Monday, January 31, 2011

“One of These Days I’m Gonna Love Me”

Earlier this week I was driving to meet with one of my clients and flipping through the radio stations.  I landed upon a song I have not heard in a while.  It was Tim McGraw’s One of These Days.  I listened to the words again and it really reminded me of the significance that song holds for me.  After listening to the lyrics again this week, it is clear to me how the last verse of the song is a mantra for everyone who has ever struggled with confidence or self-doubt.  The final verse is this:
One of these days I'm gonna love me
And feel the joy of sweet release
One of these days I'll rise above me
And at last I'll find some peace
And then I'm gonna smile a little
And maybe even laugh a little
But one of these days...I'm gonna love me

Those words are so profound and I can still recall the exact moment they changed my life.  I want to share that moment with you today.  While I hesitate to over-share my private life, it is through sharing with you my personal battles that I hope will allow you to trust me and to hopefully face your own battles and succeed.  Several years ago I struggled through a bad marriage.  The most difficult part was coming out of it.  Somewhere in my head, I knew something was wrong.  But, I had put so much effort and time into loving my husband and trying to be a good wife, I lost me.  I devoted all my attention to making the marriage work that I was unable – or unwilling – to see that I couldn’t fix what was out of my control.  One morning my radio alarm went off and what came over the airwaves was the true awakening I needed that day.  When I awoke that morning to One of These Days it dawned on me that in the process of the marriage, I had forgotten to love myself.  Hearing those lyrics, I realized I had to love and respect myself more than anyone else on this earth.  That can be a very hard fact to face, especially as a woman, but one that is essential for both men and women.  We think we must put our spouses, children, family, and careers first.  But, how can we take care of those elements in our lives if we haven’t taken care of ourselves?  I always remind my clients to think about the last time they were on a plane.  If you pay attention to the safety instructions from the flight attendants, you will hear them tell parents that in the case of an emergency landing, the parent should put the oxygen mask on themselves before putting on their child’s.  This analogy is directly applicable to life – in order to love and take care of others, you must first love and take care of yourself.  

I found a way to love and respect myself – I have fought personal battles with my weight as well as a divorce and learned to live again.  So many people fight a personal battle with their weight.  They have failed to love and respect themselves and, as a result, face being overweight, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or type-2 diabetes.  If you have allowed yourself to choose late nights at the office over a healthy dinner or planning the kids’ activities over exercising, this is your time to get yourself back.  While it may be hard to believe, no one will hate you for taking time to yourself.  It is essential to be the best you.  While you cannot fix things that are out of your control, you can fix yourself.  So, I ask you this, have you forgotten to love yourself today?  There is still time to make a change – do it now.  Whether you need to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds, I know you can do it.  All you have to do is love yourself and respect your body.  And if you need help with that, I am here for you.  I will take an uncompromising approach to getting you healthy again.  Together we will find sweet release and…one of these days, you’re gonna love you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Super Bowl – Keep the battle on the gridiron and off of the bulge

