Take Weight off the Table

You did not fail. Dieting failed you. Even though the U.S. weight loss industry has grown to almost $59 BILLION annually, chronic disease statistics have not improved and over 90% of dieters experience weight regain (Bacon and Aphramor 2011).

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Short-term weight loss lures us into thinking that food restriction is the answer to long-term weight loss. Someone says, "I lost 17 pounds this month" and everyone cheers. But weight loss through restriction only causes weight-cycling (a.k.a. yo-yo dieting). So, what's wrong with that? Not only does it negatively impact your thinking ("I failed again"), weight cycling increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol while promoting inflammation in your body.

On the other hand, people who are dieting often see benefits in the short run, such as more energy and decreased pain. However, is it weight loss (alone) causing those benefits OR is it the increase in nutrient-dense foods (a.k.a. more vegetables and fruit) with a decrease in sugar-filled processed food?

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In fact, research shows changing the types of foods you eat is one of the reasons for improved health. People can eat healthier foods and increase their physical activity - and without losing weight - decrease their risk of disease (Ikeda et al. 2005).

Much of the research around "non-diet healthy eating" is with Intuitive Eating. The focus of Intuitive Eating is listening to your body's cues about eating, re-building trust that your body will tell you what it needs, when it needs it, and how much it needs. We all did this as young children.

Also, with Intuitive Eating you learn to address feelings and life-issues without the use of food as a fake-comforter.

The results of Intuitive Eating? Research shows that you actually choose more nutritious foods and you don't gain weight. If your body needs to lose weight, it will over time (Bacon 2011; Tribole & Resch 2012).

Stop blaming yourself.  Stop dieting.  Start Intuitively Eating.

(The research cited is derived from ACE Fitness Journal May 2018 "Health at Every Size")

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Simple Steps for Men's Health

You typically think of Men's Health Week in relation to scheduling your annual physical/prostate exam/psa test.  Yep, sorry.  That's part of it.

But since sons, brothers, husbands, fathers all impact everyone around them, I encourage men to look at their health beyond an annual physical.

I asked some of the high-achieving men I admire WHAT they do for their health and WHY they do it.  Here are a couple of responses:

"I exercise and always stay moving, I am aware of portion sizes and what I am consuming. It is important to me because I am an older dad and I want to be around for my kids and their kids. :-)" - Will Brown, CPA, Solution Point Consulting

"I workout almost every morning, and try to eat healthy foods 80% of the time. For me, it's about energy. I want to be able to keep up with my kids and never tell them I'm too tired to play." - John Michael Morgan, Business Author, Speaker and Coach 

These men are a great example.  Below are four very simple steps to take to improve your own health.  If you need help implementing these ideas into your life, let me know.  I can help.

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Two Powerful Practices to Get Things Done

High-intensity.  Does the thought of high-intensity excite you or make you back away?  

Multi-tasking.  Do you like trying to multi-task or does it exhaust you?

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Believe it or not, these two concepts are related.  But only one of these is a powerful way to get things done.  High-intensity here is not about physical intensity (e.g. wind sprints, hill work, interval training).  Mental high-intensity is our focus ... literally.  You can use your exercise time to increase your ability to concentrate, which increases your ability to get things done.

Multi-tasking generally decreases performance by up to 40% according to Schwartz and Goldstein (2017).  In a study by Gallagher (2009), distractions increased brain fatigue and thoughts began to wander toward negativity.

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So, how do you train for better focus?  Here are two ways:

Practice mindfulness when you workout. 

Pay close attention to one of aspect of your exercise.  For example, while walking focus intently on the breath or foot strike or arm swing.  After a minute or two (or five) bring your attention to another aspect.  Or during a bicep curl, think about how the biceps feel as they contract and then focus on executing the curl with perfect form.  This practice will both train you to focus and will relax you into the moment.

 

Add feedback to focus for deliberate practice. 

I was first introduced to the concept of deliberate practice in the book "Left Brain, Right Stuff" by Philip Rosenzweig.  His illustrations showed that deliberate practice was good for situations of repeatable skills (playing an instrument) and was not useful in non-repeatable scenarios (making a "big decision").  This makes sense. 

