Why I Like Hungry Girl’s “5 Weight-Maintenance Tips That Work”

I got this Hungry Girl article in my e-mail a few days ago: 

“5 Weight-Maintenance Tips That Work”

I’ve followed Hungry Girl for years – literally from the beginning. I was recovering from two severe eating disorders and found the site’s positivity both helpful and encouraging. To this day, I still get the newsletters, and still appreciate what she (Lisa, the founder) is aiming to do – help others live a healthier life beginning with THE key factor —-> nutrition.

Nutrition is something I think about all the time – not only because of my experiences, but because I am still an athlete. At 40, things are vastly different then when I was 20 – I’m constantly tweaking my routine  and my nutritional intake in order to achieve my goal(s) of maintaining a healthy life. One, I might add, that is sustainable (what’s the point if you can’t stick to a plan?!)

Anyway…I really liked her article because these ARE tips that can help when trying to maintain weight, or lose a little extra. She isn’t launching into unreasonable means of achieving these things, and therefore not insinuating that anyone need to do anything drastic. It’s about little, overall changes. It’s about learning why / how those changes work, and being able to stick with them for the longer haul. 

Here are Lisa’s tips (click on the link above for her take!) paired with a few comments of my own:

1 – RE-EVALUATION OF OUR DAILY, CALORIC INTAKE

I don’t advocate necessarily counting every…single…calorie, every…single…day. With a past like mine, I know that’s dangerous territory for many people (even those who haven’t dipped into eating-disorder-land.) This kind of hyper-micromanagement can lead to paranoia or OCD / addictive / controlling behaviors for certain personality types. Rest assured, that can only end poorly – trying to control to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis can cause a program to fail (impossible to maintain over time) OR a rebound (“let me just eat everything in sight because I can’t take this stringent restriction anymore!”) Restriction doesn’t work.

HOWEVER…

Being aware of our caloric needs, and focusing in on what the foods we eat contain calorically CAN help us to reprogram. We can paint a better picture of what our personal best nutritional plan is by:

  1. Making an effort to understand what an appropriate portion really is.
  2. Learning how many calories certain types of foods contain.
  3. Checking into what our specific bodies need calorically (Lisa shares a calculator in her article.)

Keep in mind, we are all different. Calculators, too, aren’t 100% (the best basal metabolic calculator is generally a test done at the hospital, or using one of those new, fancy-pants “pods” designed to account for other factors beyond height, age, and activity level.)

The point is, it is crucial to understand whether we need 3,000 calories a day, or more like 1,500 – we may be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing. Exercise can help you boost this number, by the way, so don’t consider a super low number a horrible fate. You can help it along.

2 – KEEP WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

I love that she points this out. Jumping on the diet-fad bandwagon isn’t going to save you – even if you lose a few pounds short-term (summer beach season is coming up – don’t be tempted!) you may well find the weight you lost coming back. Why? A “fad” isn’t a lifestyle change by definition! 

What works then? Take a look at your history… Is there a time you remember (beyond being a teenage-metabolic-furnace!) where you found you were feeling and looking your best? What were you doing at that time to achieve those goals? As above, things change as we get older BUT…if you were exercising more, think about adding some movement back into your schedule. Think about the KINDS of exercises that work best for you…

You may love long runs so you can zone out and decompress… Maybe you like cycling outside, or doing zumba with a group. If HIIT for only 20 minutes seems to help your body shed the most effectively, look at finding room for that two or three times a week.

Along these lines, if a certain nutritional approach worked, maybe it’s time to revisit it. I can’t eat processed carbohydrates without feeling horrendous, so that’s something I avoid, as one example. Maybe a Weight Watchers type approach works for you because it holds you accountable, and helps you recognize how much you are really taking in. Perhaps it’s Mediterranean in flavor….that’s great too. We are not all going to respond to the same plan. If it worked for you in the past, break it down and think about WHY and HOW it worked. Find ways to incorporate those hows and whys into your current routine.

3 – 80/20 = SUCCESS LONG TERM

The “80/20” rule is a far more realistic approach to changing our not-so-healthy habits to good ones with success. What this entails is that you stick to your healthy eating and exercise 80% of time. There are going to be days where you are completely over your eyeballs. There are going to be others where you’re simply too exhausted (to the point that exercise might not be your safest best – bad form can mean injury potential.) There will also be days where you might be traveling for work and can’t maintain your home routine…

Life HAPPENS, and sticking to the “perfect diet” 100% of the time isn’t realistic for anyone. Instead, aim for being on point 80% of the time – this allows you a 20% buffer where you can deviate without sabotaging your many efforts to achieve your personal goals. 

4 – BE ACCOUNTABLE and HONEST

Accountability and honesty are absolutely integral when it comes to personal progress. NO ONE likes criticism. No one likes to admit shortcomings. BUT…if we don’t’ address personal concerns we know to be true, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. 