It Super Bowl time and many of us will be spending that illustrious first Sunday in February in front of the TV or at a bar watching the big game.  It is a fun day and it’s certainly worth a party.  Whether you are planning a party, attending one, hitting up a local bar, or watching it at home with your family, you can enjoy the game day spread without spreading your waistline!  I am devoting today’s entry to providing you with your game plan to combat the beer belly and still have fun:
  • If you order pizza, go for thin crust and order extra veggies rather than extra cheese.  If you eat a few slices of thin crust with extra veggies rather than thick crust with extra cheese, you could save hundreds of calories and lots of saturated fat!  Also, when ordering meat on your pizza, opt for Canadian bacon rather than pepperoni.  Even ground beef is a better choice than Italian sausage.  Anything that comes in a “link” will have way too many fillers and unwanted fat.  Or, make your own pizza with a bought crust (you can now find whole-wheat), fresh veggies, lean meats, and low fat cheese – you can buy 2% cheese and save a lot of fat, but it still tastes great and mozzarella is one of the lowest fat cheeses you can buy.
  • Try to avoid the hot wings.  Not only are they fatty meat, but they are deep fried, then dunked in butter and hot sauce.  An order of hot wings with bleu cheese dressing could load you up on more than a day’s worth of fat and calories.  For those of you who cook, or if a family member does, you can make your own hot wings or chicken fingers.  Simply bake them in the oven rather than deep frying them.  Marinate chicken fingers in hot sauce and buttermilk (or yogurt) for a few hours, coat chicken in whole wheat bread crumbs (or even crushed bran flakes or ground almonds), and bake on a baking sheet on high heat. 
  • Substitute ground turkey for beef in chili or nachos – with so many other flavors and ingredients, you won't even notice a difference. 
  • Go for salsa (tomatoes provide powerful antioxidants) or hummus rather than creamy sour cream or mayonnaise based dips.  Also, baked tortilla chips or whole wheat pita chip are actually heartier than fried tortilla chips and are much lower is saturated fat.  Whole wheat pita chips even offer you a serving of whole grains.  Also, use celery, carrots, or any other crunchy veggie as a dipper. 
  • If you do prefer the creamy dips, substitute low fat yogurt or sour cream for the full fat mayonnaise or sour cream.  It’s a very simple substitution and one that you will never notice. 
  • Opt for light beer rather than red label, MGD, or other high calorie beers.  And make sure you drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down.  A recent report found that men who drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day have lower levels of testosterone than those who drink two or less.  C’mon…are a few beers every day worth losing your manly testosterone…seriously…think about it. 
  • If you are looking for simple munchies that you can reach for during the game, light popcorn is an excellent choice.  You can add flavor to the light popcorn by sprinkling on some chili powder, cumin, or even cinnamon.  Also, unsalted roasted almonds and walnuts are great for snacking.  Just limit yourself to about a handful each day.  Make sure you stay away from packaged cookies and fattening sweets – have fresh fruit and bite-size dark chocolates to nibble on.
I know you’ll do great and have an awesome day.  I encourage you to make your own food – it’s the only way you can control the quality of products you and your family & friends eat.  In addition to the above tips, I have several chili recipes and ideas for party food, appetizers, and cocktails (or mocktails).  If you are interested or would like more details, contact me.  I am also available for in-home demonstrations of all of my recipes or to prepare your game day party spread.  I have menus available from which you can choose your desired fare and beverages.  I wish you all a healthy and happy Super Bowl party! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

Food, exercise, rest – these are all things that we need to survive and produce life.  However, while all of these things are inherently good, in excess they can be harmful and even deadly.  In America we have somehow learned how to take things that sustain us and make them part of our gluttony-fueled lives.  For many people, food is a drug.  It becomes something that controls them and causes urges that stronger than their willpower.  Our ever-increasing visits to restaurants and calls for take-out also cause us to have “portion distortion”.  Most restaurant chefs are dishing out portions that are two to four times bigger than the government's recommended serving sizes.  We need food to live, but too much and it will kill us.  The same can be said for exercise.  There are many people who feel the need to exercise to an extreme level.  I consider myself a runner and running is my staple exercise.  However, I have always thought marathon runners were a bit on the insane side – I respect the discipline and determination that it takes, but let’s be honest – the Athenian dude that ran the 26-mile route to Athens to announce victory in the Persian war died of exhaustion.  Furthermore, a Minneapolis Heart Institute study recently found that men who’d competed in marathons for 25 consecutive years showed 62% more arterial plaque than sedentary men.  But, don’t think you can just lie around in bed either.  A 2010 study in the journal Sleep, men who logged nine or more hours of sleep a night were 43% more likely to have heart disease than those who slept seven hours.  So, there is obviously a need to keep everything in moderation. 

Let me tell you a little bit more about my personal experience with learning how you really can have too much of a good thing.  As I have mentioned before, I began running for exercise in college.  It became something I enjoyed and it helped me stay fit and eased stress.  When I went through an extremely trying marriage and devastating divorce, I turned to running as my vice.  It was a way I could vent my frustration, take time for myself, and still feel like I was doing something healthy (rather than diving into a bottle of cabernet or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s).  However, I had a very rough year and didn’t have time to lift weights, practice yoga, or even stretch – I spent all my physical activity time running.  At the end of that year, I had developed a pain in my left foot.  I didn’t complain or see a doctor – as an athlete and the only child of a single mother with multiple jobs, I was programmed to “grin & bear it”.  I took NSAIDs to relieve pain, and even started taking them before a run.  After nearly a year of pain, I saw a doctor.  It turns out I had two stress fractures in my left foot.  I wore a boot for month after month and each x-ray showed no healing.  Since I had gone so long without allowing the bones to heal, the fractures would not repair themselves.  During the week of Thanksgiving in 2008, I had surgery to install two plates and eight screws to repair the fractures.  I was in a hard cast for eight weeks, after which I had to learn how to walk again without a limp.  In the end, it was nearly a year with no running.  I had to build up my calf and leg muscles and learn how to be smart about exercise.  It was a huge learning experience for me.  I now run fewer days a week, lift weights, stretch daily, and occasionally practice yoga.  However, I am now in better shape than I have ever been.  I combine my well-rounded exercise with wholesome meals and snacks each day and a good night’s sleep each night.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cabernet and Ben & Jerry’s, I just enjoy it in moderation. 

