For years I have worked with people who are lost when it comes to follow through on goals and behavior changes. It can be frustrating to set goals only to fail at achieving them. One reason people do not reach personal goals is they do not prioritize themselves above others. Now this may sound selfish, and many of us have been taught that to focus on myself would mean I am not a community player. However, the reality is … you MUST focus on yourself first. You cannot take care of anyone else if you are depleted. You HAVE to put yourself first if you are to be in a place to give. 

Many of us are so busy. In fact you may be saying “if I take that hour for myself, I won’t be able to feed my kids dinner or walk my dogs or get that project done at work”. Believe me I know. This is a constant struggle in my life. How can I balance my personal creative outlets, workouts, work tasks, feeding people, being a good pet owner, and showing my kids and husband how much I love them? Some days it feels like an unsurmountable task.

Yet what I know is … if I take care of me first, then the other stuff gets done AND gets done better. I’m more focused, engaged, and connected to my family, friends, and pets. I am more efficient at getting my work done because I am focused. I am happier because I feel better about myself. This is a direct result from accomplishing a goal I set in front of me. I feel masterful. The feeling of mastery is important in building self confidence which brings out my best self to share with others. To have all this, I MUST put myself first. 

In a study done by Burke, Swigart, Warziski, Derro, and Ewing (2009), the authors found that self-monitoring is a great way to increase understanding of behavior choices and change options, however 2 groups of people struggled to follow through. One group committed half way and the other gave up, completely. Key factors included making themselves and their goals a top priority and finding positive supportive people to surround themselves with. The pieces that separated those 2 groups from the one that solidly made their goal during the year of weight loss, and maintained it 6 months later, outlines ideas we can all use. 

First, the group that made it was organized and focused on the goal. They carried their food diaries (part of the study guidelines) with them, recorded their food and exercise choices, and had supportive people in their lives. They reported an understanding of cause and effect. They knew and/or learned how their choices everyday contributed to the goal they’d set and they made their choices in ways that promoted their success. On the other hand the groups that struggled had some big differences.

In both groups that struggled to meet the goals people were not as organized. They spoke of forgetting their journals or writing down daily food choices on scrapes of paper they later lost. They didn’t have strong support people in their corner and they didn’t prioritize themselves over other obligations. They used more excuses regarding busy life tasks and other responsibilities to make up for emotional eating and lack of adherence to the plan set forth by the study. Some even hid their goals and hopes from their loved ones and co-workers or commented on the sabotaging behavior toward them partners and friends did regarding their goal. In the group that struggled the most they were more overwhelmed with life, reported more physical exhaustion, had more self blame, and were not able to nurture and take responsibility for themselves. 

Want to take control of your life? Track yourself!
Fitbit

It’s interesting how we get in our own way. In the last article on the imposter phenomenon (Feeling Like a Phony. The Imposter Phenomenon) we discussed how we might come to hide our brilliance or feel like we can’t really try because we might fail. Many of us use this as a way to circumvent reaching our goals. Today, we are looking at how not taking full responsibility for ourselves and our personal choices gets in our way. Do either sound like you? If so they may be keeping you from your health goals.

Do you set a goal only to find ways around by blaming yourself or others? I hear things like “I can’t eat that way, my family won’t like it” or “I had to stay late at work because I couldn’t say no” or “everyone does it that way in my family, I don’t think I could go for a walk instead of watch TV”, this list goes on.

Do you find yourself setting the bar so high you’ll never make it on the first try and then blame yourself or others for your failure, shame yourself, or collapse under the strain of trying to be prefect?

What about organizing and planning well? Do you find yourself disorganized and unable to find your keys, journal, pen, a shoe not to mention find the time to collect your thoughts and write them down/track your food and moods?

The bottom line is you have choices everyday all day long. When we understand the link between our choices and our outcomes – plus take full responsibility for those outcome – we become more powerful. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Are you the top priority in your life?
    1. If not, why not?
  2. Can you keep your goal in your sights all the time (i.e. the office lunch? Holiday dinner? Getting to bed on time so you can work out early?)
    1. If not, what gets in your way?
  3. When planning your focus, can you follow through on packing snacks, choosing healthy movement/eating options, and getting enough down time in your daily life?
    1. Again, if not, why not?
  4. And if you can do those things – how do you do it? 
    1. What makes you successful? 
    2. How do you hold your focus?

