Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I was reading Seth Godin’s post this morning.

There's always room for Jello -- This is one of the great cultural touchstone slogans of our era. A culture where there's so much to eat we need to try to find a food that we can eat even if we're stuffed.
Often, we'll decide that something is full, stuffed, untouchable but then some Jello shows up, and suddenly there's room. ”

It got me thinking….

As a culture, we eat too much -- no news there. According to studies, we eat way more than Europeans do and we enjoy it much less. We worry about making “healthy choices” and it has taken the joy out of eating for lots of people.

We have taken the Jello slogan and turned it into gospel. Who wouldn’t? Bill Cosby/Cliff Huxtable would not lie to us. Our parents (“Oh, honey, just one more bit for mommy -- open the hanger, here comes the airplane”) would not lie to us. There is always room from just a little bit more.

We trust Dr. Atkins to tell us how to lose weight. We trust Dr. Ornish to tell us how to keep our heart healthy and cardiovascular disease at bay. We trust Oprah to screen out all of the wacko diets and give us the right information to live at our perfect weight.

But what about you? What do you know about you? Do you know that you need something crunchy at every meal to feel satisfied with what you have eaten? Do you know you enjoy the feeling of being very full? Do you know you are a sweet eater and realize it is more likely you will eat the whole batch of cookies instead of just 3?

Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. But how much faith do you put into your understanding of yourself? How much do you cultivate this knowledge? What sort of actions have you come up with based on this knowledge?

When you were born, you understood how much you needed to eat. You can’t force-feed a baby -- it just runs out of their mouth or they actively spit it out. Eventually, adults wear them down. Babies are taught to over-eat -- by “experts”.

Can we learn to start listening to ourselves? Can we reconnect with our sensations of hunger and fullness? -- the same sensations we used as babies to know when we needed to eat and when we were done. Of course we can.

If you are working on that reconnection, start talking to your friends and family about the reconnections you are trying to make. Learn how to describe your sensations with words -- out loud.

Rally your support -- but learn to have more faith in yourself and be your own expert.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I was at work the other and was starting to get hungry. Fortunately, for me, we have a little café that offers some reasonably good food. Unfortunately, it was last Thursday and the café only gets food deliveries Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. To make matters worse, it was 12.30 on a Thursday, so I knew much of what was in the cooler that morning, was now gone.

As it turned out, there were a couple of wraps and one spinach salad left. Even as I let out a relieved sigh that I would be able to grab a quick lunch, there was the sneaking suspicion that I was not going to be happy with the salad.

I have to, at this point confess, I was actually craving a good salad -- I had not eating many veggies last week and they just sounded good! So I took the last salad, grabbed some dressing, and headed back to my office to eat.

The thing about a salad, for me, is that it is very hard for me to eat it at my desk and do anything else. I don’t like spilling the dressing anywhere it shouldn’t be (desk calendar -- for example) so most of the time, the salad has its own built in Mindful Eating approach.
I prepped the salad (cut it up and tossed it with the dressing) and sat down to eat it. I do not know where my mind was as I started eating, but at a certain point (before I had started to feel the even the least bit full -- so a definite 7), I came back from my mental musings to notice that my salad did not look very good. Somehow, I had gotten too much dressing on everything (which is weird because the dressing was prepackaged as a single serving and I never feel like that is too much) and so now the spinach was all coated and the whole thing (even the tomatoes) looked gross!

The interesting thing about this situation was I still wanted to eat the salad. I was no longer hungry but my mouth hadn’t been satisfied. The salad should have tasted good -- this salad has always been good in the past. But…for whatever reason, it didn’t look good and it didn’t taste great.

It was hard to make a decision at this point. Should I eat the rest of the salad because I had a long afternoon ahead of me (even though I was no longer hungry and wasn’t happy with the look and taste of it)? Or should I practice what I preach and throw the salad away knowing I could eat something else in the afternoon if I got hungry?

The problem was my expectations were not matching up with my actual experience. I was looking forward to the vegetables, I have liked this salad in the past, and I was physically hungry.

Well…I decided to practice what I preach. The salad went into the trash without even eating one last bite of dressing-laden bacon bits (challengine for me). I made it through the afternoon’s activities without getting so hungry I couldn’t stand it.

