Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

photo (15)

I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

AWESOME wellness App – Recovery Record

I put a lot of time and energy into reading weight loss and fitness self-help books, using health and fitness Apps, and – of course – reading scholarly research. This is rarely specifically to expand my personal knowledge but for the benefit of my clients. I want tools in my box to offer my clients as a means of teaching them independence. I want to empower! Finding quality tools has proven difficult! The multi-million dollar industry is filled with a lot of, for lack of a better term, JUNK.

Therefore I have resorted to a lot of “use this, BUT” referrals. For example, I suggest that a client use MyFitnessPal as a food diary but I advise against tracking physical activity and exercise in the App. This follows with a disclosure of the risks of working for the calories that the App claims to you earn. Most calorie expenditure methods are frustratingly inaccurate.

BUT, I have found an App for my iPhone that I absolutely LOVE for self monitoring. (Keep in mind, that I am not a huge fan of Apps and I tend to gravitate towards a pen and paper when it comes to things like journaling, maintaining workouts records, and food recording.)

Background

In the process of my own self-improvement, no one App seemed to meet my needs. I found I would need to use 4, 5, or even more Apps in order to track everything that I wanted to track. This was not efficacious nor efficient. Further, it did not allow me to compare them all and I was looking for correlations. One of the most critical things for me to track has been my pain – how do my activity level, activity choices, and nutrition correlate with my pain. Is there a weather association? Mood? How do these all interact? I compiled my own worksheet for self-monitoring to meet my needs.

self monitoring

THE RECOVERY RECORD

I am excited to share that I recently discovered the Recovery Record App. It looks to me like someone beat me at my own game – this is my worksheet in an App! Initially designed for use as eating disorder therapy homework – do NOT let this deter you! With Recovery Record you can track:

  • Meals and snacks (e.g., what, where, when)
  • Emotions
  • Motivation
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Accountability
  • Goals & Achievements
  • Hope
  • Pain
  • Thoughts & Feelings
  • Eating behaviors (e.g., bingeing, desire to binge, dietary restriction)
  • Hunger
  • Physiological/Somatic symptoms

Fully customizable, you can establish reminders and rewards, find accountability partners, and share your information with others (e.g., dietitian, physician, counselor, family). While you can track disordered eating behaviors, you can also disable that tracking – along with any other logs you may not want to keep.

You also have the option of logging in via your computer, which I prefer if I want to add a lengthy note or track a significant amount of food.

Stop calorie counting

One of my favorite things about this App is that there is no built-in calorie counting. I discourage calorie counting and encourage mindful eating – and tracking everything that you put into your mouth is just as effective – if not more effective – than counting calories (Cooper, Fairburn, Hawker, 2003; Fairburn 2008).

Reminders

How often do we use the excuse, “I forgot!”? The reminders in this App are useful without being annoying. The App will nudge you to record your meals, but you are free to go back and record information later as well. the best part, you can disable the reminders you do not want.

The bottomline

This App will help you improve and monitor whole-body awareness. This is an App that will EMPOWER you. We know that how and what we eat and exercise are correlated with thoughts and feelings. How about where and when you eat? If you suffer from chronic pain or illness – do you eat more or are you restrictive during times of suffering? Do you avoid exercise? Once you are aware – you can work to change where you may see a need to change. And you can share this information with nearly anyone you choose!

And no, the developer is not paying me to endorse the product – she (they) do not even know that I exist. But they will soon! Kudos to developer Jenna Tregarthen – she may have made it to the list of individuals I want to meet in my lifetime.

References

Cooper, Z., Fairburn, C. G., & Hawker, D. M. (2003). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obesity: A Clinician’s Guide. New York: The Guilford Press.

Fairburn, C. G. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press.

Hays, K. F. (1995). Putting sport psychology into (your) practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(1), 33-40.

Which comes first – Exercise or nutrition?

The answer is very dependent on the individual and their current behaviors.

