Monday, August 27, 2012

Positive Motivation

When I was in high school I suffered from anxiety attacks. They were awful. So awful that my concerned mother made me pay a visit to our family physician.  The physician, being somewhat unconventional, told me that she was “reluctant to treat my condition because stress and anxiety are the factors that Type A people use to motivate themselves to work harder”.  She knew that I had dreams of going to medical school, and believed that my anxiety would help me to reach my goals.  Being that I was a young, impressionable teenager, her argument seemed reasonable.

In college, my continued issues with stress and anxiety led to chronic headaches, horrible acid reflux, frequent illness and insomnia.  All of these were issues I was willing to deal with because I was doing excellent in all of my classes.  Every time I was plagued with anxiety, I would think of what my doctor had said, and considered it fuel for my academic fire.  

It wasn’t until my second year of medical school that I took a step back, and realized that all of this “using anxiety to push myself” stuff was absolute crap.   What is the point of being a fantastic student, and later a successful physician, if you are a miserable human being?   It was at that point that I put on the brakes, changed my career path, and started using health and happiness as my primary sources of motivation.

Using negative energy for motivation is clearly never a good thing.  We all know this, but for some reason when it comes to weight loss, we seem to forget it.  We do squats because we want to get rid of our “fat thighs”, we exercise to the extreme in January as "punishment" for what we ate in December, and we starve ourselves because our jeans are starting to get “too tight”.

Sound familiar?  Here’s the thing, if you look in those giant mirrors at the gym and concentrate on your “jiggly arms”, you will always see flab when you look in the mirror.  Even if you do lose weight, you will be so stuck on the skin hanging down from your arm that you will be completely unaware of the fact that you have developed some really rockin’ triceps.  

During my weight loss journey I went through stages where I would use negative motivation to try to push myself.  Over and over again, I discovered that this method does not work for sustainable weight loss.  Why?  I’ll give you the two biggest reasons.

1.  You have to actually ENJOY being healthy.  Eating well and exercising are things that need to be thought of as privileges, not punishments.  You can only sustain something you hate for so long, therefore finding the joy in being healthy is very important.  As corny as it sounds, it is necessary to say things like “I want to go for a run this morning” instead of “I HAVE to go for a run”.  The mind is a powerful thing.

2.  Thinking negatively about your body may cause temporary motivation for change, but over time it just leads to depression, and a serious lack of confidence.   Confidence is one of the most important things in weight loss.  If you concentrate on the positive changes that are taking place in your body, instead of the things that still need work, you will feel more motivated in the long haul.  

The best way to stay positive is to remember that this is a journey, and that a journey takes time.  If you start to feel guilty and push yourself too hard, you will never make it to the finish line.  Slow and steady really does win the race, I promise.  Don’t forget to take note of the little changes taking place in your body and relish them.  

Be proud of yourself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Light Summer Beverages

It has been a long time since I have experienced a “real” summer. In Seattle it was rarely hot, and I truly forgot what it was like to live in the heat.  Here in our new California home, I have already made a few missteps.  The worst of which being when I turned on the oven to 425 degrees when it was 85 degrees outside. Yikes.

One of the other things I had forgotten about summer is the constant need to hydrate.  I have been craving cool beverages more than anything else these days.  I carry a water bottle with me everywhere, but unfortunately water doesn’t always satisfy me.  There is something about summer that screams lemonade, milkshakes, iced coffee and slushies.  When I was less health conscious, my summers were filled with the above options, and I was unknowingly consuming large amounts of calories (and sugar!).

I never used to think about drinking calories, I always just thought calories came from eating.  In reality, people consume many of their daily calories from beverages, and I was no exception.  We have all heard the media blitzes about how bad soda is for our health, this is certainly the case, but there are also many other unhealthy beverages that are getting less attention (some are even marketed to look like healthy drinks).  

I’ve included some figures for you on drinks to avoid, and also provided some ideas for healthy replacements.  Bottoms up!

Sugary Summer Beverages:
(For your reference, 1 tsp of sugar is equal to 4 grams)

16 oz Snapple Lemonade 190 calories 46 grams of sugar
16 oz Lipton Green Tea with Citrus 140 calories 36 grams of sugar
16 oz 7-11 Vanilla Iced Coffee 280 calories 50 grams of sugar
16 oz (grande) Mocha Frappuccino 400 calories 60 grams of sugar
20 oz Defense Vitamin Water 120 calories 32 grams of sugar
Medium DQ Chocolate Malt 790 calories 111 grams of sugar
Medium DQ Lemonade Chiller 380 calories 84 grams of sugar
Original Pineapple Jamba Juice 410 calories 91 grams of sugar
20 oz Sonic Caramel Java Chiller 910 calories 99 grams of sugar
20 oz Sonic Cherry Slush 290 calories 77 grams of sugar
Large A&W Root Beer 440 calories 116 grams of sugar

calorie information obtained directly from product websites

Light & Refreshing Summer Beverages:

