Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sneaky Little Sweatpants

Sweatpants, yoga pants, velor, cotton or spandex – I don’t care what they are. I don’t care if they are a $10 pair from Walmart or $120 from Juicy Couture. They don’t belong in your everyday wardrobe! Beyond workout, pajamas and the occasional lazy or sick day they need to stay in a drawer and off your behind. I know they are comfy and I know some actually do look very cute. Yes I am aware. Here is the issue. Without a defined limit to your waistline you have no clue when the pounds are inching up on you until one day you pull out you favorite jeans and your thighs are stretching the seams. Yikes. That top button is the first indicator that you need to scale back and watch the calories.

The first time someone made this point to me was after the birth of my daughter. She was born in March so it was still a bit chilly here in the northeast and having been through 9 months of pregnancy and 23 hours of nature birth I was in no mood to move out of my comfort zone anytime soon. But, after 6 weeks or so a neighbor of mine, who is never one to mince words, gave me the kick in the pants I needed. Among other things she gave me this advise: Get out of those sweatpants! And so I did. But sure enough, after 6 weeks of living in my sweats, my maternity jeans were tight. That fact, and the much improved weather got me moving. I walked my behind off, literally, with my daughter in her stroller. Those tight maternity jeans were my gage, then after a few weeks I moved onto my regular jeans (at first with the help of a rubber band through the button – an early pregnancy trick). They were uncomfortable but they kept me in check. They reminded me of my goal which was of course to get back to my pre-baby size.

Even now my pants are my guide. If they are getting tight I reassess what it is that might be causing it and cut back. Same goes if they get too loose. I  definitely do not align myself with the notion that all weight loss is good and skinnier is better. If my pants are loose,  I’m not nourishing my body correctly or I’m working it too hard.

So there you have it. Keep your eye on the scale if that’s what works for you but even better keep those sweats off you behind and monitor your body without having to step on one beyond your doctors office.

Note: When attempting to lose weight initially it is best to monitor your weight with daily weight checks. My advise above pertains to those who have reached their ideal weight and are now in the maintenance phase of their fitness.

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Micro Goals

By incorporating goals into our lives we begin to view our lives in a more long term context rather than the immediate events of a given day or moment. However, it seems to me that all around us are messages that pertain strictly to the “now” (ads for retirement plans aside). Food ads that advertise fast, weight loss ads that advertise quick results. We are programed to respond to immediacy and because of this I see a lot of people setting unrealistic long term goals and getting frustrated when they don’t reach their goals fast enough – because they expect immediate results! I’m suggesting in order to avoid that, we start working within the shorter time frames we’ve become used to in our goal setting, goals on a micro scale as part of your daily routine, workouts or activities. It is still important to set those long term goals, by setting and evaluating your long term goals you have set the stage for a healthy progression to attaining them. Now, think about strategies for getting through each and every day or workout.

The idea is to break down your goals into manageable steps. When you incorporate these small steps into your life you are slowly learning new, healthy behaviors. After a while they become habit, coming naturally. Lets start with your workout routine. This is the most difficult because it’s so easily passed over for something else until it’s been a few weeks since you’ve hit the gym or popped in the video. Something I have found helpful is to record your workouts on facebook or one of the many fitness oriented apps. You can blast your friends with your progress, or lack of it, and get encouragement and support. You can even have a friendly competition with a friend or co-worker(s). This strategy will also create an environment where someone (your friend/co-worker) is holding you accountable. Being held accountable is one of the most important motivators for fitness and dieting.

When faced with diet and nutrition goals, small steps are the key to success. Take your changes one day at a time. For example, when trying to eat more fruits and veggies rather than your goal being “Eat 5 fruits/veggies at least 5 times a week” just make your goal “Eat 5 fruits and veggies per day.” PERIOD. Each day is a clean slate and each day you are going to do your best to reach that goal. You’ll be surprised how this type of uncomplicated thinking will clear your mind. Another way to simplify is to keep a food journal. By recording what you ate you don’t have to think about it or remember it. It’s all there for you. Do it online or on your phone and you can track carbs, protein, calories and vitamins. Again, freeing you up for the big decisions like deciding not to eat the crappy stuff to begin with.