If you forced me to choose, I would choose nutrition (yes, the lesser of my expertise). As a society, we are accustomed to convenience food – psychologically and physically. I know individuals who do not eat vegetables. I know others who consume large quantities of Lean Cuisines. I worked in corporate America and had coworkers who ate fast-food EVERY DAY for lunch. I know individuals who do not cook. I know individuals who do not even own ovens or stoves with which to cook. I know individuals who do not eat. For most of these individuals, the best decision is to begin modifying nutrition.

Conversely, I know individuals who eat extremely well, but do not exercise. With a strong foundation in healthful nutritional habits, these individuals can focus on exercise and improved fitness.

There are the individuals who eat poorly and have never exercised, and managed to remain thin for most of their life. We all know someone like this. And then it hits – for women usually before or around menopause – unfamiliar weight gain. The naturally thin persons, having gained weight only at an older age, are probably my most challenging client population. They have never dealt with diets. Most have never stepped foot into a gym. You might think, “Great! A Blank Slate!” Sadly, not so great. Unless this client happens to also have a medical concern, it is incredibly difficult for the individual to see the need to alter nutrition. Having always been able to eat mindlessly – we are combating YEARS of unhealthy habits.

As humans, we do not like change. I know I do not like change. Change is hard. Imagine having had successful habits for 40+ years – and having me tell you that those once successful habits need to change because they are no longer tolerated by your body. You know it is true before I tell you, but you do not like the idea of change.

Further, in the Midwest, we are not afraid to work – we will work hard, for gain or no gain, because that was how we were raised. This same client, she will work her bum off during the 2-3 hours she spends with me at the gym each week. She will even work her bum off at the other activities I assign for her. But she will eat just the same as she has always eaten – and she will fight me tooth and nail on nutritional changes. Her results? The chances are she will not lose any weight.

Why are nutritional changes more difficult?

Have you ever thought about why nutritional changes are so much more difficult than increasing physical activity?

The act of eating involves its own reward system – as we digest and sugar enters our blood stream, our happy hormones (e.g., dopamine) are released into the brains reward center. Food makes you feel good – psychologically speaking. The positive feeling reinforces our eating behaviors (whether we realize it or not). Most individuals eat 5+ times a day – and have for their entire lives. Eating is a solidly established habit (i.e., behavior). Nutritional changes require behavior modifications; whereas, increased physical activity more often than not requires behavior increases or additions.

Often times, individuals can exhaust undesired behaviors through extinction and/or completely avoiding the behavior. Example, quitting smoking cold turkey. While this is not easy – it is easier that trying to change a behavior that you MUST engage in 5+ times a day. You must eat. Sometimes you have to learn to eat more often than you ever have before – meaning that you have more exposure to your food triggers.

Which comes first? ‘Stability’ skills

Research shows that most individuals do not maintain a weight loss for a significant period of time. This can be attributed to the perspective that it takes so much work to maintain a ‘deprived state’ (Kernan et al., 2012). Researchers taught individuals stability skills (i.e., being savvy, enjoying healthy lifestyle habits, making peace with the scale, and fine tuning lifestyle habits) prior to entering a behavior-based weight loss program. Results at six and twelves months showed that the individuals who learned stability skills had greater maintenance success than those who did not learn the skills.

What does this mean, you ask? They educated individuals on the basic principles of energy balance, nutrition, and physical activity (i.e., being savvy) prior to beginning weight loss. Knowledge is powerful! Individuals also began making small changes to nutrition – without necessarily depriving their minds or bodies – allowing their bodies and minds to adjust to the changes. Small steps like these can make big change a whole lot less earth shattering!

The bottomline 

First, change does not happen over night. Sometimes we have to make little changes on our way to a big change. I liken this to my need to ween myself from 2% milk – first to 1% and finally skim. Second, education is the first step to change. Learn about nutrition and small changes you can make – adding vegetables to each meal? – and move forward with confidence!

References

Kiernan, M., Brown, S. D., Schoffman, D. E., Lee, K., King, A. C., Taylor, C. B., Schleicher, N. C., & Perri, M. G. (2012). Promoting Healthy Weight With “Stability Skills First”: A Randomized Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030544.

