Category Archives for "Habits"

Almost No One Gets Hired to Eat a Slice of Cake

Few of us have a job, what you do to earn money, that you absolutely love all the time. It is called work because it is just that, work. Comparing work to food, usually doesn't have us calling for chocolate cake. Work is like eating anchovies (unless you like anchovies).

There are ways to help make 'work' feel more enjoyable but that's another blog post.

Sometimes working at improving our health feels like we have to eat anchovies but it doesn't have to. Improving your health should feel more like eating cake.

Here are three tips to improving your health feel more like eating cake:

1. Small starts, quick rewards. Create a system where you and your partner have to do small tasks and in return you get a small reward. For example, I can and I will drink 16 ounces of water and then I will eat breakfast. Or I will plan my meals the day before so that I can make getting to work on time more achievable. The smaller the task, the better, so you won't delay starting. Also small tasks done consistently over time reap a big payoff.

2. Recruit a friend or family member to join you. Two is much better than one in many ways. Humans are social creatures and you can use that to your advantage. Agree to set daily or weekly goals, and check in with each other daily. Share the work and set rewards for hitting your goals. Encourage each other and help each other when someone is faltering.

3. Get excited daily. It's easy to be excited about a project or goal when you first start, but that can die out. Renew your goal each day. Start by setting a goal for the day that you can accomplish and that you care about. Find inspiration, visualize your accomplishment, find some music that motivates you, find an inspirational quote or video ... anything to get you excited to accomplish your goal for the day! Don't forget to share it with your partner.

Better health doesn't have to feel like swallowing your daily dose of anchovies, you can actually enjoy it.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

We've all heard this analogy, "When cabin pressure drops, put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you". You have to be taking care of yourself first in order to help those around you be well.

But are you truly living it? Are you each day putting time into yourself? Or are you too busy? Maybe too much stress to fit in drinking water today? Maybe just too tired to focus on planning your meals today?

Could it be that you are telling yourself the stress, the sleep, and the to-do list is more important than you are to yourself? Are you allowing your schedule, work or situations to tell yourself that you are not worth it?

I hear it all the time, "I'm too stressed to eat good"… "I'm just too tired to focus on taking a multivitamin"… "I have too much to do to eat broccoli". 

What if instead you were honest and said, "I'm just not worth eating good food"… “I'm just not a member of society that is worth taking a multivitamin"… "I am not valuable enough as a person to eat broccoli and receive its benefits”.

OW, harsh, huh?

I know this journey is not easy, but take time to help yourself first so that you can take time to help others. You are worth it. I believe in your ability to take on better health for you.

I can’t take the stress out of your life. I am not able to tuck you in each night promptly at 9pm and ensure you’ll sleep soundly for 8 hours straight. I certainly can’t tackle your to-do list (you have skills I just don’t have).

I'm here to help you. I can serve you the tools, but you are on the front lines doing all the work/ Here is a list of tools I can open up to you:

  • The Grateful Plate website
  • 21 + Nutrition Challenge
  • Get Fit NH in Concord or Epsom
  • ProCoach
  • Essential Nutrition LIVE
  • Happy Healthy Lives- No Food Guilt on Facebook
  • Physical Preparation Coaching
  • Nutrition Coaching
  • A friend who understands but is also willing to help (that's me 🙂 )

You are valuable to me. Keep making it happen.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Make Yourself a NOT To Do List

Recently, I was challenged to do a task that I knew wasn’t going to be helpful to me. It was a generic call out to a group. I thought through the reason that challenge was being given and then politely said, I wasn’t going to participate. I found a great coach who instead congratulated me on not doing the challenge.

I thought about how we all have this long list of to-dos that cause us angst as we struggle to check them off. It felt good to know I had some things already settled. I have some things in my daily routine that already help me.

What would be on your list of things NOT to-do?

For me, I shouldn't combine too many outside activities into one week. I can handle one outside- the- norm appointment without going a bit wacky each week. In my schedule, one doctor appointment or one speaking engagement a week, one out of office visit, or one trip to visit with a friend is comfortable. Trying to add more than just one thing can make me a bit bonkers.

For me, I shouldn't try to stay up past 10. I just shouldn't do that. I fall asleep any way so I don't enjoy whatever I am trying to enjoy.