We ALL have room to grow – it’s okay to have areas that need improvement, and it’s okay to not always stay on track. What will never be okay, however, is lying to ourselves. Honesty is the best policy not only with others, but in our internal dialogue as well – we know what our goals are, we know if we are falling short, and denial will only perpetuate the problem.

Own up to whatever it is that needs some tweaking and watch how much you can progress once you take that ownership. Even small progress is a step forward, and it is astounding how much those gains can contribute to overall self-motivation and confidence. 

You don’t need to live up to anyone else’s standards – what other people think is their business only. And you definitely don’t need to be hard on yourself! This is simply about owning our truths and recognizing that we CAN make changes once we are open to admitting them.

5 – REWARD YOURSELF

Equally as important as the rest! Maintaining and losing weight isn’t always super easy, especially as we get older and we see that our tried-and-true doesn’t work anymore. Make sure to take time to do something nice for YOU – buy a non-food goodie, repeat some extra affirmations, take a day to do a special activity you don’t always have time for, take a trip to the spa…! Whatever it is, treat yourself and remember how many things you are doing right. 

 

My Heathy Eating, Japanese Reset

As mentioned in my post Tips For Healthier Eating And Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan I mentioned that I was very eager to have a reset with my own dietary habits. Generally I’m the only person who is aware that I’m puffier than normal, or holding onto slightly more weight than I should… But really, I’m the only one who matters in that equation, right? If I notice I’m not where I want to be and it makes me unhappy, then I know I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I know exactly where that will land me emotionally – I’m not going to head that direction willingly.

So did my “reset” actually work?

Y E S!

Generally it takes a few weeks to reprogram ourselves into a new habit – a week in Japan wasn’t going to be enough, but it was a jumpstart that I knew I could look forward to. The Japanese don’t eat the way we do in America – I was counting on that! It isn’t that I’ve been through eating disorders or that I don’t think I can handle being around food establishments. I don’t have any fear or anxiety surrounding going out to eat either – most establishments have SOMEthing I’ll like (and in Japan, I knew they would.) I have a willpower the Spartans would have paid me for on top of it, so I’m not worried about seeing delicious items on the menu, splurging, and being disappointed with myself later. Rather it’s that I don’t enjoy being around the over-doing that goes on… At all.

It isn’t about a judgment, let me be clear. I don’t have any right (or desire) to try to guess as to why some people are morbidly overweight, or why someone eats well beyond when their body says “HALT!” It isn’t my place to judge, and there could be a million reasons why – it’s frankly NONE of my business. What disgusts me (and really, that’s the best word for it) is the over-stuffing, over-ordering, over-filling, over-indulging. 

As with everything else, to each their own for sure. What I’ve learned about myself is that I simply don’t want to be around that kind of splurging and binging. If I had to go into McDonalds, I’d take my food and go. You’ll never catch me on a cruise, for example – food is the focus and I am an eat-to-live kind of person. I LOVE to eat, don’t get me wrong, but my long-term goals are more of a priority than the short-term satisfaction. 

I don’t’ care about eating as it pertains anyone but myself – I am the only person / place / thing over which I have control AND, I’m the only person who’s my business! But that also means that pigouts are uncomfortable to be around because I don’t enjoy the over-doing when it comes to food (particularly here in the States.) When asked for nutritional advice, I always preface it by saying “what works for me, may not for someone else – our goals and bodies are different.”

So Japan…Japan was very welcome. The portions are WAY smaller. People don’t over-stuff themselves. People take time eating, and even buffets are healthy. You RARELY see anyone who’s overweight, let alone morbidly obese. Everyone – regardless of age – is WALKING. People are moving around all day, and eating healthily on top of it. Our surroundings matter and I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that environment.

So, what did I learn? Which habits did I bring home?

I’ve made a few tweaks to my nutrition since I’ve been back, inspired by the change in routine:

1. I eat less at each sitting

I *could* eat more but I don’t serve myself more…because the extra isn’t necessary to feel full. Today I went back for a few more bites (a few times!) because I realized I needed more food and was, legitimately, hungry. But I ate my lunch, I waited. I had some water. And then I realized I needed to add.

2. I use smaller serving vessles

I’m using a bowl half or 2/3 the size of what I used when I left. Big difference! It allows me to fill it (looks like a lot!) but not overeat. I’d have the sensation of being full (before I went to Japan), so why was I forcing myself? No good reason! I’m not starving, and food is not in short supply. There’s more where it came from so I can chill out…

3. I use chopsticks

Yes, for every meal! Why? SLOWS ME DOWN! Seriously…there’s no need to shovel in food, and I can eat way too much way too fast if I’m not careful and paying attention.

4. I use mindfulness

I try to pay attention while I’m eating. Distraction can lead to stuffing myself more than I need to…and also delay my full signal because I’m not in tune. I try to be more aware of my food, and that I’m really enjoying it.

5. I don’t overdo

I don’t over-buy or over-order. I stock up a lot of frozen veggies because it saves me some trips (and keeps other food cold that I might buy while out and about.) But I don’t go crazy with things that I know I’ll just end up eating too much of – saves me the trouble of fighting urges (and losing those battles. Which…I will!)

