Archive for the ‘Weight Loss Success’ Category

Compassion – A Key Secret to Weight Loss Success

Maria Menounos is one of many celebrities with a weight loss success story, and I happen to see yet another story about how she has learned the secret to staying slim and taking care of herself. So I am re-posting an article I wrote a number of years ago when she first put out her book about it.

Her story is intriguing – not by all that she did to lose weight, which was creating a healthy lifestyle, but by the way she changed how she saw and treated herself.

I first came across her story on the Huffington Post, called Maria Menounos’ Secret Weight Loss Trick. A great title but not representational of what she did for herself. She is like a lot of young people who have been athletic growing up and then stopped being so active when they started working as teenagers, while preparing for college and trying to excel and please everyone around them. In her case, working nearly 20 hours a day 7 days a week, fueled by junk food and pastries.

As she indulged in her new diet, she knew she was having foods she shouldn’t have and felt guilty. As she began to get heavier and criticized for her weight gain, she turned to more food. When others were indulging, she would indulge with them. And the worse she felt about herself and her choices, the more she ate the forbidden foods she knew she shouldn’t have. Sound familiar?

She refers to her struggle with food as emotional eating, after she finally realized that she turned to food to avoid her feelings, how she felt about her body and her need to please others at her own expense. As she began to find ways to care about herself, she began to love herself. And the more she loved herself, the more she took care of herself. And that is just how it works.

The less you like yourself or the more ashamed you feel about your body or your choices, the less you feel deserving of taking care of yourself. On the flip side, the more you care about yourself, the more self-esteem you gain, and the more you want to do things to take even better care of your body. This is only possible when you stop the judgment of your choices and have empathy and compassion for yourself.

Judgment leads to self-criticism, self-loathing and self-destruction. And that becomes a spiral that spins out of control, pulling you deeper into a place of denial and excessive eating. When you judge yourself, you can only see your failure, your inability to be perfect and your shame. You can’t see anything else, and you remain stuck in the belief that you are unlovable, unworthy and undeserving – even if you don’t know you belief this. In that place, food is comforting and a means to minimizing the pain and loathing. It also proves that you are as bad as you believe you are, and it feeds on itself.

Maria talks about how being a people pleaser and working insane hours led to malnutrition, a forty-pound weight gain, and poor health. She struggled to care enough about herself to do anything about it. Fortunately a loving, compassionate friend helped her to start making positive food and life choices. And the more she began to be good to herself and feel better, the more she appreciated herself and her struggle. And the more compassion and love she had for herself, the more she began to take better care of her body, make healthier choices and remove herself from negative relationships. The better you feel emotionally, the less you turn to food for emotional comfort. And that is what helped Maria break free of her struggle with food.

Maria learned through her journey that the key to being in control with food is to be in touch with your own physical and emotional needs without judgment. And that is indeed the key to success. It is the first step to having compassion for yourself without apology, listening to what your body needs and wants, and honoring yourself. In the process, you begin to shift into a healthy lifestyle and from that a healthy and sustainable weight loss follows. You also shift your emotions about your weight and your body, which reduces your stress and the hormonal production of fat that occurs when stress is present. It isn’t really a trick, yet it is the secret.

Which Type of New Year’s Resolution will Work for You?

Every year just after Christmas and before New Years I would make my list of all the things I was going to improve on or do once January started. I still have some of those crazy lists, and few of the things on them ever got done. It wasn’t for lack of putting in the effort those first few weeks, but the list was too big, the expectations too unrealistic, and the reality of real life too demanding to ever succeed.

I could have been like most people and totally given up on the idea, but I didn’t. What about you? Have you given up on resolutions? Or do you still hold out hope you can make some changes this year?

Thankfully I discovered there are two ways New Year’s “resolutions” can work to inspire you and help you take action, so you can become more of the person you want to be.

  • The first takes advantage of your frustration and desire to fix something in your life, and that angst fuels your resolve (as in resolution) to make a change and takes advantage of a new year, with its clean slate, to get you into action. But the action is open-ended. You don’t have to reach a specific goal. You simply need to get started by taking the first small step and then learn what feels best and is inspiring to you to keep the action going. No long lists, just one step in the right direction.

and

  • The second way focuses on what you intend (as in intention) to have more of in your life or what you want to experience in the new year, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately and it doesn’t come loaded down with fixed goals. With an intention, there is no burning drive or catalyst to take action on January 1st, instead there is a strong desire to experience it at some point during the year in whatever way that happens.

