Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Road Trip

Road Trip!  I was driving over eight hours yesterday so I could be with my son when he has surgery on his knee today---torn ACL.  As I was traveling down I-80, I was thinking how easy it would be to go hog wild and overeat in the car.  Every time you stop for gas, those big size candies almost jump into your hand as you check out, along with the donuts, chips, and all the other incredibly not-so-healthy munchies that many folks just grab along with coffee to keep them awake or busy while they drive. And the fast food restaurant of your choice is right there as you drive along...

And what did I take with me, all alone in the car?  Besides the obvious sunglasses, of course, I needed some "safer snacks" to battle the less healthy choices I met along the way.  I had one zip lock bag filled with baby carrots to nibble whenever I felt like it. Those were within my reach. In the back seat sat a gallon bag that I filled with some the pre-portioned snacks from our snack basket in the pantry:  1/2 ounce packets of almonds, Emerald 100 calorie packs of cocoa almonds, dried apricots, and 1ounce bags of whole grain Wheat Thins.  I also grabbed a couple of apples and bananas. And sugar-free gum-- Trident peppermint is my choice.  

I have to stop frequently to stretch and use eye drops.  After each stop, I would buy a drink of some sort (I forgot to pack water, oops!) and then ask myself if I was hungry.  If I was, I would grab one or two snacks and move them up front with me.  I did enjoy a decaf skinny-skinny latte in the evening, which I sipped on as I finished my trip.  Got my dairy in with pleasure! This method worked really well for me.  I kept my blood sugar level steady throughout the day, and stayed alert.  The only things I purchased along the way was coffee, water and gas... Not bad!

As the saying goes,
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail... 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Are You Hungry?

 Hungry again?  It was just an hour ago since lunch, but here you are, digging through the snack drawer trying to find something to munch on. Have you ever had those days when you feel hungry all day long, can't get satisfied, and you just keep doing a search and seize mission on all available food?

It's important to recognize that there are two types of hunger:  physical and emotional.  Both types may make us feel like heading to the kitchen for a snack or a full scale meal, but we need to learn to calm the emotional hunger if we want to stay at a healthy weight. Let's take a look:
  • Physical hunger begins when your blood sugar level drops: you haven't eaten for some time and your gas gauge is heading toward the big E--empty. Your stomach sends strong signals by rumbling its discontented emptiness.  Some people will get shaky, irritable (however, there are lots of other reasons for that!) light-headed, weak, nauseous, and head achy when their blood sugar level drops. It's harder for your body and brain to work at their peak performance levels:  don't run a race and expect your best time or take an exam on empty stomach!
  • Emotional hunger can be defined as the desire to eat in the absence of physical hunger. You still feel drawn toward food and want to eat, but your blood sugar level is normal. You are looking to fill some emotional need with food.  Emotions such as being sad, angry, lonely, happy, depressed, bored, stressed and anxious, can cause people to feel hungry---really, any emotion at all.
If you've been on many diets, you may have learned to think of physical hunger as a good thing.  It's fun to visualize those hunger pangs as little PacMan guys running around eating up the fat in fat cells (that doesn't really happen, unfortunately.) The trouble is, getting too hungry can backfire:  you end up eating too much and giving up on the weight loss plan.  Many diets are just too restrictive: it hurts to be hungry. You know, diet does have that word "die" in it, which is a rather negative note...

When you want to eat yet again, try to Examine Your Hunger:

Are you physically hungry?
  •  Is your stomach growling?
  •  Do you have any other physical hunger symptoms: light-headed, weak, and cranky? If you do, then label it the physical hunger it is.
  •  Solution? Have a good, healthy snack or meal. Less nutritious food usually won't feel as good in your body at this point. Twinkies won't cut it, but whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and carrots will. 
Are you emotionally hungry?
  •  If your aren't physically hungry, then stop before you eat, if possible!
  •  Promise yourself that you will not eat for 10 minutes.
  •  Redirect your activity:  walk, knit, drink a glass of water, play on the computer, or call a friend. After you've been working on this awhile, start to examine why you feel like eating.
  •  At the end of the 10 minutes, if you still want to eat, you can:  sit down at a table with the food on  a plate, and slowly savor every bite.  Enjoy it without guilt!
  •  Reflect.  Try facing that emotion head on, feeling it and experiencing it. Food doesn't take away the emotion, it just masks your ability to feel it as sharply.  It's like the damper pedal on the piano or the muffler on your car. It deadens the sound. Food only fixes physical hunger.  It's time to get healthy and learn to deal with the emotion without food.  Get help from a friend or therapist if you need to,  it's OK!                       
  • Repeat!
It takes time, determination and a lot of repetition to change a behavior.  We are trying to change the way we use food. Food is fuel.  It's meant to be enjoyed and to feed our bodies well.  Food is not to be used to quell emotions and to avoid facing them. Using it in this way leads us down the path to the dark side...into the deep, dark chocolate pit, and it's hard to get out of there!  Let's start working together on this, one hunger drive at a time.  Deal?

