You Can Do All Things!

On my forearm I have some beautiful words tattooed – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  This comforting statement has profound meaning. It means that because of my Higher Power I can do anything. I can set goals, I can dream, I can live a life of passion, and I can have hope. 

 

Lately this reminder has helped encourage me. As I prepare for my first competition in 3 weeks I am more tired and I am training more. I am sore all over. I am doing more cardio than I prefer and I am hungry. I want to cheat or take it easy. I walk into the gym each day and have difficulty getting motivated. However I get started. And each and every time I push through. I push harder.  I get stronger.  I run faster. I keep going when I want to stop. Not because of myself. But because I have a strength inside me that allows me to do all things. 

We forget our power. We forget the power we have through our Higher Power. We allow our own flawed thinking and skewed perceptions of ourselves to hold us back. A friend stopped me at the gym the other day to compliment me in my progress. I accepted graciously and then proceeded to tell her where I felt I was lacking and cast doubt and skeptism on my progress. She reminded me my perception was not accurate and that what I saw was not what others saw. She related and talked about her own skewed thinking regarding fitness.  For my friend she was feeling tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted. She had personal issues that were impacting her life and her family. This would cause anyone to be more tired, stressed, and vulnerable. Yet she continued to do!  She kept working out, she kept taking care of her family, and she kept doing well at her job. 

The ability to keep going despite adverse circumstances or a desire to dedicate your self to an activity requires strength. I am not an athlete because of genetic or situational factors. I am an athlete because I have a Higher Power that allows me to do all things. Alone I would not be competing, nor would I have the displine or commitment to keep training. But because I believe in a Mighty and stronger Higher Power I know I can compete and I know I can stay focused and consistent. When we become self involved our thinking becomes narrowed and too focused on self. We start to evaluate our weaknesses and remember our failures. We compare ourselves to others. I am not an athlete. I never compete in anything, nor did I want to. I always quit when things get hard. I do not want to be challenged. Honestly if my training were up to me alone, I would have quit. However my inner power keeps me focused and shows me every time I workout that I can. 

I can do all things. I can!  When I remember the Power I have I am stronger. I am braver. I am more confident. You are stronger than you think. You are braver than you think. You can run faster and longer than you think. You can have self-control around food. You can do one more push-up. You can lose weight, find health, and love your body. You can if you remember your Power!  Your Higher Power is with you all day, every day, and it will give you strength, courage, and passion to all things!

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Avoid the Weekend Binge: Control Your Mind Control Your Eating

It’s Friday, and if you are like most people you are looking forward to the weekend. Weekends are less structured with more free time and generally time to have fun and relax. We need this time to decompress and settle down. The lack of structure is great and necessary. However the lack of structure can be detrimental to health and weight loss goals. 

Specifically people find they binge or have increased “cheating” over the weekend. It is easy during the week to stay on track and maintain a fit and healthy routine. Know that a lot of people struggle to maintain a routine over the weekend and a lot of people “fall off the bandwagon”. That is why diets start on Mondays and a Monday in the gym is one of the busiest days of the week. People are in the gym trying to undo the damage they made with their eating over the weekend. Unfortunately it is not that easy; your body has already metabolized the food and it is impossible to out-train a bad diet. The act of binging over the weekend may be why people abandon their weight loss and health goals. They see a cheat meal, or two, or three, as failure. They let this failure cause them to lose hope. They probably think things like, “I can’t do this”, “I am not motivated enough”, or “it is too hard” to continue to maintain a fit life. If those are the thoughts then those things will be true. I have written a lot about this in previous blogs, so feel free to read those. Bottom line is, you ARE, what you think you ARE. 

The struggle is not necessarily due to being weak, lacking motivation and willpower, or having too strong cravings. The struggle is related to what you think!  How you encounter meals and the thoughts associated with eating any meal will determine whether you are successful or unsuccessful at maintning your healthy eating and fit lifestyle. 

What you think is vital to your eating behaviors and whether or not you will maintain your weight loss and health goals. Researchers found that people on diets failed because certain foods triggered enjoyable and pleasurablemthoughts about the food (Papies, 2008). People that struggled with self-regulation were less successful at avoiding the temptation, whereas people that were able to evulate their thoughts were more successful. 

