What not to eat…why not!

I’m getting a little frustrated by all the messages out there about what not to eat during the holidays. It is overwhelming. Add to that the rest of the years messages. What not to eat to look younger. What not to eat if you don’t want cancer. What not to eat if you want to live until 100. It just sounds like a whole lot of shaming.

In the grand scheme of things, knowing what is a healthy choice and what is not is important. What drives me crazy is that the denial of things you love is a sure way of going back to old unhealthy habits.

What do I mean?

If you eat healthy 80% of the time, that apple pie with salted caramel ice cream and whipped cream is not going to kill you the one time you indulge at the holiday table. If you are staying active and working out 4-5 days per week, going to a micro brew pub for beers and plates of gastro goodies is something you don’t have to pass up. The key is balance.

All the sinner talk about sugar, fat and processed foods is because our society is eating crappy more than 80% of the time and not active. Keep shaming and denying the masses their goodies and the rebellion will ensue. We are at that point, where at every turn there is something else we shouldn’t be eating. If you listen to all the advice on cutting out this and denying yourself that, there will be nothing left to eat but kale…except kale may be crawling with E.coli and you don’t even know it – CRAP!

In fact, there is a militant tone out there if you don’t follow the rules.

Don’t believe me? Go find an article about the benefits of plant based eating and add a message how someone would have to pry your steak out of your cold dead hands. Warning – children should not try this and make sure you are near your phone to dial 911. There are some real believers out there.

Anyway, will I be watching what I eat this season? Yes. Will I slack on my workouts? No. Will I cut out sugar, fat and processed foods as they are passed around the table? No.

If you are transitioning to healthy eating and living, then this season is going to be difficult. But, don’t overly restrict yourself. It is a sure way to resent getting healthy. Instead, indulge in a single chocolate. A small portion of mashed potatoes. A single gingerbread cooking. A small glass of eggnog.

If you can stick to your plan mostly and make it through the season by not gaining weight, you won. You won by not sliding backward. But, more importantly, you won by learning what the rest of your life will look like with small indulgences in maintenance mode.

Yes you can.

 

 

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When You Lose Weight, What People Say…

As an obvious chubby girl I publicly taunted myself with comments of my girth as a way to deflect what I was convinced people were thinking when they saw me. As I began to lose weight, most people who knew me would get a little squint in their eye and I’d catch a quick up-down look. But, they wouldn’t say anything. Now, when there is no way you could ignore the fact that I lost a third of my weight, people are more than willing to blurt out anything.

Such is what I’ve been experiencing for about three months now. Whether it is a friend, acquaintance, colleague or family member, I am always amazed by the reactions and at times a loss for words.  Let’s share some:

  • “I’m so proud of you! It is so good that you are taking care of yourself,” well meaning relative. I raised my eyebrows on that one. It was definitely a backhanded compliment if there ever was one.
  • “Can I ask? How much did you lose?” work acquaintance in a whispered conspirator voice. No, you really shouldn’t ask me how much. Does it really matter? But, I’ll tell you anyway.
  • “Michele!?” client clearly confused if I was who they thought I was. This was pretty amusing because I could see their discomfort in how to handle the situation.
  • “You look amazing! You lost so much!…Is it a good thing? Are you okay?” work colleague. Honestly, this was not the only person that has asked this. Yes, I’m okay. I don’t have cancer. Its a good thing. “Oh! Great. You look great!”
  • Eye comment – Up down. Up down. Up down. Stood with a colleague and two clients who verbally said nothing but gave me the once over. The two men looked more stunned. The woman was a bit snarky. Oh well. Such is the workplace where men sometimes can’t help themselves and women often secretly hate each other.
  • “How did you do it?” friend. I actually like this comment the best. It gives me a chance to talk about running and all the fun I now have paddling, hiking, and enjoying new foods.
  • “I always wanted to wear leather pants.” relative. Not snarky, but a little envious. Yes, I wore leather pants to Thanksgiving dinner. Got it, flaunt it sometimes. But, I was more surprised by who said it. They would look amazing in leather pants now. Maybe getting myself in shape has added to my confidence!