To your health!

Friday, April 16, 2010

BIg, Iced Coffee Drinks All Around?

As the weather gets warmer, many coffee lovers start turning toward those luscious, yummy, icy coffee drinks that every coffee shop offers.  You know, the really pretty drinks that are served in the clear plastic cups so you can see all that icy goodness as it piles in there.  And then, each cup is decorated with light, fluffy white whipped cream.  It's so fun to watch the barista try and squeeze the dome shaped lid on top of the mountain of yum.  I know, because I drop by every once in awhile for a special coffee treat myself.  Yes, I am a true coffee lover like many of you.  However, after doing quite a bit of observing lately, I really need to get a little info out there:


It's true.  A Starbucks favorite, the grande White Chocolate Frappuccino blended coffee drink weighs in at a big 610 calories and 17 grams of fat. OUCH!  That's with the mounds of whipping cream piled on top.  The vente size (largest) packs on 760 calories.  Think!  If the average person needs around 2300 calories each day,  and 610 of those are coming from fat and sugar in  morning coffee, what's left for the healthy foods? How quickly will you overeat on the day you drink one of these?

I did a little very unscientific research.  I called 2 different area chain coffee shops:  Biggby and Starbucks.  Both gave me the information: most people get the grande size and when ordering the cold drinks and all top them off with whipped cream.  Whipped cream adds 130 calories and 11 grams of fat on top of one drink at Starbucks.  If you simply ate those as extra calories--over what your body needed in a day--you would gain 13.5 pounds in a year.  I also observed very few people at ideal weights in the coffee shops who were buying the "foo-foo" drinks.  Coincidence?  Hmm...

There are lighter choices. We just have to learn what to order when we get there:

  • NO WHIP. Period.  Imagine the whipped cream being injected straight into a roll of tummy fat or around your heart...Ugh!!  Save this for a rare treat.
  • Smaller-Size Me!  Do you really need a venti size beverage with 760 calories in it? Studies have shown that when we drink our calories, we seem to consume more than if we ate them.  
  • Non-fat milk or light. Starbucks light mocha Frappucccino costs only 140 calories if you hold the whip. Asking for the light and then adding whip cream....well, it saves some, calories, but is just wrong on too many levels.  Biggby offers sugar-free flavors for their Big Chills.  A 16 oz. hazelnut Big Chill comes in at 137 calories (no whip!)
  • Latte over ice.  You can just choose to have a non-fat latte over ice, assuring you a serving of good healthy milk with your shot of espresso.  Sugar-free syrups can sweeten with even fewer calories.
What do I like to order? It's strange, but no matter what the temperature is, I still like my coffee hot!  My coffee special treat is a skinny-skinny hazelnut or vanilla latte, extra hot.  I was taught years ago that skinny means skim milk, and the second skinny means with a sugar-free syrup.  Recently in the St. Louis airport Starbucks, I was told I only needed to say one skinny to get non-fat and sugar free.  Guess I need to update my coffee lingo!

Moral of today's story?  On your quest toward a healthy you, be sure to watch your coffee drinks!

To your health, Cheers!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food Revolution: ABC's Great New Motivator

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  I've had a number of people ask me what I thought about ABC's newer Friday night show, so I caught up with all 4 episodes last Friday. (Back episodes are online  http://abc.go.com/shows/jamie-olivers-food-revolution.)

