10 Things You Can Give Up in 2013

With the new year rapidly approaching, I wanted to compile a list of my top 10 things that I think you should give up in 2013. Take a look and see how many you can cross off your list next year!

1. Guilt

I’ve blogged about food guilt in the past, and still feel that this is something worth mentioning as we move into 2013. Many times the guilt associated with food comes from the food policing that I mention below. It creates a cycle of restriction/avoidance of food, overeating, guilt, and restriction again. The only way to break the cycle is to give yourself permission to enjoy foods you love without guilt or shame.

2. Food Policing

Setting rules around food by labeling them as “good” or “bad”, and avoiding foods you love isn’t going to help you in the long-term. The reality is that when you eat foods that you like, you increase your levels of satisfaction and are less likely to overeat them. We’ve all experienced it at one point or another, even as a child — the more someone tells you that you can’t have something, the more you want it! Unless you can do something for the rest of your life, there’s really no point in giving something up for a brief period. Any outcomes that you do see will just go away once you stop holding yourself back. Instead the focus should be on incorporating all foods in moderation and balance and enjoying the foods you eat.

3. Comparing yourself to others

Walking through the grocery store checkout line you can be bombarded with images of models and celebrities who look “perfect”. What you don’t see behind the image is the team of stylists, hair and make-up artists, trainers and airbrushing that made that image appear flawless. Those images are not realistic or achievable for most people, and comparing yourself to those unrealistic images of perfection will only bring you down. Instead, learn to embrace your uniqueness and beauty and let go of those attachments you have about what you “should” look like. What’s important are the habits and choices you make every day — not how you compare to anyone else.

4. Buying in to Food “Myths”

If you read something about avoiding food that should be good for you, listen to your “gut” and ignore the hype. Food myths are a dime a dozen.

One of my favorite examples of this is eggs – a natural, whole food. Many people avoid whole eggs because they think “egg whites only” is better. It’s actually not true. There are good nutrients in the yolks. The yolks are packed with choline, vitamin D and vitamin A. People think eating whole eggs raises their cholesterol, but actually new research suggests that consuming whole eggs, instead of just the whites, may have a positive impact on blood lipids in people with metabolic syndrome.  So next time you’re whipping up an omelet, don’t toss those yolks!

5. Weighing yourself frequently

weight_loss_scaleInstead of setting a goal weight for 2013 — set a goal for healthy habits you want to incorporate into your life that can last you forever. There are plenty of thin people who have unhealthy habits, and there are plenty of larger frame people who have very healthy habits.

I encourage you to look at the research and mission for “Health at Every Size”.

Basic Principles of Health At Every Size®

1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.

2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include
physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.

3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.

4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger,
satiety, appetite, and pleasure.

5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather
than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.

You have to understand exactly what the scale is measuring – the force of gravity pushing on your body and your body pushing back against gravity. But too many people let the scale judge their self worth. Your scale weight doesn’t determine your health, it’s the choices you make and the behaviors you display that determine your health.

I think being aware of your weight is a good thing. Know your trend and compare only to YOUR trend. But you can weigh yourself monthly and have enough data points. Use it as one of factors in looking at your health trend, not THE factor. If you want to look at numbers – count all the positive self-care habits you have been doing. Count the number of days you get good sleep, count the times you DON’T soothe away bad feelings or stress by eating emotionally. Count your time working out, steps, miles, or improvements in strength. The list goes on… By taking your focus off the scale and onto your daily habits you can make much more meaningful and lasting positive changes in your life.

6. Counting calories

One thing you should not count is calories. It is so obsessive and honestly a colossal waste of time. First off, you can eat 1200 calories of complete crap and that’s not good for you. The quality of your food matters too. Second, it’s probably not realistic that a person will continue to count calories for the rest of their life. So why not make it easier on yourself and instead make a balanced plate your goal. I think this is a nice way to provide “broad strokes” to your nutrition and food choices. This is the ideal. Not every meal will look like this. Consider it’s like hitting a “bullseye” or getting a “hole in one”. Look at your plate. 1/4 of your plate should be lean protein (animal or plant based), 1/4 starch (either starchy veggies like potatoes or beans or whole grain foods) and 1/2 your plate colorful, delicious fruits and veggies. Don’t forget to include a source of heart healthy fat with each meal like low fat dairy, nuts, olive oil or avocado.

