Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week #19 - Eating Without Distraction

I've had this window open on my laptop all weekend waiting to write up my thoughts on our latest routine. But apparently...I've been distracted. Ha!

I am terrible about eating while distracted. Many of my meals and snacks are taken while in front of the TV or a computer. As I've been taking some time to think about our routine, I've been thinking about how to change this and whether or not this is really a problem.

One of the big reasons that distracted eating might be something to avoid is because it results in overeating. To some extent, this isn't a problem for me in particular. Many of my meals in front of the computer take place at work. There, I am eating a portion of food that I have pre-measured and I know the PointsPlus value of. There is no accidental overeating. In this sense, there is no problem to be solved.

One could argue that by eating while distracted, it's hard to evaluate hunger signals. This could certainly be taking place. If I'm working on spreadsheets while eating my soup, am I paying attention to whether or not I could stop with some left over? So there certainly is a potential upside in making sure I'm focused on my meal: it could result in consuming fewer calories.

Probably the biggest upside I see to being mindful of my lunch is satisfaction. Maybe you have noticed that if you aren't paying attention to what you eat, it's almost as if it didn't count. You don't feel as if you really ate it. Your mental satisfaction hasn't kicked in.

As we work our way through this month, that's what I'm going to be thinking about, particularly when I look at my routines concerning meals and snacks at work. This is going to be a busy month of quarterly forecasting, so I will be more challenged than usual to take some free time out of my day, but in the end, it's not about perfection. It's about evaluating your routines and seeing if they can be improved. And if they can, about how you can slowly evolve into something that has a healthier end result.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Week #18 - Find Your Anchor

Wow. I haven't posted anything here in a month! It turns out that I am not always inspired to share my thoughts on the weekly topic. And while I do find the value in wearing an activity monitor and monitoring my activity in general, I guess those things didn't really inspire me to share much.

We start a new routine this next week that I think will be much more thought-provoking, because it gets to a behavior that can often cause us problems: mindless eating. When you come to the meeting next week we'll start talking about the routine of the month which is "To eat all of your meals free of distraction." This is a routine that will truly be a joint effort, because it's one that I confess I am not very good at following. With how much we all multi-task these days, it's a rare moment when we can sit, eat, and not do anything else. Will that be possible? Will it make a difference? There are probably lots of ways we can interpret the routine and apply it with the end result of more mindful eating, so be ready for that in May!

In the meantime, I do want to reflect a bit on having a weight loss anchor. Over the years I've used a lot of different objects to be a reminder to me of why I continue my healthy habits:

* Before photo - I actually don't have the photo that caused me the most angst before I re-joined (because I tore it up and threw it away!) but I have a vivid memory of it.

* Marathon finisher's medal - this reminds me of my perseverance, and if I can run when my body wants to stop, I can probably say no to a doughnut.

* My weight records from when I was losing weight - I didn't lose quickly (a year to lose just 26 pounds?) and so it's a good reminder of patience.

* Mantras - these have evolved over the years (Outsmart the Fat! being one, and you've probably seen plenty of them around the internet) but having wise words always helps. I even have one set as a reminder to me on my phone every day.

Whatever helps you tap into those inner resources can become an anchor. Even if you've never successfully lost weight or improved your health before, if you possess the traits necessary (patience, persistence, focus) as applied to another area of your life, you've got what it takes to succeed. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Week #14 - Why We Do What We Do

Things have been quiet lately here at Outsmart the Fat Central. It's not always easy to come up with profound insights on the weeks' topics, especially when so often it boils down to "Get yourself a game plan!" or "Make changes that will be easy to stick to!" (perhaps I should embroider those on a pillow!)

I figured this week would be different, because we were attempting to explore the underlying reasons for our behavior. You surely didn't disappoint when it came to the discussion this week! There were a couple of thoughts that you brought up that I think bear repeating and thinking on some more:

The notion that once someone cleans up their environment, and there are no longer foods handy to use as a band-aid, it allows time for contemplation of what's really going on, and what emotions are really at play.

If you look at success statistics for the weight loss industry, the numbers overall are pretty harrowing. You may be part of those statistics – I know I am! I lost weight, quit, gained it back. Many people have done this, and continue to do this. What I've discovered in my observations is that being overweight is often a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem in and of itself. Sure, there are people who come to Weight Watchers who simply need to know which foods are healthy and how much they ought to eat of them. But think about the laughs we've shared. It is more often over an admission of eating a dozen doughnuts, not over our realization that broccoli was actually a healthy food! You can learn how to clear your spaces, you can learn healthy behaviors, but if you don't fix the real problem that you were using food to solve, you run a real risk of falling into old habits and creeping back up to your old weight.

The notion that digging into what's really going on can be frightening and painful.

