More or less?

I read a book a few months ago called The Power of Less and then I found the author’s blog. His posts are about how to enjoy doing things more simply, and today’s post is a good example.

I follow these same kinds of habits in my life and I find that a little mindfulness really does go a long way to making your life flow better–on both a physical and a psychological level.

It’s a blog worth checking out.

 

Why do we need fiber, again?

Fiber has gotten a bad rap over time. We imagine people choking down a brown, think liquid every morning. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Natural, whole foods are full of fiber.

Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods. It is the framework of plants. We often hear about needing to eat fiber, but rarely the reasons why. Not only does fiber play a role in lowering cholesterol, it also helps with regulating our day-to-day digestion.

Fiber is not actually digested or absorbed by the body. Instead, it helps keep the digestive route healthy. For a healthy digestive system you want food to digest slowly (staying in the stomach longer makes us feel fuller for longer) and leave your body as quickly as possible (i.e., move fast through your intestines.)

Without fiber, this does not happen. In fact, the average American diet is the opposite. It is filled with low-fiber foods such as pastries, snacks, and fast-food that are digested very fast (leading to overeating) and stay in the intestines a long time (causing all kinds of unpleasant problems.) And that diet is usually missing fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, greens, and whole grains.

If you are interested in increasing your fiber here are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Start slowly. The body reacts better to a slow increase of fiber over time rather than a fast, dramatic increase.
  • Drink more water. Often people are also unaware that water and fiber go hand in hand. Think of a garbage disposal. When turned on, water is also running, and for the same reasons–to keep bulky materials from clogging the pipes.

For people who get very little fiber, focus on in-between meal snacks. Without making changes to your current diet, include raw fruits and/or vegetable snacks. Quick and easy to grab, this is also a way to introduce your body to fiber in a way that will not overwhelm your system. Try some berries, raw broccoli, and apples to start. After you body adjusts to the new routine, we would work on further techniques.

 

Free and clear decorating

We have been trying to sell our house for over a year. That coupled with the fact that we’ve never felt at home in our home makes decorating a complicated project. Lately, I’ve been focusing on our bedroom. Within constraints, I’ve been working a little each day to simpify the space and to remove things we don’t really love. The reason I chose the bedroom is that no other place in a house is so closely linked to a person’s psyche and sense of comfort and safety.

As I’ve been working on this project, I have become interested in how others arrange and re-arrange home space while working mostly with items they already own. There is a show on television called FreeStyle that uses this idea. A designer comes in and recreates one room using only items already in a person’s home. (Having watched that show a few times I sometimes wonder about how empty some of the other rooms might look after having curtains taken down and furniture removed). But it’s still a good exercise in re-thinking existing spaces.

Here’s a photo from Oh Joy!, a style blog that I enjoy. It’s not about designing with already available items, but the blogger mentions that she likes to decorate over time. Letting things come together through an almost unconscious mingling is my favorite way of approaching home design as well:

You can tell this isn’t a room containing items all bought at the same time in the same shop. It’s a beautiful example of how patient design can work. Maybe you have items in other rooms that you love and would work great in your bedroom. Consider how can you re-imagine your space. What doesn’t work for you in your bedroom? What have you been putting off making more comfortable, pretty, or more usable?

 

On grief

I usually write about how to keep moving forward in your life, but sometimes things happen that stop you in your tracks. And that’s what has happened to me recently. Since the beginning of December I’ve been handling one emergency after another. It was tough, but I was managing. Then someone I know died.

The person was one of my closest friends in high school. The grief I feel is more complicated than any other grief I’ve ever felt in my life. My friend’s sudden death has really brought home that we have little time in life, no matter how we pretend it isn’t true.

Whether we live to be 85 or 35, it matters little in the scheme of eternity. It seems like a huge difference to us, but that’s only because we are standing too close to see everything. We don’t have time to get stuck in idle. Every day is precious.

To borrow a line from a television show, “Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.” And knowing that reality, we have to make sense of life.

Part of being a health coach is walking the walk you recommend to others. But this experience has definitely reminded me that sometimes it’s hard to prioritize things like making a healthy dinner when your mind is reeling or heavy. So, I’m also being patient and forgiving with myself–which is just as important.

 

Three handy health aps

There is something like 17,000 available smart phone aps, so it’s easy to get lost or frustrated trying to find what will work for you in any given category. Here’s some of the best, free aps around that have to do with food.

Lose it

  • The best free ap for weight loss. It keeps track of goals, exercise, and food with a format that’s easy to use.

AllRecipes Dinner Spinner

  • Choose the kind of dish, the main ingredient, and the time to make the meal. Then spin the wheel and browse through recipes. You can also keep a list of favorite recipes you’ve tried.

43Things

  • You can list your goals, make comments, and keep track of how close you are to meeting your goal.

If you have a smart phone, each of these is worth checking out. Just click on the icon to view more information at the Apple iTunes online store.