If you are going to a meal out and you know they post the calorie information, I personally think it is OK to look, but look beyond calories. I have seen salads marketed as healthy with tons of sodium and saturated fat and I’ve seen where the lean sirloin and asparagus was way lower in calories and saturated fat than a fish dish with risotto. So it is OK to look, but don’t just think “low calories” is best. It is not. When I go out, I try to think of the balanced plate and get close or at least think “half plate healthy” so if I want mac-n-cheese, go for it… but can I balance it out with a salad starter instead of jalapeno poppers? That kind of thing. Make choices.

7. Body bashing

It seems like people are often so much harder on themselves than they are on other people. Would you ever tell your niece or daughter or friend that they should criticize their own body? Of course not, but it seems all to common for people to make negative comments about their own bodies. See if you can give yourself 1 compliment each day — it could be anything — that you did a good job packing the kids lunches today, that your new sweater really highlights your eyes, anything! If you do catch yourself body bashing, then immediately interject with something positive so the negative thoughts can be chased away.

8. Going gluten-free for weight loss

This seemed to be a trend that exploded in 2012 so I felt I needed to include it here. The reality is that some people really do need to avoid gluten due to having celiac disease or an allergy to it, people with GI issues that have a problem digesting gluten and people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These people truly feel better and their medical symptoms disappear when they eliminate gluten from their diet. People that do experience weight loss as a result of going gluten-free likely did so because this meant they replaced processed foods with more whole foods.

9. “Eating like our ancestors”

The paleo diet does encourage eating more wholesome foods and lots of veggies — which I completely support. The part of paleo that I have a problem with is that certain whole foods like potatoes and beans are not allowed. While we all know that diets don’t work, anything that eliminates whole food groups is certainly not the best thing to follow. I’m sure if our ancestors were around today, they would love these foods and would think us crazy for attempting to avoid something so nourishing.

pure-maple-syrup10. “Sweet is bad”

Fruits have natural sweetness but they also have vitamins, minerals and fiber that our bodies need. When used in small amounts other natural sweeteners like pure maple syrup or and honey can add a touch of sweetness to nutritious foods like oatmeal, salad dressings and smoothies. If adding a touch of natural sweetener to an already wholesome, healthy food will get a person to eat it (when they wouldn’t otherwise), then I say go for it! Maple squares can be a great sweet treat and are made with wholesome ingredients like oats, sunflower seeds and almonds.

What other things do you want to give up this year to improve your health and wellness?

Celebrate No Diet Day May 6, 2011

Today, May 6, 2011 is International “no diet day”. That’s right – there’s actually a day for people who refuse dieting and hopefully help raise awareness of dieting’s physical, mental, and emotional dangers.

“No Diet Day” is an annual celebration of body acceptance and body shape diversity. (YAHOOOOOO!!!) This day is also dedicated to promoting a healthy life style and raise awareness of the dangers and futility of dieting. International No Diet Day is observed on May 6 (TODAY!)

Here are three reasons not to diet:

  • They don’t work. A 2007 UCLA study showed 86% of people who diet regain the weight back and more
  • They are associated with negative body image and emotional problems that can lead to depression, a serious psychological disorder that must be treated (one in four women suffer from depression)
  • You don’t need them. You have MORE POWER over your health and wellness than you THINK! You can change. You can live TRULY healthy and balanced without depriving yourself of the nutrients your body needs and the pleasures your body wants.

If you’re stuck in the “all or nothing” on-a-diet, off-a-diet cycle, you can get out of it and make peace with yourself and with food. And you can let go of that negative struggle that you don’t need. Just start. Do one small thing today.

Celebrate “No Diet Day” By:

  • Stop kicking your own ass. Refuse to talk or think “bad” or negatively about yourself today (then make it two, three). If you catch yourself, replace that negative “bash” with the honest truth about yourself. Be genuine and kind to yourself.
  • Get rid of any diet books you have lying around. They make great kindling for your next camping trip.
  • Go through your closet and get rid of any unrealistically small clothes that you bought because you were smaller “for a minute” or you hoped you’d fit into one day. Someone who is genetically smaller than you will greatly benefit from your generosity.
  • Rid your fridge and pantry of fat free, low fat, reduced and otherwise tasteless diet food. I bet it’s also processed and really not that nourishing anyway. If you really love it, then buy the full fat version and enjoy.
  • Write a love letter to yourself. Be honest about how good it will feel to “let go” of the dieting mindset that rules your life.
  • Pick one food that you LOVE and you feel is “unhealthy” — and eat it! Savor and enjoy each bite without any sort of guilt. (that’s the hard part) Make choices about how much you need to feel satisfied and what else you think your body may need with the meal for additional nutrition. (example: pizza? why not get veggies on it and pair with some delicious and nutritious greens, topped with herbs, olive oil, and red wine vinegar)
  • Print the “me first” pledge and take action on self-care focused goals. Post the “me first” badge on your website. Use the #mefirst hash on Twitter
  • If you blog, write a blog or leave a comment here about your dieting journey. I’d love to hear it. You can also display the no diet day ribbon on your post. Grab below:

Make no mistake. Ditching diets is not giving up on being unhealthy. It’s the opposite. It’s embracing the truth that diets are harmful and cause more problems than they solve.

Ditching diets is about taking an honest look at your life, your habits, your preferences and reflecting on what truly is balanced. Maybe you do need to learn more about nutrition. Invest in yourself. See a registered dietitian who helps people manage weight without dieting (like me!) Maybe you need to find motivation to exercise so it’s fun again and feels good. Maybe there is too much stress in your life and you are coping with emotional eating or skipping workouts or drinking too much. Maybe you need to develop healthy boundaries with your eating and exercise habits. That doesn’t mean you need to diet.

Whatever it is, you CAN commit to self-care. You just have to accept that self-care is THE ONLY ANSWER to living a truly balanced and healthy life.

That’s why I started the “me movement” in the first place. It’s for people who are trying day in and day out to embrace self-care and ditch the diet mind and those who are already living it. And if you feel inspired, share that inspiration with someone else. Pass it on.

Who knows, maybe this “no diet” day is the start of your “no diet” life.

Peace, love, and health!


The Skinny on Alcohol and Healthy Weight Management

If you’re trying maintain a healthy balance in your life, it may seem that every time out for drinks with your friends could be a calorie disaster! Sugar-laden mixes push most standard cocktails well over 300 calories. Did you know that an 8-ounce pina colada can pack in 640 calories? Thats 100 calories more than a Quarter Pounder with cheese! Meanwhile, 8 oz of a Long Island iced tea tips the scale at 780 calories. But you don’t have to become a recluse to avoid these sugar bombs. Follow these tips and you’ll be in tip-top shape.


Ask Yourself-do you really need that drink?

Try to limit yourself to only a couple drinks per week. There is no nutritional benefit to liquor, so each gram of alcohol provides 7 ’empty’ calories. Not only will the drink up your caloric intake for the day, but it can also decrease your inhibitions when it comes to food. You may find yourself mindlessly overeating after drinking, be it a slice of pizza, cake, or whatever is closest to you before you stumble into bed.

Drinking alcohol can also make you feel hungrier because alcohol can lower blood sugar. Besides the fact that alcohol is highly addictive, drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Leslie Schilling, RD, and low-calorie cocktail expert, said “There are many negative effects when alcohol is over consumed. Besides the obvious impaired judgment and operation of anything mechanical, decreased inhibitions and poor hydration status come to mind. Decreased inhibitions can lead to overeating and poor decisions of all sorts, while poor hydration status can leave you cramping on your morning jog and overly fatigued the next day.” If you feel pressured to be carrying a drink while out with friends-ask for soda water and lime.

Can I have your number?

According the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the allotted amount of alcohol per day is one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man.

A drink means:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor like vodka or rum

Each of these portions contain around the same amount of calories — 100-150 calories.

Watch the glass!

Serve wine in smaller, thinner glasses, so that you will not mindlessly pour more than the intended serving.

What are you drinking?

Remember: Despite all the press about red wine’s heart healthy benefits, the Mayo Clinic states, “There’s still no clear evidence yet that red wine is superior to other forms of alcohol when it comes to possible heart-health benefits.” It’s not suggested by the American Heart Institute (or others) that you start drinking red wine solely for these health benefits! However, per oz, wine does have few calories than distilled spirits.

Reach for a light beer (around 100 calories per 12 ounce bottle) rather than regular bear (150 cal). Remember to stick to suggested portions (12 ounces for women and 24 ounces for men per day.)

