Olympic Fever

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have Olympic fever! I don’t know about you, but this happens to me every 2 years. I get caught up in the personal stories of the athletes and their struggles to make it to the games. It would be so easy to be sucked onto the couch for the entire length of the games, especially since the events are spread out so that you can watch at almost any time of day for 17 days straight. I also love hearing the stories about what the athletes eat (who can forget hearing that Michael Phelps eats so many thousands of calories a day?) but it’s important to remember that if you are not a competitive Olympic athlete, you probably shouldn’t be eating exactly like them!

If you have Olympic fever like I do, why don’t you use that excitement to throw down a healthy challenge for yourself? It’s only 17 days, what do you have to lose? The opening ceremony isn’t until Friday night so you still have some time to plan out your challenge. Think about what your biggest obstacles are, to leading a healthy life and write them down. Once you have those, write down all of the ways that you can overcome those obstacles. One example might be that you never have time to cook healthy meals. To overcome this, you can plan to spend time in the evening when you would usually watch TV to scout around some quick healthy meals and write out a shopping list. Remember that a plan is your biggest ally when overcoming difficulties!

Use SMART goals to map out a plan for yourself and here’s where the Olympic fun can come in. Come up with a point system for yourself around your goals. If we use the example of cooking healthy meals, give yourself 10 points every day that you reach that goal and 5 on the days that you just barely get dinner on the table but still didn’t resort to take-out, and 0 when you gave up and just got McDonalds. Decide how many points will equal a gold, silver or bronze medal and what kind of reward you will give yourself for achieving each. Maybe you can plan a spa day for gold, a massage for silver and a pedicure for bronze. This could also become a competition between family members or friends, with each person working on their own personal goals.

Go for the gold – remember to encourage yourself while you’re at it, and reward all of the small victories along the way!

2012 Olympic gold medal – Image from www.london2012.com/medals/about/

The Heat Goes On!

I wanted to follow up on some of the things I’ve been doing since my post about beating the heat while exercising this summer. The past few weeks have been hot (as you all know) but I am not willing to totally give up on exercising because of it! Here is my take on what has worked well for me recently.

Since I don’t belong to a gym, heading indoors isn’t really an option for me. My primary defense has been in scheduling. For the most part I’ve tried to get my runs done as early as I can. Since my kids are up at the crack of dawn every morning, it’s been pretty easy to get up and out the door on the early side. I’m typically finished by about 8:00 am and I’ve mapped out some enjoyable shady routes for that time of day.

I’ve also been taking it easy, going slow, and making sure to cool down well during and after my runs. I’m fortunate enough to have some outdoor showers on my long routes and it’s been fantastic! I know that not everyone is willing to douse their head in cold water mid-workout, but if you can, you are in for a real treat! If you don’t have access to a shower, you can always have a pitcher of water stashed halfway through your route ordesign a route that doubles back by your house where you can use a hose. I urge you to try this because it makes such a difference! Just last weekend I was lucky enough to have my friend Marcia join me for a 6 mile run and I think she will attest that the second half was much more bearable due to our wet heads! I also like to hop right into a cool shower when I get home.

I did try pre-cooling by drinking an ice slurry on a few occasions, but I had a really difficult time trying to quickly consume something that cold – brrr! This might still be an option for some people, but personally I found it difficult. I’ve had better results with cold beverages during my exercise. It’s hard to keep ice water actually icy over a long period when it’s so hot out, but I’ve found that if I fill up my water bottle with ice and then add a little water, the ratio of ice to water is so high that at the very least the water is still cool after 30 minutes. As an added bonus I’m basically holding an ice pack as I run! I have also tried putting a cold pack (the kind that are still flexible when frozen) in my helmet when I’m out on a bike ride. I wrap it in a paper towel or cloth before I slip it in and boy does that feel great on a hot day! If you don’t have a flexible ice pack, you can get the same result with a bandana tube filled with ice (then you’d get the benefit of water dripping down your neck as it melts too!)

Make sure you keep hydrated throughout these super hot days, and be aware for the signs of heat sickness. Staying safe is the first priority, but the second is making sure you can continue to enjoy exercise right through this hot weather! If you have other tips and tricks for surviving the heat, I’d love to hear from you!

