Archive for the ‘Healthy Lifestyle Contest’ Category

A Whole New Type of Physical Therapy

 

 

 

 

As you get older, you have more aches and pains and are more easily hurt from being active. I know this first hand from getting hurt exercising a number of years ago. So to prevent injury and be in better physical shape, I encouraged the contestants to go to Labell & Associates Physical Therapy in Rowley, before moving into more advanced levels of exercise or strengthening routines. All they had to do was ask their doctors for a referral, which has been no problem, and insurance covers it. Most people in the group have now worked with Bryan Labell and his staff, and all of them are thrilled with the results and amazed by how much more they can do with their bodies.

Bryan’s goal isn’t simply to help people heal an injury, which is what physical therapy (PT) is typically used for. His goal is to show people how to use their bodies more effectively, to protect themselves from injury, and to be able to perform activities at a maximal level – whether they started with an injury or simply wanted to increase their ability to do certain activities. His PT treatments are designed to restore full flexibility and full strength across the body, as well as increase coordination, endurance and balance. He starts off with stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones, balancing out the muscles and building a strong foundation, before he shifts people to more dynamic exercises to enhance physical performance and agility.

By the time people are done with their sessions, they are more in tune with their bodies and what it takes to stay pain free, and they are doing much more than they ever would have thought possible. He happens to have an advantage most PT businesses don’t; his offices are inside the Excel Gym, so he has use of the exercise equipment. Those in the group who have worked with Bryan gush about how great the experience has been and how motivated and excited they are by what they can now do. And that in turn is motivating them to do even more activity and to pursue a regular strengthening program to continue improving their fitness, which Bryan has personalized for those who want to do this.

Lisa – Healing plantar fasciitis
Lisa was the first to go to Bryan and she is thrilled to have accomplished so much. “When I started,” Lisa said, “I was so tight in my hips, hamstrings and calves. Now I am looser, have full range of motion and no pain. I am also much more in tune with my body, so I can tell when things are changing, what feels different and what I have to do to make adjustments. I feel so much better, and I can really notice a difference at work.”

Lisa injured her foot doing a lot of walking this spring and developed plantar fasciitis, which she had dealt with in the past. Fortunately she could still bike, but it was very painful and affected her at work where she does a lot of standing and walking. The PT started with her feet and moved up to the muscles in her lower body. Bryan, or one of his associates, stretched out the tight muscles in her legs and feet, and when she was more limber shifted her to lower body strengthening exercises. They also did ultrasound and massage techniques. That strengthening led to more tightening, which Bryan anticipated, and they added more stretches for that and did deep massage work. As Lisa got stronger, she did dynamic exercises that increased her balance, coordination and physical performance, and she did cardio exercise to increase her endurance.

Maureen – Addressing tightness
Maureen was next to go, but not because she had anything wrong. She just knew that the more she had been exercising the past few months the more stiff and tight she felt, particularly in her hips. What she appreciated was how much of an improvement she made every couple of weeks, which she could see because they continually measured her range of motion. “It was very affirming,” Maureen said, “to see how much I was able to do and that I could reach the goals they set for me. And now I notice how many things I can do and how much more efficient my movements are. They helped me to see that I have a lot more abilities than I had realized. I’m stronger and more capable than I would have believed, and for the first time I’m looking at my body and what it can do.”

Like Lisa, Maureen really enjoyed the PT, which you probably wouldn’t expect. She found Bryan and his staff motivating and great fun. And now that her sessions are done, she loves feeling in better shape and moving with greater ease, and she is determined to stick with the exercises and continue to use her body to the best of its ability. “Why wouldn’t you,” she said. “It feels so good to be able to do all this and to keep it up.”

Eric – Recovering from an accident
Once Eric’s doctors gave him the okay after stabilizing from a major auto accident, he too went in to see Bryan. What they found was poor range of motion in his shoulders, back and hips as well as a weak core. At first the focus was on stretching and doing movement exercises, like picking up a weighted milk crate and putting it on a shelf. Once he had made improvements, they moved on to strengthening machines and doing lots of balancing exercises. Each time he went in, he was doing something different as he progressed further and further. “I’m in better shape now,” said Eric, “than before the accident. It is sort of like personal training, but more like occupational therapy. They took it easy with me at first, and now I’m doing weights and making a lot of progress. I’ve learned you don’t have to kill yourself to get into pretty good shape.”

Eric has been so impressed and enthusiastic that he asked Bryan for a strengthening routine he could do on his own at the YWCA, while going to PT. He has also learned the importance of stretching, and is fully committed to this at home. He’s not alone. Everyone in the group has been dedicated to their at-home exercises, which has impressed Bryan quite a lot. And most of them have joined a gym to keep up their strengthening exercises.

Cheryl – Overcoming a long-term illness
For nearly twenty years, Cheryl has been limited by what she could do from an illness she had many years ago. The past six months she has done more than she thought possible, walking outside, in the pool and to an in-home video. But going to PT and working with Bryan has taken her ability to a whole new level. His staff worked every part of her body, explained what they were doing, how it all worked, and what she needed to know, so she felt informed, educated and surer of what she could do.

Her PT started with the stretching, and then they added strengthening, dynamic movements and cardio endurance to help her increase her tolerance for particular movements. “I’ve learned I am a lot stronger than I thought,” Cheryl said, “and I can do a whole lot more. I also now know what to do when I get fatigued or have pain to recover faster, and I’m learning to listen to my body. This has changed my life, and now I feel so much more confident and capable. I would never give this up.”

Wrapping Up This Contest Series
Everyone has seen dramatic results from their PT sessions, and they are pumped about the experience. As Bryan said to me, his mission is to “get people to feel the way they want to feel and working beyond their expectations, and when they feel so good and are doing so much they want to maintain that.”

That summarizes the philosophy of this contest. The goal is not for the contestants to be good and to do as they are told. It is to discover how good it feels to be active, physically fit, eating healthy foods and taking care of themselves, and then to feel motivated to maintain that great feeling.

At this point, now eight months into this two-year contest, you have followed along as the contestants have learned new skills, changed their thinking and overcome obstacles to making healthy lifestyle changes. They have successfully embraced healthy eating, learned how to be in control with food, become self-motivated to stay active and gained skills to overcome their challenges, while you have had a chance to witness the process and their thoughts in this blog series.

Now I am wrapping up the series, as the contestants continue to maintain what they have learned. For them, it was never about being in a contest or winning prizes, but about a chance to reclaim their lives and to feeling really good. We will still have awards at the end of this month and in December, and the final awards at the end of 2011.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Get a Great Body

How many times have you given up on your diet or fitness routine because you weren’t good enough, didn’t do it all right or couldn’t exactly follow or complete what you had to do? My guess is more than once. The average person has given up close to a dozen times on their eating and exercise goals, and those experiences affect their self-confidence and an ability to succeed in the future.

The Truth about Perfection
Few people can perfectly follow a diet or a fitness program for weeks on end, unless they are professionalathletes or those who have the rare ability to be extremely self-disciplined. That leaves nearly everyone else who is trying to fit healthier habits into their busy and often unpredictable lifestyles.

What the contestants have been learning is that the goal isn’t to reach perfection or to be good; it is to gradually make healthier choices that leave them feeling good and setting their own new and realistic goals they honestly think they can reach each week. There is no diet or fitness agenda they must follow. Instead, they are learning to incorporate more and more healthier foods and activities into their day-to-day life as each week goes by. And despite all they are doing well, sometimes they overeat, choose unhealthy foods, over drink or can’t meet the fitness goal they had for themselves. Yet even when that happens, they can still say they had successes during the week. In fact, I make it a point to have them share their successes each week, and they all have them regardless of whether they fully met their goals or not.

Focus on What Went Well and Learn from the Challenges
When you acknowledge what went well, you get to see that the journey to a fit, healthy and great body is not about what you didn’t do well. Yet that is what most people focus on, which leads to feeling like a failure and feeling it is impossible to succeed. Instead, the journey is about celebrating all the little successes along the way as well as getting to see what didn’t go so well – and looking at those things without any judgment. Judgment is the quickest way to kill your motivation.

When things don’t go so well, that gives you an opportunity to look at the obstacles, challenges and inner issues with curiosity. There are always good reasons (vs bad reasons) for not following through or quite doing as you hoped. Looking at this way, you can see that in each case you can learn something and create a strategy or change in mindset to address it.

In the past couple of weeks, what didn’t go so well for a number of the group members were: limited exercising because of the heat and humidity, eating less well at summer parties, doing a bit more drinking, losing focus because of family distractions, and either being derailed by an injury or an illness.

Creating a Change in Mindset
To address these challenges, we talked about strategies and changes in mindset.

