by Shira Adatto
The weather is getting hotter… are you? I used to dread summer, and not because of the warm weather. Just the thought of having to get into a bathing suit made me cringe. It wasn’t until one summer when I looked at a photo of myself and realized the not-so-slim woman in the picture was myself that I finally got tired of being uncomfortable in my own skin. At that moment, it really clicked for me. As painful as it was, that photo made me realize that I needed to make a change and it was that mental shift that got me started down the path of getting fit and getting myself to a weight that I could feel good about. The fact of the matter is, any big change in life always starts with a decision to do so. Until you make that commitment to do something, nothing will change. And if you don’t have a big enough reason driving you to make that change, you won’t be able to stick to a plan of action. For me, seeing myself in that photo was my “why”. I was so tired of hating the way I looked in pictures. Letting years go by where I hid from the camera while precious family memories were being created was not an option.
Knowing what I wanted to accomplish, I decided to set a small achievable goal, to give myself something attainable, and not something that was going to feel too big or too overwhelming. So while I wanted to lose 30 lbs., I set a goal to lose 10. Why? Because how you start determines how you finish. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, no matter what your ultimate goal is, the first 10 lbs. are going to be the most crucial and will set the rhythm for the rest of the journey. There is even research that suggests the odds of someone achieving their overall weight loss goal increases dramatically with whether or not they are able to lose the first 10 lbs.
Losing that initial 10 lbs. will also carry with it some remarkable benefits. You will look better, you will most certainly feel better, your friends will start to notice and you will gain more confidence. A 10 lb. difference can even do wonders for your overall health, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improve your mood and self-esteem. It can even increase your brain power.
Scientifically, the first 10 lbs. will probably also be the ones you lose the fastest. Your body will react differently to a brand new change in your eating habits and will burn fat easier, faster and more efficiently. But the real key is that losing 10 lbs. is where old habits are broken and new habits are created. If you want to be a healthy, fit person, you have to create the habits of a healthy fit person. It doesn’t just happen with a mental shift.
So for those of you who are committed to Going for 10, here are my top tips for helping you do so:
Start the day right.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Those who skip breakfast tend to snack more and overindulge later on. A breakfast that is high in protein will give your metabolism a boost and reduce afternoon crashes. Protein smoothies are my breakfast of choice.
Get more Zzz ’s.
Research shows that people who get insufficient sleep tend to eat more and crave more carbs. As moms it’s tough to always get in enough sleep. So aim to be in bed by 10 pm.
Drink enough water.
Most people think that water while dieting is just to keep them full but in fact, dehydration can slow down your metabolism. In addition, most people confuse thirst for hunger.
Whenever possible, eat whole fresh foods and stay away from highly processed empty calories. Put 10% less food on your plate. Little tricks like simply using a smaller plate can help you keep portions under control.
Exercise 10 extra minutes a day .
If you already exercise, extending your daily routine by just 10 minutes can help you through a plateau or kickstart your metabolism. If you don’t exercise at all, start by adding a 10-minute walk daily. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Use mobile apps to track calories.
Studies show that people who track their calories have much better results and don’t mindlessly snack throughout the day.
Don’t go it alone.
Increase your fiber.
Since fiber increases feelings of fullness, adding 10g of fiber a week can decrease overall calorie intake and help you lose weight.
Know your “Why” and remind yourself of it each day.
What are the reasons driving you to make this change? Do you want to have more energy? Live a long healthy life and be around for your kids? Avoid a life of sickness? Tired of hating the way you look, the way you feel in clothes, cringing at the site of yourself in pictures? You have to tap into the emotional reasons of WHY you want to make this change so that you stay committed to your goal.
Lastly, believe in yourself.
Believe that you can do this and you will. Do not sabotage yourself with self-doubt. We are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. Visualize yourself succeeding, overcoming obstacles, have the belief that you can do this and you can.
Cookies and chocolate and pie – oh my! Eggnog, champagne and wine – divine! The holiday season is officially here! There is excitement, stress, and for most of us, lots and lots of eating. Many of you are traveling, or have at least departed from any sense of normal. As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Lack of time to exercise probably doesn’t help either. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet as soon as we ring in the New Year (as we shovel another brownie in our mouths).