Resolutions and intentions are important distinctions, and they give you flexibility and openness about how you will achieve positive changes in your life. Most importantly, they need to be driven by inspiration, moderation and what truly feels good to you, or you won’t stick with them.

Here’s how these two approaches have worked for me. Thirteen years ago when I was 43 and struggling with my health and my weight, I had a wake up call. I knew if I didn’t make some changes and start taking care of myself, I was going to have even more health problems and might not be able to lose the weight. I was resolved to start using my unused Stairmaster down in my basement beginning on January 1st 2001. I didn’t set a weight loss goal. I didn’t set any specific goals, such as how long I had to use the Stairmaster each day or each week. I just resolved to get on it and not stop until I got back into my wardrobe of size 6 clothes, however long that took.

At the time I was a size 16 and extremely out of shape, with cellulite down to my knees. It took me nearly two years. Because my only objective was to get on the stairs, I allowed myself to start where I was (at a few minutes) and to gradually increase my time, my frequency and then my intensity. I then started to set weekly goals, and if I came close I celebrated. If I missed a day, I moved on and didn’t let that bother me. I discovered that by giving myself permission to simply do what I could and to stretch myself a bit each week or so, that I had continual success and felt inspired to do more and more and more.

That one New Year’s resolution was all about taking my first step on the Stairmaster, and now 13 years later I am celebrating what that one step has done for my life. Had I resolved to use that equipment 4 days a week for 30 minutes right up front, or set a goal of losing 30 pounds by June, I would have seen myself as a failure and given up. But I only had one goal – get started and don’t stop. It worked.

Then on subsequent New Year’s, I would pick one new fitness activity that I would like to pursue at some point during the year. It didn’t have to be on January 1st, it was simply an intention. One year my New Year’s intention was to add in Pilates. In April I ran into a neighbor who was studying for her Pilate’s exam, and soon afterwards she started coming to my house to instruct me in Pilates. She instructed me for nearly four years. Another year I set an intention to learn kickboxing. I wanted to have the right type of trainer for this, and it wasn’t until the following fall that I met the perfect gal to teach me how to kick box. I worked with her for nearly a year, and I still do kickboxing.

A few years ago, I intended to shake up my routine to get my body out of its metabolic plateau, and in August that year I had coffee with a girlfriend who was doing P90X. I hadn’t seriously considered doing such an extreme program. But with her reassurance I could do it, I began the 13 week program on my 53rd birthday and amazed myself that I completed the 90 days. I would never have guessed at the beginning of the year that my idea of shaking up my routine would have included P90X, but I did know I was looking for something new and demanding. I got it.

This past year I was dealing with the menopause belly so many women get going through this biological change, and it has been getting worse over the past few years despite all the exercising I do. I realized I needed to kick up my metabolism more often during the day to amp up my fat burning, so I took some courses on metabolism last winter, and in the spring added 2 minutes of high intensity exertion 3 times a day, and within months the belly fat was gone.

What about you? Is this the year for one simple resolution or an intention that fulfills one of your desires?

How Cheating on Your Diet Helps You Lose Weight

Clair prides herself on being really good when she diets, until she isn’t. And then she is really really bad. She can’t seem to help herself. The moment she gets derailed and succumbs to food she knows she shouldn’t have, she is taken over by an insatiable desire for all the foods she’s been denied the past few weeks. The pattern is always the same.

Then there are people like Betsy, who are really good during the day, only to leave work and find themselves unable to stop their desire for fast food, ice cream, chips or cookies. Betsy would head to the closest convenience store after work, where she loaded up on cookies, an ice cream bar and candy, and then hurriedly ate it all on her commute home. Mike did the same, always stopping for some candy.

Nancy never stopped; she would go straight home, but then raid her cabinets for any junk food she could find, feeling as if possessed by a demon. Why she would ask me, as the others did, am I so bad at night after being so good during the day?

For the same reason dieters go on a binge the night before their diet starts or right when it ends.

I call it restricted rebellion. You can also call it the deprivation-binge rollercoaster. When you have been restricted or deprived of foods you want, you want them all the more. And then when you get your hands on that food, you feel compelled to eat as much as you can while you can, knowing you are bad and it has to be the last time. That self-imposed belief that you should and will be restricted again creates an emotional need and child-like rebellion against that very restriction.

In addition, eating food you believe you shouldn’t have creates guilt, anxiety and a self-loathing that is soothed by eating comfort food, temporarily relieving the feelings with a dose of happy denial. Another name for this is emotional eating.

