Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Specific goals needed when trying to lose weight
Keeping eating, exercise journal can reveal habits
Stress for Success
February 24, 2009

“A goal without a plan is just a dream.”

How many times have you tried to lose weight and been successful – for a month or two?

If you know you “should” lose weight but you’ve historically failed, add a plan to support your goals and increase your likelihood of success.

Since a first step in changing anything is becoming consciously aware of your present behavior, for the next month keep an eating and exercising journal to reveal your habits, therefore what needs to change. Note what you eat for every meal and in between. Be brutally honest with yourself or this will be of little benefit. Also note any and all exercise you get during the same month.

Then circle all that work against your weight loss efforts. These indicate what your goal setting must include.

Next, along with your physician write specific and measurable goals that gradually decrease your consumption of sugars, fats, and decrease portion-size, and increase the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and exercise. For example for March:
§ Decrease from two cans of sugar soda to one can daily;
§ Eat at least three servings of fresh fruits and vegetables/day;
§ Drink at least four glasses of water daily;
§ Walk for 15 minutes, five days a week;
§ Lose one pound/week

After you’ve accomplished these goals, reset them to completely eliminate sugar drinks, eat at least five daily servings of fruits and veggies and walk for at least 30 minutes five times a week for April and beyond.

No matter your present weight, to prevent obesity and its associated health problems and to make your goals easier to attain:
§ Continue recording your food intake and exercise routine to keep yourself honest and on target;
§ Study your food/exercise journal to identify what precedes your eating binges, avoid those situations and develop a strategy to handle them. For instance substitute boredom with something you see as positive like participating in a hobby or calling a supportive person.
§ Exercise most days for 30 – 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, like fast walking or biking to keep off the pounds;
§ Eat far more low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and limit saturated fats, sweets and alcohol. Eat a wide variety of foods keeping the high-fat and high-calorie foods to a minimum only for special occasions.
§ Weigh yourself regularly, at least weekly. Apply the brakes to bad habits when you’re 3 – 5 pounds over your target weight.

Some seriously obese may qualify for medications and even surgery; but do your research. There are side-effects and possible negative consequences. You may need to take the medications indefinitely because when they’re stopped much or all of the weight generally returns. As with any surgery, complications like pneumonia, blood clots, etc. can occur.

To gain control over your weight and conditioning commit to making lifestyle changes of eating healthier and moving your body more. Make both enjoyable so your new habits are easy to continue.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of Inter Action Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com with your questions or for information about her workshops on this and other topics and to invite her to speak to your organization

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Overcome survival instincts to lose weight
Stress for Success
February 3, 2009

I used to be ravenous in my 20s and feared that I’d never get control of my eating. My near-daily splurges included three big Snickers bars, an entire three-row package of cheap cookies, or a large bag of potato chips.

But here’s what really woke me up. After moving to a new apartment with all new kitchen supplies I discovered to my horror that I’d consumed an entire 3-pound can of Crisco in one month! I loved greasy popcorn.

Once I became conscious of this disgusting fact I completely quit eating popcorn for many years. Now I infrequently eat microwave popcorn.

Had I continued gorging I’d be a candidate for the 86% of Americans who could be overweight or obese by 2030, including 96% of non-Hispanic black women and 91% of Mexican American men. As much as $956.9 billion might be spent for overweight and obesity-related costs, one of every six health-care dollars. All of this is according to Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, associate professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Human Nutrition.

The overweight or obese are at increased risk for developing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Researchers estimate that children and young adults may have shorter life expectancies than their parents if this obesity epidemic continues unabated.

But as I wrote last week, much of our obesity problem comes from the human survival instinct to protect against future starvation by eating calorie-dense fats and sugars and eating more than we need.

Whether you want to lose weight from your holiday excesses or you simply need to shed some pounds you’ll have to overcome this evolutionary programming of eating until you’re full. My favorite advice is from Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

You’ll also need to develop greater awareness of your excesses and the willpower to change until healthier eating becomes a lifestyle.

Deidre Barrett, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of “Wasteland” says, “… most people fail in the first three days on a diet,” so it’s important to know what to expect. It takes:
* 72 hours of cravings to reset hormonal levels;
* Another couple of weeks before dieting becomes easier;

She also suggests no cheating on a diet because taking an absolute approach is better than moment-to-moment decision-making regarding what to eat.

Your instinct to eat until you’re full also triggers rationalizations that you must become consciously aware of and argue against. How do you justify eating something you know isn’t on your diet? “I’ve had a stressful day and having ice cream won’t kill me.” Argue against your excuses. “I may deserve something for being stressed but it doesn’t have to be food.”

When in my 20s I didn’t realize it was instinct driving my eating habits. I thought I was just a pig (that’s harsh but you should have seen what I ate!) I simply came to the conclusion that I’d rather be healthy than full. How about you?

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of Inter Action Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com with your questions or for information about her workshops on this and other topics and to invite her to speak to your organization