6. I have lightened up on cruciferous veggies and go for free instead

Some vegetables can upset the stomach. Though I can tolerate a LOT more fiber than the average person (it’s been the bulk of my diet for over a decade – as in, four to eight pounds of veggies a day!) it can still be too much for me. Switching to lesser puffy-producing veggies has meant less stomach aches. I tend not to overeat green beans, snap peas, legumes, or greens as much as I do cauliflower so I’m also having a little less overall. 

What have I noticed with the reset?

  1. I’m feeling better overall!
  2. My stomach doesn’t hurt as much (WIN! I suffer from regular stomach aches)
  3. I’m not as puffy feeling or looking
  4. I probably lost a pound or two (or at least puffiness from too much food and fiber)
  5. I’m not starving. At all!
  6. I have plenty of energy
  7. I’ve been sleeping better overall
  8. I have less anxiety about having to eat right away because my body isn’t responding as poorly to not eating quickly enough (still happens, but not as horribly)

So yes, my ruse worked! BUT…a big part of it is sticking to the plan. I’m making sure I KEEP good habits because it’s easy to revert to poor ones.

My goal has always been to maintain a healthy, happy, strong body…and that hasn’t changed. My nutritional needs, however, have. I’m 40…not 20…so it’s important I listen to my body, and that I try to fuel it with the proper food…not to mention the proper QUANTITY of it. America doesn’t help us a ton there because it’s always about how much can you stuff in for how little money. That is a horrifying concept to me! Again, different things work for different people – because I know what I need, I make sure I’m not around what doesn’t support my goals, or whatever makes me feel uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with looking after ourselves – we do, at the end of the day, have to live with ourselves TRULY 24/7. We deserve to feel – and be – healthy. Period.

Get Moving! – Self Care Matters

I was on a long road trip this past weekend and delved into a few podcasts, all but one related to fitness as it pertains to the health, development, and symptomatology (physical manifestations, presentations in the academic setting, social interactions, problem behaviors etc.) of various disabilities (including autism, down syndrome, and ADHD.) What I heard, however, was relevant to all human beings as a species – much of it covered material I have always taken as “common sense” (likely a product of an athletic upbringing), but some of it was also a little bit alarming.

According to studies, a wholly sedentary life can be more detrimental to our health long-term than smoking. Uh…YIKES. As I am neither a clinician nor a doctor, I’ll leave the research review of studies and articles (such as this one) to you. One way or the other, though, inactivity is bad news.

While I know some people who’d argue a few minutes out of a lifetime isn’t a big deal, I’m willing to bet there have been moments in all of our lives during which we’d have done anything to gain more time. It can be a frightening prospect when put into that kind of perspective – we are (like it or not) a fragile and fleeting species.

The discussions in the podcasts revolved around how we can engage those that have deficits in joint attention, physical challenges, and slower cognitive processes, as well as those who aren’t particularly interested in the activities to begin with. Again, the concepts were ones we all would do well to live by, particularly that last one.

We have one body this go around and it’s important that we take care of it as if it was as sacred to us as whatever else in our lives we cherish (YES, you DO deserve that kind of love and care from yourself.)

This photo crossed my path the other day and I found it, too, to be both jarring and sad.

I was recently chatting with a 93 year-old friend about aging well – meaning mind, body, and spirit. We were out on the ice – both of us skating – and were nodding our heads that many people resign themselves to a false fate. What do I mean by that? I mean that some people think “active” and “healthy” are reserved for 20-somethings or younger.

B U L L S H I T ! Here’s my buddy George proving everyone wrong by zooming around the ice with me…

As we get older, some change is inevitable – we might need longer recovery, we might need an extra rest day, we might need to tweak our nutrition to suit what our body and minds need with each passing year…but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay healthy overall. 

I always believed in maintenance because a spiral that has delved into the depths is harder to come back from – that goes for every aspect of our being (emotional, spiritual, physical, you name it!)

Goals don’t have to be unrealistic (nor should they be!) – we DON’T have to compete with anyone, let alone a professional athlete, a model, a celebrity, a Roman statue, a meme…! 

There’s also no need to set ourselves up for failure by trying to attain what doesn’t make sense. Not everyone wants to be overly muscular, or necessarily “thin”… It’s about striving for a healthy, fit, and / or active life, which is – YES – more than achievable. Remember, our “healthy” may look differently than our neighbor…but we always know, deep down, if we have attained that. Or not.

When we try to take steps each day to love the one vessel we have been given, we are able to stay in control of what we CAN do…rather than deal with what we can’t because we decided we were too much effort. 

You ARE worth the effort, 1,000%. 

And…you can do anything you put your mind to. Beyond that, treating ourselves with the respect we deserve in order to live and enjoy a healthy life means we may buy ourselves some precious moments that one day we will thank the stars we have to spend.