If you are deciding whether to take a job in another state and move your family, you don't get the feedback for whether that was a "good" decision until months later.  Plus, you hope not to repeat that decision very often.  (For a detailed explanation of deliberate practice, read "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle.)

Repeatable scenarios, including public speaking, cooking, crafts, customer interactions, bookkeeping, and evaluating processes in your daily life to name a tiny few, each give you feedback regularly.  So it is worth using your exercise time to hone your deliberate practice skills. 

How to use deliberate practice in your workouts?  

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First 

Set a goal in your exercise performance that is just outside your regular routine.  For example, learn a new leg exercise, or begin taking a Pilates or barre or martial arts class.

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Second

Break the new skill into chunks.  If the leg exercise is a walking lunge, learn to swing your leg into position and catch your balance first.  Another day, learn to engage the front leg to pull you up and forward.  Master each phase of the lunge.

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Third

Get feedback.  From your trainer, get feedback on your form.  From your body, get feedback on what muscles are engaging as you move.

As you learn to focus intently on one moment and then engage feedback to fine-tune the next moment of your workouts, these skills will translate into greater mindfulness, productivity, and mastery practice in your life.  (Side bonus - you'll get better workouts, too.)

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Vacation Snack-Fix (aka homemade granola)

I asked on my Facebook page what road-trip foods people liked.  Tons of varied responses - from sit-down restaurants to picnics to snacks in the car.  One of my favorites is homemade granola, whether on the road or hiking or topping your oatmeal for breakfast.  Easy to make and easy to carry.  This one has a little savory and a little sweet combo.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nut-seed mix (walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, etc.)
  • .5 cup dried fruit (figs, apples, goji berries, raisins, etc.)
  • Orange zest (the more the merrier)
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive or melted coconut oil
  • .5 teaspoon EACH of grated nutmeg, mace, Chinese Five Spice, vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon EACH cinnamon, honey, molasses

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients.  Then mix them together and ... spread on baking sheets or pans.  Bake at 250 F for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

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Let cool and store in the refrigerator.  Pre-bag portions for the road-trip or hiking ... because if you open the entire container, mindless munching might occur and, well, there would be none left for tomorrow. 

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DASH Diet to Good Blood Pressure

I'm not contradicting myself when I teach you about the DASH diet.  Intuitive Eating, the form of Nutrition you learn about from me, says, "Don't Diet."  (Diets have been shown in numerous research to cause stress, poor eating habits, and long-term weight gain in the majority of people.)

However, Intuitive Eating includes "gentle nutrition" - which definitely involves knowing what eating patterns are best for any medical issue you manage.  

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month.  So, here are three ways to help manage high blood pressure:

1.  Move More (aka Exercise and Physical Activity throughout your day)

2.  Manage your Stress

3.  Follow the DASH diet.  If high blood pressure runs in your family, or you are currently dealing with it, watch this video to learn the details.

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7 Steps to Conquer Your Challenges

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When you are making a new habit - whether walking every day or eating vegetables at dinner - you will face challenges...

  • Your work and family are busy.  When do you fit in the walking?
  • No one likes vegetables, including you.  How do you hide them in recipes?
  • You don't know how to start or who can help.  Where do you turn?

In my 16 week Thrive Series I help clients discover and defeat their barriers to success. Here are seven ways you can conquer your challenges to living healthy:

1.  Check your beliefs.  Journal for a day or two the thoughts that go through your head about fitness.  Some common ones are "Oh, this is boring," "I need to ______; I'll go for my walk later," "______ needs me to help them.  I don't want to be selfish; I'll just grab a quick bite and fix a nice dinner tomorrow night," and "I only have 10 minutes, so what's the point."

Once you have written your thoughts you can check their validity and come up with truth.

2.  Meditate.  We live our current patterns by reflex and without thought.  To change to a new manner of living, you must consciously choose your actions each moment, until the new way of living is automatic.  How do you change to a new pattern?  Think constantly on the new habit you want to form.