My lifeline on a hot day

Mindful Eating

Have you heard of the terms ‘mindful eating’ or ‘mindless eating’? There may be an obesity epidemic in our country right now, but I also think there is a mindless eating epidemic. People everywhere are eating constantly without even tasting what’s in their mouths. In their cars, the movies, on the beach, in the grocery store, watching TV, walking down the street, at work… wherever you go people are eating. The problem is that when you eat mindlessly and don’t experience what you are actually consuming, you won’t be as satisfied by it and will end up eating more without even realizing it.

Mindfulness and mindlessness carry through all aspects of the day, not just eating. Take notice of how many times you are not in the present moment throughout your day. Are you thinking about what is coming next or what has already passed? How many times have you been driving and found yourself at your destination without remembering the journey? Or have you read a page in a book only to realize that you have no idea what it said? Very often these all-consuming thoughts are of things we cannot do anything about at the moment. When you are watching your child’s little league game, it makes no sense to worry about the laundry, or other work that you need to get done, it is impossible for you to do anything about it at that moment. When it comes to eating, how often have you gobbled down your lunch (or any other food for that matter) between getting other things done and didn’t even taste it?

The real trick is to reverse this habit and start to eat mindfully. When you eat mindfully you will enjoy your food much more, and you will be better able to listen to your body for signals of hunger and satiety. Food is more than just nourishment, it is a delicious sensory experience; when we lose sight of this, not only do we miss out on the opportunity to enjoy it more but we won’t be as satisfied by it as we could be. One of my clients once told me that they looked for the food that would most “fill them up” the quickest and didn’t care about the taste – this is definitely not the way to become satisfied. Some people who mindlessly eat, even forget that they have eaten a meal and end up eating again.

How do you begin to eat mindfully? I like to guide my clients through an exercise where they spend time looking at, smelling, touching and thinking about the food in front of them. Then taking a bite, they chew slowly while really tasting and savoring the food that is in their mouths. Very often the response is something like “wow, I don’t think I’ve ever reallytasted a _______ !” Of course we cannot spend hours at each meal and snack slowly savoring our food, the world we live in won’t allow it. You can try to make a habit of making the first bite of everything you eat a truly mindful one. Before you put anything in your mouth take one minute to look at, smell, and touch your food while thinking of how it came to your plate. Where was it grown or made? Who prepared it for you? When you take that first bite really examine the way it feels in your mouth as well as the flavor and all of its subtleties. I think we can each devote about 3 minutes to this kind of activity and the payback will be huge.

If you are interested in reading more about this topic, there is a great book about mindless eating by Brian Wansink, PhD called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, and you can also check out his website for a glimpse of all of the interesting studies regarding mindless eating his group has done. When it comes to mindful eating, I highly recommend the book Savor by Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD and Thich Nhat Hanh, and you can check out that website too. As with many things, just being aware of what you are doing can make a huge difference!

A Wrench in the Works: When Life Gives You Lemons

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Do you throw in the towel and say oh well? OR do you change things up and attack the challenge from a different direction? This week I hit a major roadblock. I am alone with my boys for a few days and I can’t just leave them at home for an hour or more while I go out for a long run. What to do? My first thought was that I could take my youngest on a long bike ride instead while leaving the older two at home. I have a trailer for the bike which works really well and he doesn’t mind going for a ride with some toys and books to look at, but then those plans were scrapped because I realized I didn’t have the connector for the bike trailer! Uh oh!

Instead of throwing in the towel, I came up with plan C. I could run back and forth on my street in front of the house with the boys home. Boring, but it would be easy enough to check on them, have them come out to ask me questions or let me know about any problems that arise. A bonus of this plan was that I could leave a water bottle at the end of the driveway for a quick drink at regular intervals. If this plan hadn’t worked out I could always have gone to plan D and popped a workout DVD in to get some exercise that way.

There are almost always some acceptable alternatives when life throws lemons your way. If you find yourself stuck somewhere with very limited dining choices, you can still usually find some options that won’t derail your healthy habits. If you are on the road this summer and think that fast food is your only option, think again. Use your smartphone to find the nearest grocery store. There you can pick up some water, yogurt, make a salad at the salad bar or maybe get a sandwich made at the deli. If you find yourself at a restaurant that you didn’t choose (with menu options that aren’t so health friendly) it pays to ask if they can make something not on the menu. Very often they will be willing to give you some plain chicken or fish (without the heavy sauces they usually use) and give you a side of whatever vegetables they happen to have.

There are almost always other options if you just make a little effort to look for them. These options might not be your favorite, they might not be the best, but it’s always better than the alternative of giving up and letting life take you for a ride. Take control!