Do you have the right support people in your corner? Who are they and what do you like about their support? If you don’t have supportive friends and family, where can you find them? A group? Work? Trainer? This was an important part of success for the group able to maintain their weight loss and a huge factor for the group that struggled the hardest. Here are some tips on finding a workout buddy who can support you: 3 things to consider when choosing a workout partner. 

If you are struggling with any of the above connect with me. Sometimes the behaviors getting in our way are serving a purpose. For instance, you might not know anyone you respect who is organized, or you may have been taught to be perfect is the only option. You might find that to reach your goal means your friends and family become distant and that is painful and confusing. At times the lack of accomplishing a goal is about the meaning we place on the goal and our identity tied into who we are today and who we believe we can be tomorrow.

Reference:

Burke, L.E., Swigart, V., Turk, M. W., Derro, N., and Ewing, L. J. (2009). Experiences of self-monitoring: Successes and struggles during treatment for weight loss. Quality Health Res 19(6), 815-828. doi:10.1177/1049732309335395 

Photo Credit: Confessions of a Jesus Freak Blog Post

 

80/20 Diet Rule: Staying on Track – Exercise is only ½ the battle, you’ve got to keep focused on healthy eating, too:

Remember – the nutritional part of maintaining a healthy weight is about 80% of the battle. While exercise matters for quality of life, ability to live well into our older years, and feeling alive, it’s only about 20% of losing/gaining weight. This is because exercise is good at helping us use up calories (aka stored fat) but only if we aren’t putting more into storage.

In addition, exercise often creates more hunger – because you are using more calories you need more fuel. If you are eating your fuel via junk food you are only filling your tank with junk. The body then struggles to help you rebuild tissue and have what it needs to make sure you are strong and ready for your next workout.

Planning your meals and making sure to follow the 80/20 rule when choosing foods is important. Here 80% of the time you are on track for your goals (weight loss, maintenance, or gain) and 20% of the time you eat what you want. This can be looked at according to the hour, day, week, etc.

Check out E-Meals for help making healthy meal planning easy!

If you are following the 80/20 rule on food and making good, healthy, whole food, nutrient dense choices, you can be pretty sure your also following the 80/20 rule when it comes to the way diet and exercise work together to create a healthy weight for you.

This video goes over a case study of someone who works a lot, isn’t able to find the time to exercise, and is starting to have physical problems as a result of being about 100lbs overweight. He outlines where to start and how to stick with it.

If you liked this article – check out these:

More on food choices: Eat Well, Feel Well or making sure your workouts are fun and interesting: Cycling Your Workouts.

Photo Credit: Diet Quotes

Finding Healthy Rewards

Often rewards are one of the reasons people stay focused on workout goals. However if your workout goal is also focused on giving into your favorite “sweet foods” because you deserved it, you may find that you are over-indulging and sabotaging yourself along the way. As we begin a workout program we tend to increase our hunger because our body is requiring more calories (aka fuel) to do what’s asked of it. If we are filling those extra calories with junk because “we worked hard” we aren’t keeping our ‘eyes on the prize’, which has been found to help us reach our goals, and instead we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Smart pre and post workout snacking can help balance out those extra cravings and make sure the fuel you are choosing is the right kind for your needs in this part of your training cycle.

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize Matters. Check Out Why ~

If you aren’t going to reward yourself with food … then just what will you get for all that hard work? Answering a few simple questions can really help you define what’s important to you and keep you motivated to reach your goals. Think about:

  • What you really like do?
  • What do you value?
  • What do you usually forgo?
    • a mani/pedi, facial, expensive razor, a day at the driving range, time to read, a Netflix binge episode, sleep, a different/new food (that’s healthy for you), a new fitness tracker, etc.

These are all ways you can help yourself stay focused and excited to reach your goals, without blowing your long term health vision.

There are a few rules to the above answers. First, make sure you stick within your budget. If you end up healthier but then strapped for time to pay it off, you are apt to return to your old behaviors and lose your gains. Second, consider timing. I am a mother of 3, I might like a binge watching episode of Netflix, but if it interrupts my family time, it might not be sustainable or as enjoyable, leaving me demotivated. Third, plan for a variety of rewards. This way you won’t get bored doing the same activities over and over, get stuck in a rut and you are likely to resort to old unhealthy coping to beat the boredom. That’s a no-win.

