Archive for the ‘Healthy Lifestyle Contest’ Category

An Easy Way to Make Healthy Food Choices

 

 

 

This week, the main topic for our group sessions was balanced eating and how to easily make healthy meals and snacks without it being complicated or restricted.

These days it isn’t easy to make healthy food choices, and one of the problems is the confusion about what is and is not healthy to eat. You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out the latest research or trying to sort out everything you’ve learned about good nutrition. A number of people who applied for this contest told me that they weren’t sure how to pick healthy foods and some admitted they weren’t sure they had ever had a healthy diet, largely because of all the dieting they had done. And that makes sense, most diets aren’t healthy and all the noise about good foods and bad foods are often contradictory.

The good news is, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you know the basics about nutrition and how to easily balance foods, it is actually very simple and gives you a lot of freedom in your choices. I call this Balanced Eating, and it is a way to make meals and snacks that are nutritionally balanced, satisfying and provide a low glycemic impact.

Why low gylcemic impact matters. Carbohydrates are rated on a glycemic index by how fast they break down and raise blood sugar levels, and those with a high glycemic index (often called fast carbs or simple carbohydrates) break down the fastest, causing rapid and high spikes in blood sugars. To stabilize blood sugars and insulin levels, you want to eat foods that take longer to digest and have a lower glycemic impact, and these are complex carbohydrates (or slow carbs), which are then balanced with protein and fat. When this combination represents the bulk of your meal or snack, then a little bit of simple carbs won’t throw off the balance or raise that glycemic response.

So here is Balanced Eating in a nutshell, as I explained it to the group:

  • Eat more frequently throughout the day every few hours or whenever you get hungry, evenly spreading out your meals and snacks.
  • At each meal or snack, create a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fat. And if you want foods with simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, add them in small quantities.
  • There is no good or bad food. Many simple carbs for example are healthy, such as fruit or carrots.
    So instead of labeling a specific food, determine what category it falls into and balance accordingly.
  • Aim for about 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat. Carbohydrates are what primarily fuels our metabolism, so we need them. We also need fat to keep our cells healthy, be our secondary source of fuel, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. And protein builds and repairs tissues, amongst other things.

The hardest thing to learn is what category does a food fall into. Is it a carbohydrate, and if so what type. Is it a protein, and if so is it lean or fatty. Or is it a fat, and is it unsaturated or saturated. Sometimes it is hard to tell, and you have to look at labels. I gave the group the following chart to help them more easily determine that. I put foods into categories that represented their primary nutrient, like milk as a simple carbohydrate. If you look at the label on your milk, you will see that it is mostly a carbohydrate and that most of that is a milk sugar. And the rest is protein and some fat.

The other thing that is challenging is knowing what are the right combinations. There is no right way to do this. Instead pick a meal you typically eat, and see how balanced it is now and what would make it more balanced and have a lower glycemic impact.

For example, if you tend to have cereal, milk, juice and fruit for breakfast, you will notice this is very high in carbohydrates and high in simple carbs. When you start the day with a surge of carbs and blood sugars, you will often start a cycle of craving carbs the rest of the day. In this breakfast, there is a little bit of protein and probably a bit of fat in the cereal. To better balance this, choose a whole grain cereal with low sugars (like oatmeal) that you like, pick a milk with a bit higher fat content or add some nuts, pick either the fruit or the juice, and perhaps add a piece of lean sausage. Now it is higher in complex carbs, lean protein and fat.

The best way to begin eating healthier is to make minimal changes to the way you eat now. Start by changing one meal at a time or one type of meal during the week, and just as important is to choose what you enjoy eating and tweaking it so it is healthier and just as – or even more – satisfying. This isn’t about going on a diet, it is about making modifications to what you are already doing or your current recipes so you enjoy it more, it is fully satisfying and it carries you for a few hours. In time this will become easier and more intuitive.

Each person in the group picked one of their meals and experimented with ways to make it more balanced and healthier. They told us what was in the meal or snack, and then they told us what those items were in terms of complex or simple carbohydrates, saturated or unsaturated fat, or lean or fatty protein. In this way, they could learn how to think in terms of balancing key nutrients (proteins, carbs, fats) and know when they had a healthy meal or snack or not very easily. They all got this down very quickly and many of them noticed how much better they felt and how much more satisfying it was when they had a balanced meal or snack that was primarily complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fat.