 

Staples for any pantry

I get questions about the absolute basics that everyone should keep on hand. So here’s the list of what I tell clients are the most important items:

The basic pantry

Photo credit: William Steele

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Look for cold-pressed.
  2. Soy Sauce. I use a non-pasteurized variety.
  3. Rice and Quinoa. Choose your favorites.
  4. Pasta. We buy organic, whole wheat. Choose your favorite shapes and sizes.
  5. Beans. Lots of choices here: frozen, canned, and dried.
  6. Spices. Both dry and fresh. Try to keep in small amounts for peak taste.
  7. Vegetables. Experiment to see what works best for you. What do you use a lot and/or find yourself adding to many different recipes? I always keep onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, clementines, avocados, tomatoes, and apples on hand. They last a long time and/or are good for adding flavor to recipes.
  8. Baking Ingredients. Probably the first (or only thing) that comes to mind for most people when thinking of a pantry. You know, like baking soda and baking powder. I consider almond milk a staple as well.
  9. Nuts and Seeds. Good for recipes as well as for snacks.
  10. Natural Sweeteners. Lots of choices here other than table sugar.

If you would like more information about one or more of these individual categories, feel free to email me. I also help people re-create their pantries, so feel free to ask about that as well.

 

What’s wrong with making resolutions?

There is a negative connotation with the word resolution when it’s used in conjunction with New Years. If you don’t think so, try this. Think about the word resolution in the context of politics, mediation, and diplomacy. Now think about your aunt who just told you she made a resolution to lose weight. Do the different scenarios evoke different thoughts? On a basic level, they shouldn’t. Over time, resolution in connection with each new year has taken on an air of defeat–the opposite of its intended meaning!

Many of us make the same mistakes over and over again–even though we have the best intentions for ourselves.

So, start by changing the negative connotation. Don’t call your new goals resolutions at all. Find a word that challenges, interests or inspires you. I’ve used decisions and declarations, but there are tons of words you could use. Use a phrase you like (going the distance), be a little silly (my unflinching and unshrinking no-nonsense plan), or go with a timely reference (my new true grit).

After taking care of that, make sure to avoid other pitfalls. Be careful of things like wording:

  • Make the goal specific and doable.
  • Use cause and effect wording.
  • Use positive wording.
  • Create a plan with steps.
  • Share your goal with others.

Be selective. Don’t share your goals indiscriminately. Share them with people who are supportive of you. An added benefit: when people know about your goals, and may even be participating, you will hold yourself more accountable.

This is just one topic I’ll be discussing and elaborating on Tuesday, January 4. Interested in finding out more? I would love to see you at the talk.

 

Do you eat your favorite food first or last?

Having some holiday buffets, potlucks, or parties coming up? As strange as it might sound, give some thought to your birth order before you go.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you like to eat your favorite food first?
  • Or do you save your favorites for last?

Turns out studies show that people who are first born tend to save favorite foods to the end of the meal. The same is true for only children. But youngest children tend to eat favorite foods first. People raised in large families tend to do the same thing.

So, why is that important? Those who eat their favorites first also tend to be more overweight and obsese than people who eat favorite foods last. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

If you save a favorite food for last, you are thinking about how much you eat almost constantly. You want to make sure to save room for the best part of the meal. If you eat your favorites first you might encounter various problems. You might overindulge in the things you like the most, and you might not even move on to eating other foods. That’s why buffets can be the most tricky for those who eat favorite foods first.

This is one example of the kind of thing one talks about with a health coach. I help people identify and develop strategies to address individual needs. Many people sabotage their health goals without realizing what they are doing. It’s always more than eating “right”, it’s understanding food psychology and how it relates to the individual.

 

Why dessert is not bad for you

For Thanksgiving I made pumpkin cupcakes for the office. One person told me she couldn’t eat one because she’s “trying to be good right now.” I found it a bit odd that she didn’t ask me why I had made the cupcakes if they were bad (knowing I was a health coach).

However, it’s not uncommon for people to tell me they are “trying to be good” or conversely “trying not to be bad.” Often people will tell me what they’ve eaten the day before and ask me to judge it good or bad. Food has nothing to do with being good or being bad. Food itself is not good or bad. As a culture we have way too much collective guilt concerning eating.

I help people look at food differently–that, in turn, helps people overcome food guilt.

Having a dessert once in a while isn’t bad. It’s normal. Having a dessert at every meal isn’t bad either. It’ll add pounds, but it’s most likely a symptom of stress, not a moral failing.

Enjoying a dessert on holidays should be part of the holiday. That’s why they are holidays. It’s about moderation, not abstinence vs binging.

And not all treats are full of fattening, dangerous, semi-food stuffs. Here are the ingredients that went into my cupcakes: pumpkin, allspice, nutmeg, unbleached flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, cloves, organic vanilla extract, macadamia nut oil, and date sugar. There was some regular sugar in the frosting, but I make desserts with health and taste in mind.

Life is too short for deprivation. Let yourself have dessert once in a while.

 

The Dirty Dozen

Sometimes people ask me if organic really makes a difference. And I tell them it depends on a few things.

First, what does organic mean? Organic actually means different things when applied to meats, fruits/vegetables and packed products.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables the label organic means the produce was not genetically modified, irradiated, chemical pesticides were not used, and no synthetic ingredients were added to the fertilizer that helped grow the produce. So, you have to decide whether those three things are important to you.

The next question I usually hear is this: “How do I prioritize? Organic is expensive. Which fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy organic?”

Fortunately, a list is available of the foods most contaminated with pesticides based on U.S Department of Agriculture findings. If you focus on buying these 12 items (commonly known as the Dirty Dozen) organic whenever possible, you’ll be doing your body a big favor and not breaking your bank.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Bell Peppers
  3. Celery
  4. Cherries
  5. Grapes
  6. Nectarines
  7. Peaches
  8. Pears
  9. Potatoes
  10. Raspberries
  11. Strawberries
  12. Spinach