Road Trip, Anyone? Traveling and Staying on the Path to Weight Loss

Summer is here and with it comes all the family road trips and vacations.  For most of us who are trying to lose weight and be more fit, it’s a time full of either anxiety or wild abandon, followed by crushing regret upon our return home.  We love going on vacation but we never know what to do when it comes to food.  Exercise usually isn’t a problem, because even if we are booked somewhere that doesn’t have a gym, there’s usually a lot of walking that comes with a vacation.  It’s the food that is almost always the elephant in the room!

Road Trips: For probably more than half of our vacations, there is some kind of road trip involved, anything from a few hours to a few days.  I’ve been seeing a lot of posts from my fitness friends in MFP (My Fitness Pal): “help! we’re driving to XYZ!” Road trips are a common excuse for poor food choices: we’re stuck in a car and most of the time when we stop to get something to eat, choices tend to be pretty limited.  If we are with family, especially kids, then most of the time our food options are limited to whatever is quick, easy and we know the kids will eat without too much fuss.  A lot of times, it’s also whatever we can eat in the car as we’re driving.  Those options are usually pretty limited: burgers and fries immediately pop to mind!

But your weight loss goals aren’t doomed, even if you are on a road trip! Yes, it’s a little tougher, but there are some options.  The easiest is to take some healthy food with you.  I was listening to an audio book yesterday where the author suggested the same thing, but frankly, I was a little appalled at his idea- seriously, it involved an entire suitcase full of food, including a cardboard tube full of avocados! Definitely not a good idea! Depending on what your goals are, you may need to bring a small cooler or a lunchbag, but probably not more than that unless you are packing food for the whole family, which may not be a bad idea. The last time I took a road trip (it was an 8 hour drive followed by a three day weekend at a hotel without a gym and an 8 hour return drive), I brought bags of nuts, sunflower seeds, some dried fruit, some beef jerky, and some water.  None of these needed a cooler and, other than the bottles of water (a 6 pack) they weren’t too bulky.  These could also be picked up at most gas stations along the way.

Most major highways also have travel centers such as Love’s, Pilot, and Travel America.  These are bigger better versions of the old-fashioned ‘truck stop,’ offering gas, food and other amenities (such as showers and laundry) for people who literally live on the road.  The nice thing about them is that they have more food options than just burgers and fries and most of them have a small market available with options like cheese snacks or fresh fruit.  While the restaurants still tend to be quick and easy, one of the better options is Subway.  While a sandwich may not be in keeping with your goals if you are eating low carb or keto, I think they have better salad and protein options than just a burger or a formerly frozen chicken breast.  Even if the only food option is something like a burger or taco place, most of them still offer some kind of salad, and a lot of them do the ‘lettuce wrap’ sandwich option too.  Some of my favorite fast food places are Subway and also Arby’s (they have good side salad and if you do opt for a sandwich, their classic roast beef isn’t drowned in sugary sauces).

Hotels & Resorts: If you are the one making the hotel accommodations, you have a few choices.  Most hotels have a microwave and a small refrigerator in the rooms.  Marriott Residence Inns actually have small kitchens which are a great idea, especially if you are going to be there for a while. If possible, opt for one of those, since you won’t be stuck with takeout/ delivery or eating out. While the rooms may or may not be more expensive, you can usually make up the difference by buying groceries and preparing them in the suite. Also, anything non-perishable can either be eaten on the way back or once you get home.  These are especially good choices if you are eating a special diet or if someone in your family has a food allergy.

Even if you are stuck eating out or getting delivery, there are still some better options than pizza or Chinese, although most pizza places also deliver salads and if you get Chinese, you don’t have to eat the rice or noodles.  There are a lot of services, like Grub Hub or Food To You, that will deliver food from a real restaurant for a fee.  That means you can order something healthier and have it delivered if you opt not to go out.  If you do opt to go out, then you’re making the same choices that you normally would make at a restaurant.  If you don’t have a lot of experience eating out, check out the menu online if you can and don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or the chef about the food and how it’s prepared! You are the customer and you are paying for it! If it makes it easier for you, tell the waiter that you have an allergy or a medical condition- sometimes they are more forthcoming if you do!

Once you reach your destination, your hotel may or may not have a gym or a pool available.  This is something you can check on prior to your arrival and if your vacation is not going to include a lot of exercise, then you can pack something light such as resistance bands or a jump rope.  (One of the podcasters I listen to brings her kettlebell if she’s traveling by car so she can use it in her hotel room.)  The last hotel I stayed at was actually the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.  The only gym on the premises was the replica of the gym available for passengers when the ship was in action, but I seriously think no gym was needed.  Just walking around the ship was plenty of exercise (my Fitbit logged 12 miles in 2 days!)

If your vacation is actually a cruise, then you have the best and the worst of both worlds! Cruises usually have an enormous variety of buffets on board, almost 24 hour food! While it’s Temptation City, it’s also a huge variety of healthy choices also. You can pick and choose what you want to eat, so even though the dessert buffet can be pure agony, there’s usually a whole smorgasbord of better choices.  Cruise ships, besides being huge and involving a lot of walking, also have excellent gyms, so you can work off those temptations too!

Vacation Rules: Ultimately, you are going to be making the same choices on vacation that you make when you’re at home.  While your choices may be a little more limited, they aren’t all that different.  When you go out to eat on a weekend, weekday or vacation, there are choices on the menu.  The same goes when you are at a grocery store or running errands with the kids: the food is there and you have to make a choice.  Most people dread vacation because they think they either have to give in to temptation and ‘be bad,’ or they have to deprive themselves and ‘ruin their vacation.’  You don’t have to do either- make the same choices you’d make while at home, whether it’s indulging in a little cheesecake or chocolate or saying no to them.  Make the choices that make you feel good about yourself and when you get home, the only dirty laundry you’ll be unpacking won’t include any Food Guilt!

 

We Get What We Pay For, But Do We Know What We Are Buying?

When you are on a fitness or weight loss journey, we are used to taking the budget approach to calories and fitness. A lot of our calorie calculators look like a long math problem: 1200 calories + 1350 food = -150 calories + 400 exercise = 250 calories left over. Yes! I can eat that 200 calorie cup of yogurt after dinner! It’d be nice if it really was so simple, but the truth is that metabolism isn’t so cut and dry, and more than food and exercise affect it. 

What we don’t realize is that almost everything we do in our lives has a cost and a consequence, whether weight related or not.  Relationships, work, food, exercise, and every day life: they all have a cost in our lives and a lot of times, that cost is hidden. 

We’re get used to looking at labels and putting on our activity trackers with our watch or jewelry. We diligently log our food and water, and we make a point of getting more sleep. These are all good healthy habits we should be proud of, but when it comes to the stress in our lives, we don’t see it as something with a cost, or at least a cost that can be controlled. 

Stress, both good and bad, is a normal part of life. That’s a given but we don’t always think about the effects stress has on us or on our health, fitness and weight loss. Even ‘good stress’ like exercise or a vacation trip, puts pressure on our health. We’ve all heard the expression “a vacation from the vacation.” It’s because the packing, the traveling, the being away from home, and then all the unpacking, laundry, and fitting back into every day life: you guessed it! There’s stress! Even if the vacation was wonderful and relaxing, getting back into your routine can take some work. 