Try it yourself. You will be amazed how easy it really can be and how much better you will feel.

Read What the Group Members Experienced This Week
Find out what the participants experienced with Balanced Eating and how they are doing in making other healthy changes. 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 the contest website.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

Motivated to Change Willingly vs Forcing with Willpower

This week, our sessions started a bit differently. I asked everyone to share what it was that allowed them to succeed at reaching all or part of their fitness goals. As it turned out, all but those who had illnesses or other situations outside of their control, met their goals and most exceeded them. They have been doing this for several weeks now, and I wanted to hear what was enabling them to stay on track and be successful.

Three Powerful Ways to Continually Reach Fitness Goals
The most obvious reason mentioned is accountability, which is why having a group, coach or other support structure makes all the difference when you are making lifestyle behavior changes. It is very hard to do this on your own, both when you get started and as the going gets tough to maintain the changes as a way of life. This is another reason I made this such a long program. It takes time to get new lifestyle changes integrated so they are a natural part of you and it no longer takes energy to stick with the new mindset and behaviors.

The second reason many gave for their success was the freedom to feel okay about making small changes they could achieve and then feeling motivated by that success to do a little bit more. In all the groups, most of them had exceeded their goals and felt really good that. They were excited by how good they were feeling from moving more, and quite a few are already seeing improvements in stamina, strength and energy. They were also jazzed by the ability to choose activities they found most enjoyable, such as walking outside instead of getting on indoor equipment, using the Wii Fit, or dancing with their kids instead of “exercise”. Any movement that gets your heart rate up into the fat burning zone and is sustained for a period of time counts as aerobic exercise, even if it is housework, yard work, washing the dog, shoveling, dancing around the house or playing in the snow. When you get rid of the rigid definition of exercise, you discover a whole world of aerobic options.

A third reason I heard was the versatility and flexibility they had to change their mind and pick other fitness activities during the week that better fit their mood, situations or schedules. They aren’t being forced to comply to specific fitness regimens, and they have the freedom to do what feels and works best to reach their goals. They also aren’t being encouraged to do too much or risk overdoing it, and many of them appreciate that. It is very easy to do too much and feel too stiff or sore to get back into a routine, which is often what derails people for days, which turn into weeks (or even months and years) as they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of starting over again. It doesn’t have to be that overwhelming, nor is it necessary to overdo it. It is best to make goals that are within your ability and totally realistic, and then to increase those goals week-to-week by no more than 5-10%. You can even decrease the goals if you know that is all your schedule will allow, as some people did for the vacation holiday. This assures you are always setting goals with a high level of confidence you can achieve them.

Creating a Way to Track Fitness Goals
What is helping them set fitness goals is the use of a fitness journal, which they began using a week ago. This gives them a place to set goals each day for up to two different aerobic activities and some stretching. And it gives them a way to track what they accomplished and how they feel. The journal can be found on the contest website at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest . Many people are finding this journal very helpful, and others are interested in creating their own variation of it, and I don’t have a problem with that. I told them, what is more important is they have a journal that works best for them as a part of supporting their healthy and fit lifestyle; not what is best for me or to be in compliance with my rules. Not only that, as they begin to add in strengthening exercises they will need a way to track that – either as a part of this journal or on another form.

Finding a Willingness Rather Than Willpower
As each person checked in and shared what worked for them, I could hear a genuine interest, motivation and willingness to be active this past week. They weren’t relying on willpower as much as they were on the desire and choice to do what would leave them feeling better physically and about themselves. They aren’t fighting the process but finding themselves willing participants to be active. If you have to rely on willpower, you will lose the energy it takes to keep it up. Whereas, if you focus on the desire to feel good, you will increase your willingness and self-motivation to stay active. It is more than a change in mindset; it becomes an internal driver of self-care.

Read What the Participants Have to Say about Reaching Their Goals
I can only summarize what the participants are experiencing in this blog post, so read the comments to find out what they each experienced for themselves this week.

To do this for yourself, either on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details, tools and instructions to join them on the contest website.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

Discovering Satisfaction and Focusing on the Positives

 

 

 

 

Putting the Emphasis on What Went Well
Our sessions started with a weekly check-in with everyone, in which they shared a fitness and food success. Some people wanted to also talk about ways they weren’t so good or didn’t do so well, but I asked them to only share what went well and any positive insights they got. The reason for focusing just on what went well is to avoid putting the focus on self-criticism or not being good or perfect enough, which most people do to the exclusion of seeing what they did in fact accomplish. You can feel like a failure and want to give up, when in fact you had a really good week full of positive changes and successes. This was eye-opening for several people who couldn’t see their successes at first and then realized they had been far more successful than they had given themselves credit.