3. Stop believing the media lies.  When 75-90% of dieters re-gain the weight they lost, it cannot be "dieters" - but must be the "diets." (There is a lot of research explaining the physiology and psychology of diets.)  So, get off the diets and find an approach to eating that you enjoy, that your body was created to do.

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    4.  Prioritize and Delegate.  If lack of time is an issue, write down what you feel responsible to do and then tell yourself "Only do what only I can do."  Start there and delegate, delay, or delete everything else.

    5.  Eliminate all-or-none thinking.  Ten minutes is better than none.  Vegetables on five nights is better than three.  Six cups of water is better than two.  Believe in progress.

    6.  Choose fun physical activity over exercise.  I do not enjoy indoor cardio.  However, in the winter I despise exercising in a cold wind.  So, my solution is two-fold.  Sometimes I ride a stationary bike and catch up on reading and sometimes I deep clean the house at a fast pace to get up my heart rate.  Well, a third option is walking the mall at a brisk pace, too.  

    In the spring and summer, if you don't enjoy traditional exercise, try Frisbee golf, paddleboating, playing tag.

    7.  Intentionally pick friends who support you.  Remember the ABC's of friendship -

    • A - Always encourage you
    • B - Believe in you
    • C - Correct and sharpen you
    • D - Don't tell others about your mistakes

    Pick the tip that will help you the most and focus on it this week.  You can do this!

     

     

     

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    5 Herbs for Stress Management

    Are you in (or just out of) a stressful time?  I encourage you to live the essentials of exercise, sunshine, Intuitive Eating and Powerful Plate, prayer, meditation...

    While those habits are working on your stress, if you need a boost, these five herbal teas/infusions may help, too.  (Of course, just making a cup of tea sounds relaxing, right?)

    Oh, if you are wondering like I did, "What's the difference between a tea and an infusion?" - it is simply how long the herb steeps.  An infusion can be steeped for several hours.

    Which of these herbs do you already use?  What other herbs do you like for stress management?

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    A Test for Life Balance

    I'm still studying for my Continuing Education Exam (less than two weeks away!) and learning new ways to help my private and group clients.  In my studying, I find interesting parallels between the physical body and our daily life.  Here's one reflection to help your body and how you live your life.

    First, the basics of the physical side of this comparison:  A new assessment came out a few years ago called the "McGill's Torso Muscular Endurance Test Battery."  It is three tests of your core endurance that are compared with each other.  

    Can you hold the front of your core (trunk flexion) steady and for how long?  (Below is a picture of the test.)

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    Then, test how long you can hold a lateral plank.  (See the picture below.)

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    Last, can you contract your trunk extensors and for how long?  (Demonstrated below.)

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    This battery of tests indicates your back health and chance of future back pain.  Here is the catch.  It is NOT about how STRONG you are, meaning how much weight you can lift.  It is about how much you can ENDURE, measured in time.  

    Also, it is NOT about how "well" you do on one test.  It is about the ratio (the balance) BETWEEN the tests.  For example, if someone held the flexion test for three minutes, I'd say "wow!"  But, if that same person held the extensor test for two minutes, even though that sounds great, the ratio is flipped of what it should be.  (The extensors should have more endurance than the flexors.)  The actual numbers do not matter as much as the proper balance between them.  In these tests, balance does not mean equal, but correct ratios.

    So, what does this have to do with life?  You've probably already put it together.

    Is your physical life dominating your experience right now?  Are you neglecting relationships?  Perhaps you are investing so much time in your relationships that you are not taking care of your finances?  Just like the battery of tests, having an equal amount of time on each is not appropriate.  You need to invest more time in some areas than others.

    Emergencies in one life area create imbalance.  If that is your experience right now, acknowledge it and set a target to gently get back in balance.

    Last, remember this is about endurance, not strength.  So set yourself up to have physical, mental/emotional, spiritual, and relational reserves.

    Where do you need to invest more?  In what areas (or time-wasters) do you need to spend less?  Time to break out the journal and test your life balance.

