Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Key to Successful Resolutions Involving Weight Loss

as written for "The Citizen of Laconia"

Statistics show that a large percentage of New Year’s resolutions involve weight loss.  Many of us have the best intentions of carrying these resolutions out, however they often are forgotten soon after the New Year hits.  There are certain steps that can be taken to prevent this phenomenon from happening that just may work for you:

Step 1:  Have a plan and put everything in writing.  This not only involves writing down what your ultimate goal is, but also what goals are going to lead you toward that ultimate goal.   These goals need to be specific and measurable; Instead of saying “I need to eat more vegetables,” try “I will eat more vegetables by filling half of my plate with them for at least 12 meals per week.”  This gives you the ability to clearly identify whether you’ve achieved your goal or not.   

Step 2:  Be sure you have the supplies on hand to carry out your plan.  If one of your goals is to increase certain foods, stock your refrigerator and freezer.  Make these foods accessible by preparing them for eating as soon as you get home from the supermarket.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, rid your house of foods that may sabotage your goals, or at least make them less accessible.  

Step 3:  Be accountable.  Food journaling can be incredibly effective and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy.   A notebook will do, or you can use a free web site or Smartphone app, such as “My Fitness Pal,” which gives you a calorie goal and tracks calories consumed.  Another effective accountability measure is to enlist a resolution buddy that you can communicate with on a daily basis - one with likeminded goals.

Step 4:  Have a relapse prevention plan.  There will be situations where you may not be as headstrong about your goals; during vacation, for example or when you go out to dinner with a friend.  Be sure your initial goals are realistic enough to allow for some give in these situations, or else you will end up feeling too restricted to carry them out.  Also, a vision board can be a great tool to get you back on track after a relapse or if your motivation starts to dwindle.  A vision board is a bulletin board that you look at often that includes motivational pictures or quotes to keep you on task with your goals.  This could be an actual bulletin board or a digital collage, such as a Pinterest board.  

Step 5:  Seek professional help if you are having trouble.  Dig deep to figure out the reasons you are not succeeding.  There may be underlying emotional issues that cause you to sabotage yourself.  If you cannot solve these issues on your own, consider therapy.  If you have a lot of specialized dietary needs, likes or dislikes or have encountered a roadblock with your meal planning, consider a registered dietitian.  If you are having trouble figuring out an exercise plan, consider a personal trainer.  

Step 6:  Reassess your goals often.  Sometimes goals that are too rigid or unrealistic prevent success.   Don’t be afraid to revise your goals to be a bit more lenient, as long as they are still leading you to your ultimate goal.  

By using this model, you will be more likely to achieve your goals, giving yourself the freedom and confidence to move on to a new resolution next year.   The best part is these steps can be tailored to any type of resolutions you might have, whether related to weight loss or not.  

Photo by:  Lori Ann of MamaWit

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Controversy of Nutrition

The more I think about it, the more I feel like nutrition is becoming so controversial that it could almost be equated to religion or politics when it comes to what one believes and feels strongly about and what one doesn't believe or feel strongly about.  The fact is, a lot of it IS outright politics when it comes to FDA rulings, the USDA and any other US governing bodies that have power over food & nutrition in America.  Registered Dietitians (RDs) tend to be getting a bad rep because of this.  Alternative health professionals and those against what the FDA and USDA are ruling tend to think RDs are government "puppets."  However, this could not be more false. 

The role of an RD is to look objectively at the science and studies behind it all and provide evidence-based information and guidance, based on what the majority of studies point to, no matter who funded the study.  As long as the studies are carried out appropriately; meaning that they were carried out by a professional who knows that they are doing, that there were little or no errors, a substantial number of subjects or participants and that they are unbiased and objective, that would constitute something to look at and take seriously.  A lot of us like to keep an eye on emerging and smaller studies and give credence to those as well.  We recognize that these studies could end up being something worth listening to, again, as long as the studies were appropriately conducted. 

For a study to be unbiased, it generally means that it has to be done by an organization who is not trying to sell you a a supplement company who has done studies in their own in-house laboratory, using their own employees would be considered biased.  However, if this study were reviewed by other objective scientists outside of the organization and published in a journal, the bias is eliminated. The study is then considered a "peer-reviewed study."  The problem is, so many organizations and companies are using biased studies to try and prove a point...studies that may be flawed or carried out in a way that would automatically favor a certain product or idea.  Consumers don't necessarily know to look for whether a study is biased or peer-reviewed.  To some, any study is worth listening to, which is where the controversy comes from. 