  • For heat and humidity, the opportunity is to figure out ways to be active indoors, in the water or at cooler times of the day. You don’t have to use the heat and humidity as an excuse.
  • For summer parties, bring healthy foods like a salad or vegetable side dish so you know you will have healthier foods to choose from. You don’t have to overeat because others are. You can throw out food if it isn’t that healthy and will be a temptation for days afterwards.
  • For drinking, consider ways to drink less alcohol and still enjoy yourself. Maybe have seltzer water or make spritzers. You don’t have to get drunk to have fun or drink because others want you to.
  • For an injury, consider getting physical therapy if it isn’t healing quickly or is an older injury. Most of the contestants have been seeing Bryan Labell PT & Associates in Rowley to address or prevent an injury. I will be writing more about PT in a future post. You may also be able to do activities that don’t impact the injured area, or you may just need a few days to recover from an overuse injury. You rarely have to stop being completely active when you get hurt for weeks at a time.
  • For an illness, focus on getting well and being gentle with yourself. If you feel you can do light activity that is great, but the main thing to focus on is taking care of yourself and giving yourself time to recover. You are not guilty for giving yourself a break or resting when that is best for your body.

It is so easy to beat yourself up when things get in the way of keeping you from doing as you planned, but real life ebbs and flows and throws you curve balls. Things always get in the way or interfere with our best laid plans. Get over the judgment and look at what you can learn from the situation so the next time you have a game plan that makes it easier to adjust, accept or address the situation.

For more information about the contest, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

How to Stretch Yourself and Love the Results

It can be so easy to get into a routine where you start to eat a bit better and get in some aerobic activity, but that is as far as it goes.  You are doing enough to get a bit healthier, but not enough to really change your body or your attitude.  And while a small change for the better is a success; it will likely lead to disappointment.  When that happens, it won’t be long before you go back to old unhealthy habits.

To help the group participants avoid settling into a lifestyle that is less than what they had hoped for, I asked them to consider what it is they want to improve and how they want to stretch themselves further.  Because they set their own goals and I don’t force them to do any particular activity, what they decide to do is up to them.

This contest and program was set up deliberately to emulate what it is like to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  In real life, there is no one to tell you what you should do or force you to stick with it.  The drive to do more has to come from within, and what I have learned – and now they are learning – is the more you do, the more you can do and the more you want to do.  Those who are doing the most activity are the ones pushing themselves and trying new things.  And they are the ones who are the most enthused and seeing huge changes in their attitude and bodies.  They are almost giddy with how great they feel and how much fun they are having being more active.

I remember having a similar experience during the two years I went from sedentary to fit, and I found myself wanting to do strengthening exercises, try Pilates, go to new classes and check out new types of equipment.  I amazed myself by what I was discovering I could do and my new interests.  At the end of two years I was even more shocked to realize I had a passion for fitness.  Yet I am not alone.  Read almost any fitness or weight loss success story, and you will see that this happens to most people who are active long enough that they want to do more and more and more.  It is the reason for the record number of older adults now doing races and triathlons.  They love how great it feels.  But it takes doing enough fitness activities and then sticking with them long enough to get that great feeling.

For some people, even some in the groups, there can appear to be limitations in what they can do to be active.  These can come from a physical ailment, a preference for doing certain types of activities, only wanting to be outdoors or indoors, a tight schedule, having kids at home, having a poor body image, or any number of things.  Yet very often this is a perceived limitation and not an actual one.

Consider instead:

  • Ways to address an ailment with physical therapy, a visit to your doctor or seeing another type of healing practitioner.
  • Finding new groups or programs you weren’t aware of, such as outdoor MeetUp groups at www.meetup.com.
  • Easy-to-follow and fun DVD or OnDemand fitness programs.
  • Local specialized classes and programs listed through Adult Education or the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Who can watch your kids or which local fitness facilities have a good place for kids, like the YWCA.
  • Any judgment about how you look or how capable you are trying a new activity is your own self-judgment and a perception of what others think.  If you refuse to be judged, no one can judge you.
  • How you can stretch yourself and try something totally new, like rock climbing at MetroRock.

In our group discussion, these were the things we talked about, and a number of people got ideas about what they could do to increase their level of activity, and they left feeling excited by the new prospects.

Read What the Participants Have to Say

Find out what else the group participants have to say about stretching themselves to feel even better, when they add their comments to this blog.  And please share your own insights about what works for you.  It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

For more information about the contest and contestants, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

How Small Successes in Lifestyle Changes Lead to Big Results

As Sharon, one of the contestants, said so perfectly, “Small successful changes lead to lasting big results”. And this is just what the members of the groups are finding out. They started off the contest making very small changes with how they ate and in starting to be more active. I encouraged them to make weekly goals they had 100% confidence they could reach (even if that meant scaling back or baby steps). And I told them to increase their goals by no more than 5-10% at a time. That way, they could stretch themselves a bit, but not too much that they wouldn’t be successful.

Having a Whole New Relationship with Food
Almost six months later, their small successes have added up to having a whole new relationship with food and the ability to maintain healthy choices and portion control almost effortlessly. This doesn’t mean they don’t get to enjoy their favorite dessert, holiday food or evening drink. Instead they have learned how to incorporate these in moderation as part of healthy balanced meals and snacks, and they have figured out the best ways to plan and prepare foods day-to-day and week-to-week.

In the event they find themselves in a situation where they aren’t able to eat that well or get triggered subconsciously around food, they catch it quickly because they don’t enjoy how that feels and get right back on track without any problem. This happened for a few people who had family gatherings over the holidays in one of the groups. It is easy to have old behaviors triggered by family and not catch it until later. This was an opportunity for them to learn what would work better for them next time and to identify strategies for getting together with their extended families.

Staying Active Through the Seasons
When the groups started it was January and cold. They had to figure out what type of activities felt good to do in the winter. As the warmer days appeared in April, most of them were excited to get outside and this motivated them to kick things up a bit. Now we are in the hot and humid days of summer, and that has made the outdoor routines more challenging. Not everyone does well in this kind of weather, and for a number of people it has been difficult to find something they like enough to do indoors.

Yet much like having a few days of overeating or unhealthy foods, it doesn’t feel good to stop being active and it is an opportunity to figure out a backup plan to stay active in the heat. Some ideas they had were to find an indoor activity in the AC, to get out even earlier in the morning or later in the evening, join a club for the summer, to get in a pool or to just do it anyway. What is different from when they started is now they want to stay active and are disappointed if they can’t find a way to do that. They aren’t trying to be good and comply with doing a certain amount; instead they don’t want to lose the great feeling of being active and successful or slip back into their old ways.

Being Motivated by Seeing Before & After Results
The key to motivation is seeing your success, especially when you can compare a before and after result. The contest group had that opportunity when they went for their quarterly fitness and health assessments. They revisited Heidi Thompson and Lauren Rittenberg at HEAT Training in Amesbury to get their fitness levels checked. Across the board, everyone saw considerable improvements in their cardio vascular fitness and strength tests. This is impressive since some of them are doing a great deal of fitness each week and others are doing much less, and since few of them have seen much change in their clothes. Yet they all had lost inches and they all had made substantial progress. This was reinforced by the health check ups they had at Cornerstone Family Practice in Rowley.

What they learned is that success and how they feel in their bodies or about themselves has nothing to do with weight. They are all thrilled with how much they have accomplished and how much more fit and healthy they have become. And now they are motivated to do even more.

Announcing the New Quarterly Winners
I am pleased to announce our three new quarterly winners of the contest, and one of them is a two-time winner.

Debbie Tateosian – Greatest Improvement in Health
She won last time for the most changes in healthy lifestyle behaviors, and she was close to winning the award for most improvement in fitness this time. She has been very active keeping up with Taekwondo, a group exercise class, walking (and now jogging), experimenting with racquetball and starting up kayaking. She totally changed the way she eats and has discovered she can stay easily in control around food. She loves how good it feels to be fit and is having fun being more active.

Maureen Willey – Greatest Improvement in Fitness
This award went to Maureen, who like Debbie, has discovered the joy of being very active. She started out doing water aerobics and a bit of walking, and now she does aquatics regularly and loves the classes that really push her. She’s adding swim lessons and laps, walking, biking and kayaking. She did a 10k walk for charity and is gearing up for a bikeathon to raise money for Parkinson’s disease in the fall. She has been amazed at how much she prefers healthy foods and so easily controls her portions. Maureen feels fantastic and loves the changes in her life.

Sharon Clark – Greatest Improvement in Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
This award is so much more than about eating well and becoming more active; both of which Sharon is doing. It is about self-care and making yourself a priority in a healthy and positive way. Sharon has been clear from the start of this contest that self-care is her goal and what she wanted most to achieve, and she is doing that. After suffering for years from an accident, she is now finally getting the treatment she really needed for the pain in her right hip and leg to be more active. Like Maureen, Debbie, and the others, she is choosing healthy foods and in control of what she eats. And she has made major breakthroughs in how she takes care of herself, and the changes are making her happier.