There are other stressors in our lives we may not recognize, like helping someone out. Even something as simple as picking up someone’s mail or feeding their cat while they’re gone can be a stress, especially if you already have a busy schedule. It’s one more thing to get into your day, and the more of those “little easy things” you add to your day, the more stress you are under. We’re used to thinking of calories and exercise adding up, but stress also has a cumulative effect. 

When we don’t manage our stress like we manage the rest of our health, simply put we are buying trouble. Managing our stress can be as simple as not cramming our schedule full to bursting, even if it’s “healthy” stress like exercise. (That’s why we need recovery/ rest days.) “Fun stress” also takes a toll, if you finish the end of every day or every weekend exhausted. Stress relieving activities don’t have to be things like yoga or meditation: they can be simple things like walking the dog, taking the kids to the park, or just spending some leisurely time in the pool. Other choices: doing a puzzle or crossword, getting a manicure, reading a book. Essentially, if it’s something you enjoy that’s restful, then you need to make time for it in your schedule on a regular basis, but cramming it in just so you have “stress relief” may work against you. These should be activities that don’t really have a timer attached. 

We know there’s limits on our calories and our time for sleep and exercise, but they are also limits on how much stress we can handle. We’re mindful of things like gluten, sugar, and overtraining, but we also need to be mindful of what else we sign up for when we sign up for the other non-health activities in our lives. 

When We Believe Our Own Lies

This occurred to me recently when I was really tempted to do the “quick and simple thing” and get something for dinner that wasn’t the best choice.  It wasn’t exactly junk food: I thought I could pick up something at El Pollo Loco on my way home from the gym. I think they have good food, healthier than most, and I wanted to get a salad, but…. the salad dressing which I love has too many processed oils and if I got the salad I wanted, there’s the flour tortilla shell , so “I’ll just not eat that!” Yeahhhhh, riiiight!

And therein lies the problem.  I’ll tell myself I’ll only use half the dressing and not eat the tortilla shell, but we all know that won’t happen! Then I figured well, when I add it into MFP (My Fitness Pal), I don’t have to put in the tortilla shell or the dressing…. It was at this point that I stopped the bargaining with myself.  It doesn’t matter what I put in MFP or my paper journal- what matters is what I put in my mouth! I can lie to MFP and I can lie to myself, but I can’t lie to my body! My body knows what I ate and it’s not going to ‘fudge’ the calories or the processed oils or the carbs just because I ‘fudged’ on my food journals! I can lie to everyone-even myself-  and I can even believe the lie that “that little detour isn’t going to set me back much,” but my body and metabolism will show the truth: blood sugar spikes, cravings, and delayed progress on my goals.

It was the plain simple reality: if I really wanted to make progress, then choosing the Pollo Loco salad wasn’t going to get me there and no amount of lying or ‘fudging’ was going to change that either! Do I really want to make progress? Yes.  Will that food choice get me there? No.  So, I had my answer, and I came home from the gym and had the leftover rotisserie chicken and green salad that were in the fridge.

I’ve bargained with myself so many times over similar situations, and unfortunately, I’m pretty good at talking myself into bad decisions (not just with food and fitness, either!) This is where most of us run into trouble: bargaining to get what we want, and usually we ‘win’ because we want to believe the lie we tell ourselves.  We want to believe that eating the birthday cake at our nephew’s party won’t hold us back any more than the pizza at the same birthday party and the cookies and the fruit punch. “It’s one day!”  We tell ourselves that “we are adults and we’re entitled to make our own choices and eat what we want!”  Yup! Absolutely true- 100%! You are totally entitled to eat all the pizza, donuts, chocolate, Rice Krispy treats, and anything else you want to eat.  They don’t have food police (yet) and you aren’t breaking any diet-related laws.  But, you probably won’t make a whole lot of progress towards your goals either.  We trick ourselves into believing that we can eat all the ‘forbidden foods’ and still make progress. We’ll do some extra workouts, or we’ll fast the next day or two, or- when we fail to do those things- it’s just one day or one donut or one tostada salad with fried tortilla shell and creamy cilantro dressing!

‘One’ probably won’t do terrible damage to your progress, but even though we tell ourselves it’s only ‘one,’ is it really just ‘one’?  This is why I like to keep a paper food journal (it’s easier to flip through than an app)- I can go back and look at all the ‘ones’ that weren’t going to set me back: there’s the cashew brittle from See’s Candy; there’s the chocolate cake from O’Brien’s Market; there’s the pretzel bagels from Trader Joe’s, and the licorice, and the white cake from Safeway…. and you can see it’s a whole lotta ‘ones’! But each time I persuaded myself that it’s just one, it really wasn’t.  It was just the latest in a long string of ‘ones’!  All of those little detours took me so far off track that I gained back almost twenty lbs! I remember thinking ‘how the heck did I get here?!’ and it was really simple: I believed the lies I wanted to believe.  I am a great liar and I lied to myself about how these ‘ones’ didn’t matter! Twenty pounds later, the reality is that one and one and one and one  ad infinitum eventually add up!

This doesn’t mean that we need to deny ourselves every little treat forever out of fear of gaining or going off track, but we need to be realistic when it comes to taking detours.  Sometimes we are very good when it comes to policing our families and our pets.  I know when my furry children want extra treats or ask for something that’s not good for them, I am pretty good at telling them no for their own good.  Too many treats make for a fat kitty or a pup with an upset stomach, but when it comes to me? Well, one treat won’t be too bad…….. and so it begins! (Maybe if I put the pets in charge of my treats…..???) This is one of the reasons I keep the paper journal to flip through when I start thinking that “one isn’t the end of the world” because yes, the world will go on but my weight loss probably won’t! Is the licorice or pretzel bagel or whatever it is really worth the setback?  Maybe it won’t be such a setback on its own, but on top of what I ‘treated’ myself to yesterday, it’s just too much too soon.  This is why we need to take a good hard look at what we are telling ourselves and take an objective assessment.  In plain language, are we lying to ourselves again? Hint: if you need to convince yourself or rationalize it, then, yeah, you probably are lying! If it really were a good choice, you don’t need to explain or rationalize or bargain yourself into making the decision.  When was the last time you had to convince yourself to eat the broccoli or carrots?

Sometimes, it’s not as cut and dried as salad v chocolate cake, and you would think it would get easier, but… (oh, you knew it was coming!) the longer we are on this journey, the more complicated the choices become.  It really is an interactive test: once you get past the easy questions, ie the Salad v Cake level, they start getting more complicated: how much is a ‘real’ serving?; how can you tell when you are really ‘satisfied’ v eating until you feel full?; which processed foods are too processed and where do you draw the line?  This really is a good thing, although it won’t always feel like it. It’s because you are getting better at making the easy choices that you are starting to recognize the subtleties in the harder choices. Let’s face it: when you mostly eat fast food like I did, the question of bottled salad dressing full of processed vegetable oils never comes up! You’re still salad v fries level and salad is obviously better.  Once the salad becomes your default choice, then you start realizing that you can improve on the choices you’re making, and you take it to the next level.  It’s a sign of your continued growth and improvement.