Homemade flavor-Infused water (try: cucumber, berry, citrus)
Sun tea (try: green, peppermint, licorice)
Unsweetened Aqua Fresca (try: mango, watermelon, cantaloupe)
Sparkling water with lemon

Sometimes we just can’t fight our cravings.  If you end up in line at Starbucks, just remember to ask for your drink unsweetened (the default is sweetened), and without additions like whip cream.  Also of note for you DQ lovers, a cone is always lower in calories than a milkshake, and milkshakes are slightly lower than malts.  Of course, a nice cold glass of cucumber water is calorie free, and super refreshing...try it...even my husband has been enjoying it this summer :).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Healthy Approach to Continental Breakfast

I have exciting news to share. My husband and I just moved to sunny San Diego! It all happened rather quickly. My husband was offered a job with another company, and they wanted him to start less than three weeks from the offer date. Needless to say, the past month has been a blur, and I apologize for falling behind on my blog. Trust me, I did not forget about you all.

In terms of testing my commitment to healthy living, July was a challenging month for me. I had a week long vacation, a five day visit from my parents and a move across three states going against me. But, all things considered, I did very well. In order to manage my stress (and my waistline), I worked hard to get in some sort of exercise daily and have figured out how to exercise in virtually any condition. For me, the exercise was the easy part, it was the eating healthy that presented more of a challenge.

After spending 17 nights in a hotel last month, I was reminded of how easy it can be to put on a few pounds. When food is free, like at a hotel's continental breakfast, it is easy to feel like you have a free pass to eat whatever you want. For example, I witnessed a woman pouring half & half over a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, and a man pouring sausage gravy over a cheese omelet. Trust me, I am not judging, I've been there too.

So how do you fight the urge to pour maple syrup on a plate full of free bacon? Always keep in mind that even though the food is free, the calories are not. If you wouldn't eat it at home, you probably shouldn't eat it at the hotel. If you know that you have a tendency to overdo it when it comes to a buffet of free food, skip the continental breakfast and keep your own breakfast items ready for you in your hotel room. My husband and I traveled around Europe with a box of French All-Bran and local low fat yogurt (don't worry, we did splurge on the occational croissant).

If you do decide to partake in the hotel breakfast, which I did most of the time this past month, there are a few tricks to making sure you stay healthy. Here are a few of the tricks I use:

  • Most hotels will have small packages of oatmeal. This makes for a good, fiber rich option. Just make sure that you choose the “plain” variety, as the flavored options are loaded with sugar. To sweeten it up naturally, add some slices of banana.

  • My hotel cereal staple is raisin bran. It is usually the only cereal option with any nutritional value. My trick is to remove about half of the raisins before I pour on the milk. The raisins are full of sugar, and provide the bulk of the calories in the cereal.

  • It is always important to watch the type of milk you are using at a continental breakfast. To my amazement, most places seem to have whole milk as the default. You can usually find an alternative if you look around. Sometimes there will be a separate pitcher, or refrigerator with containers of low fat dairy. The last hotel I stayed at had whole milk by the cereal and a carafe of skim milk by the coffee. Go figure.

  • The “whole wheat” bread that most hotels stock probably isn't as nutrient rich as the kind we would buy at home, but it is still going to have more protein and fiber than white bread. Try toasting up some wheat bread, and topping it with about a tablespoon of peanut butter or cream cheese. This will at least provide a little bit of protein (something that is very much lacking in the standard continental breakfast fare).

  • If you are interested in having yogurt for breakfast (you all know I am a fan of this option), make sure to read the label first. Some yogurts can be loaded with added sugar, and therefore calories. At one of the hotels we stayed at they had “Trix” yogurt that was neon pink and yellow. Upon looking at the label I discovered it had twice the amount of calories as the nonfat yogurt I eat at home (18 grams of sugar in just 4 oz).

  • Although I am not personally a fan, hard boiled eggs are a good option for lean protein. They are high in cholesterol though, so avoid the yolk if you have any personal or family history of heart disease.

Those are a few of the options that I find most nutrient rich and calorie poor. Some of the popular items that tend to lean in the opposite direction are:
  • Cheese Danishes (400 calories in Entenmann's)
  • Bagels (270 calories in Thomas')
  • Cinnamon rolls (410 calories in Holiday Inn Express)
  • Sausage patties (170 calories in Holiday Inn Express)

*calorie info from

If you are on vacation, you are going to want to indulge. Indulging is part of vacation, it can't (and perhaps shouldn't) be completely avoided. But indulging at every meal will probably not lead to a very fun vacation (severe bloating comes to mind), and I know that I would rather spend my “extra vacation calories” on dinner at a special restaurant than on breakfast at the Holiday Inn.

In the end, it is most important to remember that just because food is free, doesn't mean you have to eat it!