Staying with your plan requires self-regulation. Self-regulation is understanding your thoughts and how your thoughts cause you to feel and behave. Let’s say I show you an image of chocolate. Looks good right?!? The majority of people would see that image and agree chocolate is good and would agree they would enjoy a piece of chocolate. The people that say “no”  and refuse the chocolate (despite agreeing the chocolate looks good) are able to see the temptation but are also able to remain focused on thier goal. Individuals with temptation-goal self-regulation thinking are able to avoid temptation and remain successful toward their weight loss goals (Kroese, Adriaanse, Evers, & De Ridder, 2011). If you are someone that struggles with binging and experiences increased cravings over the weekend do not lose heart. What is most exciting about these research studies is that volunteers were unsuccessful dieters prior to the study. They were able to learn to reframe their thinking to avoid food and they found increased weight loss success. Here is how you can win the battlefield of your own mind and stay on track this weekend. 

  • When going for a meal or snack; Stop, take a few breaths, and think. Ask yourself if the meal is worth it?  Is this really something that you want right now?  Is there another choice that sounds good? How will you feel after eating this meal?  Is it worth it to feel that way?  If you are not sure how eating makes you feel keep a food diary.  This is different than apps like MyFitness Pal (for example). In addition to writing down what you are eating and tracking the number of calories consumed and the number of macronutrients you also write down how eating that meal made you feel physically and emotionally.  
  • Avoid boredom eating by keeping the mind focused. Say to yourself, “I am in charge. I control my thoughts”. You are the boss of you, not the food. You have the power to tell yourself what to do and how to do it. In that moment you are in charge of your behavior. 
  • You choose what you put in your mouth. Say, “I choose what to eat and I right now I choose not to eat that”. This kind of thinking is only asking you to stay on task and focused for this meal and this moment in time only.  You worry about the next meal at the next meal. When learning new behaviors it is a step-by-step process. Take the urge to binge and eat poorly one meal and one step at a time. 
  • Think about your goal and your motivation. Ask, “how will eating this meal impact my goals?”  You know the answer to this and you know the right decision to make. Trust that. If you make a choice to refuse tempting foods that should cause pride and confidence for you to make healthy decisions at your next meal. If you choose to binge or “cheat” that one meal it is still ok.  Remember you are OK with taking things one meal at a time. 

A cheat meal is not a slip up. A binge is not a slip up. It is ok. Tell yourself that. You are human and you make mistakes. You are human and have the right to enjoy things. You can keep going forward and choose to eat something healthier next time. You can avoid future cheats and binges by applying the thinking above to each meal situation. Changing thinkng can be hard, but you will gain confidence as you are successful at each meal. To help improve compliance and increase confidence try carrying healthy snacks with you so you do not get too hungry. Or if you are craving a food try finding a healthier alternative. Pinterest (for example) has many clean and healthy recipes to satisfy any tantalizing craving and eating the “clean” version will leave you feeling guiltless. 

A dirty meal here and there is ok. Please enjoy your weekend and eat well. Enjoy dessert. Enjoy a fattening and dirty meal. If you do well over the week a cheat meal or two on the weekend will not mess up your goals. However binging and grazing over the weekend can be harmful. It will definitely harm your ego and your pride. If you feel guilty, bad, “fat” or shame after eating then you know you went too far. A meal, regardless if cheating or eating healthy, should not make you feel bad. Eating should make you feel full, energized, and fulfilled. Enjoy the opportunity to let loose and enjoy your self but know you can stop. You do not have to become victim to sabotaging your healthy eating. You are in charge. You are in control. 

 

References:

 

Kroese, F., Adriaanse, M., Evers, C., & De Ridder, D. (2011). “Instant Success” turning tempest ions int cues for goal-directed behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1389-1397. 

Papies, E. (2008). Healthy cognition: Processes of self-regulatory success in restrained eating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 1290-1300. 

Top Tips to Find Balance to Keep A Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life.

We have all heard the term, “Go hard or go home”. I say this to myself to power through a workout. I say this to my classes to motivate my students to push through their workout. I highly encourage working hard while being physically active. I also encourage being disciplined in your healthy eating choices. However I also recommend balance. 

Balance is necessary to keep us focused, motivated, interested, and engaged. Giving your all every single day can deter you from your goals. Why?  Because you are human. There will be days you will be tired, you will have obligations, your loved ones will want to spend time with you, and you will make mistakes. Having the “go hard or go home” mentality will sway you from your goals because you will be quick to abandon your goals when you have a dirty meal or you skip a workout or two. 