If we do decide that the treat is worth it- and sometimes they are- we need to remember 1) it is a treat, which by definition means it’s something out of the ordinary! [‘Daily’ is not a treat- that’s a meal!]; 2) If it’s not worth it, don’t eat it! One of the mindsets we develop over the years is that if we start to eat something, we think we need to finish it.  Part of it is the ‘don’t waste food’ mindset, which isn’t a bad one, but at the same time, if we start eating something and it really isn’t enjoyable, stop eating it!  Either throw it away, save it for another day or feed it to the pets! It’s like the old joke where one woman is telling her friend about dinner at a restaurant: “the food was really awful!! And the portions were so small!!”  Admittedly, it took me a while to get that joke because that was my mindset: eat the food even if it’s awful, because not eating it is wasteful. But if it doesn’t taste good, why eat it?  Especially if it’s supposed to be a treat! Eating something awful isn’t a treat- it’s a punishment!

Before we end up putting the treat in our grocery cart, however, we need to take a good long look at what we are telling ourselves: are we justifying the choice because it’s what we want to hear or are we being honest about our choice? My biggest hint really is the rationalization/ bargaining beforehand: if I have to explain my choice to myself, then it’s probably a lie.  I’m not too tired or too busy to work out.  I don’t need the cookies, bagels or toast because “I’ve been really good.”  If I want something special, then it better be worth the effort!  The problem is not only is it easier to believe the lies we tell ourselves, but we really want to believe them! We want to eat the foods that comfort and please us and we want to make progress too! We really want love getting results, but then that carrot cake looks so good! It might even taste good, but the truth is when you stop making progress, that carrot cake will be pretty bitter.  Lies never taste as good as the truth.

 

 

Choosing Independence- It’s Worth The Battle!

One of the things I hear a lot on weight loss shows is “I have no choice!”  Whether it’s having to eat the junk food that their family likes, that’s available at the office, that they have no time to be more active, etc.  It’s not their fault because they don’t have a choice.  Another complaint I hear a lot of is that their weight is something that “happened” to them.  Both of these are common complaints/ excuses on My 600 lb Life– new word ‘explaints’! The patients often act like they are victims, either of whatever event “happened” to them or of their family’s poor eating habits.  The irony is that when you talk to the family members, you get a different story at least in regards to the eating habits: “if you come back without the food he/ she wants, he/ she gets really angry!”

I don’t deny that many of them have been the victims of some terrible events, whether abuse or rape or whatever, but we all have choices when it comes to dealing with trauma.  Not all of us handle it well. I personally am the queen of avoidance- I can ‘not-see’ some really big events in my life! I also recognize that choosing to avoid the issue isn’t the best way to handle it. When I do look at it and feel the stress and other negative emotions that come along with dealing with the problem, yes, I made it worse by not dealing with it.  Yes, it is my problem and if I continue to avoid it, it’s only going to get worse. It may have been something that started with an event that really did happen to me, but my avoiding it and not dealing with it has only made the problem worse, and that exacerbation was my choice!  Let me say boil that down: the ultimate exacerbation is the result of my choice not to deal with the issue.

So, something traumatic happened, and for most of these patients, their choice was to eat to avoid the problem.  Now they are 600/ 700/ 800 lbs and it’s not their fault.  This is the result of their parents’ divorce, the abusive father, the sexual trauma, etc.  They complain that this isn’t the life they wanted.  They can’t do anything and they have no life at all.  “If XYZ hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be trapped in this bed.”

Fifteen years ago, I was trapped in a bed.  I weighed somewhere between 350-385 lbs and I broke my arm and leg.  As a result, I needed surgery to fix the broken bones and was stuck in a bed for almost four months.  I needed help to do just about everything: bathing, dressing, eating- everything! It was a truly horrible experience for me. I hated every minute of it and the thought of using my injuries as an excuse to stay in bed and be waited on and cared for like an invalid (even though I was an invalid!) never occurred to me.  Getting out of that bed ASAP was my choice, even though it required a lot of hard work. I had to have surgery to have hardware installed (I’ve got a pin holding my lower leg together and a plate with five screws in my wrist) and then I had nearly six weeks of physical therapy. It was years before my wrist was ‘normal’ again although my leg healed a lot faster.  I could have said: “this accident happened to me and now I’m trapped in bed with these injuries.  It hurts too much to try to get up because I’ve been trapped here for so long.”  It really was painful to move around after laying in bed for six weeks waiting for my wounds to heal. I couldn’t put any weight on the leg until the doctor was able to confirm that the bone had healed and my wrist was so stiff, I couldn’t bend it at all or even use my fingers much.  I remember the first day I tried walking with a walker after the doctor gave me the okay- it was so exhausting just trying to walk, and it hurt my wrist too since I had to use a walker! I could have given up and gone back to the bed. It could have been me saying “I have no life. If this accident hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be trapped in this bed!” Instead I chose to work harder to get better.

This isn’t about how “wow, I’m so tough and I did all the hard work! Aren’t I just awesome!” It’s about picking your battles.  I chose to fight for my independence, because for me, the thought of being helpless and trapped in a bed was a truly horrifying thought- not exxagerrating!  It was pretty much the worst thing that could happen to me, in my eyes.  By contrast, I have seen some of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients fight to stay in their beds!  The irony is that they fight so hard to stay helpless and stay trapped in a situation they claim to hate, and if they used that strength and determination to work on simply standing up, they would be out of that bed in short order.  They are choosing the wrong battle!

The same thing is true of eating choices.  They fight for their helplessness when it comes to the “junk food.”  They argue that they have to eat what the family feeds them and the family insists they want the junk food.  If they argued with the family for the better choices that they insist they really want, they would get the better choices.  If they fought harder to be more mobile and more independent, then “what the family chooses to feed them” would not even be an issue: they could go get what they wanted on their own!

We all have these same battles in our own lives: the work meeting where everyone is eating donuts or get-together where everyone is eating fast food; the days when our obligations fill up our schedules and our planned activities get shoved to the side.  This is where we have our choices: either fight for what we want, take what everyone gives us or find a compromise.  I’ve learned to compromise at get-togethers where food choices may not be the greatest; I’ve learned to reschedule workouts when the day goes sideways; and there are some days when I just plain lose the fight.  The battle is sometimes lost, but the war goes on: I will keep fighting to make my own choices.  It may not seem like it’s a big deal: “we’re having takeout because that’s what they want and I don’t want to make a fuss! They don’t like ‘eating healthy.'” It’s when this becomes your default mindset that it becomes a big deal! You can always choose to say no; you can always choose to stand up for what you want and deserve.  When you choose to give up your autonomy (independence), it’s hard to complain about what they give you.  You’ve already given up that option. I’m sure most of us have had the experience where you’ve asked someone what they wanted and they’ve said “surprise me!” How many times were they not happy with their surprise? They had a choice and they abdicated responsibility! They made it your decision! Don’t let someone else make your decision for you, whether it’s what to eat, how to live or what to do.  Your independence is worth fighting for, because you really fighting for your life!