A healthy life does not involve restrictions or overindulgence.  You just have to find that happy healthy place where you keep all things in moderation.  Let’s face it, no one ever got fat eating one cheeseburger or one piece of cake or by skipping one day of exercise.  We get fat by allowing those daily choices to become our lifestyle.  It’s the dose that makes the poison.  So, chose your dose wisely and you’ll have a healthy and happy life!  Not sure of the dose you need?  Call me and I promise to find it for you. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

If it works, it works!

Jack LaLanne and wife, Elaine
We lost a true inspiration in the health world this weekend.  Jack LaLanne, the “Godfather of Fitness” passed away on Sunday at the age of 96.  If you don’t know his name, chances are he still made an impact on your life.  If you’ve ever used cables to lift weights, bought a snack at the snack bar at your health club, bought a juicer or vitamins on TV, or said “a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips”, you’ve been influenced by Jack LaLanne.  Jack fervently believed every human being can attain maximum body health and fitness if they practice moderation, eat the most natural foods, and exercise on a regular basis.  During Jack’s childhood, he was addicted to sugar and junk foods.  At age 15, young Jack became motivated to focus on his diet and exercise habits.  He was truly a pioneer because he concentrated on weightlifting, something virtually unheard of in his day.  In 1936, Jack opened his own health club and dedicated his life to encouraging people to better themselves through exercise and nutrition.  He even continued to exercise daily – swimming and lifting weights – into his 90’s.  In a recent interview he said “The only way you can damage your body is to not use it.”  To me, this is proof that it doesn’t take a magic formula to live a healthy life.  What worked in 1930 still works today.  My philosophy on staying healthy is much like Jack’s – eat well, move often, and respect your body. 

Tony Horton
Many of today’s most successful health heroes share the same vision.  Have you ever heard of Tony Horton?  If not, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about P90X.  Tony is the creator and front man for P90X.  He has made millions of dollars on his fitness program and is living proof that it works.  He is a 52-year-old former standup comedian.  He lacks a college degree and, surprisingly, any type of fitness credentials.  However, he is a hero because he gets people inspired by showing them that being active and challenging your body works.  

Jane Fonda
Another fitness hero is Jane Fonda.  Jane started as a young model/actress and fought battles with eating disorders and body image issues.  She used exercise as her therapy.  She was a women’s fitness pioneer in leg warmers.  She is now 73 and has a new line of fitness DVD’s for women in their prime.  She is fit and spry and recently chased and pushed a bear out of her New Mexico ranch to save her grandson. 

It is evident by these three champions of health that they are motivated by the “internals” and not the “externals”.  By this I mean that they care about living a long, high-quality life.  They are less focused on vanity (being thin, having huge biceps, etc) and more on how they feel (have more energy, sleep better, less tired).  This simply leads to happiness.  They struggled early on with their own health, found what worked, and used it to change themselves and so many others.  I completely agree with their philosophies and am now teach people how to eat well, move often, and gain respect for their bodies.  I could only hope to one day inspire a fraction of the people that the aforementioned health heroes have.  The question is: Are you ready to be inspired and live the life you are capable of?  I promise to help find the fitness and nutrition that works for you and together we will add to depth and breadth of your life. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Health Care Crisis?

I am not a political person, and I, in no way, pretend to have all the answers to the issues our elected officials face each day.  However, I do have an opinion about the health care discussions and debates among politicians and proletarians alike.  First of all, what they are technically discussing is not health care – it is sick care.  I honestly believe that our government (and we individuals) could save a huge amount of money and time if everyone gained accountability for their own health and took better care of themselves.  Americans could save on their sick care bill by simply eating healthier food and exercising most days of the week.  The following are some very disturbing facts about overweight and obese Americans:
  • Medical costs due to overweight and obesity are now nearly 10% of the total medical expenditures
  • In 2008, US healthcare spending attributed to obesity was $147 billion
  • The annual medical spending on an obese person surpasses that of a normal-weight person by $1,429
  • MSNBC has reported that the cost of treating obesity is 80% higher than the cost of treating ALL cancers
  • George Washington University recently reported that the average annual cost of being obese for a man is $2,646
  • A Men’s Health survey recently found that 57% of its respondents would rather drown in debt for the next decade than permanently gain 50 pounds
  • In that same Men’s Health survey, 62% of respondents would consider it grounds for divorce if their wife gained 100 pounds
  • Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk of health conditions and diseases including: Breast cancer, Coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, Sleep apnea, Gallbladder disease, Osteoarthritis, Colon cancer, Hypertension and Stroke
  • Being overweight or obese decreases your chances of getting a raise/promotion, getting a date, and “getting busy” (the first one is a proven fact, the latter two are simply assumptions on my part!)