In today's world, where more and more people are paying attention to all sorts of studies and claims, it tends to be the dietitian's role to help decipher what is worth looking at further and what would be considered biased or flawed.  This is why RDs take so many science classes to earn our degree.  Nutrition is definitely a constantly evolving science.  This is apparent when we take a look at how nutrition recommendations have changed over the years.  So, when a registered dietitian tells you something is not worth listening to or worth listening to, it's not because we were "told" to tell you that, it's because there is unignorable scientific evidence that actually proves a point one way or another. 

photo courtesy:  "Amy"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Packing a healthy school lunch quickly and easily

as published in today's Citizen of Laconia

As the school year is underway, parents may find themselves busy again and wondering how to keep their   Although public schools have come a long way with school lunches, they still may not measure up to parental standards when it comes to a fresh, balanced meal.   However, it can be difficult to find the time to pack a healthy lunch at home.  Here are some tips that may help to make your child’s lunch healthier and easier on you (or them) to put together. 
kids eating healthy while at school.
·         Review the school lunch menu with your child and see if there are options on certain days that are agreeable to you both in terms of health value and foods that your child likes.  Circle these options as days where you won’t have to pack a lunch. 
  •  Be sure that a lunch you pack offers something from each food group; 
  • Grains/starches, which might include whole grain bread for sandwiches, healthy whole grain snack crackers (Wheat Thins, Triscuits), popcorn.
  • Fruit – any fresh fruit, unsweetened applesauce or fruit that is canned in juice (not syrup).
  • Vegetables – carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes.  Pack some light dip or hummus for dipping.
  • Protein – this could be sandwich meat (turkey, tuna fish – avoid processed lunch meats such as bologna & salami) or it could nut butter in a sandwich (if the school allows) or it might even be a string cheese stick or a few slices of cheese. 
  • Keep sugary snacks to a minimum. 
  • Prep lunches for the week on Sunday.  Cut up any veggies or fruits that need cutting.  You can have separate bins in your refrigerator and cabinets for each lunch component.  In the bins, place baggies with single portions of each food in baggies or containers.  Label each bin with the food group i.e. “School Lunch Fruits,” “School Lunch Veggies.”  Going a step further, you can even freeze sandwiches;  Just be sure not to freeze fresh vegetables and fruits and if you do use mayonnaise or mustard, place it between the meat or cheese slices to prevent the bread from getting soggy.  This makes lunches come together in a snap and your child can even throw together his/her own lunch, picking a food from each bin.
  • Don’t forget the ice pack!  Keeping foods cold is important, especially meats and cheeses, to prevent food-borne illness.  
  • Always make it a point to provide a healthy after-school snack!
Hopefully these tips take some of the rushing around out of your schedule and put your mind at ease about providing a healthy school lunch in a manageable fashion!  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Jillian Michaels Experience

Last night, I had the honor and the privilege of seeing Jillian Michaels in Lowell, Massachusetts for her "Maximize Your Life" tour.  Going in, I was thinking "this will probably be an hour, tops."  I was SO wrong...and delighted to be able to hear this woman talk for THREE hours!  Those of you who know me well know that I own most of Jillian's exercise videos (and yes, I actually DO them). 

I know you're dying to hear the details, so here goes....

The first half of the show was about weight management, diet and exercise.  Key points are as follows (Jillian's words in quotations):
  • Forget about all of the diet fads. "It's all crap."  
  • Count calories.  Jillian asks the audience if they like counting calories, and after the dismal response, she says "tough shit!"  People typically eat the same cycle of foods for breakfast, lunch & dinner and that after a week or two of keeping track, it becomes something that only takes a few minutes to do, since we're cycling through the same foods again.  It keeps you aware of what you're doing and holds you accountable.  
  • Avoid chemical additives (list available here).  They are making you fat because your body doesn't know how to process them (since they are not food).  This list includes pesticides, artificial sweeteners, hormones, etc.  
  • Spend just $20 more per week on healthier foods, as this practice could actually save you money by helping to prevent a costly chronic condition. 
  • Move more.  Jillian encourages high intensity interval training (HIIT) at 80% of your target heart rate for maximum results. (My personal recommendation is to use her videos, as they are based on HIIT). 
It was pretty hilarious when Jillian actually admits that she hates exercise but she does it to stay in shape and stay healthy.
****Intermission (boy am I glad I got into the bathroom line when I did because when I walked out of there, it was halfway down the hall)!****

The second part of "Maximize Your Life" is about just that;  Maximizing your life - Motivation to change, getting past barriers that are holding us back and most of all, self worth.  

