At the beginning of every year, millions of people make plans for self-improvement.  Some people choose one or two simple changes such as exercising more or eating healthier.  Others try to transform their entire selves by taking on multiple changes all at once.  Keep in mind that even “simple” changes do not necessarily mean “easy” changes.  Therefore, I always encourage baby-steps instead of giant leaps when considering self-improvement.

Some people believe that it takes 3 weeks or 21 days to change a habit.  In my opinion, this time frames varies from person to person depending on how long you’ve lived with the habit, how often you do this habit, and how meaningful it is for you to change this habit.

Habits that have been formed over a lifetime can be the most difficult to change.  Also, the more frequently that you perform this habit, the harder it will be to change.

Some key things to keep in mind when considering self-change:

1.  Choose only 1 or 2 things at a time to change. You will likely feel less frustrated if you try working on only a few things at a time.

2.  Consider how meaningful it is to YOU (not someone else).  Don’t try to make a change that isn’t important to you…it’ll never stick!

3.  Keep it realistic.  If you strive too high, you will probably feel let down and frustrated (not a good place to be when you’re working on change).

4.  Consider solutions to possible challenges that may come up.  There is bound to be some barrier that will come up as you try to make your change. But, if you can imagine how you would handle the situation, it’ll make dealing with it a lot easier.

5.  Be gentle with yourself.  Try not to stress if you make a mistake. Instead, try to look at mistakes as opportunities to learn how to prevent yourself from going back to your old behavior in the future.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year and new decade!

stressedoutStress is everywhere….my client just lost three family members, my accountant is afraid he won’t get the taxes done on time, my friend just lost her job, and I’m planning a wedding! It seems like almost everyone is under some kind of stress. Many people manage their stress with food. After all, food can provide pleasure; soothe pressure and distress; and fill a void. But, overtime, overeating can cause weight gain, which is often associated with other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Here are some tips to controlling stress-related eating:

1. Become aware of the behavior. Without being aware, you can’t change..right? To do this, start by being more mindful when you eat. Ask yourself…”Am I hungry?” or think about why you’re eating.

2. If you find yourself grabbing for food when you’re not hungry, try to wait 15 – 30 minutes to eat and see if that changes your desire for food.

eating-on-the-run3. Try eating only when seated and not on the run, in the car, while working, or any other activity. This will help to keep you more focused on eating.

4. Keep a food record. Look for trends in your eating. This will not only help you to remember what you ate, but also it will help you to think before you eat. Plus, you may realize if you are overeating.

5. Eat regularly and consistently. The more routine your eating pattern is, the less unintentional or erratic eating will take place. Also, eating regularly, keeps your energy and blood glucose levels steady, which can help with managing stress.

6. Keep low calorie, healthful foods available; get rid of tempting foods. If your tendency is to put something in your mouthstress when you’re stressed, try eating cut up vegetables or fruits to occupy your mouth without affecting your waist.

7. Exercise. Try to take a walk, ride your bike, or practice yoga INSTEAD of eating to cope with stress. Even if it is only 5 minutes…that amount of time will give you a chance to pause and think instead of reacting to a stressful situation. Also, a regular exercise routine can keep stress levels down.

8. Don’t feel guilty if you DO overeat. This will most likely lead to more stressful eating and then the cycle begins again….

9. If nothing else works, talk to someone…a family member, friend, psychologist, or nutritionist.

It’s time for CHANGE…..

September 30, 2008

Have you found yourself thinking about making a change in your life, but can’t quite get yourself motivated to do it?

I see people every day in my practice who either WANT to change but don’t know how or don’t believe they can; or, they think they SHOULD change (or their doctors tell them they should), but simply don’t want to.

When people think about change, they often feel scared, frustrated, angry, confused, excited, stuck, or afraid of failure. It is totally normal to have these feelings and want to resist change! But, without change, life is stagnant and there is no improvement or growth.

When it comes to changing eating behaviors, people struggle for many reasons. One reason is that we’ve developed our eating habits over many years, so those who expect their eating habits to change in a day, a week, or a month, often feel let down or frustrated. Although some changes can occur quickly, such as someone who starts eating breakfast every morning, it is only when the change is repeated over and over for a long period of time, that it will become a habit. Patience and persistence is key!

Another reason changing eating habits can be difficult, is that many people use food to cope with emotional distress. For example, one of my clients always turns to cake, pie, or cookies when she’s stressed. No matter how hard she tries to avoid sweets, she always finds a way to eat them because it’s the only thing that comforts her in times of stress. When emotional eating is an issue, it’s a good idea to find other (non-food related) ways to cope. This is definitely not an easy task!

Another challenge to changing eating habits is that eating is needed for survival. Unlike quitting smoking or drinking alcohol, eating cannot be avoided completely. Eating is a part of our every day life and therefore we are constantly faced with decisions about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat etc. In order to adapt to an eating behavior change, one must be engaged in the change every day.

I wish it were as easy as taking a pill or flicking a switch. But, truthfully, we ALL can change when:
• We WANT to/It’s important to us (e.g. we want to be healthy so that we can live a long life)

• We know HOW to do it (e.g. we have the proper knowledge, skills, training or professional guidance)

• We believe we CAN do it (e.g. we’ve had experience with change in the past and feel confident that we can do it)

As a nutrition therapist, I help individuals to get to a place where these three things are aligned, so that they can make a change towards better physical and emotional health.