Greek yogurt – A healthy choice?

I wish that false and/or misleading advertising was illegal. Further, I wish that only real and natural foods were available to us – it would solve a lot of our problems and ease the food consumption decision-making process. Instead, companies work to make food products better for you and tell you (overtly and covertly) that you are making a good decision for yourself and your family if you chose to consume their product. Healthy chips. Healthy crackers. Healthier yogurt.

Greek yogurt unveiled

If you watch TV, you have seen the commercial. Oikos Greek Yogurt. You know – the commercials with John Stamos! They advertise that by choosing Oikos Fruit on the Bottom Nonfat Greek Yogurt you are making a nutritionally sound choice. Are you? The advertisements insinuate that you will lose weight if you eat Greek yogurt rather than traditional yogurt.

Here are the Nutrition Facts for the Black Cherry flavor. No fat — hooray! 5 mg cholesterol — hooray! 12 g protein — hooray! TWENTY GRAMS of SUGAR — WHOA!! For anyone desiring to lose weight (i.e., fat), this should scream DANGER! Slow down!!

Further, they only list 5 vitamins and minerals. And all yogurts contain active cultures (sorry, Activia!)

Breaking down the facts

“The sugar is natural, from the fruit,” you say? Let me explore. A single serving container does not contain a full fruit serving. One serving of black cherries is one cup and boasts 22 grams of sugar. Knowing that the little blue cup cannot contain nearly a serving of real black cherries – where do those sugar grams come from? Ingredients four and five: sugar and fructose (sugar). Number six, modified corn starch, might as well be a sugar too. Guar Gum. Interesting.

Experts generally accept that the human body can process 2-3 teaspoons of sugar at one time, or per sitting. NOTE: processed sugars are dramatically more difficult for the body to process than natural sugars (i.e., straight from the source). 20 grams of sugar converts to 4 teaspoons. What happens to the other 2 teaspoons of sugar you have consumed? With proper nutritional timing, your body may use it to fuel your long run or intense physical activity. But the chances are that many individuals are eating yogurt as a snack while sitting at the work desk. Am I wrong? Before I get too distracted, what happens with the excess sugar? Your body converts excess sugar into fat. In other words, you have yourself a fattening, fat-free treat!

Still believe this is a sound nutritional snack? Sure, it is a BETTER choice.

A Greek yogurt proponent

Do not get me wrong. I LOVE Greek yogurt and have been eating it for years – since before it became cool and popular and companies started adding all the wonderful extras to make it more appealing. I buy plain 0-2% Greek yogurt (depends on the use). The less fat in a dairy product, the more processing and additives are required. Compare: 

I make my Greek yogurt more palatable by adding my own natural and good-for-me ingredients:

  • natural, local honey
  • peanut butter (peanuts as only ingredient)
  • raisins
  • fresh berries
  • homemade granola
  • and more!

Recommended daily sugar intake

I want to mention that eating one serving of this yogurt will fulfill 50-66% of the recommended daily sugar intake. The World Health Organization recommends that 10% percent of your total calories come from sugars. I have done the math for you:

1200 calories, 10% = 120 calories = 30 g of sugar
1300 calories, 10% = 130 calories = 32.5 g of sugar
1400 calories, 10% = 140 calories = 35 g of sugar
1500 calories, 10% = 150 calories = 37.5 g of sugar
1600 calories, 10% = 160 calories = 40 g of sugar
1700 calories, 10% = 170 calories = 42.5 g of sugar
1800 calories, 10% = 180 calories = 45 g of sugar
1900 calories, 10% = 190 calories = 47.5 g of sugar
2000 calories, 10% = 200 calories = 50 g of sugar
2100 calories, 10% = 210 calories = 52.5 g of sugar
2200 calories, 10% = 220 calories = 55 g of sugar
2300 calories, 10% = 230 calories = 57.5 g of sugar
2400 calories, 10% = 240 calories = 60 g of sugar

Better than traditional yogurt?

