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On Second Thought… August 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Healthy Eating, Mindful Eating.
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You know how I said I was going to do a three-week elimination diet to see if I was having problems with eggs, dairy or gluten? And then I said last night I was eating when I wasn’t hungry to deal with stress reared its ugly head?

I think the two could be related. During the three-week period I was planning on eliminating certain foods I have a bunch of social events scheduled, and that was freaking me out. Plans include dinner with a great friend (she and I usually have appetizers, a drink, dinner, and sometimes dessert; we see each other about once every other month), a lunch out with volunteers for the non-profit for which I work part-time, a picnic with even more volunteers from the same agency, lunch out with my mom, helping to cater an event with a woman who makes the most fabulous desserts of all time, and perhaps other as-yet-unforseen events.

I realize that making changes for the better isn’t always easy, and that learning to stand up for yourself and what you want to put into your body is very important. For instance, if you decided to limit alcohol or sugar consumption but always give in when a friend or family member insists you have more, that’s no bueno. However, since doing this elimination diet wasn’t essential for me at this time, and because I am afraid it might be causing adverse emotional and therefore eating reactions, I’m holding off on it.

This is the lesson I’ve learned over the years: You must listen when something feels off. I was starting to feel anxious about the whole process of the elimination diet. The events I had coming up, the fact that I’ve been so happy and steady with healthy eating already, the fact that this reminded me of restrictive diets from my past, and the amount of time I was spending worrying about how I was going to handle this all were pushing me over the edge.  I can see why I was feeling anxious!

So, no three-week detox for me. I’m going to continue with my standard way of eating, which is veggie and fruit heavy, involves whole grains, some dairy (mostly organic and not every day), some local eggs, beans, dark chocolate, desserts once or twice a week, a glass of wine occasionally, and plenty of listening to my body for signs of hunger and satiety. Phew! That feels so much better.

Just wanted to get that off my chest!

What about you? Any recent diet changes? Are you feeling stressed or anxious about any of them?

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Elimination Diet August 11, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Healthy Eating.
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For years while I was binge eating I would put myself on a new diet every other week. Who am I kidding? Every other day! Said diet would inevitably end in crash and burn fashion when, two hours or five hours or 12 hours into it, I felt overwhelmed/happy/sad/guilty and ate everything within arms reach. However, that never stopped me from planning my next diet as soon as I was through binging.

The diets I wasn’t attempting weren’t crash diets, no, I knew those could backfire. But they were usually restrictive in some way or another; not much fat, more protein than I normally like, no eggs or dairy, no sugar, only foods that start with b. You get the gist. I don’t even think it was necessarily the restrictive nature of the diets that got me binging again, I think it was that I was always dieting to lose weight, therefore always telling myself I wasn’t good enough, therefore providing myself more fuel for the binge-fire. In other words: people with eating disorders and disordered eating shouldn’t diet. EVER.

I know, I know, if you suffer with compulsive overeating or binge eating it’s probably really tough to convince yourself of that. However, dieting in that state just makes things worse. Much, much worse.

Even though I’m recovered from BED (not that I don’t sometimes struggle) I still don’t diet. I live a lifestyle that means I mostly eat whole, real foods with only occasional junk foods, but I don’t tell myself I can or cannot have something. So why am I embarking on a three-week allergen elimination diet starting next week? I’ll tell you this: It doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss. (But I am going to the beach in a few weeks, so if my body wanted to make my butt a little smaller before then, I’d be okay with that.)

It has to do with my health. Not health as a code word for weight loss, but my genuine health. For the past few months I’ve been having, um, well, let’s just say that the old Poop Factory isn’t working as well as I’d like. It’s working frequently enough, but the product it’s outputting is not always what it should be. I really didn’t know how else to say that. If Dr. Oz can talk about poop, hopefully I can, too!

Anyways…I’ve read sometimes imperfect BM can come from a food allergy or sensitivity. Common food allergens: Dairy, eggs, gluten. I personally don’t think it’s eggs, as I don’t eat them very often. However, starting next Monday I’m eliminating all of these products, plus caffeine and alcohol (which I consume once in a blue moon) for three weeks. The idea is to see how my body reacts without these foods and then slowly add them back separately in after the three weeks is up.