Diets Don’t Work

August 13, 2008

Oftentimes, my clients come to me asking for a diet to help them to lose weight. They seem to believe that even though they’ve tried hundreds of diets in the past, this one will finally work. Their hopefulness of yet another diet (to fail at) is incredible.

This type of repetitive behavior actually goes against psychological theories on positive reinforcement (behaviors that are positively reinforced are strengthened and increased in frequency) and extinction (behaviors that are not reinforced are weakened).

In the case of dieting, the behavior (self-deprivation), often results in cravings; feelings of guilt and loss of control if diet “rules” are broken; as well as numerous other physical, psychological, and emotional effects. After some initial weight loss, weight is often regained. So, why would someone continue the dieting behavior, when they are not being reinforced positively for their efforts?

Most dieters often get caught up in a cycle….they have a desire to lose weight or be thin; they diet; they start to get cravings; they give in to cravings and overeat; they regain lost weight (and often more!); and finally, they start another diet.

My goal as a nutrition therapist, is to help individuals release themselves from the diet mentality and to get out of the diet cycle; to learn to have a more peaceful relationship with food and themselves; to learn to trust their bodies’ signals about eating; and to live a happier, healthier life. 🙂

As many of us may be traveling this summer and may let our usual healthy behaviors fall to the WAIST side, here are some tips to help you to maintain your health, while enjoying your time away from home:

         

1.    Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’ve reached the airport or an hour into your long car ride to think about what you’ll be eating while you are away. In preparation for your trip, hit the grocery story and pack healthy foods that may be easy to carry with you. Try: Kashi TLC Granola Bars, fruit, veggie sticks, nuts, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, Fig Newtons, or Kashi TLC Cookies.

 

2.    Eat Consistently. Continue having regular meals approximately 4 hours apart.

 

3.    Bring’ em with you. They didn’t invent Ziplock bags for nothing. Carry healthy snacks with you at all times to avoid unhealthy temptations or overindulging later. 

 

4.    Remember to HYDRATE! Traveling, especially on airplanes, may make you dehydrated. Be sure to carry a bottle of water with you at all times (purchase it after you get through security!).  Plus, you never know if you’ll be stuck someplace without access to water.

 

5.    Keep Physically Active. Don’t ditch your exercise routine just because you’re not in your usual surroundings. If you’re on a relaxing vacation, try to get up early and go for a walk, swim, or jog before you hit the beach. Or, if you are planning on doing sight-seeing, consider exploring the area by foot.

 

6.    As always, make the best choices possible when eating out. Avoid fast-food restaurants or high fat menu items such as fried, sautéed, or foods prepared with high fat ingredients such as oil, butter, cream or cheese.

                                                

Anti-craving techniques

July 22, 2008

At one time or another, we all get cravings.  I often hear of cravings for red meat, chocolate, potato chips or other fatty foods, but, many times people also have cravings for healthier things like fruits, vegetables, or milk.  Whatever the craving may be, I view it as something the we are lacking in our diet and a way that the body speaks to us about what we need. For example, if it’s red meat that you are craving, it may be that your body is needing more protein, iron, or vitamin B12.  I usually advise my clients to give into their cravings so that they can satisfy their need.  However, in some cases, cravings are not satisfied by consuming the food and they are experienced as very intense and almost out of control.  For some people, their cravings are beyond the physical need for a food.  Instead, their cravings could be linked to an emotion, feeling, or they could even just be a habit.  Here are some strategies by Dr. Judith Beck that may be helpful for dealing with cravings.   

Mindset Techniques

  1. Label it.  Tell yourself, This feeling is just a craving…It’s uncomfortable and intense, but (like hunger) it’ not an emergency.
  2. Stand firm.  Tell yourself that you’re absolutely not going to eat the food that you’re craving.  Ask yourself whether giving in to this craving will be worth the momentary pleasure you’ll get from eating.
  3. Don’t give yourself a choice.   The emotionally painful part about a craving is the struggle you feel. Once you can tell yourself with total conviction, NO CHOICE, and so something else, the craving will diminish.
  4. Imagine the aftermath of giving in.  Think about eating the food you’re craving.  Imagine it in your mouth.  How many seconds does it take to it?  How many seconds do you feel pleasure?  Now visualize the rest of the picture- the part of the experience you usually don’t think about until it’s too late.   Picture yourself feeling weak and out of control.  See yourself feeling upset, giving up, continuing to eat more and more, feeling worse and worse.  As you become upset in the image, remind yourself how many times you’ve given in before, how you promised yourself you wouldn’t do it again, and how hopeless you felt.   Now that you’ve seen the entire picture, which seems better: eating or not eating?
  5. Remind yourself why you want to learn to withstand cravings.  You won’t be able to attain the wonderful benefits of losing weight unless you tolerate your cravings.  If you continue to give in to them, you’ll always be at risk for gaining weight.

 

Behavioral Techniques

  1. Distance yourself from the food you crave.  When you experience a craving because you see or smell food, you might be able to move that food to an inconvenient place or get rid of it.  If you can’t remove the food, you might be able to remove yourself from the scene (go to another room, outside, or bathroom).
  2. Drink a no- or low-calorie beverage.  Thirst can mask as hunger and trigger you to eat. Try drinking water, club soda or low-calorie drink.
  3. Relax.  Find a relaxation technique that works for you and do this for 3 minutes.  At the end of 3 minutes, you should feel calmer and more in control of your cravings.  One simple relaxation technique involves focusing on your breathing.
  4. Distract yourself. Focus your attention on something else and your craving will most likely weaken or pass.