A Sad Truth, and Hope

I read an article last week about the obesity rate in the United States. According to the report covering 2015 and 2016: 40 percent of adults and 18.5 percent of children are obese. The numbers have not gone down since prior reports and actually, have increased ever so slightly.

The rate for children and teens had hovered around 17 percent for a decade. The 2 to 5 age group had the biggest increase in the latest study.

This news is very sad. These numbers indicate issues that are about so much more than weight and food. 

When people struggle with weight, they are typically struggling with a variety of health issues, low self-esteem, depression, insecurity, a higher risk for injuries and more. They often find themselves on medications to help combat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and pain. If they are young, they may be dodging the prescription counter—for now.

So is there a simple solution? I wish I could wave a magic wand and improve the situation. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. My magic wand is missing. The good news is that I am clearing out the unnecessary items I keep finding in my home, so maybe it will show up. In the meantime, I have some suggestions that offer hope for those who are struggling with current habits that are not serving them.

The first secret to making adjustments in your life (when it comes to your health, or anything) is to accept that you are not going to do it perfectly. Ever. Let that go and move on. I know, this is easier said than done, and it has been a struggle for me over the years. Practice new habits that improve your quality of life. Observe what happens.

The next thing you can do that will make a difference is change your mindset. The goal is to continually improve your habits so that you are eating, moving, living a little bit better than before. Do not completely turn your world upside down or follow some fad diet or cleanse or intense training that will cause you to hate your life. This behavior might make you feel better in the short term. It will come back to bite you down the road. Living in a miserable way that deprives you of life’s goodness is not sustainable. It will feel too hard and you will cave.

Be patient and celebrate every success, no matter how small it may seem. You tried a new vegetable and even liked it—awesome! You are drinking water throughout the day and not getting that headache or tired feeling in the afternoon—splendid! You now include some lean protein 3 or 4 times a day and your energy is up—how cool is that? You’ve increased the amount of sleep you typically get, so instead of 6 hours you now get 7—nice! You walked the dog an extra block—YES! Celebrate these victories and your life daily.

Whatever your challenge may be today, there are lots of people who make it their life’s work to help; people who create a vision larger than you believe is even possible, for you to gradually step into. Life coaches, financial coaches, writing coaches, personal trainers, spiritual directors, career counselors, to name a few. If you are stuck in some area of your life, begin NOW by setting a different course on your internal GPS.

If your challenge is with food (it’s always about more than the food!), health, weight and trying to balance it in a way that makes sense for you, I may be the person to help. Together, we can turn your vision into a reality that lasts a lifetime.

“It’s amazing, how far you can go; just because someone believed in you.”

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If Your Get Up and Go, Got Up and Went

For many of us who live in the Midwest, this time of year can be challenging. The colors are becoming vibrant and the nights are often cooler—which is why some of us feel a bit less energetic. How so?

In a nutshell, when daytime temperatures run in the 70’s or 80’s and dip suddenly to the 40’s or 50’s at night, it creates stress on the body. Days of needing to run the air conditioner intermingled with those when we feel the need to flip on the heat may contribute to restless sleep, lack of energy, allergy/cold symptoms, and even feeling a bit “down” with no specific reason. It’s a rollercoaster ride that goes on for weeks.

We often associate stress with those situations that involve people, work, life, loss–yet may not associate it with weather conditions. The shifts we go through in spring and fall take a physical toll on us, and show up in various ways.

When I worked in the pharmacy, the number of prescriptions for ulcer and anti-anxiety medications increased in spring and fall. Interesting.

If you are dealing with some other tough issues, this weather shift may be enough to push you over the edge. It also tends to be more difficult on women, probably due to the never-ending hormonal balancing act, possible low thyroid function, and the idea that we need to save the world. (Of course, if these troubles persist, check in with your physician.)

What to do?

  • Keep in mind that this too shall pass, when things stabilize a bit. When we consistently have cooler days and nights and less widespread temperature shifts, we will feel better. Allergies usually improve after the first frost. Not that I’m advocating the arrival of winter, I’m simply playing messenger here.
  • If you can put less pressure on yourself in another area of your life, do so. For example, I really don’t recall accomplishing much last Tuesday. I sort of drifted through the day and was okay with that—which is not typical. It’s the weather. Really. I’m not making this up.
  • Include some cold water fish in your diet. This increases your Omega-3 fatty acids, which help decrease inflammation in the body, and in turn boosts your immune system. Canned tuna, sardines, cod, salmon, halibut, and whitefish are some that qualify. Always choose wild caught fish. These also provide another source of iodine, which is beneficial to your thyroid health!
  • Make a plan to allow for extra sleep.
  • Move around. My dog has gotten used to our daily walks to the park. She is spoiled. If your typical exercise routine feels like more than you can handle, do something less taxing until you get over the hump.
  • Do something nice for yourself and someone else. It will perk up your mood and improve your frame of mind. I think I had a bowl of ice cream AND gave one to my husband. Yep, that worked for me!