When you stop and think "gosh, why did I do that?" sometimes the answer is simply "because I was bored" or "because I went grocery shopping when I was starving." Those are awesome insights because they are easy to fix. But sometimes the answers are more like "because something tragic happened to me and I have no other way to deal with it" or "because I've always hidden behind my weight, and if I get thin I'll have to deal with people noticing me." Those are awesome insights too, but not as easy to fix.

So what do we do with this? I'll be honest: I am a Weight Watchers program facilitator, not a licensed therapist. I can help you with the easy fixes. And I can help you recognize the harder ones by helping you ask yourself the right questions. The weekly meetings can help you acknowledge those harder ones and know that you don't suffer through them alone. That can be a huge help and can often get you far enough along to reach your health goals, which may in turn empower you to make some other Major Life Changes. I'd be lying if I said I never considered getting myself some professional help to deal with those other, deeper issues. I know in general, once our heads are in the right places, making healthy lifestyle choices tend to be much easier.

I definitely feel like I'll be mulling this one over far after we've moved on to different meeting topics. I hope you will, too!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Week #10 - What's Your Next Meal?

Okay, it's time to launch a new monthly routine! This month: after each meal or snack, decide how many PointsPlus values you'll use for your next meal.

I like the way this routine is worded, because so often when we talk planning, it's about what you're going to eat. While for me this is no big deal, there are people who like to be a little more...spontaneous about their food choices than I am. So having a PPV or range of PPV that you plan on spending is a good compromise - it allows you to change your mind or go with whatever craving you've been having.

This week's entry is going to be a mish-mash of stuff, because there are a couple of things I want to share, mostly as a result of this past week's discussion.

First, I wanted to share with you the dressing I mentioned that went on my Really Big Salad this week: Tofu Herb Dressing. Yes, it has tofu in it, but if you're new to that ingredient it really has very little taste, so it's the herbs and shallots that really come through, and the tofu serves to create a nice creamy base. VERY flavorful!

Second, I thought I'd share my egg salad recipe. I didn't run it through the recipe builder since I'm doing Simply Filling this week, and everything in it is a Power Food. I made a pretty big batch, but you could scale it as needed.

10 hard boiled eggs
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
Several celery ribs, diced
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped a little
Pepper and other herbs to taste (I used one of those all-in-one salt-free spices)
spinach leaves or other greens to serve under the egg salad

Once you've chopped all the veggies, mix everything together but the spinach leaves. Season it how you like, and serve over the greens. I divided this recipe into five containers, and am bringing it to work for breakfast all this week.

Finally, I thought this article, Create the Habits of Being Lean in 7 Years was interesting. I think we all tend to be in a hurry to get everything in our lives changed at once. That can be overwhelming and difficult! It's a little bit easier when you take your time. And in my experience, I've found my life, health, and habits are continually evolving, well after hitting my original goal weight. The way I eat and exercise now is far different from how I did these things fifteen years ago.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Week #8 - Ready, Set, Goal!

As we wrap up February, it's time to reflect on the month. Our routine was "know how you'll be active tomorrow." And early in the month, I asked the group to consider whether or not you are as active as you would like.

If the answer to that question was (and still is) "NO" then it's time to start thinking about how to make activity more of a routine. Knowing the day before how you can get active can help, but looking even longer-term can also help.

As many of you know, I ran a marathon in January. To do that, I had a training plan laid out - there was no way that I could have just gone out and run that far without working up to it, right?!? Having that event as a long-term goal helped me stick to the day-in, day-out activity that I needed to do to get there. I knew there were consequences if I stayed in bed and bailed on my progressive training plan. I know for sure that my activity patterns would have been different had I not had a goal to focus on. (Thanksgiving weekend, while out of town, I ran 14 miles in an area I wasn't too familiar with - I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I hadn't have signed up for a race there is NO WAY I would have done that. I might have taken a jog through the neighborhood, but that's it!)

Setting an activity goal doesn't have to be something like signing up for a marathon or half-marathon like some folks in the meeting room have done. It can be anything! It can be any sport. It can be any hobby. It could be an event (triathlon, 5K, climbing a particular mountain) or it could be some sort of performance goal (lifting a certain number of pounds, swimming a particular amount of laps, doing 100 pushups). As long as the goal means something to YOU, it's good!

Setting a goal is maybe not something that 100% of you will want to do. One of the best things I've done during my weight loss/maintenance process is come to terms with what makes me tick. If you are a person who is not motivated by a goal like this, no big deal! You likely have other ways to motivate yourself. But one thing to consider: if goals haven't worked for you in the past, make sure it wasn't just because you set them too aggressively. Make them SMART and my "R" in there is Realistic! Maybe all that stands between you and a goal is setting a goal that isn't too ambitious!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week #6 - Be a Portion Pro

As we focus on getting active as our routine this month, it might seem puzzling that this past week focused on weighing, measuring, and paying attention to portion sizes. How does that make sense?

