How To Train To Change Your Eating Habits

I couldn’t begin to count how many people have said to me something to the effect of, “If I could just stop snacking I could lose the weight!”

You are not alone. If you’re at home with kids all day what do they constantly say? “I’m hungry, can I have a snack?”

The problem when we ultimately decide we are going to go on a diet, or make a lifestyle change, or start putting effort towards weight loss is how we go from our current set of patterns and habits to this new lifestyle we’re aiming to achieve.

I have given this advice to clients before, and I will continue to give it as I believe it is realistic, and more likely to set someone up for long term success, so pay attention:

❗️You will not go from a late night pantry snack grabbing person to an organic food prepping vegan just because you’ve decided to lose weight.

❗️Just as we take baby steps in everything else we learn in life – so will you too have to take baby steps when changing years of eating habits. A child learning to read does not instantly grab a novel in hopes of figuring it out. He/she must learn letters, then sounds, then sight words, then small books, and finally alas! Success. This too is how we should approach changing our dietary habits.

Here’s what I want you to do if you’re really ready to change your diet.

Step 1: Journal your food and beverage intake for 1 week. Just 7 days. No adjusting how you eat because you’re suddenly writing it down. This is just for your eyes only and if you feel you need to cheat the journal then that’s more evidence to yourself that dietary changes should be made. You don’t need to weigh everything, just write down what was included, if you had a second helping, sauces included, etc.

Step 2: Evaluate your journal. Does anything pop out to you as problem areas? For example — After a certain hour at night do you get hungry and grab a pantry snack and zone out not realizing how many handfuls of Cheezits you’ve had? Are you not eating enough breakfast that results in extra morning snacks? Are you drinking more sodas than you realized?

Step 3: What specifically in your food and beverage intake do you want to eliminate, or just decrease? Figure out those items and think about what they can be replaced with. If you have a major craving for something, like macaroni and cheese or bread, and you know realistically you’d never be able to go cold turkey eliminating it – then don’t! Look at how much you’ve had, then the next time you eat it, decrease the amount by 25-50%.

Step 4: After you’ve journaled your food and beverage intake, you’ve highlighted problem areas that pop out to you, and you’ve gone through to decide what items you want to decrease the amount you intake, and what items you want to eliminate altogether, now setup your Food Plan.

Your Food Plan is going to help you over the next 2-4 months. I’m not talking about writing up everything you’re going to eat. That is truly a pain in the rear and takes the fun out of meal time. Your Food Plan is a general, realistic diet guideline that will train your body to crave the “bad things” less without going completely cold turkey that could potentially end in you binge eating on the couch and getting totally ticked off with yourself.

Your Food Plan will include guidelines (these are unique to each individual, these are just examples) such as:

— I will decrease my bread intake from two meals a day to one.

— I will engage in Sober Sunday and not have excess alcohol calories on Sundays.

— I will buy precut veggies to have as healthy grab snacks when I’m feeling too tired to make food during times I’m prone to over snack on pantry items.

By decreasing the amount you eat of “problem items” by 25-50% (Ex: instead of a whole plate of pasta, you eat half a plate)and eating that way for 2-4 months it is training your body and your mind to 1) not crave the item as much and 2) still allow you the food you enjoy and not depraving yourself. If it is an item you feel you want to eliminate eating altogether, taking this step by step will help you get there.

Ask yourself this question, and answer honestly based on your past diet and lifestyle history:

Am I more likely to succeed at changing my dietary habits for the long haul if I do a complete revamp of my weekly meals and snacks, or if I allow myself to gradually decrease and change my patterns?

In order to succeed at changing our dietary habits we must be realistic, but also dedicated. We must forgive ourselves when we occasionally indulge, as we have one life to live and food should not be a major stressor, but also hold ourselves accountable to our goals.

Baby steps… As you eliminate or decrease items overtime you will see positive changes in your body, your attitude towards food, and it will be way less stressful than a complete instant diet overhaul you’re likely to give up on.

Good luck to each of you! May your food be delicious and nutritious!


Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

There are people who will try to make you feel motivated during a difficult time, but end up unintentionally making you feel bad — I am not one of those people (I hope).

Right now, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the world’s daily schedule, lifestyle and habits. We are all dealing with it in one form or another – some aspects positive, some beyond stressful.

If you’re trying to incorporate exercise into this period of time, and the same old adage, “Make time for yourself” isn’t cutting it because you want to holler, “If I could, I would!” right back, then here’s some ideas that may help:

For those at home with kids but no work commitments:

  • If your day is strapped with school work, house chores, fetching food, and then on top of it, you feel the need to come up with additional activities/crafts/learning experiences – take a breath and evaluate all that you are doing. Do the dishes need to be done multiple times a day, or can it wait until the end of the day? Choose what makes most sense to you time-wise. Do you need so many additional “learning activities” or are they stealing time without receiving adequate praise and gained knowledge from the kids after? Could you decrease the number of activities?
  • I’m not telling you to stop doing dishes or teaching your kids – I’m telling you to look at your daily list and if you had to cut things out of it, are there instantly ones that you could live without that would give you some spare time for yourself?
  • My kids don’t have their own devices, but they can use mine for Disney+ and ABCMouse. There is enough educational content on those that if I want to go workout for 30-60 minutes and let them be glued to a device, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. And let’s be real — we may feel bad when we don’t spend 24/7 with the kids, letting that parental guilt seep in, but I am 99% positive they do not think, “I probably should hang out with my Mom instead of watching Wild Krafts”. If your kid says that – awesome, hug him/her and send thanks to Jesus. But for the rest of us, let them watch that show so they can have THEIR alone time, you can have YOUR alone time, and you can regroup later to erase any unnecessary guilt you built up.
  • I say this often — expect interruptions, expect to be annoyed because someone suddenly wants juice or to paint the cat a picture. Maybe you’ll get a quiet workout, maybe you’ll stop five times, but eventually it’ll get learned that your exercise time is important, on the schedule, and the kids gotta deal with it. I’ve done this for 8 years – I know what I’m talking about.

For those at home with full or part-time work commitments:

  • This is hard, so props to you working parents trying to juggle everything. Before I proceed I want to say this — IT IS OK IF YOU HAVE YELLED THIS WEEK. If you think for a second you’re the world’s worst parent because you got overwhelmed and yelled at your kid, don’t. One house over, another parent is yelling. Forgive yourself, and try better next time. It happens.
  • Having a schedule, even if it’s a rough one or constantly gets messed up, to start off your day or week in some sort of order will help you make it to the finish line each day.
  • If you are full time, consider using your lunch break for exercise, even if it’s just 20 minutes, I assure you, you can get a butt-kicking, all bodyweight workout in.
  • If you think, “No way would I wake up early for exercise” try it for just one week. Just Monday-Friday for one week and if you still hate it, then scrap the idea and try evenings.
  • It’s key to have a workout plan picked out beforehand. If you have 20 minutes only to exercise but you have nothing picked out, that workout either likely won’t happen, or won’t be as effective as you hoped for, and then you’re going to be frustrated.
  • If planning a workout is just one more task to add, then don’t create it yourself. There are several free or discounted fitness programs online right now – choose one of those workouts and go. Or of course there’s me – I can create personalized workouts for you! I have a few options.
  • Exercise helps your brain focus, believe it or not. With studies of kids after PE or recess, kids tend to focus more on their schoolwork because of the positive chemical effect it has on their brain’s ability to focus. Exercise may be the mental break you need before going back to your desk for more work grind.
  • Right now employers and clients should expect to hear kid noise in the background of conference calls or meetings. It’s just the state of the world, and everyone should understand and respect that. You will likely not be able to perform your job at 100%. You will not be able to parent at 100%. Don’t allow others, or your own inner goal-oriented demon, make you think you have to.

For those teleworking, but no children or other needy dependents in the house:

  • Pick your time slot. It may even change daily depending on your workload, but pick one. Morning, lunch break, right after work, before bedtime – whatever floats your boat, and stick with it.
  • If you are alone and the loneliness of social isolation is bringing you down, de-motivating you, consider joining an online group training either via Zoom or Facebook Live. It may not be as exhilarating as an in-person group fitness class, but it’s something!

For those still going into an actual place of work and then coming home tired:

  • You’re tired. You’re stressed. You got other crap to handle when you walk in the door. I get it. It’s OK!
  • What can hold off until tomorrow? Chances of you getting in a workout daily is pretty slim, not impossible, but challenging. Can you forgo some stuff on Monday, handle it on Tuesday, so you can get in a quick 20-45 minute workout after work? And then do this again another day of the week?
  • Even if there’s only one day during the week, and one weekend day that work for you, it’s still physical activity. Is it most ideal? No, but it’s better than zero days, and with time you will likely figure out how to squeeze in another day.

“Something is better than nothing” and that is absolutely true. Maybe you won’t see impressive physical gains, or even change the size of your pants, but physical activity can create unseen mental and emotional gains that during a stressful time can make a huge difference.

If coming up with your own workout is stressful to even think about – let the professionals do it for you. Pick an online program, and just follow their lead. Less thinking and stressing and more sweating!

No equipment? Don’t underestimate the power of bodyweight exercises. There are hundreds for all skill and fitness levels at your fingertips via Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. I’m currently running a Facebook Live workout group with 15 different workouts, all bodyweight! It. Can. Be. Done.

Don’t expect a fabulous workout. Maybe you’ll get it. Maybe you’ll be interrupted. Maybe it’ll become your favorite part of your day. Maybe it’ll be tiring at first, but give you the endorphins you need.

If you have any questions or concerns and want additional advice or help, give me a shout. —- @couragetosweat —

How To Lose Weight When You’re Already In Shape

Our bodies like a set point, whether we like that weight/shape or not. It’s why even though we may fluctuate a little here and there, most of us manage to wear the same size clothes for years. Our bodies say, “I like this weight. I’m comfortable here. I’ll adjust your metabolism and hormones accordingly.”

Here’s a more detailed article on that point:

When you have a significant amount of weight to lose, or you have real diet changes to make, or exercise/physical activity is not part of your regular life, then weight loss can come easily as it’s a shock to your body, and your body responds quickly. I say “easily” but I’m talking how your body reacts, not you. You may have a hard time mentally and emotionally dealing with all the difficult changes – and that does not come easily.

But what if you’re already in good physical shape and eat a healthy diet? If you’ve previously lost weight, then your body has adjusted its metabolism to not have to work as hard, as it’s not carrying around an extra load, so you actually may have to eat less and exercise more to see continued results. Your body is smaller and thus doesn’t need as much fuel to maintain its current weight. Yes, you have likely made your body more effective and efficient with burning calories as you’ve become healthier, however discovering that calorie-to-exercise ratio for your body may take some trial and error as you discover what works best for your body.

Imagine doing bodyweight squats while weighing 185 lbs. Then lose 20 lbs, now weighing 165 lbs, you continue to do the same number of bodyweight squats. Which scenario is more difficult? Which requires the body to work harder?

Think of your body/shape/weight in its form right now. Is it harder for you to do a bodyweight squat, or a squat with a 20 pound barbell?

As your body adjusts to the weight and exercise, your exercise routine must also adjust to see continued results.

If you run 3 miles three times a week, every week, do you think it’s just as hard the first time you did it as it is now? No! Sure it’s still a good workout that helps maintain your current health status, but the key word here is “maintain”.

The first time you drank alcohol, did one beer or one glass of wine make you feel a little tipsy? How about years later, are you still a lightweight, or has you body adjusted to handling two or three beers or glasses of wine? Maybe more?

As your body adjusts to the intake of calories, or to the stress of physical activity, YOU must continue to adjust or it will fight you to maintain its current status.

Here’s a checklist to help you understand if anything is holding you back:

– Have you made any adjustments to your exercise routine in the past few months to make cardio either longer/harder, weight training heavier/harder?

– Have you made any adjustments to your caloric intake recently? Even if you feel you should maintain the same caloric intake, does the quality of those calories need to change? Such as less sugar that if not used as fuel will be stored as fat. Is there extra sodium that could be taken out? Some processed carbs that could be substituted out with natural ones?

– If you don’t feel you are ready to adjust the intensity of your cardio or weight training, can you add extra activity? Even something as less strenuous as a 30 minute daily walk on top of your regular routine can start making an impact on your weight loss journey.

– If you cannot carve more time out of your day for exercise than you already do, can you run/spin faster? Can you incorporate more sprints that cause a positive stress on your body to be on high alert, thus it will react by burning more calories?

– Are you drinking enough water? Around 2 liters should be your daily goal to prevent dehydration and to ensure you flush out your system adequately.

Good luck. Stay positive. Remember to love yourself throughout the whole journey. If you need help with exercise ideas, check out my Independent Package options for self-accountability workouts.

I threw away my scale, and I’m not replacing it.

I threw away my scale today. Not because of some profound declaration of independence from the little accessory that can cause mind games with us all, but because it was broken. A couple weeks ago my bathroom flooded for an unclear reason and the scale was a casualty. The water is gone now, flowing through the pipes correctly, but the scale is done.

If I lived near a WalMart or Target (insert moment of silence for those of us who have to live without) I’d likely just run out and grab a new one, but I don’t, so I’ve had a little time to think about this seemingly dull moment in time.

Do I really want a new scale?

Think about it with me for a bit. What purpose does a scale serve you? For some who have serious weight issues, or even just borderline serious, weight issues, I can see the purpose. You may need to diligently keep track of what it says to keep you on the path to healthy success. But for many of us, it can really be a total buzz kill. A kill joy. A slap in the face. Why do I want that in my life? Can’t the fact that my pants do or do not fit serve the same purpose, but with a little more wiggle room?

How many times have you stepped on the scale with set numbers in your head? A number to not be over, and if you are over, you feel bummed. A number to be under, and if you’re under, you feel a sense of hope and success. But if you didn’t know your number at all, if you didn’t have a chance to step on that scale, and you simply had to base your happiness with your body and your appearance based on looking in the mirror, would you be happier more and sad less? You can’t look in the mirror and truly see a two pound difference. You can step on a scale and see you’re two pounds heavier than you want to be, and how you react to that is up to you, but you’re not going to see those two pounds when you look in the mirror.

It’s all a mental game, and if it’s not a positive one, maybe I don’t need to play it.

I gave birth to my children when I was 26 and 29. When I turned 30 I decided I was a little bit wiser. Because 30 is “so old” right? Maybe not wiser, but a bit more confident. I am confident, not arrogant. There is a difference, and I certainly have more room to grow, but I’m come a long way. You should join me on that path, it’s a pretty good one. I decided in my 30’s I would do more things for me. Yes, I did plenty of things for me in my 20’s, but there was so many big ticket bucket list items during that time – college, grad school, marriage, babies – that eventually one must come out of the fog (as exciting as it is) and say, “Ok, and now who am I?” Or, “Who do I want to be?”

There’s many silly things on that 30’s list of things to do to take care of me – like actually trying out a skin care regimen because I’m not getting any younger and my laugh lines are getting more defined. Figuring out exactly who I am, what I’m good at, what I’m placed on this Earth to do is on that list. How much I weigh while discovering all that, is not.

Once upon a time I would have stepped on the scale every day. I know people who have to step on it every day. Think of some of the most incredible people you know. Think of some of the women in your life who have made your life better simply by them being a part of it. Do any of them weigh themselves and grumble about their weight? YES! I know many that do. I know women who are successful in their careers, who take care of their families in the most loving way, and they still include how much they weigh, and the size of their dresses, as a deciding factor of how much they are worth.

As someone who is hopeful that there really is a Heaven, my assumption is God will not ask me to step on the scale prior to entry.

Yes, I am all for being healthy. Yes, I myself would like to lose more weight and become stronger. But I would like to base how I change my mind and body on what I see in the mirror, and whether I need to buy a new wardrobe because my clothes are too tight or too loose, but not base my mental state on an arbitrary number that should come with an asterisk next to it. An asterisk because maybe I weigh X-amount and that sounds high but I have a lot of muscle. Or an asterisk because maybe I don’t weigh that much but I’m short and my frame is small. Or an asterisk because my number is high but I’m tall and I have fitness goals in mind that require I weigh that much. Or an asterisk because Taco Tuesday is amazing and I regret nothing.

So the scale is gone, my friends. And she’s not coming back for awhile, until SHE shows me her worth. Yes the scale is a “She” because she can be a real B-word.

Exercising For A Cause

While I believe motivation to exercise or to work towards a fitness goal is best achieved when it comes from within, sometimes that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you need that extra kick in the pants from outside sources to get you going.

Races that incorporate donations to charities are quite popular. There are many walks and runs that people participate in to raise awareness and funds to hopefully help cure diseases. Personal experiences and connections to these diseases, such as breast cancer or leukemia, give people the motivation to get out there and get moving in hopes of making a difference. It’s a smart idea, both from a marketing perspective and decent human people perspective. Find something people are passionate about, and get them out walking or running, talking and fundraising, while connecting with other people around them and making the world a little more hopeful and helpful.

When I was training for my first marathon I dedicated my run to ten soldiers who had died in war. I had a shirt made with their names on it. I read their stories several times, and I donated money to charities I had either read about in their death notices or thought they would have had a connection to, and would have appreciated me donating to. Let me tell you, when you’re running and thinking about young men who died for their country and no longer are able to run themselves, you keep running! It was exactly what I needed to keep me motivated. To keep me realizing that my pain was nothing compared to what they had experienced. That I was truly fortunate to even be able to move my legs at all.

If you don’t think you can last on internal motivation along, what can keep you going? Is there a cause you can make a promise to? One where you raise money for every mile walked, or every lap swam? What can pull on your heartstrings enough to make your hamstrings not give up?

For those who want to spend energy, but not your own money, there’s an app for that – Charity Miles – you exercise, they pay the charity.

Your dog can even join in on the fundraising fun with WoofTrax.

Remember that exercise is not just about burning calories and losing weight, it can be about so much more.

Stay active, my friends!

The Strength of Life

I’m supposed to be writing about strength training this month, as that’s what I promised to whoever follows me on Facebook and Instagram, but I have something on my heart so I’m going to stray off topic. But it’s just a smidge off, I promise. Hopefully it’s worth it to someone other than me.

We take care of our bodies. We wreck our bodies. We carefully prepare each meal, or we eat whatever want. In the end – and I mean the real end – it only partially matters.

Yes, eating healthy and exercising gives us the energy to grab life by the balls and live it fully. Yes, it will keep us from getting certain diseases and impairments. But when our last day comes, there is only so much we can could have done to prevent it. I would like to think that most of us don’t say, “Well my life was great – I traveled, I loved, but… I never fit into that smaller size I always wanted to be.”

My races and physical challenges that I have embraced have made me proud, and I’m not afraid to be proud. I think somewhere in childhood we learn to be scared to be proud of ourselves in fear of coming across as arrogant. There’s a difference and it should be easy to spot. If you gave yourself a challenge, or were confronted with some tough obstacles, and overcame them, then yes be proud of yourself. Tell us on Facebook. That’s not bragging. If we’re really your friends, we’ll be proud of you too.

But with an effort towards leading a decently healthy lifestyle, I still don’t know when my final day will come, as you likely don’t either. Most don’t. I will still eat my vegetables. I will still exercise, because I firmly believe that most people who exercise are generally happy people. There are still those bad eggs in the bunch, but typically we’re happy, encouraging folks.

Live the life you want to live. Eat ice cream. Go for runs. Feel the pain in your limbs when you’re climbing obstacles. Find the vegetables you actually enjoy, and say “F That” to the ones you don’t. Life is too short to eat horrible food, but too long to not give a damn.

And because I did promise to talk about strength training… How can one fully get the benefits of life if they don’t feed their muscles? I have young children who still want to be held at times, and if I didn’t work on my arms and back, I’d wreak havoc on my body. I can’t lose that precious, fleeting time with them, so if it means spending time with weights and a bar, I’ll do it. They want to run around the yard, ride bikes, jump on the trampoline. Mommy couldn’t do that if she didn’t strengthen her legs. I’m not a “sit on the sidelines” kind of person. I hope you don’t want to be either.

So keep living, y’all. Lift a few weights. Go a run or walk and feel the fresh air all around.

Until next time…