Finally, remember the reward should be fun and shouldn’t be so far off and unavailable that it seems impossible to get. Once I gave myself a new pair of workout shoes, however the price tag on the ones I wanted was so much on my salary I had months of saving before me. That reward was too far out for me to stick with it. One time, I also gave myself a facial appointment if I met my goals, problem with this reward –  it seemed so unlike me and too pampering. I wasn’t motivated to reach my goals to get it. It felt too uncomfortable at the time. I backed that goal down to something that felt better for me and had a massage instead.

Once I was able to switch the way I thought about “what I deserve” after apply hard work and big effort, finding unique and motivating rewards got a lot more fun. See what you come up with to give yourself today.

Here’s some other ideas:

If this article was helpful you might like these older posts I wrote: 10 Rules of Motivational Rewards  or look at how you might honor your hard work and get ready to crush your next goal in Harvesting Your Fitness Garden

What Does Clean Living Mean to You? 

This was a contest I entered on Instagram. 

I thought it posed an interesting question that lead to simple or complex answers. It made me think beyond the New Year’s detox diets, breaking up with sugar rules, and weight loss desires. 

My answer included all aspects of my life, my food & beverages, my exercise habits – do I train too hard? Too light?  Not enough? Too much? The things I let into my awareness  – news, music, people, TV, photos, etc, and the concept of who I want to be. All these role together to create my concept of clean living. 

Check out my response below & visit the two health coaches who sponsored the program on Instagram – Sarah Teddy Klein @wholehealthlab and Karen Wojciechowski @realenergyfood #wholecleanliving

Here was my response… 


Clean living is about burning away all the choices that clog you up. Living clean is about staying grounded enough to be open to the possibilities that cross your path. 

One cannot do that without feeling well. For me to feel well and remain open I must be vigilant about my daily movement, my food, my spaces, and my social times. 

I must honor myself in each choice doing just what is needed to move me in the direction I want to go. Doing too much will clog me up, doing too little will clog the path. 

To remain clean I must focus on the pleasure of treating my mind, my body, my heart, and my soul well. It starts simply with movement and is followed by what I allow in. Will this food item, news report, musical song, person help or hinder me? 

Then I must choose wisely, burn away all that is no longer serving me, let go of all I no longer need, and live fully into the moment right in front of me. That is clean living. 

The Recovery 2.0 Conference

I have been attending these online conferences and sending clients to attend for the last few years. He’s always got a great line up of speakers that speak to all areas of healthy regulation – food, sleep, exercise, social, psychology, medical, trauma – all sorts of great info.

Even if you aren’t in recovery from drugs, alcohol, or any of the “Big 6” –  we are all in recovery from something. Here’s the link to sign up for this free conference, you attend from the comfort of your own home or office or car or trail run or where ever you happen to be.

http://recovery2point0conference.com

SURVIVE ADDICTION.
HEAL MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT.

THRIVE IN YOUR LIFE.
25 recovery experts share cutting-edge information.

Eat Well, Feel Well

Over the last few years I have been diving deep into the connections between mental health and physical health. As I have been working with mental health clients using physical exercise some surprising interventions have made the most impact. One that continues to be a solid help is eating a balanced diet at regular intervals.  Here are some reasons to care and tips to track your own moods as they relate to your food choices.


Easy Budget Meals Your Family Will Love

When we look at the links between blood sugar and mood we see some themes. When one doesn’t eat for long periods of time irritability, depression, sadness, a general feeling of malaise are common. My clients articulate this as “blah” and it makes sense given that feeling low energy often gets tagged as depression in our culture or “what’s wrong with me because I can’t get things done”. Things just aren’t as vibrant, colorful, interesting, or exciting when you aren’t feeling well. When you don’t eat for long periods of time, you don’t feel well.

In the body the brain registers this as dangerous and a slew of chemicals is pumped from the endocrine system to accommodate this threat. Some describe feeling a “little high” or “being detached” from the world and people around them. They report using food to help them achieve these states helps them “numb out” from painful emotions. The problem becomes this behavior feeds its own cycle and often the thoughts around these somatic sensations are distorted. As noted above people label their low energy as depression, the shaky nauseous feeling as anxiety, and the lack of focus as ADHD. However, what’s really going on doesn’t need a psychotropic med it needs a balanced meal.