For me, I shouldn't try to put my vitamins away in the cupboard. I need the constant reminder of them being on my counter in order for me to take them each day.

For me, I shouldn't make three new recipes in one day. I just don't have that extra time to spend in the kitchen.

For me, I shouldn't go to the grocery store while I am hungry. I am tempted just like most people by the wonderful smells coming from the bakery or the lure of chocolate at the checkout line.

What should be on your NOT to-do list?

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

It’s Time to Give Your Kitchen a Makeover

I use a simple system of red, yellow, and green lights to get our transformation started. Red light is food you’ll want to take out and not let back into your kitchen. Yellow lights are food that you might have questions on or that you know are not quite great but not quite labeled junk food – yet. Green light foods are those that you have been proven healthy for you. Green light foods don’t cause your system aggravation and unwanted side effects. They are foods that your body loves to have on your plate for health reason. Can you say zucchini and broccoli?

As each door of the cupboard, pantry, fridge, and freezer opens, take each food item out to examine under the Red, Yellow, or Green light.

Step 1: Red light = junk foods. Terminate.

Let’s start with your list of the obvious “red lights” from your fridge and pantry. This could include things like:

  • Chips
  • Cheese crackers
  • Chocolates or candy
  • Soda/sweetened drinks
  • Instant foods like cake mixes and mashed potatoes
  • Margarine and other processed fats
  • Most frozen dinners
  • Most take out or restaurant leftovers
  • Bowls of candy or other snacks sitting around
  • Flavored nuts (i.e. beer nuts)

But please make your own list.

Step 2: Yellow light = trick foods. Triage.

Trick foods are foods that seem healthy but aren't. They’ve gone from something good (whole, minimally processed food) to something that a machine has put out, full of sugar and chemicals, and/or something that’s had all its original nutrients stripped out. It could also be items that you have in your cupboard for other family members that seem to trip you up. Consider minimizing and/or eliminating these:

  • Sweetened yogurt and frozen yogurt
  • Breads and bagels
  • Other baked goods
  • Most breakfast cereals
  • Crackers, even the whole grain ones
  • Granola bars
  • Regular peanut butter
  • Fruit juice nad sweetened dried fruits
  • "Healthy" junk food (i.e. "organic" cookies, baked potato chips, etc.)
  • Alcohol is negotiable - many people keep it on hand for social events but don't often drink it; other folks will drink it if it's there

This is a list you are going to work through. Right now it is giving you something to think about.

Step 3: Check for stuff you might not have thought of yet.

This is even more challenging than the so-called “healthier” foods in the “trick food” list, because you don’t think about these things being a problem… or think about them at all. (How much time do you spend thinking about BBQ sauce, anyway?) Most of these just pass under our radar, until we read the labels and discover that they’re sugar and chemical bombs. Or just not “food” at all. This includes:

  • Condiments
  • Relishes, mustards and ketchup
  • Salad dressings
  • Bread crumbs, croutons, and other dried bread products
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats
  • Spreads such as cheese whiz or sweetened cream cheeses

Again, you don’t have to throw out everything. It’s not an all-or-none process. Just make sure yellow-light foods know they’re on notice and have to earn their rent.

Your red/yellow/green light items could be as simple as putting foods in these categories. For instance:

  • Does this food come in a bag, box or plastic package?
    Red light
  • Does it have only a couple of ingredients on the label?
    Green light
  • Can you pronounce all of those ingredients?
    Yellow light
  • How far away is this food from what it used to be? And do you even know what it used to be?
    Yellow light
  • Is this food perishable?
    Green light (just about anything good for you goes bad quickly)

Step 4: Green lighting the kitchen.

Let's work on forming the "green light/wanted foods" list to help you restock the kitchen.

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh veggies
  • Eggs
  • Canned tuna/salmon/chicken
  • Nuts/seeds
  • All the wonderful cuts of meat you buy at the meat market

Step 5: Now its time to get to work.

Option 1: Throw out (or give away) any and all red light foods.

OR

Option 2: Take all the food that is not going to support your health and put it in ONE specific cupboard. Preferably out of the kitchen, maybe even in the basement. If you are looking in your refrigerator, move those red and yellow items into the produce drawer. Why not bring all those wonderful veggies to a fridge shelf where you can see them? Out of sight out of mind should be a slogan when you are dealing with family member’s food. Try to make it as difficult for you to see and eat.