Now, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, relax. I’ve been making lots of vegetables and sharing them too, which also helps everything. Try it!

RECIPE IDEA: Roast a variety of vegetables by cutting them in similar size pieces, tossing with olive oil and your favorite seasonings, (I like salt and pepper), and roasting in a 350 degree oven until they are done to your liking. EASY AND DELICIOUS!

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” –Unknown

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Have Some Fun

Do you love your plan to get yourself moving, get in your steps, burn some calories, bump up your energy level, what have you? Or is it pure torture and drudgery? Are you in the category of folks who claim, “I don’t have time,” when asked if you get any exercise?

Here’s the deal: if you aren’t having fun -–at least to some degree— you won’t make it part of your life. Motivation and inspiration only last so long. Excuses and very convincing stories are easy to come by.

Whatever you do, it has to be convenient and enjoyable. I can feel some of you rolling your eyes; you are the ones doing killer workouts several times a week and wondering if you will survive the next one. Honesty time—you enjoy these on some level or you would not keep going back for more. There is something addictive and magical about it, whether you go out and run miles in the cold and rain or do CrossFit.

If you recall one of my recent blogs, my friend Carol has changed many of her habits so that she can keep dancing. Zumba, belly dancing, and ballet fit keep her moving and she enjoys them. If anyone suggested she start running or join a gym, she’d never get off the couch. Well, except to walk her dog.

Movement is beneficial for our overall health and well-being. You may or may not be a gym person. It doesn’t matter, as long as you figure out what works for you. Here’s a bit of news that may surprise you, however. According to various studies, exercise ALONE does not affect fat or weight loss. Exercise IN COMBINATION with nutritional adjustments is the secret formula.

Strength/resistance training is critical to prevent muscle loss as we age. It improves bone density, increases metabolism, improves self-esteem, helps balance, reduces risk of injury, and more. (Try a few push-ups today.)

If you feel stuck with your current fitness routine, the weight or fat percentage needle isn’t moving, or you’re bored, then it’s time to seek out something new. Challenge yourself to expand your horizons and see what fitness adventures await, combining movement and food that work for YOU. 

As for me, I look forward to my various group workouts. Here’s a surprise: I love the social aspect of group activities. I do a Total Body Conditioning class once a week that pushes me to the place of “I hope I survive this.” The energy in the room is through the roof and we would all be disappointed and feel cheated with anything less than extreme. Thank you, Estelle! We keep coming back.

Perhaps you have your meals down when it comes to the nutritional component of the fitness puzzle, yet you struggle with snacks. Who doesn’t love snacks that taste great, provide good energy and don’t mess up your fitness goals? Oh, and did I mention EASY? If snacking is a challenge for you, join me for my upcoming Kitchen Coaching session: Let’s Do Snacks. We’ll have some fun!

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7 Tips to Simplify Mealtime

One of the biggest issues families face today is mealtime—together. Lots of schedules, directions, agendas, and taste preferences. The idea of gathering for a home-cooked meal may even seem hopeless, which then leads to more eating out.

Eating in is typically healthier, more economical and often tastier than the alternative. Here are some ideas to make meals at home a bit simpler. Even if you aren’t all together at the same time, most of these are fine as a late plate.

  • When you have the opportunity to make meatloaf, casserole, soup, stew, anything, make extra for another meal. The leftovers can be frozen for another crazy day or eaten the next day or so for lunches and snacks. By doing this, you save time, energy, and aggravation—AND, you won’t dirty as many dishes to reheat the leftovers.
  • Check out the specials in the meat department. I recently picked up some pork chops that were seasoned with panko breadcrumbs, sundried tomatoes and other seasonings. They were reduced to unload them that day. I cooked rice and tossed a salad together with greens, tomatoes and other veggies, whiled the chops were on the grill. We had a tasty meal for very little money and effort in about half an hour. Sweet!
  • Remember those tasty rotisserie chickens that just about every grocery store carries these days. I found myself in a quandary about dinner this past week and needed to stop at the store to pick up chocolate milk for hubby. (It’s his special treat.) We hadn’t eaten dinner, it was getting late, I didn’t care to eat out and we were hungry—on the verge of hangry. (Combo of hungry and angry which can also be referred to as fussy.) I snatched up one of those chickens and it was perfect. You could add it to a salad, make a wrap, or add some vegetables for a complete meal.
  • Any type of burger—veggie burger, hamburger, pork burger, chicken burger, turkey burger—cooks very fast and makes a great lunch the next day.
  • Eggs cooked to your liking, along with sautéed vegetables are good anytime of day. When you are shopping, pick up the vegetables that are on special that week and be sure to get a variety of colors. Chop them up in similar size pieces and sauté in olive oil. This is quicker than roasting and more flavorful than steamed. I like a combo of potatoes (sweet and golden Yukon), mulit- colored sweet peppers, onions, Brussels sprouts, carrots.
  • If your family eats fish, this cooks quicker than just about anything. It is one of those foods that I don’t make extra of, since it’s not that great leftover. The exception is salmon, which is good cold or a bit warmed on greens.
  • Pasta is quick, easy, and most people like it. For those of you who avoid gluten, you might try quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta. (There are bean pastas, and those are not my favorite.) Add a sauce you enjoy and browned ground meat or poultry. Or, add the sautéed vegetables and skip the sauce. Pictured is last night’s meal. I used chicken sausage that I added along with the veggies. Again, this took less than 30 minutes and was delicious!

