Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Cycle of Dieting

I hesitated to put the word "Dieting" in the title because it seems like everyone is trying to say that a healthier eating program is "not a diet."  But to me, changing your eating from your usual habits is going on a diet, even one that you can stick with for a long, long time.  So that's what I'm going to call it.

Now that THAT's out of the way, let's get to the heart of this with The Cycle of Dieting.........

Have you ever heard someone say something like this:
I read this book (or a blog ☺) about healthy eating by blah, blah, blah and from that very moment, I decided that I was going to change my eating.  I've been eating this way for the past 10 months and I feel fantastic!  
What?  Who does this? I know these people are for real because I've heard this in some variation many times.  But I'm not one of them.  I have failed far more attempts at changing my eating than I have succeeded.  The big picture is that my eating has changed drastically from 12 years ago.  The fine print, however, is an exhausting pattern of making some changes, doing fantastic for a little while, then somehow tripping up and ending up not sticking with it.  It's pretty frustrating, but if I can see it for what it is and realize that I do continue making progress and I shouldn't be so hard on myself.   However, I know it's got to be better for my health to be more consistent.  And this Cycle of Dieting can get old real fast.

When I first looked into cutting dairy out of my diet (there's that word again!), I read Marilu Henner's books. In her first book Total Health Makeover (published in 2000), she calls this cycle of not sticking with a diet as "The Rainbow Theory."   Even though it doesn't describe me perfectly, it certainly hit home and made me feel happy that I wasn't the only one that went through this pattern over and over.  You can read her version if you'd like, but here's how I see it happening for me.  And I doubt I'm the only one.  How many people start a diet and can't last much more than a week? (if they're lucky to get that far).

I'll just group mine in stages:

  • Stage 1 -- Revelation! --   You're starting a new diet!  You've discovered and you're convinced that this way of eating is going to improve your health AND help you shed a few pounds -- GREAT! Why would you want to eat any other way?  Of course you're not going to start today (there's a wedding this weekend, you have friends coming in from out of town, it's not a Monday -- diet changes always work better when you start on a Monday). So you start to plan and prepare for the new you.  Buy plenty of groceries, find a friend who will join you or better yet, sign up for an Facebook group for support.  This is going to be great!  
  • Stage 2 -- Celebration! -- You start your diet -- yay!  It's so fun to see how you feel.  Sure you may feel some detox (there's a ton of information on that, so headaches, grouchiness, feeling like you can't stay awake past 7:00 -- Bring it on!  You've got this and you're excited to continue!
  • Stage 3 -- Making Progress -- You've seen some improvements -- you're feeling lighter, more energetic, and are sleeping better.  You're not even missing the old food.  You're not sure you want to go out to dinner, though -- that may be too tempting.  You bow out of a dinner invitation until you think you can master that.  You don't really tell your close friends what you're doing yet because you'd rather just get a bit more confident and comfortable with it.
  • Stage 4 -- Settling In -- You are starting to feel like this way of eating is something you can live with for a long time. You might nibble on this or that occasionally, but it's okay if you're not 100% all the time.  We're all human and all your friends and relatives who don't eat this way aren't that bad off.  In fact, they're probably having a lot of fun eating that way.  Still, you can see the value of sticking with it and stick with it, you will!  You really need to stock up on more fresh foods though.
  • Stage 5 -- Too comfortable / Off guard -- You decide to order french fries when you're out for lunch with friends.  You don't really want fries, but their house salad isn't that good and you used to love eating fries when you ate out with your grandma many years ago. Just a few won't hurt.  Well, since I had those fries, maybe I should eat that chocolate that's up in my cupboard when I get home. I Then I won't be tempted by it anymore --  after all, I did already get off track a bit with the fries.
  • Stage 6 -- Fickle -- I really should get back to my eating plan, but I just want to bake some cookies.  I haven't baked cookies in a long time.  Maybe after this weekend, I'll get back to my healthy eating plan.  Besides, I won't eat that many cookies.
  • Stage 7 -- Remorse / Re-commitment (three weeks later after eating sugar, sugar, sugar) --Why did I blow it?  Can't I ever have some self-control?  I really need to get back on track.  *sigh!*

Marilu Henner says that it's really the most practical to stay somewhere in that middle range -- between Stages 3 and 4.  We can't all stay hyped up over our new goals forever -- it's kind of a honeymoon phase actually. It's energizing and fun, but day to day situations come and it's more realistic to stay in your stages of Making Progress (even if gradual, stagnant, or unnoticeable to others) and Settling In.

As you feel settled in, if you find yourself veering off  your path a bit, plan ahead for the next day so that won't happen again.   A wise man once said (okay, it was a man on Facebook named Scott Zimmerman who has reversed his heart disease my changing his diet to a whole food/plant based (WFPB) diet, but I'd still call him a wise man):
Planning trumps willpower. By that I mean carefully planning your meals and your snacks. If you rely on willpower, you will fail. 
He also had great advice to times that you don't stick to your goals completely (after sharing an experience of how he was in a remote place one day, got really hungry and ended up eating off plan at a restaurant because there were no healthy choices):
Here's my point: It was a learning experience. I don't need to beat myself up over it. I just need to learn from it. I need to learn the lesson that I have learned over and over again: The WFPB diet requires planning. 
So that's it.  Don't let yourself go through all the stages from start to finish.  Start if you must and even celebrate when you do if you'd like.  But there should be no finish line with healthy eating.  There may be a slight deviation, but it doesn't need to be a detour.  Realize what you need to do so that won't happen again and continue onward.  TTFN!