Awards & Sponsors
The quarterly awards are provided by the Contest sponsors. The award for Fitness Improvement includes a 3-month wellness membership at the YWCA and a $75 gift certificate to Gentry’s Consignment Boutique (affordable top fashions). The Improvement in Health award has a $75 gift certificate from both Grateful Spirit Massage (wellness bodywork services) and in home cooking (personal chef services). And the award for Healthy Lifestyle Behavior changes includes a $75 gift certificate from Spa Paradiso & Salon (wellbeing spa services) as well as Carry Out Cafe (healthy meals to go).

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants have to say about the small successes in their lifestyle, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

For more information about the contest and contestants, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

How to Prepare Healthy Foods in 5-10 Minutes

 

 

 

Making healthy dishes can be fast, easy and hardly any work to prepare, and that is how I manage to fit healthy meals into my daily lifestyle. It can take just five-ten minutes to prepare a meal using healthy whole foods.


This week I wanted to show the people in the New You healthy lifestyle groups how they could make healthy meals really quickly, even on a busy night, and love the results.

So I invited them all to my home for a cooking demo and a healthy balanced meal. On the menu was four different ways to prepare asparagus, along with two easy ways to have fish and two super simple side dishes (basmati rice and sweet potato). It all started with a wonderful bean spread that took only a few ingredients and 5 minutes to whip up.

Here is what I did for our evening event:

Yummy Bean Spread – Everyone Loved This!
Served with Kashi stone-ground wholegrain crackers as well as Blue Diamond’s nut-thin rice crackers (for those who are gluten intolerant).

1 can Cannellini beans – mashed with a fork (after draining the liquid)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Scallions (or 1 slice red onion) – finely sliced
2 tsp Rosemary – fresh (or sage or thyme)
Salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together.
Can also add tiny bit of lemon or sherry vinegar.
Can put on top of sliced banquettes – as a cannellini bean crostini.

4 Simple & Easy Ways to Make Asparagus
Rinse asparagus and break off one end to see where the natural break is. Then cut all the other asparagus in the bunch by the same amount. This saves time in having to break each end off.

1. Roasted Asparagus
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil and spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the bunch of asparagus across the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the asparagus to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme. (I used a mortar & pestle to release oil from the thyme)
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to shrivel and brown.

2. Steamed Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Place the bunch of asparagus into a large frying pan or sauté pan.
Add 1/4 cup of water.
Cover with a lid.
Cook for 3 minutes until the asparagus starts to get a tiny bit soft and the water is gone.
Don’t let it fully cook, or it will quickly get too soft.

Place in a dish and pour balsamic vinaigrette over the asparagus.
(I used Lilly’s balsamic vinaigrette, which you can get at most grocery stores.)

3. Steamed Asparagus with Garlic & Herbs
Same first 5 steps as #2.
Push the asparagus to one side of the pan.
Pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pan where you have created some space.
Add in 1 clove minced garlic (fresh or from a jar)
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Cook the herbs and garlic in the oil for about a minute or two.
Mix in with the asparagus and remove from heat.

4. Sautéed Asparagus with Onions, Garlic & Herbs
Cut up bunch of asparagus into 1 – 1½ ” pieces.
Heat up frying or sauté pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil
Sauté the onion and garlic for 1- 2 minutes
Add in the chopped asparagus.
Sprinkle with bit of salt and dried thyme (or any herb you like).
Cook until asparagus gets a bit soft.

Super Simple Sweet Potato Even the Kids will Love

Roasted Sweet Potato “Chips”
Rinse a large sweet potato (or yam) and slice diagonally in ¼” slices.
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil. You can often reuse tin-foil from prior roastings.
Spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the pieces of sweet potato on the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the slices to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme.
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to brown on bottom.
You will have to use a spatula to check the bottoms.

A Fish Anyone Can Make
You can broil a lot of different fishes, and for this event I picked up a pre-marinated “cajun” catfish at our local fish store, David’s Fish Market in Salisbury. You can also take a white fish and marinate it yourself.

Line a baking sheet with tin-foil.
Lay the fish pieces on it.
Broil for about 8 minutes – if about ¼-½ ” thick. (5 minutes if thinner)
Turn over and broil for about 4 minutes.
It is done when you can slide your fork all the way through, without any resistance.

This is the same way you can make swordfish. Top with bit of salt, pepper and a seafood rub, and broil for 8 minutes. When you turn it over, you can re-apply the seasonings or not.

How simple was that!

The basmati rice was from a brand called Tilda, which comes in a blue foil bag. You boil 6 cups of water, then add in 1 cup of rice. 10 minutes later, you strain it (pouring the rice and water into a strainer) and then douse with hot water. You get perfect rice that isn’t sticky.

The remaining shrimp dish came from a Williams Sonoma recipe called Shrimp with Wine & Herbs out of their “Food Made Fast: Seafood” cookbook.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have to say about their cooking demo evening with me, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

The 4 Tricks to Sticking with Healthy Choices

 

 

 

Healthy Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Easy
It is easier to make a change than it is to maintain it. That’s why so many people can do a diet or a fitness program for a while and then find themselves derailed and back to their old unhealthy and inactive habits.

Here are 4 Ways to Make Healthy Choices Easier:

1. Having Healthy Options Nearby
If you have healthy foods that are just as easy to grab as junk food and a beautiful place to exercise right outside your door… then it is much easier to make healthier choices as you go through your day. Most people gravitate to the healthier option if it is just as easy as an unhealthy one.

This has been the lesson many of the group participants have learned. They now make sure to shop ahead so they have enough healthy snacks and foods during the week. This makes it easier to pick healthier choices at work, at home, in their car or in a bag if they out and about, because they are making sure they are well stocked in all these places. They are also making sure they have water bottles or ways to get at water, rather than skipping it or having something else like soda.

And many of them are enjoying the new Coastal Trails in our town. They find it much easier to want to get out for a walk, bike ride or jog, because the trails are easily accessible, nicely maintained and inviting. I’m noticing how many people are using the trails, so clearly this readily available option for getting exercise is making a big difference in motivating our local residents to do much more walking.


2. Staying Conscious to Be in Control

The second way to stay on track while making a lifestyle change is to be conscious of what works to keep you motivated and making healthy choices and what sabotages your good intentions. If you aren’t fully conscious as you overeat, grab an unhealthy snack, skip your exercise plans or excessively drink, you can’t make a different choice. You only have options, if you are conscious enough to recognize what it is you are doing at the time you are doing it and what it is that is driving you to make an unhealthy decision.

Staying conscious enough to make a different choice is easier than you might imagine. Those in the New You 2010 programs stay aware by tracking their hunger levels during the day, which is simply marking on a scale from 0-10 where their hunger levels are whenever they eat – and any other observation they have.

They also use a fitness journal, which helps them see their goals (which they create for themselves) and the days they hope to achieve them. They then track how they feel afterwards and how they did in meeting that goal. And, they can see their progress week-to-week. As with the food journal, it isn’t about being good or perfect, it is about having a way to stay conscious of what you are doing and having some accountability.

3. Focusing on Feeling Good, Not Being Good
We aren’t taught to focus on how we feel physically and letting that be our motivation; instead we are encouraged to focus on meeting specific goals, doing as we are told and being good. Yet the secret to success is doing what feels good, not striving to be good.

When you first start a diet or an exercise program, you are motivated to comply and be really good. But it usually doesn’t take long before it isn’t so easy to be good and fully do everything you’ve been told you have to do. By the third or fourth week, most people struggle to follow the diet or do all the exercise they have been instructed to do, and that creates a feeling of being bad and failing. It isn’t long after, that people give up with the belief they can’t be successful.

When you focus on choices that feel good to do, like a satisfying healthy meal that is easy to prepare or going for a walk that leaves you feeling fantastic afterwards, you want to do more of these things. The emphasis isn’t on being good or perfect, but on doing what feels good to your body and your state of mind. The New You 2010 participants have discovered how true this is. The more they focus on what is in their best interests, what feels really good to them and what makes them feel good about themselves, the more they want healthier foods and to increase their activity levels. They have stopped trying to be good; instead they are discovering just how good feeling good can be.

4. Having Just Enough Accountability
Staying conscious, having access to healthier options and focusing on feeling good doesn’t happen over night. So it really helps to have someone or a group to account to, in order to stay on track until this does become second nature.

This can take different forms, and for some it really helps to fill in a journal and submit it each week to someone who can provide positive feedback (rather than what wasn’t good enough). For others, all they need is to share what they’ve accomplished on a regular basis to a group or person who is simply supportive. And for some, it helps to have a partner who does it with them.