 

 

 

 

 

Oops! Thanks A Lot, WordPress!! Starting from Scratch- Recalculating……

This is NOT the post I had intended to put up, but apparently, WordPress lied to me when I posted my blog on its regular date (Tuesday 6/20/2017).  I would be less unhappy if the post had not just disappeared into the ether, so I could post it again, but it’s apparently VANISHED so, we start again from scratch!  Ironically, that was the subject of the post for tomorrow: starting your fitness/ weight loss/ health journey from scratch, so other than losing a couple of days of work on my other post, it’s not a total loss.

Most of us have started this journey over and over again.  We want to lose weight/ be healthier/ be more fit and so we embark on some plan, usually set up by someone else and get to work.  Depending on how ambitious our plan is, we either go some distance before we start having problems, or if we or the plan are too ambitious, we can stumble out of the gate.  Either way, once we encounter problems and/ or it gets really hard, we want to “start over.”

This is why we end up in a vicious cycle of starting-stumbling-starting.  #1: whatever plan we start on, it needs to be OUR plan.  WE need to be the author/ designer of whatever plan WE decide to follow.  Too many of the weight loss and fitness plans we buy online, off tv or get in a book are made for the “general population.” Never met General Population, but apparently, he’s really popular with these health coaches!  One of the trainers whose podcast I listen to regularly even commented that when he started his own fitness journey, he bought a popular exercise dvd and it was really painful.  The day after starting the program, he woke up really sore and in pain.  A little soreness is not a bad thing- it means you gave your body a workout, but pain is NOT a good thing- it means you hurt yourself! Granted, this trainer was not a trainer when he bought this workout dvd, but then you shouldn’t have to be a certified trainer in order to improve your own health and fitness.

Most of us tend to overestimate our physical abilities when we begin a health plan, or we go the other way and we underestimate what we are capable of doing.  This is a case where I think underestimating is the best of the two.  Overestimating, especially when you are doing a work out, can really hurt you as the trainer above found out.  In his case, it was just a strain, but you can really hurt yourself if you try something “you think you can do.”  If we underestimate our abilities, we can always add more or increase our range, and any workout we do, even if it doesn’t stretch our capabilities, it is still a work out and it keeps our muscles and joints in practice.  For example, if you don’t normally walk a lot or run on a regular basis, trying to run a mile once a week may not be a good idea.  You might be able to do it, but if you can’t, you don’t want to injure yourself trying.  Begin by walking a mile and see how you feel.  If it was easy, then next time try running for part of it.  It’s easier to build up to running a mile a week than trying to run, hurting yourself and then having to recover.  Besides hurting yourself, thinking you’ve “failed to run a mile” is discouraging.  On the other hand, each time you build up to a new level- walking- running- running regularly and increasing your length or duration- leads not only increased capabilities, but also feelings of success: “I’m getting stronger and doing” more rather than “I failed.”

The same holds when you start a new eating/ weight loss plan: build up to your full potential. A lot of us are really enthusiastic when we start a new weight loss plan and we go full steam ahead: “I’m going to give up sugar!” “I’m going to eat five servings of veggies a day!” and then, by the time we’ve read the label on our sixth product that has sugar or it’s time for veggie number 4, we start “feeling the burn!” What the heck did we sign up for??

When I started with Paleo, I gave it a long hard look, and at the time, I thought I was going super-conservative when I opted to give up one grain product at a time.  It turns out that I was way more into bread than even I knew!  Potatoes and pasta weren’t problems but bread (any kind of bread!) was and is still a temptation.  But I made one change at a time. Some of them, like the pasta and potatoes, were pretty easy but others like rice and oatmeal took a little longer.  Bread got easier but there are still days when I really have remind myself that it’s not good for me.

And it’s not just about giving up foods: it’s about eating more of the healthy stuff like the veggies.  So it’s two changes that you are making when it comes to eating healthier: eat less processed food and eat more whole foods.  It takes some time to make the changes especially if you are going to make the changes last.

This goes for any activities you are adding in as well.  We may think that these changes are not really “big changes”- it’s not like you’re moving or changing jobs!  You may think these are little things, but have you ever noticed that when you trip over something and fall, it’s the inch high bit of concrete that you trip on and not the two foot stack of bricks? That’s because you notice the two feet of bricks but your eye misses the inch bit of concrete! We screw up on the little changes because “we forgot,” “it’s not a big deal,” “I can do that later.” This is why they take time to become fully incorporated into your routine- the more we do them, the more they become normal and then we do them out of habit. We also tend to overload ourselves because they are just little changes, but again, most of us can carry a couple of bricks easily, but carrying four or five or more?? That gets heavy! So when we make these little changes, we need to make one or two at a time until we make them part of our habit.  Going small and steady results in long lasting permanent changes while going big and fast usually leads to starting over.

#2: you don’t need to “start over” each time. That’s the other fallacy that traps us in the vicious cycle. This is a lifestyle change, not an afghan we are crocheting! If we screw the beginning of an afghan, yeah, undoing it so we can start over is a good idea, otherwise, every one is going to notice those few inches that look really goofed up.  But this is a lifestyle change and no one is going to see that you spent the first three weeks missing your scheduled workouts and eating more carbs or whatever than you planned on!  So you missed your workout- just schedule another one! So you forgot to order the burrito bowl and ate a burrito instead! Some people will use these screw ups as an out- an excuse to push off their healthy change until next week or tomorrow, as in “today is a bust, so I’ll start fresh tomorrow/ Monday/ next week.”  Why????  One of the things I really like about Dr. Nowzaradan (TLC My 600 lb Life) is that he’ll call the patients on it when they try to push off being active.  He comes in and asks them if they’ve walked today and when they say they’ll do it tomorrow or they’ll do it on Sunday, he always asks them “what’s going to change between now and then?” Most of the time, they don’t have an answer for him. We need to be our version of Dr. Now when we want to push off our planned changes: you ate the burrito at lunch- big deal! So make dinner a better choice! Even if today does end up being a bust and we’ve eaten more bad food than good or we missed our workout, salvage the rest of the day/ week! Even with the poor food and work out choices, keep moving forward to make the best you can out of the day or week!

It really is like you are on a journey, and when you take a wrong turn, you don’t drive all the way back home to start over! You pull over, pull out your phone and get new directions from where you are!  We’re all familiar with the Garmin joke: “recalculating…. recalculating…..” but it usually gets us where we need to go.  When we take a wrong turn on our fitness/ weight loss journey, we may need to do some recalculating.  It may be that our work out schedule needs some adjusting or that our eating plan isn’t the best for us and it needs to be recalculated, but we don’t have to start from scratch every time.  We just need to keep what works and dump the rest.  It’s a little harder figuring it out on your own. It takes more time to show progress but the truth is finding your own way usually means the progress is permanent and you eventually become your own expert on you.  This last time you start over will be the last time you start over!

 

It’s Time To Eat! So Should I? Umm, Maybe….