Cocktail mixes are packed with sugar and when combined with alcohol, the calories for one drink can be 500 or more. Remember, you can also ask the bartender to make your order diet or light. Schilling’s favorite cocktail is a Vodka Grayhound-vodka and preferably fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.( See below for Schilling’s great Margarita recipe, and check out these lower Calorie Recipes of classic cocktails: Skinny Margaritas Low-cal Mojitos, Moscow Mules, and Caprhina’s . )

Start your night off with a no-cal glass of H2O and continue to have one between every drink you order. Water will keep you hydrated so you’re not chugging cocktails to quench your thirst, and  it prevents you from having a hangover the next day, so we say cheers to that.

Leslie Schilling, RD, shared with me a low calorie cocktail recipe that’s in high demand at all of her dinner parties:

The Million-Dollar Margarita

Copyright © 2010 Leslie Schilling. All Rights Reserved.

Make 2 quarts (you might as well mix the pitcher)

  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 12 fluid ounce light beer (yes, a beer)
  • 1 long squeeze lime (optional), ~ 1 Tbsp
  • 1 container sugar-free lemonade** (makes 2 quarts
  • Water

Mix the first four ingredients in a 2 quart pitcher. If you like, add the juice of one fresh lime (or natural lime juice). Add the sugar-free lemonade and mix with a whisk (clumps aren’t very popular or tasty). Fill the pitcher to the 2 quart mark with water. Stir and chill.

These are great served on ice right away or chilled for about an hour. They’re still very drinkable for about two days. **If you’d prefer a stevia-based sweetener, use one pack of no sugar added Lemonade, like Kool-Aid, and add 1 packet stevia sweetener to each glass.

Makes ~10, 6½ oz servings. Approximate calories per serving:  120-more than half the calories of an average margarita!

Take these tips into account and you’ll never gain the dreaded beer gut! See more of Leslie’s great recipes on her new blog Sippin Smart or follow it on twitter!

Do you have any tips to share? What’s your go-to drink at the bar?

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

Is it possible to eat what you want without gaining weight? Many people, especially those who are chronic dieters are afraid this is not possible. Breaking away from the rigid set of dieting rules feels scary, and dieters are comfortable with the “restrictive” state diets teach. How can we learn to reshape our relationship with food, and respect our hunger?

Michelle May, MD is the  author of “Eat what you love, love what you eat: How to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle.” Her website Am I Hungry? describes many of her eating philosophies. In her own words:

“Most diets are restrictive and unsustainable, leaving the dieter feeling guilty and disappointed. My goal is to help people recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating, rediscover joy in physical activity, and effectively nourish their body, mind, heart and spirit.

Video Brochure: Watch excerpts of Michelle's powerful message Imagine how your participants, members or employees will benefit from a presentation like this!

After reading her article on the blog “Dieting and You” entitled Paint-by-Numbers or a Masterpiece, I decided to reach out to her for an interview. Michelle was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Eloquently and kindly she spoke about how we can turn our relationship with food around and answer the question “What are you hungry for?”

Q: You don’t advocate “Dieting,” So tell us, Why don’t diets work?

A: They do work-temporarily. But they fail to address the root cause, and for many people, result in feelings of deprivation. This causes them to crave food more, and feel more out of control when they are around food. Restriction drives overeating. People think they don’t have enough willpower. Restriction also leads to obsession which is bad. Our body is wise, but people are skeptical because we are so diet-focused as a society. we think that we need to diet chronically to maintain are weight. But, we are all born with the instinctive ability to eat what our body needs. Instinctive eaters eat what they love, when they’re hungry, stop when they’re full and don’t worry about food in the between times.

Q: It can be very difficult and scary for chronic dieters to look at this approach to eating. They believe being intuitive is impossible and they will never know when they are really hungry and full. How do we separate cravings/hunger for love etc. from real biological hunger

A: This is a deceptively simple step. Ask yourself the question “Am I hungry?” Before you eat. Before starting to eat, focus on what’s going on inside. Do a Mind-body scan for the physical sign/symptoms (such as a drop in blood sugar) and also notice emotions/feelings. If your not sure you’re hungry, you’re probably not. If you decide to eat even if you are not physically hungry, notice this, and try to gain insight on why you want to eat. This question, “Am I hungry” must not become a rule to abide to, instead look at it as a way to pause, and reflect, being more mindful of your eating habits.

