Archive for Food/Nutrition

KEEP CALM AND JINGLE ON

If you are reading this blog it means that you have survived Thanksgiving. Congratulations! It also means that we are officially embedded in the holiday season. This translates into more exposure to treats, parties, treats, stress, treats, crowds, treats, shopping, treats, family, treats, chaos.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of the holiday eating. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that January 1st is right around the corner so you’ll rein it in then. It’s not. It’s a full month away and you can do damage in 30 days if you’re not careful.  I’ve seen this pattern with many of my clients: The holidays bring a few extra pounds that, come January, don’t come off. This is not a problem if it weren’t recurring. However, several years down the road, you might find yourself shocked to be 10-15 pounds heavier. This weight gain is sneaky!

While it will be harder to eat healthier during this time, you can do it. Thanksgiving keep_calm_and_jingle_rustic_holiday_party_invite-r1ec2da3de3334414b7f618dae591eb41_6gd4r_140.jpgwas just one meal. One party is just one party. Christmas dinner is just one dinner. If you are more vigilant at your very next meal, you will walk away from the holiday season unscathed.

Many of my clients find that they eat healthier when exercising consistently. This holiday season, JINGLE ON! (Think of it as the holiday word for exercise.) If you keep calm with your holiday eating and jingle on, you won’t be stuck feeling overwhelmed in January!

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CAN’T GET STARTED? BE CURIOUS!

Many people come to see me wanting to lose weight. (I would love for people to focus, instead, on being healthy, but that’s a topic for another blog.) In most cases, the greatest obvious nutrition obstacle is the time needed to plan, prepare and prep. Even if you’re not cooking a lot, eating healthily still requires having a plan and executing one takes time. My clients and I also talk about the fundamentals needed to be successful, which include:

  • Paying attention to hunger and satiety
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Trying to eat as many whole foods possible. (Or, trying to eat as little processed food as possible.)
  • Having healthy snacks on hand
  • Watching the amount of unhealthy carbs consumed
  • Moving your body as much as possible

Then, we proceed to the specifics of their life—their lifestyle, their food preferences, their willingness to cook, their family unit, their work, how social they are, and how much time they are willing to dedicate to good nutrition. All of these will factor into creating the right plan for them. Since we are all different, no two plans will be identical.  Once armed with some structure, many people do very well. And many don’t.

If you are stuck and can’t seem to get started, I want you to be curious. Curiosity is a IMG_1275positive!  Unlike self-deprecation, curiosity keeps your mind open. It makes you take a closer look at your behavior, without judgment, so that you can unpack WHY you act (or not) in a certain way. Often times there is a less-obvious obstacle preventing you from achieving your goals. Being curious might uncover something much bigger—something deeper, that you need to address.

A client of mine wanted to lose weight and so we had several discussions and created a plan. When she got stuck, she became curious. And after some painful introspection, she realized that the underlying issue was that she had to  start focusing on her social life (or lack of one). It was much easier for her to zoom in on weight loss—she kept convincing herself that losing weight would be the answer to all of her problems. Once she uncovered this, she was able to address her deep-rooted issue, which was far more important than simply losing some weight.

From my experience, the worst thing that you can do for your mental sanity is to keep starting something, not being able to maintain it, and stopping. This is so damaging and deflating to your sense of well-being. In this blog, I used the example of weight loss but it applies to anything in your life that you keep starting and stopping: exercise, cooking, meditation, making time for yourself, reading more, learning something new, spending more time with loved ones, etc. Instead of yo-yo-ing, take a breath, stop and be curious. Be a detective so that you can uncover the deeper, hidden issue. You will then be better able to tackle your obstacles once and for all!

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THE SNOWBALL EFFECT

Isn’t it crazy how bad habits, even when kept at bay for a long time, come back? I imagine a knock at the door, opening it and saying “Hello bad habit, welcome back!” Often times one bad habit leads to another. I see this all the time with exercise and clean eating. I’m not sure which one comes first but either a lack of exercise causes a decrease in motivation to eat well, or not eating healthily leads to inactivity. This becomes a snowball effect which is “a situation in which something increases in size or download.jpgimportance at a faster and faster rate” (Cambridge Dictionary). The good news is, the snowball effect can work for you.