The best type of accountability is done without any judgment. You don’t need judgment; you need support, positive encouragement and someone with whom you can celebrate your achievements. And that is just what we do at our meetings each week. Everyone shares their successes when they check in, and we look for what is working for them and why. This gives them just enough accountability and greater motivation.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants have learned about what helps them stay on track, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Six Ways to Become Self-Motivated

There are many different ways to keep yourself motivated to make healthier choices and stick with exercise intentions. To find out what is working for those in the New You Groups, I asked them to share what was keeping them motivated each week. We heard lots of different answers, and that was my point. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and what seems to work for you can stop working after a while. Then you have to find something else that works. The good news is there are lots of things you can try and many ways to stay motivated.

Motivated by How Good It Feels
A common motivator that a number of people shared was how good they felt from being active and eating healthier foods, which inspired them to do more of it. Whether it was feeling good from having an accomplishment or feeling good physically, this further motivated their desire to eat well and exercise. Those who are starting to see a big difference in how their bodies feel are getting really excited about the possibility of doing things they haven’t been able to do for a long time, like skiing, playing tennis, hiking or doing a round of golf.

Motivated to Reach an Accomplishment
Another motivator some folks mentioned was the desire to accomplish a particular goal, like walking a 5k in an hour (specifically the Coastal Rail Trail 5k this coming Sunday), running 5 miles by the fall, doing a 10k walk in July, participating in a bike-a-thon next September or going skiing next winter. This provides a vision of an achievable goal and the incentive to do a certain amount each week in order to reach that physical challenge.

Having a longer term physical goal can be extremely motivating, yet not everyone is inspired by that. A couple of weeks ago I had encouraged everyone to consider making a 3- or 6-month fitness goal, and many weren’t ready to do that or didn’t feel any interest in it. I totally understand, because I am not motivated that way. I’m more like one of the gals in the contest group who is motivated by checking off and tracking her day-to-day and weekly fitness goals.

Motivated by a Daily or Weekly Goal
Some in the groups are motivated by having a daily or weekly goal to get in a certain number of minutes or steps, like 8,000 steps using a pedometer or at least 30 minutes walking or biking. By looking back and seeing how much they’ve done, they then find they want to push themselves a bit more with a slightly higher goal. One of the contest winners has done this with great success. She started off walking for just a few minutes six days a week and each week she’s added a minute. Now she has just passed the 30 minute mark and doing more than she thought was possible. She’s even adding in some hills and increasing her exertion levels, and that is exciting for her.

Motivated by Just Doing It
Sometimes you just don’t feel motivated by any of the things I’ve mentioned, and then you have to Just Do It. We all have those times when we just don’t want to get up and exercise or make a healthy meal. We may be feeling ambivalent, tired or super busy. Yet, these are the times when very often you will feel so much better if you overcome the mental excuses and just go do it anyway. That worked for one person in the group, who had been derailed by plantar fasciitis. She got out on a friend’s bike instead of letting her foot be an excuse, and she felt so much better afterwards.

Motivated to Get Better
One fellow in the contest group was in a serious auto accident about a month ago, and he has been told walking will make all the difference in how well his body will heal. The more he can do now, the better chance he has of staying healthy and being able to have an active life long-term. That is pretty motivating. Others have seen their blood pressure, stamina and energy improve, and that inspires them to keep doing even more.

Motivated from Realistic Successes
A couple of the guys in the groups shared what they’ve learned is de-motivating, and that is having a goal that doesn’t seem achievable or failing to succeed right off the bat. At that point, their feeling was why bother doing it at all if you can’t succeed, and then wanting to give up entirely.

For one of the guys, the excitement in having a realistic way to get from the couch to a 5k and actually run again for the first time in years was lost by seeing someone else run it at a speed he knew he couldn’t attain. It completing deflated his motivation. Yet when he could see that he didn’t have to run that fast and didn’t have to compare himself to others, that he regained his motivation to running a 5k at whatever pace he could. Another one of the guys pointed out that if you set the goal very low and have a success, you want to see how much more you can do. So instead of pushing yourself to do too much and feeling like a failure, you can start off slow and become motivated by what you can do.

Explore What Motivates You
As you’ve just read, everyone is motivated differently and can be motivated by a number of different things. What matters is recognizing what does and doesn’t work for you, and then being open to trying something new when you find yourself losing interest.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have learned about what does and doesn’t motivate them, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Winning Strategies for Staying on Track

 

 

 

The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for a number of people in the groups. When I asked them to share any success they had despite the difficulties, they each found one they could feel good about.

When you focus on successes, you stop focusing on what you didn’t do, should have done or your perceived failures. Instead you see what did go well, what worked best for you and that you can succeed. This is critical to being able to stay on track.

For many of them in the groups, the one thing they found that really helped them to have some success was their awareness. For example, they stayed aware of when they got full, so even if they were triggered to overeat, they were able to stop before they lost control. They listened when their body started to hurt and took time off without feeling guilty. And they were conscious of their desire to turn to comfort or junk food, and if they did have some, they were able to keep it to a minimum. They shared honestly without beating themselves up and could see that by staying conscious of what was going on and how they were feeling, they didn’t revert to old habits which would have been so easy to do.

There will always be days or weeks when they will struggle with issues in their lives, don’t meet their goals or feel like they’ve gotten off track. It happens to all of us. A month ago I had vertigo for several weeks. Life isn’t predictable or easy to manage. Plans get changed, emotions get stirred up, injuries happen and illnesses will catch you off guard. Or worse, as in the case of one of our contestants, who has been out for weeks from a bad auto accident, you can get derailed for long periods of time.

Instead of judging yourself or getting caught up in the disappointment, what everyone in the groups are discovering is they can learn from these experiences and get right back on track. In fact, these are golden opportunities to create strategies for similar future situations. You can look back and see what might have worked better for you, which would have left you feeling good physically as well as mentally and emotionally. The objective isn’t to look back to see how you could have been better at being good, because that isn’t the issue. It is not about being good or bad. It is about doing what leaves you feeling good and about respecting your body and yourself.

Here are some strategies that resulted from our discussions:

  • If you have worked your way up to walking for 25 minutes – or whatever amount you can now do, avoid taking a much longer walk even if a friend invites you to walk the length of our new rail trail or any other great walk in the area. Know your limits and speak up, letting that person know you’d love to walk but that after x number of minutes you’ll have to turn around.
  • Remind yourself that 10 minutes, one mile or one loop around the block is enough exercise, if that is all you think you feel up for. It is better than nothing, and who knows, you may find you want to do more once you get started.
  • If you begin to notice some aches or pain in your feet or legs, don’t push through it or pretend it isn’t there and continue with your goals for the week. Instead to take it as a warning signal that you may need to back off the exercising, do some icing, add in more stretching, see a practitioner or do an activity that doesn’t put exertion on that area.
  • If you are making dessert for company that is visiting, you don’t have to serve big pieces or an 1/8th of a pie. You can make the servings much smaller, so each person doesn’t feel compelled to eat more than they want or need.
  • Notice if you are really enjoying the food you are eating and if it is really all that satisfying. If you aren’t satisfied or don’t really want any more of it, to throw it away – even if it is ice cream.
  • Buy one meal and split it three-ways with the kids instead of a full meal and two kid meals.
  • And last, but not least, sometimes you have to tell yourself to “Just Do It”. We all have times when we come up with excuses and resist doing something we know will feel good once we get started, and it helps to give yourself a strong nudge to just go do it anyway. When I first started exercising, that is exactly what worked for me. I would say to myself, “too bad, no discussion, just go it”, and that would be enough to get me in my sneakers and downstairs.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants learned from talking through ways to create strategies from their challenges.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Quick & Easy Food Strategies


 

 

 

Cooking Demo from Local in home cooking

This week the groups got the chance to spend part of an evening with Katie Habib, owner of in home cooking (personal chef, interactive dinner parties, cooking lessons and party prep) right here in Newburyport at her home. Our interest was vegetables and easy, quick ways to prepare them. We wanted to know how she would whip up a side of yummy broccoli, green beans, asparagus or eggplant. When we arrived we were welcomed to her big kitchen and a tasting of crackers with a delicious caponata spread (an Italian eggplant, balsamic vinegar, olives and capers) and another simple spread made from carrots and sweet potato.

Within the hour we spent with Katie, we learned how easy it really can be to roast or sauté vegetables. She demonstrated roasting by cubing up an eggplant and a red onion, dropping them on a thick baking sheet and drizzling with a bit of oil, crushed garlic and bit of salt and pepper. She broiled them in less than 20 minutes and tossed with some feta cheese. You can broil (or bake) nearly any vegetable that way, and they come out with a wonderful flavor. She also sautéed broccoli florets in a bit of oil with garlic, salt, pepper and as it finished cooking added in some raisons and red pepper flakes. She did something similar with the green beans, finishing those instead with balsamic vinegar. We left inspired to add more vegetables into our meals.

