Winston’s Blocks are A-Rockin’

There is nothing like a street festival or fair to bring out the finest in any community. Last night, we went downtown to the Rock the Block festival. There was a huge outpouring of people in the streets and bands played on 4 different corners. I just kept looking around wondering where all these people were all the time. Does our wonderful city really and truly contain this many people? We got drinks at Foothills and headed outside to hear a band that vacillated from challenging Don Henley/Eagles vibes to pounding out some hard Seether/Nickelback. Good, if you could pry yourself away from the following distractions:

*Two young girls behind the drummer dancing with such violent hair whipping I wonder if their latissimus required RICE treatment the next day

*A strikingly bald fellow with a navy blue polo tucked into the most hiked up navy blue khakis, complemented by a little blue pinging light in his ear (yes, this gentleman apparently found it neccessary to wear his blue tooth the entire concert. Just in case he got that oh so important call, he could shout over Freebird…”What? I can’t hear you! I’m at a concert! I do have a life!… oh…. I came alone.”)

*An extremely unkempt middle age woman in a dirty jean skirt and bare feet dancing with a small tow headed child who was delirious from regular pop and staying up past her bedtime, and who quite obviously belonged to the man in a torn sleeve tank top and jorts who was busy hitting on the lady with the gypsy skirt and “all I need’s a glow stick” hand motions

*And then there were these fellows….
A scrappier bunch could nar be found. (Thanks goes to Jamie, the picture is hers.) Who says you can’t have fun in med school?
We had a great time though, and it was nice to get to do something a little different from our usual weekend routines. Winston is growing up quickly and it’s exciting to see it’s nightlife and it’s population growing and shifting as it discovers what kind of city it wants to be.

How To Deal with Difficult People

Don’t.

Ok, I know – easier said than done. I am not necessarily implying that with a snap of your fingers you can simply make difficult people disappear (oh what a world! left lanes free of slow drivers! customer service from the cable company that gives you a scheduled appointment! DMV officials with smiles!). And if your difficult people happen to share a gene pool or a water cooler with you, the likelihood of the avoidance strategy being implemented is smaller. So while we may not be able to eliminate or avoid difficult people, we do not have to deal with them on their level and permit them the power to alter the course of our mood.

Why am I talking about difficult people on a weight loss blog? Many of my clients’ healthy choices relating to eating and exercise are intricately linked to mood. And, like it or not, many of those moods are related to their interactions with other people around us. Unless you’re a modern day Thoreau, chances are you’re interacting with quite a few people on any given day. Imagine if your happiness, and potentially your health, rode up and down like the stock market depending on whether or not those interactions were good ones or bad ones.

Imagine it? Most of us live it.

Yesterday was a phenomenal day for me. I was wrapping up a group I had been working with for the last 18 months. A group that had seen spectacular changes and with whom I had bonded greatly during our time together. One woman described her changes over the last year and half by telling me at one time she was so overweight and in such poor health she couldn’t climb out of her bath tub by herself. Today, she goes salsa dancing whenever she wants. Amazing, right?

After our group wrapped up with hugs and promises to keep in touch, I went home smugly satisfied. Right before climbing in bed, I checked my email only to find a note from a woman who was unhappy with a program I designed. She gave great detail as to which aspects of the program she was unhappy with and in what ways she had been let down.

I cried. I fumed. I stomped my feet.

I woke up today still smarting from her remarks, noted it was raining and decided this day could only go downhill from here.

Wait, WHAT? I nearly came to a screeching halt on the highway when I realized I had just turned over the reins on my blissful, satisfied season finale day to one unhappy woman.

We all do this, often times subconsciously. One bad interaction puts a tarnish on a day that would otherwise have been delightful when we deal with a difficult person. My first instinct was to defend myself to her every point. With some purposeful rethinking, I decided to see what I could learn from her.

There’s an intention behind every action. Most of the time, it is a well meaning intention with poor delivery. Making the choice to imagine what your foe of the moment’s intention is is not an easy one. It means you have to give up the smug “I am RIGHT!” stance that feels oh so warranted in the moment. Delayed gratification isn’t always our strong suit as humans but the more we practice it, the more rewarding it becomes. As you being to recognize that more often than not, your difficult peer is acting out of their own fear, stress, worries, sadness or unhappiness, the need to defend is slowly replaced by a small bud of empathy. Incredible are the results when that empathy genuinely grows.