Now you have it - a simple plan of addressing the food in your kitchen. Red lights you get rid of or make it difficult to see. Yellow lighted foods are put on stand by, maybe even taken out until you know which direction they really belong. Green light foods should be easy to see and easy to reach for. They are what stand out most when your kitchen is made over. By keeping food that will help your nutrition grow in plain sight, you are making it easier for yourself to eat in health supportive way.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Tips for Healthy Eating While Dining Out

The Western diet of fast food, pour from a can or out of a box, heat and serve, grab and go is slowly killing us. All of those choices are of little value to your body’s health. They come at a high price in calories but in exchange for low nutritional value.

The term “Fast Food” is commonly associated with hamburgers, greasy French fries, and cola. However, popular family restaurant menu items can be ordered “to go” without waiting for their preparation or standing in a long line. You can even pay with a credit card over the phone if you’re in a real hurry. But, fast food does not have to be high-calorie and a low nutritional food choice.

Tips to help you choose well:

  • Know that an average fast-food meal can run as high as 1800 calories or more.
  • Know the nutritional value of the foods you order. Sometimes “good choices”, are higher in the nutrients or calories. Fat-free or low-fat items are usually higher in sugar and salt.
  • If you're having fast-food for one meal, make all the other meals that day contain the right portion of lean protein, produce, and healthy fats.
  • Know how your food is cooked. Chicken and fish can be good choices - but not if they are breaded and deep fried.
  • Avoid jumbo, giant, deluxe, biggie-sized or super-sized. Larger portions mean more calories, fat, sugar and salt.

When Dining Out...

Tempting menus, extra-large portions and festive atmospheres make it easy to overlook supportive eating. You'll begin to pack on pounds if you make poor choices a habit. It is possible to enjoy yourself and still make supportive choices. Following a few simple rules when eating out can make it possible to maintain your nutrition plan.

  1. Order food to go – Studies show that people tend to consume more food when they are not eating at their own kitchen tables. Take home and have the option of providing a healthier side dish such as fruit or vegetables.
  2. KNOW where you will go and what you will eat ahead of time.
  3. Avoid buffets – they are invitations to OVEREATING.
  4. CHOOSE wisely - use the guidelines of Supportive Menu Design.
  5. Ask the server not to bring the bread basket.
  6. ASK how food is prepared – ask for baked, broiled, roasted, poached or steamed.
  7. Don't be afraid to special order – ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces.
  8. Watch portion size – servings can be 3-5 times more than what you need. Pack half your meal to-go before starting.
  9. Split a meal with a friend. You’ll avoid the temptation to overeat.
  10. WATER - drink at least one full-glass of water before eating. You'll feel full sooner, you will eat less.
  11. Order an appetizer and a salad as your meal.
  12. Front load your meal with a nutritious salad or bowl of soup to take the edge off your appetite.
  13. Order sauce and dressing on the side – control calories and enjoy the taste.
  14. Order first. You're less likely to be influenced by the choices of your companions.
  15. Eat Slowly. Savor the flavors and textures of your food, and enjoy the company you're with. When you eat slowly, you give your body's internal clock the time it needs to know when you've had enough. Remember the hunger scale.
  16. Save dessert for later – a great trick to play is instead of ordering dessert at a restaurant, go somewhere else. By the time you get there, you will not be as hungry and will end up eating half or even skipping dessert entirely.

You can dine out while remaining true to your goals. The key is always to plan ahead, choose wisely and you'll find foods that fit into your meal plan.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Say Goodbye to the Old You

Here’s an experiment I want you to do. Write a letter to you, the old you, the you that is sabotaging your efforts to become better. The new you is struggling. Old habits and behaviors die hard, but it is time for them to go. Take some time to visualize what you’re going to say and why you’ll say it. It may be "go away". It may be "thank you". It may be "I love you and I'm sorry".

Remember that Old You probably had some reason to be there. Be gentle and loving, but firm and say goodbye.

I challenged a dear friend to do just that. See if you recognize yourself in her letter. Then take time to write your own good bye letter.