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse. Trips to the supermarket also turn into a tantalizing adventure of temptation as you find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them. All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities that make maintaining control a huge challenge. For the better part of the year, many of us make healthy eating a habit. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as we indulge in eating as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Despite all this, with a little good planning, it is possible to avoid being part of that swelling statistic and maybe even still fit into that little black dress you were hoping to wear to the holiday parties.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Just maintaining your weight during this time of year can go a long way.
Limit the liquid calories:
Soda, eggnog and cocktails can pack amazing quantities of calories, most of them devoid of nutrition. If you limit the holiday treat to foods, you will easily cut down on sugar and calories. Meanwhile, load up on water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks to keep well hydrated and feel fuller.
This is an obvious one, I know, but it is also obviously simple to blow off during holiday season. It comes down to being committed. You have to commit in your mind that exercise will be a priority. Plan it and put it in the schedule. You might not always be able to do your normal workout routine, but if you at least walk or do some strength moves at home daily, take stairs rather than elevators, dance to holiday music, play outside with the kids, it will help release stress, improve immunity, minimize and maybe even eliminate weight gain.
Tame your appetite before the party:
One of the worst things you can do is to starve yourself the day of a party to bank calories. Not eating can severely mess with your metabolism (as in, slow it down) and your hunger will likely send you straight to the buffet line to overindulge. Instead, eat a high protein snack like a handful of nuts, a few rolls of turkey, a spoonful of tuna or some low fat cheese. You should also drink a full glass of water before every meal to stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger and can cause snack attacks. At the party, load up on veggies and high protein dishes. Limit the carbs and greasy fare to a minimum.
Use healthy substitutes for holiday fare. Instead of whole milk products, use low fat or non-fat variations. For example, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make your favorite holiday dips and consider other healthy dips like salsa and hummus.
Limit holiday splurges:
Write all the holiday parties and gatherings in your calendar and then commit to limiting splurges to those special events. Your greatest source of extra calories is probably from the daily intake of cookies and other goodies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year. If we give ourselves license to go off program the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the results could take months to undo. It takes far more effort to lose a pound than it does to gain one. Unfortunately, it only takes one big meal to send the scale soaring for most of us. In between holiday splurges, fill in all the other days with regular healthy meals and careful planning.
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat almost double than he or she normally would eating alone. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it’s your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it — maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season – and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, enjoy a healthy glass of red wine, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet. Imagine starting the new year feeling your best and getting back on the path to a healthier you rather than having to begin the race again ten pounds behind the start line.
Are you a busy stay-at-home mom, mompreneur or working mom who is usually on the go and doesn’t have a lot of time, but still has a desire to make healthy living a priority? Busy mom. I chuckle because the term itself is probably redundant. I mean let’s face it, what mom isn’t busy and constantly juggling a million things? We are the masters of multi-tasking. On the same token, every mom wants to get healthy, set a good example for her children and keep her family as healthy as possible. Yet we can’t seem to find the time for it. If you want to make a change in your health or your lifestyle, it doesn’t have to be hard. The key is to find new habits that will serve you better. But it does require a small amount of commitment and a huge desire to feel and look your best. The payoff will come in knowing that you are taking an important step to ensure that your family is healthy.
The good news is with a little preplanning and preparation, you and your family can maintain a healthy diet while keeping your active schedule.
Many busy families rely on the drive-thru or a takeout menu to get a meal on the table. Unfortunately, eating out often means getting too much fat, salt and calories, which puts you and your family at risk of health conditions that include heart disease and obesity. With childhood obesity – and indeed, the weight of many Americans – spiraling out of control, parents need to take extra steps to encourage healthy eating habits. Learning to eat healthy meals benefits the entire family and becomes easier with practice. Planning is the key to developing healthy eating habits. Here are a few tips for healthy living on the go:
Having a plan regarding what foods you will buy and prepare creates the opportunity to have healthy choices on hand. Don’t plan only for dinner. Decide what you will eat for breakfast and lunch too, so that you are prepared with healthy meals for the whole day. Write down each meal, and make a grocery list so that you have all the ingredients on hand. That way you won’t end up calling for pizza when you are pressed for time. Not every meal has to be cooked or prepared from scratch. Despite the fact that we live in an age where quick and easy is synonymous with greasy fast food, there are healthy convenient shortcuts available if you are shopping at the right places. Trader Joes is my favorite go-to spot when I don’t have time to cook. They have a ton of precut fruits and vegetables, pre-washed salad and easy microwaveable yet healthy options. There is no excuse not to have a salad on the table these days when all you have to do is open a bag and pour it into a bowl. When you do cook your meals, be sure to prepare enough so that you have leftovers that can be served on the nights you won’t be able to cook. Similarly, you may want to make an entire meal ahead of time and freeze it for later use. If your family members keep vastly different schedules, you can freeze individual portions that can be quickly heated in the microwave.