What I have learned (or relearned) is that paying attention pays off. My life was not made better by eating a salad I didn’t really want -- my physical hunger was taken care of by what I ate -- and I saved the rest of the salad’s worth of calories to be used later on something that actually added value to my life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This morning I was flipping through a copy of Body and Soul magazine. I started reading an article called “Feel your Best -- 17 most trusted names integrative health give their top advice for preventing illness, revving up energy, easing stress and more“. The number one tip is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

The quote I love is “Our bodies are talking to us all of the time, but unless we make an effort to listen, we don’t hear them until they scream” --Tracy Gaudet, M.D.

This is one of the most true statements I have heard in a long time. This can be true for disease (ignore your stress levels and eat poorly -- you know this is going on but don’t make changes until your doc puts you on blood pressure meds). But is can also be true for our weight.

No matter how overweight a person is, at one point they were only 5 pounds overweight. Five pounds is a body speaking softly -- it tends to get ignored -- we buy new pants, etc. As the weight increases, that is the body speaking more loudly that we should do something our overeating. If this non-listening habit keeps up, their weight keeps going up and people develop achy joints, low energy, frustration with the way their body is feeling. -- what can we do about this???

We can start doing (or renew our efforts at) listening to our bodies!
Here is the cool thing. As we start listening to our bodies and the weight starts (slowly) coming off -- we start listening harder. Let’s say a person needs to lose 100 pounds -- not an uncommon situation these days. As I weigh that client in each week, maybe only 1 or 2 pounds are lost during that time. Maybe some weeks it is only a ½ pound. People get overwhelmed at the slowness of the process -- they look at the big picture (100 pounds) and see that they have only lost a small amount of that and want to discount their progress.

Why discount it? Why not celebrate it?? Yes… I know…. if a person has a 100 pounds to lose and they just lost 1 they still have 99 to go. BUT…They are starting to make changes and heading in the right direction. If you can eat REAL food that you ENJOY, live your life and still lose weight -- slowly but sustainably -- Why not celebrate?

Life does not wait for us to get to the weight we feel we “should” be. We won’t hit a certain number on the scale and POOF! We are successful, rich, beautiful and fully confident -- weight does not make this happen.

Start living your life right now. Start listening to your body right now. Really -- right now -- take a minute and see what you can learn by listening. Are you physically hungry? Do you feel full? Are your shoulders or back tense with stress? Do you feel at ease and rested? What has your body been quietly telling you?

Once you start listening, you can act on the information. Plan to get some sleep if you feel tired. Plan to take a walk at lunch if you are feeling stressed in the office. Get up and get a glass of water if you are thirsty. Listen and then take small, positive actions to remedy what you become aware of. You don’t need to change everything at once -- just start listening.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is an Eating Coach

A few years ago, doing research for my job as an exercise physiologist at a hospital-based physical therapy/fitness facility, I came across an article about people losing weight using an eating coach.

Really, I was looking into bringing a life coach into the facility for a Lunch and Learn kind of thing for our members but as often happens on the web -- I followed the links and started reading about coaching for weight loss.

The concept of using sensations of hunger and fullness (versus counting calories) to determine how much a person should eat to lose weight was brand new to me. The idea seemed too good to be true (weight loss without cutting out certain foods, counting calories, working out in the gym for 3 hours every day) -- who wouldn't want to lose weight this way?

Skeptical, I called the coach from the article and talked to her. The more she talked, the more I could see how this approach could work. In the end, I ended up taking the classes needed so I, too, could coach.

Now what?

Now I spend part of every week coaching clients who want to lose weight but are willing to think in the long term. They are looking for lifestyle changes they can live with -- not the" quick fix, lose 60 pounds in 6 weeks but then return to old habits and gain it all back" diets many of us have experienced.

Love your glass of wine when you get home from work? I am not going to tell you to give it up. I might suggest you sit down and relax while you drink it -- instead of gulping it when you first walk in the door and right before you start cooking dinner for the kids.

Love risotto (I do)? Not going to ask you to use low-fat soy cheese. But how about taking time to enjoy them smell of the first bite before it goes into your mouth. And once it is there, notice the texture and flavor. Experience the food you say you love.

How about leaving the table feeling light and ready to move on with your day -- secure in the knowledge you will be able to eat again so there is no reason to stuff yourself right now?

If you can eat 9 bites a day less than you do now, you can lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. Can you find those 9 bites? The 9 that don't add any value to your life. The 9 bites of food that taste okay but not wonderful. The 9 bites you didn't even realize you ate (think about the things sitting in the breakroom at work that end up in your mouth without you making the conscious choice about eating them).

You don't have to leave out your favorite foods. You can eat in out. You can have it all -- you just need to reconnect with what your body tells you about physical hunger and fullness.