The answer is to give yourself permission to have all the foods you love as part of your diet. You can call it cheating, but that only recreates feelings of being bad and guilty, which drive emotional overeating and bingeing. Instead, cheating only works when you don’t believe it is cheating.

Cheating suggests there are bad foods you shouldn’t have, and that if you have them you are bad and will either gain weight or not be able to lose weight. That is simply not true. You can eat any food in moderation, particularly if it is part of a healthy balanced diet. This is what Clair, Mike, Tiffany, Nancy and Betsy learned. By eating more of the foods they wanted during the day in a healthy way, they no longer felt deprived or in need of rewarding themselves for being so good in the evening or when their diets stopped.

They also discovered something they would never have believed. They no longer wanted to overindulge in their “bad” foods once they had permission to eat them. They were finding they were easily satisfied by less and that overeating and bingeing wasn’t enjoyable. Nancy couldn’t believe it when she actually threw away half her big cookie, because she really didn’t want any more of it. “Was that the real me?, she asked.”

It was. She was no longer being driven by her inner child rebelling for more or by her need to stifle her guilt. Now she could actually focus on tasting her food and being fully satisfied with less of it.

When you don’t let yourself have what you want, you will eat excessively in an attempt to gain that elusive satisfaction. Better to go ahead and cheat, and let yourself have the food you love. You will have less of it and have greater success with achieving and maintaining weight loss.

Inspired to Keep Your Resolutions

How often have you made New Year’s resolutions that you struggle to keep because they were just too much work? I remember making my lists each year of all the things I should change about myself and the things I should start or stop doing. By the end of the first week in January, I was always failing to keep up with my expectations, and by the end of January, I had given up on my resolutions all together. How often have you had the same experience?

I now do resolutions differently. Instead of focusing on what I should do differently, I focus on picking a few things I would like to experience or do more of in the coming year, and I don’t set a specific date for getting started. I set an intention that I would like specific things to happen and then wait to be inspired to take action. For example, I decided five years ago that I wanted to try Pilates. A few months later, I was running errands in town when I ran into my neighbor, Adrienne, who taught Pilates. I didn’t know she was teaching Pilates, and I was excited to find out she was working with clients in their homes and didn’t need equipment to do it. This was perfect, and I was inspired to work with her. I loved it, and I’ve been doing Pilates ever since. It wasn’t a struggle; it wasn’t a chore. It was so easy and effortless to get started and stick with it.

A few years ago, my New Year’s intention was to add kick boxing to my fitness activities, and I wanted a certain type of instructor who could either work with me in my home or who had their own facility. Nearly eight months later I was introduced to Heidi, who was exactly the person I was looking for, and I trained with her for nearly two years. I loved working with her, and again it wasn’t a chore to me. It fit my lifestyle and my personality. It is possible that a whole year could have gone by without meeting her, and if that had happened, I would have re-evaluated if that was still a resolution I wanted that next January.

Very often, just the act of setting resolutions and feeling excited about a new year can be the inspiration you need to make a change in your life. When I started exercising eight years ago, it was the desire to take advantage of New Year’s that inspired me to make January 1st the date I began my commitment to fitness. There is something inspiring about a new school year or the beginning of the calendar year, and if you feel this way, it is the perfect time to take action.

The challenge is often narrowing the list of improvements down to just a couple of things, or just one thing, so you don’t lose your inspiration. A change to your routine or way of thinking isn’t easy to maintain at first, particularly if you’ve decided to make several changes at once. Very often, people who want to get healthy and fit attempt to add exercise and a change to their diet all at once. While some people do fine by combining these changes, many others find making several changes at once too overwhelming and difficult to keep up with. For them, it is better to pick one change at a time and to pick the one they are most inspired to do first. Then as they assimilate that change, they are encouraged by their success and have greater desire to add another change to their lifestyle.

There is nothing wrong with taking small steps and doing them in the order that feels most enticing to you. In fact, you have greater chance of success if you set small resolutions. You can always add to your resolutions at any time during the year. When you resolve to do something for yourself to improve how you feel or how you live, you are the one in control of your expectations. Give yourself permission to set more realistic and enjoyable expectations. A great way to do this is ask yourself on a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that you will achieve the resolution you’ve created. If your confidence is anything less than a 10, reduce the goals to the point you can say you are fully confident at a 10 on the confidence scale.