Tim, who was the lucky winner of Katie’s services for his award in health improvement, will not be the only one signing up for her services, such as her weekly crock pot meals or in home cooking lessons. For more information about all Katie’s options, visit www.inhomecooking.net.

Developing Food Strategies from Hindsight
Back in our group sessions, we talked about those times during the week when it was challenging to maintain portion control or avoid eating less than healthy choices. Everyone has learned not to beat themselves up when that happens, and now they can use those experiences as learning opportunities.

It is amazing what you learn when you look back and see what might have worked better in different situations. For example, several people said that Easter didn’t go quite as planned, even though they were pleased they remained in greater control than ever before. For example, some found it easy to keep nibbling at food that remained on the table as everyone sat around. One easy way to avoid that is to put the food away, getting it out of everyone’s reach. Several talked about eating too much dessert because of the portions that get served, yet they were in control of the portion size. They realized that they automatically cut big pieces of pie or cake because that is just what they’ve always done, but they could just as easily do smaller slices.

Once you can identify specific strategies from past events, you can think about them proactively the next time the same type of event comes up. This is exactly what two of them did when they knew that Easter dinner would involve a buffet, since we had talked about dealing with buffets before. They both had a little healthy snack an hour or so before going, so they didn’t get to the buffet too hungry. One of them had already decided ahead of time that she would start with a salad, and both of them took a walk through to see what was on the buffet table before getting their plates. That enabled them to think about which things they really wanted most, and in what ways they could have them in a healthy balanced way. And then they left room for a bit of the desserts and again picked a couple of small things they thought looked best. Neither got full and both were perfectly satisfied. In fact they felt great about their choices and themselves.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the contestants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Celebrating the Successes & Getting Your Own Support

 

Congratulations to Our First Winners
It seems hard to believe we are already picking our first quarter winners for the year, yet everyone has made so many changes it almost seems like they’ve had a healthier and active lifestyle for months. There are three winning categories: greatest improvement in health, fitness and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Last week, I asked them to rate themselves on a scale of 0-10 in these areas and to share how they had improved, so their own input could be factored into my final decision. Across the board, each of them felt they had made good improvements, and they talked about how much better they felt and how much more they could do. So it was a tough decision to pick just a few of them, yet I am pleased to announce that three of them achieved slightly more changes and are our first winners. They are Cheryl Morris, Tim Lamprey and Debbie Tateosian.

Greatest Improvement in Fitness
Cheryl is being award for the Greatest Improvement in Fitness, and she received a three month wellness and fitness membership at the YWCA and a $75 gift certificate to Gentry’s Consignment Boutique (affordable top fashions). Cheryl went from no physical activity to weekly exercising and continually progressing her time and endurance, and she did it by doing an at-home walking DVD and walks around her neighborhood. She has seen a lot of improvement in her stamina, strength and flexibility and is no longer as fatigued. And she is able to stand on her feet for longer periods, which is significant since she suffers from a disease that has made that challenging. Cheryl is happier and can do so much more than she’s been able to do in twenty years.

Greatest Improvement in Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
Debbie won the Greatest Improvement in Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors award, and she got a $75 gift certificate from Spa Paradiso & Salon (wellbeing spa services) as well as Carry Out Cafe (healthy meals to go). Like Cheryl, Debbie has really amped up her exercising. She was doing a bit when she first started, including some Taekwondo. Now she is also doing a strengthening class a few times a week, playing a lot of racquetball and walking regularly and for longer periods of time. She has been willing to try new things, whether she feels she is good at it or not and having a lot of fun.

Beyond fitness, she has totally changed her relationship with food. She went from being out of control with food (particularly sugar) to getting a handle on portions, making healthy balanced choices, cooking healthier meals for her family and overcoming bingeing and other subconscious eating. She wouldn’t say it will never happen again, but she has the tools to stay in control when things are tough and she’s using them. Also, as a mother of young children, she also has discovered how to make her health and fitness a priority and to make healthier choices (like getting more sleep) so she feels better. You can see how good she feels about all these changes.

Greatest Improvement in Health
Tim saw the Greatest Improvements in Health, and he is being recognized with a $75 gift certificate from both Grateful Spirit Massage (wellness bodywork services) and in home cooking (personal chef services). Tim lost his father at an early age to heart disease and he too is at risk. From the beginning of the contest program, when Tim began walking regularly, he has continued to feel better and seen a big shift in energy and stamina. Each week he pushes himself a tiny bit more, and he can envision much longer walks. His blood pressure is lower and some of that is also attributed to the change he’s made in the foods he chooses to eat. He has gotten his portions under control and is enjoying cooking healthier and more balanced meals. When you see Tim later in the afternoon at his nursery, you may have a harder time keeping up with him.

Thanks to the Sponsors
While none of the contestants signed up just to win prizes, they are indeed a positive motivator. And just as important, the contest sponsors all provide services that support these winners in maintain their healthy and active lifestyle behaviors. They will also help others do the same, so consider which of these sponsors’ services can support you.

Getting Your Own Support – 3 Support Groups Starting in Two Weeks
I am expanding the NEW YOU 2010 contest with 3 more support groups, starting the week of April 19th. For those who wanted to apply for the contest or want what these contestants are getting, this is the time to join your own support group in the Greater Newburyport area, which will be coached in person by me just as the contestants are.

The groups are limited to 8 people, so apply soon. There is a group at noon, 5:30pm and 8:30pm.

Learn how to create a healthy and active lifestyle that really works for you and then maintain it with the support of your own group for two years.

You will be shown how to make healthy choices that are satisfying, address mindset challenges, overcome sabotaging obstacles and stay motivated to reach your goals for the long-term. Do as the contestants are doing and discover an easier way to achieve healthy eating, healthy fitness and healthy weight loss, so you too can become a success story.

Details and application are at New You Success Groups

Identifying Subconscious Food Triggers

 

 

 

This week the topic was on subconscious eating and how to address those times when food seems to have all the power and you just can’t stop yourself from losing control. While everyone is feeling more in control with food choices and portions, they are still prone to over indulging and eating when they aren’t hungry from subconscious triggers. By knowing more about them and how to deal with them, they will be better prepared and more easily avoid getting triggered to eat out of control.

Your Behavior is the Tip of the Iceberg
It is so easy to judge your behaviors as good or bad, yet it is never that simple. When you over indulge, for example, the behavior may appear bad but that misrepresents what is going on. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but instead of understanding what drove you to have that behavior. Your behaviors stem from your subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, most of which you aren’t even aware of. All you see is the behavior; not all that lies beneath it. To change your behavior, you need to expose what is driving it, and that is what I spent the session explaining how to do.

The Behavior Chain of Events:

Situation —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —

When something happens during your day, your thoughts about the situation are determined by your beliefs (most of which you absorbed from others you thought knew best as you grew up but may not necessarily be in your best interests) and these thoughts often create feelings about what is happening, whether you realize they are there or not. If you are like most people, the next thing you know after experiencing a trying situation is you are eating something you don’t really even want or losing control around foods you know you shouldn’t have. That then triggers beliefs about your eating behavior, which leads to negative thoughts and emotions, which drives you to eat even more.

For example; if you experience something that you believe is unfair, your thoughts reflect that and you begin to feel annoyed or upset. But seldom is there an opportunity to express those feelings, so you find yourself turning to food to avoid those feelings and to feel better. But you know that isn’t good and you shouldn’t do it, which leads to feeling even worse and continuing to eat out of greater frustration, shame and guilt. This is classic emotional eating, which I refer to as emotional repression since it works to keep you calm and your feelings under control – as in pushed out of consciousness. The problem is the emotions are still there, unresolved and ready to be triggered again.

As I shared with the groups, emotional eating is a term people use to cover many different aspects of subconsciously-driven eating behaviors, and it helps to separate eating driven by beliefs from those driven by emotions or to recognize when it is a combination of both.

Dealing with Beliefs Eating
If you overeat because you subconsciously believe you must finish everything on your plate, this would be a type of beliefs-driven eating behavior. There is no emotional component to it. Another example is eating food because you don’t want to throw it away or you want your money’s worth. Very often the beliefs you carry are those you got from other people or the media, and when you really stop to evaluate those beliefs will find they don’t serve you.

Does it really make sense to eat until you are sick to get your money’s worth or to skip meals to save your calories for dinner, which creates blood sugar lows and usually leads to night-time bingeing? Or does it make sense to overeat or eat food that makes you feel sick to take care of someone else’s feelings? Just because you perceive pressure to eat, doesn’t mean you have to eat or that the other person cares as much as you think.