 

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(Some Of) The Habits That Derail Our Diet

I am a firm believer that diets are not the answer for the majority. Diets can help jump-start weight loss and / or fat loss in the shorter term. To have long-term success with weight / fat loss or maintenance, however, we need a nutritional plan that we are both willing AND able to stick to. Let me therefore state upfront that “diet” here is referring to the way that we eat, and what we eat – our nutritional plan and lifestyle, so to speak – not a special or “fad” weight loss diet.

I got a great article from Hungry Girl today about habits that can cause us to miss the mark – not only when we are trying to lose weight (which the article is focused on) but also if we are trying to maintain it (which goes hand-in-hand, in my opinion.) I often find myself nodding in agreement with some points in any given article, but disagreeing with others. In the case of this one – 6 Habits Ruining Your Diet – I agree with them all.

A few of my previous articles on the topic:

The “habits” in question are incredibly common, and things most of us do without thinking…sometimes on a daily basis. The great news? With a little attention, they are relatively easy to catch…and correct! 

  1. Snacking While Watching TV
  2. Boredom and Avoidance Eating
  3. Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full
  4. Grazing 
  5. Snacking Instead of Sipping
  6. Meal Skipping

My personal thoughts on Hungry Girl’s sneaky traps:

Snacking While Watching TV (or Movie Theater)

Growing up, we often had dinner while watching tv – between school, homework, and sports, there wasn’t much downtime.  Back then it wasn’t such a big deal because we were not only growing, but incredibly active. Enter adulthood, however, when the metabolism takes a nosedive and we are doing less activity (generally.) Pair that with the ability to purchase our own food (and we don’t always make the best decisions when we have free choice!), and it becomes easier to slip.

It’s easy to sit down to watch something and nibble as we do…but it’s a dangerous habit because we WILL lose track of how much we are munching, often eating more than our body needs (watching a show steals the attention, leaving the satiety signals to hoot and holler to no avail.) If quitting cold-turkey is painful, try portioning a smaller amount of your favorite snack to avoid going overboard (HG agrees on this point too.) A cup of tea, for example, could be another idea – we have to sip the toasty stuff slowly (meaning –> we are occupied longer!)

Scary…but true! Most of us do this at home, or at the movie theater!

Boredom and Avoidance Eating

This is one of THE sneakiest pitfalls of all! Eating because we are bored is the kind of habit that can easily weasel its way into your daily routine. When there’s downtime, snacking seems like and easy and harmless option. It ISN’T! And it adds up. Munching mindlessly is never a good thing and it can creep up when we are trying to avoid something, not just when life is humdrum – maybe it’s laundry, or cleaning the house…whatever “it” is that you are trying to get out of, you might grab a snack to aid in your efforts to procrastinate. Bad idea!

How to address it? MOVE! Do an activity of some kind, keep your hands busy (beyond grabbing food!), and distract those false signals that you need to eat to get through the boredom.

Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full

I don’t know about you but I grew up hearing that other children were (legitimately) starving in other countries and that I therefore had to finish my meal. The reality is…my leftovers probably could have been leftover a little longer (meaning I didn’t HAVE to pig out whether I was full or not, I could nibble the rest later.) But, it was the way it was back then – there was always a focus, even in school, on finishing everything on my plate at every meal. Is that really the best way? 

The better idea is to listen to our bodies. If we are feeling full, that means a few areas of our body are registering that we have had what it needs to function optimally – we don’t NEED more. When the satiety signals sound, it’s it ideal to listen to them – we can always have more later if we find we are still (truly) hungry. Stuffing ourselves not only allows needless calories to build up, but it also confuses our bodies (which are desperately trying to say “I’m FULL! I don’t need more.”) When we keep eating, we get used to blocking those signals and, worse, we start to not really “hear” them. 

Grazing 

This one needs to be defined a bit. When I generally say I “graze” I mean that I consciously eat mini meals many, MANY times a day. Grazing in the case of Hungry Girl’s article appears to refer to snacking all the time, and doing so mindlessly. It’s the snagging a few bites of the kids’ food (which, let’s be honest, isn’t always a healthy item), or grabbing office “snacks” here and there during the day (also not usually the “healthy” stuff.) It could be that you are cooking and eating as you go, or even just going to the pantry frequently on a day that you are home.

Eating more meals with smaller portions throughout the day often helps folks stay satiated longer (than, for example, three larger meals per day.) That doesn’t mean EVERYone, mind you, but generally when people eat smaller meals more frequently, they find that they don’t overindulge as much.

Snacking Instead of Sipping

Being in tune with our bodies means listening closely to the signals it sends us – some of them “sound” so similar that we might actually make a mistake. For example, thirst may “sound” like hunger to us – we may reach for a snack, having felt that we needed to, only to find out that we translated the urge incorrectly. A great way to ensure that we ARE on the right track – and to avoid eating excess calories (that we probably don’t need!) – is to have a solid drink of water before reaching for food.

