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.

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

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.

Planning for Fitness Success

This week’s idea for healthy living = PLANNING

It’s Fall, back to school, and illness season. So planning will be key. If you haven’t paid things forward it will matter that you determine your strategy to get through the season and how to maintain workouts if you get ill. How will you adjust your schedule for busy days or days/weeks you feel like crap. Falling completely off the wagon doesn’t seem to be the best option because most have trouble getting back on – Damn horse ran fast after I fell off – SO … here are some tips for planning balance in your life.

1)      Determine what you can do – maybe you usually workout an hour but the first week of school or during a big project it might be 30min a day or 2 15min segments. Maybe find activities that you can include for calorie burn like parking and walking or picking events with friends that include activities to participate in.

2)      Pay attention to food – if you aren’t working out as much or hard you may need to cut back on calories – often easier when sick than during a busy time. So just notice and maybe choose the salad and lean chicken, smaller portions, or eating less snacks throughout the day – don’t go too long between meals or you’ll tank your blood surgar.

3)      Know this is how healthy living works – life happens, we get sick, go on vacation, have a whole town party for a week where we dress up. Give yourself a break and keep postive. This is the stuff that makes life worth living and if you can strike the balance between healthy eating, working-out, and living you are doing it. Your horse won’t take off with your wagon – you’ll have no trouble living the fitness lifesytle if you have put some effort into planning for life.

Quick Reminder on Benefits of Exercise

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that starting exercise doesn’t have to be overwhelming AND there is good reason to consider adding it to your life if you haven’t already. Here’s a quick reminder on some benefits and how to get started with short bouts of movement.

Exercise has so much potential to make your life better – less stress, sickness, and disease, not to mention, endorphins (body’s morphine), endocannabinoids (body’s pot), and it just feels good to have completed something that makes you sweat. Life gets a little easier when you take the time for you each day even if it’s just minutes. Fitness goals can be accomplished in intermittent bouts of exercise, you know so take some time to do just a little here and there until you’ve reached your daily goal. You can do this and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming to start.

IF you are still struggling – See me. Let’s look at your obstacles and maybe pare down your goal.

IF you are feeling pretty good about your current health place – EXCELLENT!!! You’ve put in the hard work to make the change and now it’s becoming habit. Work on continuing to solidify and look at timing to add another layer of healthy change on – for example: it’s often easier to focus on diet or exercise to start with, once your fav becomes easier to stick with you add the other component. This helps you stay focused and challenged. Loss of motivation happens just as easily from boredom as difficult tasks.

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!

Why Fat Is Important in Our Diet & Selecting Good Fat Choices – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

Let’s talk fat. I think we have finally gotten away from blaming this big hitter for all our woes. Fat is important. Fat caloric values are worth twice the fuel the other two contribute. No wonder we store it so well. When our bodies are overfed we store fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing! They know we are feeding to get ready for something, so they hang onto the fuel. Fat helps us feel satisfied, full longer, and it gives us more bang for the buck when it comes to energy. As with carbohydrates we need to make smart choices about our fat intake.

Our bodies need fat to function, many of our vitamins need fat to be absorbed, so it is important to choose wisely and make sure to get the right amount and types of fat in your diet.
Here are some examples of good and bad fats taken from Heathcastle.com

The “Good” Fats
Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat. Click here for more weight loss nutrition tips.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.

The “Not so Good” Fats
Saturated Fats
Saturated fats rise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.

Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)

It’s All You When It Comes to Being Healthy

People have all sorts of reasons why they can’t exercise more…or should I say excuses?  Working out doesn’t have to break the bank, take tons of time, or cause you to stress more.  Working out is about priorities and putting yourself behind your efforts.

Working out does not have to cost a dime. Many spend quite a bit on poor food choices, and then complain they have no money to spend on health. How much is your cable bill? What’s it doing for your body? What about your trips to the mall, eating out, the bar – how much are your habits costing you? Are they still worth the extra weight, poor sleep, added stress? See below for ideas.

Working out does not have to take much time. Ever sat through an episode of a TV show only to think it was dumb? Why did you waste your time? How about when you sit through one and because it ended you watch the one right after it? Half of many TV programs are commercials, so even if you like the show, you could do some activities during commercials, or better yet, you could do activity through the whole show! There is a half hour of activity and you did not spend any money or have to find any extra time.

Working out does not have to be a huge change. If you start it will snowball. What about working activity into your life? Quit driving around the parking lot looking for the closest spot – there is your extra half hour of time. Park as far away as you can and walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Walk instead of drive, sometimes it’ll take you less time to walk, than to get in your car, start it up, move it, sit at the stop lights, move through traffic, and find another spot to park. Get wild buy a bike. If you don’t need a parking pass for your car – there is your extra money. (Worried about winter biking, there are many who bike all year long, and I am sure they could help you get started. Not to mention the cool fat tires you’ll get to use.)

It is no one’s responsibility to get you moving. It is no one’s responsibility to make sure you are choosing actions that correspond with your goals, and it is no one’s responsibility to make sure you follow through with your goals – its all you. Make the choice today to be accountable for your actions and in control of your choices and ultimately your health.

Food is Just Fuel

Do you have trouble deciding how to feel about food? Do you wonder if you should be adding or eliminating a food group based on the most recent diet craze? Help your relationship with food by reframing how you think about it. Food is just fuel…

Let’s talk about fat. Its not an evil three letter word as some may think, its really just about fuel. I like this analogy:
You live next to a gas station, right next door. Every day you back out of your garage and drive your car the long way to the station (around the block), fill up the tank, drive the long way home and put the car back in the garage. What happens? You haven’t driven far enough to refuel each day and your gas tank would overflow, right?

What’s so different about that and the way you may be eating? Food is fuel. Overeating and under working cause your body to overflow. Unlike a car, your body places excess fuel in storage as fat. Now the really cool part: Carbs have been on the bad list for awhile, but finally starting to get out of the doghouse, yea, Carbs are your bodies first choice for energy because they are easily accessible and they burn fast. Protein is next, but it takes longer to convert, and finally fat comes on board. Wanna know why? Because your body is smart. Very smart. Instead of storing everything as the macro nutrient it originally was, it stores it as fat because fat gives us more bang for our buck. When we convert these fuel sources we are turning calories into energy and fat gives us more than twice the amount protein and carbs do per gram.

So when you consume more calories than you burn your body says, “hmmm, I don’t need these now, but maybe I will soon, so I’ll save them.” Just like a little kid with candy, your body puts the extra in its pocket., however unlike the child, your body doesn’t use it until it is needed. Absolutely amazing!