Oliver is a zesty British chef who has caught the "Get America Healthier" bug.  He planted himself in Huntington, West Virginia, hoping to make some changes in the way the unhealthiest town in America eats. His first attempt at change was in an elementary school where he was amazed to see what kids were actually eating for school breakfast and lunches. Viewers see an abundance of oversized kids eating pizza, chicken nuggets, fries, and strawberry and chocolate milk, with few things that we would recognize as a fruit or vegetable. 

The solid points I've gotten from the show so far:
  • People must be aware that there is a problem with the way they are doing things: "eating this way is killing you,"  and given a strong reason to change, before they will attempt to change.
  • People are incredibly resistant to change.
  • Some (many?) food offerings in school are of questionable nutritional value. Most kids choose chocolate or strawberry milk over plain, white low-fat milk. Are you surprised?
  • Lack of education: Not one kid in an entire class could identify even one vegetable. They didn't even know the fries they ate came from potatoes. 
  • Not much cooking at home is happening if you don't count heating up nuggets and fries. 
  • We ALL have to work together to help make healthier choices in what we eat, including parents, schools, and youth group leaders of all types.
  • Lead by example:  we must all pursue a healthier life along with the kids!
  • Government guidelines for schools count fries as a vegetable.  OUCH!! Time for some tweaking of some guidelines perhaps?
  • Use your own special talents to make a difference.  Jamie Oliver does this with this entire program and specifically in the challenge to teach 1000 people in the city to cook a meal with fresh foods.  He makes it a challenge, it's fun and really creates a successful project with his talents as chef.
  • Everyone needs to get involved to improve the health of our country.
The show is absolutely spot on. It provides an eye opening look into what many families today are eating, and presents quite clearly what will happen if this continues to be the case, including last week's look at a double wide casket that needed a truck to be transported.  Yes, it's TV, and yes, some of it is sensationalized to improve it's viewing quality.  But, it does the trick.  Hopefully, the message will be getting out and it will zip some impetus for changing the way you, as one small piece of America, eat.  Click on the show, get motivated with Jamie and learn to cook healthy, nutritious foods for you and your family.  If the show can get even one family to eat healthier, great job!

I'll keep blogging, writing, and motivating people in groups in their quest for good health and nutrition.  Give Jamie Oliver the 9 p.m. time slot on Friday nights on ABC to fire up some more Americans to make a change and start eating healthier!

Fire up!  We can do this!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Grocery List For Health!

One of the best things you can do to assure healthy eating each week is to make sure your kitchen is well stocked for success! If you only have saltine crackers and chocolate chips in your cupboard, dinner will probably be fast food or speed dial pizza in addition to the chips.  It's time to plan for your success: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

This is the grocery list that I started and the Mind-full Motivator Support groups amended.  I thought you may want to take a look at this as a starting point for your own healthy kitchen.

Be sure to let us know what you added!

Grocery List for Healthy Eating

Fresh Produce:
¯Apples, Bananas
¯Carrots, Celery
¯Dried Cherries, cranberries, and apricots
¯Fruit in season:  strawberries, melons
¯Lemons, lime
¯Onions, scallion, chives
¯Parsley, Cilantro, fresh Basil
¯Peppers, green, red, yellow 
¯Sun-dried tomatoes (oil-free)
¯Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Meat Section
¯Beef or pork, ground (round, sirloin, 90% lean or better)
¯Beef, roast (sirloin, rump, round)
¯Beef, steak (round, sirloin, filet, strip)
¯Chicken or Turkey (breast, thighs, whole)
¯Fish, salmon
¯Pork (loin chops, loin roast)
¯Turkey or chicken,  ground (90%lean or better)
¯Turkey or chicken sausage

     ¯Applesauce, unsweetened
¯Beans, canned/dried: black, white, garbanzo, and red
¯Broth, low sodium:  chicken, beef, vegetable
    ¯Cereals, whole grain
    ¯Cooking spray
¯Crackers, whole grain
¯Fruits, in juice: pineapple
    ¯Grains, whole: barley, bulgur, quinoa, couscous
    ¯Granola bars (Kashi TLC bars)
    ¯Marinara sauce,
¯Mustard: Dijon, whole grain, yellow 
¯Nuts: almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts
¯Nuts in ½ ounce packages (Emerald Cocoa roasted almonds!)
¯Oats (quick, old-fashioned, steel cut)
¯Oil: olive, canola, sesame
¯Pasta, whole wheat: spaghetti, linguini, rotini
¯Peanut Butter
¯Rice: microwaveable brown, instant brown, long grain brown, wild
¯Salmon, canned
¯Tomatoes, petite diced
¯Tortillas, corn or whole grain
¯Tortilla chips, baked
¯Tuna, chunk light in water
¯Vinegar: white, cider, balsamic, red wine