To begin your own exploration of how food impacts your moods tracking can be helpful. Note what time you eat, what you ate, what emotions you were feeling before and after the meal, and any physical (or lack of) sensations you had. Track for 1-2 weeks without changing anything.  This can help you see patterns in your behaviors, moods, and physical sensation. It is important to begin this process without judgment. There is no need to judge, you are doing what you are doing, just allow yourself to objectively see what it is you are doing. From this place of observation it becomes easier to determine what you would like to change and how you’ll be most successful changing it.
Here’s to happy eating and contented feelings!
Food Diary Log Example:
Date
Meal (can include calories or nutrition info if wanted)
Time eaten
Emotions Before
Emotions After

Physical Sensations

 Photo Credit: www.naimamohamed.com

Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Workout?

Many of us feel the well deserved twang when eating something indulgent after a workout. WAIT!!! Are you self-sabotaging all the hard work? Some of us tend to overindulge and negate the calories we just burned. The result is no weight loss and EVEN WEIGHT GAIN!!!!

If you are eating more calories following a workout than you burned – you are what we’d call a compensator. You eat to compensate for your workout, but may be falling into a psychological trap of rewards rather than refueling. Here are some tips to stop compensating.

First plan your meals, at least for a little while. See where your daily slumps are. Do you need a nutritional snack at 10am? 2pm? to make it to your workout after work? Do you eat every 2-4hours? Small snacks? Get enough protein and fat throughout the day? Are you eating nutrient dense foods so you’ll have the energy to finish your day without feeling deprived?

Next check your beverages. Do you drink enough water throughout the day? How much caffeine are you drinking? Caffeine will set you up for those slumps and create a cycle to feed itself. You’ll need more and more and then not sleep and then need more. See how it works?

Find non-food rewards to give yourself. You may be bingeing because you feel like you deserve something special…and you do, however if food was used as a reward in your life, especially those sweet treats, it may be time to stop that cycle. Find other ways to give yourself a special treat.

It helps to make sure you eat a good pre and post workout snack. AND consider if you burned off 250 calories in a workout, that really only a granola bar. So eating a heaping portion is more than you burned. Often people will be more hungry because what’s called post exercise energy consumption – however if you have planned pre and post snacks and have a solid eating schedule throughout the day usually exercise isn’t a binge creator – that’s the psychological piece of I deserve it.

Fitness Apps Keep You on Track

Here’s some apps from Huffington Post to help you track and stay motivated. I just heard a radio spot talking about the success rates of using apps to reach fitness goals. The odds are increased and success rates climb when people are using something to track- apps add another element to tracking – they are in real time, showing calorie breakdowns, exercise benefits, and lots of color to keep your eyeballs happy. Plus many of us keep a phone with us most of the time so our tracking tool is at our fingertips no matter where we are.

One I love that’s not on the list is livestrong.com‘s daily plate. Here’s the list from Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/slideshow/2365811/271246/?icid=hp_healthy-living_gallery

Is your 2014 health goal outside the fitness realm? Adding exercise into your daily routine, increases energy, helps you sleep better, and often leads to more healthy eating. I just read a research article that discussed how exercise cuts cravings for alcohol and makes quitting smoking easier.

 

The Party Girls Guide To Weight Loss

So it’s summer and you want to enjoy the back porch, the lawn games, or floating down the river with an ice-cold beverage. BUT you are also working hard to lose weight. Here’s some things you should know about consuming alcohol and impacts on weight loss.

Alcohol is worth 7 calories per gram. This is almost as much as fat at 9 calories per gram and almost twice as many as carbs and protein, each at 4 calories per gram. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol, however a beer has more than a shot of vodka or other spirit. Wine has different caloric values based on the type of wine. This is because the amount of alcohol and mixtures are different in each. Add a fruity, sugary, or creamy mixture and some drinks may contain a whole daily allowance in one glass!

The next thing we need to be aware of is that the body processes alcohol as poison. This means it takes priority for elimination AND it slows down all other digestion to make this happen. So food you ate just before, during or after your drinking episode gets stored as all extra calories do – fat. This process continues until you have processed through all the alcohol, which is about 1 drink / hour, depending on your liver function.

DON’T Skip a meal to make room for the alcohol calories – Personally, I thought this might work however what happens is alcohol hits your system faster. Then your liver takes on the challenge of getting rid of the alcohol first. So it slows down other digestion faster so your body moves into storing fat faster. I don’t know about you but if I start the night without much food I end up eating later – and usually not a choice I’d make without alcohol on board. So now I’ve got a depressed digestion system and I’ve just added some yummy greasy fried and fatty food on top of it. Double whammy on the weight loss plan.