Keep in mind that the meal doesn’t have to be perfect to provide good nutrition and bring your family together. Celebrate any success you have in getting your family around the table, even if it’s for hot dogsorganic, of course!

“Research shows that the most important thing a child can do to assure long-term well being is eat meals with his or her family. The more meals together, the better!” –Dr. Bill Doherty, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program, University of Minnesota

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To Donut…or Not

This morning’s newspaper contained a FOOD section. No surprise, it is my favorite section of the paper. Today, Mr. Non-Compliant husband of mine took great delight in handing it over, saying, “Oh, you’ll want to be sure to read this!”

The main article was all about Northwest Indiana’s best-selling donuts. Now, my rule of “only eat it if it’s amazing” applies to donuts as it does any “non-compliant” food. I enjoy an amazing donut as much as anyone. At this point in my life, however, eating donuts in excess are not in my best interest. I could have gotten away with it back in high school when I was on the swim team. Long gone are those days. Bye-bye now.  

Here is a “treat” that will add a bit of spice to your fall mornings. These Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes help fill the craving for comfort food, without added sugar and gluten. The almond butter and eggs in them provide protein to start off your day. Pumpkin may be classified as a fruit or a vegetable, depending on whether you ask a botanist or culinary expert. Whatever you choose to call it, pumpkin offers vitamin A, fiber and a number of other vitamins and minerals.

I sometimes give a spoonful of canned pumpkin to my Sophie dog. She loves it and it aids with proper digestion.

These pancakes are not limited to breakfast. They make a tasty snack, even cold. I make a batch and they keep for several days in the fridge.

Oh, and for the record, my favorite donut when I choose to indulge is the cake variety with chocolate frosting. YUM! Happy pancaking.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons almond butter                                  
2 Tablespoons canned pumpkin
1⁄2-1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄2 -1 teaspoon stevia
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Drop by tablespoonful into a preheated skillet with a bit of coconut oil melted in it to prevent sticking. Cook on each side until nicely brown.

Serve with fresh fruit and/or eggs. You could also use the pancakes in place of bread or English muffins to make an egg sandwich.

(Any type of berry may be added for variety. If you are in the mood for a special treat, add a few chocolate chips!)

Freeze leftover pumpkin in pre-measured amounts in baggies and you are all set for for the next batch– or you could toss into your protein smoothie.

“Waffles are just pancakes with abs.”

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons almond butter                                  
2 Tablespoons canned pumpkin
1⁄2-1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄2 -1 teaspoon stevia
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Drop by tablespoonful into a preheated skillet with a bit of coconut oil melted in it to prevent sticking. Cook on each side until nicely brown.

Serve with fresh fruit and/or eggs. You could also use the pancakes in place of bread or English muffins to make an egg sandwich.

(Any type of berry may be added for variety. If you are in the mood for a special treat, add a few chocolate chips!)

Freeze leftover pumpkin in pre-measured amounts in baggies and you are all set for for the next batch– or you could toss into your protein smoothie.

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How a Dancer Found Her “Happy Place”

Today, I have a story that will hopefully change your mindset if you are one of those people who thinks it is SO HARD to live in a healthy manner and still enjoy your life. You CAN do this, without eating a diet consisting of rice cakes and berries and living at your local gym.

Meet Carol. No, this is not about me. Carol has been slowly incorporating small changes in her life for about a year. She has found her “happy place” with food and fitness and loves to share her tips with co-workers and friends. Even her non-compliant husband has made some changes! There are apparently more couples that are split on this issue than I thought.