Diet Police Photo by Lydia via Creative Commons
Rainbow Photo by USFWS Pacific Region  via Creative Commons 
Path Photo by Loren Kerns via Creative Commons

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mega Support Sports Bra -- And the winner is . . .

I did a little test this summer in search of the best sports bra to wear for my high impact workouts.  I was tired of doubling up on bras and didn't even know if it was possible to find a bra that could work all on its own.  When I was a bit smaller, this wasn't an issue.  I've been in quite a range of cups in my adult life, from B and a half  (if there is such a thing) to a DD.  So I speak from experience on knowing that some "support" bras can cut it for smaller cups, but certainly not for all!

I tried on a variety of high impact bras before my fitness trip in July and nothing came close to the Fiona bra by Moving Comfort.  A fellow Cathlete (waving wildly to you, Terry!) recommended this bra to me when I was on the hunt, so I ordered a few sizes to try out.  While waiting for them to arrive, I also searched reviews (a little hobby of mine) and I found that while Moving Comfort has an extensive line of high support bras, the Fiona consistently had the best ratings.  I also checked reviews and tried on highly rated bras from New Balance, Brooks, Champion, Lucy, Under Armor and Gap.  None of them were as adept at avoiding the bounce factor as the Fiona and none were as comfortable to wear or get on and off.

What sets the Fiona bra apart from the rest is that it has straps with velcro that are adjustable to lift, hold and compress, while somehow not making you feel all suffocated and smooshed.  PLUS, what I love is that the neckline is high enough to not only give you more support as you move the straps higher, but to cover you up better while the smooshiness or compression of other bras would normally just expose your skin more to the world.  Also, the super wide and somehow cushy band around the bottom feels really good against your skin yet gives plenty of support (without an underwire).

New Balance has a similar bra called Shockinly Unshocking, but it has many flaws.  The fabric or shape of the pattern doesn't give as much support to begin with , they use metal for the velcro straps to go through (which rub against the skin and I would imagine could give a good rug burn on your shoulder by the end of a workout) and it just doesn't hold you together on high impact moves like the Fiona.

The only negative I found is that it doesn't have any padding.  But I just add my own pads for days that I need it (like when anyone on the planet would see me or I'm wearing a workout top instead of a heavy t-shirt or sweatshirt).  It would have been nice if they'd added pad inserts like many sports bras, too, but I'm fine using my own.

The Moving Comfort Fiona bra comes in a ton of sizes -- all the way from 30B to 44DD.  You can order several sizes from Zappos and get free return shipping on any that don't fit.  Or you can find try them on in sporting good stores like REI or Dick's Sporting Goods or at Nordstrom. (Come to think of it, has easy returns with free shipping, as well).  They retail in the mid-$40 range.  Or if you don't mind ebay shopping, you can find them new or barely used there for less.  Occasionally will carry them, too (6pm is the clearing house for Zappos, if you haven't heard).  But their sizes and colors are limited when they do have them in stock and they sell out fast.

No, I don't sell them or get any profit from writing this article.  I just want to share how much I love finding the best high impact bra out there.  TTFN!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to get motivated to Exercise!

Kelly Coffey-Meyer teaching an amazingly fun BoxFit class
(I went to her class in July -- I'm more to the back in on the left -- can't see me)

There was a period of time in my life (many years, actually) that I absolutely hated to exercise.  Then somehow I became this person who LOVED my workouts.  It became the best way to start my day. My days were not the same without my beloved workout.  So just how did I get from the sluggish & demotivated to energetic and excited about fitness?  I'd say with a great big PUSH on my part after getting a desire to have a healthy body. And by a healthy body, I don't mean weight loss.  Even though weight loss was always what made me THINK I should exercise, it was never enough to get me to actually move.  It wasn't until I seriously lacked energy while pregnant with my second baby that I started researching (the old way, in magazines and books) how to get energy.  The answer was always by doing cardiovascular exercise. Oh great.  But I did and it worked.  I joined a YMCA, took step classes and swap laps and loved it!  It turned my energy around!

A few years passed and I had extreme (well, extreme for me) lower back pains after my 3rd and 4th babies. I read some more and found that abdominal strength (they didn't call it core strength back then) would help alleviate back pain.  I was hoping they'd tell me to get a massage!  I hated ab work.  But I bought myself a Denise Austin video (Hit the Spot Abs -- yay!) and it worked.  Wow!  I  eventually branched out in all sorts of fitness arenas, but it took a spark to get me moving.