Balance is the key to making fitness, health, healthy eating, and weight loss a lifestyle. I think balance is hard to find though. For example people fear skipping the gym or having a cheat meal because they worry this will cause them to abandon all motivation. Skipping the gym today will not make going tomorrow any harder or easier. Or people fear certain foods and avoid health benefits by restricting foods for fear of gaining weight or not losing any additional weight. Restricting is not helpful and restricting leads to future weight gain and binging. All the stress of trying to stay 100% focused makes working out and healthy eating bothersome and it removes the fun from living a fit life. 

Here are my top tips to find balance and keep a fit, fun, and fabulous lifestyle. 

1.  Step away from the scale. Put it away. Throw it away. The scale will deceive you and only make you feel bad. The scale only measures your body as it is related to gravity. People tend tomfocus on weight loss and will weigh weekly. Some even weigh daily. In the midst of my hysteria and unhealthy way of achieving fitness I weighed multiple times a day. This caused guit and shame and drove me crazy. You see we weigh to expect a certain outcome (pounds lost) and it is impossible to achieve that outcome overnight. Rather than focus on pounds lost focus on how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, how much longer and faster you can run, that you can lift heavier today than last week, that you were able to complete a group fitness class, and the extra energy that you have. 

2.  Turn off your cellphone, computer, tablet, and TV. Specifically spend a day not looking at fitness models or people working out on Instagram or Facebook. Seeing this can shame you and cause you to feel like you need to be working out rather than resting. Not only will this allow you to rest but eliminating these distractions opens you to have more time to enjoy the weather outside, enjoy time with loved ones, or learn something new. 

3. Take things one day at a time. Yes, planning will help you be successful in your goals. However life happens. It is inevitable that you will have your whole day planned but life will have a plan of its own. Rather than be thrown off by life’s little mishaps and things that are not planned, you can be best prepared by planning one day at a time. Yesterday may have been terrible and things did not go according to your plan. The good news is you have tomorrow. Tomorrow you will wake up and your goal and your plans will still be there. The gym did not close over night and healthy foods will still be stocked in the stores. Decide to tackle each day and be the best you can be today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. 

4.  There is nothing more important than your relationships with family and friends. Do not sacrifice spending time with loved ones for a workout. Perhaps you can incorporate fun and family time with physical fitness. But you must make time to spend time with those you care about. Have a weekly date night with your spouse or have coffee with a friend. Cut your workout early to,get home and greet your family. We are all busy and we have things we are working toward but nothing is more important than our time with the special people in our lives. 

5.  Find hobbies and interests that are different from healthy eating and working out. As you engage in fitness and healthy eating you will find you are drawn to friends with similar interests. You will start to read books and articles about health and fitness. Soon your activities become consumed with health and fitness. It is true you can have too much of a good thing. Having other interests outside of your new fit friends and outside the gym helps you find peace. When you can enjoy and look forward to other things it helps keep working out and healthy eating fresh and interesting as well. 

6. Find time to meditate, journal, and relax. You take such good care of yourself by working out and eating well but you also need to care for your soul. You need to find peace to stay relaxed and focused. A relaxed and peaceful mind will help you enjoy physical activity better. Meditation will help you keep your emotions calm. This will only help you acheive your fitness goals. Stress makes weight loss and healthy eating harder. Meditation, journaling, and relaxation will control stress so you can be your best. 

7.  Cheat!  It is ok to have a “dirty” meal two to three times a week. It is ok to skip the gym because you would rather go shopping or go to the movies. This helps keep life in perspective. This helps you have fun without worrying about your stomach or your thighs. Life is precious and fun. And although living a fit life is fun and exciting, cheating every once in while keeps life interesting as well. You have motivation to make changes. Your desire to be fit and healthy will not change because you ate dessert or because you were not able to workout for a couple days. 

Life is an adventure. You are the author. You have control over every thought and behavior. You get to choose how you live each day. Sure there are things beyond our control but you are responsible for how you approach each task through the day. The best way to find balance is to accept yourself and love yourself. Know that you are ok. Trust you are making the right decisions for yourself. Trust your choices. You will make mistakes. Be open to learn from them. Be open to change today what you did wrong yesterday. Live this one life with passion and drive. You accomplish that when you say to yourself, “I choose”. What do you choose to do today?

Meal Planning to Help You Stay Focused and Successful in Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

I get a lot of questions about meal planning. I will start by saying that I am not a nutritionist, nor am I am dietician. But I do understand how eating and food impacts mood, behavior, thinking, and the body. And as such I have learned that food is essential for health and wellness. Not only does food impact the body and how the body functions but food can influence your mood. Research suggests that diets high in fats and starch are also related to higher rates of depression (Pepino, Finkeiner, & Mennella, 2009). Diet can negatively impact mood, but eating foods can also improve mood and behaviors. Making proper diet changes can decrease symptoms of ADHD (Peisser, Frankena, Toorman, Savelkoul, Pereira, & Buitelaar, 2009).  The food you eat will be a reflection of you. 