You can change your beliefs once you identify the ones that don’t work for you. You can decide to create a new belief, like if you are done eating and can’t keep food as leftovers that throwing away food may be the best option.

Dealing with Emotional Eating
There are two primary types of eating that are driven by emotions. One is emotional repression, as I mentioned earlier. The other is when your emotions represent a reaction to having been or currently being deprived of food you want. This I call restrictive rebellion, where one part of you (the inner parent – holder of beliefs) enforces your dietary rules and the other part of you (the inner child – holder of emotions) rebels to get its unmet needs addressed. As most of us know, our emotions usually win one way or another, and often it is by going out of control with food.

The way to address these is to understand what it is you are feeling and what it is you need (to address those feelings) that don’t involve food. So if you are angry about something, determine what needs to be done to address what created that anger and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger, instead of repress it. And determine if there are additional emotions beneath the anger that need to also be addressed. The idea isn’t to dig up the past, but to identify what you feel and need now. In my book that goes along with this program, I go through the exact steps on how to do this.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Learning about subconscious eating and specific examples of belief- and emotionally-driven eating was eye-opening to people in the groups. As several of them said, they now had greater insight about themselves and their relationship with food, and it all made more sense.

Find out what else the participants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group (3 more groups starting soon), check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Keeping Exercise on Track

 

 

 

 

Food is Getting Easy, Exercising is a Bit Tougher
After two months of doing this program, the harder issue for most people in the groups is doing more exercise, yet they are all making incredible progress and feel they have improved their fitness since starting. What is interesting is that almost everyone feels they have a good handle on portion control, are easily choosing healthier foods and planning balanced meals and snacks. And I would agree looking at their weekly journals. This is one area they are getting down, and yet it was the area most of them felt they had their greatest struggles when applying for the contest. At this point the bingeing, cravings, addictions, over eating, unhealthy choices and imbalanced selections are getting to be a non-issue.

In fact, I’m now encouraging them to stop tracking foods and to go back to tracking hunger levels by type of meal, unless they have occasions when they struggled with balance or over eating of a specific food. Then that is a good time to write out the actual foods involved. Otherwise, I want them to go back to focusing on how they feel and keeping the journaling process very simple. In doing that, they will remain conscious and stick with their new changes easily.

So this week, I had them all share what they were most pleased about in their fitness progress and choices. They shared how much more energy they had, how much better they were feeling and how well they were doing in staying active each week. As important, we heard again and again how motivated they felt to move a bit more during the day, to get out and walk when the weather was so gorgeous and to choose exercising when they normally would have felt too tired to consider it in the past. Across the board, everyone was fairly pleased with their accomplishments and felt they could do even better.

Addressing Exercise Obstacles
Now is the time to put more of the focus on establishing a solid exercise routine and building up aerobic levels. To do that, I addressed the most common types of exercise obstacles and how to deal with them this week. It is easy to judge yourself when you don’t exercise as being bad, lazy or undisciplined. But those are rarely the real cause of lack of movement. Without understand what is really keeping you from exercising you won’t resolve your inactivity.

The 8 reasons for struggling with exercise are the following:

Low Motivation: A common obstacle to exercising is not feeling motivated enough to do it. You won’t be motivated day-in and day-out to exercise if you haven’t identified what it is you want to be able to do or feel as a result of regular aerobic and strengthening activities. Once you have a focus for why you really want to be more fit, then you can focus on finding ways to stay motivated day-to-day. The trick is knowing what fuels your desire to do more, such as looking forward to a fun activity, tracking steps or calories burned and seeing them go up, or seeing progress as you check off your accomplishments on a calendar.

 Low Priority Planning: Not having enough time is really a result of not putting exercise higher in your priorities. Anyone can find time to exercise if it matters enough to them, and if they can find the motivation to stick with it. A way to make this easier to is to find an exercise or a group class you love so much, you will find ways to fit it into your schedule. Another is to look at your calendar for the week and see where you can fit in time for exercise and schedule it.

Too Much, Too Soon: In the excitement of starting a program, when you feel highly motivated to get started, it is easy to overdo it and find yourself giving up because you can’t sustain the pace or because you’ve gotten injured. Try starting off with smaller goals and less intensity, so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed and can experience your ability to succeed in reaching your goals.

Compliance Perfectionism: Feeling you have to measure up to someone else’s expectations or attain perfection in reaching your goals is the fastest way to failing and giving up. No one is perfect, and no one knows better than you as to what you can do each week, what is motivating or how your body is feeling. Instead of trying to comply to unrealistic expectations or someone else’s rules and goals, focus on what you want for yourself, what your body is telling you, and what works to keep you moving and on track.

Inflexible Beliefs: Another way people sabotage exercise is with the belief that doing anything less than x days a week or x number of minutes isn’t worth doing. Any exercise counts, even if it’s for 15 minutes, and the more active you are, no matter what it is, it all adds up. You may have other beliefs about what you need to be wearing, what your significant other will or won’t do to support you, what constitutes as exercise, or countless other requirements that are keeping you from being active and fit. Stop and identify what your “excuses” are and see if you can change your beliefs so you can achieve success.

Emotional Rebellion: Most people think emotions are just tied to food, but they also impact exercising. Think about it; you do have feelings about exercising, and if you’ve had bad experiences or anxiety about exercise than this can impact your behavior. If you are resistant or ambivalent towards exercise, become curious (without any judgment) about how you feel about exercise and why that is. Most likely you will find there are good reasons for your feelings, and once you acknowledge and validate them, you can start to look into ways of exercising that can address these feelings. For example, maybe you were called a klutz in grade school and have an aversion to gym-based exercise. Maybe you were forced to exercise and hated it. Maybe you had a bad experience with a trainer or fitness program. Are there other ways of being active that you feel confident about, or can you find a class that interests you that offers a safe environment for becoming proficient?

Derailment Resistance: There is nothing worse than finding yourself derailed from your fitness routine and struggling to get restarted after an illness, injury, vacation or period of just not wanting to do it. Once you get derailed it can seem too hard to get re-motivated again to exercise, and often this short period of non-exercise can turn into months or years of inactivity. An easy way to get restarted is by taking it slow and setting very low goals the first week or so.

Extreme Associations: If you’ve participated in extreme fitness programs and boot camps that you didn’t enjoy or that left you with an injury or bad taste in your mouth, you may be dealing with conflicting beliefs and emotions around exercise. On the one hand, you may believe that anything less than extreme fitness isn’t worth doing because of the quick results, and on the other hand you may cringe at the thought of signing up for another program. It is better to choose exercise options that you find motivating, enjoyable enough to sustain, and fit your personality. The majority do best starting off with baby steps and doing just one small thing at first, which easily leads to doing more because it feels good, it boosts your confidence and it motivates you to stretch yourself further.

To create a regular exercise routine in your life, pay attention to what feels best to you, what motivates you and what is really getting in the way of being consistent. We are all different, and our reasons for not exercising are all valid. Instead of beating yourself if you find you can’t quite get moving, respect that you have a good reason and try to understand what you really need to do to get active and to develop a consistent exercise lifestyle.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the contestants have to say about what gets in the way of their fitness goals and how they are learning to address them, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Weight Debate – Finding Middle Ground for Healthy Weight Loss

This week the groups were on there own, as I dealt with a case of vertigo and found myself unable to easily move about or focus my eyesight, which is now starting to improve.

The following post was written a couple of weeks ago, when I knew that people in the groups would be starting to focus on weight loss. As they understood when applying to the contest, this was not a quick weight loss program and weighing themselves regularly was not recommended. Yet I knew that after a month or so of making healthy lifestyle changes, many of them would be weighing themselves in hopes of seeing positive changes. I also knew that many wouldn’t see a change, and I wanted to explain why that might be and what they could expect. I also happen to see a weight debate on Nightline that fit right into the discussion.

Nightline’s Debate: Is it Okay to be Fat?
In late February on Nightline, they aired a debate between those that believe you can be obese and healthy and others who strongly believe you have to become thin to be healthy. It was a spirited discussion that failed to change opinions, and I wondered as I watched why there wasn’t a middle ground being offered. What about focusing on health and fitness (or creating an active and healthy lifestyle) as a way to naturally achieve a healthy weight? It seems as if people are being encouraged to pick sides: either extreme weight loss or a refusal to focus on weight at all, and I’m also seeing this in the health and fitness industry, not just Nightline. This is polarizing the debate and the programs being made available to people.