Resolutions and their start dates don’t have to be carved in stone. They can be fluid and adjustable. They can also be chosen to accommodate what you want to experience so they feel good, instead of being a “should” that is measured against a rigid expectation. This year, set yourself up for success instead of disappointment.

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Holiday Weight Gain?

Ahhhh another school year. Whether you have kids or not, the change in temperature and shorter days reminds us all that is time to get refocused and back to work – or back to the gym and regular workout routines. But just like kids, you don’t want to go back and you put it off for a day and than one more day. And the next thing you know it is the holidays and you never did start exercising or eating better. And of course you can’t get started once the holidays begin, so you wait until New Years when you feel more uncomfortable, overweight and disappointed in yourself. Is this a familiar story? It doesn’t have to be.

Why not create healthy routines that you look forward to instead of dread. To succeed long term in getting back into shape, maintaining your health and achieving a great feeling in your body means creating a lifestyle that fits your life, not the other way around. Forcing something to work that you really resent or is more than you can really take on isn’t likely to last. The first time your schedule gets disrupted it will be the first thing to go and the last thing to add back in. Think of what usually happens for you and if this is generally true. Do you really want to get back on that treadmill or start that diet? I didn’t think so.

Determine instead what is realistic for you and your body. Start by creating small realistic daily or weekly practices that slowly change your lifestyle so that eating better and regular exercise get easily incorporated in your planning and schedule. It is better to start with just a few changes and a small commitment – maybe exercising a few days a week doing as much time as you can and working up to five days for 30-40 minutes. What is most important is incrementally increasing the days, time and intensity in a way that is best for your fitness level and schedule. This isn’t a race or a comparison game. It is a process of incorporating fitness for a lifetime.

The same goes for food. When we feel fat, we start a diet. But diets have less than a 4% success rate. Almost no one can keep the weight off a year or more after the diet, but that doesn’t stop us from trying what everyone is doing. This is particularly alluring for us as women. We are compelled to do the next diet. It is far better to select healthy options from among foods you enjoy, and to eat when you get hungry and stop before you get full. You will be more successful long term if you enjoy what you eat, feel free to eat what you love without being deprived or judged, and creating a routine that isn’t driven by the latest diet. This is easier than starting something new every six months.

And know what is right for you. Decide what is realistic and sustainable in your daily life. Everyone’s goals, abilities and schedules are different, so it is best to focus on your situation and not someone else’s. If you push too hard, you can get burned out, frustrated, injured or impatient for results. If you cut too far back on food, you will lose your muscle mass, reduce your metabolism and end up overeating when the diet is done. It is better to start with moderation and healthy choices with enough variety to keep you interested and your body supported, so you have successes and feel motivated to stay on track.

Focus on choosing things you think you will enjoy most of the options you have available to you. Sometimes that means trying new things, such as new foods or new types of activities. You may find that you really like some of them. This is how I came to love Pilates, kick boxing and even P90X. Listen to your body and what feels best to you. You might find that a new way of eating or activity grows on you because of how good it feels to your body.

So now that fall is in the air, what simple steps can you take that are appealing and realistic to boost your aerobic levels, balance your meals and take care of your health, so you can avoid that holiday weight gain?

My Significant Other is Obese, What should I Do?

You wish your sweetheart took better care of themselves and weren’t so overweight, but whenever you try to help, it backfires. You’ve tried friendly suggestions, cooked up healthy meals, kept cookies and ice cream out of the house, and resisted saying too much. Yet it bothers you that your significant other is only getting heavier and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, and it is affecting how you feel about them. Now what?

Martin had the same problem with his girlfriend Ellen, and more than once she told him to back off when he tried to give advice or encourage her to make changes. He loves her, but he wasn’t sure he could stay with her if she didn’t start taking care of her health and losing some weight.

The truth is, you can’t force anyone to change, no matter how nice you try to be about it. But you can make it easier for them to make those changes for themselves. As we all know, when it is just as easy to get a delicious hearty salad as it is to grab a bag of cookies, it is more likely we will have the salad and maybe a cookie or two to go with it.

If our environment makes it simpler and easier to make healthier choices, than we are more inclined to do them. This is why more businesses and communities are working to provide easier access to walking areas, healthy foods and fitness support. You can do the same for your partner.

Have healthy foods in the house
To make it easier for both of you to eat well, you need to stock your refrigerator and freezer with healthy foods that are fast to make, easy to dress up and taste really good. These days it is easy to find good frozen foods, pre-cut vegetables and very simple fast recipes.