The food you consume is taken into your body via your mouth. From the moment the food touches your lips your body starts to process and break down the food. This process also involves brain function and these brain chemicals are also responsible for regulating mood, thinking, and behavior.  The body then works to help the food travel down to your stomach. Here the food is further processed and met with stomach chemicals that breaks down the food for digestion. The same chemicals that process food in the stomach are also in the brain. In fact your gut contains serotonin, a chemical responsible for moods like depression and anger, just like the brain. 

A study looked at how eating foods impacted the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. They found a diet that consisted of probiotics, yogurt, improved areas of the brain known for regulating emotions and keeping mood stable and improved the body’s alertness (Dr. Mercola via Mercola.com). This research supports the notion that “you are what you eat”. Healthy eating is not just necessary for weight loss and physical health but for improved thinking, improved focus, alertness, improved mood, and thoughtful behaviors. 

 What makes healthy eating difficult is when we are away from home, we are out with others, or we are busy. There is much research about the benefits of setting specific daily plans to maintaining healthy behaviors. Therefore meal planning is required to maintain healthy eating. 

  • The more specific the meal plan the better. Know what you will eat for each meal and know when you will eat. 
  • Plan for every single meal, including snacks.
  • All meals should include a lean protein, a complex carb, and a healthy fat. So for example a snack could include an apple, deli cut turkey breast, and half a serving of almonds.  (This is just an example and does not consider portion sizes, blood sugar, or other medical issues – a registered dietician or physician can best prescribe individualized meal plans). 

People meal prep in different ways, so how prepare for meals depends on personal perference. Some meal prep for a whole week or a few days in advance. I meal prep for the next day, as my schedule allows that flexibility. Everyone is different. But here are some tips to start and find a meal prep routine that works for you. 

  • Meal prep starts with breakfast.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kicks off your metabolism to start for the day.  Breakfast can include eggs whites, whole toast, and peanut butter. Pull any dry foods out and place on the counters in ziplock or Tupperware. Only package the serving size you need to meet your dietary needs for the day. You do not need to prepare 4 pieces of toast unless that is your meal plan. Place perishable items in containers in the fridge.  
  • If you eat right your body will need more food in a couple of hours. Pack snacks that will satisfy. Avoid snacks high in sugar and that are overly processed. When I meal prep I try to follow the rule of protein, complex carb, and healthy fat for every meal, including snacks. 
  • Next you will pack lunch. Prepare foods by cooking them before and place in Tupperware. If you need to be more organized, label the bag or the Tupperware with date to eat and meal to eat. Then you can pull your Tupperware out of the fridge, warm it up, and you know you are getting in your healthy meal. 
  • You want to avoid starving and letting your metabolism drop so eating another fulfilling snack between lunch and dinner will help you stay focused and alert through the day. 
  • To avoid the evening hustle and bustle have dinner prepared. Crockpot recipes are helpful. Have meals partially prepared, all prepped, so you can remove food and place on stove, microwave, or oven with minimial effort. 
Meal prep will keep you eating healthy. It will keep you from eating out. It will keep you from eating unhealthy snacks and meals. It will keep you focused. Meal prep eliminates excuses of “you do not have time” to prepare meals. Meal prep will keep you from starving and avoid craving unhealthy options. Meal prep is a way to have a specified plan that will you help you be successful with you weight loss goals. 

 

References:

Peisser, L., Frankena, K., Toorman, J., Savelkoul, H., Pereira, R., & Buitelaar, J. (2009). A randomized controlled trial into the effects of food on ADHD. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 18(1), 12-19. 

Pepino, M. Y., Finkbeiner, S., & Mennella, J. (2009). Similarities in food cravings and mood states between obese women and women who smoke tobacco. Obesity, 17(6), 1158-1163. 

How Stress May Not Only Causing you Emotional Upset but May Be Hindering your Wellness Goals as well.

The immune system is an intricate system of cells and systems designed to protect and guard the body from potential harmful organisms and situations.  Without the immune system humans would struggle to fight infection, illness, and disease (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system not only keeps us safe from illness but the immune system also protects the body from psychological stressors.

