Hey Food. You’re Not the Boss of Me Anymore!

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I find it compelling to think about the connection we have with the food we eat…I guess because the bond is so layered, nothing like the relationship we have with water and air, the other life-sustaining essentials. Is it dramatic to call it culturally dysfunctional? You have to be living in a cave to not know we have problems with food; just look around at all the attention that’s given to weight loss and the billions spent on it. Why don’t we hear about people hyperventilating, passing out from taking in too much air, and why aren’t there scads of books on Amazon that outline Quick and Easy Tips to prevent over-hydrating?

When you really think about food, when you push all the so-called facts and latest diet rules aside, you’ve got to ask yourself: “What’s food really supposed to do…why is it here?” And don’t say that’s easy, we need food to live. Food is waaaaay more than just an energy source. If eating was simply a matter of fueling and refueling, the word “diet” wouldn’t be a national problem or a preoccupation and food wouldn’t be a source of extreme pleasure or gut-wrenching pain. It wouldn’t be the center of parties or reasons for self-berating and self-deprivation. It would be simple. We’d just fill up on the amount we need when we need it and move on. And wouldn’t that be nice? Like human relationships, the relationship we have with food is complex, way beyond just taking it in to survive. And it doesn’t matter if you’re always dieting or you don’t care at all about the nutritional value of food you take in, it’s the relationship, not the choice, that’s the issue.

Weight loss that evolves into lifestyle isn’t about a daily check list of eating the right foods. It’s not about how many calories or how many carbs you take in, or whether or not the bread you just ate has gluten (gasp!) in it or not. The what, the when, and the how much you take in is about is how you feel towards your consumable friend. What do you ask it to do for you?

It’s no different than relationships we have with people except, safe to say, food doesn’t get much out of it.

So if we agree that the connection we have with food is relationally-grounded in a strong emotional bond, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of relationship am I in? Is it a co-dependent one, does food tell you what you want to hear? Is the relationship rigid and unpredictable, great one minute, terrible the next? Are the highs high and the lows low? Does the interaction leave you feeling worthless and weak? If you feel a sense of powerlessness coupled with a feeling that something other than your own internal compass is controlling you, you may feel victimized or even abused.

When we want to improve our eating to lose weight, be healthier, or both, instead of focusing on the details of what we are putting in, we need to step back and look in a different direction, evaluating what the food is actually filling within us. (Because trust me, it’s not just about filling your tummy.) Until you figure out the relationship issues, create new boundaries, shift your efforts towards figuring out how to take back power, nothing else is important. You’ve got to change the basis of the relationship from one of dependence or abuse to one that’s balanced and flexible, until you do…all efforts are just temporary.

Stop the, should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-eat-the-burger dance you’ve got going on in your head. It’s exhausting and pointless. Change your strategy. Start by looking within and begin to ask yourself the hard questions so you can figure out how to change the dynamic of the relationship and live the life you want.

Begin the process by telling your food, You’re not the boss of me anymore!

The Myopically Healthy Get On My Nerves!

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Ever go to a party and get cornered by one of those people who exercise everyday, eat a flawless diet, and feel compelled to tell you about it?  I’m not talking about the “Exaggerating Dieter,” who talks a good game of boot camp and gluten-free, then shovels a tortilla chip laden with cheese dip into her mouth the minute you turn your back.

Recently, I attended an out of town function where I found myself in a conversation with one of these people. Between sips of sparkling water, she filled me in on the details of her weight training regime, then got me up to speed on the dates, places, weather conditions and times of the runs she’d been in over the last year. From there, we explored her diet.  I heard all about her jump-start, smoothie-fortified breakfast, her power-boost, mid-morning snack, her high-protein lunch, her afternoon energy-sustaining snack and her balanced, low-fat dinner.   And her juicer, she confessed, is something she cannot dream of living without. I believe the appliance serves as both a pulverizer and her teddy bear.

I didn’t let on I’m in the health promotion business. I’ve learned that once the “Myopically Healthy” finds out what I do for a living, they not only expect me to agree with their “Go big or go home” perspective, they’re also looking for a “You go girl!” reaction. My new acquaintance wouldn’t get my anti-militaristic angle on health and fitness.   So I plead the fifth (in my head,) nod and smile at appropriate times.