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    Learning, Laughter, and What You Need to Throw Out

    In staying current with health and fitness research, my certifications require "Continuing Education Units."  I'm in the final weeks of intense study for an exam, so I'd thought I'd share some of the highlights I'm learning and laughter I'm enjoying.  Plus, give you some tips to create a healthy life.

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    The first one is laughter.  In the chapter on communicating with clients, an "understatement of the year" is made ... "Listening is a skill that is always easier said than done."  Can anyone else relate?

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    The next highlight is more serious.  Exercise keeps our heart healthy and keeps our energy up.  But, in this chapter we review the various balance and planes of movement. Why is that important to you?  Having an exercise program that includes training in balance and moving well means that you will be able to "do life" for a "lifetime" - and with less risk of injury.

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    So...if I ever have you do some strange looking movements like these, I actually have a reason for it.  (You can still laugh at me when I'm teaching them to you, though.)

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    Here's a final thought, and likely the most important one.  (Because it doesn't do you any good if I show you some funny looking movements if they aren't practiced, right?)  I was just talking with someone yesterday about this tip:  Environment!

    We do what is habit.  We do what is easy.  So, make exercise and eating well easier for yourself.  Ask yourself...

    • What is in your environment that cues you to eat poorly or be sedentary?  What do you need to throw out (or at least re-arrange)? 
    • What needs to be in your environment to make eating healthy and moving fun?  Add it.

    For example, a dirty kitchen discourages me from cooking.  Curling up on the sofa to watch a movie clip makes me not want to finish my stretching for the day.  So, I've found my ways around that.  (Doug helps keep the kitchen clean and if I've not finished stretching, I often pull out my stretch mat as we watch part of a movie.  We've not had to throw out the sofa yet.)

    What are your ways to create an environment to live healthy?

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    The battle between meal planning and Intuitive Eating

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    Last week I had a client ask me a massively insightful question:  "How do I both Powerful Plate meal plan for the week and listen to what my body wants in the moment?"

    Let's dig into that.  It is smart to plan your menus for the week.  Cooking is much easier when you have thought ahead for the ingredients you will need, plus you provide a variety throughout the week of flavors and colors.  (For those of you who have watched the Nourish Your Life workshop, you know how important it is to eat a rainbow.)  However, what if you have planned a main-course salad for Thursday, but when Thursday comes the weather is cold.  You and your family want something hearty and hot, not light and cold.

    First, remember that your menu plan is a guide.  Perhaps when you see that the weather is turning cold, thawing out the chili you froze the week before (because you were smart and made a double batch) can be the main course, and add the salad as a side for your vegetable.  No frozen chili in your freezer?  Perhaps Thursday and Friday plans can switch.  Perhaps you can pick up chicken to grill, so there is hot meat on top of the salad.  Flexibility and creativity.

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    Second, in the moment continue to ask yourself the Intuitive Eating questions.  Do I want something hot, cold, crunchy, soft, creamy, or spicy?  If salad is planned for dinner but you want something soft, have the salad and then a banana for dessert.  If you are craving citrus fruit, have whatever is planned for the meal and add an orange as part of your carbohydrate source.  If a basic chicken, vegetables, rice meal is planned but you want something spicy, bring the hot spices to the table and add your own flavors during the meal.

    Unless you hire a short-order cook (or are okay to become one for every member of your family), you won't always have exactly what you want for every meal.  The purpose of the Intuitive Eating questions is to help you not eat mindlessly whatever is there, as well as creatively satisfy your desires as best you can.

    How do you reconcile healthy menu planning with listening to what your body tells you in the moment?

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    The Recipe for Breakfast at Dinner

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    This week I was helping a client with meal planning and she said "We like to have breakfast for dinner.  How can we do that healthy?"  Frittata to the rescue!  Tons of veggies and ample protein.  Plus leftovers for (literal) breakfast, lunch, or snacks the next day.

    I got inspired and made a double batch that night.