Naturally Making Healthier Food Choices
As we did our check-in, again and again the group members shared how great they felt about achieving their fitness goals and making changes in their eating behaviors. They were having successes and ah-ha observations about food that was helping them make positive changes in their approach to food. A big change was the drop in overeating. If overeating happened, it occurred only a few times during the entire week, which was a big shift. They were also beginning to make healthy food choices and smaller portion sizes that were more satisfying than what they’d been doing in the past, and finding they were enjoying their food more. What they loved is they were doing this without feeling forced or because they should, but instead as a natural extension of their awareness of hunger and fullness levels – called Intuitive Eating.

The real test was Super Bowl Sunday, and nearly everyone avoided overeating or being totally out of control that day for the first time ever. Some of them deliberately portioned out smaller amounts, others made healthier versions of their party foods, many simply stopped as they began to feel full, and a few discovered they didn’t really want any of the food after all.

Getting Motivated by How Good It Feels to Move
They were also getting excited about how much better they were feeling from being more active and discovering how to pick activities that were most enjoyable. A number of people got outside and walked, which they really enjoyed, rather than get on their indoor exercise equipment. Some parked much further way from their destinations and got in more walking and felt more energized. Several others got a Wii Fit this past week and loved it so much they overdid it. A number of people pushed themselves to do more than they had set as a goal, and several of them felt really sore as a result. Getting sore isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a warning sign that you are doing too much too soon. I’ve learned over the years in my practice, that doing too much can lead to overuse injuries, joint pain, lower immune systems that show up as repeated colds, or a feeling of frustration and giving up. There is time to build up to doing more and giving the body a chance to acclimate to the changes. The best way to progress is by incrementally adding no more than 5-10% more time (or intensity) each week and checking in to see if you (and your body) are ready to progress.

Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
The last thing we discussed was setting fitness goals for the upcoming week, and this week they got a fitness journal to track their goals and what they actually accomplished. You can get a copy of this from the contest website.

Read the rest of this post for tips to setting realistic goals.

Hear what the participants have to say about their individual experiences this past week by reading their comments to this post.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

The Power of Self Awareness and Small Successes

 

 

 

To kick off our sessions this week, I asked everyone to share what it was like to get in touch with their fullness the past week and to share in what way they had success in reaching their other goal. In addition to the goal of tracking fullness, each person had set a second goal for themselves in another area of health or fitness improvement.

Focusing on Fullness Leads to Insights and Changes
Everyone had a different experience in becoming aware of when they got full and what fullness felt like to them. For some, they weren’t really sure when it was they got full. It felt abstract and wasn’t as simple as one would think to get in touch with fullness. For others, they realized fullness was too familiar a feeling but knowing the stages of becoming full was less easy to identify.

Some said the awareness of becoming full helped them to cut back on what they were eating, and for the first time it was effortless to eat less. Just being aware changed their behavior around overeating. A number of them also recognized that they could cut back their portions by giving themselves smaller amounts to begin with (like ½ a sandwich, using smaller bowls or plates, serving less food), knowing they could always go and get more when they got hungry again. They then tried that and found they felt so much better. There were a few people who were inspired to change other behaviors related to their eating, such as cutting back the amount of wine they were drinking or stopping before they ate out of emotional reasons. What is amazing is that they did all this effortlessly, simply by observing how they felt, and that was my point. No one forced them to change; they wanted to make changes because it felt better.

Read more about their insights about fullness.

Tools to Stay Conscious around Food
To help everyone remain conscious while they ate, I introduced them to the hunger scale that you see here. This is a visual gauge to help them notice the levels of hunger they feel whenever they eat. I also introduced them to a Discovery Food Journal, which is available on the contest website for anyone to download. This journal is nothing like the food journals they had seen before. Instead of having them track the foods they eat, I asked them to track each meal and snack by identifying where they were on the hunger scale each time they began and stopped eating. They also have a place to observe any thoughts or feelings that might arise when they eat, as well as any new insights or strategies they come up with.