That is debatable. Greek yogurt contains more protein and fewer total carbohydrates. Traditional yogurt contains more calcium and adequate protein. A question to ask yourself, are you consuming yogurt as a protein product or as a dairy product? Which has the great benefit for you? Overall, traditional yogurt may still the healthier option of the two.

The bottomline…

EAT. PLAIN. YOGURT.

No, this does not include vanilla (natural or not) yogurt.

Is Oikos Fruit on the Bottom Nonfat Greek Yogurt bad for you? No, not at all. Is it a healthful decision? Eh – I wouldn’t say that and it relates to my concerns surrounding the use of the terms healthy or healthful!

It is a BETTER decision.

Greek yogurt versus traditional yogurt? It depends on your individual dietary needs – I alternate and sometimes mix the two because additional benefits of traditional yogurt.

It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle

For many of us, it’s not about what we eat; but rather, HOW MUCH we eat. How many times have you heard someone tell you that he/she eats healthy but can’t achieve the desired fat loss? The chances are this person is either not eating enough or eating too much, maybe even too much of a good thing. fit in gym

Do you know how many grapes make a serving? Is that monstrous bagel or banana you bought 1 serving? There are various tips or tricks that can help you ‘eyeball’ appropriate serving sizes. Here is a guide to serving sizes.

Serving sizes are deceiving. When eating out in restaurants, it’s hard to miss that portion sizes have gotten larger. The trend has also spilled over into the grocery store and vending machines, where bagel sizes have doubled and an ‘individual’ bag of chips can easily feed more than one. Research reported that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). This can mean significant excess calorie intake, especially when eating high-calorie foods.

When eating out. Many restaurants serve more food than one person needs at one meal. Take control of the amount of food that ends up on your plate by splitting an entrée with a friend. Or, ask the wait person for a “to-go” box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.

When eating in. To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings when eating at home, serve the food on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. Keeping the excess food out of reach may discourage overeating. Using smaller plates and bowls will also decrease the likelihood of overeating (Brzycki, 2008).

When eating or snacking in front of the TV, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container instead of eating straight from the package. It’s easy to overeat when your attention is focused on something else.

It’s ok to snack. We learned as children not to snack before a meal for fear of spoiling our dinners. It’s time to forget that old rule. If you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a small piece of fruit or some nuts, to avoid overeating during your next meal.

Be aware of large packages. The larger the package, the more people consume from it without realizing it (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). To minimize this effect:

  • Divide up the contents of one large package into several smaller containers.
  • Don’t eat straight from the package. Instead, serve the food in a small bowl or container.

Out of sight, out of mind. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food. Make your home a “portion friendly zone.”

  • Replace the candy dish/cookie jar with a fruit bowl.
  • Store especially tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of immediate eyesight, like on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Move the healthier food to the front at eye level.
  • When buying in bulk, store the excess in a place that’s not convenient to get to, such as a high cabinet or at the back of the pantry.

The bottomline

The emphasis is portion control and the philosophy that you can have everything in moderation. You will have cake at the birthday party and a glass of wine with dinner.  You cannot live life on the countless diets out there. Forget restrictions that will diminish your results!

Not sure where to start? I can offer this basic knowledge and my own experiences, but that is limited. If you are committed and determined to changing your life, consult a registered dietitian – NOT a nutritionist or ‘nutrition consultant’. A balanced meal plan is sustainable and can become a lifestyle to take you long into the future. Forget the gimmicks and fad diets. Give yourself a plan that will help you lose the unwanted fat and keep that fat off.

References

Brzycki, M. (2008). Portion distribution: Size does matter!. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(7), 52-58.

Geier, A., Rozin, P., & Doros, G. (2006). Unit bias. Psychological Science, 17(6), 521-525.