The hardest thing for me is going to be the gluten. I eat oatmeal like it’s my job. I’m sure I can live on quinoa, brown rice and millet for three weeks, though. I don’t eat much bread to begin with, but I’ll have to careful about things like soy sauce and alternative milks. I never realized how many things gluten can be in! I suspect my problem may be dairy, since my family has some lactose intolerance, but I’m really not sure. Also, it could be none of these things. This could be stress-related. It could be IBS. Who knows? However, the only way to find out is to try a diet shift and see if it helps.

Why am I even writing about this here? Because I have a pretty strong no-diet rule. And I am interested to see if these rules cause any friction in my happy state with food, and I thought it might be fun to talk about here, too.

Have you ever tried an elimination diet? Did it help or harm you?

Eating Healthy, Even If You Hate to Cook! August 9, 2010

Posted by Jen in Budget, Healthy Eating, Motivation.
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This past Sunday morning I did what I normally do: I cooked. I usually cook a bunch of healthy goodness up on Sunday mornings so I have food for the week. This Sunday I sliced and baked sweet potato rounds, roasted veggies (eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and zucchini mixed with EVOO and spices), made coconut butter (you must try sweet potato with coconut butter…to die for), cooked millet, and steamed edamame (which are awesome!)

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All of this prep, including cooking and cleaning, probably took under two hours. Honestly, I enjoy this process so much I don’t really notice the time passing. Which is probably why tonight, when I prepared dinner, I also did some prep work for my breakfast and snacks and lunch tomorrow, and even decided to prepare some stuffed tomatoes to cook for dinner tomorrow night. (No, I don’t have a recipe for stuffed tomatoes, I just gutted them, chopped up some veggies I had on hand, mixed in some tempeh and cooked millet, and added some spices. Hopefully it will turn out tasty.)

Again, the time flies for me when I’m in the kitchen. I actually find it reasonably easy to eat whole foods because I simply love preparing them! But I got to thinking, what about people who can’t stand to be in the kitchen? How can they get themselves to a place where they’re eating healthy, whole foods, too? I haven’t actually thought of anything yet, but let’s hope I do by the time I get to the next sentence.

How to prepare & cook whole foods, even if you hate to cook:

  • Plan ahead. If you write-up a rough meal plan for the week to take with you when you grocery shop, it will not only help your budget, but your ability to stay on track with healthy foods. Think about it: If you’ve already outlined that you’re going to have brown rice with stir-fried veggies and chicken on Tuesday night, and already have all the ingredients sitting in the fridge staring at you, you’re more likely to prepare the meal than call out for pizza. Or at least more likely to think about preparing the meal.
  • Pick a chunk of time and DO IT. If you really, really hate the kitchen, schedule a section of time on the weekend or a slow night and just get it done. Since you’ve planned your meals for the week, it’s easy to look over your list and do things ahead of time. Plan on having that chicken stir fry? Chop of a ton of veggies now and store them in an airtight container. (Harder veggies like carrots, onions, garlic, and peppers can all go in the pan at the same time, so you can keep them together. Veggies like tomatoes and snap peas just need a short time to cook – keep them in a different container.) Want to have quick and easy snacks for the week? Chop up a melon, peel and slice carrots, bake sweet potatoes or hard squash like butternut, and portion out homemade trail mix into baggies or Tupperware. This is also a great time to get a whole grain ready for the week. Make a huge pot of rice, millet, quinoa, or other whole grain. Stick it in the fridge and dole it out as necessary.
  • Freeze it. While you’re doing all that work on the weekend, might as well go ahead and make some stuff to freeze. Bean and veggie burgers usually freeze really well, and work great as a quick mid-week dinner. Make a pot of soup or chili and put it in small one-or two-serving containers and freeze it. If you’ve bought a large portion of meat, portion it out and freeze it so it stays good.
  • If you’ve got the money, spend it on prepared whole foods, not junk. Already prepared health foods do exist, for a price. If you’re more likely to eat fruit that’s already cut up, buy that fruit tray at the store. Same goes with washed and pre-cut veggies for salad. Buy some baked tofu or prepared organic meat. Buy instant brown rice so you can make it really quickly after work one night. Sure, it costs more than making it from scratch, but having heart disease and diabetes cost a lot more. Also, if you stop spending your money on potato chips, soda and fast food or restaurant meals, you may have some extra money to spend on healthy foods that are also convenient.