This really seems like a complete no-brainer.  Unless you’re fasting, most of us don’t even think about it: it’s lunch time, it’s dinner time, it’s time for breakfast, so let’s eat! We usually don’t stop to think: am I actually hungry?  Even if we do, I have learned that my body will lie to me and, sometimes, my body gets tricked. Smelling food, especially if it’s something we really like, is one of the ways we get tricked into thinking we are hungry.  We’re sitting in traffic and the wonderful smell of Chinese food wafts in through the vents.  After a couple of minutes our stomach growls and we start thinking “I’m kinda hungry.”  We probably really aren’t hungry- we’ve just smelled something that’s triggering our digestive hormones and enzymes.  It’s a biological reaction: food is available so eat it!

My body will also lie to me by telling me I’m hungry, even if I’m not,  because it is “time to eat!” I’ve noticed it happens a lot around lunch time and again about 3:00 p.m. I call it ‘snack memory.’ Lunch time is pretty obvious, but I usually get off work about 3:00 and this is when I normally make a Starbucks run or if I stop for gas, I’d get sunflower seeds or some jerky.  So in addition to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, my stomach expects a snack around 3:00!  The funny thing is that if I tell my stomach no, I stop being hungry about about 20 minutes or so.  That’s how I know it’s not “real hunger”  and I think that’s the important difference.

We’ve pretty much been taught to eat according the to clock rather than determining whether we’re actually hungry.  We’ve also been taught to eat in certain situations.  We meet up with friends and they’re all drinking mochas, lattes and having brownies: want a brownie? Sure!  It’s polite.  Saying no draws attention to you ‘being good’ or ‘being on a diet.’  Why can’t I just not be hungry? It’s a social situation, so coffee, drinks, snacks are expected.  It’s how we socialize, so there’s a feeling of ‘not being social’ if you say no to whatever your friends are having.

It’s a catch-22: if we listen to our body when it says it’s hungry, we’d eat every time we smelled something good or food was available (isn’t that how I got to be 438 lbs?!) or we don’t eat when we’re hungry and eat when ‘it’s time’ instead (even when I’m not hungry??) So how do we find the right answer? Is there a ‘right’ answer? If it sounds like I’m being obnoxious, maybe I am a little, but as fitness and nutrition consumers, we’re constantly bombarded by advice along these lines: eat when you’re hungry! eat on schedule! And after being utterly confused by the internet, we decide to ask a live health care professional, like our doctor.  Doctors unfortunately are pretty much in the same boat we are in.  Unless they have a specialty in diet and nutrition, most of them have had about 12 to 24 hours of nutrition education.  (That’s about one semester to give you some perspective.)  They are as confused as we are, so don’t be surprised if they refer you to a nutritionist or a dietician.  Even then, the question of when to eat is less of a issue for them than what you eat.

I’ve listened to many experts discuss the merits of fasting, eating on a schedule, and eating only when you’re hungry. There are those who insist that we need to eat three times a day with snacks in between.  The logic is that eating on a schedule keeps your metabolism ‘revved up.’  I’ve also heard experts say that eating on a schedule or when you aren’t hungry keeps your body from burning any stored body fat, because rather than letting it draw from its stores (ie the fat in you’re trying to lose), you keep fuel in the bloodstream (that snack you just ate). They argue that constantly feeding your body keeps your glucose high and promotes fat storage rather than fat burning.  It also keeps you craving foods on a regular basis (like my 3:00 p.m. snack memory).

There are those who promote eating only when you’re hungry (also called intuitive eating).  Your body knows when it needs fuel and when you’re legitimately hungry (not tempted by sights, smells or snack memory), you are feeding your body appropriately.  They argue this means that your body has burned through whatever fuel is in the bloodstream from your last meal or snack and now it needs more.

Then there are the fasting advocates. When most of them talk about fasting, they mean Intermittent Fasting (IF), which can take different forms.  The one most of us are familiar with is pretty simple: you limit your ‘feeding window’ to certain hours and don’t take in any calories the rest of the time.  Example: you only eat all your calories for the day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the rest of the time you fast.  Sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?  The fasting experts say this is pretty much what we did in ‘the old days,’ and that’s why we were a lot healthier.  (It’s kind of hard for me to argue with that because it’s what my grandfather did and he lived a long healthy life to age 96!)  Another way to do Intermittent Fasting is what they call ‘alternate day fasting,’ which is just like it sounds: you eat on Monday, fast on Tuesday and so on.  There are also other patterns like five days eating and two days fasting, etc.  Most fasting proponents like to move the hours or days around to suit their lifestyles, and there are some who are also fans of ‘extended fasting,’ as in not eating for several days at a time. (If you think fasting might be something you want to try, the best book on the topic is The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmie Moore.)

Then there are those who just offer advice, such as don’t eat within three hours of bedtime, or eat your biggest meal in the early part of the day, or wait until noon or later to eat instead of eating breakfast. As if eating weren’t complicated enough!

Having listened to lots of experts and their arguments, my own choice is to eat on a loose schedule with a little IF thrown in.  Truthfully, the IF tends to happen more if I am some place that doesn’t have great food choices for me or if I am caught up in the middle of something.  For me, eating every two hours is a recipe for disaster (yeah, it’s a bad if apropos pun!) It keeps me feeling hungry and my energy level (ie blood sugar) tends to crash if I can’t or don’t eat ‘on schedule.’  There are some days when I don’t exactly ‘fast,’ but my calorie intake is less than normal simply because I’m not hungry or I’m just too busy or there isn’t anything available that I like or want to eat.  There is also the flip side: days when I eat a little bit more than normal because I’m really hungry.  [I’d like to say that all these ‘experts’ agree on how much we should eat, but again there are those who say we should eat to satiety (no longer hungry but not full), and those that say we should eat a minimum number of calories daily or we start breaking down our muscle tissue to burn that! Another argument for another day!]

The best common sense advice I can give you: do what works best for you and fits best into your lifestyle.  I tried some of the more conventional methods of IF, and it just doesn’t work out for me.  However, it works out great for my sister and some of my fitness friends.  I also know people who eat according to a schedule and they are successfully losing weight.  The only thing they all have in common is that they are doing what works best for them.  I know this seems like a cop-out answer, but it’s the only answer that works for you.  We each respond better to different foods so why should it be so odd that we each respond better to different eating schedules?  This is one of the reasons so many of us have trouble losing weight: we try to cram our needs into someone else’s schedules.  If eating intuitively is working for you, then stick with it! If it’s not having the results you want, then find something you like better. Too many of us are looking for The Right Answer and there are a lot of companies that will happily sell it to you with no guarantees attached! Their Answers tend to be quick simple little Cookie-Cutter plans.  Unfortunately, I’ve never met any Cookie-Cutter people.

Stop the All the Drama and Take A Lesson From Johnny Depp

Most of us probably realize that we make our own obstacles.  One of things I used to say about our clients at my old job is that they make their own problems and they are good at what they do!  It’s not only true about our clients (it was a bankruptcy law firm) but it also reminded me that I’m pretty dang good at it too!

