimes saying “no” to decadent foods. And that’s because we want to be able to breathe after zipping up our jeans.

But at the next office birthday celebration, we can have a reasonable slice of cake. Not the whole cake. And not with a bevy of “secret licks of frosting” when no one’s looking. One delicious, treat-worthy slice of cake — and then we might even do a little power walk after we get home from work. That’s balance. That’s moderation. And that’s putting on-off-itus where it belongs — in our rearview mirrors.

Do you struggle with the “on/off” complex? Or do you have successful way of combatting it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. In the meantime, do me a favor and save a piece of that reasonably sliced cake for me.

Photo Source: DavidReport.com

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April 23, 2014

Walking tall

11:20 am - Posted by Gregg

People keep asking… So I keep telling… In my humble opinion, one of the best exercises for every fitness level is also one of the easiest to do: Walking. Even those at beginning fitness levels can walk just 10 minutes a day to begin their routine and then build up to longer time periods at quicker paces.

All of us can walk around our neighborhoods (while keeping moving when in place, waiting for cross walk signals, etc.) or drive to a local park, hiking trail or even a nearby mall (if it’s raining or snowing). No gym membership required. Which means no excuses. These kind of easy choices allow us all to get moving – with friends or with our MP3 or iPod Players (see below for music ideas). And don’t forget to warm-up first (just as you would for any physical activity).

For tips on picking out safe walking shoes with a great fit: Click Here

For hints on warming up before a Power Walk: Click Here

Now that you’re warmed up, you’re ready to get moving. By following the checklist below, you’ll be off and running (well, walking) in no time at all:

__ Never forget the importance of posture. Hold your head high and keep your neck properly aligned.

__ Look forward and keep eyes focused ahead of you (while watching out for any traffic, bikes or other obstacles).

__ While facing forward, keep your chin parallel to the ground.

__ Pump your arms back and forth in a natural motion (coordinating with your legs) as you walk briskly.

__ Suck in that tummy while you walk. This is very important for overall toning and conditioning. For more tips and reason to “Suck it in”: Click Here

__ While sucking in your tummy, tuck your pelvis under/forward to maintain proper spine alignment.

__ Be careful not to tense up while exerting energy. Make sure your shoulders move naturally and freely.

__ Keep feet parallel to each other (while walking) and keep them approximately shoulder-length apart.

Let the music play (Introducing the Just Stop! Power Walking Playlist)

Since this playlist is so eclectic, you might own a lot of these songs already. If not, visit iTunes, Amazon or another site that sells individual MP3s to add these motivating tracks to you Power Walking Playlist. And, of course, you can feel free to add or substitute your own favorites – the key is picking music that’s uplifting, quick-paced and geared to get you moving.

Warm-Up:
New Day for You / Basia

First Steps:
Sweet Thing / Keith Urban

Power Plays:
Tonight Tonight / Hot Chelle Rae
So What / Pink
I Want You Back / Jackson 5
Part of Me / Katy Perry
Don’t Stop the Music / Rihanna
She’s My Man / Scissor Sisters
Since You Been Gone / Kelly Clarkson
Banjo / Rascal Flatts
You Can’t Fight Fate / Taylor Dayne
S.O.S. / Jordin Sparks

Cool Down:
So Magical / Martina McBride

Bonus (Ab Workout):
Slave 4 U / Britney Spears

Do you have a favorite song or playlist that you power walk to? Or walking tips of your own? I’d love for you to share them with me here. Until then? Keep on keepin’ on!

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April 9, 2014

The shame game

9:33 am - Posted by Gregg

Jenny Craig darling Valerie Bertinelli has been in the news again lately — and not because her TV show Hot in Cleveland just began its new season. Instead, Ms. Bertinelli has been defending herself against what she calls “Fat shaming,” since certain members of the press (including the National Enquirer) have called her out on her recent weight gain after she so publicly dropped pounds and showed off her svelte bathing suit body in a series of television commercials and magazine covers a few years back.

Ms. Bertinelli recently appeared on CBS TV’s The Talk, where she told the show’s hosts that she hadn’t been able to workout after a foot injury in December. She then added, “I have gained a few pounds… It started to panic me. Then I thought, well, wait, a minute. This is my body. I’m almost 54. I broke my foot! My doctor told me to not get my heart rate up. But now I am back in the gym. We all need to give each other a break — especially women. Let’s leave each other alone.”

Shame certainly is an issue that all of us with a “dieter’s mentality” know well. Mainly because even if we’re not being called out on our own weight struggles by the National Enquirer, there’s usually just as vicious of a dialogue going on in our own heads. Shaming does need to stop — mostly from the inside-out. In fact, sometimes it’s the shaming of ourselves that can lead us to shaming others (whether publicly or privately).

I have a good friend here in Los Angeles who constantly bemoans the fact that she’s getting older and that she can tell people are degrading her because of her looks (even if she doesn’t know this for a fact). Often — during the same breath that she’s talking about how awful she feels she looks — she’ll then notice someone else nearby and offer an aside about how “fat/old looking/or whatever” that person is.

It eventually dawned on me that my friend is a victim of her own psyche. She’s hard on others and, therefore, assumes the rest of the world is being equally hard on her. What would happen, I wondered, if she started to find things about herself to appreciate? Would she then notice things in other people to appreciate rather than zero in on what she perceives to be their shortcomings?

I’m not signaling my friend out here. I, myself, have caught my brain belittling my size on numerous occasions (both before, during and after losing my excess weight). But as soon as I notice the negative, shaming voice in my head, I work to arrest it. Because I’m here to tell you that those negative thoughts did nothing to contribute to my successful weight loss.

On the contrary, it was building myself up and assuring myself I’m a supermodel that not only helped motivate me to succeed, but also helps me to keep the excess weight off — not to mention to love myself inside and out (no matter how tight my clothes might feel on occasion).

I now work to offer these same uplifting thoughts to everyone else in my life — even strangers. Because this kind of positive thinking (as opposed to shaming) is part of the success formula (both in regard to getting healthy as well as just being a person other people want to be around).

So let’s applaud Ms. Bertinelli for not only speaking out about fat shaming, but also owning her weight gain. I, myself, went up and down the scale a lot — even after taking off over 250 pounds of excess weight. And anyone that knows me will assure you I’m always battling 5 or so pounds. I’m human. Just like Ms. Bertinelli. Just like you.

Shame out. Self-love in.

Try it. You’ll like it. And you might even discover, as I did, that this love will start extending to everyone — and everything — around you. And rightly so.

(Someone cue the “feel good” music!)

Photo Source: The Talk

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7:52 pm - Posted by Gregg

Here’s great reminder on how shifting our perspective can remind us why we want to take off the excess weight in the first place. #YouCanDoIt

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