Well, how’d I do? Do you have any tips for eating healthy even if you hate to cook?

You’re You, I’m Me July 31, 2010

Posted by Jen in Healthy Eating.
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This morning I just feel like blogging. Actually, because I’m following some of the advice from the book I talked about yesterday, I decided that I should do things that match up with my goals. And one of my goals is to blog frequently and build my wellness coaching business. But I’m not sure what to blog about!

One thing that I am interested in discussing, though, is how everyone is different. “Well, duh!” you’re probably thinking. However, I think it’s important to remember. I know it’s important for me to remember. For instance, sometimes I compare myself to other people as far as what they are eating, what their fitness level is, how thin they are, etc. But comparing myself to someone else and then trying to be like them isn’t necessarily the way to go.

For instance, body type. I’ve never had thin legs. I never, ever will. My legs have become more muscular since I’ve been strength training regularly, and I hope they’ll get even stronger, but they’re not going to be skinny. Similarly, I’ve got a rack. Yes, that kind of rack. It’s not going anywhere, no matter how much weight I lose (I am not complaining about this). In others, it would be unhealthy for me to try to be super skinny. I’m a curvy person. I will sometimes tell others, “my body is made for snuggling”.

It’s important to remember that your body is your body. Your friend (or a person on a blog you read) might be the same height as you but weigh more, or weigh less. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your weight, so stop comparing! And that goes for me, too.

Another big different? Diets. I think every single one of us should strive to eat lots of vegetables, some fruit, some whole grains, some healthy fats and proteins. Beyond that, people enjoy and thrive on a huge variety of foods. I am not a high protein person. I am a vegetarian but I don’t eat much dairy or eggs, and I get my protein mostly from beans, nuts and nut butters, and sometimes soy products. That’s okay for me, and I am still having no problem building muscle!

Other people absolutely adore fish, chicken, eggs, etc. That’s not me, and that’s fine. Everyone needs to find what works for them. And when I say “what works for them”, I mean, what makes them feel fantastic. If you think fast food and soda is working for you, I want you to check in with your energy levels. They’re probably not great. You want to eat in a way that fuels you for life!

Continuing on the “what other people can eat” track, some people do just fine eating some sort of dessert every single day and feel fine. My sweetie, for instance, can eat cookies or candy every single night and not be triggered into eating the whole house. He doesn’t feel guilty and he maintains a stable, healthy weight. I like treats, too, but eating too many of them too often does not make me feel good. And some people, like a former client of mine, cannot eat sugar at all, period. It makes her feel like absolute crap.

Just because you see someone else thriving on a certain diet does not mean it’s right for you. Read lots of books, experiment, but notice your energy levels. Jot down what makes you feel great and what makes you feel tired and lethargic. YOU are the only one who knows what’s best for you, and you should be deciding what goes into your body.

As for me, this morning I did upper body and abs first thing, had a smoothie with kale, a frozen banana, cinnamon, and a TBL of natural peanut butter, walked about three miles, ran some errands, and came home and ate three whole grain pancakes with shredded carrots (in the batter), cherries, and walnuts. Delicious! And I am brimming with energy!

But now I’m going to veg out on the couch and read. Have a great day.

Craving Control July 30, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation.
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A few days ago I picked up the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, MD. This book, as the title suggests, is about ways to use, train, and change your brain to affect your body in a positive way. There are tips for craving control, balancing hormones, foods that help the brain, and more. The author, Daniel G. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert.

So far I’ve read through the chapter called “The Craving Solution” and “The Weight Solution”. I especially liked the former chapter. Amen’s suggestions include some things that I love to do and some things that I hadn’t thought much about. I thought I’d share some of this tips for craving control below.