We are really good at getting in our own way: when we buy things at the grocery store that we know we shouldn’t be eating; when we schedule things right in the middle of our workout appointments; when we choose restaurants and other eateries that we know won’t have a great selection for us.  We make things harder for ourselves when we do these things.  Sometimes we make these decisions in a fit of optimism- “I can buy my kids the Oreos and not eat any!”; “I can meet my friends for drinks and make one beer last all night!” When we are successful, we feel really proud of ourselves and that adds to our growing confidence, but the reverse is also true: failure usually means we come down on ourselves pretty hard.  Normally, we don’t just criticize ourselves- we annihilate ourselves! It isn’t just that we were ‘foolishly optimistic’ in thinking we could say no to the Oreos, drinks or whatever: we were stupid! how could I be so weak?! how could I think I could say no when I never have before?! what’s wrong with me?! and so on and so on.

Yes, because we could not say no and stop eating the Oreos, we are the worst person on the planet.  Talk about drama! We eat a whole sleeve of cookies and we treat ourselves like something the cat threw up! I know: I’ve done it to myself more times than I can count- pointing the finger at the woman in the mirror here.  I have had to slap myself metaphorically to put things in perspective.  It’s cookies, not nuclear weapons! I’m not roasting puppies or running over helpless little old ladies! Frankly, I don’t think I treat myself as badly as some of my fitness friends do: the things they say about themselves when they screw up are shocking and a more than a little scary sometimes.  Maybe it’s because I have more distance on the situation than they do and I am not emotionally tied to their mistake, but yikes!

The truth is that we are much harder on ourselves than we are on others.  The same friend who says horrible things about herself will be genuinely sympathetic and encouraging to someone else who made a similar mistake, and I think that’s key in learning to deal with our own failings.  If you can’t say it to someone else, don’t say it to yourself!  That is pretty much the philosophy that I am using with myself now. When I screw something up, #1) I try to learn from it; and #2) I don’t beat myself up over it.  Yeah, we blew it- so why did we blow it and how can we move forward from here?  I treat myself like I am one of my fitness friends. I admit, it was a little weird at first (it still is!) but so far, I think it’s working. I’m not letting myself wallow in recrimination, self-pity and melodrama. Instead I am focusing on moving forward.  In a way, it forces me to stay positive, focus on my goals and making the next best choice.

One of the other things that happens to us when we keep crushing our own spirits because we don’t meet our expectations is that it makes us afraid to try anything new or different.  This whole aspect of ‘Fearing New and Different’ usually gets overlooked in all the drama we heap on ourselves, but this is just as important as not burying ourselves in criticism.  I came across a quote from Johnny Depp this morning: “I like the challenge of trying different things and wondering whether it’s going to work or if I’m going to fall flat on my face.” We don’t grow if we don’t push our boundaries. If we stay in our safe little routine, all we do is stagnate safely .  I am a good one for loving my little routine: if it’s 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, I’m at my water aerobics! If’s it’s a Sunday afternoon, I’m usually at the grocery store! et cetera, et cetera. Being a routine-a-holic works for me and against me: it’s harder to get me out of my safe routine, so I am less likely to get into trouble, but at the same time, it keeps me locked into doing things one way all the time.  Trying something new, whether a new food, new exercise plan, or new way of eating means I risk screwing up.  I might not like the new thing, or I might be really bad at it, or it could really derail the progress I’ve already made.  We’ve learned to fear failure and I don’t think it’s a good thing.  New = risk while routine = safe.  It looks like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Stay safe and keep doing what works for you!  Most of us only try new things when our safe routine stops working for us. (OMG! Now what do I do?!)

But staying safe really does mean stagnation and stagnation is boring. How can you know if you are good at something or even if you like it until you try it?  What keeps most of us from trying new or different is that fear of failure again.  What if I screw it up? What if I don’t like it?  What if I’m really bad at it? Here’s one: what if you like it even if you are really bad at it? A couple of months ago, I took a belly dancing class and I discovered a few things about myself: 1) I am really not coordinated!; 2) I really really suck at belly dancing!; and 3) I am so damn stubborn, I went out and bought a DVD after the class ended! I definitely fell flat on my face with that one! But even though I stink at it, I like it.  It’s a good exercise (the reason I took it) and if I quit now, I lose the opportunity to get better.  I also learned that it helps my balance, coordination and flexibility.  I don’t have to great at it to enjoy it; I just have to keep trying!  Even though I was probably one of the worst dancers in the class (if not the worst!) I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun while I was dancing badly.  I was also a little embarrassed, a little frustrated and really sorry when the class ended.  Hence, getting the DVD and I’ll be signing up in the fall for the next class. Yes, it’s challenging, and yes, it means I figuratively fell on my face, but it also means I challenged myself.  I refuse to be sorry for learning new things, for trying something different or for failing to be perfect.  Odds are I will keep pushing my boundaries. Another favorite Johnny Depp quote that works here? “Now bring me that horizon!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Instant Gratification Takes Too Long!” And It Only Lasts an Instant…

We all know that getting started is the hardest part of anything.  It takes time to build some momentum, to feel secure in what you’re doing, even just to learn your way around the block, so to speak.  Most of us are looking for a quick fix, too, so waiting is really really hard!  We want instant results!  I love the quote above from Carrie Fisher because it is so true! We want what we want and we want it NOW! Most of us have grown up in an “instant” society.  When I was a kid, microwaves were the “new thing” (yes, I am that old!)  Most of them were the size of compact cars and they cost just as much, and everyone thought they would give you cancer or kill people with pacemakers.  But it was the beginning of “instant” everything.  We could get our popcorn and burritos and tv dinner right now instead of waiting 20 minutes or an hour.  Anything you ordered took 6 to 8 weeks to come in the mail.  Now we get impatient if it takes more than two days! “What do you mean it’s arriving Monday?? I ordered this on Tuesday!!”

We do the same thing when it comes to weight loss or fitness- especially weight loss!  If we don’t see results in a week, then “there’s something wrong this diet!”  In fact, advertisers specifically state, usually in a loud voice with descriptive graphics, “get results fast!” They not only know we don’t want to wait, they are counting on the fast results pitch to sell you their program! What most people don’t realize is that it’s easy to drop a few pounds really fast if what you are losing is water weight.  Basically, if you dehydrate yourself or flush all the sodium and electrolytes out of your body, you will lose a few pounds of water and the number on the scale will go down.  Is it healthy? Oh definitely not!  In fact, flushing out your electrolytes can cause some serious reactions (like a heart attack).  This is why athletes get muscle cramps after strenuous exercise: they have lost significant electrolytes through sweat, ergo sports drinks were invented. However, the heart is also a muscle and when your heart ‘cramps,’ that’s not a good thing!

