Reflections & Resolutions

I have to admit that I love the idea of a good New Year’s resolution even though most of them are haphazard, poorly planned and seldom seen to fruition! I guess the thing I love most about resolutions, is the promise of what greatness we can achieve in a year. So how do we set resolutions for ourselves that will actually stick and make us feel good about ourselves this time next year? I’ll use the “this year I’m going to lose weight and get in shape” resolution as an example.

The first thing we need to do is look back. How can we possibly change for the better without evaluating our past? Not only are “those who cannot remember the past condemned to repeat it” but there are many lessons to be learned by examining our own behaviors. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight and get in shape, ask yourself “what have I been doing that isn’t in line with my goals?” Then in a non-judgemental way, think about what you might be able to do in the future to turn those behaviors around.

Once you’ve evaluated your past, it’s time to think about the future. Being able to actually achieve your goals has a lot to do with how SMART those goals are. If you’ve never heard of the SMART acronym, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (some SMARTER people include Evaluate and Reevaluate too). So for example – ‘I will eat one more serving of fruits or vegetables every day’ is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely! So is ‘ I will add 15 minutes of movement to my day, five days a week’. Both of these may sound very small, but small changes add up to positive change over time. As you begin meeting these goals, evaluate and reevaluate them; then challenge yourself a little more!

What is my New Year’s Resolution? I plan to find new ways of challenging myself in the new year. I have some SMART goals set for myself already and will let you all know as I start meeting them (teaser!) – Happy New Year!

Handling the Holidays

This time of year holidays are all around us.  Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus or none of these, you are bound to encounter many calorie laden treats throughout the month.  What do I do when I am confronted by treats at every turn?  Am I a paragon of virtue that never lets anything with sugar or fat pass my lips? Of course not! I enjoy a treat as much as the next person and I love to bake too. So do we just throw in the towel and plan to have eater’s remorse when January rolls around? There is no need to anticipate overdoing it, you just need to have a plan!

Step #1 – Try to keep up your normal eating habits and routines as much as possible.  This may be the only time of year that Starbucks has an Eggnog Latte, but if you have one every day you’ll gain about 4 pounds by the end of the month. Make treats a rare exception to your normal routine and really savor them.  If you normally exercise 4 days a week, try to stick as closely to this as you can. If you end up having to skip one or two workouts because you have other commitments that’s fine, just get right back on track at the next opportunity.

 

Step #2 – Keep portions of high calorie foods small.  You may love Aunt June’s famous Rum Balls, but keep it to just one or two – you don’t need to eat all of them. Love your Grandmother’s sticky buns, but they happen to be the size of dinner plate? Cut one in half and fill the rest of your plate with Aunt Minnie’s fruit salad. You can still enjoy these treats without going overboard. You know they will be back next year.

Step #3 – Pass on those things that are not really “worth it” to you. Not a big fan of Eggnog? Skip it! Just because ’tis the season doesn’t mean you must try it all. Most holiday meals and parties are invitations to overindulge with long menus and heavily laden buffet tables. Pick and choose items carefully to only include those things you really want and then slowly savor and enjoy those treats.

Step #4 – Spend time with family and friends doing special things together. Aunt June might really appreciate it if you spent the afternoon together making those Rum Balls more than seeing you eat them. Get together with friends to walk around a downtown area to view decorations. Just make sure to take time to stop, look around and remember the meaning of whichever holiday you celebrate.

Enjoy the holidays and I hope you have a happy, prosperous and healthy 2012!

Are you supplement savvy?

I have been seeing more and more supplements emerge over the years and I think it’s a troubling trend. Some boast that they have more antioxidants than you could ever consume in vegetables and fruits alone. Others swear that they can promote muscle growth and burn fat while increasing your energy. It all sounds so enticing doesn’t it? Can supplements really be the answer or are you being sold dreams in pill form?  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The first question I ask about anything I choose to swallow is, ‘are they safe and effective?’. The FDA doesn’t have to approve of supplements as safe or effective before they are marketed and sold to the public. Buyer beware, whenever a company has to put a disclaimer on their product like this (below), you need to ask yourself why.

  • “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

There are some outside organizations such as USP that set standards for the purity and strength of ingredients in supplements. In other words, if you see the USP logo on your bottle, that means that they have checked to see that it contains exactly what is on the label – no more, no less. Why on earth would that be necessary you ask? There have been instances where supplements contain more or less of the ingredients stated on the label as well as the addition of ingredients that aren’t listed. This can be particularly dangerous to those with allergies, those taking other medications or those with any number of medical issues.

I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg here because it’s such a huge topic. Supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry and I don’t see that changing any time soon. My own personal stance on supplement usage is to have your diet and lab values analyzed by a qualified professional, then only take those nutrients that you need and cannot get from food sources alone.

Below are some links with even more information about supplements. There are many websites out there trying to give you “information” about supplements so it can be difficult to find the truth. Look for multiple peer reviewed studies to back up any claim made about a given supplement and check with your health care provider before taking anything.