Our daily lives offer a multitude of opportunities for healthy activities. So often we automatically choose not to participate, usually just by force of habit. Start to become mindful and think about how those little daily tasks could be altered to become micro goals and thus stepping stones to your ultimate goal of wellness. Yard work is a great example. Ditch the riding mower and leaf blower for a push mower and a rake. It could be for the entire project or for a portion thereof, set your goal and push forward to achieve it. OK, so yard work makes you cringe or, like me, you don’t even have a yard, you get the picture! You can even make a game of chores. Take our yard work example, whoever bags the most leaves wins (fill in the blank). The goal is to win the prize! NOT to “burn calories” or even “spend time being active”. Your have surpassed that and re-framed the activity so that your goals are anchored on a specific thing for a short period of time with a tangible goal. No one notices the calories! No one cares because it was fun. This works with kids and adults, seriously!

Simple steps make a big difference. Keeping your micro goals simple and attainable preserves your focus for the larger objective of living long and well.

Making room for the Positive

Turns out that the primary difference between an optimistic view of an event and a pessimistic is how we choose to explain it to ourselves. You can choose to view set backs in your life as confirmation of your failure or opportunities to learn from. Dr. Martin Seligman , Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book Flourish, observed that we can learn to be more optimistic. Basically, it takes the courage to look at yourself honestly and conviction of character to become more mindful of your actions and reactions.

Starting to develop a strong foundation in mindfulness and positive outlook will increase your chances of being successful in reaching your wellness goals. Those inevitable setbacks will merely be bumps in the road rather than derailing your journey completely. So much of our failures are exasperated if not caused outright by low self esteem, low self confidence, and a habitual tendency to see the negative. Without taking a hard look at ourselves and honing in on that causality we risk sliding further into unhealthy behavior.

A good first step is to become aware of and reflect on positive events in your daily life. This could be anything from hearing your favorite song on the radio, a beautiful sunrise, or getting that spot right in front of the supermarket – whatever it is, pay it some homage! Write it down or share it at dinner with your family or friends. Start to make it a habit to dwell on those good moments more often than the bad.

Keep up with the practice of recognizing the positive in your life and slowly incorporate other positive behaviors into your daily routine. A few suggestions are reengaging yourself in a social outlet (regular dinner date with friends, a club, etc), cultivating a relationship that may have taken a backseat due to career, childrearing or other factors and pursuing an interest that you’ve been thinking about but putting off. It helps to sit down and schedule time for yourself but after a while you won’t have to worry about scheduling. Keep it up and it will become part of your healthy lifestyle.

 Checkout these great books and websites to learn more about this subject.

 www.authentichappiness.com

 Spontaneous Happiness. Dr Andrew Weil, MD

 http://www.wholeliving.com/143169/how-flourish-and-feel-better-fast

 www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu

 The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. Howard C. Cutler, MD & The Dalai Lama

Posture, Movement & Health

How we move and hold our bodies says a lot about how we feel both physically and emotionally. Many of these movements become habit over time and rather than just expressing a mood or physical feeling they begin dictating them. Without realizing it we repeat physical patterns hundreds of times a day, imprinting these physical expressions on our emotional selves. What message are we giving ourselves if we are spending the good part of the day hunched over a desk or a table or walking around not completely upright the way we are suppose to. You’re not actively thinking about it, but your body is giving your mind signals. You are closing down and shutting out. In other words, if you have bad posture or a series of poor body alignments, you’re just not going to feel and look your best. Eventually that is going to start expressing itself in lower self esteem or body image which then will effect our lives in a multitude of ways. It’s not just about slumped shoulders but your entire body. By becoming aware of our bodies and working on keeping ourselves moving properly we can greatly improve our mood, body image and health.

Let’s say for example you’ve been working hard and lost 10 pounds. You put on that bathing suit, or whatever it is that you have decided to be your gage of progress, and what you see in the mirror is not even close to what you were expecting. You get discouraged, even depressed. You kick the entire idea of losing weight out the window. The culprit may be how you are holding your body. Take a look again only this time hold your head up, push your shoulders back, engage your core holding yourself tall. Now what do you see? Better right??

Another good exercise is to take a look at those silly before and after pictures for weight loss pills, programs, etc. You know the ones. The “before” picture always shows the individual slumped over, miserable look on their face, hair uncombed, just a mess. Then take a close look at the “after”. The person is standing straight, shoulders back, smiling, hair combed, maybe they have a little tan, a little make up. They may have lost a few pounds, but what is really making the difference is the way they are presenting themselves!!