Well, if we're going to get the most benefit out of getting active, it's important to not ruin your efforts by unintentionally eating more than you think you are. I follow quite a few fitness and health blogs, and there's a quote that crops up quite a bit: You can't out exercise a bad diet.

It's not always possible to have access to a scale and measuring cups like we did in this week's meeting. But practicing at home can help hone your estimating powers so that when you can't weigh and measure, you have a better sense of what a proper portion looks like.

You can also use common household objects to help you with portion size. If you can envision a tennis ball, you're picturing roughly one cup. I know everyone has a camera in their phones these days, but if you can picture a digital camera, that's about three ounces of protein. These and plenty of other tips were in this past week's Weight Watchers Weekly.

Which reminds me...if you miss a meeting, did you know that we keep a few copies of the Weekly from the past couple of weeks? When you return after an absence, be sure to ask for any copies you might have missed. Chances are we'll have a copy for you!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Week #5 - How Will You Be Active Tomorrow?

It's a new month, so it's time to start work on a new routine. In February we'll be focusing on getting in some activity every day.

One great way to ensure that you get your activity accomplished is to Have A Plan. I know, I pull out the Have A Plan card all the time, but really! It helps!

One of the things I love about our 12-Week Tracker is the Weekly Plan pages. I probably mentioned this before in relation to meal planning, because while the photo above is for your activity, there's also a page to plan out your meals!

So what you see here is a blank slate for my weight loss week, which starts tomorrow. As soon as I get this post up, I'm going to start my planning for the week. I'm going to put in my exercise plans as well as do some meal planning. With this done, the week becomes a no-brainer.

Do you plan your activity ahead of time? If so, does it help you stay on track? Even if you don't know specifically what activity you'll do, planning for the time it will happen could be enough to get you out there and doing it. I know from this Wednesday's meeting that we have some really active people out there, and you inspire me!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Week #4 - Believe to Achieve

I think any time you set out to make big changes it's common to have moments of self-doubt. Making over your lifestyle is certainly one of those "big changes" don't you think? It's no small feat to overcome old habits (some that were many years in the making) and create some new ones. So it's probably not surprising that you'd have moments (or days, or even weeks) when the task at hand seems overwhelming, maybe impossible.

If you are a fan of my Facebook page, or happened to overhear me chatting with someone before our meetings on Wednesdays, you might know that I ran a marathon last weekend.

That's my ActiveLink summary from that day - proof, baby! Anyway, covering 26.2 miles on foot all in one go is certainly a big undertaking. And I absolutely questioned my sanity and wondered how this was all going to come together at several points during the event.

But I knew I was going to finish.

I would have crawled across the finish line if it had come to that (and apparently someone DID actually finish like that, shortly after I finished!) but there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to do it, and here's why:

I'd done it before - this was not my first marathon (it was my sixth), so I had the benefit of knowing that this was something I'd successfully done before. As you sit here working on your lifestyle change, think about it - have you successfully lost weight before? Have you ever been regularly active? If so, there's your proof! You can do it! If you haven't successfully done something like this before, you'll have to think outside the box a little. What traits do you think a successful healthy person has? Now scour your life to find evidence you have that. If you've gotten a promotion at work, raised a child, finished a college degree, or any other sort of accomplishment, it probably took those same traits. So apply them to getting healthy!

I trusted the training - I spent the last six months following a training plan. I put in the miles on Saturdays building up to the event distance. I kept to my mid-week exercise plan. I had experimented with different fuels on the run, and different pre-run meals to see what worked and what didn't. I did this through the holidays, through a head cold, did training runs in the Michigan woods and the New Mexico desert. I'd done everything to prepare for it. So I just trusted it and ran. If you're eating a well balanced diet (Good Health Guidelines ahoy!), if you're paying attention to your portions, if you're adding in movement, trust that all that will pay off. It might take longer than you expect, which leads me to...

I had patience - I've been running now for a total of 15 years. That included a few years when I actually didn't run, because I had a foot injury that I needed to heal. That's when I learned to love spinning, Pilates and weights classes. But gradually I returned to running, and over the course of a few years got ready to start increasing the distance. I said that this was marathon #6 - my previous marathon was in October of 2004, over 8 years ago. I didn't just get up one day and decide to run for almost 5 hours! It took great time and preparation. So whatever you do, have patience with yourself. You will not accomplish everything and make the Big Change in one day or one week. You have the rest of your life, so while you don't want to dilly-dally, you also don't need to be in a hurry.

Believe it, and you'll achieve it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week #3 - Design a Dinner

Doing a meal planning activity in this week's meeting turned out to be a fantastic idea, in my opinion. This week's meeting was the embodiment of what Weight Watchers is trying to do with the meetings - they are calling them Active Meetings. We want to get you focused on ACTING on those healthy ideas, we want to get you ENGAGED with the group, and LEARNING from them. Doing it with the idea of giving everyone a host of meal ideas was the perfect setting for it.

