Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dear friend in health, let's share ideas.

Email from my aunt:

Hi Laura,

I just wanted to let you know that I have been looking at your blog.  

I have done some changes in my diet for the sake of our new insurance that says that we need to stay healthy and get more healthy.  My body weight is at the border line of being too heavy and I have too high cholesterol.  My new diet is:
1. no snacking between meals (if I have to, eat veggies or nuts)
2. cut carbohydrates in half, eat whole grains
3. no butter or jam or honey on my bread during the week
4. no sweets during the week
5. no eating more than two helpings at meal times
I let the weekend be the time I allow a sweet treat or eat something I don't eat during the week. 

Success: managed to cut out jam, butter, honey during the week, mostly good about not snacking between meals.  Mostly been good about sticking to no more than two helpings during meal times, drinking more water, eating more salads, veggie sticks, and nuts, etc.

Unsuccessful: Still fall into eating too much carbohydrates. Example: crackers, muffins, biscuits   pasta, homemade breads, brown rice and white rice, pancakes, waffles etc. I cannot find a substitute that gives the same comfort feeling and fullness I get from eating carbs. Once in a while I end of eating way too many sweets, especially during the holidays.  When I was 26 I ate a whole batch of cream cheese frosting and got really sick for three days.  When I was 16 I had a lot of pastries filled with berries and only stopped when I realized I gained 5 pounds from eating them almost every week day.  I am hoping that I can managed to control my sugar intake when I turn 36 two years from now.  

Generally I eat well and I did get a great grade for my health, but there is always room for improvement.  The thing I have the most problems with is exercising.  I am really lazy, but I am trying to work out a little bit more.  My husband and I do 15 to 30 minutes of exercise twice a week together in the mornings. 

Well, I better go now.
God bless
*****

My response:

I’m glad you emailed me! One of the reasons I started writing a blog was because I was hoping it would spark some conversations. Also, I sometimes wonder if there’s actually a point in writing and posting, so it’s always nice to hear from someone that they do actually read it!

Making changes to your lifestyle is definitely challenging, and I think you should be proud of every step. Even if you can’t do what you want to right away, take longer than you planned to achieve your goals, or frequently have to restart your efforts, just the fact that you ARE trying is great.

I’ve found that the best way to go about it for myself is to make small changes, implement them, then once I’m used to them make some more small changes. If I tried to jump from my lifestyle five years ago or even three years ago to now, I’m afraid I would probably fail. It can be overwhelming and discouraging if you try to change too much at once.

I find that with both food and exercise, if I exceed my daily goals by a lot or set my goals too high (very low calories or very hard workouts), I can do it for a couple days, but then I not only won’t be able to keep it up, but I’ll swing to the other extreme and do very poorly. For example, maybe for two to four days I eat 1000 calories less than I burn. Then for the next couple of days I’ll overeat by 1000, 2000, or even more, completely ruining all the previous hard work. However, if I have moderately challenging goals, like eating 500 calories less than I burn, I can maintain that all week, and not have wild swings that I later feel awful about.

Having goals concretely written out, like you do, I find to be very useful as well. I also like to put those goals somewhere I’ll see them regularly. Especially a place where I’ll see them when I’m tempted to not follow them, like on the fridge or on the wall next to my computer, because I often want to snack when I’m watching TV online. And have a visible record of when you achieve those goals, like putting stars on a calendar for each day you succeed.

Given how scientifically minded everyone in this family is, it’s no surprise that I have similar thinking patterns and ways of understanding the world. Because of this, I find that the more information and knowledge I have, the better motivated I am. Just deciding to cut carbohydrates because that’s what the doctor recommends isn’t enough for me, and I probably won’t do it well. But if I read about how the body digests and absorbs carbohydrates versus protein and fat, and how each of those affect different functions of the body, and why a high protein and fat but low carbohydrate diet is therefore the healthiest, based on such-and-such research (give me facts!), I can fully understand, internalize, and then follow these diet recommendations.