Defining: MY ideal body

 

I was perusing Facebook this morning. Lately, it seems like God is speaking to me through the news feed. He knows what has been weighing heavily on my mind. I have been trying to clearly define my  goal: I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday (May). I have been using images to define my goals – thus far all images of muscular woman performing some physical feat. Taking a look at the chart below, it hits me that all the images I am drawn towards look like the 10-12% body fat. Wow!…Wow! And I ask myself, which images do I think are the most attractive?

image collageThe last I tested, I was approximately 20% body fat. And the few times I have checked in below that, I didn’t FEEL well. The generally accepted ‘normal’ body fat percentage for a woman in her thirties in 23-27%. And I have been unknowingly setting my goal for 12%….is this realistic? Is this hazardous? What is the benefit? Looking at the above images, I would currently compare myself most closely to the 20-22%. Am I happy with my body? To tell you the truth, I am far from satisfied! To my defense – what woman have you met who truly is 100% satisfied with her body?

For years, I’ve battled disordered eating behaviors and exercise addiction. I even had a boyfriend end a relationship because I was ‘too obsessed with what I ate and going to the gym.’ He said it was too much pressure for him and he felt he needed to live up to the same standards. Mind you – we met at the gym. I didn’t read between the lines at the time – what I heard was that I was too much for him to handle. The reality is that I had an incredibly healthy relationship with food at that time. I often wish I could go back in time and mimic that relationship for current implementation. The real issue was my body dissatisfaction and the overall effect it had on my life and our relationship.

The cycle of undereating, overeating, and episodic binges has taken a toll – physically and emotionally. The period of overtraining has left me with injuries that I will spend my entire life fighting to overcome. I’ve been a guinea pig for insanely difficult workouts. I have tested numerous meal plans – and those most closely resembling a a bodybuilding diet (and that necessary to achieve my perceived ideal body) made me miserable. I’ve tried enough ‘diets’ to know when my mind and body are at optimal performance. A system of chosen deprivation (e.g., eliminating all carbohydrates or dairy) is not ideal for my daily functioning.

So as I continue to define my goal – I find myself DEFINING MY IDEAL BODY. I have to ask myself if that’s what I’m really striving for. What is it I’m really trying to achieve? I know what I would need to do to reach 10% body fat. The workouts don’t scare me and they in fact excite me. But the diet is another story and the diet is 90% of achieving my ideal body. So….is that truly my ideal body? Is that my goal? And what is wrong with my current appearance? My body fat is within healthy range, sometimes dipping to slightly below. And there are risks to low body fat just as there are risks to high body fat (e.g., osteoporosis, amenorrhea).

As of this morning, I’ve decided that I will step away from all vanity aspects of this goal. I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday! But this will be purely achievement based. And this is going to be FUN and REWARDing!

Treat your body kindly – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (New International Version)

 

Sorry, it’s not that simple

1. How close are you to having your ideal body? 2. How hard do you work for it, honestly? Unfortunately, there’s no pill. There’s no magic exercise program. There is no “ah-ha, this is so simple!” I wish! I think we all do.

My opinionated self is becoming more and more frustrated by being surrounded by colleagues who want to make achieving your health and fitness goals far more simple than it truly is. I would love to tell you that all you need to do is attend a kickboxing class two times a week and you will see significant results. But I would be lying to you and misleading you.  It’s just not that simple. Sure, I want to motivate my friends and clients…but not through lies. I will give you the truth, 100% of the time. And weight loss and maintenance are just NOT SIMPLE, nor easy.

Before I jump into this, I want to explain why I choose to use simple versus easy. For those who know me, you know that I like to say that life is simple, it’s just not easy. I may be changing my mind – life should be simple – but as a culture we have cultivated life to be complex. I use simple because it is the antithesis of complex – and health, weight, and fitness improvements – and maintenance – are complex. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as calories in versus calories out. The human body is complex!

As a health and fitness professional and behavior coach, it is my goal to educate, motivate, and inspire individuals to reach their goals. Educating is difficult, as the details of effective exercise can be complicated, intricate. And if it were as simple as some professionals and products like to make it out to be….then I wouldn’t have a career! AND, we would all obtain and maintain our ideal body with little to no effort. What may be even more complicated than exercise is nutrition! The complexities of insulin resistance, gluten tolerance levels, etc., each individuals’ needs are different. I do not require as much fiber as most individuals I know….and I need more protein than others. And how do I know? Trial and error and copious note taking. This has been far from simple, but definitely worth it.