To those of you who may be Myopically Healthy, please don’t be offended. I’m not putting you down; I think its fine to live your life like this way.  I’m just asking you to consider:

  • The majority of us don’t exercise everyday or eat a stringently healthy diet, nor do we want to.  You aren’t inspiring us.
  • We prefer not to listen to the details of your exercise and eating habits. We’re not jealous; we just don’t find the details interesting.  Perhaps you can drum up something else to talk about, less alienating.
  • And please don’t think our exercise efforts and attempts to eat a healthy diet don’t count.  They do.  Check with the AMA or WebMD or some other big-wig health organizations. Moderation is the new black.

 

I exercise regularly and frequently, but not everyday. The majority of what I eat is healthy but I also eat unhealthy food.   When a behavior is in charge of you, and not vice versa, there’s a problem. And what about the expression,“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?”  Like work, too much exercise and rigid eating habits…well, you know where I’m going with this.

I believe it’s not healthy to be healthy all the time. The all of nothing approach to anything isn’t good for you.  Flexibility is the new gray. Boo Yah!

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Until next time,

Peace, Juicers and Teddy Bears

Shaking Hands With The Devils(food)

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There’s a certain group of people out there who are afraid of certain foods and not because they’re allergic, which would cause them to go into anaphylaxis shock.  Example:  Sugar, more specifically, chocolate cake or Oreos or ice cream. You can pick a Sugaraphobe out of a crowd in a minute.  Their eyes get all crazy and they gasp with horror if someone says something like:  “Hey Molly, there’s a plate of birthday cupcakes in the break room… help yourself.”  Heck, you might just find them under their desk, with their hands over their head, crouched down, in the tornado-preparedness position. Terror would take over.  Some people don’t even like to talk about sweets; just the thought of sugerous-smilous makes them sweat.   As if, like in Harry Potter, just the mention of, “He Who Must Not Be Named” could make the bad guy appear…sugar lovers conjure up images of fat latching onto their thighs if they even hear the word brownie. What causes this mania?“I can’t have anything that has sugar in it, in my house. If I do, I eat it all. I have no control, so the only way to not eat it, is to not have it in the house.  Period.”   So that suppressive thought process works, right?  For a week maybe a month, then what? Thoughts of anything sweet begin to take over, you can’t stop thinking and wanting. And not a little, a lot. Next thing you know you’re buying a bag of macaroons and eating a dozen before the grocery bag is folded and put away.  As soon as you’re done your 12thcookie, the chastising, disappointment and shame begins. The third and final stage, also predictable:  You vow to keep sweets out of your house, for good this time, but that never happens. The cycle continues. Sugar wins.

So let’s agree, the all-or-none approach doesn’t really work-work, from a manage your life, long-term perspective.  Wouldn’t it be nice to think you could actually make friends with food, I mean, enjoy it without surrendering to it, particularly to food that holds you in it’s spell?

Making peace with food is possible, but it takes some introspection and a little planning. If you’re looking for a magic pill, I’m plum out and P.S. there are none. I do have good news that can work for you in your effort to not overindulge in foods that have power over you.  If you address this albatross, I mean really address it, once and for all, you can live a life that includes good-tasting food that makes you happy, but you have to be willing to look at your less then symbiotic relationship differently. I know this is scary territory.  But like anything in life. If you don’t face the fear, you can never take your power back.

I don’t want to make this seem too simplistic, but there is a basic principle that can keep you in control of your choices and it has to do with figuring out what you like and finding a satisfying alternative.

Replace don’t eliminate.

And not with diet foods or substitutes that insults your taste buds.Eat real food. Example:  For chocolate and/or sweet craving, try Teddy Grahams or animal crackers.  I really like chocolate animal crackers.  Here’s why they work: They’re sweet and good and you get a decent amount of chewing per serving which satisfies your brain and your tongue.  To address the quantity issue, when you get home from the store, dole out a serving, which translates to like 24 Teddy Grahams and 20ish animal crackers, then put them in ziplock sandwich bags.  Have them at home, in the office, wherever.  Eat them everyday if you want.  No big deal.  I’m not saying this one tip will change your life, but I am saying it’s a great way to start.

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Monkey Bars Deficiency: Are You A Sufferer?

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Take this short 5-Question quiz to determine of you suffer from MBD.  If you answer true to 3 out of the 5 questions below, I’m pretty sure you have it.