But do not remove unhealthy food from the house in an attempt to force healthier choices. Your mate will only go out and get more of that food out of anger and a genuine fear of deprivation.

Buy healthy meals or a meal service
If you don’t want to prepare meals yourself, get healthy to-go options at your favorite restaurant or grocery store, and look for a service that delivers meals. You may be surprised how affordable these options are.
Everyone prefers healthy foods if they taste good, including vegetables. You may be surprised how much your significant other looks forward to these balanced healthy meals.

Suggest healthier restaurants
Some restaurants are healthier than others, and more places are providing locally sourced foods, which often includes more vegetables and cleaner foods. Go exploring to see what new healthy restaurants have popped up in the area, and make it a date night. The goal isn’t to stay on a diet but to find delicious well balanced fare, so it’s easier to make a healthier choice.

Keep healthy snacks and water around
One of the main reasons people overeat and binge on junk food and sweets is because they get so hungry they go for the easiest food and then can’t stop eating out of a compulsion to make up for not getting enough food earlier. The way to avoid that is to have healthy snacks on hand in the house, in the car, in your bags or in the office – for yourself and your partner. Water is also important. When you don’t get enough water, you deplete your energy and your metabolism slows down.

Take a cooking class together
Cooking can be fun, and a cooking class is a great way to do something together, taste new interesting foods and get recipe ideas. The class doesn’t have to be just about healthy food. The idea is to learn some cooking techniques, discover new flavors and be open to cooking at home. It is easier to prepare healthy foods for sweetie, if you both know how to cook or have some recipes you like.

Suggest some easy activities
Try suggesting activities you can do together that sound fun and don’t take lots of time or exceeds your partner’s physical capabilities. You want to make being active inviting instead of intimidating, such as birding, walking a nature trail with great views, seeing a great view that takes some stairs, dancing, taking a ballroom dance class, or anything enjoyable that requires limited exertion. Baby steps are the key to getting them interested in doing even more active outings.

Offer to be a walking buddy
Your partner probably assumes you would not be interested in walking with them on a regular basis. Yet you might actually enjoy that. Martin did, and Ellen was totally amazed. She knew she couldn’t walk as fast or as far, and she thought Martin would hate walking with her. But that wasn’t true. He enjoyed getting time with her after work, and he loved that it was outdoors and doing something active. So if you think it is appropriate, offer to be a walking buddy, even if the pace is slower than you prefer at first.

Be loving and non-judgmental
It is so easy to judge others for being overweight, yet you don’t know what they are dealing with or why it is so hard for them to change. Honestly neither does your significant other, who also struggles to understand why they don’t do as they know they should. And the more they try, often the worse it gets, because the real problem is not lack of willpower or intelligence. The problem is buried deep in their subconscious beliefs and emotions, which drives choices and behavior unconsciously on autopilot.

Don’t sabotage their efforts
You may think you know best and can help your sweetheart by either denying specific foods or rewarding with treats. That doesn’t help at all. Nor does pushing someone to be better or make better choices. They aren’t you, and if you push, they will rebel and get angry. Let them discover that the more they do that feels good to their body, the more healthy things they will want to do, particularly if they aren’t trying to measure up to someone else’s expectations.

The worst thing you can do is make the one you love feel guilty, ashamed or bad about themselves. That will backfire. It is human nature to resist doing anything for yourself when you have low self-esteem, just as it is normal to turn to food to avoid painful feelings or shame.

As Martin learned, the best thing you can do is help your partner feel good about their choices and about themselves by supporting them in a non-threatening way. By doing little things that made healthier decisions easier, Ellen started to make small changes and feel good about her little successes. Martin didn’t try to take the credit or push her to do more; he was simply there to listen and be supportive. A year later, Ellen had slimmed down and became the one who wanted to take an active vacation and encouraging Martin to run with her in a 5k. The same could happen in your relationship.

This column was originally posted at YourTango.com.

What to Do With Your Fat Clothes

If you’ve ever lost weight and rewarded yourself with a whole new wardrobe, you’ve wrestled with what to do with your fat clothes. Do you keep them just in case? Do you toss them, with hopes this will keep you from regaining the weight? Or is there a better way to deal with them?

I get asked this periodically from clients experiencing weight loss, and my answer often surprises them. I encourage them to keep at least one size (or even two sizes) larger than where they are now. So each time they lose a size, they can clear their closets of clothes two or three sizes too big or at least keep a few of the garments they really love at those sizes.