One of the arguments often made against the Paleo diet is that it eliminates most starchy carbs (bread, rice, pasta, etc).  Carbohydrates are little water-retaining sponges, so the more carbs you eat, the more water you hold on your body.  People arguing against the Paleo diet say that yes, you lose a lot of weight fast because once the carbs and the water they hold are gone from your system, “it looks like you’ve lost weight, but when you go back to eating those carbs, you put that weight back on.”  The part after the ‘but’ is the key part of their argument for me: why would you go back to eating those carbs if they weren’t really good for you to start with?  Some people can go back to eating them in limited amounts after they’ve repaired the insulin resistance those carbs have caused.  But, if you don’t go back to eating them or eating them as much as you used to, then the water weight associated with excessive carb consumption is pretty much gone for good.  [FYI: your muscles will also store water to repair themselves after you’ve exercised, so if you do weigh right after working out, it can look like you’ve not lost weight or even gained.]

There are other diets out there that are formulated to give you ‘fast results,’ but fast does not always mean sustainable.  A lot of times these are what we think of as ‘fad diets’ because “everyone is doing them and they are losing a lot of weight super fast.” But do you really want to eat only cabbage or grapefruit all day every day?  You think you’re going to get all your vitamins and nutrients from eating one thing all day every day? This is what makes fad diets and other quickie diet promises not only unhealthy but possibly dangerous. Eating only one or a few foods can cause malnutrition (another argument leveled against the Paleo and the ketogenic diets!) Also, any time you have rapid weight loss, it can cause problems with your gall bladder, which can mean painful gallstones or gall bladder removal.  Unless your weight is endangering your life, as is often the case with Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients, it’s healthier to lose weight slowly and steadily while maintaining good nutrition.

It’s not fun and it’s not fast, but it has the advantage of being permanent.  Essentially, it took you some time to put the weight on and it will usually take a little longer to take the weigh off, but if you do it right (slow, steady and sustainable), it won’t come back.  This is because it isn’t a temporary fix.  We have all done the ‘temporary fix’ where we don’t eat anything for two weeks before the special occasion so we can look great in the photos.  It was really hard and we were starving most of the time but one of the reasons we were able to stick with the torture is because there was an End Date!  We only had to last until the day of the event and then we could go back to ‘eating normally,’ which usually meant the weight came back on!

When you take the time to make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, it’s more of an adjustment, because there is no End Date.  It takes longer to make the changes part of your routine and longer for the results to show up, and just to rub a little salt in the wound, the discomfort is Johnny-on-the-Spot! You are usually craving whatever it is that has been ‘adjusted’ out of your diet or you are sore and uncomfortable because of the workouts you’ve added to your routine. Everyone around you is probably eating what you used to eat and the time that you’d spend scrolling through Facebook or something else more sedentary is now spent being uncomfortable, embarrassed and sweating in a gym or some other public place. Oh yeah it’s giggles galore!

So, why am I doing this again? Because even though the changes are permanent ones, it’s the discomfort that is temporary this time! Yes, in a quick fix, the discomfort is temporary but so are the results, and we end up doing repeated ‘quick fixes,’ hoping for something permanent. Once we begin earning the results from our slower sustainable cbanges, the discomfort begins fading. Then, we begin picking up momentum as the changes become part of our new normal routine and less of a struggle. The workouts not only become easier, they actually become fun! The cravings go away and if we should eat something that used to be ‘so yummy,‘ we’re usually surprised to find it’s not as yummy as we thought it was! It gets easier to say no to foods and behaviors that aren’t as healthy and easier to say yes to those that are. It’s a triple win: the results are coming faster, the work is getting easier and the weight isn’t coming back!

This is what makes instant gratification so insidious and so tempting: we don’t have to wait for the results.  We fool ourselves into thinking that ‘this diet is the right diet,’ and that the temporary fix really isn’t temporary ‘this time.’ But unless the changes you are making to your eating and activity are permanent changes, odds are the results will also not be permanent. These ‘instant result’ diets have still more fallout: disappointment and the toll that takes on your self-esteem.  Remember the last time you tried one and how happy you were to see yourself losing weight? Now remember how crushed you felt when you realized you’d gained it all back, and maybe more? That crushing sense of failure and disappointment also weigh on you. Truly it does, because it makes us feel hopeless, like we are failures, like we are destined to be fat forever, that there is something inherently wrong with us either physically, mentally, or morally because we “just can’t lose weight!”  Are we broken or are we just gluttons? How many times have we cried ourselves to sleep because another instant result diet wore off as soon as we stopped following their unsustainable program?

Slow and sustainable isn’t definitely isn’t glamorous.  You aren’t going to meet your friend for lunch after a two week absence and have them oohing and ahhing over your dramatic weight loss.  Heavens knows that’s always fun! You will probably have to wait a couple of months before they notice you’ve lost a little weight, but the great part is that four months down the line and six months down the line and longer still, they will notice that the weight has not come back and that you are looking, feeling and acting so much happier and healthier! The instant gratification will be instantaneous but it will only last an instant.  If you want real success, it’s going to take a little longer, and it will last forever!

 

What the Heck is ‘Keto’ & How Did I Get Here?

Recently my sister informed me that her spouse decided they were going to lose weight.  They have a trip planned for the Labor Day weekend to Hawaii and they both like scuba diving so they want to be in good shape.  Her spouse chose Atkins, which my sister had never done before, so she had a few questions about low carb diets.  She knows I have been Paleo for the last couple of years and I was flattered that she thought of me as a resource (she is usually very hands-on).  A couple of days ago, I got a text from her asking if low energy was normal for low carb diets, so I asked her how many carbs she was eating daily and her answer was 20 g.  I told her if her carbs were that low, she either needed to eat more carbs or eat more fat, since she was probably transitioning into ketosis.  I got back a text: what’s ketosis?

For those of us who’ve been in the ‘low carb nutrition world,’ ketosis (keto) has been a real hot topic for a while, and texts like this are good reminders that not everyone ‘lives and dies’ according to our daily carb count. It made me smile a bit- at least before I started thinking how hard it was for me to get my carbs that low and hey- how did she do it without even really thinking about it?! Grrr!

For those of us who don’t have a real good idea of what keto is and why someone might want to try it, ketosis (sometimes called ‘nutritional ketosis’) is when your body burns ketones instead of glucose.  When we eat carbohydrates (sugar, grains/ rice, fruit, veggies), our bodies metabolize them down into glucose and that is what our bodies burn for fuel.  When there are no carbs coming in for an extended time, the body starts metabolizing the fat in our food or in our bodies into ketones and burns the ketones instead of glucose. (FYI: ketosis is not the same thing as ketoacidosis, which is a serious and often deadly condition.)

It sounds kind of simple, but it really isn’t as easy as flipping a switch.  Before switching over to ketosis, our body will trigger us with hunger, cravings, and low energy.  Basically, it’s trying to get you to eat carbs. This is usually called keto flu or carb withdrawal, and it can last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks or so.  Once your body realizes it’s not going to get any carbs, it starts making ketones and running off of them.  When people talk about being a “fat adapted” or a “fat burner,” they usually mean that they are in ketosis and are metabolizing fat/ ketones for energy.  By contrast, a “sugar burner” is some who is still using glucose for fuel.