There is a middle ground, in which the focus isn’t on weight loss as a marker of health but as a natural result of living a healthy and active lifestyle. And while this approach, which I advocate, doesn’t focus on or promise specific weight loss, it does recognize that people will inevitably lose some weight if they adopt a healthy and active lifestyle and achieve a healthy weight they can sustain. It may not be the amount they hoped for, but by the time they achieve it they are usually very happy with the results and how they feel about themselves.

The debate was well timed to have a discussion about weight loss with the New You 2010 groups. At this point, after 6 weeks of being more active, eating healthier and getting portions under control, I knew that a number of people in the groups would be starting to wonder if they had or should have lost weight by now. I had made it clear to them at the start of the contest that they should not expect to have any weight loss at first and that they should avoid getting on the scale. Yet I knew some were weighing themselves, and it was time to talk about healthy weight loss.

What Happens When You Get on the Scale?
First I wanted to talk about what happens when you get on the scale. You can weigh yourself several times during the day, and each time you will likely see a different number. That is because our bodies are 60-70% water (even our muscles and bone are made up of water), and throughout the day as we eat, drink, urinate, exercise or get stressed our water weight changes. You cannot gain or lose a pound of fat in a day, so when the scale goes up or down a few pounds during the day, it is water weight and that isn’t what makes you fat. Furthermore, you have a 50/50 chance when you get on the scale of it going up or down, and you don’t control that.

Yet most people are affected by what the scale says, and whether it goes up or down it drives their emotions and their behavior. If it goes down, the common reaction is to feel good about oneself and feel deserving of a reward, doing less exercise or eating a bit more. And if it goes up, most people feel badly about themselves and will either ratchet up their exercise and dietary restrictions or have the opposite reaction of despair and turn to food while giving up on exercising, as if what’s the point. Sadly, all of these reactions only feed the cycle of being victim to the scale, and they don’t lead to making consistent healthy choices in food or fitness. Worse, the scale isn’t even an accurate indicator of what really matters, which is fat weight.

The Truth About Real Weight Loss
Another reason for ditching the scale is weight loss is not linear. You won’t see consistent and daily reductions in weight just because you are starting to eat better and exercising more regularly. That isn’t how the body works. Weight loss, when it is fat weight loss, is a complicated bio-chemical process driven by fat-storing and fat-releasing hormones and enzymes that support changes in metabolic rates. The more likely scenario is a pattern of ups and downs in your weight that over time trend downward, yet in some cases it is months of seemingly no change and then a drop in weight that is followed by another plateau. And that was my own experience. When I started my healthy lifestyle journey and finally exercised regularly while eating well, it took five months before I saw any change on the scale or in my clothes. And then I dropped a size almost over night. It was another four months before that happened again, and after that I waited yet another four months before I saw the next change. It took me two years to go from a size 16 to a 4, and fortunately I gave it time. What helped is I could see other changes in my energy, fitness levels and some greater tone in my arms and legs. And that is what is more important to focus on.

What I reminded everyone is that by making consistent improvements in exercising and eating, the weight will eventually take care of itself naturally as the metabolic set point changes. And the result is they will get a healthy weight they can sustain, instead of yo-yo weight loss they can’t. Not only that, they are starting off making very small changes and at this point they haven’t made significant enough changes or changes long enough for their bio-chemistries to start releasing fat. And when that does happen, men are predisposed to see it first. They have more fat-releasing enzymes than women, who have more fat-storing enzymes to protect a child in the case of famine. Those who have done a lot of dieting, or extreme dieting, and been sedentary for long periods – as I had, are also going to have a double whammy of even fewer fat-releasing and more fat-storing enzymes, which take time to turn around. But it is time well spent.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about allowing themselves the time to reach a healthy and sustainable weight, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

The Power of Changing Your Mindset about Food

This week, I asked everyone to share a significant change in the way they were eating since starting the New You program, and to pick an area they had listed in their contest application as a major problem they wanted to solve. It was amazing to hear just how much had changed, and how easy it had been to make the changes.

A Change in Mindset
To date, they have been shown how to pay attention to their body’s hunger, satisfaction and fullness levels, the basics of nutrition, and how to balance all foods in moderation – as you’ve been reading in this blog. They have been encouraged to notice how different foods or beverages leave them feeling, and to stay conscious when they eat so they can remain in control. They have been discouraged from labeling any food as bad or criticizing themselves when they are challenged to pick healthy choices or in controlling portions.

They have not been put on a diet, been restricted in any way, or been told what to eat or not to eat. There has been no judgment about their choices, but instead a focus on feeling good physically and satisfied emotionally.

And the results within just six weeks are impressive, because no one feels pressured, forced or restricted. Instead they have changed their mindset and been given freedom to do what feels best and works best for them. With this approach, they have all easily, intuitively and naturally gravitated to healthier foods and beverages, low-glycemic balanced foods, smaller portions and more frequent meals. And they have done it by choice, not to win an award or to lose weight fast. Instead they have done it because it just feels and tastes so much better.

Here is a summary of what has changed during the past six weeks across the 4 groups participating in this New You 2010 program, including the contest group.

Portion Control is Now Easy
Nearly everyone struggled with portion control and wanted a way to manage how much they ate, particularly at night, when entering the program. When they first started paying attention to when they started to become full, many found it didn’t feel good and others discovered they had no idea really what fullness felt like.

Now, everyone has easily shifted to eating when they get hungry and stopping before they get full, with perhaps a couple of exceptions during the week, and even then they almost never overeat by that much.

As several people said this week, they just don’t want to eat beyond the point they are satisfied and it has become easy to simply stop. They have found, whether they journal or not, that they are remaining conscious of their hunger and fullness levels when they eat, which is changing their behavior naturally. Others pointed out that by getting enough to eat during the day and not getting too ravenous before dinner, they are more in control and don’t overeat at night. Some noted they are easily taking food home when they go out to eat, which is something they never used to do.

Choosing Healthier Foods is More Satisfying
When most of them filled out their applications, they wrote about the struggle to make healthy choices and many of them shared they weren’t sure if they had or even knew how to eat healthy meals. So many of them had dieted, and sadly diets are seldom healthy.

Now they are gaining confidence that they know what is healthy and are making healthy meals and snacks. They have been experimenting with the foods they already eat, and finding ways to make them more nutritionally balanced with other foods or by finding healthier alternatives (such as whole grain vs refined flour pasta). They haven’t had to change the way they eat drastically. Instead they have made minor modifications and begun experimenting with new recipes. As importantly, they are combining foods in a way they find most satisfying, so they don’t feel like they are being restricted or being put on a diet.

Many of them shared how much they were enjoying their healthier choices and how much better they felt physically and mentally. They are discovering how to balance foods that give them more energy, last a few hours, and taste so much better than what they used to eat. In the process, quite a few of them are getting excited about cooking, trying new recipes and checking labels to make healthier purchases. Some are figuring out better ways to plan their grocery shopping and prepare foods more effectively.

And, many of them are finding they want more fruits and vegetables, so we talked a bit about ways to more easily and quickly prepare vegetables. We will also have Katie Habib, our personal chef sponsor from In Home Cooking, do a class for us on ways to plan and prepare vegetables in April or May.

Excessive Overeating and Bingeing Seldom Happens Now
As I explained to the groups early on, there is always a good reason for overeating and bingeing. The trick is to uncover the subconscious trigger driving you to eat when you aren’t hungry or are already starting to get full. The first step in doing that is to simply observe with curiosity when you overeat and not judge it.

Very often the cause is an internal battle between beliefs you are carrying about food (such as food you shouldn’t have) and emotions caused by unmet needs (such as foods you love and have been deprived of). The drive to overeat and binge can also come from beliefs about wasting food, eating everything on your plate and deserving a reward. It can also be the result of using food to repress emotions and using food to cope with what is going on in your life.

Nearly everyone had been doing excessive overeating to one degree or another, and now it is very rare. They are seeing what is triggering them and they are either changing their beliefs, acknowledging their needs and finding ways to get those needs met, or they are coming up with strategies to avoid getting triggered in the first place. Several shared how amazing it was to them that they no longer graze after dinner or have any desire to eat foods in large quantities. They might have a little something at night, but just a bit, and very often they are happier having it with dinner as part of their balanced meal. As one person put it, there just isn’t “any desire anymore to overindulge”. Others pointed out that because they no longer feel restricted or deprived and instead have permission to eat what they want in a structured way, they are perfectly satisfied and don’t go looking for more food.

Beverage Choices Naturally Healthier
A number of people had been drinking a lot of soda or alcohol, which we haven’t talked much about in the groups. For a few it was a big issue, and they have specifically worked to uncover what is driving them to drink so much and to come up with strategies to reduce their quantities. And that has worked really well. For the others, they simply found they didn’t want as much of it and started drinking more water or seltzer water instead. For them, the change just naturally happened because it made them feel better. And for another, what naturally occurred was a greater desire for a higher quality drink than for quantity.