Even before you start to tackle a weight loss program or transitioning healthier lifestyle I recommend taking a week or two and start to become aware of your body. How do you sit when eating or in a meeting? How do you stand or walk? Are your shoulders rounded, do you feel any pain or ache? When walking, are you in a hurry? If so, why? Pick several times a day and commit to taking a moment to pay attention to your body. At those moments, fix your posture and take a slow breath. It takes seconds and the benefits are well worth it. Beyond the physical benefits of better posture this exercise will help you develop clear weight loss or fitness goals. As you start to become aware of your body your will begin to see what it is you really need to work on and what it is that may simply be the result of poor posture. When you see yourself clearly and develop that self awareness you can better develop your goals from a realistic platform.

Here are some helpful videos for improving posture:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO0FjMyWqyQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH6JSqF7-Jo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at4Af5vHB30

Supporting Positive Change

How many times have we all attempted a major life change only to slip back, consciously or not, into our old behaviors and patterns? Lose weight, quit smoking, start exercising, whatever is is. When failure is on the horizon people tend to fall into a pattern of self sabotage, ultimately losing the goal and spiraling into a state of learned helplessness.

Truth is, it’s just easier to keep on moving along with a business as usual attitude than to be conscious of ourselves and our actions. Auto pilot is easy. But where are you headed?

It’s tough making that first step toward change and even tougher to keep going. There are so many things bombarding us sometime we just don’t know if we are headed in the right direction. So here are a few thoughts I’d like to share. Hopefully they can help get or keep you going.

COMMITMENT:

Goes without saying. One thing you can do is to right it down for yourself and keep it where you can see it. At your desk, taped to your dashboard, your fridge, where ever you will see it daily. Share it with others and see if someone will hold you accountable. This way excuses are a little more difficult to make. If you’ve you have had trouble in the past or you don’t have someone willing to not let excuses fly, this is where a personal trainer comes in handy, otherwise someone who you trust will do just fine.

SUPPORT:

You need support! Your spouse, children, friends, etc. This is one of the reasons programs like Weight Watchers are so successful for some people. You are surrounded with and motivated by people just like you. By sharing your fears, strategies and success with people, you raise your chances of succeeding. So if you choose to join a gym, see if your spouse or friend will join with you. Same goes for running, yoga, anything! Many times, trainers will have special pricing for groups. Paramount to your success is having support for your nutritional changes as well. This element is often overlooked and probably the most important. Your family will have to be on board. Your just not going to win if your running into problems with junk food junkies hanging around! Just remember: misery loves company.

In addition there are some really great apps and websites out there that help you connect with others in anything from exercise to what meals you are eating and calorie counting. I just love the apps!

TRIGGERS:

Recognize your triggers! For some it may be stress at the office, for others perhaps an argument with a spouse, for others it may be that best friend who loves to go out for a high calorie appetizer and drinks. For me its Wednesday night programing on ABC, I love it and I want to drown in a bowl ice cream and watch all 2 hours. So there’s my trigger, comedy! What I do and what I suggest is finding substitutions. Mine is low fat chocolate pudding (I’ll have the recipe up soon, if not already!). There are plenty of substitutions out there, just have them around for when the mood strikes.

REMINDERS AND CUES:

Notes, alarms, and visual reminders such as pictures or just keeping your gym bag out where you can see it are all ways of reminding yourself to do what it is you’ve made the commitment to do. This is a great place for that support system of yours to shine.

REWARDS:

Getting yourself motivated to get fit is hard, make it more enjoyable by rewarding yourself when you reach a milestone. Maybe its a spa activity, a trip to an amusement park, whatever it is as long as its not a double bacon cheeseburger, extra large fries and a milkshake. BUT..with that said….

INDULGE A LITTLE!!:

As they say, you only live once. Let’s try to do it the best we can but what is life without birthday cake, buttery mashed potatoes or hashbrowns. One of my biggest pet peeves is reading articles around the holidays telling people how to avoid the high calorie, high fat food and make due with some sad and tasteless replacement. I don’t go for that and I just don’t think anyone should. Life is for living and as long as your not making a habit of eating this way go ahead and treat yourself. Big deal! Make your own rules as to how the indulging goes down but if you don’t do it every once in a while you just won’t be happy. Guess what. Every once in a while I DO drown in a bowl of ice cream on Wednesday night and I love every minute!