It is really disturbing to me to read all of these facts.  I certainly don’t have all the answers to the current health care crisis or reform bill issues.  However, I can say with conviction that if each American took control over his/her own health, we might lessen the intense need to reform “sick” care.  If you’ve read my previous blog entries, I have talked about being a NERD and tapping into your inner athlete.  If none of these entries inspired you to get active, eat healthy, or lose weight, what about money in your pocket?  If you can’t get inspired by adding to the quality of your life, at least you could get motivated my adding to the monetary quantity in your life.  And if you find that you still don’t have the motivation or willpower to take that first step?  I am here to help.  I have encouraged and willed my clients to drop pounds, lose inches, eliminate medications, and gain confidence.  With me, you’ll worry less about sick care and health insurance.  You will be able to spend your money and time on more enjoyable things.  And, bonus – you’ll look great and feel amazing! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tap Into Your Inner Athlete

I consider myself an athlete.  I grew up playing multiple sports and will always have a desire to participate in some type of physical activity.  I think much of that desire comes from my extremely competitive nature.  My dad will tell you how playing CandyLand with me as a young girl was less of a game and more of an event.  He said I would make him play until I won.  Losing frustrated me, but if I knew he let me win, I got quite angry.  I guess I have always felt the need to accomplish something.  That was only nurtured as I developed as an athlete.  I was blessed with many wonderful coaches – they taught me beautiful lessons in accountability, perseverance, humility, personal growth, awareness of others, self-discipline, and self-esteem.  And most importantly, they taught me how to be a champion even when the scoreboard showed a loss. 

When my softball career ended in college, I had to readjust the image of who I was and what my body was capable of.  While I was no longer part of a team, my desire to compete and to win did not get turned in with my uniform.  So, I just started running (I sound a little like Forrest Gump right now).  At first I could only run about a half mile at a time.  But, that was only the beginning of my decade-long competition with myself.  Each week I would add a little distance to my runs.  I found it just as gratifying knowing that I beat last week’s “me”.  I also began to respect my body again.  Research has found that kids that play sports are more likely to have a positive body image and higher self-esteem.  They also are less likely to take drugs or smoke because they realize the impact that these destructive activities can have upon their performance.  So, I tapped into my inner athlete and used those same lessons I learned from my coaches in my everyday life.  I now run somewhere around 25 miles a week and still compete with my own times and distances.  I don’t run races because I want to be my own champion.  I am fit and healthy for myself – it enriches my life in so many ways.  I now also use that with my client – I encourage them to respect their body.  I support them and allow them to find their own self-confidence.   Losing weight, getting fit, eating healthfully – it’s not about vanity but about being a champion of our own lives.  We cannot allow obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other health harassers to win.  We should no longer be content with being overweight and unhappy. 

Maybe you weren’t an athlete as a kid, or maybe you no longer consider yourself an athlete.  Maybe you were in the drama or chess club.  Either way, deep down, don’t we all want to be champions?  We don’t need to dig out our cleats or chess sets to get a victory.  All we have to do is uncover our self-worth.  When we stand up and take control of our health, we can put a mark in the win column.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm a NERD. Are you a NERD?

Currently, most of my clients are adults who are over the age of 40.  However, one of my areas of focus is the state of health of our children.  I admitted in yesterday’s blog that I am not a registered dietician and do not have a degree is sports & fitness, but I do know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to nutrition and exercise.  So, let me say today that I am not a parent, but I do know that the lifestyle of today’s typical kids is killing them.  We teach our children to “just say no” to smoking, drinking, and drugs.  But, ya know what?  The death rates and economic costs of obesity now have surpassed the smoking-related death rates and economic costs.  For children who are diagnosed with diabetes before age 15, their lifespan is reduced by 17-27 years.  How can we see these stats and continue to allow Happy Meals over fresh-made dinners, video games over backyard tag, and email conversations while walking in the mall? 