"Dear New Self,

I want my old self back, or at least a majority of her. I want the glass half-full outlook back. I miss looking upon any challenge and knowing I could figure it out if given time. I am not sure why this outlook slowly changed, but over the past few years it has. I know this approach to challenges may require more effort and time, and that it may seem better to walk away and give up without really trying. I don't want to waste time and energy. In the end, it is exactly the time and energy spent on tackling problems or questions and working until a solution is found that makes life interesting and meaningful. With less time working and thinking, life has become dull and at times pointless. Maybe if I had replaced that "free" time with other challenging tasks it may be different right now, but I didn't.

I want the fearless old me back as well. When did we become so afraid of going out and doing new things? Or even familiar activities? I never used to back away from trying something because I was afraid of getting injured or not being good at it. The fact that I probably would not be great at it was always the reason to try it and then practice it until I was great at it. And for as long as I can remember, there was very little I could not do well if I was willing to work at it. This included any sport, musical instrument, foreign language, even academic endeavors. When did doubt show up and ruin this way of thinking? I am not sure but I want doubt and fear of failure gone.

My old self was not perfect though, far from it actually. She was very demanding and did not accept anything less than perfection. So there has to be a blend of her demanding pushy style, with a hint of compassion mixed in for when things don't work out well. Dwelling on the numerous times I was not perfect, may have helped me work harder It is no longer helpful to me. In fact, the idea of reaching perfection can go too. I have always believed striving for perfection should be the goal, as long as I understood that getting there would not happen. Setting standards that high would help get me as close as I could possible get, but somewhere I started to believe I could get there and became disappointed with anything less.

I want my new/old self to have very high standards but reasonable goals. I can be ok with not achieving perfection, as long as my goals are still demanding and not easy. As long as I know I have worked my hardest at reaching them.

So this is the start, maybe other things will be added to the list but these are what came to mind first.

No regrets gong forward,
Me"

Why not write your own letter? Why not say goodbye to the old you and all the things that no longer help you. Keep those wonderful traits that will keep you moving forward. Those outdated habits, let’s send them away. Notice them, name them and pack them away.

To your best health, 
Coach Nancy

Write Your Own Food Story

I was challenged by my nutrition coach to make a food time line.

Yes, I have a coach to help me. Would you want it any other way?

But back to my assignment, I created a visual time line. It took me from my earliest memories to the present time. As I traveled this path, I noticed a few things but I’ll let you look at my time line and then I’ll tell you my discoveries.

As you traveled down my food path with me from earliest memories to present time, what did you notice? You see, I can remember all the wonderful memories of family and of the foods I ate while growing up. From fighting over maple and brown sugar oatmeal with my brothers, to enjoying making potatoes from a box for my mom. Through my teen years of Little Debbies to working at Dominos Pizza. I started to really learn to cook after getting married. Once Dean decided to change his health by changing his nutrition, you can see how real foods and loads of color were added to our meals.

For me, I see the color in my meals in my early twenties came from the packaging my meal was wrapped in while now it comes from the actual food.

I want to challenge you to do this experiment. It brings up loads of great memories and some not so wonderful ones. But the visual impact this exercise had for me shows me I am on the right path, but that path is still changing.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Don’t Be on the Donut Diet

The "Donut Diet" requires you to have donuts on hand - makes sense, right?

(P.S. Don't be on the Donut Diet)

I want to get down to brass tacks. Because diets don't work, period.

The very word itself lends itself to a temporary fix rather than a permanent change.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t just hand you a menu plan and say “eat that”. What happens when you reach the end of the plan, or the one we gave you doesn’t work for you?

You go back to your default eating, which is what got you where you were in the first place. And that just doesn’t make sense.

Short term thinking rarely leads to long term success. When we focus on the “outcome” rather than the behaviors, we set ourselves up for failure.

Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months. Your whole focus is on that 10 pounds, and at the end of the 8 weeks you weigh yourself and you lost 8½ pounds. Your mind immediately focuses on the 1½ pounds you didn’t lose. I have seen it over and over again. You were wildly successful, and yet somehow you still are disappointed.

So how do we stop that?

