New Year, New Way To Think About Your Resolutions!

So it is three days into the New Year, which means it is the perfect time to re-evaluate those perennial New Year’s resolutions. Chances are, they look something like this: 1) go to the gym 6-7 days/week 2) cut out all junk food 3) lose weight. While it is certainly encouraged to have goals and make New Year’s resolutions, it is important that these goals are both attainable and sustainable. If you are new to working out and have previously worked out less than 1-2 times per week until 2014, chances are it is not going to be enjoyable or realistic to be hitting the gym 6-7 days per week. Also, cutting out all junk food is quite ambitious and, frankly, sets up unhealthy relationships with food. Food is meant to fuel your body and be enjoyed and it is important to understand that it is not the end of the world if you eat a cookie, as long as your diet is generally comprised of real, whole foods and offers your body the nutrition it needs to keep you moving, happy and healthy. So here are my guidelines to making  New Year’s resolutions that will stick.

runningshoes

1. Start Small

Be proud of your small accomplishments – they add up. Small lifestyle modifications = large results. For instance, weight loss is a result (not a behavior). It is often best to set behavioral goals and ultimately, these behavioral goals can add up big time to give you the results you want. Possible behavioral goals include things like taking the stairs when possible, getting off at an earlier subway stop in order to walk further, walking instead of driving or taking public transportation, eat 3 more servings of vegetables each day, eat breakfast each morning, etc. These all seem small, but they are behaviors that are part of a healthy lifestyle and will ultimately help you to reach your overarching goal of weight loss, weight maintenance, being more active, or whatever your personal goal is.

2. Don’t Make Too Manyweights

I bet all of those behaviors I listed above are enticing. However, if you do not currently do any of those things, attempting to start doing all of those is likely to be a set-up for failure. Making too many resolutions and goals at once can be overwhelming and ultimately, you will be less likely to do any of them. It is often better to pick just a couple of goals (I suggest starting with 1-3) and once these become routine, gradually add in more goals (who says you can only make goals on January 1st???) We are constantly evolving and should always be challenging ourselves and our goals should reflect this. So, allow yourself to start small, with just a few behaviors and allow yourself and your lifestyle to evolve gradually. Trust me, you will be much happier, healthier, and sane!

3. Keep Your Resolutions Realistic

Now is the perfect time for self reflection. You must meet yourself where you are in order to get where you would like to go. Currently going to the gym two times per week? Awesome! A perfect resolution would be to go to the gym 3-4 times per week, or to gradually add time doing cardio work, or gradually add more challenging workouts (such as planks and their many variations). Another great resolution would be to go to the gym at least two times a week (as you have been doing) and add in more activities of daily living, such as physical work (walking, taking the stairs, doing yardwork/housework, etc.) Or, my personal favorite, add in mini-workouts that do not include the gym or any equipment. Can’t stop watching your favorite show? Do mat exercises, such as crunches, squats, planks and push-ups during commercials. There, no sweat! (Well, a little sweat, but so easy to squeeze in!!!) While it would be awesome to tell yourself you are all of the sudden going to start going to the gym 4-5 times more per week than you already are, this is likely not realistic and not sustainable. Accept yourself, love yourself, and challenge yourself with realistic goals. That is how you will become stronger and reach your goals.

4. Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) focus on numbers

scaleSo many clients and friends talk to me about the scale. So many people base their success off of a number reported by the scale. Yes, the scale reports your weight, but this number can be affected by so many factors and neglects a lot of other valuable information. For instance, your weight could be influenced by water, muscle mass, and many other factors. Your weight is not simply a report of fat and when you lose weight, you are losing not just fat but also fat free mass (which is your lean body mass). Therefore, rapid weight loss can mean dehydration and rapid loss of muscle, which is likely not what you are aiming for! Additionally, the scale does NOT report the positive changes going on inside your body, such as the relative shift in  fat free mass versus fat mass, neural adaptations that occur with exercise regimens, etc. I always tell clients and friends to focus on fitness goals – these are the only numbers you should be focusing on! For instance, shaving off time from your pace per mile, adding time to your plank, adding weight to your resistance training – these are the numbers that are okay to focus on. Your weight? It is likely to fluctuate, plateau at some point, and drive you absolutely crazy! Focus on your performance and how you feel – the resulting weight (loss, maintenance, gain) will come as a result of these behaviors.

Hopefully this year, these new New Year’s resolutions will stick and inspire you to continue to be active, healthy and respectful of your body. It does a lot for you and a great overall goal would be to treat it well, in any way that you can!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year!