This is where it gets motivating and not just informative.  I've started reading her book "Unlimited:  How to Build an Exceptional Life." and from what I've read so far, the 2nd half of her seminar is very much in line with the advice she gives in her book.

  • Don't let anything hold you back.  Let go of the mindset that you should just be happy with what you have and that you are undeserving of achieving your ultimate dream.
  • Take chances, as after all, we already don't have what it is that we desire, so what's the harm? (example:  guy doesn't want to ask girl out because he's afraid she won't go out with him...well, she's already not going out with him, so why is asking her out a problem?)
  • It's important to network with positive people that are going to help you achieve your goals and dreams, either by supporting you morally or by being a business connection that can take you further.  
  • If you know someone is not supportive of what you are striving for, don't fill them in on what you're doing, as this can be damaging to your ego and take you back to the "I should just be happy with what I have" mindset. 
  • Set your phone alarm for every (waking) hour.  When the alarm goes off, "check in" with yourself and how you are feeling that very moment.  What are you doing?  Do you like what you're doing?  No worrying about the future or the past is allowed during this moment, just focusing on how you feel and whether you are happy or not.  If you are happy, think about exactly what you're doing at the moment that makes you happy.  Could this activity end up being your dream job?   If you're not happy, change something!
  • Create a "goal pyramid."   It is important to have a plan to achieve your dreams.  The top of the pyramid is your ultimate dream, where the bottom is immediate goals, followed by near future goals, etc.  Goals need to be specific and should lead you to your ultimate dream at the top of the pyramid.  
  • Keep momentum by posting a vision board and reminders around you.  

So, as a registered dietitian, do I believe in everything she said?  YES!  Pertaining to the first half, it was so refreshing, amidst all of the hype out there, to hear someone of Jillian's caliber go back to basics when it comes to weight management.  Counting calories, avoiding chemicals, exercising more.  That's it, people!!  That's what I've been telling my clients for years!  THERE IS NO QUICK FIX!   And now I (and other registered dietitians) have someone famous to quote...Someone famous who has helped tons of people achieve their goals because this approach WORKS.  As Jillian also said during the first half.  "It's simple but not easy."

As for the second half; I learned a lot.  I knew about the importance of setting specific, measurable goals.  I was self-reflecting more during the second half as I, myself am trying to build a business and I need the motivation I was given last night to move past certain barriers (and yes, that includes the self worth barrier).  I really like the idea of setting an hourly alarm to be "in the moment."  I tried that today but then ended up forgetting to set it again around noon.  Better luck tomorrow!

All in all, it was a fabulous experience.  Jillian Michaels is FUNNY and MOTIVATING and REAL!

Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about my experience or about what was discussed during her seminar!

Friday, March 1, 2013

1 Year Later...A Personal Reflection

It's March 1st again which signifies 2 things; National Nutrition Month and the anniversary of my blog.  This year, National Nutrition Month serves as a month to reflect on my career and  to really market my services as an independent practitioner.  As I look back on the past year, I have made the biggest career leap in my 12 years as a dietitian.  One might think relocating to Minnesota and taking 2 part-time jobs that were different than the norm would be my biggest leap, but no.  Nothing has trumped what I'm doing now in regard to experience or satisfaction.

Starting one's own private practice is a humongous undertaking.  I won't lie, there was an impetus for this and that was surviving a reduction in force in October.  It was the push I needed, as I'd been starting to form a business plan since July in anticipation of leaving the company.  So far, I have acquired two of the most fulfilling per diem positions I've had; One as a nutrition instructor for LPN students and the other counseling clients for a personal trainer. 

At the close of each of the two nutrition sections I taught, I was anonymously reviewed by my students and floored at their level of satisfaction with me as their instructor; so much so that it has brought tears to my eyes.  Of course, I have a level of insecurity with this brand new position where I am constantly questioning myself, which is why I get emotional when I think about it.  Never, ever did I think that I would be cut out for teaching or enjoy it as much as I do. 

Working with personal training clients to fine-tune their diets has also been very fulfilling and motivating.  These clients are very enthusiastic about eating well and maintaining a superb level of fitness.  The role of sports & fitness dietitian has always portrayed an admirable image in my eyes and I am very excited to fulfill this role.  