Many thanks to those of you who brought in copies of recipes to share with the group! When I took copies for myself, I probably should have written on them who shared what, so apologies that I can't call you out personally. Here are the recipes that are available online:

Broccoli and Chicken-Topped Potatoes - this recipe uses the Green Giant Frozen Vegetables that you can buy at the store, which has our PointsPlus logo on it. There is apparently enough cheese in the package that you can easily throw in some extra vegetables and still have sauce to share!

Garlic Chicken with Orzo Noodles - did you know you can share a recipe you create with the Weight Watchers community? This is a recipe that was built using the Recipe Builder, and then shared in the Community Recipe section!

Stuffed Acorn Squash - I actually was on the ball and wrote a note to myself that Linda shared this recipe, that appeared in the newspaper on January 16th. She made this recipe, so it is tried, true, and husband approved!

This is a great time to remind you that you are always welcome to bring in meal ideas, recipes, products, anything that you think makes your healthy lifestyle easier. If you think it might work for someone else, please share! I will always make time in a meeting for that kind of thing, so don't be afraid to ask!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Week #1 - Fruits & Veggies All. The. Time.

It's a new year, it's a new month, so it's time for a new routine. This month we turn our focus to including fruits and vegetables at every meal, and if possible at every snack.

When I'm planning how to attack our meeting topic each week, I like to think about these routines in terms of what I'm doing. Am I following the routine that I'm about to introduce? It helps to practice what I preach, and even after 15 years of Lifetime membership, I find there are still lessons to be learned. And sometimes lessons I've learned have to be RE-learned.

I'm happy to say that fruits and vegetables have a large place in my life. We get along really well. Here's an example of how I've followed this routine over the past week:

Breakfast - this week I made myself some buckwheat cereal, and I topped it off with some thawed frozen berries (a combination of raspberries and blueberries).

Lunch - I used up some leftovers from the prior week's kitchen adventures, so lunch was, depending on the day, a tofu stir-fry that had a bunch of bell peppers, bok choy and snow peas, or else it was a squash stuffed with things like onion and cauliflower (I used a recipe from the Nov/Dec Weight Watchers magazine).

Dinner - I made a one pot casserole that had some sauteed onion, bell peppers and zucchini, and a few of the days I served it with a salad on the side. There were plenty of vegetables there!

Snacks - my snacks were (and usually are) all about the fruits and vegetables. I love snacking on grape tomatoes and red, orange or yellow bell peppers. I have a banana every day (and I did that even when we had to spend TWO POINTS on them - remember those days?!?), and then usually some other sort of fruit. Right now it's mostly apples or citrus, and I can't wait until we get into the summer months when I can throw more variety at my fruit snacks.

So there you have it. This particular routine is one I'm already on board with. And you'll probably find that as we make our way through the year and the routines sometimes what we focus on is something you're already doing. And then other months it will be something that maybe you've always intended to do but weren't quite there yet.

I think for the remainder of this month, my living the routine will involve making sure that on the weekends I'm doing just as good of a job as I do during the week. Once Saturday and Sunday rolls around, my life is much different, so I need to be extra mindful that I add enough fruits and vegetables.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

It's 2013!

Happy new year, everyone!

We're now in that short period where it seems most of the world is focused on healthy behaviors. Or at least giving lip-service to practicing healthy behaviors! Now is the time when our meetings get bigger, the new members join up, and maybe you see someone in the meeting room that you haven't seen in awhile.

I know that the beginning of the year seems like the time to make a huge change and some big grand gestures, but keep in mind that you are a human being. You will make mistakes. You will struggle. You will find it hard to make some of these changes. So start small and know that little things done well will cascade. One thing becomes routine, so now you have the brain space to work on something else. Hold yourself accountable, clean up your environment, adopt some healthy routines. That's it. That's what our program is all about.

On a personal note, in the spirit of "little things that add up" I am starting the year off with a focus on HONEST AND COMPLETE TRACKING. It's so easy to fill in a tracker when I make smart choices. But the minute I eat something unplanned, go over my allotment, or do something silly, all of a sudden putting pen to paper gets much harder.

I have some other thoughts about things I'd like to accomplish for the year, but as many of you know, I am in training for a marathon, and that rolls around at the end of this month (YIKES!) which means that now is not the time for big changes to my habits, exercise, or eating plan. With my focus on tracking, I figure I'll naturally gravitate to cleaner choices, which will help me fuel properly for my remaining training runs and the race itself. But for now, it's all about keeping on keeping on.

Once race day passes, then I'll be looking ahead to what's next. Chances are I'll share them with you then!