They wonder why I would suggest they keep any of them, since with me they lose weight slowly as an extension of their new healthy choices and don’t expect to be regaining it. I can understand why this might seem contradictory, but I have learned through personal experience that it helps to have a range of sizes in your closet even if you stay active and fit. This is particularly true for women. We retain water, have hormonal fluctuations, go through menopause, and don’t easily stay at one size month after month.

I’m a good example. After my second year of achieving regular exercising and eating well, I was wearing size 4s. Two years earlier I was in 16s and prior to that I had been wearing size 6s and 8s from my many years of dieting. Over the past thirteen years I’ve found myself mostly wearing size 6s and sometimes 8s. Had I gotten rid of all those 6s and 8s in my wardrobe, it would have been a big mistake. I seldom fit in those 4s, but I hold on to them for when I do.

This isn’t because I fail to keep active, go on binges or lose control. It is because it takes a lot of exercising for my body to be a size 4, and in maintenance mode (really just my healthy lifestyle mode), I don’t want to work that hard at it. I am also susceptible to gaining weight, as so many of us are, and when I get sick or injured and can’t be as active for weeks at a time I will go up to a size 8. Yet I always know that I’ll be more active soon enough, which gives me the freedom to wear the larger clothes in my closet without getting bent out of shape about what might be happening with my weight.

Similarly, when I decide to embark on really intense exercise challenges, like when I start working with a new trainer or doing a new fitness program, I know that I have those 4s ready for me if I need them. I’m not a natural size 4 and can’t sustain that size without a lot of exercising to shift my metabolic set point, yet periodically I will get motivated to become super fit and then I find myself back into those clothes.

It is not uncommon for those who lose weight, whether by dieting or a healthier lifestyle approach, to reach a weight or size they can’t fully sustain. The difference is, those who lost it by taking it slowing and creating a fit and active lifestyle will find they fluctuate a bit around that size (up or down) depending on their current levels of activity. Those who dieted for rapid weight loss will likely regain all they lost and add on even more.

When you stop getting attached to being a certain weight or a certain size as you embark on an active healthy lifestyle, you can relax and let yourself have periods when you are less active and not pushing yourself so much. This is incredibly freeing and gives you permission to feel just fine wearing your larger clothes. If you find those clothes getting a bit tight, as I did not too long ago, it gives you the motivation to amp up your activities and your metabolism. By then you will probably feel ready for the challenge. Most people who have been active for a number of years get restless to do more after periods of taking it easy.

The nice thing is, you can go with that flow in your closet if you have a range of sizes. My range is 4-8; others I know have a range of 12-16. We all have our own optimal healthy weight, and one is not better than another. It depends on our family genetics, our history with weight and diets, our hormones, our level of regular activity and how well we fuel our metabolism. My father was tall and slim, and I inherited his build and metabolism. Had I inherited my mom’s frame, I would likely be wearing 8-12s. That wouldn’t change how I felt about myself or my clothes; I’d still be glad I had a range of sizes in my closet.

5 Reasons Celebrities Are Giving Up the Scale. Is It Right For You?

Christina Aguilera has been attacked for being too skinny and too fat, and she no longer cares what people think. In fact, she’s tossed out her scale and learned how to love her body no matter what size she is. She no longer obsesses about her weight or compares her self-worth with the numbers on the scale. And she’s not alone. Many celebrities have stopped using the scale, including Portia De Rossi, Valerie Bertinelli, Queen Latifah, Martine McCutcheon, Kyra Sedgwick, Jessica Alba, Maria Menounos and Jennifer Love Hewitt. They feel liberated and are looking better than ever.

Read the rest of this post at YourTango.com.

Simple Strategies for Controlling Holiday Eating

The holidays are coming. The holidays are coming! Soon you will be surrounded by lots of sweets, cookies and navigating holiday party foods and drinks. Are you prepared with a game plan to keep yourself on track without feeling deprived? Now is the time to put your strategies together.

You don’t have to wait until after you’ve overindulged on candy, eaten one too many cookies or gotten stuffed on appetizers. You already have hindsight from previous years, and you probably can guess when and what will happen again this year.