____The last time I can honestly say I remember having fun moving my body was when I was, ligit, playing on a playground.

____The last time I can honestly say I remember having fun moving my body was when I was 5 years old, or maybe younger.

____The only time I can honestly say I remember having fun moving my body was when there where no rules about how I should move my body.

____The only time I can honestly say I remember having fun moving my body was when there was no reason to do it.

____The only time I can honestly say I had fun moving my body was all of the above.

Do try this at home:  Ask a preschool-aged child to stand 10 yards or so away from you then stand back and ask them to come to you and watch what happens. (If you have a small child, go ahead and use yours, otherwise, borrow a neighbor’s.) Chances are they will skip, run, gallop or jump like a kangaroo in your direction.  What they won’t do is try to figure out a way to exert as little energy as possible to get to you, here’s why:

They like to move.

Watch the face of a small child as they play on the playground. Children delight in moving their bodies because…well, because it’s a fun thing to do! Crazy, right???  But something changes.  The way kids feel about movement, (i.e., exercise) significantly and permanently changes, and not in a good way, when they enter school and/organized sports. The creative-based, giggle-producing movement which, I believe, is intrinsic, gets pushed aside and is replaced with a purpose-driven desire to achieve something, many times a grade or a team win.  The reason to move changes from something fun to do to something important to achieve.

In schools or on team sports, movement is defined by team wins, having the right skills, and specific outcomes.  For the majority of kids, it doesn’t take long for their subconscious to figure out their aptitude is sub par, which translates into not being a part of the talented, sports-people group. Thinking you don’t have what it takes is hard, but thinking others think it, is harder.

I know, I know, participating in sports does good things for children, like teaching them about self-discipline and teamwork.  But I’m on the other side, the side that sees what those childhood messages and experiences do to grown-up people. I believe there is a direct line between a child’s experience with organized, adult-run activities and their less then enthusiastic desire to exercise as adults.

If you are not, nor ever have been, a person who likes to exercise, I’d like to give you one piece of advice:  Remove all the rules to movement. I’m not suggesting you start dancing, or skipping or doing somersaults around your neighborhood, unless, of course, you want to.  I’m just saying go back to that place where you enjoyed moving your body and maybe go for a walk; don’t put any parameters of  time, speed or proper form around your walk, just get outside, maybe, and look around and walk some.  And if no one is looking, or even if they are, try a little gallop, or maybe even a cartwheel or two.

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Blurred Potato Lines

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Getting my hair colored today, (no grays, just a little dull) and my stylist, who just lost 20 pounds, asks me, “So what is a typical dinner for you, like what are you having tonight?”  Prior to the question, she says something about how she’s been craving carbs lately and can’t figure out why, but thinks it might be related to the weather changing and the temperatures getting colder.

I’m thinking…maybe you’re craving carbs because your body needs them and they taste good.  “Chicken, a vegetable of some kind, and a bakedpotato,” I tell her.

Her pupils dilate.

My credibility is questionable at this point.

I might as well have told her I was frying up some gopher spleen. People are so funny.  They won’t eat a benign, 120-calorie, natural, made-in-the-earth, potato because they think it’s gonna make them fat. They don’t see the connection between depriving themselves of fundamental foods and the super-size fries they coincidentally consume three days after they just wanted a potato.  Food cravings or “hankerins” as they say here in the South, don’t go away, they just fester and grow and become harder to satisfy.

I know what you’re thinking:  A potato in the buff doesn’t scare you half as much as it does with the goo that goes on top. And who really eats the carb of Irish descent without butter ‘n’ sour cream?  I do see your point.  But if you always think the way you’ve always thought, there’s no room in your brain for a new perspective and without a new perspective, nothing changes. Try taking off some of the goo and, with an open-mind, taste.  You might find you like it without all that camouflage.

As an honorary member of the Official Potato Fan Club, I’d like to urge you reconsider the merit of eating, thus enjoying, my brown-cloaked, all fluffy-in-the-middle, friend; this well-intentioned spud is your friend too.  It provides good taste, its warm, it takes a decent amount of chewing to consume and it fills you up.  Did I mention inexpensive too? Now if all that doesn’t describe a food that’ll do a darn good job of getting you to, and keep you at, a healthy weight I don’t know what would.