A year ago, a new client, “Margot”, came to see me. Margot was in her mid-sixties and not in the best shape. In fact, she wanted me to train her in order to build up her leg muscles so that she could eventually have her knee(s) replaced. Margot was unconditioned. I wasn’t sure how we would get through the first session but we did. Slowly but surely, Margot started making some progress. As she got stronger, she started to do more activities on her own. Her walks around the block with her dog grew longer; her short stints of swimming at her local pool increased. The more she did on her own, the stronger she became, and the more she was able to do with me. All of this exercise and movement motivated Margot to eat healthier. She started paying more attention to her diet and began cooking. She lost weight, felt more energetic and this allowed her to become even more active. A year later, we are both stunned at what she can do. There is no talk of a knee replacement. While I understand physiologically what is happening to her body, I still find her transformation to be nothing short of miraculous. Often times, in our sessions, we  giggle when she is able to do yet another more challenging exercise.

In Margot’s case, the snowball effect is at work in the most positive way. I can visualize the snowball traveling down a hill, getting bigger and gaining momentum. It’s all so glorious when it’s working for you.

If you’re stuck in a rut, have no fear. Focus on one small change and stick to it. That small change can lead to another, and then another and before you know it, you, too,  might find yourself in a wondrous snowball effect!

 

 

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THE DETRIMENT OF DIETING

Many of you know how I feel about diets: I HATE THEM. I know this is a strong statement but I would feel differently if they worked. They don’t. In fact, chronic images.pngdieting wreaks havoc on your psyche and on your body. Emotionally, unsuccessful dieting can make you feel like a failure, full or shame and self-hatred, and/or utterly frustrated. Physically, chronic yo-yo dieting can slow down your metabolism. In addition, it can change your body composition leaving you with more fat and less muscle.

Here’s another huge problem with dieting: You become so focused on the rules of the diet that you lose the  connection that you have with your body. You learn to accept feeling hungry, cutting out food groups, or eating foods that you don’t really enjoy. This is not conducive for long-term success.

A client of mine, let’s call her Jane, has been a chronic dieter her whole life. She’s a woman in her mid-forties, who came to me because she wanted to lose weight. After talking with her and understanding her long diet history, I knew she was looking for me to solve the problem. She would have been ecstatic if I handed her a sheet of paper, telling her exactly what to eat. In essence, she was looking for another diet.

I had to set Jane straight. I wanted her focus NOT to be dieting or weight loss but on other factors that were keeping her from losing weight—her real barriers. One of Jane’s barriers was her erratic work schedule. Often, she would go for long periods of time without food. By the time she had a break, she was “starving”, so naturally, when she sat down to eat, she ate too much and too much of the wrong foods.  However, when Jane’s work was more predictable, her eating was mindful and healthy. She had time to shop, prep and cook. Most importantly, she had time to figure out when she felt hungry (and not starving) and when she had enough (satiety). This is what mindful eating is all about.

My strategy for Jane was to have her armed and ready for the erratic days. She had to make sure she had healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts, to keep that “starving feeling” at bay. She is starting to see how this is making a big difference rather than following a strict diet, feeling strangulated with restrictions, and then  throwing in the towel because it’s just too hard. I am encouraging her to focus on her body to see what it’s telling her and to act accordingly.  In her case it means that she can’t ignore the hunger. This is a long-term strategy rather than, in the short-term,  counting calories on an app, and ignoring her body’s signals.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE:  If you want to lose weight, and have not been successful, DO NOT try another diet.  Instead, try a DIFFERENT approach: Take the focus OFF of weight loss and look for the underlying barriers that are sabotaging your progress.

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SALAD 101

Some of my clients only seem to enjoy eating salads when they’re out in a restaurant.  They find making them at home to be tedious and for some reason, their salads seem to be BLAH. Eating a lot of greens is a wonderful way to pour nutrients and phytochemicals into your body,  so I’d like to give you a few pointers so that you can enjoy delicious salads at home.

