Thursday, February 21, 2013

Setting Reasonable Goals


A few months ago I started getting really enthusiastic about outdoor running.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I moved from one of the rainiest places on earth (Seattle), to one of the sunniest (San Diego).  I was running between 6-10 miles every other day.  Lately, I have watched that number slip down to about 4-6 miles two times per week.  I have now replaced the longer runs with other endurance exercises.  Even though I am exercising an equal amount, I still feel guilty for cutting down my running times.  I feel weak for only running 5 miles at a time, which I know is ridiculous because just a few years ago I could barely run a single mile.

Considering the current trends in fitness, it is easy for me to see why I have felt such pressure to push myself.  It seems like everyone is under the impression that you have to perform some military style exercise in order to lose weight and stay in shape.  When I started exercising, gyms were filling their schedules with aerobics, yoga and pilates classes.  Now, every gym has their own form of a “boot camp” or “cross fit” class.  I imagine the world was an easier place when everyone was “Sweatin to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons, instead of doing “Insanity” with Shaun T. or Tony Horton’s “P90X”.

I have no problem with “boot camp” style training, in fact, I practice this kind of training several times a week.  I do wonder, however, if the current fitness climate is creating too much pressure to be super fit and causing us to create unrealistic goals for ourselves.  When I first started running, I wasn’t training for anything.  I just wanted to make it to the end of the block.  Seriously.  Now, it seems like everyone thinks they need to be training for a marathon in order to be a “runner”.  The expectations we are setting for ourselves are getting alarmingly high. Despite what you may hear on TV, getting washboard abs in 60 days is just not a reasonable goal for the average person.  We cannot all drop weight like they do on the Biggest Loser.

Setting reasonable goals is a very important aspect of weight loss.  There is nothing more motivating than achieving a goal. On the other hand, failing to meet goals/expectations is one of the things most likely to cause us to give up.  That is why it is so important to create specific, small and realistic goals along the way.  The overall goal is to lose weight and be healthy, but it is the small goals along the way that will add up to get you there.

Here are some examples of specific, small and realistic goals:

  • I am going to cook at home at least 5 nights of the week.
  • I am going to run for 10 minutes without stopping within the next month
  • I am going to add an additional day of exercise per week
  • I am going to stop “pinning” recipes for cheesecake on pinterest.com

Here are some examples of goals that may be unrealistic:

  • I am going to lose 20 lbs before my vacation next month
  • I am going to go from couch to marathon by this spring
  • I am going to completely give up candy
  • I am going to switch immediately to a fat-free, carb-free, wheat-free, dairy-free......diet
The last thing we want to do is to set ourselves up for failure. A good goal can be very empowering, as long as it is truly reachable!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Choosing the Right Foods for Weight Loss


In a recent blog entry I posted a timeline of photos from my weight loss.  I really love the visual image that the timeline provides of my journey, but there is one thing that bothers me about it. The pictures make the whole thing look so easy.  It looks like one Christmas I was big, and then *poof*, the next Christmas I was thin.  I wish that I had some way to visually portray all of the blood, sweat and tears that went along with those images.  I assure you it was not all instant success, there were a lot of missteps along the way.

In the first few months of my weight loss journey I made just about all of the classic diet mistakes.  You know, the ones that I am always warning you not to make, l
ike thinking you can eat as much as you want of something just because it is labeled as “low fat”.  I can’t tell you how many containers of low fat ice-cream I went through while I was “dieting”.

When I finally realized that foods labeled as “low fat” were not necessarily “low calorie”, I started paying more attention to food labels.  I began watching my calorie intake, but payed no attention to what nutrients were in the foods that I was eating. This plan backfired when I found that I had no energy and was hungry all of the time.  I knew that my plan was not sustainable, and I would need to make adjustments.

I discovered that things like fiber and protein helped to fill me up for longer periods of time.  This led me to realize that I needed to pay attention, not only to the calorie content, but the amount of nutrients in the foods I was choosing.  I began choosing foods that had the most beneficial ingredients (lean protein, fiber, vitamins/minerals), for the least amount of calories.  It was this adaptation to my diet that helped lead me to weight loss success.

After a lot of experimenting, I have found that my favorite sources of lean protein and fiber are whole grains and legumes. These are two things that can be intimidating to the unfamiliar (I know they were to me at first), but over time you realize how easy it is to incorporate these things into your diet.  Brown rice, quinoa and black beans seem to be the items that all of the health food websites are talking about, but there are sooooo many other legumes and whole grains that aren’t getting nearly as much press.

Here are some of the ones I have experimented with:

Whole Grains:
Barley, Bulgur, Popcorn, Farro,  Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Colored Rice(brown, black, red), Wheat Berries

Legumes:
Black Beans, Cannellini Beans, Chickpeas, Great Northern Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils (brown, green and red), Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Split Peas (green and yellow)

The fun thing about there being so many different types, is that you can experiment, and you never get bored. The Whole Foods Market website is a great source of recipes for all different kinds of legumes and whole grains.  In their recipe section you can do an “advanced search” for recipes with certain ingredients. I have found many new recipes this way, and experimented with ingredients that I would not normally pair. A great example is this recipe for Yellow Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup.

I hope to get more in depth information about cooking with whole grains on the blog, but for now, just let me know if you have any questions.

Happy Cooking!