Carol’s BIG WHY: She wanted to keep dancing. She has taken ballet for years and it was getting tough. Her weight and energy were not ideal. She knew that if she didn’t do something different, she’d have to hang up her ballet shoes permanently. Sad, and motivating. Lesson: You need a BIG WHY to take a stand for your health. What is yours?

She began by implementing protein shakes for breakfast, Monday through Friday. Lesson: Start your day with some form of protein.

The snack monster shows up at her desk around 10AM and 3PM. The Skittles were eventually dumped for apples or other fruit. When she needs a chocolate fix, she has a homemade protein bar or a glass of chocolate almond milk with peanut butter powder added. Lesson: Be prepared for those times when you need energy.

She had a fierce Mountain Dew addiction that kept her sipping throughout the day to the tune of three 2-liter bottles per week. YIKES! She is now down to one bottle per week and drinks water. Lesson: Switching out your sugary drinks for water is significant, and a great first step.

Her lunches are chicken (she cooks in the crock pot for the week), and a salad. Dinners are some protein done on the grill, a vegetable and maybe potato or some other starch. Lesson: You don’t have to be a great chef or spend tons of time in the kitchen to eat well.  

Her fitness routine: Ballet fit, which is similar to Pilates, belly dancing, walking her dog and Zumba. Her fitbit typically reads between 10,000 and 20,000 steps per day. She suggests you get one because it is addictive! (Better than the Mountain Dew.) Lesson: You do not need to join a gym or do activities you hate to be fit. DO WHAT YOU LOVE!

The best part: Twice a month she eats fast food because she really enjoys it. Taco Bell and McDonald’s are her “fast food go-to spots.” Sometimes she eats pizza with her family and has a cookie. She doesn’t eat the whole pizza or a handful of cookies, and she does not feel deprived. Lesson: It’s about the balance.  

Measurable statistics: She has gone from 155 pounds to 136 pounds, lost 2 inches around her mid-section and lost weight in her thighs. She has maintained this for months. If she “cheats” a bit too much, it is easy for her to get back on track and return to her “happy place.”

Thank you, Carol, for allowing me to share your journey. I loved it when you told me you could wear a smaller belly dancing costume. Smile. May your story be an inspiration to others.

“Practice ONE new habit at a time until it becomes your way of life, a life that is filled with abundance… and your favorite dancing shoes.” — Carol Slager

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It’s Not Just About the Food

When it comes to being a picture of health, it’s not just about the food. Granted, that’s mostly what I write about and I often say, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” And yes, you still need to eat your vegetables! 

Today, however, I’d like you to think about some other factors that will lead you to better health–body, mind and soul.   

Ten Things to Consider Besides the Food:

  1. Are you getting plenty of sleep? Seven to nine hours seems to be the ideal amount for most people. Sleep plays an important role in metabolism, immunity, mood, focus and of course, energy.
  2. When you go for the food, are you truly hungry? If you eat for other reasons besides hunger, note what those reasons are and see if you can make an adjustment.
  3. Do you get proper exercise? Or, are you getting any exercise? We are made to move.
  4. Breathing is extremely important. Do you take a bit of time each day to focus on your breath, slowing it down and deepening it so you even move your belly? (Also known as belly breathing, as opposed to shallow breathing.)
  5. Expressing gratitude to your Creator, God, the Universe—a higher power that’s bigger than you. Prayer, meditation, and living in the present moment are good practices.
  6. Proper hydration can be a challenge for most people. Drinking plenty of water alleviates a multitude of crummy symptoms and keeps your body in proper working order.
  7. When you eat, are you distracted? Focus on the fresh flavors of your food and eat slowly. Stop before you are 100% full. Practice eating to only 80% full and see how that works for you.
  8. Being around positive people is awesome! If you find yourself in the midst of negativity, see if you can help raise the energy a notch or two with your loving kindness.
  9. Spend time relaxing with family and friends. If you have a pet, hang out with said pet and enjoy the companionship.
  10. Seek work, service, or a hobby you are passionate about and do it. We all need to feel purposeful in our days.

This is a pretty full list. See if there is one thing you can do just a little bit better today. You don’t need to do everything perfectly. Practice whatever “tugs” at you and feel a sense of accomplishment. 

During Carol’s Kitchen Coaching 101 on September 14 from 6-9pm, some of the above topics are sure to come up while I’m teaching about vegetables. I’ll address questions like: How do you have time to make, let alone eat the vegetables, when you are on the go from 7am until 9pm? How can I be positive when I can’t stand my work? I’ve never met a vegetable I like so what do I do with THAT?

My coaching practice focuses on food AND the stuff that goes with it. If you’d like to experience small group coaching in my kitchen, click HERE here to sign up today! (I’m offering a discounted rate for early sign-ups through September 7.)

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