I was recently conversing with a friend about nutrition and she wanted to ensure that she understood correctly how increased muscle mass can increase the body’s ability to burn fat. I had to asked her what felt like a zillion questions and tell her….it’s just not that simple. Are we talking fat as a macro-nutrient (Kcal) or fat as an energy storage (adipose tissue)? And I touched on carbohydrates versus fat stores as a source for cardiovascular endurance – again it’s just NOT SIMPLE. I think she was a little overwhelmed by the complexities and technicalities. Note that it is the fact that it is not simple that there can even be a career in this!

I don’t intend for my blog to actually provide all the answers. For, it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE. It may be a catalyst for thought in those who read it. But I do want to caution you – any fitness professional who does not discuss basic nutrition with you and/or refer you to a registered dietitian is likely not qualified to help you achieve your goals…so don’t throw your money away.

So, what are you thinking?

A ‘healthy’ vending machine?

The so-called healthy vending machine.

The so-called healthy vending machine.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we are being lied to. This image of a healthy vending machine is viral across Facebook….but the items are not healthy. I don’t fully understand why we share this with the world and say, ‘eat this, it’s healthy.” While this vending machine offers better options, they are not healthy. By definition:

Healthy (adj):
1: enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit
2: envincing health
3: conducive to health

Health (n):
1: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit;especially : freedom from physical disease or pain
2: the general condition of the body

…the definitions of healthy and health are ambiguous. As an educated and informed individual, I perceive a healthy food and one that will provide macro- and micro-nutrients that will benefit my health, either as improvement or maintenance. With that in mind, let me use the popchips! as an example. First, I applaud the product for its choice in tagline – the healthier choice.

https://i1.wp.com/www.popchips.com/wp-content/themes/popchips/images/bags/large/nutrition/8oz/original_single_nutrition.pngWhat do the nutrition facts have to offer? Some fat – which can help with brain function. Some sodium and potassium, which we need to maintain a healthy hydration level. Carbohydrates, but we don’t know the source of the bulk of them (not fiber or sugars). And a little protein. With such low calories, we cannot expect popchips! to be a high source of protein, so that is a non-issue. There are no fake ingredients, which is wonderful. But all in all, do popchips! add value to my health? Or is a product healthy if it does not harm us or worsen our health?

Again, notice that popchips! self-promote as healthier, so not necessarily healthy. SO…who then labeled them healthy and put them into a so-called healthy vending machine? And why do we not call this a healthier vending machine?

I want to also point out that this healthy vending machine offers numerous energy and protein bars. If you eat these bars in the same manner you might eat a typical candy bar, you will gain weight. Some individuals may even be putting their liver health at risk if they begin a regime of eating these products without an equivalent caloric expenditure and activity level. I am not stating that these are bad products, just that they are not design for regular snacking…and could actually be harmful to health if consumed in a manner in which they were not intended to be consumed. But they are in the healthy vending machine….

I’ll leave it at this. Those who have spoken to me in the last 24 hours know how worked up I am about this topic. I am not attacking the products in the vending machine, there is a time and a place for everything and they are perfectly fine to consume in moderation. My angst is bigger: why is it okay to label them healthy? I urge you to ask yourself, what makes a product healthy?

If you ask me…if there was any processing involved, it’s more than likely not healthy….

You don’t have to run to be thin

I’m serious. This is the cold, hard truth. You don’t have to run to be thin. Or fit. Or healthy. Or happy. So many of us have this misconception that in order to be thin we must run and run and run. Where does this idea come from? I have a couple of theories.