Until next time,

Peace, Potatoes and A New Perspective

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Etch-A-Sketch And Martians

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Okay, even if you believe in evolution, you’re certainly not going to claim our nutrition and exercise needs have changed in the last 10, 50, or even 100 years.  So why then would you allow these ever changing and always conflicting definitions of what it means to be healthy into your head?  Twenty years ago, you may have believed a diet rich in carbs was the key to health. Today, you may actually hide your head under the kitchen table at the mere mention of white rice.

Let’s look at this another way:  If you were a Martian sent down to earth to learn the eating and exercise habits of earthlings, your three little Martian eyes would most likely glaze over from confusion.  And even if you stayed awhile, giving yourself amble time to learn our human ways, not only would you end up more confused then you did before you arrived, but your two little Martian heads would assume a permanent spinning pattern, from all the opposing and conflicting information.  Do you get where I’m going with this?

People are, and have been for a long time, so confused when it comes to diet, exercise and weight loss; they don’t know what to believe, and here’s why:  We don’t get our health information from experts we get it from Madison Avenue. Advertisers “educate” Americans about what it means to be healthy and, no big surprise, $$$ is behind the educational system.

When people describe the latest diet they are on and ask me what I think, I get this visual in my head and it looks like this:  I picture myself holding an Etch-A-Sketch that has wires attached to the region of their brain that holds all the diet and exercise information they’ve been holding onto their whole lives.  Before I politely try to tell them why I don’t believe in any diet, especially the one they just described, I picture myself holding my ramped-up Etch-A-Sketch, upside down (because everyone knows you have to hold it upside down) and I shake it and shake it until all the diet, weight loss and exercise beliefs that have been swirling around in their head disappears and the Etch-A-Sketch is blank.

You see, I’m swimming a bit upstream when it comes to educating people about what it really means to be healthy. I’m competing with “Quick” and “Easy.” If I could just go on “Shark Tank” and get those judges to invest in my Amped-up Etch-A-Sketch, I believe I could really make a difference in the world.

Peace, Martians and Open Minds,

Bren

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Food Is Like Urine

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I can remember sitting on the floor of the school nurse’s office, Mrs. Dombrowski, listening to a “health lesson” about food, back in third grade.  I remember the food pyramid slide she put up on the cement block wall, and those simplistic pictures of eggs, a glass of milk and an apple, floating in their assigned boxes.  It wasn’t a difficult or complicated lesson to grasp; you’ve got your food groups and you’ve got your recommended daily allowances. Funny to think about it now…my intro to healthy eating gave me only the nutritional facts about food…as if that’s all it takes to eating a healthy diet.

Mrs. Dobrowski’s food lesson didn’t address the alluring and gratifying nature of eating.  Food, unlike its cousins, water and air, touches a visceral nerve in us and here’s the main reason why I think that’s so:

It’s the taste thing. The pleasure principle. Eating is fun.

It’s those foods on Mrs. Dombroski’s slide, the ones that reside in the teeny, tiny triangle at the top of the pyramid that dance on our taste buds and makes us happy. Our connection to food is intimate; we have a “relationship” with a life sustaining property!  You don’t hear the U.S. Surgeon General advising us to reduce the amount of air or water we take in, there’s’ no need. We have no problem listening to our internal ques when it comes to breathing or addressing our thirst, but food is a complicated and different animal. We don’t see food like we do air and water.  We’ve been “educated” about eating by advertisers, magazine cover, and movie stars who write books about nutrition and weight loss. The thought of answering our bodies request for food the same way we do for oxygen and water, sounds like a ludicrous notion.

Dear Reader, eating something when you’re hungry is no different then taking a deep breath when you’re out of breath or relieving yourself when you need to go to the bathroom. Think about it: When you have the urge to go, you acknowledge it, find a bathroom, and move on. I wager you’ve never tried to figure out ways to fool your body into peeing less, asked friends what their secret to less urination is, or read books like, “Ten Quick and Easy Ways to Less Pee.”  I would also venture to guess that you’ve never counted the amount of times you’ve gone in a day or berated yourself for not holding it longer? Silly, right?

Food is like urine.  The desire to eat when you are hungry is an internal indicator just like the urge to “go;” it has nothing to do with willpower, internal fortitude or character. Listen to your body and trust it more.  It knows way more about what you need then the newest celebrity diet endorser.

