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.

Healthy Weight Loss Goals

So you’ve been working hard and know you’re no the right track, but now it’s time to morph your new year’s resolutions into your life. It’s getting hard to maintain the motivation to keep up the new year pace. That sounds great! AND that’s how it happens day by day and new behavior by new behavior. Here is a guideline for losing weight to help you plan for the next few months and bring this lifestyle into your week.

10-12lbs in 12 wks is doable. On average you want to aim for 1-2lbs per week. So you might be better off giving yourself 14wks to allow for set backs. There will be some weeks you lose more and some less. We all cycle so that usually isn’t something to worry about unless you aren’t seeing loss. I find most of my clients (men and women) lose about 3wks a month and gain .5 or so 1 wk a month on average.

Sometimes the last 10 lbs can stick. If this is the case look at diet and see if there is anywhere you might be getting hidden calories or extra salt. Alcohol is another big place to cut down or out when looking to lose the last few pounds toward your goal. Use this as a guideline to help you determine healthy weight loss to keep it off.

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.

You Will Reach Your Fitness Goals

We have come to that time of year again.  The frazzled, stressful, exciting, busy, and wonderful time of the holidays.  Thanksgiving is up first. Many view Thanksgiving as a time of overindulgence and gluttony, which for many of us it is.  Some view it as a leap off track as they try to complete health ideals they know will be seriously compromised throughout the next month.  Some view it as the beginning of the end. What can we do to make sure the holidays do not derail our plans to a healthier life? One word…Plan.We have spent some time talking about planning. Lets review, first you must be honest about your goals.  What are they?  Are they realistic?  Do they match your desire, or are they someone else’s ideas?  Next, are you committed to making these goals a reality?  I mean really committed because here comes the test – the holidays.  What will you do to ensure your commitment?  Then, ask yourself, what are the obstacles that could pop up?  What will you do in response to those obstacles?  How will you stay focused on your goal? Again, are you committed to these goals? Finally, relax, you will reach your goals if you are persistent and committed.

What exactly does that mean, you ask. Well, it means that the journey is more important than the end location.  What you choose everyday is greater than the sum of choices on one day.

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

Planning Home Workouts

Have you begun to move your workouts indoors?  I know this has been the theme lately, but it is important you plan for seasons if you are going to be sucmcessful this year.

Many clients are able to workout at home, but are unsure of where to start. They buy some hand weights, maybe a video, and if they are really brave go for the infomercial special, which is often later used as a clothes rack. How can you avoid adding to your dust collection?  In a word – planning.

It is much easier for most to create an effective strength training routine at home. It can be done on a limited budget, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Here are the things to consider when purchasing strength training equipment for home. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to build mass or lose weight? Are you trying to maintain? Is this equipment just for emergency use on those days where getting to the gym is not possible, or is this going to be your only source of strength training? These answers will direct your purchases. If you are looking for emergency use equipment, you can get by with little or no equipment depending on your program. This is where a professional can be very handy. A good personal trainer will help you design your program around your environment and make sure you are able to meet your goals. What a great Christmas present idea, one or two sessions can keep you focused. If you have equipment handy you will have no reason to miss a workout, however if you are using your home equipment just for emergency days you’ll want to make sure you have a good plan of action on non-emergency ones because you may not have enough to be effective over a long period of time.

Are you looking to do the majority of strength training at home? This can be a wonderful way to incorporate fitness into your life. It is a great way to role model healthy living for your children, and make fitness a family priority. Although, my children do not get to use my weights, they do workout with me using the same movements and many they create as they hop from step to step, mimic me, and learn about their own bodies. They are excited and interested in movement and habits formed early have a better chance of hanging on. Remember, the biggest factor in childhood obesity is parents. Help your children fight obesity – its never too late to start.

If you decide to strength train at home consider your current level of strength. How much can you easily lift now? Again, your goals are going to be important because they will dictate the progression of exercise, which will dictate how many weights you’ll need and how heavy they should be. What kind of space will you be able to dedicate to your workouts? Do you have room for a bench or ball? Do you have storage for different sized dumbbells? Will you dig equipment out of a closet or from under a bed to actually complete a workout? This is the big question! Will you do the workout? Once you know the answer to these questions you can begin to create space and build your equipment choices for your complete home strength workout.

As you begin to contemplate your goals for health look closely at your choices. There are many options for your fitness. You just have to be willing to move!