Posts filed under ‘Weight Loss Philosophy’

Mindful Eating

‘Mindful Eating’ is another one of those diet buzzwords that sometimes frustrates me.  I alternately want to eat mindfully and don’t want to. Sometimes, I just want to eat without having to think about it. 

I think about eating and exercise all day long already:

  • am I eating too much?
  • am I eating enough veggies and, to a lesser extent, fruit? 
  • will I be able to control myself today?
  • will today be a “good” eating day or a “bad” one? 
  • will I get enough cardio in? 
  • does the cardio make a difference? 
  • is weight-lifting twice a week good enough?
  • is it really bad that I’m not doing yoga?

These are some of the thoughts that run through my head nearly every day, and there are times when I want a break from the constant noise.  I long to be one of “those people” who just do it right without consciously focusing on it.  Well, bottom line for me: no such luck.

So, when I recently found out that a local surgical weight loss center that was offering a series of Mindful Eating classes, I was a bit torn.  I was excited; maybe this would be the key to help me break through my current struggles.  I was also apprehensive.  Did I truly want to invest more time and money in this?  In the end, I decided to sign up.  And, I’m very glad I did.

I’ve only been able to make two of the 12 classes so far, but they’ve been great classes.  The first one discussed resetting our neural pathways, essentially reprogramming our brain’s reponse to food.  It is a variation on the “change your thoughts, change your life” philosophy, which works, but is much easier said than done.  I’ve been doing it… with some success.

It was last week’s class, though, that really resonated with me.  At first glance, there seemed to be nothing for me to learn from a mood-food connection class.  I was wrong about that.

  • There are approximately 3,000 to describe human emotions.  Nearly 2,000 of them are for negative emotions while only 1,000 are for positive emotions.  No wonder we are skewed toward negativity!
  • I always wondered why replacing eating with something else never worked… until our instructor informed us that it takes 3-5 replacement activities to equal the mood-altering effect of food.  Wow!  THREE to FIVE activities to replace ONE food experience.  First of all, that’s how powerful food can be.  And, secondly, now I understand why this ostensibly logical technique never worked for me.  I thought it was me; it wasn’t.  Good to know on a lot of levels.
  • I’ve always been additionally irritated by admonishments to replace eating with another activity – like reading a self-help book or taking a bath or getting a pedicure – because they are almost never practical . When I’m at work, wanting to chow down, I can’t simply run a bath.  Or, when the compulsion to eat hits me at 11:30 at night, the spa isn’t going to be open for a pedicure.  And, eating is about zoning out; reading a self-help book isn’t gonna do it because it’s the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.  So… I raised the issue in my class, and voila… our instructor had the answer. Deep breathing!  There’s always time to stop and breathe deeply, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  And, it works.

I’ll miss this week’s class, and I’m a bit bummed about it.   Thank goodness for next week.

February 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm 1 comment

Can eating healthy hurt you?

A recent article in the NY Times suggests that being too health conscious about food can actually be harmful, especially to kids.  Apparently, some of them are obsessing about sodium and fat and calories to the point where they’re afraid to eat.  Hmm… I’m not sure I totally believe that as I read a lot more stories about kids suffering from lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes due to obesity.  Anyway… this extreme obsession with healthy food has been dubbed “orthorexia”.

Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy, pure eating that can sometimes lead people to consume too few calories because they want to be extra sure the food is good for them.  In most cases, these folks are not in any physical danger, but they may suffer from unnecessary anxiety because of the “condition”.

I certainly don’t eat too little food because of my concerns about healthful eating, but I do get seriously nerved up about what I eat and how much.  It stresses me out a lot, and one of my goals this year is to stop worrying so much and learn to trust my body to do what’s right for it.  Trusting my body is much easier said than done because my instincts have been out of whack for so long.  It’s getting better, though… baby steps.

Supposedly one person has died because of “orthorexia”.  Someone named Kate Finn passed away in 2003 because of heart damage due to emaciation prompted not by a desire to lose weight but a focus on eating super healthy.

Going back even further, in the 1980s, there were concerns about “muesli belt malnutrition” in which kids were eating so supposedly healthfully that they weren’t getting the vitamins they needed.  This has been mostly debunked, but it brings up a good point.  Anytime we obsess on something, it can lead to bad results.  Balance is the key in all endeavours.  Again, easier said than done. 