If we are dehydrated, water will do the trick right then and there. Having a nice glass of water will also fill us up a bit so if we happen to be thinking about food – but our body doesn’t necessarily need it at that moment – the drink will satisfy us longer. It’s also a great trick when going out to dinner – having a full glass of water can save  you from over-ordering (it’s the grocery-shopping-while-hungry scenario – not a good idea!)

Meal Skipping

This is a HUGE non-no, especially if you’re skipping breakfast! Don’t. Do. It! I do know a few folks who can’t eat immediately when they wake up – that’s okay. Depending on the day, I may eat an hour or two after getting out of bed. The idea is that you are providing your body with the proper fuel to get rolling, and your stomach something to work with. When you skip a meal, you are a great deal more likely to go overboard later. I’m sure you know the feeling… Don’t want breakfast, too busy to get a good lunch…dinner comes around and you basically inhale your whole fridge and pantry! Try to give yourself a fighting chance, and be kind to your body – have SOMEthing healthy at mealtimes to keep  yourself from going from zero to ravenous. Getting to the point of “I can eat a horse” will leave you to sabotage all of your other efforts.

So those are my personal thoughts about Hungry Girl’s habits – they aren’t at all far-fetched (there are of course others, but these are common culprits in our society!), and they are possible to fix (good news!) 

If you are serious about weight / fat loss or maintenance it will take attention, patience, and consistency – but it isn’t as hard as you think. Once you eradicate a few of these saboteurs, you’ll find yourself dropping weight without altering anything else. Nutrition accounts for probably 80% or more of how we are doing weight-wise (don’t kid yourself!) The wonderful news there is that we CAN do something about that.

 

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(Our) Healthy Weight Really Is Made In The Kitchen

They say “abs” are made in the kitchen and it is actually quite true in many ways. Now that said, we all have a different “healthy weight.” We don’t need to be muscular to be healthy (that only indicates a specific level and / or type of fitness taking place for a specific individual.)

What is important, however, is that we recognize what we put into our fuel tank matters. It’s never easy to change our routine – therein lies the secret. . .

When we can make healthy long-term changes (ones we are willing and able (most importantly!) to stick to over the long haul) then we are on the way to seeing that lasting change we want.

Having been on the side where I had far too little for a time, I intimately  understand how sensitive this issue is – whether we are carrying dangerously little, or too much weight. Our self-confidence can be bound to these realities, and our relationship with food can become terribly unhealthy.

I’d also like to add, it isn’t so much the number on the scale kind of “weight.” Losing extra fat that our body doesn’t need to function (or that is impairing our proper and healthy function), and getting our BMI down to a better figure, is far more important. That number may go up if you are adding muscle mass while adjusting your meal plan…so don’t feel derailed by the numerical values necessarily.

I’ve shared other posts such as: 

10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry is Horrible!)  and, 

Healthy Lifestyle – The Way To Achieve A Healthy Weight…Without The Failure Of “Diets,”

These posts offer some ideas and thoughts about this journey, as well as some tips and tricks. There is NO reason you can’t find success with your goals but sometimes we need a little encouragement, and more understanding about how to get there.

Each of us are different – our body types sometimes are wildly different. The “outside” doesn’t always reflect immaculate healthy internally either (yes, there ARE “skinny fat people” (a term, but the way, that I don’t really care for – to me, “fat” is incredibly derogatory because of the connotation it’s gained. Unless I’m talking about an avocado, salmon, or egg yolks (etc!) I use “fuller figured” because it isn’t always about what “fat” implies. We don’t need to be using that term for ourselves either because chances are…it makes us feel worse, which is not where we need to be mentally!) 

It’s all about the manageable changes. We CAN achieve what we want to but we need to be consistent, honest with ourselves, and make changes that we are going to be able to stick with. Again, even more so, we need to make changes we can LIVE with longer term.

I don’t know about you but drinking my meals for the rest of my life sounds terrible! I’d rather eat my food, eat healthy portions, and create a plan I can live with indefinitely. 

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On Eating Disorders And Being An Athlete In The Midst…

I appreciated receiving this article, written by Karen Crouse, which speaks to a very real problem in sports. It is also – I should point out – scarcely relegated to figure skating (the topic of the article) and related performing or aesthetic sports such as dancing, bodybuilding, and the like.  Rather, it has a much broader (and frankly insidious) grip on athletes around the globe. 

Eating disorders were something I grew up knowing plenty about – I was classically trained in ballet for over ten years, competitively figure skated for about sixteen years, and danced competitively in International Latin and American Smooth ballroom for seven years. In those arenas, thin is ALWAYS in.

Yikes.

Can weight make a difference in performance? Yes, absolutely. When it comes to one’s joints, or one’s ability to do the particularly acrobatic and athletic jumps and spins, it’s important we are at a weight healthy for our frame. Figure skating, for one, is a high impact sport and that takes a toll even on a healthy body. When we are unhealthy, those negative side effects can be multiplied many fold. However, a lot of it – a sometimes far heftier percentage – is about the “look.” And, when it becomes about our appearance, things can go downhill very quickly…

It isn’t only that I, like many athletes, was “young and impressionable” at the time – top athletes generally ARE on the younger side (remember that part about impact on the body?) Athletes begin training early, so there is certainly danger in implanting these injurious notions early on.