    Here's the recipe I use, adapted from the William-Sonoma/Mayo Clinic Cookbook:

    • 6 eggs
    • 2 Tbsp savory, thyme, or other fresh herbs
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 leeks, white and light green thinly sliced
    • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
    • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
    • 1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
    • 1/2 cup diced yellow and red bell pepper

    Whisk together the eggs and herbs

    Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Saute the leeks

    Add the spinach, peas, pepper.  Stir and flatten into even layer.

    Pour the egg mixture over.  Cook, shaking the pan occasionally.  

    When eggs are semi-set, sprinkle with cheese and bell pepper.  Cover and continue to cook until eggs are done.

    Alternate:  (Which is what I did with the double batch) Heat overn to 400F. Saute the leeks.  Transfer leeks to a baking dish, continue the layering as above, without cooking the eggs.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes until eggs are set.

    Now comes the best part.  Enjoy!

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    A Secret to Life Dreams - Hidden in Ice Cream

    Last week I met Nicole Sanborn.  She's a woman with an amazing story of how her health challenges, plus Intuitive Eating, plus her determination created a life she loves today.  Her story will encourage you to listen to your body's signals and not give up on your dreams.

    Her ice cream?  It's not a side interest.  It is actually one of the drivers in her journey.  Fortunately, she has not kept the secret to herself.  She has turned her dream into Smirk Ice Cream.

    (P.S. - I'm not mad in the picture ... just a funny thumbnail the system picked, huh?)

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    3 (Unexpected) Ways to Increase Your Confidence

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    Remember your mother telling you to sit up straight?  Or, more recent, when did you last remind your children to stop slouching?  While good posture is critical for joint health throughout your life, it also helps you succeed in your relationships and career.  It is one of three unexpected ways to increase your confidence.

    1.  Sit and stand tall.  In a study from Ohio State University people were told to write down why they thought they were qualified for a professional job.  One group was told to sit up straight while they wrote.  The other group was instructed to slouch.  The group that sat up straight were significantly more likely to believe what they wrote about themselves.

    Do you have a critical meeting?  Sit tall.  Are you on the phone with "big-wig" later today?  Before you dial the number, stand up and stand straight.

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    2.  Exercise.  It's not just about lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol.  Numerous studies link regular exercise, like walking, to promoting clear-thinking, improving memory and reaction time, as well as increasing self-esteem.  

    Are you anxious about important decisions?  Are you traveling to meet with a possible client next week?  Go for a few walks and you will have greater confidence to decide and act.

    3.  Start a small new health habit.  Why?  Success breeds success. 

    Decide to drink a glass of water each morning and, after you have succeeded, your confidence increases.  Choose to have a side salad instead of fries for a week and by the end of the week, notice how you are congratulating yourself on a job well-done.

    Do these three simple steps and you will increase your confidence.  Increase your confidence and you will improve how you relate with others and advance in your goals.  Mom was right.

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    The Heartfelt Truth about Exercise - how much is enough?

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    In this world of "all-or-nothing" thinking, high intensity exercise, and no-pain-no-gain workouts, it is easy to stay on the sofa.  No more.  Grab your walking shoes - or even just a comfortable pair of slip-ons.

    February is National Heart Month, so let's talk about how much exercise is needed for heart health.

    Three times/week of 15-30 minutes of brisk walking can help lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  What's brisk?  If you can carry on a conversation with a little bit of effort, you are at a brisk pace.  (If you can talk as though you were still sitting on the sofa, umm, it is not a brisk pace.)

    Also, in a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 39372 females over the age of 45 were followed for 4-7 years.  Vigorous activities and walking were studied, in relation to heart disease.

    The results?  Vigorous activity (for example, running) "were associated with lower risk."  But, walking also "predicted lower risk."  Interestingly, when walking time and walking pace were analyzed, it was "time spent walking, but not walking pace" that "predicted lower risk." 

    Even just one hour of walking per week lowered risk of heart disease, regardless of weight or cholesterol levels.

    What's your take-away?  If you like to run or do structured exercise programs, and your joints allow it, go for it.  If you don't enjoy that, get off your sofa, put on some comfy shoes, and go for a walk. 

    The key is consistency.  The decreased risk was not in the women who ran or walked during January of each year and then stopped.  Pick activities you enjoy (walking, running, hiking, swimming, cycling, tennis, circuit classes, ...) and commit to move throughout the week.