Addictions and Cravings Seem to Have Disappeared
For those who felt they had carb or sugar addictions when they filled out their applications, none felt they had these now. The cravings have disappeared, and many believed it was because of their balanced food choices and their ability to enjoy a little of whatever it is they love as a part of their meals or snacks.

If they want a cookie, they can have one. If they want chocolate, they can fully enjoy it. And since they are no longer deprived or beating themselves up for slipping, blowing it or being bad, these once forbidden foods don’t hold power over them. Instead, they are eating to be satisfied instead of indulging to make up for what they can’t have or didn’t get to have in the past.

What is also making a big difference for a number of them is breakfast. In the past, they were eating primarily carbohydrates and mainly simple carbohydrates (such as a breakfast of cereal, milk, fruit and fruit juice), which was fueling carb cravings the rest of the day. Now, by balancing their breakfast with more complex carbohydrates, protein and fat, they aren’t spiking their blood sugars first thing in the morning, and the desire for carbs has dropped off.

The Changes Don’t Feel Like a Sacrifice
As one gal put it, “it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice” to make healthy changes this way, and that is why they are all being so successful. Simply by having awareness when eating, a simplified understanding of nutrition and the freedom to make choices that feel best, they are willingly and intuitively making positive changes they will easily maintain long-term. They don’t have to rely on willpower to do as they should, because there are no rules and restrictions – just common sense that feels good.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about their changes with food, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Knowing How to Choose & Safely Progress with Fitness

 

 

 

Everyone in the groups have been making their own choices as to what type of aerobic activities they are doing to get exercise the past six weeks, and each week they are reaching most if not all of their goals.  I have guided them to set goals they know they can reach, to pay attention to how their bodies’ feel with the level of activity they are doing, and to avoid overdoing it or trying to add too much more too fast.  I’ve told them to stretch the goal no more than 5-10% after reaching the previous week’s goal, and if they feel they want to stay at their current goals to go with that. 

Starting Off Slow with Enjoyable Activities
Several people were so motivated by their initial successes, they got extremely ambitious and exercised for much longer periods of time, exercised every day, or both.  When I saw that, I encouraged each one of them to be careful and to scale back considerably.  While this is not the advice you would expect from a fitness expert (or personal trainer as I am), it is good advice.  Here’s why.  When you overdo it, you set yourself up for an overuse injury, stressing your immune system or feeling overwhelmed at having to keep it up, and any of these can lead to getting derailed and losing your motivation to get going again.  I’ve seen this happen too many times with my clients, and I have learned that it is better to build up slowly and safely to maintain enthusiasm and consistency. 

A number of other people were picking activities they felt they should do, and while they have been motivated by the group accountability to stick with them it isn’t enjoyable for them.  Doing exercise you don’t like won’t keep you motivated for long, so it is important to find activities you do enjoy.  Sometimes it is hard to know what that might be, especially if you are so out of shape you can’t do much.  One gal finds exercise boring and uninspiring, but she loves sports like tennis.  So she is looking into getting Wii Sport to renew her tennis passion and get moving in a way that is safe for her current fitness levels.

Learning How to Pace Progression
At this point the groups need more guidance as they become more active, so that was the theme for this week’s sessions.

I showed them a way to know how much exertion they were doing, so they could safely and effectively increase their fitness levels and progress from moderate paces to the point they can increase their aerobic capacity.  I introduced the chart below, which shows a commonly used scale for determining Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is subjective based on a talk test, yet it works really well when you don’t have or don’t feel motivated to get a heart rate monitor. 

As you can see, when you are below an 8 on the RPE scale, which corresponds to 85% of your maximum heart rate (on the blue band), you are in the moderate zone.  And between 60-85% of your max heart rate (or between 3-8 RPE) you are in the fat-burning zone.  At the moderate and moderately easy levels, this is considered heart healthy, and this is where you want to start when first exercising.  It is also the exertion levels where you get some of the greatest improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.  Whereas, as you move up to difficult and very difficult intensities you get the greatest fat loss benefit.  When you get into the anaerobic zone, above 85% of your maximum heart rate, you begin to overload your heart and increase your aerobic capacity.  This is a good thing, but only when it is done in bursts of very short intervals followed by longer recoveries back in the aerobic zone.  These bursts are called intervals, and they are very effective at increasing fitness levels and accelerating fat-burning. 

But, as I cautioned the groups, the goal isn’t to just do interval training and higher fat-burning.  The goal is to build up to that point and then mix up the cardio with both days of moderate and longer periods of exercise and days of more difficult interval-based exercise.  You benefit from both and it allows for a mix of activities that are both intense and more moderate.  Furthermore, the body will adapt to whatever you do repeatedly, so it is best to mix it up with different intensity levels, types of activities and lengths of time. 

Everyone in the groups will now add their RPE levels each time they are active in their fitness journals, so they can see where they are and pace themselves to do a bit more every couple of weeks until they are able to sustain more difficult levels.  They can even start doing some periodic intervals in their current routines that will move them up a level or two in RPE, by adding short bursts (either by increasing their speed or their incline – like a hill) whenever it feels right to do so.

Balancing Core Elements of Fitness
There are four primary areas of fitness: cardiovascular, strengthening, flexibility and balance.  While there are different schools of thought as to which is most important and which you should start doing first, I explained to the groups that our primary goal is to establish a lifelong cardio foundation as the basis of a healthy lifestyle.  The health benefits of maintaining aerobic exercise are too numerous to list here, yet they aren’t limited to just reducing the risks of diabetes and heart disease.  Moderate levels of aerobic exercise improve arthritis, depression, energy, stamina, sleep, osteoporosis, mental focus, stress, digestion and more. 

It is too easy to take on too much too fast, when you try to do cardio, strengthening, stretching and balance all at once, and very often it gets too overwhelming or too time intensive to maintain.  That doesn’t mean that at some point, they won’t be doing all of this – as I now do in my weekly routine.  But first I want them to develop a consistent aerobic practice they will stick with before adding in much more.  The only exception is stretching, which is important for them to begin adding in now if they haven’t already done so. 

In time, they will also add in core strengthening (which often goes hand in hand with greater balance) and full body strengthening.  Some are doing a bit of this now, which is fine if it doesn’t get in the way of having enough time for being aerobic.  I know many personal trainers would disagree with this approach, suggesting strengthening should come first or along with cardio, but I am a realist and focused on making sure everyone has long-term success at maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.  I am less focused on having them build muscle now or achieve rapid changes. 

Those changes will come in due time and it won’t hurt them to wait until they can successfully and incrementally add new things into their routine they can sustain.  I know from my own experience this works, even in my 40s.  I started off with cardio my first year until I had it down, and then I added strengthening the second year, and the third year I added Pilates.  Years later, I am doing all of them regularly, have maintained my lean body mass and continue to stay fit.  Sure I could have built up my muscles and gotten leaner faster, but I didn’t lose anything by waiting a year.  Instead I found a way to incorporate strengthening into my routine because I didn’t get too overwhelmed, and I’ve stuck with it into my 50s.  Not many can say that.

Preventing Injury Before it Happens
One other thing I addressed was injury prevention, which becomes a greater concern the older you are and the more out of shape you’ve become.  There is nothing worse than being derailed for months once you feel you are finally on track and making progress.

Again I had to learn this first hand by having an exercise-related injury from strength training, and I’m not alone in getting hurt exercising.  The problem is muscle imbalances, where some of your muscles are very tight and short and others are weak and long, creating imbalances around joints and across the body.  Some of the weakest areas are in the upper back and core.

When you have imbalances, which often occur from poor posture, prior injuries or being sedentary, you are prone to tearing muscles, ligaments and tendons when you become active.  This is most common with weekend warriors, but it also happens doing any new activity that pushes you more than your body is prepared to do. 

I am hoping to find a physical therapist in private practice who can offer preventive full body evaluations, so we know where their imbalances are and what physical therapy exercises can be done in preparation for strength training.  I used to have someone who did this for my clients, but that PT is no longer available.  So if anyone reading this blog knows of a PT who would be interested, please have them contact me. 

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the group members are doing with their fitness and how they are doing in making other healthy changes in the comments below.  Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

___________________________

How to Be a Success Story
Get the secrets and the steps to healthy eating and active fitness that is easy and enjoyable to stick with, so you too can be a long-term success story.

Download two chapters free Order an autographed copy Book a session for support

“After reading this book, I met with Alice. That one session made all the difference in putting what I read into practice. It was just what I needed. I only wish I had done it sooner!” – Jean Marvin, Maine

___________________________

Gift from Aspire Magazine
I've teamed up with Aspire to give 100,000 women a free subscription - get it now while you can!

___________________________