What is also a real issue, however, is that a focus on a person’s “weight” can suddenly have bearing on whether or not you are even “considered” for a winning position – that will change your tune pretty quick if you have goals of any kind. (Deny politics play a role in results? You’re kidding yourself!)

In ballroom, for example, if you aren’t groomed properly, you simply aren’t taken seriously. Period. It’s as easy as that. I’m not putting it down, I was in it…and LOVED it. But it was a horrible hassle, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice. Before a competition I needed to be:

  • Spray tanned…TWICE (because my pale skin wasn’t in)
  • Have my nails done (as in, they needed to be long and noticeable)
  • Have my hair professionally done every time I competed (multiple days, means days of hair-doing)
  • Professional makeup (fortunately I did this myself, but then half my suitcase was makeup I had to lug)
  • Make sure I was as fit as could be (wearing next to nothing / very revealing costumes…yes, people would notice if you gained a little extra. And they wouldn’t be shy about mentioning it)

Those things were prerequisites.  Then you added to that judge preferences like wearing tan fishnets or stockings (okay, no big deal, that helped “pull me in” a little so I stayed slim in that tiny costume…) But it was rough because if you didn’t take those “suggestions” you often were out of the running…before you even took the floor. No, I’m not kidding. Figure skating was a little less harsh on that front, but the pressure to “lose a little” was definitely an undercurrent.

I remember going to skating camp at Simsbury’s International Skating Center of Connecticut. I was in my mid to later teens (definitely the mesomorph of the group!) and I recall – very clearly – the younger skaters being worried about gaining weight. They wouldn’t eat ice cream, they would ask for coffee (at that age?!) with skim milk… They wouldn’t have chips…. Even back at our dorms, some would skip breakfast because they didn’t want to have too much (more Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams for me?)

Let me be clear, I am ALL about healthy, clean eating – it’s not about how I look so much as how it makes my body feel. My body is a “finely-tuned machine,” according to my doc, and it tells me what it needs. But when you are FIGURE SKATING…for HOURS A DAY…you burn more than a Clydesdale! I mean, it was craziness!!! These kids were WAY too young to worry about weight, not a single one had any inkling of a problem (which could impact joints, as athletic as skating can be), and they couldn’t enjoy themselves as a result – it was heartbreaking!

Now a days, the pressures are – apparently – still there. It was eye-opening to read that Brian Boitano (an idol I watched win his gold when I was ten years-old) was very much subjected to this, and wasn’t actually at peak performance (very likely) at that time. Hard to believe if you saw those jumps! It’s also saddening to hear that Adam Rippon has struggled with this as well. I love that they are open about it because eating disorders carry a lot of shame with them – speaking up and making it known that we are not alone can be enough to save someone afflicted from a life of suffering.

My disorders – Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia / Anorexia Athetica – were a result of something very different, but they nearly devoured me whole too. I thankfully managed to cruise through my sports both unscathed and unapologetically…but I was acutely aware of the oft-unspoken-about illnesses in the background. Having suffered through it later, knowing full well how damaging and dangerous such sickness can be, was testament to how powerful these diseases are… 

For many of athletes, body image is tightly wound around performance. . .which is tightly bound to our identities. Sometimes – to add fuel to the fire – that can be perpetuated by the people we look up to or rely on in the sport, as well as tied to our future success.

It’s a struggle to see the “good” sometimes – to see how strong we are, how well we are doing… It’s even harder to recognize…and then ADMIT…when we aren’t fueling ourselves the way we need to. I recently took back to the ice (on a VERY minor scale) but I’ll tell you…my legs are different. I can see it, I can feel it, and my body is asking for more carbohydrates and food. And…that’s what I give it if I need to. But like Adam Rippon, the mind will make a point to call out that we are doing something different – It’s like an internal guilt trip from the Ghost of Athletics Past!

Eating disorders are terrifying – like other addictive illnesses, they have the power to completely derail us, if not end our lives completely. While I refrain from “talking politics,” and don’t much care for celebrities shouting out their messages at the top of their lungs…there is some benefit in this particular arena. It is important to be honest and open because eating disorders are often highly isolating – we begin to decay on our own, and keep everyone at a distance while we whither away. The knowledge that we aren’t alone in our struggles it might help others find the strength and courage to seek treatment – one life saved is one life saved!

Truth be told, having had no one to look to during my own…? I would have LOVED to have this kind of hope to grab onto… 

 

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Healthy Lifestyle – The Way To Achieve A Healthy Weight…Without The Failure Of “Diets”

I was listening to a show this week (Sirius XM) on which the doctors were discussing weight loss, weight loss surgeries, and a whole host of diets (for the latter part, they were largely fielding questions.) What I appreciated most was that they really focused on “healthy lifestyle choices” beyond and above anything else.