I’m not too worried about being “too healthy”.  I’m more concerned about how much I berate myself when I don’t achieve the high standards I set for myself.  All that negative energy is very harmful.  As I mentioned earlier, that’s why I’m working on attaining some sort of peace with the process.  I’ve been reading books, but more important, I’ve attended a couple of intuitive workshops through my pole fitness studio.  These workshops have been very insightful and helpful.  Cleaning out the negative energies in my food and fitness space is critical.  I will soon have a one-on-one session with the healer who teaches the workshops.  I think that’ll be of tremendous benefit to my efforts to make the next phase of my lifestyle change more relaxed and positive.

March 3, 2009 at 6:13 am 3 comments

The hard truth about weight loss

As great as my weight loss success has been, I frequently get discouraged by how long it has taken and how hard I still have to work to keep the pounds off. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and magazine covers featuring women who’ve lost hundreds of pounds in a few months… rather than inspiring me, they bum me out because they make me feel like my results are not good enough.

So I was actually happy to read MSNBC’s “Forget low-fat — calories count more in dieting”. It provides details on a federal study that followed participants for two years and really confirms what I know to be true – as much as TV and magazines want to convince me otherwise.

1. Calories count. It doesn’t matter how you lower them – by cutting out carbs or fat or whatever; they just have to be lowered. The bottom line is that you’re not going to lose weight unless you consume fewer calories (or burn a bunch of them off through extremely high levels of exercise).

2. It takes a l-o-n-g time to lose a relatively small amount of weight. We don’t want to hear it; we are SUCH an instant gratification culture. In this study, participants lost an average of 13 pounds in six months. Most people I know would be disappointed instead of happy.

3. Chances are, the weight’s gonna come back. “…all groups saw their weight creep back up after a year. At two years, the average weight loss was about 9 pounds while waistlines shrank an average of 2 inches. Only 15 percent of dieters achieved a weight-loss reduction of 10 percent or more of their starting weight.”

I have been doing this for six and a half years, maintaining 117 pounds off. Sometimes, I’ve lost a bit more, sometimes a bit less. But, overall I have maintained – and continuously exercised – for an extended period of time. It’s taken a tremendous effort, and it’s still really, really difficult. This study is affirming. Whew! I don’t have to be so hard on myself! I am doing a terrific job, considering the odds are clearly against me. Based on this good news, I’m giving a shout-out to myself… and a reminder to be gentle, patient and understanding when I struggle.

February 26, 2009 at 4:40 am 7 comments

“Stay with it and find a way to make it work.”

I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking. I read a lot of affirming books and subscribe to blogs and newsletters that emphasize uplifting messages. One of my favorite e-mail newsletters is from Betty Mahalik of Dynamic Solutions Coaching & Training. Every Monday, a couple of inspirational paragraphs are delivered to my in-box, guaranteed to give me food for thought on how to improve my life and achieve my goals.

This Monday’s newsletter especially resonated with me. Betty shared a quote from one of her yoga instructors, who was advising Betty’s class to stay focused on the class and not get caught up in executing the poses. The instructor said, “Stay with it and find a way to make it work.”

So well said! That, in a nutshell, is what all we have to do to make any lifestyle change successful. We merely need to stay with it and find a way to make it work for us. That’s exactly what I’ve done in the last six and a half years, and it’s what I continue to do. I remind myself daily to keep at it, no matter how imperfectly, and to adjust my plan as necessary – finding a way to make it work according to my needs and life circumstances.

So simple… and yet so powerful.

February 18, 2009 at 7:08 am 1 comment

Muscle vs. Fat: Debunking some myths

I’ve heard countless times, as I’m sure you have, that muscle weighs more than fat.  A pound is a pound is a pound, so a pound of muscles is indeed, equal in weight to a pound of fat.  Why does this myth persist?  Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., for MSN Health & Fitness describes it this way.

“This commonly cited gym cliché is somewhat misunderstood and misused. The rationale that muscle weighs more than fat is often cited as an explanation for why a person might find that they aren’t losing weight, or are gaining weight, when they kick off an exercise regimen. The idea seems to be that if you are exercising—and theoretically losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time—the effects cancel each other out. So, in theory, you won’t see desired weight loss as measured by pounds on the scale, even though you may be improving how you look. You certainly can improve your appearance with exercise without always seeing a change in your body weight—by becoming firmer, more sculpted and sometimes leaner. But that doesn’t mean that you are gaining massive amounts of muscle, or losing lots of fat.”