Was I able to keep that spark going?  Not always, but I came up with tricks along the way.  Here are a few of them:
  • Have a journal handy.  You don't have to write down your workouts (although that could be fun). You just need to write in it if you don't feel like exercising.  And you don't get to just write any old thing.  You have to write your excuse for not exercising. I did this several times and every time I wrote, I saw how lame my excuse was and got up and did my workout.  Nice!
  • Plan your workout the night before.  Know what time you're getting up, when you're going to work out, and exactly what you're going to do.  That last part may sound strange if you're a runner and you always run, but if you have as many workout dvds as I do and haven't been sticking to a planned rotation, it's helpful to plan it out before so your brain is ready and you know the room is clean that you need to be in, the equipment is nearby, etc.  Make it as easy as possible to get up and do.
  • Set out your workout clothes the night before -- even down to the shoes and socks.  Don't give yourself one more thing to look for or do that may distract you or take up too much time on the day of.  You can even fill up your water bottles and have them ready.
  • Before your workout, do NOT, I repeat do NOT turn on that cell phone or computer.  It will distract you like crazy and you may never get to your workout.  Pretend like it's the days of taking the phone off the hook to NOT be distracted and don't turn it on in the first place.
  • Tell your kids, hubby, or whomever that you will be unavailable to them during that time and give them the parameters of what it means to not disturb you.  (One of my sons thinks he can ask me questions while I'm trying to not kill myself with heavy weights or while flying over the step.  He needs some extra reminders). I used to put up baby gates when my kids were little so they couldn't come in if they woke up before I was finished. If you can, workout before any of them are even awake.  It's nice to have that solitary experience if you can.
  • Get to bed early enough that you will wake up refreshed!  A successful morning almost always begins with a night of getting to bed on time.  The number of hours of sleep you need may not always be 7 or 8.  I know if I wake up feeling refreshed after 6 or so, I'm better off to get up then rather than to go back to sleep and wake up like a zombie because I've had all these stressful crazy dreams.  Listen to your body and see how it feels best (and if you're eating healthy foods, you likely won't need as much sleep as before either).
  • Have a friend who you know you'll report your workout to when you finish.  It can be to a group of people on a Facebook check-in, you mom, a friend that you text . . . whomever! Just knowing that someone is waiting to hear that you did it can give you the accountability that you need.  (And you can have fun knowing that you motivated them, too!)
  • If you are able to meet up with a friend to workout together, even better!  It's much harder to wimp out on a workout when you have to be somewhere at a specific time and you know your friend is counting on you. 
One of my favorite things a fitness instructor has ever said in a workout is this:

         "Don't quit because it's hard. Keep going because it's hard." 

This was Kelly Coffey-Meyer in one of her recent 30 Minutes to Fitness workouts.  I loved that advice because we often stop doing something that's good for us because it's hard when the fact that it's hard is actually what is challenging our bodies enough to the point of it being beneficial.  So if it's a challenge for you to make time in your day for a workout or you lack the desire because you know it's going to be tough, just buckle up and push through it until it's not so terribly tough anymore.  You'll be glad you did!  I know I am. TTFN!

Me gushing with excitement with Kelly, Lori and Marcus (Lori & Marcus are in her workouts, too)

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Time has Come

I'm back!  Not just to blog, but to really commit to healthy eating.  I've been eating healthier than many or most, I would imagine for the past few years, but I've also been waffling here and there and it hasn't been serving me well.  My eczema has come back this summer (oh dear!) and my weight keeps going up and down (more up than down).  I need consistency and I need commitment if I want the health benefits to be lasting.  So today is the BIG day.  It's a Monday, so that's always good (why people tend to do better starting a goal on a Monday, I don't know, but it's psychological to be sure, and I just go with what works.  It's also the first day of a month (September 1st, if you don't want to look at top of this post :) ) and it feels like the beginning of fall, even though it's not really. (Summer just doesn't seem like it's still going on in September, right?)

Thanks for enduring that stream of thought which leads me to what I'm doing.  I'm continuing my workouts each day (mostly Cathe Friedrich and Kelly Coffey-Meyer dvds plus yoga). And I'm eliminating sugar, any kind of flour or processed foods (even the ones from the health food store, which have been a downfall of mine for quite a few years), and dairy.  I know that many people aren't fond of eliminating a food group.  But I have a big sensitivity to dairy and this is what works for me to have ultimate health.  I never need any help eating lots of fruit, but I do need some nudging to eat a bigger variety of vegetables.  I'm going to try out new recipes until I have an arsenal of veggie recipes that I love!

I'm not offering any big tips today except to say that if you really want to achieve a healthy eating goal, you HAVE to (okay, maybe I am offering some big tips):
  • Define what you want to do -- tell yourself the parameters in specifics
  • Plan out how it will work
  • Envision how it will play out 
  • Stick with it!  No throwing in the towel by telling yourself that maybe it wasn't the best idea after all. 
 I have had too many times to count lately when I have blown my healthy eating goals out the window at the first temptation. I wasn't prepared.  I wasn't confident in my goals. Not any more.  I plan to share my progress with you at least weekly.  TTFN!

Photo by Oakley Originals Creative Commons