“Diet” is a four letter word. And a BAD one. Diets don’t work for the majority of people largely because they are composed of meals, or supplements, or restrictions that aren’t going to hold up long-term. So yes…people might lose weight in the shorter term…but then they become discouraged when they go off track and gain it all back. It doesn’t have to be that way! 

Marketing sometimes has a way of presenting the false realities that such programs promise in highly appealing, shiny packages…but the fact of the matter is that our overarching approach is what will make the difference. If we can’t stay consistent over the longer term, it isn’t the “right fit.” 

Before you lose hope…there IS a right fit for YOU…you just need to uncover it.

Also important to mention here is that not all of the “diets” or programs out there bad – if a specific plan works for YOU, there is nothing wrong with that! The point is that it just needs to be a routine you can manage consistently…whether you are on the plan, or you go off it.

Some of the better known out there – for example, Weight Watchers – are going above and beyond and teaching people HOW to eat. Bravo! With Weight Watchers you learn portion control…how to do it, why it is important, and how to apply it even if you drop the guidelines of the program itself. It also teaches accountability. That stuff is really valuable, and it’s where a lot of folks go awry. How can you blame them? Seen portions in America lately? How about the marketing pushing more food for less money? It’s like, “why not, then?!,” right?  BAD NEWS.

I really believe that staying at a healthy weight can be reduced to a few key principles. In my mind, these are as close to “magic bullets” as you can get – now, they do take a little work and dedication, but they also result in the kind of “magic” that people are hoping for…and they deliver positive results consistently, and across the board, beating out any pill we can take.

Magic Bullet 1 – BEING HONEST and ACCOUNTABLE

The first of these is being honest and accountable. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we are fighting a losing battle. It’s okay to say “I’m not where I want to be.” We don’t need to beat ourselves up, or bring ourselves down. But we do have to step back and recognize that we need a change, that it’s OKAY to need a change, and that change is achievable. It wouldn’t be on your mind if it didn’t matter to you, or you were feeling full of energy and the picture of health… The mirror is the hardest thing to face sometimes but when we do, we take full control of our life…meaning we can have what it is we are after. 

Staying accountable means that we not only recognize and admit to ourselves that we have room to do better, but that we really manage our choices. I think it’s fair to say many of us are our own worst critics and almost don’t want to admit what’s really going on. We need to remember that no one is going to punish us for being honest with ourselves, or for having the cookies we didn’t really need. But ignoring it isn’t going to get us on track either.

Magic Bullet 2 – LEARNING TO SAY NO

There’s a lot of pressure to love food in our society! Many cultures are food-centric – mealtimes are the perfect gathering place for friends and family, right?! Restaurants, bars, home kitchens, on holidays or for events…it’s were (and when) we tend to get together. But we don’t have to follow the masses when we order for ourselves…and we don’t have to go hungry either! If you are out with a group and they order tons of tempting appetizers, for example, you can always order something more healthy for yourself. While maybe not as tantalizing as the less-healthy options, you will have something to munch on that you’ll feel good about later. You don’t owe anyone any explanations or justifications.

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Along with this…when we are out and about on our own, we can also use “NO.” No, as they say, IS a complete sentence – and we need to stand our ground if we want change. It’s smart NOT to shop hungry, for one thing. It’s also important that we NOT buy thing things we know aren’t great for us – once they’re in our own kitchen, it’s easy to go downhill. When we don’t get it, we can’t be tempted by it. Period.

Magic Bullet #3 – IT ISN’T ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS…IT’S ABOUT FAT LOSS

The number on your scale isn’t always what you think it is… Because muscle and fat have different weight values, it’s possible to appear to be “overweight” on a scale and incredibly fit and healthy. Likewise, the number on the scale might read low, but the person (perhaps a slim frame) isn’t so healthy internally. When we think about Body Mass Index (BMI), however, we have a much clearer picture of where we need to be. These numbers, keep in mind, are guidelines…but they are more helpful as far as our overall health is concerned than the number on a scale (unless yours is fancy and calculates BMI!) 

A BMI that is too low will bring a host of issues with it, as will one that is too high. You can find a very basic calculator here, more about BMI and the mathematic formula hereand more information overall here and here. Or…you can head in for a check up and get a no-bullshit answer from your doctor.

This goes back to being honest with ourselves and really understanding the health concerns we might be unkindly imposing on ourselves. A lot of people called into the radio talk with questions about losing weight and the doctors we as much with me on this – it’s more about the fat loss, and getting to a healthy weight for our frame…which will then eliminate quite a few heath risks, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among many…many others.

Magic Bullet #4 – EXERCISE

There’s no pill that can give us the kind of benefits we get from exercise. There just ISN’T. And, as the saying goes, there is no chance we can out exercise a bad diet. Tough reality check but…it doesn’t work that way, and it never will.  