Another common myth is that muscle turns to fat.  Not so.  The two are entirely different; one does not “turn into” the other.

“You can gain muscle or lose weight, and you can gain or lose more body fat, but they don’t convert into each other. Both gaining and losing muscle and/or fat can both affect your body weight on the scale, depending upon the magnitude of the body fat or body muscle increase or decrease.”

More to the point is why exercise doesn’t have the impact on body weight that we expect.  Well, a lot depends on the type and quantity of exercise. 

“Weight loss boils down to burning more calories than you normally use in a day. Cardio exercise burns more calories than muscle-toning or the average resistance-training workout. So dialing down the stretching and core work to just once or twice a week, and replacing it with more cardio should produce more weight loss. And the more minutes the better when it comes to weight loss: An hour to 90 minutes of aerobic activity per day on most days of the week will affect body weight.”

My personal experience is that exercise is crucial to the shape and tone of your body but has relatively little impact on your weight, unless you’re doing extremely long bouts of cardio.  In fact, when I calculate my daily calorie totals, I never, ever include an estimate of calories burned from exercise.  It just doesn’t make enough difference, and I don’t want to overeat, thinking that 30 minutes on the treadmill is going to take care of that 500-calorie chocolate shake. 

It’s always good to know what the facts are, though, so I’m glad to have stumbled across this article on MSN and learned more about muscle vs. fat.

August 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm 1 comment

More Summer Stinkers

I thought we’d covered the worst of the worst summer fun foods earlier this month when I shared a list of Summer Stinkers, carnival foods that are best avoided.  Turns out, there’s more to be avoided at your favorite theme park this year.  MSN has come out with the Best & Worst Theme Park Foods.  The turkey leg is the most shocking to me.  Turkey is supposed to be good for you!  Super Duper Scary Yikes!! 


  • Pizza – seven-inch round cheese pie contains 667 calories, 24 grams of fat and 1085 milligrams of sodium
  • Chili Cheese Fries – 745 calories and 45 grams of fat
  • Nachos – 861 calories, 59 grams of fat, and 1811 milligrams of sodium
  • Turkey Leg – just one leg adds up to 1136 calories and an incredible 54 grams of fat

Best (remember, it’s all relative)

  • Kabobs – chicken kabob has about 150 calories and 1.5 grams of fat; one with beef weighs in at 220 calories and 9 grams of fat
  • Cotton Candy – 171 calories and zero grams of fat
  • Corn on the Cob – just 201 calories and 1 gram of fat

Your best bet for eating healthy on an outing like this is, of course, to bring your own food.  Normally, I’m all about bringing my own food when I travel, go off-roading or even take in a movie.  But, to me, part of the fun of going to a carnival is enjoying at least one of the once-every-summer treats they offer.  For the most part, as bad as these foods are, if you plan your calories accordingly, you can enjoy them guilt-free.  I say do your homework, eat carefully that day, dig in and enjoy yourself!

July 28, 2008 at 2:22 am Leave a comment

Sustainable Solutions

The other day, I attended a foreclosure symposium for work.  One panelist noted that, for any approach to be successful, it had to include sustainable solutions.

In times of crisis, it’s tempting to react in extreme ways, to take drastic measures to correct a situation we feel has gone awry.  This definitely applies to weight loss.  We see a bad picture of ourselves and decide we’ve got to drop our calories to 1,000 a day and exercise for 90 minutes, six days a week.  It works for a couple of weeks, but we find ourselves starving and cranky, worn out and possibly injured, unable to sustain that plan, which leads us to drop it all together… giving up entirely on trying to lose weight and get healthy.

Weight loss and physical fitness need to be built into our lifestyles.  They’ve got to be something we can do for six months, a year, three years, five years and more.  They are not to be undertaken rashly.  At least, not if we want the weight loss to last. 

In a weird way, this is freeing.  We are free from the pressure to become weekend warriors and push ourselves to dramatically cut calories.  We are free to develop plans that we can manage within the parameters of our hectic, challenging lives. 

In the long run, sustainable solutions are the only way to achieve our health and weight loss goals.

May 30, 2008 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

Birthday Reflections

Birthday Reflections Today is my birthday.  As many of us do when a birthday arrives, I’ve been thinking about where I am in my life, at this age.  Excitingly enough, my life is the best it’s ever been.

  • I’m the smallest/lightest I’ve ever been as an adult, wearing a size 4/6.
  • I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, getting in four to six days of cardio and two sessions of weight training consistently every week.