One Simple Travel Tip To Stay Healthy – Just Keep Running

I realized I created a habit while not even thinking about it. While road warrioring, I get to my hotel room, change into running gear and go for a run.

It could be indoors or outside.

It could be slow or fast.

It could be for 30 minutes of an hour.

It could be morning, mid day or evening.

It doesn’t matter. I just do it.

The realization came when I took my son up to NH this weekend for a hockey tournament. I got to the hotel and had the most compelling urge to run. At 3:30 in the afternoon and sitting in a car for 2 1/2 hour, I had to just run. So I did.

Why is this so important to me? I realized that running is a habit. Not an exercise. Not strictly a passion. It is something I just need to do. Almost like brushing my teeth. I realized on the couple of days that I don’t run I feel like I forgot to do something or feel like something is missing.

I have only been running since May, six months. Running while at home is certainly easier. But the fact that I have a routine of hitting the road, trail or treadmill just after checking into my hotel when traveling is an eye opener. It means I moved from running as a way to keep my weight in line to a healthy living lifestyle.

Maybe running will be your thing. Or maybe you get on an elliptical, rower or bike. Doesn’t matter really. The simple trick is finding the one thing as a road warrior that will drive you to exercise and it isn’t a chore but a need to fulfill. Now your have a habit, drive and motivation.

Holiday Healthy Living Strategy

It’s been 319 days since I starting my Chubbygirl journey to healthy weight and healthy living. I hit my goal weight of 110 back in September and hover around 108 and 109. The true challenge will be the holidays and all the eating. For me, it starts at 5:00p today when the in-laws arrive. I’ve already got a brisket in the oven and potatoes ready for mashing.

Which brings me to the holiday conundrum. I landed on my goal weight based on what should my optimal weight be as well as giving me a five pound buffer during the holidays. I know that I won’t be able to resist stuffing, or wine, or egg nog, or cookies. Chocolate is another one that while the single square or two isn’t bad (and I do this now), it is the whole bar or those boxes of truffles that kill me. Nut bowls? OMG, shoot me now. Yes, my hand lives in them.

In reality, I don’t want to gain five pounds. That is a month of 1200 calories again and more exercise. Its a diet that I will fail at. It puts my healthy living mindset at odds with a quick fix to a lack of self-control and gluttony.

I’ve come up with a strategy based on what we do in our house and with our family and not use this time to deviate to far from healthy living. In the end, I still want to enjoy the holidays. So here it goes:

  • Snack bowls go away: We always have bowls of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit out. I would typically make a meal out of that before eating a meal. Now, if I want a sweet (or others do) you have to get it out. I can keep with my portioning that way.
  • Keep with smaller plates or eating inside the rim: I can portion my meals better if I shrink the footprint they sit on. I do that today and need to do  that for our big family meals.
  • Don’t have to try everything: Thanksgiving in our family means 3 kinds of stuffing (regular, corn, meat). I need to pick one. I like mashed potatoes, but I don’t need them and sweet potatoes and squash. Roasted and smoked turkey are served, but I don’t need full portions of both.
  • Big meal, will race: I think every town has a 5k the morning of thanksgiving. There are also a ton of jingle bell runs this time of year. I’m just going to do it to add some fun to my running ritual.
  • Go for hikes in the woods: There are so many state and town parks around with great trails. Instead of lazing around the house we can add in a hike or trail run.
  • Take some time for rest and family bonding: Our big family thing is pulling out an insanely difficult puzzle and diving in together over the course of the vacation. We spend time together, talk, and chill out – except when the end is near and we compete to be the one to put in the last puzzle piece!
  • Keep to my exercise regimen: If I can get off a plane, get into a hotel at 9p or be severely jetlagged and still get on a treadmill, the holiday’s are no excuse to slack off.
  • Don’t sweat the gluttonous meal: If I fail on Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and a party here or there, so be it. I’ve had unplanned cheat meals that haven’t killed me yet. Just don’t make it a daily habit.

I need to trust myself, continue to embrace the changes I’ve made, and realize that instead of the holiday’s being scary, they can still be fun.

What are your strategies?