Buy healthy snacks and portion them into individual servings so that you always have a grab-and-go snack for each member of the family. A snack between meals is important to keep hunger at bay and prevent binge eating. Students need snacks to help them concentrate and learn at school, and working adults who keep healthy snacks on hand are less likely to hit the vending machine in the afternoon. Good choices include nuts, string cheese, fruits and vegetables, yogurt, trail mix and dry cereal. Stay away from those 100-calorie packs. They may be only 100 calories but they are 100 empty calories and in most cases do nothing to fuel your body. I used to grab protein bars until I discovered that most of them have as much sugar as a can of soda. Now if I need an extra dose of protein I blend up a protein smoothie which literally takes me two minutes and is a quick and easy way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit. My kids love smoothies too. A homemade smoothie is going to be infinitely better for you than the sugar laden versions at Jamba Juice, McDonalds or Starbucks. Not everything that is seemingly healthy is. My protein powder of choice is high in fiber and low in sugar. Make sure you are reading the labels because not all protein powders are necessarily healthy and many brands can be very high in sugar. Lastly, bring healthy snacks along when you go to sports games, the mall or the playground to refuel without ending up at the nearest fast food place.
I confess. I’m a carb lover. If it were up to me, every snack would consist of something starchy. But I know my body doesn’t respond well when I eat only carbs and I am depriving myself of the natural fiber, nutrients and protein that my body needs. This can in turn lead to increased hunger and cravings and have a downward spiral effect on other food choices I make later in the day. By incorporating foods from all the food groups, you ensure that your family is getting adequate nutrition without overloading on fat, calories, salt, sugar or cholesterol. Include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, low-fat dairy foods and healthy fats. Indulge in the occasional treat to keep healthy meals fun and prevent feelings of deprivation. I try not to make any one food off limits. My kids enjoy treats and juice like any other but I encourage them to drink water and eat something healthy first.
Make Smart Restaurant Choices
As hard as we try, even the best plan can go out the window. There will be times when a busy family has to eat out, but doing so doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating goals. Choose the restaurant you will go to ahead of time, and use its website to look at the nutritional information for the menu items offered. In many areas, quickserve healthy alternatives to fast-food are becoming more available. In my local market we even have a pizza place that makes a pizza with healthier whole grain crust and has a special sauce with hidden vegetables pureed into it. The kids don’t taste the difference.
Life is always going to be chaotic. We have to accept that. In order to fit in exercise, your workout has to be scheduled into the day. No matter how crazy my day, I make my workout a priority for myriad reasons, not the least of which are my health and sanity. I almost never let anything get in the way of exercise. You have to be that committed or it will be the first thing you let go. Even if I feel tired one day or am not into it I still force myself to do it because it makes me feel better. I really believe that physical fitness will change your life. If I have a day with extra time, I will do a longer workout. If there is absolutely no time to go to the gym or squeeze in a run, I have a few of those quick 20-minute videos I can do at home. Sometimes people think that if they can’t get in a full workout they should blow it off altogether. Not true. Even a quick 10-minute walk, or a few squats, lunges and push-ups while your kids watch TV is better than nothing.
Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard. By taking a few extra steps and planning ahead, you will slowly be able to adopt these new habits until they become second nature.
If you’re like millions of Americans, you woke up on January 1st and vowed to turn over a new leaf – run three miles a day, lose a pound a week, cut out sugar, save $200 a week, whatever. You actually imagined a better you and felt a sense of excitement to start your “new you” journey. But then, come late January or early February, 3 miles a day turned into 1 mile a week, you stopped being able to resist those M&M’s on your co-workers desk. In other words, you slipped back into your old habits.
Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you the brutal honest truth. Summer is coming whether you get yourself in shape or not and it’s time to revive those resolutions. There was a reason you set those goals and if you dig deep and remember your “why”, you will be able to focus on the bigger goal in the face of your immediate desires. Before you start down the path of reviving your resolution, it is important to remember why you set that goal in the first place. On tough days, it is your “why” that will get you through. Think about the things you will be able to do that you can’t do at this unhealthy weight and visualize what it will feel like to do it. For example, if your goal is to have more energy to play with your kids, visualize what it will feel like to chase them up a hill, picture yourself laughing and enjoying those moments. Willpower is a skill you can strengthen through visualization. When the urges to scarf down a handful of M&M’s© strikes, you will be able to conjure up those images to help keep you on track.
Every goal must be treated like a road trip. In order to achieve that goal, you must map out your path to success by outlining the steps that will help you achieve your objective just as you would chart the route to your destination. Whether you are trying to lose pounds or run a 10K, identify the actions that will get you there like packing healthy snacks or scheduling regular workouts.
Last fall, I became a promoter of the Body By Vi 90 Day Challenge. I set a goal to lose 15 lbs. and ended up surpassing my goal by one pound for a total weight loss of 16 lbs. After struggling with my weight for the past fifteen years, this was a major accomplishment for me. Of course, exercise and the right nutrition were a huge part of the weight loss, but here are a few more strategies that helped me finally win at losing.
- Know that you deserve to be healthy and happy. Everything starts with your own belief system and if you don’t believe that your health is a priority, you won’t be able to develop the behaviors you need to accomplish your goal.
- Post photos on your fridge of yourself at your desired weight or a bathing suit you have your eye on. This will serve as a friendly reminder when temptation sets in. If you don’t have a photo of yourself that you like, post a photo of a role model or the body you would like to achieve, but make sure it is reasonable and not some super twig Victoria’s Secret model. That is just going to frustrate you.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Accept the busy stressed person you are and find a program that fits into your lifestyle. Weight Watchers© works but all that point counting does NOT work for me. After I accepted that and started on a program that fits into my lifestyle, I was finally able to stick to the program for longer than 2 weeks.
- Set small incremental goals and celebrate each milestone. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym every day to lose weight. Real life doesn’t allow for that and if your goals are too big, you are more likely to blow them off altogether. 30 lbs. is a lot to bite off and can feel overwhelming. Start with a goal of 10 lbs. Reward yourself when you reach that goal and then set a new goal. The same is true of exercise. If you are not active but have vowed to get fit, start by fitting a 10-minute walk into your day and then try to build up each week.
- Rethink your environment. When your surroundings stay the same, so do your ingrained habits. You can’t keep junk food in your house and expect your willpower to hold up every time. New habits take time to develop. Don’t expect drastic changes to take place in a week. You have to commit to being in it for the long haul.
- Start your day with a protein smoothie. Research has shown that starting your day with a protein shake can boost your metabolism by up to 35%. It also stabilizes blood sugar, which will reduce cravings and hunger pangs later in the day and therefore keep you from overeating. Load it up with fruits and greens for even more fiber and nutrients.
- Envision how you will achieve your goal. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools for achieving a goal and is even used by Olympic athletes. Picture yourself eating healthier foods, imagine yourself feeling healthier, how it will feel to be able to fit more comfortably into your jeans. Anticipate obstacles like feeling too tired to hit the gym and then imagine how you’ll overcome them
- Ask for what you want. I have become the person who asks the chef to hold the cheese, to cook my meal without butter or bring the dressing on the side. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself when dining out. It’s OK to splurge a little now and then, but make up for it the next day by working out a little longer.
- Get your family on board for support. My family knows that I am much more enjoyable to be around when I have gotten my workout in and it always gets scheduled into our plans.
- Figure out what centers you. My life is filled with activity. I am constantly on the go. But there is a thrill I get from figuring out how to fit it all in each day and when I don’t, I just strive to do better the next day. I find it essential to make time to stay healthy and fit or I am no good to my family. I’ve pledged to make my workout just as important as everything else. It’s a commitment to me, a pledge to myself that I know I can not compromise or it disrupts everything else.
Exercise boosts the production of endorphins and serotonin and enhances the body’s ability to absorb these feel-good chemicals, which is why you will often finish a workout with a sense of bliss. But perhaps of greater importance is that it leads to overall mindfulness of living a healthy life. And if all that weren’t enough, exercise keeps me in balance and I do it because I love the way it makes me feel.