As for what lies next to add to these two positions remains to be seen.  I recently started writing for a local newspaper and have a couple of consulting gigs.  I've even had a few individual clients of my own.  I am in high hopes that, with enough marketing, my business will grow and blossom into something I've been dreaming of - a solid private practice with a great reputation.  Everyone's support and encouragement has been wonderful, so thank you if you've been one of my cheerleaders.  :)

Photo Courtesy:  Avia Venifica

Monday, February 18, 2013

Create a Vision Board to Help You Lose Weight

Whether you want to call it a "vision board," "dream board," "motivation collage" or some other creative name, what I am referring to is a visual that can help you to achieve your goals.  Have you ever stopped in your tracks on your way to grab a second helping of ice cream because you saw your "Shape" magazine out of the corner of your eye?  Have you pulled out a pair of jeans or a bathing suit and hung it up on your wall as incentive to stick with your goals?  A vision board is like that, only a more "in your face" approach.  It's something that you would want to post where you will see it frequently - perhaps in the kitchen or on your smartphone or even as your computer wallpaper.  

So, what goes on a vision board?  The sky is the limit!  As long as they are things that motivate YOU.  This could include a picture of a thinner you, an inspirational quote or a picture of an outfit you'd love to wear someday.  You could write down all of the reasons you want to lose weight or be healthier or if you have pictures of those motivators, even better.  It could include pictures of healthy foods you enjoy eating.  Be creative!  The only rules are that the board should be inspirational and motivational for you, enough so that it could stop you in your tracks while on your way to consume an extra helping of dessert.  You also need to post it somewhere you will see it very often (maybe even in 2 or 3 places)! 

So, what will go on your vision board?!

Photo Courtesy:  WiseWellWoman

Monday, February 11, 2013

Product Review: Stevia-Sweetened Beverages

Recently, with the negative buzz about both sugar and artificial sweeteners, I've found myself studying and looking more toward Stevia; A truly natural calorie-free sweetener. While the ideal is to shun all forms of added sugars and sweeteners and consume fruit when sugar cravings hit, I think most of us can identify that this is not always realistic.  Using myself as a guinea pig (which I often do), I recently tested 3 beverages containing Stevia. My results are as follows:

The first product tested was Zevia, a Stevia-sweetened soda. Zevia comes in 15 different flavors, including "Dr. Zevia" and "Mountain Zevia" (I'm sure you can tell which popular sodas are being emulated here).  I tried Orange Zevia.  While my initial impression was that it definitely tastes different from Orange Soda, not as sweet, it was something I felt I could get used to fairly easily.  I will admit though, I'm not a huge soda drinker, so I may not have scrutinized as much as some would.  One thing to note is that Zevia also contains a a small amount of a certain sugar alcohol called Erythritol.  However, there are claims that Erythritol is unlike its mean cousins (the other sugar alcohols) in that it apparently does not have any negative side effects associated with it.  It is derived from fruits and vegetables via a natural fermentation process.

The second product I tested was Vitamin Water Zero.  Vitamin Water Zero comes in 7 flavors.  I tried "XXX", which is an acai-blueberry pomegranate flavor that is enhanced with antioxidants.  The other I tried was "Squeezed" which tastes like lemonade.  I loved both flavors!  If it were not so expensive, I would probably be drinking it more often.  Vitamin Water Zero also contains Erythritol as a secondary sweetener.

The third product was Crystal Light Pure.  I know what you're thinking..."Chemical Light?  Seriously?"  The truth is, this product is far from the original Crystal Light.  Not an gram of aspartame and it's naturally flavored!  Pure comes in 5 flavors and I've tried 3; "Tropical Blend," "Strawberry Kiwi" and "Lemonade."  My favorite is "Strawberry Kiwi."  This is something that I actually keep in my cupboard and drink regularly whenever the craving hits for a sweetened beverage.  Honestly, it helps me stay adequately hydrated, as I'm not always great about drinking my water.  I do, however, make it half strength and that's perfectly fine for me.  The one caveat is that Pure does contain a tiny bit of actual sugar - 15 calories worth (4 grams) per 8 ounces (full strength), which I do not consider to be a scary amount.

So, there you have it.  If you're anxious to get away from the good old "diet soda" but don't think you can give it up, give these products a try and see if they may work for you!  Let me know what you think if you do try them.