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    5 things to do with leftover Valentine's chocolate

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    So, your sweetheart gave you a big box of chocolate for Valentine's Day?  Yippee!  Until the sugar rush hits from more than a couple of pieces.  So what to do with all the extra chocolate?

    1.  If you aren't a big fan of the chocolate (or at least not the kind you received), take it to work or to friends to share.  Someone will surely like it.

    2.  Freeze it to use later in recipes calling for chocolate, whether cakes, pies, or melting over fresh fruit.

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    3.  Freeze it to use in trail mix.  (Freeze it for a day.  Remove from freezer and cut into small pieces.  In resealable sandwich bags, add a small handful of frozen chocolate pieces.  Add a mix of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, etc. with the chocolate for trail mix.  When you are heading out to hike, grab a bag.  The chocolate will not melt as quickly when it starts out frozen.

    4.  Keep out 3-4 of your favorite pieces to savor over the next week.  The key is to savor.  When I was a kid we'd make french vanilla pudding once every few months.  I knew I would only get this favorite treat on occasion, so I made a game of how slowly I could eat it and how long a bite would stay in my mouth until I swallowed it.  Make a game of how long a piece of chocolate can last.

    5.  Toss it (discreetly).  Not your favorite pieces, of course.  You and your tastebuds are worth enjoying the best.  Part of Intuitive Eating is savoring what you really enjoy.  If there are some pieces you don't like, don't waste yourself on them.   

    Happy Valentine's Day!

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    HWSS. The best secret you want to share.

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    It will hopefully not be a secret for long.  HWSS my shorthand for Intuitive Eating basics.  Here's an overview of how we were created to eat.  Use the questions before you eat to listen to your needs.

    H - Hunger.  Are you physically hungry?  What are the signs your body gives you that you are ready to eat?  What are the symptoms that say you've waited too long?   

    W - Want.  What do you want to eat?  Not what do you think you crave for fear of deprivation.  But what would "feel good" after you've eaten it?  Are you needing a particular fruit?  Are a balanced meal?  Does fish or red meat sound most satisfying right now?  Really tune into the subtle cues.

    S - Slow and savor.  Don't eat with distraction.  Research consistently shows that we overeat by 10% when we eat while doing other tasks (even reading this blog).  Present your food well.

    S - Stop when you are satisfied.  What cues does your body give that you've had enough?  Is the taste diminishing from when you started to eat?

    In March, which is National Nutrition Month, I'll delve in a little deeper.  My challenge to you right now is pick one letter each week and practice listening to your body.  Then let me know - either here or on Facebook (facebook.com/TheViREOLife) about what you've learned.  Share this with your dieting-again friends.  Let's not keep this a secret.

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    Is it the Industry? Is it the Plan? Or...

    I was reading what someone wrote about financial investing strategies.  "If my investing is going badly, it is one of only two possibilities: either something in the plan is not working or I am not adhering to the plan.  Discipline improves my chance of success."

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    I immediately thought of one attempted investment in our health.  Dieting.  Ugh.  For years I thought the diet rollercoaster was because of not adhering to the plan (a.k.a. the latest diet fad).  Turns out that something in the plan (diet) was not working.  Not a particular diet, but the overall concept of dieting. 

    Research is showing us repeatedly now how dieting sets up a subtle fear of deprivation and triggers our boundary protection.  If you have ever experienced the "last supper binge" you know about the fear of deprivation.  "I'm going to eat all the chocolate in the house, because for the next 90 days I won't eat any sweets."  Then 5 days into it, you "cheat" and binge again.  Because you are starting again Monday.

    Also, when an external rule (even one you make for yourself) says you can only have so many calories or grams of ___, your sense of autonomy says "Really?  Just watch me."  Then we beat ourselves up for lack of discipline.

    There is an answer.  Intuitive Eating.  In Part Two I'll introduce you to how you were designed to eat.