¯Butter, spreadable, with olive oil or canola oil, light or regular  (Land O  Lakes)
¯Cheese, low fat cheddar: shredded, individual packaged chunks
¯Cheese, low fat mozzarella: string cheese sticks, shredded  
¯Margarine spread (zero transfats and saturated fats)
¯Milk. fat-free
¯Sour Cream, low fat
¯Yogurt, non-fat:  plain, Greek

¯Frozen veggies:  broccoli, corn, edamame, shelled, peas, spinach, winter squash, veggie blends 
¯Fruit: blueberries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries
¯Fruit popsicles (100% fruit)
¯Light ice cream or yogurt
¯Salmon, shrimp
¯Veggie burgers or crumbles 

OK, now it's your turn.  I'm sure this list isn't complete...What did we miss that YOU always keep on hand? 

Let's keep this healthy grocery list forming until it contains all things that really keep you eating like that healthy, svelte, buff, strong, wonderful person you really want to be!

To your health!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Let's Play Some Ball!!

OK~What's the next health goal you're working toward?  Lowering your blood glucose or cholesterol a bit?  Losing a couple of pounds or becoming more active?  Whatever it is, make it a tiny goal, and write it down somewhere you'll see it often this week. This is the goal you'll focus on just for now: one step at a time...or maybe one game at a time?

When you're working toward a health goal it's a lot like playing a game of basketball.  To win the game, you need to score the most points by sinking the most shots through the basket. But, the other team doesn't just stand out of the way and let you shoot.  Nope.  They do everything in their power to STOP you from getting that ball through the hoop--- they play tough defense because they want to win.  It's a game of strategy, strength, endurance and skill...and it takes drive, determination and perseverance to win.  And so it is with our health goals.

Let's say your mini health goal is to lose 2 pounds. Strategy sets the stage first:
  • Identify the 5 players on defense you are up against.  Maybe it's the Easter candy that keeps calling your name, leftover cheesy potatoes, your preference to curl up on the sofa after work instead of going for a walk, emotional eating, and no time to shop for healthy foods.
  • Defensive game plan.  You can bet that both Duke and Butler knew exactly what they were up against coming into the NCAA final game last night.  They reviewed films, watched games, and knew the strengths and weaknesses of each player on the opposing team.  The coaches created many plays for their game plan against that team based on the info they had.  In the game, if one play didn't work, they went to another.  For us, we have to find a way to silence the voices of the defensive player who keeps taunting us with the sale prices of Easter candy and telling us to stock up. Find ways to get around the defense and score:  go for walk, shop for fresh veggies! 
  • Offensive game plan. Create a way you can achieve your health goals easier. Offense is action. Purge your home and work environment of foods that have seductive voices and bring in healthier food choices. Put your sneakers on as soon as you come home from work so you won't be tempted to lie down on the sofa, and schedule a regular walking date with a friend to walk and talk about everything that is bugging you....great therapy with a little exercise on the side!  Whatever it is, just start with actions for your game plan---plays to run.  If they work, keep doing them.  If they don't, figure out another play, and run a new one! 
  • Momentum.  Just like in a ball game, when you score the basket, you get fired up, and the crowd gets into the game with you.  When you are successful doing something positive toward your goal, you feel good about yourself and the momentum starts leading you to more success....pretty cool, huh? Success breeds success.
  • Practice.  Once you've got your plays down, you have to keep them sharp.  You can bet Butler and Duke had plenty of mental and physical practice getting to where they did in the NCAA championship game.  We need to practice our skills in scheduling exercise, shopping for healthy foods...it all takes practice! The more you practice, the stronger you become, and the easier these new behaviors will be.
I'm just trying to get you to look at your "getting healthier" goal a little differently.  Your pursuit of this goal is a game, or rather a series of games in an entire season.  There is no failure, only feedback.  If you miss a basket, figure out why, and try again.