*sneaker photo courtesy of http://teambcspca.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/runningshoes.jpg

*weight photo courtesy of http://www.hitraveltales.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/weights.jpg

*scale photo courtesy of http://blog.withings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/7-Wireless_Scale_Lifestyle_1.jpg

Let’s Talk About Snacks, Baby…

Why We Need “The Talk”…

I have noticed that many people I know are concerned about snacking. In fact, it seems as though salty-snackspeople are afraid of snacking, which is upsetting because eating (including snacking) should be a joyful experience. You are giving your body nutrients so that it can be strong for you and you are also enjoying the smell, taste and texture of the food (or at least you should be!) However, when it comes to snacking, I think some people are confused about which snacks are “good” or “bad”. I do not like to think of food in terms of “good” or bad”. Food is food. It can taste good or bad, but it is not, in itself, good or bad. Instead, I try to eat different types of food in moderation. For example, I often cook healthful breakfasts, lunches and dinners and usually eat fruit, vegetables or yogurt in between meals. However, if I want a cookie, or a muffin, or some other “treat” one day, I will likely have it – as part of a balanced diet. This concept seems to provoke a strong reaction in many people, as it seems many people associate foods such as cookies or ice cream with guilt. It is time to work on your relationship (with food) and befriend the enemy.

*photo courtesy of http://www.abetterbagofgroceries.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/salty-snacks.jpg 

Just Hear Me Out…

This is a break-up with your diet habits. Dieting does not usually lead to long-term weight loss. Skipping meals (and snacks) could cause binge-eating later, along with feelings of deprivation, guilt and behaviors associated with disordered eating. Instead, it is finally time to begin a new relationship with food – a healthy relationship, in which there is respect, peace and happiness. Now, I know many people want to enjoy snacking – who wouldn’t? However, confusion and anxiety about how to snack can certainly take the fun out of what is supposed to be both enjoyable and beneficial. So I am here to sort out fact from fiction, and offer up some of my favorite snack ideas, from whole foods to packaged goodies. After hearing my side, hopefully we can work it out.

Dark chocolateRumor Has it…

So, what is a “snack” and how does it differ from a “meal”? Truth is, depending on what works for you, a snack may not be any different from a meal. Many people find that eating multiple, small meals during the day helps to keep them feeling full and provides their bodies with adequate nutrition. However, if you are eating three meals a day (which, at a minimum, you should!) snacking is often a helpful way to keep your metabolism humming and tide you over until your next meal. Ideally, if someone is on a 1,800 calorie – 2,000 calorie diet (by “diet” I mean their average dietary intake, not a “diet” in the typical sense), meals should approximate 500 calories each, leaving 300 – 500 calories for snacking. (It should be noted that everyone’s caloric requirement is different and this is just an example). An ideal snack is typically thought to be about 150 – 300 calories, although this  can obviously vary from person-to- person and time-to-time. Snacks should usually consist of foods that offer healthful benefits, for example, a fruit that offers fiber along with vitamins and minerals. However, a snack can also be something that isn’t so much a contributor to your nutrient-dense calories, but rather, something you want to eat and can eat in moderation, knowing that your nutrients are coming from elsewhere in the diet. So it’s okay to break out the chocolate and ice cream every once in awhile – this is a break up after all. Just remember the foundations of good nutrition: balance, variety and moderation.

*photo courtesy of http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/8/17/1345200214609/Dark-chocolate-009.jpg

I Can See Clearly Now…

So, hopefully by now you are feeling that not only is it okay to snack – you are encouraged to snack. Just snack wisely (most of the time)! here are some of my favorite snacks, ranging from unprocessed fruits and vegetables to pre-packaged, store-bought convenience items.

Fruit:

This is an easy one. Need an on-the-go snack? Whole fruits that you can bite into, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and bananas are great, portable options. Additionally, you can cut up fruit when you do have the time so that when you are busy, you can just reach for the container (or bag, or whatever you choose to store your cut up fruit in) and bring it with you. Dried fruit is also a good option – just be aware of the sugar content. The process of drying is a dehydration process and usually sugar is used to attract water out of the fruit, increasing the sugar content of the fruit once it has been dried. If you’re at home, you can enjoy some of my favorite snacks and desserts: cut up grapefruit, broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, melted dark chocolate with strawberries and bananas, banana slices with peanut butter, frozen grapes or frozen dark chocolate-dipped bananas. Right now, clementines are also especially sweet!

07-Beautiful-Fruit-Wallpapers

*photo courtesy of http://picsmesh.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/07-Beautiful-Fruit-Wallpapers.jpg 

Vegetables, Beans, Legumes:

I like to bring sliced bell pepper, cucumber and carrots with me and usually I will bring a small container of hummus. The vegetables on their own do not contain many calories, but they offer a ton of vitamins and minerals and are full of water and fiber, which help to keep me full. Hummus helps to fill me up if I want a heartier snack and adds even more fiber. Edamame is another fun snack. A great tip is to sprinkle on the salt after you have heated the soybeans, since you will be able to taste the crystals that are on the surface and can use less salt. Edamame is also great on its own, eaten warm or cold. Also, I am unashamed to admit that I still eat ants on a log – more appropriately referred to at my age as celery with peanut butter and raisins.

originalOn-The-Go Bars and Treats:

I have recently become addicted to Larabars. These bars are minimally processed and contain very few ingredients (some bars only have 2 ingredients!), all of which I can pronounce and recognize as food items. While many granola bars and other on-the-go bars contain ingredients made in a laboratory and cheap, added fibers, such as inulin, which can often cause gastrointestinal distress, Larabars are made from dates and contain a few ingredients to enhance the flavor of the dates. The fiber and nutrients are all there, in a conveniently packaged bar that averages around 200 calories. My favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate chip! I also make my own trail mixes, using individually packaged nuts, seeds and fruit. Here is my favorite combination: cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, pieces of dark chocolate. Try to find unsalted or reduced-salt versions of nuts when making your own trail mixes.

*photo courtesy of http://s3.amazonaws.com/jo.www.larabar.com.2011/uploads/page/meta_social_images/15/original.png?1333057076

Creamy Deliciousness:total-0

My favorite go-to snack when I crave creaminess is Greek yogurt. I like Fage 0% plain, which contains few ingredients, among which are live, active cultures of beneficial bacteria that can colonize as microflora in the intestine and contribute to immune and digestive health. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are the names of bacteria to look for when reading your yogurt label. I like to eat my Greek yogurt either with fruit, fruit and chocolate chips, fruit and honey, granola (usually my homemade granola, which can be found on this blog, although I also am a fan of Purely Elizabeth’s use of quinoa, chia, amaranth and other grains and seeds). I also like to put my Greek yogurt in a smoothie, whether it’s a light fruit smoothie (using REAL fruit) or a protein-packed peanut butter smoothie (which usually contains chocolate or a banana – or both!) If you’re craving ice cream, Breyer’s has a natural line that really hits the spot. I’m a fan of Breyer’s Natural Vanilla, which contains just four simple ingredients. I usually top my ice cream with some melted peanut butter to pump up the protein (and because I do not think there is any one food that I love more than peanut butter).

*photo courtesy of http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/images/total-0.jpg 

Other Processed Foods:

My most recent find is Boom Chicka Pop popcorn, which has a “lightly sweet” flavor that tastes just like kettle-corn. This popcorn is only 35 calories per cup, or 120 calories for each 3 1/4 C serving. Also, this snack packs in 5 grams of fiber per serving and is surprisingly not high in sodium or sugar. I also like baked chips or cape cod chips, which have considerable less fat than regular potato chips. When it comes to cakes, muffins and cookies, I tend to bake my own, since I can replace oils and other fats with more healthful ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, swap out some of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour and ensure that I am aware of the amount of sugar I am consuming (and making sure that it is as natural as possible). It should be noted that black strap molasses actually contains calcium, so this sweetener is a wise choice. However, if you do not wish to bake your own baked goods, my advice is to read the nutrition label. Many of these commercially-sold baked goods contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans fats and a labyrinth of an ingredients label. Try to focus on foods (processed or otherwise) that you can recognize as foods. If you do not recognize the ingredient (or can’t pronounce it, like many chemicals and food additives used), it is likely not worthy of entering your body.

boom pop

*photo courtesy of http://www.plummarket.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/8/9/892773000697_1_1.jpg 

Parting Words…

I hope I cleared up some of the rumors and preconceived notions about snacks. I like to follow the “80/20 rule” – make sure that 80% of your diet provides the nutrients you need and you can allow about 20% of your diet to be wiggle room. Your healthy relationship with food can involve snacking! In fact, snacking is a great complement to an active, healthy lifestyle. You must always remember to fuel your body – it works hard for you!