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.

Eat Six Meals A Day!

Try eating six small meals a day rather than three large ones. If that sounds hard – read on – here’s some ways to get it all in.Eat breakfast – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you are trying to lose weight do not skip breakfast, it helps rev up metabolism, which in turn burns more calories. No matter what your goal, eating breakfast ensures that you are ready to meet the energy requirements of your day, and usually will then make better food choices throughout the day.

Follow breakfast with a snack a few hours later, then lunch, then another snack, dinner, and possibly another snack. Wow! That seems like a lot of food, but remember it is about how many calories you consume. It will be too much if each meal is an all you can eat buffet, which you participate heavily in and each snack is a calorie dense and nutrient low choice. You’ll end up feeling worse than you did to start.

Try making the six small meals small, but balanced. Balance out your carbohydrates, protein, and fats each time. The food guide pyramid is a great resource, and you can customize your readout. Check it out at http://myplate.gov – don’t have Internet – the library offers it for free, and they’ll help you!

All six meals should be about the same size and small. Half a sandwich and soup with a good beverage and maybe a piece of fruit. Half a bagel and peanut butter with a smoothie. You have lots of choices. The key to diet is in your choices. Get educated about food choices, begin slowly, and watch what happens to your energy and your waistline!

Thanksgiving Day Plan – to stay on track for your health goals, that is.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time of family gatherings and lots of good (even if not so healthy) foods, many of which are long time comforts for you.  Thanksgiving is also a time of gratitude, a day to be thankful for all that you have in life, not a day to beat yourself up over an extra helping of grandma’s best pie; she made just for you. With those thoughts in mind let’s set some guidelines.

First, do practice moderation. Thanksgiving naps happen for a reason. Aim to keep your portion sizes reasonable and go back for seconds only after you have given yourself time to determine whether you really want seconds or not. Watch the beverages, remember they are calories, too. That also goes for the snacks you consume as you are making all the goodies for dinner. Many of us unconsciously consume calories as we taste, snack, visit, and gather. Try to pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Be pro-active bring a healthy food item to snack on or contribute to the family meal. At least you’ll have one great healthy choice. Eat something small before you meet up with the group. This way you will not be famished, which can lead to overeating.

Second, suggest something active after the meal. Start a new thanksgiving tradition and go for a walk after the big meal. Engage the children in your gathering in a game of hide-n-seek or tag. Do not forget the importance of dish washing. All that cooking and cleaning do burn calories, just do not consume the same amount in snacking while you are completing these tasks, defeats the purpose of your sparkling dish rack. Get others to help clean and you will create bonding time, as well. Play games. Games like charades, twister, gestures, and others allow you to use your brain and your body, plus they are hilarious to watch and play. All that laughing does wonders for your health!

Third, relax and enjoy your day. For many of us Thanksgiving is a time to rest and rejuvenate. Keep in mind the spirit of the day and enjoy it. Stay present in the moment of the day and you will find that watching portions, snacking, and fun are all taken care of. You just have remember to stay focused.

Holiday Exercise

I know its a bit early for the holiday exercise lecture, but ya know what? The stores are already gearing, the parties are being planned, and the frenzy is just around the corner. Many people dread the holidays because they feel they always put on weight. However, with a bit of pre-planning you can make it through the holidays without too much trouble.   First, look at your schedule. For many people the holidays either become overwhelmingly busy or they become a time to not go out because everyone else is so overwhelmingly busy. If you are in either camp or somewhere in between it is a good idea to take realistic stock of how your life changes during the holiday season now. This will allow you to begin to modify workouts that need it now.

Next, start adding intensity to your workouts now while you’ve got the time. This will allow you to continue to workout for the whole time but pump up the caloric burn while you do so. This allows you to begin to cycle your workouts so the upcoming weeks which have more going on you’ll be able to workout shorter durations saving you time but not sacrificing all you’ve gained.

Finally, remember the 80/20 rule. 80% is going to go as planned and 20% its not. This goes for workouts, party foods, and obligations. So don’t beat yourself up if you show up at the party and they are serving your favorite meatballs drenched in the best sauce ever – I used to cater and this was one of my favorite downfalls during the holidays! The trick is to honor its something you want, have a bit, and if you still have a bit more remember you want the overall picture of your diet and workouts to reflect the 80/20 rule so you might need to make a few changes in the next few days to get back into balance.

Oh – and don’t forget to prioritize your time. Its very possible you don’t need to attend every party, gathering, concert, or whatever you are invited to.

Feed Yourself Well – Learning To Read Food Labels

Many people are more and more confused when it comes to food choices.  The majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about nutrition and pesticides.  Many base their food choices on what is in or on them. This has led to an explosion in the organic food market, and to increasingly more confusing food labels.