 

 

Living the Commuter Life Is Cramping My Healthy Living Style

Yes, it is time for my whiney blog. This week I stayed in town but needed to commute into the city every day rather than work from home. Boo hoo, you say as the tiny violin between your fingers plays, that’s life baby. But, I am so used to the flight of stairs commute to my office that spending 90 minutes or more on the Mass Pike into the city then againout to attend an event and meetings with my best vendor clients sucks.

What also sucks is that by going into the city I am confronted with the same challenges as when I travel: access to healthy food, eating in a timely manner before I hit the red zone, and working in my run. Add in the added hassles: Having to wake up at 5:45a and the fact that daylight savings time hasn’t kicked in so it is dark until after 7:00a means no early run. Meetings at lunch means no getting out for a run or even hitting the The horrendous commute back to my house in what city people would call the boonies.

By the time I did get home each day this week, my commuter angries and low blood sugar level by not having eaten anything since 1:30p kicked in. The only way to detox was to immediately shed my monkey suit, throw on my running gear and crash my treadmill.

God I miss the road. I miss healthy food that doesn’t make me feel bloated, achy stomachy and hungry an hour later. I even miss having to live healthy when traveling since then I at least don’t have to deal with commuter traffic and the airport lounge and hotel staff always take care of me. I miss the fact that I can roll out of bed at 7:00a, hit the gym or road for a run and still have time to get ready, eat and head to my meeting.

So, to those of you struggling to get healthy and stay healthy while road warrior-ing, there are no excuses. It is so much easier on the road.

In the grand scheme of things, I dropped to 108 (almost 2 lbs) on Monday and all my running around like a crazy lady has kept me there. It gave me license to add back a little on my plates this week. Good thing too; there was Boston Cream Cake pinafores on the dessert buffet table. Score!

 

Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

Vegan Can Be Yummy

Give me a Five Guys Burger and you can’t go wrong. But, getting healthy has definitely changed my taste buds and tolerance for protein heavy and fat heavy meals. My body craves vegetables. Tom tells me my gut flora has changed and it is telling me what it wants to eat. Whatever…

The thing is, I really like my veggies. Even those veggies that I tolerated (eggplant, yellow squash, mushrooms) and those I hated (kales, swiss chard) are regular visitors to my meals. I can even eat tofu, although I have to say it is not my favorite and is only in the tolerated column. In fact, if you look at my meals, and even some of my days, I’m definitely on the verge of a vegetarian diet and not always so far off from a vegan diet.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those that morally live by veganism. I just don’t have that moral fortitude and am happy to keep my omnivorous ancestry alive in my diet. I love eggs, cheese and fish. What I will own up to is that if you take away the moral argument and only apply the healthy argument, then verging on vegan is possible and not at all a restriction.

Case in point. Heading to San Francisco, the restaurants know their customers and recognize that vegans are a dominate group – for moral and health reasons. It isn’t uncommon to see menu items with vegan symbols to make it easy to find dishes to eat when dining out with your non-vegan friends. In fact, restaurants are going out of their way to create amazing vegan food that rivals non-vegan menu items. It is almost hard for the non-vegan to ignore these delicacies. I can’t!

Always searching for healthy menu items to avoid travel spread, and formerly trying to still lose weight while on the road, restaurants that had vegetarian and vegan items were a god send. Being in California is always the easiest, and this visit was no disappointment.

Anku, an Asian restaurant inside the Hotel Nikko, not only has an entirely healthy menu, but also has vegetarian options that can easily be converted to vegan dishes. Purple Cauliflower Soup and a Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Purse surrounded by baby carrots, asparagus and yellow squash sitting in a vegetable puree  (the purse is swiss chard) was my dinner.  The lack of meat wasn’t noticeable. The flavors and textures were surprising and wonderful. Along with a glass of French rose wine and my meal was every bit as good as a steak dinner. The fact that my meal was preceded by complementary nuts, olives and pickled purple cauliflower made it that much better. Really!

I’m not saying you need to give up your meat. I am only saying that there is enough evidence that too much meat has health risks and cutting your 10 oz steak down to 3-4 oz and loading your plate with vegetables or creative vegan delicacies isn’t the hardship your mind keeps telling you. Don’t deny yourself, just nurture your body a bit more.

Be a vegan for a day. It can be yummy.