Like you, I have found it challenging to feel satisfied and full after a meal low in carbohydrates, especially when I was first trying to cut back. Some tricks that help me are:
1. Eat TONS of vegetables. When I make a salad for myself, I use a mixing bowl and fill it completely, then eat it all. That’s how much many people usually make for the whole family. Yes, it takes a long time to eat, and a bunch of vegetables on their own might not satisfy, but it helps fill the physical space in your belly.
2. Get your calories from protein and fat. If you’re cutting carbohydrates, your body needs to get used to burning fat for energy instead. Fat has been vilified for decades, but research shows that the human body needs fat to survive, while it does not actually need grains and other high carbohydrate foods at all. Sure, people who eat lots of fast food are unhealthy. But why exactly are french fries so bad? The fat, the carbohydrates, or the fact that they're highly processed? If you’re always cooking for yourself and/or cutting carbohydrates, I say don’t be afraid of fat! Add avocado, tuna, olive oil, nuts, etc. to salads, don’t remove the fat from your meat, saut√© vegetables in coconut oil, eat Greek yogurt if you’re ok with dairy, and so on.
3. After dinner I always drink a large mug of Bengal Spice tea (by Celestial Seasonings). It also helps add to the feeling of fullness by taking up space in my stomach. Plus, it has a very strong cinnamon flavor, which I associate with dessert, thereby making me feel like I’ve had dessert, even though there’s no sugar, sweeteners, or calories at all in the tea.
4. If all else fails, I have sweet potato or pumpkin. They give me that full feeling, while still being packed full of vitamins and minerals and relatively low in calories. It’s also easier for the body to digest than grain-based foods. And again, don’t be afraid of fat! I drizzle olive, peanut, sesame, or coconut oil on my sweet potato or pumpkin after grilling it. For a savory taste, season it with salt and other herbs and spices. For something more dessert-like, use cinnamon and cloves or even cocoa powder (but no sugar!).

As far as exercising goes, I approach it the same way I approach food – by making small goals, and slowly improving my overall lifestyle. For many people, having someone to exercise with can help you stay on track because you are holding each other accountable, so it's great that you and your husband are doing it together. And if exercise isn’t really your thing, keep trying different methods until you figure out what works best for you. Some people prefer weight lifting, jogging, or joining various types of classes offered at the gym. Personally, I get bored if I’m always doing the same type of exercise, so I like to change it up all the time. In one week I usually jog three times, do a low impact cardio workout two or three times, high intensity interval training about three times, and yoga once. For examples of each of those, check out the videos I posted in my FAQs blog. Also, don’t push yourself too much or you’ll burn out! Start at whatever your level is. Even if you’re a complete beginner, there’s no shame in that. Go at your own pace, always challenging yourself a little. When I started jogging, I couldn’t go more than five minutes, but now I can go for an hour or more!

Finally, something that can help a lot with motivation is rewards. I have a friend who is trying to lose weight, and she has various reward levels as she reaches different weight goals. If you like buying clothes or shoes, motivate yourself with the thought that you’ll need new clothes if you lose weight! Want a new dress? Get that one you’ve had your eye on once you’ve dropped a size or two! Or your favorite author just released a new book? You can buy it if you’ve stuck to your goals for x amount of time. If I have stayed on track with exercise and diet all week, I’ll reward myself by taking a break from my daily workout and watching a movie on Friday night. Just try to avoid food or drink rewards, because they defeat the purpose! So what’s something you’d like but wouldn’t normally get for yourself? Choose small rewards for small goals, and something really awesome for a big, challenging goal!

Thanks again for reading my blog and also emailing me! It makes me feel good about what I’m doing when I know I’m not alone, and I hope it is similarly encouraging for you. Keep me updated on how you’re doing! Good luck!

*****

And for those few readers who made it all the way to the end, I leave you with this.

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1 comment:

  1. I tried not eating sweets except on weekends (like your aunt says she does) but I failed at that. So then I decided that I would not eat any candy or anything that was bought at a store or came out of a box. Only home made sweets, made completely from scratch, not even from boxed mixes. So guess who's been somehow finding time to bake lately!

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