Indulge-LESS This Holiday Season

I don’t totally mean to be a buzz kill, but we need to talk about over-indulging.  Yes, I know, it’s right smack dab in the holiday season, which is exactly why we need to be talking about it.  The time between Halloween and New Year’s Day is a very challenging time indeed—a time when bellies are full and health habits go to die.  It’s the time of the year when people say, “To heck with it!  I’ll get back on track in January.”  But that attitude ensures that the cycle of yo-yo dieting will continue, and no one really wants to live like that.

A problem of pollution
It’s important to identify the problem if you’re going to be successful.  You might think the problem is your willpower, but I would argue that it’s just a matter of increased environmental pollution and pressure (Holiday celebrations galore).  Scientist Brian Wansink would say that most of our food-related decisions are unconscious and in response to environmental cues. If candy is lying out in plain sight, you’ll eat more of it than if it’s hidden away in a co-workers drawer.  Out of sight, out of mind.   Just the simple act of putting food away is a barrier that results in less calories eaten.  So the problem with the holiday season is that there’s an increase in food cues, which is to say that the environment is polluted.  It’s important to understand that the brain is wired for pleasure.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the primitive parts of our brains cause us to seek out high-fat, high-sugar, hyper-palatable foods.  At one time, this was advantageous for survival.  But now, instead of the relative risk of food scarcity, we have the opposite problem of food abundance.  And this isn’t just any food.  This is food that has been engineered to be high-calorie and highly rewarding.  Brownies, cookies, cakes—they all provide an intensely pleasurable experience and the brain remembers that for next time (hence the bad habits)

   The frontal lobe
Again, we shouldn’t be surprised that our brains drive us to eat junk food.  Armed with that information, the next logical question is:  how do we change our response?  The answer is simple, but the practice requires effort.  First, decide that you want to do it.  At some point you have to become so frustrated that you are motivated to change.  But then we must maintain that motivation and commitment to change.  Crowd out the junk food with natural, whole foods that are low in sugar and low in calories.  Apply the 80/20 rule.  80% real food and 20% reserved for your favorites.

The problem with portions
The problem is not the problem you think.  It’s not the gluten, it’s not the grains, and to some extent, it’s not even about the junk food.  The problem is the amount.  It’s the calories and the fact that most Americans are just eating too much of everything.  Each person’s body is designed to run on a certain amount of energy (calories).  When we consume too many calories, this puts a metabolic stress on the body which ultimately leads to chronic disease and inflammation.  It seems so old-fashioned and unpopular to say, but the primary issue to target for weight loss is the calories and portions.

  And here we are full-circle, right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.  How about you try something new this year?  How about you say NO to dieting and instead make the decision to indulge less—as in less amount and less often?  Bulk up on vegetables, roasted or raw, perhaps.  Make a ¼ of your plate a lean protein and then reserve the other ¼ of your plate for your favorite starchy foods or desserts?  And remember, it’s just one meal!  Practice Mindful Eating and focus on enjoying the company of friends and family.

Health goals?  Don’t wait until January!  We have a variety of programs and services to help you reach your goals.

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Non-Scale Victories

Let’s talk about “the scale.”  The scale is what most people use to measure their weight, and that makes sense.  In the basic sense, a scale measures a person’s mass, which is to say, a person’s weight due to the gravitational forces on earth.  But instead of measuring our health in Newton’s, we measure our health in terms of pounds or kilograms.  When I work with clients, their primary goal is to lose weight.  These clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but in our practice, they are all united in this fight against weight.

Weight gain is common.  Losing weight is common.  What is uncommon is maintaining a healthy weight for the course of a person’s life, or losing weight (if overweight) and keeping it off indefinitely.  Unfortunately, weight regain is the norm and most clients I work with would tell you that they know HOW to lose weight, but that they can’t seem to keep it off.  This is not a personal moral failure on their part.  People who struggle with weight must battle on many fronts and they are some of the most courageous people I know.  Why?  Because society tells them that they are failures, but somehow, they find the strength to come up for one more fight.