Q: So if we learn to appreciate and respect our hunger we can end yo-yo dieting and the eat-repent-repeat cycle?

A: Instead of a yo-yo I like to think of this as a Pendulum between excess and restriction.  Find the flexible arc in the middle of the pendulum where you still have freedom. We need to get away from this hopeless pursuit of trying to be perfect. Accept where you are. Everyone overeats, undereats, over exercises, underexerises sometimes. Its just important that we find a Balance.

Q: How can we move away from the “perfect” “skinny” mindset and learn to appreciate ourselves and our bodies, our health?
A: For too long now, we’ve tried to measure things by physical attributes-health is just a trophy that everyone seeks.
We need a balance of body, mind, health and spirit.  Health is  more than a number on a scale. Numbers like BMI, blood pressure, are easy to get obsessed with, and we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture of health.

Q: How can we fit fitness into this pictures without it becoming obsessive?

A: Often we look at exercise as punishment for eating or we need to exercise to earn the right to eat, which creates a very negative relationship with exercise. It turns into a penance for eating a “bad” food, and often you feel guilty if it is missed. This becomes an obsessive behavior which strips all of the joy from exercise. I think we need to not discuss exercise at the same time as weight loss. Exercise is good for everyone! Not just for those people that need to lose weight. It is also important to pay attention to the positive aspects of exercise, and find something you love doing.

Q: How do we create an atmosphere where food is not viewed as an enemy but can be savored and enjoyed without going overboard?

A: We need to put food back into perspective. When you are eating, EAT. Eat with abandon and joy, not to pay penance or seek to be virtuous. When you are not eating, let it go. Don’t think about it. Enjoy what you are doing at the time. Approach life fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness is not only a form of eating, but also a life skill.

Thank you Michelle for your wonderful insight and tips! Check out her website Am I hungry?, read her new book “Eat what you love, love what you eat” and follow her on twitter @eatwhatyoulove

Making Fast Food Trips Healthier for You

It’s true, most fast food is not good for you. Rarely do you see fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. But life throws us curve balls, and sometimes it’s pick up some fast food or battle a blood sugar nose dive. In this blog post, I’ll help you make the best of the fast food choices.

You can make smart choices and I’ve picked some of the best options. As a general rule, to avoid excessive fat and calories, skip the fried foods and opt for grilled. Get your sauce on the side, go without “extra” cheese, and get the smallest size possible. The only advantage of “super sizing” is if you plan to share the meal with someone else. Don’t drink any calories. That means no sweet tea, soda, or other sweetened beverages. Go for water, low fat milk, a 4 oz 100% juice, or a sugar free diet water beverage.

Chipotle offers an amazing variety of Mexican based cuisine that you can customize. The problem? Portions are out of control and toppings push some of the burritos over 1000 calories. For 300 calories you could get 3 hard or soft shell tacos filled with the vegetable fajita mix, lettuce, and medium spice green salsa.The nutrition totals: 300 kcal, 15 g fat, 5 g protein, 35 g carbs

From soups and sandwiches to salads and pastries, Panera is on the verge of gourmet to go. While it may be your first instinct to place your order for a salad, think again. Fast food salads often contain sneaky calories in the form of croutons or chowmein noodle toppings, enormous portions, and the biggest culprit of all, an overload of dressing. Your best bet is to go for the “You Pick Two”. Get the low fat garden vegetable soup. The soup totals up to 90 calories with zero grams of fat. For your second part of the order, you can get your salad, but this time it’s portion controlled. A half strawberry poppy seed and chicken salad pulls in some protein and evens out at 140 calories (4 g fat, 14 g carb, 14 g protein).

While this fast food colossus has received the brunt of fast food criticism, they do have some realistic options which is why the final three picks come from the golden arches.
Recent hype about super-quadruple-double burgers is ridiculous. One person does not need that amount of food or sodium within a day! A single hamburger patty is a realistic Mc’D’s option. 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, 31 g carbs, and 12 grams of protein.

Snack Wraps are correctly portioned for a lunch (not a snack!) and keep you from feeling like you’re skimping out on a meal. The honey mustard grilled chicken is 260 calories with 9 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbs, and 18 grams of protein.

Sometimes you need a sweet pick me up and in this heat, what better classic, than an ice cream cone? The regular size ice cream cone has only 100 calories.