Exercise isn’t an easy one for everybody but… We were all children once upon a time and I’m willing to bet we all played lots of games and ran around. Best part? We probably LOVED it.  

What changed!?

When did it become work??! 

It doesn’t HAVE to be work. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be exerting yourself – you need to push a little bit! – but you don’t have to be miserable. Treadmills, for example, are torture for me. Instead, I might jog outside…or go for a hike where I’m walking, but doing so on uneven (but beautiful!) terrain. Volunteer work is another way to keep moving without having to do something I can’t stand (like cardio! 😉 ) I get it in by default in that case – win-win!

Adding in music that you know will get you going is a great option, as is finding a friend to pair up with. Think about activities you DO like doing and be creative – if you want to start by hula-hooping, do it! Getting moving is sometimes the hardest part…but once we do, it doesn’t feel as terrible as we made it out to be! 

Nutrition is probably 80% of the overall picture…but exercise will keep our body healthy too, whether that’s keeping metabolism up, our muscles strong (and with it often our bones), as well as keep the heart and blood pumping the way they need to. 

Magic Bullet #5 – CONSISTENCY, MAINTENANCE…and NOT GETTING DERAILED

Consistency is absolutely vital to success (across the board, frankly.) Maintaining is WORLDS easier than having to play catch up, and it is a lot less stressful to boot. If we can make healthy choices for ourselves and stick to them most of the time, the few blips and foibles aren’t going to have much of an impact. 

Along those lines, we need to be sure that we don’t make a mountain out of the minimal impact a slip may have…because that’s a surefire way to derail. When we start to beat ourselves up for enjoying a special night out, or having a treat once in a while, we might go into “well, I’m not doing well, so to hell with this whole ‘healthier me’ thing…” Don’t fall victim to that downward-spiraling trap – it isn’t necessary. If you choose a less healthy option, just let it go. Enjoy that you could have it…and move on with your better decisions.

Wallowing in misery begets more of the same…and it’s going to be a lot harder later to get back on track. Hold yourself to sticking to the plan most of the time, and you will be okay. One or two bad meals aren’t going to add ten pounds. Keep doing it, though, and you’ll have a lot more work to do down the road to get your health back… The easier road is to stay consistent as much as you can.

Magic Bullet #6 – MAKING GOOD CHOICES

Society needs to get away from fad diets and stringent plans – if you have health issues and something of that nature is required, that’s okay. But for the average population, they’re not a great idea, and generally a recipe for failure…the last thing we want / need.

No one can say exactly what, when, or how cavemen ate their meals – we are speculating based on what science has discovered.  Some cultures seem to have less illness than America does, so we might take cues from them…but there are many other factors at play including environmental and inherent…so even then there’s room for speculation. Then there are the “anecdotal”s where a method worked for a few, but we don’t know why or how, or whether the same positive results will apply to a broader population…

Instead of trying to be stringent or extreme, or abandon one thing for in total embrace of another…how about using common sense? What REALLY matters when it comes to foods…?

Processing vs. Natural – the less processed, the better. Processed often means a departure from natural states, such as we get with additives like dyes and chemicals, sugars, unhealthy fats. These human-derived products (meaning we weren’t designed to process them) are unhealthy for the body.

Sugars – a category in their own right – are a massive problem. Eliminating sugars, or the bulk of them (especially the processed kinds, vs. a whole, fresh fruit, for example) will lead to weight loss pretty quick, as well as a likely change in energy, mood, even sleep. The more we can stick with “whole,” non-sugary foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs, nuts, lean meats, poultry and fish, the better our bodies will behave. Your car responds to the fuel you put into it, right? 

Balance – we don’t have to eliminate certain categories completely when we eat a diet of “whole foods” unless we don’t respond well to it. For example, I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates – my body has decided they no longer work well for it. When I do eat them, I have variety of symptoms that make me feel sick and uncomfortable…so I know they aren’t the right choice for me. It’s about learning what works for our own bodies (maybe some trial and error) and going from there…

Portions – This is a big one. I love big portions because I love eating food…but my body doesn’t really need as much per sitting as my eyes or stomach are suggesting! Sometimes it helps to have a lot of small means more frequently and to start the day with a good breakfast (if you can stomach it – depending on the time, I sometimes need food right away (if it’s between 3 and 6am!) or I need to wait (if it’s after 6am.) Everyone is different but starting the day with fuel is important so you aren’t ravenous and out of control later… 

Here’s a link to my own tips and tricks for staying full 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!) because not feeling hungry makes a difference!

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When we abide by these common-sense principles, we will see changes in our health, our physique, very likely our moods, as well as our energy levels, and definitely our overall health and well-being – it’s impossible not to.

Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it is more about a consistent and overall approach, using common sense about the foods our body really needs to function optimally.

We don’t have to miss out on the fun (or good food!) in life, we just have to remember that moderation (e.g.: smart portions) is key…and maintenance is a hell of a lot easier than restarting all the time.

You have what it takes!!!

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