This is just what my client Jean realized when we started talking about Thanksgiving at her son’s. She was afraid of overeating as she usually does, and she could picture all the times and ways that was going to probably happen again. She and her husband always drove 4 hours south on Wednesday, stopping at the same great deli where they picked up sandwiches for lunch and lots of treats they would bring as their contribution before the big meal. Yet more often than not, they didn’t eat much of the sandwiches and would dig into the bags of treats before arriving. The next day they would arrive at their son’s around noon hungry and ready to nibble on the appetizers and have their first drinks of the day. By the time they headed out for the big meal at the club, served buffet style, she was usually starting to feel full. Then she’d eat a big meal and stuff down several desserts. The next day, they would have a really big breakfast to tie them over on the long ride home, and they would stop again at the deli for treats to enjoy on the way back.

Like Jean, you can probably describe what your Thanksgiving holiday traditions around food will be like, just as you can see what will happen this coming weekend on Halloween or what you usually do at a party or around a bowl of candy set out for anyone to eat. That gives you a great advantage, because this enables you to think about what you would do differently that would leave you feeling better and still feel like you got to enjoy the festivities. So pick a time that is coming up, and remember how you felt last time when you over did it. What would work better for you?

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Eat a healthy balanced breakfast the day of a big meal, so you don’t arrive ravenous and overeat because you are so hungry.
  • Eat a healthy balanced snack before going to an event, so you aren’t showing up hungry.
  • When faced with lots of appetizers, decide in advance how many you will have and be picky about which ones you really want. You may decide to just have 3-4.
  • When you know you are susceptible to having a drink too many, have a glass of sparkling water after your first drink and then decide if you really want a second drink.
  • At a buffet, first look at everything to see which things you know you really want and be picky. Use a smaller plate, and focus on getting a mix of protein, vegetables and some other complex carbohydrates.
  • Have salad first if that is an option at a buffet.
  • Save room for dessert, and then choose the desserts that are your favorite. Have very small pieces and really enjoy them.
  • Allow yourself to have 1-2 pieces of candy a day if you really like it and it is calling your name from the candy dish someone put out near your office. This can replace dessert on those days.
  • Buy Halloween candy to give out to kids you don’t like eating yourself.
  • Pick out the best Halloween candy and eat a few pieces with your meals instead of having just candy by itself. That will minimize blood sugar highs and lows and reduce cravings. Give yourself a few days to have your favorite candy and then throw the rest out.
  • Remember that Halloween candy can be gotten anytime. You don’t have to eat it all now just because it is Halloween.

Which of these sound like they will work well for you? Really think about the situation you will probably be in and what would feel best to you before, during and after. Then add in some other ideas and decide ahead of time which approach you want to take. As Jean discovered by creating her own strategies with me, she got to enjoy her Thanksgiving rituals in a way that left her feeling better physically and really good about herself. She was thrilled to discover she could stay in control and still eat the foods she wanted.

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

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

Biggest Losers Face Home Reality Without Keys to Success

Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amada are the final four contestants, and their last challenge was going home for 60 days and preparing to run a 26 mile marathon. One of them will be voted off this coming week.

What they realized in going home was how much they had changed – and not just physically. At home they came face to face with some of the issues that led to their obesity in the first place. While at the ranch, they focused on physical changes and discovering how much they had let themselves go. Back home, they were seeing that it isn’t just the physical that has to change in order to really succeed. They have to address the underlying subconscious mental and emotional issues that drove their unhealthy behaviors and overeating in the first place.

While this episode was going on, a former Biggest Loser winner, Ryan Benson, failed to return to the reunion show held last week. He had regained most of his weight back and admitted to extreme fasting and dehydration during the show in order to win. And just a couple of weeks earlier, Daniel Wright, who has done the show twice, went home. Daniel now admits he struggles with binge eating and kept that hidden during the show. Most likely it was even worse when he got home, having been severely deprived for the past 10 weeks. Overeating or bingeing after extreme dieting and deprivation is normal, and no doubt many other contestants have found themselves over-indulging once back home. This may explain why half of the Biggest Loser contestants have regained most or all of their weight loss.

Programs, like the Biggest Loser, are failing to address the underlying drivers of obesity that each of their contestants will deal with after the program ends. This is a disservice to those who put their trust in the trainers and dieticians, as well as to those watching the programs. It simply isn’t a matter of extreme diet, exercise and weight loss to be a success and maintain weight loss. If it were, obesity would have been solved long ago.

What drives our behavior are subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and when it comes to food and exercise these are complicated and unique to each person. Binge eating, for example, can be driven by a subconscious rebellion against food restrictions, an unmet need that is soothed by food, a means of keeping unresolved emotions repressed, or a reaction to not getting enough food and being compelled to make up for that deprivation. The triggers for dysfunctional eating can come from nearly anything, and without understanding how to be aware of them, how to resolve them and strategies to limit them, they will continue.

Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amanda all hope to go home the next Biggest Loser winner, yet they also share a concern about their ability to maintain their weight loss when the show ends. They have every reason to be concerned, because they haven’t been given the tools and experiences they really need to change their relationship with food and fitness from the inside out.

Why Valerie Bertinelli Says What Really Matters Is How You Feel

Valerie is the poster child for Jenny Craig after losing 40 pounds, yet she says in a recent interview in Health magazine that what really matters to her is feeling good in her body and being healthy. When asked what’s better, looking good or feeling good? She answered, “Feeling good, without a doubt. When I feel good, I look better, because it shows from within.” And that is just what I would expect her to say.

Everyone who succeeds in losing some weight and keeping it off, even if they don’t get as slim as they once thought they wanted, will tell you that what really matters is how they feel, not how much they weigh. Most of them have tossed out their scale, just as I have. In the process of creating and maintaining healthier choices, you discover that you feel so much better, energized and positive. When you succeed at sticking with those choices, no matter how small they seem to be, you feel successful and are more confident in doing even more good things for yourself.

It is an interesting paradox. When you feel fat and out of shape, you will focus on your weight. When you feel in shape, good about yourself and able to maintain some weight loss as part of a new lifestyle, you will focus on how you feel. And that is what really counts.

Rickie Lake Sets an Example

Obese for most of her life, Rickie Lake is now fit and slim at a healthy weight and for the past three years she has been able to maintain her success. For twenty years as an actor, comedian and TV talk show host, she battled her weight with dieting and at one point starved herself while doing extreme exercising. None of it worked. Instead she yo-yoed in her weight, and did it very publicly, which wasn’t easy.

What finally worked was to stop dieting and extreme fitness. She discovered how to be physically active and eat a healthy diet in a way that was satisfying, easy to maintain and fits her lifestyle. Instead of focusing on quick fixes and rapid results, she focused on having a healthy lifestyle and she looks and feels better than she ever has, and she has been able to maintain it long-term.

What has helped her is getting food delivered by a service, and anyone can do this. There are personal chefs in nearly every community that have reasonable prices that most people can afford – even these days. If you don’t know of one, do a search on line. There are many directories for personal chefs.

Rickie learned that the answer is not dieting, and she is a good example of someone who has tried all the diets out there without long-term success. The answer is eating enough healthy food you enjoy, so you don’t go hungry or feel deprived. It is also to find a way to exercise that gets you energized and motivated to keep it up. Rickie discovered hiking and does it four times a week for nearly two hours. She doesn’t need to go to the gym to keep in shape. She is doing it outdoors which she really enjoys.

Instead of fighting her weight, Rickie is now living a lifestyle in which her weight takes care of itself. By now, after nearly three years of living a healthy and fit lifestyle it is a part of who she is. I doubt she’ll ever have to fight the weight demon that those who diet still struggle with. She would agree. I happened to see her interviewed the other day and she felt confident those days were now behind her.

I know how she feels, I will celebrate 9 years of my new fit lifestyle this January 1st, and I never worry about my weight or going back to my sedentary ways and perpetual dieting routine.

Making the Hard Choice for Bariatric Surgery

A friend of mine is planning to get bariatric surgery, and I support her in making this decision. That may surprise you, but I do believe for some people this is the right decision.

Her goal isn’t primarily to lose weight, but to regain her health and be able to have an easier time being active. This is not an easy decision for anyone to make, and it’s taken her several years of thought. While some would argue that she should have gotten healthy through eating better and exercise, I know from working with her that she tried this to the best of her ability.

For some people, regaining energy, feeling better and losing weight (even if initially done with an extreme solution) is what it takes to embrace a healthy lifestyle of regular activity and healthier meals. It still isn’t easy to change old habits and beliefs, but when you feel better about yourself you want to do more for yourself, and you are inspired to feel good for the long-term. I am confident that she will succeed at maintaining a healthier relationship with food and increasing her level of fitness, because of the work we’ve done together.

Others aren’t so fortunate. Many who get this surgery see it as the solution and don’t realize that they still have to make changes in the way they feel and think about food and fitness. It is not uncommon to regain the weight and require another surgery. More programs are needed to support people before and after surgery on HOW to change lifestyle behaviors and address the subconscious drives of behavior, so they can more easily adopt new habits and strategies when they are most motivated – just after surgery.


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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