Until next time,

Peace, pee pee, and listen to your body!

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To Run Or Not To Run. That Is The Question.

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A snippet of conversation I shared with a client, today:

Kelly:  “I’ve been sooo bad, lately.  I haven’t run in 2 weeks.”

Me:  “Why do you want to run, especially since you told me you hate it?”

I can see she’s perplexed. A health professional, not joining her on her self-chastising bandwagon…for not running?  Inconceivable.  I take a deep breath and offer up my perspective on why running could very well not be right for her, or right for the majority of well-intended exercisers.

So here’s the problem with running, I tell her: “Most people hate it.  If you hate it now, chances are you will always hate it. If you don’t accept this fact, you will always be pulling and probing yourself along, trying to motivate yourself to do it.  And sure, there may be weeks when you can muster up the hootspa to get out there and run, but 99% of  people who don’t like running (I’m being generous here with the 99%) don’t stick with it.  If you can’t maintain a healthy behavior for life, it ultimately does no good. It’s pointless to run for 2 week or 2 months and then stop.   To make matters worse, when your running bout does come to an end,” I continue, “you’re left feeling really bad about yourself because you feel like you quit.”  Double wammy.

Here’s the truth: No matter how good we believe something is for us, exercise, food, whatever…we stop, if we don’t like doing it.  That’s just how humans are programmed.  So to all you non-running wannabees out there, I say this:  If you don’t like to run, stop beating yourself up about it.  Walk!  Or do anything else that keeps you moving.  The good news is your body doesn’t count miles, it only responds to energy needed for the activity.  If the activity you like requires less energy then running, like say walking, just tack on more time doing it.  Chances are you will mysteriously find time to exercise if you find something you like to do.

A caveat:  If you’re reading this blog and you are a “runner,” that’s great. You’ve found an activity you like.  Some of my best friends are runners; I won’t hold that against you. My message is to those who want to be active, but simply loathe the act of running.  The reason for your disdain, my dear reader, is likely because you keep trying to change who you are, and don’t recognize both the value of many kinds of activities and the enjoyment these activities can bring.  The adage, “No Pain, No Gain” is as pointless as the leg warmers worn by the movie stars who coined this phrase.  Exercise science has come a long way since thong leotards were popular.   We know that physical and mental discomfort is counter productive to long-term exercise adherence.  Here’s my last finger wagging suggestion, I promise:  Choose exercises, first and foremost, you like doing. Running isn’t the be all and end all…and for the majority out there, not the answer to your question.

Until next time,

Peace, Hootspa and Walking Shoes

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Lions And Tigers And Bear Claws, Oh My!

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Ever feel like the weight loss information you get is about as clear and as helpful as the advice The Scarecrow gave to Dorothy at their first encounter in the corn field?  And If I have to tell you what movie I’m referring to, you probably should stop following me on Tumblr; I rebuke you, we have nothing in common.In my scenario, The Scarecrow will be played by the diet industry and the part of Dorothy will be played by you. I hope you look good in pigtails and gingham. Dorothy comes to a fork in the road and doesn’t know which path she should take to lead  her to destination. Enter Dorothy and Toto:

“Now which way do we go Toto?

“Pardon me but that way’s a very nice way.”

Toto begins to bark at The Scarecrow,   “Don’t be silly Toto, scarecrows don’t talk.”

“Of course some people do go both ways.”

Poor Dorothy! How’s she going to reach Oz?  She’s confused, perplexed and frustrated about which way to go to reach her goal…and maybe so are you.

My name is Bren and the sole purpose of this blog is to challenge you to question then rethink everything you think you know about weight loss and how you can actually live a pleasure-based, healthy life. Warning to purist and all-or-none thinkers!: this blog is based on both my experience and non-deprivational philosphy that allows and sometimes encourages the consumption of all form of chocolate (not just the dark kind…oh yeah, I said it.) as well as the sweet intake of wine and various other foods and beverages that bring a little “Oz” into everyday life.

My first challenge to you:  If you come across a diet answer that seems fantastical, just plain hard to believe, or something you can’t do for the rest of your life, it’s for certain a short-lived answer to a long term issue. Sometimes the answer to what you’re looking for isn’t so complicated or so far away from what your inner-voice tells you to be true.

Until next time,

Peace, Chocolate and Ruby Slippers!image

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