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    Avoiding Germs in the Gym - Seven Simple Steps

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    Eww, gross.  That phrase is often heard (or thought) in gyms and it becomes a reason many people avoid working out at a gym.  But seven simple steps will keep the germs in check.  Plus, remember that exercise improves your immune system.  Even if you are exposed to a few germs at the gym, you are still healthier in the long-run for going.

    1.  The most effective advice outside the gym is most effective in the gym. Do not touch your face. (Admitted, this can be a challenge if you have sweat sliding toward your eyes.)  

    2.  Based on the first tip, bring your own face towel to wipe your face. Even if your gym provides towels, you don't know how (or by whom) they have been handled, so at least for your face, bring your own.

    3.  Before you get on the exercise equipment with your personal towel, use the disinfecting spray and gym-provided towel (see number five) to wipe down any areas hands usually touch. Bars and control boards are the most common.

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    4.  If someone is coughing and sneezing, avoid them by at least three feet. If the gym is small, that may mean switching the order of your workout. Usually do weights first and there's a someone dripping their runny nose on the bench press? Time to head to the treadmills.

    5.  If your gym does not provide disinfecting spray and cleaning towels, talk to management about how you come to the gym to get healthy.

    6.  Oh, we must talk about the gym mats and carpet. Nasty, smelly, germ-containers that you don't notice until you are doing a push-up with your nose a couple of inches from them. No problem. Either go to a hard surface which does not trap as many germs or bring your own mat.

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    7.  The locker room is a treasure-trove of germs. Here are two essentials.  First, wash your hands thoroughly, especially before touching your face to apply make-up or shave your face.  Second, never let your feet touch the floor to avoid athlete's foot and toenail fungus.  Wear your "beach shoes" even in the shower and steam room.  

    These basic tips have proven central to staying well at the gym. The shoe tip became personal when working at a high-end gym. (Side note - germs do not discriminate by monthly dues.) I went into the steam room without shoes. I came out with athlete's foot.  Learn from my mistake.

    Follow these simple steps - even when you are not at the gym - and avoid the germs.  

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    5 tips to stop walking around confused about your exercise

    "Should I exercise in the morning or night?  Should I do cardio first or last?  Do I need to lift weights - and, if so, how do I stay safe?"

    As you start the New Year and you want to exercise, sometimes the "what do I do?" questions keep you from starting.  So, here are some guidelines to get you moving:

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    1.  There are pros/cons physically for both morning and evening exercise.  So the BEST time to exercise is when it works for your lifestyle.  If you try a certain time and it doesn't work, try another time.  Once you find your time, block it like any appointment for consistency.

    2.  If you are doing both cardio and strength training in the same session, ideally, warm up for 5 minutes, then do your strength training, then your cardio.  However, unless you are doing intense cardio (intervals, etc.), you can try both ways to find your preference.

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    3.  You do need to lift weights.  It improves your bone density (and you know after last week's video how important that is to me), increases your metabolism, and keeps you strong for the activities of life now and long-term.  For safety, for the first two weeks start with half the weight you think you can do.  Invest in a few sessions with a personal trainer to check your form.  

    4.  Move throughout the day.  More research is coming out about "sitting is the new smoking."  Every 30-60 minutes get up and walk around for 3-10 minutes.  If you need to ask a co-worker a question, don't instant-message.  Walk to his or her desk.  If you need to take a restroom break, take one flight of stairs to the restroom on another floor.

    5.  Stretching after (not before) your exercise is important.  Walking or another warm-up is important before your workout, but you don't want to stretch muscles that are "cold."  Invest time stretching after exercise.

    Of course, no matter what, try different activities to find what you enjoy.  Have fun!  (I guess that would be tip #6?)

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    What I learned from a medical fluke

    In November and December I dealt with a medical fluke and some strong meds. I learned a few lessons:

    1.  God is the ultimate Healer, healing beyond what can be done through medical science.  (And I am so grateful He gave us the knowledge for medical science.)

    2.  I have an amazing support team.  If you don't have a group that you lean on, start building one now.

    3.  Well, for the third one (and for the medical fluke story), watch the video.  You will also learn how to increase your motivation for exercise and eating well.

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