  1. I’ve talked to dozens of folks who say something like, “I lost weight when I was running all the time and I didn’t really eat. But then I stopped and I gained all the weight back. So I know what I need to do…running works for me so I just need to do it.” Really? Does running work for you? If you tried (some of you more than once) and failed to keep the weight off, then did it really work? Is not the goal to keep the weight off for good? True, you may have that vicarious experience of temporary success…but it wasn’t sustained. Why not?
  2. We see runners and they look thin, fit, and healthy. I cannot tell you how many ‘runners’ I have known with eating disorders or other serious health concerns. How many ‘runners’ do you know who are injured? And I will tell you…most of the fastest and most successful ‘runners’ I know are not thin….but they are incredibly fit. (I believe that the difference between thin and fit deserves a post all its own to be discussed at another time).
  3. 5Ks and marathons are a dime a dozen. With the influx of mud runs and other novel race themes, running is receiving more publicity than ever. Running is FUN!becca2012

But you know what I say? Screw running. Running is not the answer to being thin, fit, or healthy. And in fact, it doesn’t work for a lot of us. I could go on and on about how humans are designed to run (to a certain degree) and that it is an exercise that requires limited resources, etc. If you want to know more about the science of running, pick up a book such as “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.

I hate running. My body physically hates running and fights me tooth and nail. I have tried to force myself to run. I have forced myself to try and like running…only to come out hating it more. I’ve run half marathons and relays…hating every minute of it. And I noticed during every one of my running ‘seasons’ I gained weight. There are numerous physiological explanations for this, but I will just state that the weight gain was a result of doing something (e.g., physical activity, nutrition) that my body was not designed nor trained to do effectively.

I have friends who are addicted to that runner’s high. I have yet to experience that high. Therefore, I don’t run. Am I thin, fit, and healthy? I wouldn’t call myself thin, as I am proud to carry more muscle than most, but I am definitely fit and healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I will run now and again. But nothing more than a few miles. And I much prefer to complete my cardiovascular exercise via different methods. I elevate my heart rate during resistance training…adding jump rope if necessary but incorporating explosive and power movements.  Why would I want to run for a boring 30 minutes when I can do a circuit of 10 exercises, keeping myself mentally and physically challenged to keep up with the tasks at hand?

So, the moral of the story – you don’t have to run to be thin. Are you one of those folks who ran and lost weight but didn’t stick with it? Ask yourself why. Be honest with yourself – the chances are that running doesn’t work for you. Find something else! Running is not sustainable, FOR YOU, and it’s not a lifestyle, FOR YOU. There are so many other activities out there, why suffer through what you think you have to do?

You don’t have to run! Not sure what else to do if you aren’t going to run? I know someone who can help you with that…

Training for life

Training is a lifestyle. It's not a duty.I walked into a gym recently…not needing much other than a place to pick up heavy things and put them down. It’s a small place – cardio equipment; strength – machines, free weights, kettlebells, etc.; and  small group fitness room. I much prefer to workout in the small room. In the dark. Alone. – Perhaps not a surprise to those who know me and my workout regimen.

It didn’t take long for one of the front desk staff to ask, “Are you training for something specific?” My response, “Nope, just training for life.” Staff, “Wow, well you look amazing. (awkward pause) It’s inspiring to see a woman who can wear muscle.” Me, “Thank you, I work hard.” I walked out of the gym that day giggling a little and feeling good about the compliment. In retrospect, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my response, “Just training for life.” Do I need to be training for anything more?

Read any personal training, exercise psychology, or wellness coaching book and it will state in laborious detail that individuals need concrete goals to work towards. I think about this, and my training for life isn’t very concrete. Nor is it measurable (survival?)…so is it attainable? But truly most important, is it motivating? What am I working towards? I feel that as a trainer and coach I should be a role model. In turn, I feel like I should be training for something, for a goal.

I’ve trained for specific events and achievements in the past – half marathons, Chicago Urbanathlon, to squat 300 lb., etc. How I miss training on these monkey bars….

At the given time, am considering a new challenge – giving myself something to train for. I have already set the extremely ambiguous goal of being in the best shape of my life for 30th birthday – May 2013. I’ve been working to conceptualize what this looks like – thus far coming up empty. The idea of doing a figure or bodybuilding competition has been creeping in and out of my head for a couple of years now. The physical training does not deter me; however, the dietary discipline makes me cringe! Now it sounds like I have something to think about, doesn’t it?

What do you train for? Are you training for life? And maybe more? I will always be training for life!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20