  1. Keep your greens dry. So often, we buy a giant container of mixed greens, spinach or arugula, only to find that there were a few wet leaves in the mix that caused rotting of a good portion of the salad.  To avoid this, open the container, pick out the wet leaves,  and store the remaining dry ones in reusable green bags. I use Debbie Meyer GreenBags and love them! The greens stay fresher longer and I can re-use the bags. You can also put a paper towel in the bag to absorb any additional water.  You will have crisp greens ready at your fingertips:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015Y7B57U/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
  2. Be creative! Add things to your salad that you love. I love adding some fruit into my salads. In the summer, I add strawberries and blueberries. In the winter, I add apples, pears or grapes. You can add leftover cooked vegetables, any protein that you like,  or sprinkle your salads with beans. Aged cheeses, like Parmesan or feta,  go a long way—you will be surprised how little you’ll need to make a huge IMG_1073difference! Make your salads colorful! Add sliced yellow peppers, red spiralized beets, and/or orange carrots. You can include green avocado, orange slices and/or yellow corn.
  3. Season it! This is a game changer. Sprinkling a bit of salt on your salad will make your salad come to life. Flavors will pop and everything will taste better. I learned this trick when I lived in Italy for eight years. It was also reinforced when I read the cookbook, “Salt, Fat Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton. Salt enhances sweetness and blocks bitterness.
  4. Toss it! Pouring dressing on salad in a bowl and pushing it around with your fork is no way to eat a salad. Get a large wooden salad bowl so you have room to toss. I bought this one from amazon and love it.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Q312WXN/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

5. Top quality olive oil is the key. I am not a fan of salad dressings because many of them are full of chemicals. Olive oil, instead, is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. If you get a good brand, and choose extra-virgin, you might pay a bit more for it, but it will be worth it! For some tips on what to look for, check out this link:

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-buy-olive-oil-beginners-guide

In summary, having just a few tools—good storage bags for salad greens, and a wooden salad bowl to toss, will make salads easier to create.  Adding colorful ingredients that you love, a sprinkle of salt and some high quality extra-virgin olive oil,  will make home salads taste spectacular!

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“VIOLET, YOU’RE TURNING VIOLET, VIOLET!”  

In 1971, when I was 8-years old, the movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, came out. One of the most memorable scenes of the film was when Violet Beauregarde, turned purple. If you are having a memory lapse, Violet was the little a79541866607632a1d9de93c06724ba1.jpggirl who was obsessed with chewing gum. In the movie, she grabbed a unique piece of gum, that wasn’t fully tested. This gum was a three-course meal and when she got to the best part, the blueberry pie dessert, it all went downhill, as poor Violet started turning purple and filled with fluid. She had to be rolled off and pumped. I was horrified.

I can make the case, as someone who is passionate about good nutrition, that the gum was just processed food gone awry. Now, 48 years later, I am just as horrified but for a different reason: Our supermarkets are filled with isles of processed foods, marketed to children, and engineered to light up your brain and to get you addicted. Most people don’t binge on roasted chicken or grilled asparagus but they certainly can on things like Teddy Grahams, Cheez-Its, Animal Crackers, or Doritos. There are chemicals, dyes, and additives in all of these. I have a suspicion that if you ate an entire bag of Flamin Hot Nacho Cheese Doritos, finished the bag, and then started turning a reddish-orange color, you might just think twice about eating them again!

Just saying…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NEED SOME REAL COMFORT? DITCH THE COMFORT FOODS

The other day, one of my favorite clients came to see me. She told me that the day before she was feeling sad and stressed. In the past, she had turned to food for comfort and considered herself a “stress eater”. When she said, “You won’t believe what I ate,” I thought that she must have turned to foods like pizza, Chinese food, or ice-cream.  To my delight, instead of turning to these comfort foods,  my client cooked a meal for herself—she made an interesting chicken harissa dish, which was full of great nutrition. After she ate, she felt so much better. I was thrilled!  Cooking for yourself is the ultimate in self-nurturing.

Here’s something ironic:  From a digestion point of view, comfort foods, which are typically rich and high in fat, are far from comforting.  If you feel sluggish or tired after eating these types of foods it’s not in your head—it’s literally in your gut. Of the three macronutrients, fat takes longer than protein or carbohydrate to digest. Fat is over two times more caloric, stays with you longer and keeps you fuller. This is a good thing when you’re eating healthy fats like nuts, avocados or olive oil. But turning to heavy, greasy foods when stressed will NOT make you any feel better.

Bottom line: If you’re stressed and need some comfort, try something choppedhealthy that will make you feel better!

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