A major biological function of the immune system involves blood and the chemical in cells, known as antibodies.  These antibodies are able to identify and attack dangerous organism that come in contact with the body (Abbas & Lichtman, 2014).  The immune system consists of body fluids, hormones, chemicals, and cells that fight off illness.  Medical science uses medicine to improve this system of the body and help protect the immune system from dangerous diseases.  However it is harder to protect the body from behavioral health and psychological illness.  Stress compromises the immune system and leave people vulnerable to not only emotional upset, but to illness, fatigue, and adverse health.

Stress, although a psychological stressor, also stresses the immune system.  The same fluids, cells, and chemicals in the body that protect against disease are negatively impacted by stress (McKinnon, Weisse, Reynolds, Bowles, & Baum, 1989).  Research suggests that increased stress decreases immunity.  Stress decreased immune functioning even when medical treatment was used to improve how the immune system operated (Stanojevic, Dimitrijevic, Kovacevic-Jovanovic, Miletic, Vujic, & Radulovic, 2003).  Stress is responsible for decreasing the resources needed to keep the body well, refreshed, and working properly.

Stress has the potential to prevent the body from being able to adequately protect against illness and disease.  Stress has the potential to decrease the body’s ability to burn fat, metabolize food, and recover from physical activity.

Research suggests that decreasing stress will improve health, fitness, and wellness.  Behavioral practices such as relaxation, mediation, exercise, and self-reflection can reduce stress (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1992; Levy, Williams, & Henderson, 2001).  We have the ability to feel better and control our physical health and wellness.

Often times feeling tired, worn out, stressed, and sick can cause a person to feel powerless.  However learning to manage stress and decrease levels of stress can help individuals improve health and wellness.  An interesting research study found that relaxation not only reduced stress but also increased immune system functioning.  Learning to manage stress is a skill that requires practice. We encounter stressors every day, therefore it takes daily stress reduction practices to to keep the body from experiencing the harmful effects of stress.

Physical symptoms of stress:

headaches

stomach ache

eye twitch

muscle soreness (mainly in the back)

changes in appetite – either increased appetite or decreased appetite

changes in sleep – hypersomnia (sleeping too much) or insomnia (not sleeping enough)

tiredness

cold symptoms (runny nose, cough, etc)

heart rate increases

difficulty breathing – shallow breathing or feeling like not getting enough air

sweaty palms

dry mouth

These symptoms can also indicate health conditions but evaluating events in your life can cue you to whether stress may be upsetting you.  Also the following emotional symptoms can indicate stress is complicating your life.

irritability

diffiulty managing emotions – mood swings

anger

difficulty concentrating and difficulty focusing

easily distracted

difficulty staying on task

forgetfulness

feeling frustrated

feeling overwhelmed

feeling sad

self-doubt

racing thoughts – a lot of thoughts going through your head at one time

feeling hopeless

feeling like something bad is about to happen

These emotional and physical symptoms are uncomfortable and often times people take extreme measures to reduce the discomfort.  People will overeat, sleep in, avoid people, places, and things, neglect responsibility, and stop enjoying activities.  People will increase use of over-the-counter medication, use of illicit substances, increase alcohol consumption, and stop working out and eating well.  These things will only further decrease immunity and make it more difficult to manage stress.

Next time you think stress is the culprit for your emotional upset, physical upset, and lack of wellness try these things instead.

1. Go for a walk

2. Call a friend

3. Watch favorite movie/show

4. Dance/sing/listen to music

5. Journal/Meditate/Engage in spiritual practices

6. Draw/paint/create something

7. Read a book/magazine

8. Exercise

9. Laugh

10. Spend time with close family and friends

Doing 1 or more of these things daily will help keep stress at bay, but during of increased stress engaging in all these behaviors will help reduce stress. Start at the top of the list, and work your way down.  If you still feeling stressed when you reach the end, start at the top again.  These things will only make you feel good, improve yourself and your situation, reduce stress, and improve wellness.

*There are times in life when things are extremely overwhelming and it can be difficult to overcome.  During these times it can be helpful to increase support and to reach out for help.  Cntact a therapist for help.  As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Health Psychologist, Stephanie is here to help.  Please contact Stephanie if you feel need additional help overcoming stress.

Berry Green Smoothie

Here is a yummy shake recipe. It is refreshing and you will be satisfied until your next meal.

Two scoops of Chocolate Protein (I choose Muscle Gain by Advocare).

1 banana.

1 cup of Blueberries.

1 cup of spinach.

1 cup of Plain Greek Yogurt.

A splash of Unsweetened Almond Milk.

Water (just enough to allow ingredients to blend).

Blend and enjoy.

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