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. I feel like crap if I don’t get about 7.5 or 8 hours each night. The best way to achieve this is to pick a bed time 8 hours before you’re alarm is going to go off and get in bed at that time, no excuses. Also, stick to the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends. For instance, I’m not working today, but last night I was still in bed by 10:15 and woke up slightly before six. I feel great! No need to sleep in.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating frequent smaller meals. Do you wait until you’re starving and then cram down whatever you can find to eat? The book refers to a 2007 article by Matthew Gailliot and Roy Baumeister that shows self-control failures are more likely to occur when blood sugar is low. Drinking alcohol, skipping meals, and consuming sugary snacks or beverages cause dips in blood sugar and can impact how good you are at sticking to self-controlling behaviors. I didn’t know this before, and it’s great information!
  • Exercise to boost blood flow to the brain. You already knew exercise was great for your waistline, your butt, your heart, and your lungs. It’s also great for brain health and your overall well-being. Stop making excuses and start exercising! Even if you just start walking briskly a few times a week, you’re on the right track!
  • Practice mediation. Over and over I have tried to consistently practice meditation, and it’s getting easier for me. This book has convinced me to make it an absolute priority every day, period. If you’ve never meditated at all, just try sitting in a quiet spot for ten minutes a day and focus on your breath. At first it might feel very uncomfortable, but keep it up and eventually it will become much easier.
  • Create focused, written goals. When I read this recommendation I started singing from the rooftops. I love written goals. Dr. Amen states that the brain needs clear direction and that when you are focused on what you want, it makes it much easier to match your behavior to make it happen. Your mind is powerful and it makes happen what it sees. He suggests writing down goals for relationships, work, money, and health, and posting them somewhere you can see them every day. I have done this and plan on reading them each morning when I get up and each evening before bed.
  • Be careful with too much technology. Apparently we’re completely frying our brain’s pleasure center by being on the Internet, watching TV, and playing way too many video games. He suggests watching less than one hour of TV per day and keeping computer time (outside of work) to a minimum. This one is a toughie, but imagine how much other stuff you could do with your free time if you weren’t sucked into the reading the latest about Lindsay Lohan and the war.
  • Write down five things you are grateful for everyday. This is one of the many suggestions he has for calming the brains emotional centers. This helps you feel good and focus on the positive in your life. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative, you actually change your brain.

This is just a teensy bit of great information contained in just one chapter of the book. My favorite thing about the book is that it states plainly that the brain (and that includes will power and habits) can be changed. The more often you say “no” to overeating and “yes” to healthy habits, the stronger the brain will become. It will be easier and easier to keep up good habits!

Don’t Push, Pivot July 26, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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Photo credit: John Drysdale

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Don’t think about elephants. Don’t think about elephants! Don’t think about elephants!

What are you thinking about?

This same idea applies directly to weight loss and overcoming emotional triggers for eating.

Let me explain: Let’s say you have a tendency to reach for the ol’ pork rinds after a stressful day at work. You’ve noticed this habit and have decided to change it. You get home from a stressful day at work and start thinking about the pork rinds.

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“I can’t eat those pork rinds. I told myself I would do something else. I can’t eat those pork rinds. I can’t eat those pork rinds. Dammit! I’m eating those pork rinds NOW!”

The more you tell yourself not to do something, the more you’re going to think about it, and the more likely you are to do it.

That’s why I like to tell my clients (and myself!), “don’t push, pivot”.

What if you got home from work, but instead of telling yourself over and over to avoid the pork rinds, actually pushing back on the thought,  you pivoted to a new idea and, hopefully, a new feeling and action?

“I can’t eat those pork rinds. Uh-Oh, now I feel super laser focused on the pork rinds. I’m going to pivot my attention and energy to something completely different now. Such as leg raises! Or cat juggling! Or perhaps I’ll go search for shiny objects in the lint-trap! Excellent”

Okay, my example is sort of ridiculous, because who turns to pork rinds and who distracts themselves with shiny objects? (If I have offended you, I’m sorry.)

The point is: If you are constantly worrying about avoiding something, or worrying about not avoiding something, you’re spending way too much time focusing on the “something” instead of pivoting your attention to something that will enrich your life.