Studies repeatedly show the foods we eat today are not as nutrient packed as they were in the past. According to food-navigator.com, “Changes in agriculture during the last 50 years include the widespread use of pesticides, plant growth regulators, and highly soluble sources of plant nutrients, along with decreased use of humus-containing fertilizers.” Due to certain farming methods, mass planting of a single crop, and transporting foods over long distances, crops have been made to withstand depletion of soil, long journeys from vine to table, and have been bred to handle lots of handling. All this translates into less nutrients for us.

Many are willing to pay more than fifty percent more for organic food. Organic food markets have begun to grow at approximately twenty percent each year. This means organic food prices and selections have gotten better, but how do you know if you are getting organic? When confronted with the enormous amount of options how do we make good choices and not throw up our hands in overwhelming frustration? Getting educated about labels will help you make the best food choices.

Deciphering labels:

An article in the Seattle Times outlined the following label definitions:

  • If the product is labeled “100 percent organic” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.
  • If the label says, simply, “organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced. And if it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approved list.
  • Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. The reason is that no standard definition for these terms exists, except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients. The terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are similarly meaningless. U.S. government standards are weak. The rule for the label’s use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be available for “an undetermined period each day.”
  • Labeling seafood “organic” is also misleading, since the USDA has not yet developed organic-certification standards.

Why does organic cost so much more than conventionally grown foods? Organically grown foods are usually produced on much smaller farms. These farms do not receive subsidies from the government and they must follow much stricter guidelines when growing, harvesting, transporting, and storing foods. Many shy away from organic foods because they feel they cannot afford them. It is possible to eat nutritiously on a budget, I know, I do it. It takes patience as you learn to read labels and understand which foods to choose. If you have to select from both conventional and organic foods on your regular shopping list apply the following ideas.

  • 1stBuy as much organic or locally grown as possible. The farmers market season is just around the corner-we have two great ones in town. Better yet try growing your own. The Broadway Community Garden is beginning! Free plots, help, and support is here in Superior! Call: Theresa at 218-727-4820 for more information.
  • 2ndShop the perimeter of the supermarket. Whole foods or foods with the least amount of processing will help, but get educated on companies – learn how they treat the animals or what types of growing they do.
  • 3rdAvoid the dirty dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of residue on them: apples, bell peppers, spinach, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries. Although, scientists have trouble connecting all the dots between disease and long term, small dose exposure to pesticides, there is evidence that we have more in our bodies today than in the past. This is especially important for expectant mothers and small children, as proportionally they end up with more in their systems. There is also some concern over the combined effects of different pesticides in our systems even in low doses.
  • 4thLearn to read labels. Choose foods with small ingredient lists, avoid the “bad” fats, and learn what the ingredients are. Try to not to eat foods with lots of unpronounceable things in them, artificial colors, flavors, and lots of salt or sugar.

Hopefully, you have a better and not worse idea of what to put on your grocery list next time you shop – your body will thank you for choosing wisely. 

Resources:

www.foodnavigator-usa.com

www.mydna.com

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060409&slug=consumerreports09

www.shns.com

Whole Foods Co-Op, Duluth MN

10 Ways to Handle Office Donuts

 Many of our health sabotagers are the folks we work with. Damn those office mates! Most are well meaning. They are trying to be the good one bringing everyone Friday donuts or lunch meeting cookies and pop. However, when we are trying stay on fitness track having those extra calories around can be pretty devastating. How do you handle those well meaning office diet sabotagers?

1) Be pro active – you bring the snacks

2) Post a healthy snack list around the office – hit all the major bulletin boards when no one is looking – somebody is bound to notice.

3) Enlist co-workers in a weight-loss or other fitness challenge – then you are all working toward the same goal

4) Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawers – make ’em good and tasty otherwise you are bound to reach for the sweet treats!

5) Tactfully ask the person responsible for the breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner meeting food to include some healthy treats – be ready with #1 when they ask what types of foods you are looking for.

6) Propose an office wide policy to serve healthy options – people are more productive when they’ve eating something healthy than when they’ve carbo loaded on empty calories and sugar.

7) Ask your boss to sponsor workout incentives – people who workout are more likely to seek out healthy food choices. Bonus for the Boss – companies who have created a workout /  exercise program report fewer absentee days, greater productivity, and better employee morale from those who participate.

8) Ask the vending machine supplier to add a few healthy choices in the machine

9) Quit walking by the break room until all the donuts are gone

10) Remember – your fitness is your responsibility. Take accountability for what you feed yourself. What you eat is no one else’s responsibility but yours.