Geno Auriemma, the coach of the amazing UConn Women's basketball team said, " I've seen teams, when they're winning, they know they're going to win and want to win.  When they're losing, they accept losing: 'O.K., it's not our day today, I'll get it tomorrow.'  My guys refuse to accept that under any circumstances." We need this same winning attitude.

Practice, strategy, strength, endurance and skill...and it takes drive, determination and perseverance to win.  And so it is with our health goals...

Stay focused!  Fire up, you can do it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arena Food: Whoa!

It was an incredible 2 days of basketball in St. Louis!  I had never been to a sweet sixteen NCAA tournament before, and I have to admit, it was definitely even more fun than I had imagined it was going to be. I loved watching the crowds:  the fans decked out in the 4 distinct team colors of the rainbow giving the arena splashes of yellow, red, green and purple. Fans were not only sporting new brightly colored T-shirts, but even the men were bedazzled in sparkling beads of the team colors....just totally getting into the games!  And the little girl sitting across the aisle from us with a brand new NCAA Final Four basketball...I mean, could her life get any better? Maybe she'll play in one of these games some day...

The games were great---all three so close and so well played. If you were rooting for a particular team, you lost your nails in St. Louis.  I was amazed at the behavior of the fans.  With only a couple of exceptions, they allowed the opposing team to have their turn to cheer with their cheerleaders and pep bands without trying to drown them out.  Good sports, even when their team lost.  No yelling of obscenities, they just took it in stride and I like to think they were just proud their team was there.  I kept thinking I would like to see more of this on the courts and on little league fields when things get out of hand....

There was one troubling sight, however:  the arena food. And it came with plenty of intense aroma, too. Whoa!  Foot long hot dogs, corn dogs, giant containers of French fries sagging over the edges of the box, coconut oil laden tubs of popcorn, steak'n cheese sandwiches, BBQ pork sandwiches, huge platters of nachos, candy in movie theatre box sizes, cotton candy, Cracker Jacks....and sodas that sold for $5.25 each (water did, too.)  The lines were longer for the food than for the T-shirts (of course, the shirts were more expensive, and if you were hungry, the shirt wouldn't help much...)

Recurring Theme at the Food Stands: Feeding Your Body for "Non-Health"
  • High Fat
  • High Saturated Fat (evil stuff)
  • High Sodium
  • Low Fiber, except popcorn which was adulterated
  • Few healthy offerings: No fruit,veggies, or yogurts in sight
I should also mention I noticed many, many fans who were stretching out their  XXL T-shirts in a very unhealthy way.  Eating lots of arena food once in a lifetime probably won't make or break your long term health goals, but was it too much of a coincidence of body size and all that food?

I just have a few thoughts to share....
  • Eat a healthy meal before you go to the ball games.  If you plan on eating there, you can just picture your arteries filling up with saturated fats and reacting to a sodium overload...good thing there are great hospitals nearby!
  • If you want a special treat food there, pick one to have.  Take it back to your seat.  Sit, eat and enjoy.  Stop when you are full.   You don't have to finish it!  Better yet, share it with someone: those portions are killers. (Literally?)
  • Buy the water.  You can't bring in your own, so just buy it.  I know it costs too much, but you need to stay hydrated, and your body will thank you.  Sometimes people confuse hunger and thirst signals, and you don't want that to happen here!
  • I brought in Kashi bars, Emerald mini packs of almonds, and Archer Farms real fruit strips to share.  Yes, they searched my purse, and saw them in there, and nodded me on in.  (No alcohol, so I was good!) My snacks helped so much when everyone around us were going nacho on us!
  • I would like to encourage arena food suppliers to sell yogurt, granola bars (why not Kashi bars?) mini packages of nuts, and mini boxes of raisins... What about a low fat chicken sandwich on whole grain bread? Just try selling these for the sake of the health of all these people you want to keep coming to your big tournaments!  Who knows?  It may help keep them healthier and active longer, so that they can come, buy tickets and T-shirts for decades to come.  
And.....On we go to the Final Four!!  How are your picks doing?

As carefully as you picked your teams for the Final Four, 
Remember to pick/choose your food to feed yourself well, too!

To your health!