Focused on that giant bowl of ice cream your husband is eating? Get up and darn socks. Focused on how fat you think your pinkie looks today? Put on a pair of gloves and go shovel the driveway. Focused on how worried you are about your review next week? Try writing a letter to your grandmother/hairdresser/ex cell mate. There must be some way for you to pivot your attention to something positive.

Remember: Don’t push back on the thought, pivot away from it. Good luck!

Why Aren’t You Eating Your Veggies? July 25, 2010

Posted by Jen in Healthy Eating.
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You know you’re supposed to be eating lots of fruits and veggies, right? They’re beautiful, they taste good, they’re great for your waist line, and including a bounty of colorful veggies is one of the keys to losing weight and keeping it off for good.

So why aren’t Americans eating enough of them? Why aren’t you?

Here is Dr. Andrew Weil’s Food Guide Pyramid. I’d like to the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, but I don’t trust the government’s recommendations for nutritional, especially when they’re in bed with the meat and dairy industries.

But I digress. Because no matter what guide you look at for healthy living, it’s going to emphasize eating plenty of veggies, and at least moderate amounts of fruit. (And if you’re following a plan that doesn’t recommend consuming these foods, run!)

Yet Americans are still only eating an average of 4.4 servings of fruits and veggies a day, and although the article I just linked to doesn’t mention it, the two most popular “vegetables” Americans consume are French fries and ketchup. Um, I don’t think those should count.

Honestly, it’s not that hard to get the servings of fruits and veggies you need – around 7 to 9 servings. That sounds like quite a bit, but half a cup of fruit is a serving, and you could easily eat a cup of fruit with breakfast, meaning you’ve already covered two servings by 8 am!

Here’s how I fit in my fruits and veggies yesterday:

Breakfast: Overnight oats topped with grated carrot (hey, we eat it in cake, why not in other foods?), cherries, and blackberries. It tasted good, really. Fruit and veg servings: About two.

Early lunch: Brown rice with cranberries and cashews, steamed broccoli, shredded carrots and cucumbers. Fruit and veg servings: At least two.

Afternoon snack one: Green monster (a smoothie with greens, usually spinach or kale, blended right in) with half a frozen banana and a butt load of organic spinach, plus some peanut butter. Fruit and veg servings: Two or so.

Afternoon snack two: Peach and whole wheat tortilla (homemade) Fruit and veg servings: One

Dinner: Indonesian Gado Gado from Spring Street Cafe. This was peppers, onions, and summer squash with tofu sautéed in peanut sauce and served over cooked kale and fresh spring mix. Fruit and veg servings: At least two.

And there you have it: Around nine servings of fruits and veggies. Maybe that sounds like way too many veggies for you at this point. How about taking some baby steps to increase your produce consumption?

  • Always, always, always include a cup of fruit with your breakfast. Cut up a big banana and put it on your cereal. Make a fruit salad. Dump a cup of berries over your yogurt. Make a fruit smoothie. Start your day off right!
  • Add veggies to everything you eat. Making an omelet? Add spinach, onions, and peppers. Having tacos? Add tomatoes, romaine lettuce, black olives. Having spaghetti? Add peppers and onions to your marinara sauce. Making lasagna? Layer in zucchini and summer squash instead of noodles, or just add veggies in each layer. Add veggies to your stir fry, lettuce and tomato to your ham sandwich, and roasted veggies to your burger.
  • Add fruits and veggies to your baked goods. Ever hear the trick of buying a box of cake mix and mixing it with a can of pumpkin instead of the required eggs and oil?  Tastes great and is very moist, is much healthier, and also adds vegetables to your diet! Add applesauce instead of oil to baked goods for a lower fat dish with the addition of more fruit and fiber. Instead of making chocolate chip muffins, make blueberry ones!
  • Make French fries at home. You don’t have to give up French fries as a veggie, just make them at home! Wash and cut up a potato or sweet potato in wedges, toss with a little olive oil and spices, and bake on a cookie sheet for about 15 minutes per side in a 400 degree oven.
  • Make fruit your dessert. Instead of a piece of cake before bed, how about another cup of fresh fruit? Or, if you must have ice cream, have a small serving with berries poured over it. Or try making banana soft serve.

See? You can do it!

What’s your favorite way to eat fruits and veggies?