Fans of ketosis usually say that they have a lot more energy, aren’t as hungry and can go longer stretches without eating, and they have a lot more mental clarity than when they were burning glucose. Most people lose a lot of weight fairly quickly once they are in ketosis, since they burn more body fat.  That is the biggest draw, but another important reason is that ketosis helps with insulin resistance.  This is really a good thing if you are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes: your body becomes more sensitive to insulin again.  Incidentally, ketosis has been used since the 1920’s to treat epilepsy (when there weren’t a lot of medications available).

But, ketosis does have a few drawbacks. The biggest problem for most people is keeping your carbs under 20 g a day.  For example one slice of whole wheat bread has 12 g of carbs and a grande latte with 2% milk has 18 g of carbs.  Although some people have said they can get into ketosis with somewhere between 20-50 g a day, that is still not a lot of carbs. My own low carb Paleo diet usually has my carbs somewhere around 65-75 carbs, and frankly most of my carbs come from cruciferous veggies, beets, spinach and a few incidental carbs like those in half & half, cheese, nuts and fruit.  This can be problematic because if you are in ketosis, you need to be eating fiber to keep everything moving. Most athletes also report that strenuous exercise is really hampered by ketosis- there’s not a lot of quick energy to burn.  It’s great for stamina, but if you are running a marathon or doing laps in the pool, you will probably get tired pretty quickly.  You also need to drink more water and make sure you get your electrolytes.  The body flushes out the system quickly in ketosis, so you need to keep hydrated and that usually means you need to keep your sodium level a little higher as well.  Getting enough water is a problem for some people even who aren’t in ketosis.  The biggest complaints about keto however are usually about the rigid diet; it can be very difficult for some people to maintain for extended periods.

Ketosis is not for everyone.  There are people who think it’s the way that humans should be eating and I’ve heard the exact opposite.  Some people have trouble eating so much fat and others simply like too many veggies to stay in ketosis, even though they’ve given up the breads and grains. This isn’t something that you can just jump into one day: it takes some time to transition and some people take longer than others.  While I am not actively trying to eat a ketogenic diet, over several weeks, I have managed to get my carbs consistently under 100 by a good amount while not feeling starved or being low energy.  It has not always been easy and there were several days of being tired, but now my energy level is back where it used to be.

If you want to experiment with keto, like my sis is doing right now, a good resource is Jimmy Moore’s book Keto Clarity. He discusses some of the methods used to check your ketone levels, how to transition into ketosis and how to determine how many carbs work for you. (He also explains the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis very well.)There is also a podcast, 2 Keto Dudes, and I’ve heard there is an iPhone app available.  Robb Wolf’s new book Wired to Eat offers some keto meal plans as well.

 

Keep It Flowing! Water & Weight Loss

We all know we need to drink more water.  We hear it repeatedly: how water is good for you; how it’s necessary for life; how it’s just plain healthier for you.  We don’t even listen anymore- yeah, yeah, I heard you the first billion times!

So this will be one billion and one: you need to drink more water.  There are all kinds of calculations out there for how much water you should drink based on your weight, your exercise habits, your age and there are experts who pooh-pooh the 64 oz rule and there are those who support it.  I’m going to land somewhere in the middle: I think you should drink at least 64 oz of water a day on top of whatever else you drink.  Most of the ‘experts’ I’ve read believe this is a safe starting point.  However, you should try to drink more water than anything else: coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, sports drinks, etc.  Most of these drinks have sugar and a lot also have caffeine.  Caffeine especially is a diuretic.  This means it will dehydrate you, so you drink 8 oz of coffee and some it comes right back out.  The same can be true of sugar, especially if you are a type 2 diabetic. Your body keeps the sugar in solution, so the more sugar you eat/ drink, the more you pee it out.  This is one of the reasons diabetics have kidney problems.  The same is also true of a lot of the sodium and other electrolytes in the sports drinks: they need to be diluted in the body, and if you have too much of them, the body will pass them out through the urine.  In and out usually in a short while, unless you sweat it out, which amounts to the same thing: less water in the body!

Most of us know that our bodies are mostly water, but what some of us forget at times is that we are also an electro-chemical machine and the ‘wiring’ that keeps us running is the water in our cells.  Most of us know that the more dehydrated we are, the darker our urine is. It’s because the dissolved solids are more concentrated because there is less water available to dilute them (sorry to be a bit gross).  There are experts who say we need to drink enough water so that our urine is clear.  I think that may be a bit much, since ‘more’ is not always good.  It’s not widely known, but we can die from water intoxication.  This is when we drink too much water.  If we drink more water than our bodies can process, we will literally drown in our own tissues.  That electro-chemical machine not only ceases to function when it gets too dry but also when it gets water-logged.

So how much water is too much and how much is too little? This is why I said 64 oz of water on top of whatever else you drink is a good enough number to start with. If your urine is pale yellow or more clear than yellow (again, sorry to be gross), you are doing okay.  You don’t need to limit yourself to that number though: if it’s a hot day or you are doing something physical, you should probably drink more.  If you are sweating, a sports drink along with some water might not be a bad idea.  The whole idea behind sports drinks is the replacement of electrolytes, which we lose through sweat and urine, so replacing them is a good idea, but bear in mind, we get these also in the foods we eat.  So if you have an energy bar or even just a regular meal, you will get a lot of the minerals and salts in the foods you eat daily, especially if you are making an effort to eat healthy.

Water also lubricates our body.  Researchers are finding that dehydration may be one of the causes of stiff joints and fascia, especially in older adults.  Our connective tissues hold a lot of water and the drier they are, the less flexible they are.  So if you are always feeling stiff and creaky, try drinking more water.  As we age, we tend to lose our sense of taste, which is one reason older adults have a decreased appetite, but researchers are finding that we also lose our sense of thirst, and as a result, older adults are more likely to be dehydrated than younger people. The problem is that since older adults don’t get as thirsty as they used to, they are not prompted by their bodies to drink as much as they should.

I confess I am as guilty as everyone else: I rarely drink my 64 oz.  In fact, I got a new water bottle last year (it was on my Christmas list) and I have been gamely trying to use it as much as possible.  I also use the water feature on My Fitness Pal to track how much I drink during the day.  Keeping track is a good way to remind yourself to drink more water, and there are a variety of free apps that will not only track how much water you drink, but will remind you to drink something.  One of the easiest ways is to get a bottle, glass, whatever you want and drink an entire bottle with every meal, especially since water will keep everything moving through your digestive tract very nicely.  Dehydration can lead to constipation (yeah, I know-gross but true!) It also helps with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients and everything else you are eating.

There are usually a few people who think that drinking more water means retaining water and less weight loss, but really, when the body is conserving water because it’s not getting enough, it retains more water than when you are well hydrated.  When we are well hydrated, we are actually less hungry because your body will trigger you to eat when it wants water: we misinterpret the signal as hunger rather than thirst, and we also get a fair amount of water in some foods. Restricting our water intake not only won’t help us lose weight, it can really cause problems in our bodies, such as muscle cramps, constipation, poor concentration and light-headedness among other things.  None of those are conducive to health or weight loss and they sure won’t help with working out.

I know that water isn’t flashy or exciting, but it’s a easy hack.  Staying well lubricated is key for health and weight loss and it’s not that hard to do!