We create and track measurable behaviors (or habits) that are supportive of our long term goals. The habit is something I can control and measure. If the habit I am developing is to eat breakfast every day, I either did it or I didn’t. When I do it consistently I know it will positively affect my desired outcome

Many of you struggle the most with planning. It was by far the biggest factor to derail you the quickest from your goals.

So let's hear what you found planning does for you:

Scott said "Planning helps you to shop more efficiently and you don't end up buying stuff you don't need (or is unhealthy for you!)"

Rebecca said, "This has helped me budget and eat better!"

According to Stephanie, "This helps me stay more true to my nutritional (fat loss) goals when I plan."

Deb said, "It will definitely help me to stay on track the whole week."

Stacey found, "Now I'm much better prepared, feel less anxiety over 'what's for dinner' and have started making a larger variety of healthy dinner choices."

The list goes on to include Mary, "It will help me to stay on track, and I won't be inclined to 'just pick something up'."

Melissa said, "it will keep me from running to the store and just grabbing something that probably wouldn't be good for me."

I could go on and on. My point is that planning meals for the week will:

  • Save time at the store and at mealtime
  • Save you money
  • Mean less stress
  • Equal a happier family - they know what the plan is and for some families they get to help with the planning
  • Provide you with healthier meals
  • Make life easier for you
  • Keep you off the donut diet 🙂

You will not have to think on the fly. Check out these tips to planning your first week of meals.

So saving time, saving money, saving your sanity, and making the whole family happy all with a little well spent time at the beginning of each week.

And you? Do you want any of these things to come to you?

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Laughter is the Best Medicine

"Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it… don’t waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that’s like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can’t think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain…Good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!!! …. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they’re permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO – Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It’s the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! ‘Round’ is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

AND...

For those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans
5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Conclusion:

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you. Well, there you go - I didn't say it was good advice! Laugh a little; no, actually, laugh a lot - it's great for you!"

This wasn’t original to me, I just couldn’t keep it to myself knowing that humor and smiling isn’t shared enough in our world today. If we can turn humor and smiling into all our laughter we can benefit and so can others. Laughter is sweet medicine for the soul.

Physical benefits of laughter:

Mental benefits of laughter:

Social benefits of laugher:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts us to others
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Help defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

Your soul and everyone around you benefits from laughing. There just isn’t enough humor, giggles and laughter going on. We need to seek it out.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

Craving Busters

If you’re like me, I often want to eat when I am tired, sad, stressed or bored. True hunger kind of grows on you. It creeps up and makes us a bit hollow feeling or empty. When we let hunger grow it can turn from just a quiet signal to a full-blown H-Anger attack. Hunger can be strong, then quieter. It feels kind of like waves on an ocean.

BUT cravings on the other hand come on strong. Cravings don’t want to be ignored and will take over our thoughts and actions. Cravings must be what it feels like if your body was taken over by an alien. It’s not pretty people.

This helpful chart came from our ProCoach program.

Craving Busters

Here are some tips to help you deal with cravings:

  • Understand that cravings are normal. They come and go.
  • If the craving is minor, ignore it.
  • If the craving is moderate, distract yourself. This is more intentional than ignoring.
  • If the craving is overwhelming, have a small portion of what you’re craving in a safe environment, such as a restaurant where you can only get one portion of the food (instead of the whole thing). Eat it slowly. Stay aware of all the signals your body is giving.
  • Keep a “craving diary”. Write down what you’re craving and when. Also write down what you’re thinking and feeling at that time. Over time, look for patterns. Once you know the pattern, you can disrupt it.
  • For women keep track of your menstrual cycle on a calendar. Remind yourself daily to be on a 'Craving Alert' especially before your cycle begins.
  • Substitute something that gives you the same feeling. For instance, munch on raw veggies when you’re craving crunchiness. Take a hot bath when you’re craving warmth and comfort. Go for a brisk walk when you’re craving distraction. Pop a sugarless mint in your mouth, nibble celery, or drink water when you just want something to do with your mouth.
  • When you have a craving, ask yourself:
    What do I expect this food to do for me? How will it change my feelings?
    What am I telling myself about this craving?
    What else is going on for me right now?

Hunger or craving? Allow yourself time to figure out which one you are feeling. This “pause” is one way to stop weight gain from feeling like its spiraling out of control. A short break to check yourself can give you back the control you’re looking for.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy