Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An Individualized Approach

I was taking a group exercise class this week when a member mentioned that I looked fit and asked what I had been doing, so I told her about the Just 10 Challenge. She asked which change I had made to my diet had the biggest impact. I hesitated to answer because, I'm not sure it boils down to one change, and the thing is, what works for me, won't necessarily work for her. 

If there's one thing I've learned from Jacy over these past few weeks it's that in order to be effective, a weight loss plan must take into account a person's genes, environment, and lifestyle. Nutrition professionals like Jacy have long known that you can't just read a nutrition label or follow standard dietary guidelines and call it a day - there's more to it than that. People are finally starting to pay attention to the fact that foods and diets that work for some people, are less effective for others. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to losing weight. 

Jacy has devised a plan for me. Together we've tweaked it and built on it. While there are things I cannot feel, like high cholesterol, there are other things that I can feel - like my energy level, how well I am sleeping, and what my appetite is like. And paying attention to these things is part of figuring out what works and what doesn't. Physicians follow this approach with medication; they'll prescribe a particular medicine and if they don't get the results they want, they'll make an adjustment or a switch. And that's what a registered dietitian does, as well.

Jacy is my coach and being accountable to her makes this challenge real. Knowing that I am going to speak to her every week keeps me honest. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Summer Road Trip

Last weekend, I dropped my daughter off at school in Raleigh and continued up the East Coast, visiting friends and family along the way. When I reached my final destination, Long Beach Island, I beached myself on a lounge chair and enjoyed the view.

Before I embarked on my adventure, I spoke with Jacy about my plan. My food plan, that is. I had no itinerary, I was going to be foot loose and fancy free. Just me, my car, and the open highway. But when I told Jacy that I was hitting the road, she had a few questions and made some suggestions that really resonated with me. 

In the past, a road trip was synonymous with Swedish Fish and pretzels. But at Jacy's suggestion, I skipped the fish and twisted knots and instead loaded the passenger seat with healthy snacks. Before I left, I stocked my cooler with individual nut packs from Trader Joe's, sparkling water, apples, carrots, some dark chocolate, and a chicken, vegetable wrap that I made with the leftovers from the dinner I had the night before I departed. The snacks nourished and sustained me through Richmond, DC, Baltimore, Wilmington, all the way to the shores of New Jersey. 

I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or if I subconsciously choose friends who are phenomenal cooks, but every friend I visited in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey put out a spread that could have graced the pages of Gourmet Magazine. Jacy warned me that eating right isn't always easy when you are at the mercy of your host for meals, but she assured me that I could still make good choices if I had a plan, and then she helped me with the plan. Lucky for me, my friends are not only amazing cooks, they also choose a variety of healthy foods and recipes. I ate like royalty without making a total pig of myself. 

I wouldn't normally choose a blueberry muffin the size of my head to start the day, but when I came downstairs and was greeted by my friend, the hostess with the hostess, handing me a muffin right out of the oven and a delicious latte with an impressive heart woven into the foam, well, let's just say, it was impossible to say no. So I ate part of the muffin, and filled the rest of my plate with fresh fruit. When we grilled burgers for lunch one day, I had mine open-faced on half of a bun. I skipped the chips in favor of a small salad and didn't feel guilty about washing it all down with a Corona (and an orange slice in stead of a lime - highly recommend it). The night we had homemade pesto pizza, I served myself one piece with a heaping serving of the tossed shrimp and avocado salad.  My cousin, the former bartender, featured a specialty cocktail every afternoon at happy hour. I enjoyed Saturday's blackberry mojito, Sunday's watermelon basil margarita, Monday's vodka-thyme lemonade, and Tuesday's sparkling shiraz punch. But I made a point to pass on the appetizers. I also chose not to sample the fudge or indulge in nightly dessert as I knew that on Tuesday evening we were going out for frozen custard and I was not going to pass on that little scoop of deliciousness. 

When I arrived home and stepped on the scale, I was pleased as (sparkling shiraz) punch to find that the number flashing on the display was the same as when I last stepped on it. I had so much fun visiting with my family and friends. I enjoyed countless delicious meals, I added a few new cocktails to my repertoire, and best of all - I managed to stay in control and on track (thanks to Jacy's voice in my ear). I was supposed to check in with her this evening at 8:15 for our weekly chat, but my husband and I are celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary, so I rescheduled for tomorrow. It's hard to take the Just 10 Challenge when there always seems to be a birthday to celebrate, or a road trip to take, or an anniversary to toast. But that's life, and you can't put life on hold. But you can learn to make a plan. And if you keep practicing the plan, day in and day out, eventually the plan becomes a habit. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Trouble with Cheat Days

I had a great face to face meeting with Jacy on Monday. And as expected, I got that much needed booster shot. We talked about my week of celebrating and overindulging with my family. And we talked about cheat days in general and agreed that they don't really work. The trouble with cheat days starts with the name. The very phrase sets up enjoying a meal or a snack as something forbidden. Separating food into good and bad categories encourages you to associate eating with guilt and shame. 

Jacy cautioned that when a food is off limits except for on a cheat day, it can develop a specific, emotional charge and you can actually begin obsessing about it, fantasizing about it, and looking forward to that cheat day all week. Then, when you finally have access to the food, you overeat. Research shows that people who hold themselves back on all days except their cheat day are actually less likely to reach their dietary goals. They are more likely to consume a greater number of calories, not only on their cheat day, but on the days following it. Restricting yourself throughout the week and then slamming your body with sugar and fat once the cheat day rolls around can have a massive impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Personally, I think there's a pretty fine line between a cheat day and a free-fall into food binging - especially if you're white-knuckling it during the other six days a week. 

So...if cheat days don't work, am I better off eating whatever I want, whenever I want? Nice try, right? I've learned from Jacy that following a healthy diet means including a number of different kinds of foods - all of which are to be consumed in moderation. And for me specifically - that means three square meals a day with planned snacks, incorporating treats - but in smaller portion. Sprinkling reasonably sized treats into my daily diet encourages me to find pleasure in meal time and that pleasure will help ensure that I don't feel the need to go overboard when birthday cake is served every day for an entire week. 

Instead of confining my treats to a single day, I'm gong to drop them into places throughout the week. I am incorporating a few pieces of chocolate after dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm going to enjoy a Cashew Cluster (from Costco - to die for) in the afternoon to satisfy my salty/sweet need. I'm also going to concentrate on savoring every bite. Instead of inhaling my food, I'm going to concentrate on how it tastes and smells and I'm going to enjoy the experience as a whole. 

So what's the takeaway?

Denying myself most of the week and then indulging like crazy on a day "off" or when my family is in town celebrating a birthday just promotes guilt, anxiety and shame around eating. Instead, I am going to make every day a great day by listening to my appetite, periodically adding in some of my favorite foods in small portions, and savoring each and every bite I eat. This sustainable approach will enable me to think of all of my eating as enjoyable and that's what will get me down the road to where I want to be. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I Had a Minor Setback

As I mentioned in my first post, many of my family's traditions are food-related. It started with my grandparents, but the next two generations added their mark. My mother's lasagna, my father's antipasto, my youngest sister's carrot casserole (I never said that all of our traditions were delicious, or even edible) and my oldest sister's back up apple pie that is tucked out of sight on Thanksgiving (a brilliant contribution that grew out of the need to keep certain family members from becoming completely unhinged at the thought of no leftover pie for the post-holiday breakfast).

This past week, my sisters and their families descended upon Charlotte to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. As you can imagine, there was lots of food and drink. And enough birthday cake to feed 80 eighty year olds. A part of me was sad that I couldn't hang out with everybody during the day as they lounged at the pool, drinking Margaritas and snacking on guacamole and chips. But another part of me was grateful that I had somewhere to be as it kept me from overindulging during the day. But every evening, I joined my family for cocktails, dinner, and a birthday cake that seemed to get larger, rather than smaller with each passing day.

I would be lying if I told you that I stuck to my healthy eating objective. I absolutely made my fair share of less than stellar choices. But even while I was eating birthday cake like it was my job, I could hear Jacy's voice in my head reminding me to be mindful of every bite. And every sip. And while I wasn't counting calories, I tried to make every calorie count. Maybe not my hardest, but I tried. I'm not going to beat myself up; my mother only turns 80 once. So, for a few days, food wasn't all about nutrients and refueling my body. But, next week I will recommit to making good choices. I'll slip on my sneakers (metaphorically and in reality) and I will begin where I left off.

Because of my crazy week at work and at home, I was unable to meet on-one-on with Jacy. But I am on her calendar for Monday. I'm excited about the new recipes she is going to share and I am looking forward to that much needed shot of adrenaline that only Jacy can provide. I know that habit formation hinges on my ability to bounce back. Watch me bounce.