What’s a party girl to do? First, plan. Decide what type of alcohol you are going to drink, what mixers you are willing to have, and what the caloric content is. Then the week before eat at the low end of your calorie range and add some extra workouts in. This will make space in your weight loss plan for empty calories.

Then plan a healthy meal before drinking and have healthy snacks available while drinking – pretzels, peanuts, and pig’s ears don’t cut it. Aim for some veggies, salads, and lean meats & protein sources. Alternate a non-alcoholic drink (pay attention to the calories of juices and sodas) between each alcoholic drink. You can also make the drink last longer by drinking spritzers or mixing your own with less alcohol per drink.

If you pay attention to your drinking habits before you are out on the town it is possible to have a night out and maintain your weight loss goals. Just remember that drinking does impact your waistline for the same reasons any food does PLUS it takes priority and lowers inhibitions. This might cause you to over eat on your night out (or the day after) leading to more fat storage as your body processes through drinks first.

Don’t forget to call a sober ride once you get off the river, out of the bar, or leaving your friend’s house. With your more fit physique (due to all your diligent exercise and healthy eating) those drinks may hit you harder than they used to.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As we move closer to the official date of summer I thought it would be good to discuss gardens. Not the gardens in our yards, on our balconies, and growing in pots, but the garden that is your body.  Just like planting a garden good health takes tending. We have to work to get it to elicit the juicy fruit of health. Here are a few ways to make sure you have planted the right seeds in your fitness-garden. What fertilizer did you give it? Quality fuel goes a long way. It is important to choose clean, whole foods – things as close to their original composition as possible. This doesn’t have to be burdensome. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and look for items with the least amount of ingredients.

I have been learning about how our nutrition impacts our physical and mental health. One tip to eating more healthy and emotional health is cutting out added sugar. According the Wall Street Journal “Most women should limit sugar intake to 100 calories or six teaspoons, a day. Men should limit their consumption to 150 calories. … A 12-ounce can of cola has 130 calories or eight teaspoons” These recommendations come from the American Heart Association. This recommendation is about the extra sugar added to our foods, like added sugar in dried cranberries (and other fruits), juices, crackers, chips, and cereals. Naturally occurring sugars aren’t on our list however it can be tough to pick them apart from added sugar. The best way to help figure it out is look on the label. Any food with added sugar comes out of your cart.

Then there is fat. There is research to support that our bodies need fat. It is known that many processes and vitamin absorption requires fat, however it can be confusing to determine what fat is a “good fat”. Typically, we want the fat in our diets to come from polyunsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts) and only about 10% of our daily intake to come from saturated fat (animal products). The omegas – 3, 6, & 9s – are also important to healthy function in our bodies. Things like wild salmon and nuts provide some of these luscious fats. So pay attention to the type of fat you are consuming, it’s a big part of good health and helps you feel more satisfied after a meal.

Food is an important component to good health – in fact without a good diet great exercise won’t take you far. You need good nutrition to get the great exercise. However exercise is the other half of the equation. So now that you have considered your food intake and have “planted seeds” of good nutrition it is time for adding exercise in.

Exercise allows our body to move through joint range of motion, build strength, bone density, and heart health. It helps our metabolism stay elevated and helps us create efficient metabolic pathways through our energy systems. All of this translates into feeling better while we do fun things in our lives. Some of us enjoy hiking, shopping, biking, kayaking, playing with the kids or grandkids or neighborhood kids, gardening, walking our dog, chasing our cats, exercise is the piece that makes all of these activities more enjoyable. You can begin by walking daily, adding in strength 2-3 times a week, increasing your current intensities or speed. The key is you just need to start. I have some links below to help you customize your needs.

See some of my older posts to get started on a new workout (here’s a quick search I did). I have some specific workouts up as well. Just search www.superiorworkout.com to find them in old blog posts. I also have a number of exercises with safety tips and equipment buying tips available on my video blog. If you have a specific question about a workout, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

So as we come upon summer solstice how have you planted your garden of health? Are you feeding yourself well? Are you exercising hard enough, often enough, enjoyably? Now is the time to re-evaluate where you are and where you want to be … you’ll be amazed at the harvest you’ll reap with a little planning.

We’ll check on your garden in August (8wks) and see if it needs some weeding and then in September (13wks from now) to see what kind of harvest you’ve pulled in over the long days of summer sunshine.