 

 

Having a Small Success Leads to Greater Motivation
Next the participants shared what went well in reaching the goals they set for themselves in one other area of improvement they are working on. I specifically asked them to focus on their successes, so they could see what they had achieved rather than focusing on what they hadn’t accomplished. By focusing on success, you build your self-confidence in your ability to succeed and you increase your motivation to do more. And that is just what they experienced.

Read more about what they did and what they learned.

See What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the group participants have to say about their own personal experience by viewing the comments to this post. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To make your own changes and participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tool.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

Back to Contest page

First Steps toward a Healthy Lifestyle

 

 

 

 

Contestants and Groups Selected
This week, four groups began the two-year journey together that will change their lifestyles. I received nearly 100 applications for participation in the contest, and of those I narrowed the applicants down to 40 and then talked with each of them at length last week. Each of them was ready, motivated and committed to making healthy lifestyle changes to reclaim their health, fitness and wellbeing. They all recognized that rapid weight loss and dieting was no longer the answer, and they wanted to finally take good care of themselves.

It was challenging to pick just eight for the contest, so I decided to create three more groups of eight to experience the same two-year program in order to support at least thirty-two of them.

Read more to learn who became contestants.


Getting Started

In our first sessions together, the group participants talked about what led them to apply for a spot in the contest. They shared the struggles they’ve had to exercise regularly, make healthy food choices and make themselves more of a priority. These struggles and the associated frustration, disappointment and pain they created are what motivated them to finally take action. Being inspired to change because of what is no longer tolerable, from a wake-up call or an opportunity to be in a life-changing contest, is often the motivating catalyst that puts people into action, yet that motivator has a short fuse and can disappear as quickly as it appears. The catalyst can get you to make a change, but it won’t keep you motivated to stick with that change or to make long-term changes. For that you need to create long-term motivators based on what it is you will be able to do, feel or experience as a result of the healthy lifestyle changes. These positive outcomes are what keep you motivated to stay on track.

Read more to learn how they selected their motivators and their first week’s goals.
 
See What Contestants and Group Participants Have to Say
I’ve asked the contestants to comment on their experience each week on a local community blog and the group participants to comment on this blog.  In that way, you will get a birds-eye view of what they are discovering for themselves, which will help you in following the contest and participating on your own. You are also free to comment on your own experience.

Have a healthy and active week,

Alice

Follow the New You 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Contestants

 

I’m pleased to announce the New You 2010 Healthy Lifestyle Contest for Greater Newburyport – a group of towns along the Northshore coast of Massachusetts. This contest is designed for people who want to finally become a health, fitness or weight loss success story like you read about in magazines. This isn’t a weight loss contest but a contest for greatest improvements in health, fitness and healthy lifestyle behaviors which is the key to sustainable weight loss and finally being free of worrying about weight gain.

I know, because that is how I became a success story. Nine years ago on January 1, 2001, I began exercising and eating better in a way that changed my whole attitude and mindset about fitness and taking care of myself. For the first time in my life I didn’t quit and give up. Instead I stuck with it, and two years later I had dropped from a size 16 to a size 4. It took longer than if I had done a quick weight loss diet or extreme fitness program, but I had succeeded to stick with my new healthy and active lifestyle. More importantly I was discovering a love for fitness and wanting to be even more fit. For a gal who hated exercise and had a long history of yo-yo exercise and dieting, this was miraculous. Yet I discovered a way to get and stay fit that was motivating, so I no longer had to worry I would get off track or gain all the weight back. Nine years later, after going through menopause, I am still fit and wearing size 4s or 6s.

My discovery led to a shift in careers and a passion for helping others create and maintain a healthy lifestyle that feels so good they too can succeed for the long-term. I’ve since become an expert in overcoming the sabotage that keeps us from meeting our goals, staying on track and feeling motivated to exercise, eat well and make ourselves the priority. While I’ve helped hundreds of people individually make changes for long-term success, I realized recently that I could do more by creating a contest here in the Newburyport area where I live.

There are eight contestants who are committed to successfully creating and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle so they can be in control of their weight and be free of their issues with food and exercise. During the next two years, they will be sharing their experience of creating and then maintaining their new healthy lifestyles on a Newburyport community blog, http://www.newburyport-today.com/ .

At the same time, three other groups will start the same two-year program, and they will be sharing their experience here on this blog, by commenting on my weekly New You 2010 post about the program theme for the week.

Follow the contestants each week on this blog.

You can also participate in the program on your own or in a group with the guidelines I post each week on the contest site at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Here’s to a healthy and active new you!


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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