I am honestly not here to blame any one person, group, or party.  Parents are not the only ones to blame – as they say, it takes a village.  But I do think that someone needs to stand up for our children.  They should be taught at an early age that being healthy is not only essential, it can be fun and exciting.  I know parents struggle with celebrities who serve as our current “idols” or “role models” for kids.  We should also make our kids aware of the health traps they face on TV and the internet every day.  Everything they see on TV is not always good for them – they should know that Jersey Shore is not reality, a Happy Meal does not equal happiness, and a Wii cannot replace the energy-boosting power of running around the backyard or playing in the park.  On average, our kids see 10,000 food ads per year.  Of those ads, 95% are for sugared cereal, soft drinks, fast food, and candy.  These numbers are in stark contrast to the kinds of foods they should be eating. 

With kids, we should focus less on the scale and how they look and more on how they feel.  We should tell them that good nutrition means we have to fuel our bodies so they will work the way they should.  When we eat fried and sugary foods like French fries and candy, we are clogging our bodies with bad things and not feeding it the fuel we need.  Think about your vehicle – we go to the gas station and fill it up with gas, right?  Well, what would happen if we poured a liter of soda or a gallon of Kool-Aid into the car’s tank?  It would sputter and not get very far, if it even started at all.  Our bodies are the same way!  Our kids need to fuel their bodies so they can run, jump, play, and even think and use their brains in school.  Our ancestors were called “hunters & gatherers”, but somehow, we have evolved into “package openers & drive-thruers”.  We can simply sit in our cars and have someone hand us fast food directly into our car window.  Instead, we can show our kids how to eat the rainbow every day.  Whose favorite color is white or brown?  No one I know!  Bright colors not only make our eyes happy, they make our bodies happy!  The more color we eat, the better it is for us!  We can also teach our kids that they need at least one hour of physical activity every single day.  We need this to help our heart, our muscles, our joints, and our brains.  Playing, climbing, swimming, all counts as exercise – and it can be fun.  And, just as important as exercise is rest.  School-age kids need 10-11 hours of sleep every night.  That is about 2-3 hours more than we adults should get.  This is very important for their bodies to grow and to have the energy to have fun and brain power to do well in school.  I present this to kids as being health NERDs – we need to get Nutrition, Exercise, and Rest Daily.  It’s not about being skinny rather than fat or pretty rather than ugly.  If we are all NERDs, we won’t have to worry about that – together we will all have a healthy weight, a healthy mind, and a healthy body!  I’m a NERD.  Are you a NERD?  Are you willing to teach your kids to be NERDs? 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How did I get here?

How did I get here?  How many times do we ask ourselves this question?  How did I get here physically, mentally, emotionally?  I am sitting here at my laptop with a civil engineering degree, a license to practice engineering in numerous states, and a handful of professional awards and honors.  However, this past summer I made the decision to leave my desk job, and maybe more importantly my steady paycheck, to follow my passion.  I have not applied my engineering degree in over five months - with the exception of doing quick calculations when my clients lose weight and inches each week!  I traded my suits and high heels for spandex and tennis shoes.  I have started my own business and now work as a health coach and personal trainer.  I did not go to school to be a nutritionist, and I have not worked as a personal trainer for any gym.  I do not deny that I don't have all the credentials that many folks in this business do.  However, I do know the facts - I am a woman who has been overweight, was teased as a child for being chubby, starved myself only to end up binging, struggled with cellulite and stretch marks, and fought my own demons.  Through it all I finally learned how to get healthy, feel good, and be satisfied with myself.  I lost 50 pounds and have kept it off for a decade.  During that decade I survived the loss of loved ones, planned a wedding, struggled through a brief marriage, and was devastated with a very difficult divorce.  The one thing I do know is that had I not lost the weight and learned how to love and respect myself, I would have never survived.  I was able to release and relieve stress by running and working out, and I was able to stay mentally and emotionally intact by eating healthy food and fueling myself proper nutrients.  So, while I may not have all the fancy credentials, I do have the scars of being heavy and feeling self conscious.  I have lived through trying times in my life and I now know what works and what doesn't.  So, I feel it is my duty to help others regain their lives and live to the full potential that they are capable of and intended to do.  I have helped friends, coworkers, family, and clients lose weight, eliminate meds, sleep better, look great, and feel amazing.  I have proven to be successful and now I want to help as many people as I can.  Obesity is so frustrating to me because it is a 100% preventable epedemic that is killing us at an alarming rate.  So, I start this blog today as my first step to change the lives of as many people as I can.  I conclude today with a quotation from Edward Everett Hale, "I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  I ask you to join me each day as I try to make a change for the better, one person at a time.  Together we can get healthy, and in the process we will add depth and breadth to our lives.