Even though it makes sense to list these things first because of the blog’s subject, it still seems like I’m giving them too much importance.  But, the fact is, they are important.  For me, losing weight and exercising has not been about vanity, although appearance has played a role.  These accomplishments are the result of me taking charge of my health and wellbeing… watching the physical deterioration of people I loved and deciding to do everything I could to keep that from happening to me.  They represent years – literally, years – of persistence and commitment through really tough personal challenges.  They represent starting over again, time and after time, because I was unwilling to give up in spite of how hard it was… and how hard it continues to be.  This says a lot about how I feel about myself and my ability to stick to it, whatever “it’ may be. 

  • I have wonderful boyfriend to share my life with.

Wow!  This truly is incredible.  As my marriage went south, I began to doubt that a quality relationship was in the cards for me.  The divorce and subsequent dating misadventures reinforced the doubt.  And, yet, here I am, a year and a half into an amazing experience that’s blossoming into a genuine partnership.  We had some ups and downs at the beginning, but we overcame those to start again with an appreciation for what we both bring to the table.  We continue to get better as we go along.  It’s beyond cool.

  • I have a terrific job that is intense, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

My new gig has taken me in an unexpected direction and is a daily learning experience.  Plus, I am finally back to the salary level I was before I relocated here, actually a little bit more.  Not to mention the excellent retirement benefits.  Woohoo!

  • I remain blessed with a fabulous family and fantastic friends.
  • I am the proud of owner of The Best Cat on the Planet.
  • I live in a spacious condo which I’ve been able to fill with my own original artwork. Even better, it’s on the second floor, so I get at least an additional set of stairs in every day!  🙂

Happy Birthday to me, and a giant “thank you” for all the blessings I enjoy every day!

May 26, 2008 at 4:25 am 1 comment

Don’t Think. Do.

Newsweek’s Q&A with author Stephanie Klein about her recently published book called “Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp” covers the details of how Klein, an overweight child, spent three summers at fat camp trying to shed her excess pounds and the nasty nickname “Moose”.

One particular question and response in the article really resonated with me.

You’ve said you’re fed up with what you call “fatnalysis.” Why?
People can analyze it to death. People can say you’re fat because you’re filling a void, or you eat for all these emotional reasons. I said I don’t need to focus on this anymore. It doesn’t matter why I’m fat. Let’s fix it. I don’t think fixing it involves searching into my past and analyzing every last reason why I like cheese. It’s much more important for me to focus on my daily habits and what can I do to possibly change certain habits and give myself tools to get through whatever I have to get through. Especially as a child, you don’t need to hear about it all the time. Focus on developing talents.

We spend so much time trying to figure out why we overeat that we frequently get stuck there. It ends up being all analysis and no action. Klein is right; in the end, it doesn’t matter why we’re fat. We just need to do something about it. We know how to do it; we just need to develop the habit of doing it, using whatever coping mechanisms (healthy ones, that is!) that work for us along the way.

May 20, 2008 at 12:54 am 2 comments

Revisiting Raw

The other day, I decided to do further research on the raw diet by perusing the cookbooks available at my local Barnes & Noble.  It was an interesting experience.  The photos in “Raw Food/Real World” are stunning, and Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis seem like the uber couple: beautiful to look at, super successful, super healthy.  I really enjoyed thumbing through their book, but I was overwhelmed.

In fact, I was overwhelmed by all the cookbooks I looked at.  The idea of sprouting something for several hours and then dehydrating for several more seemed completely undoable.  I was strangely disappointed in myself for being overwhelmed.  The descriptions of the energizing life force that comes from raw food were compelling, and it was discouraging to think that I don’t have enough gumption to spend the time needed to take advantage of such wonderfulness.

One of the keys to weight loss success is finding a plan that fits your life.  If you don’t like the food, if there’s too much prep involved to fit your schedule, etc., you’re not going to stick with it, and sticking with it is the only way to reach your goal.  I have been living this principle for 5 1/2 years, and yet I still want to be the uber girl myself: creating fabulously complex food that’s fabulously healthy, radiating vitality everywhere I go.

Oh well.  I’m doing all right, and as Kristen of Kristen’s Raw commented to me a while back, I am incorporating raw foods where it works for my lifestyle.  That’s okay for now.  In the meantime, I’ll continue my research into raw living and see if I can find some simpler ways to add more raw stuff to my diet.

May 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

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