The scale

I don’t have problems with using the scale as part of the assessment process.  Usually, there’s a “sweet” spot for people—a small range in weight (pounds or kilos)  in which they will function at their best.  It is common for weight to fluctuate within a few pounds, but when weight creeps, or jumps up too quickly, then that person will know that something is off balance.  Weighing oneself on a regularly basis is a useful tool for most, but again, it’s not the only tool.  Certainly, it’s not the best measurement of a person’s health.

Body composition

A better tool to measure weight is a body composition analyzer.  In our practice, we always test body composition.  This is a better assessment tool than a common scale because not only does it tell the weight, but more importantly, it tells what that weight consists of.  How much muscle mass or “lean” mass does this person have vs fat?  How hydrated are they?  If they’ve lost weight, did they lose precious muscle?  If they’ve maintained weight, did they gain muscle mass?  This helps us to go a little deeper to get at the root of what people want.  People say that they want to lose weight, but technically what they mean is that they want to lose body fat.

But even beyond numbers, the goals behind the numbers are much more personal.  I’ve had clients tell me that they want to be able to get on the floor and play with their kid, or be able to tie their shoes.  Some people just want to “look” better and feel better in their clothes, but behind every weight loss goal number is the REAL reason they are here.  They want to have life and have it abundantly.  This is why weight loss is a journey, and not just some finish line.

So what are your non-scale victories? 

If you’re looking to the scale every week and every year for confirmation that you’re on track, you will, at times, be very disappointed.  I was talking with a lady who said that she gave up sugar, refined white flour and started exercising regularly (and eating right).  She did this for nearly a year and felt amazing, but she only lost 5# and so she quit.  I then asked her, “but how did you feel?”  She responded, emphatically, “Amazing.”  Well, there you go.  And that’s where relying on the scale can go wrong.

Off the top of my head, I can list several benefits of weight loss that would be noticeable without ever stepping on a scale and here they are:

  • Improved energy
  • Better sleep
  • Less inflammation
  • Less Pain
  • Improved mood
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Better mobility and flexibility
  • Feeling empowered
  • Radiating skin

If I had more time, the list could go on.  I would like to reinforce that weight loss is not just about the numbers.  Motivation to sustain health habits comes from feeling it from within.  Weight loss is deeply personal and it’s imperative to be able to congratulate yourself for non-scale victories along the way.  The non-scale victories will be the fuel that ignites your passion to keep. Moving. Forward.  One step at a time.

For information about our services and programs, visit our website or call us at 864 676-1248

 

Have a Healthy Holiday

  For many, Halloween marks the start of a challenging season for weight management.  But with the right planning, you won’t fall into the same old traps. Here are some practical strategies to help keep you focused. Many of these strategies have been tested by scientist and expert Brian Wansink who runs the Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. He is also the author of Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, which I highly recommend reading if you are trying to lose weight. Visit his website here.

Strategies to help you avoid holiday weight gain:

  • Survey, then change your environment. Set yourself up for success by keeping junk food out of sight and out of mind. Clear the home and work environment, and if that’s not an option, distance yourself as much as possible from the polluted environment (i.e., stay out of the work break room)
  • Don’t arrive to parties famished. Have a meal or light snack ahead of time so you won’t be physically hungry
  • Wear your best belt or fitted clothes
  • Fill up on crudités and vegetables (fiber)
  • Don’t drink your calories. Sparkling water, unsweet tea and zero calorie, zero sugar beverages only
  • Eat from a smaller plate. This has a profound psychological effect causing you to eat less
  • Have some protein! Lean proteins such as boiled shrimp or grilled chicken help with satiety
  • Don’t hang around the buffet table. Take the conversation in another room. Better yet, get outside or take a walk
  • Distract your hands by drinking unsweet tea, seltzer water or club soda.
  • Chew gum
  • Just say no and practice being assertive

Finally, have the right mindset. What are your intentions when you attend parties and gatherings? Ultimately, each person is unique in regard to their goals and motivations. Attitude and “how” you eat is almost more important that “what” you will eat. If you’re intention is to lose weight during the holidays, that’s great. If you are dedicated and committed to this goal, you WILL lose weight during the holidays. If your goal is to maintain weight during the holidays, that is also noble. If you stay focused, you will avoid the holiday weight trap that so many Americans fall into.  Above all, stay mindful and grateful.