I was coaching a group around this issue one time and a woman shared her woes about a difficult brother. As we spoke, she surmised her malcontent by stating “But I’m so sick of being the bigger person!”

Sick of being the bigger person? We should all be so fortunate to be the bigger person.

Just imagine what it might feel like to be the smaller person. The view is much, much different from down there.

Food for Thought: The next time you find yourself ranting and raving over an injustice served up by someone you’ve interacted with, stop and ask yourself where they might be coming from. Their actions don’t have to seem “fair” to you, but as you imagine what kind of feeling it would take to speak or act the way they have, do your feelings towards them change?

Your Number’s Up!

I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with a number. But you may be surprised to know that it is not the number that stares up at me in digital blue font each morning. No, despite that number being a part of my daily routine, that is not THE number. The number I am obsessed with is a calorie budget. And not just my calorie budget – in fact, my own calorie budget interests me the least. Maybe it’s because I’ve become so acquainted with it over the last 6 years it’s as familiar to me as my ATM pin. Other people’s calorie budgets I dare admit, excite me. I love calculating someone’s daily caloric needs and I handing over the four digit number with as much glee and reverence as if I am handing over the code to the holy grail. Surprisingly enough, the response is generally somewhat lackluster.

At first.

Because, whether or not they chose to humor me or they are just hopeful and willing to try anything, most people give it a try. Why not? They’ve tried eating burgers wrapped in “lettuce buns.” They’ve tried yellow cellophane wrapped bars that offer a delightfully balanced ratio of nutrients. They’ve plugged their nose and gulped down apple cider. They’ve tried all these and more, so why not see what a harmless little number has in store for them? The excitement on their face when using a calorie budget turns out to be not only effective, but not even that hard…. there’s no better reward for this girl. Another fan joins the Calorie Counting Club.

I truly believe that choosing what to eat each day without knowing your daily caloric needs is like taking out a mortgage without knowing your monthly salary. Sure, people do it. But it’s stupid. Can we all agree on that? Each of our bodies is hard-wired to need a certain amount of energy to go about our daily functions. Take it more than those energy needs and your jeans start feeling aweebitsnug *gasp*. Take in less and … voila! It’s not rocket science, but it is basic science. Calories in versus calories out is the foundation of weight management. We can talk another day about where those calories come from as far as you feeling your best (oh, you bet I can talk about that), but for today, let’s suffice it to say that simply knowing what you need is as important to the management of your weight as…. well, as nothing else. It is THE single most important factor. It’s the starting point.

And here’s the beauty of it all. It ain’t that hard to figure out. In fact, you can google your heart out and find plenty of calculators that will even do the math for you. I have now passed out 163 calculators teaching people how to calculate their caloric needs…. while I am not sure everyone gets as excited as their dear, sweet, overzealous coach (c’est moi), I daresay the successful ones are the ones who use it.

One man summed it nicely to me a few months ago. He said “Knowing this calculation is like knowing what goes on under the hood of your car. It’s not information you’re going to use everyday, but it can sure save you a headache when things start breaking down.” And just to toot his horn, he’s holding tight to a 41 pound weight loss.

I teach my clients to calculate budgets so they’re self-sustainable beyond their work with me. Let’s say a few years pass, life gets in the way, and oops, you hit the Rocky Road. (Literally and gastronomically.) Your weight has crept back up and you’re at a loss. You know what to do… eat less than what your body needs. So, do you have to call me up to find out what your body needs?

Nah. You know how. Just call me up to tell me you’re back on track. You’ve got my number, and now you’ve got yours.

Food For Thought: Get to it! Find out what your number is. This is a great calculator here and has a nice little blurb about how to use a calorie budget. But you can find any by googling “daily caloric needs.” Find one that takes into account your age, height, weight and gender. It will give your daily needs and remember, to lose weight you need to eat less than that. (Ideal is to subtract 250-500 calories from your maintenance budget to lose 1 lb-0.5 lb a week. Men will usually be in the 1600-1800 calories for weight loss, women in the 1200-1400 calories. It is recommended that no one consume less than 1100 calories per day.)

Your Number’s Up!

I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with a number. But you may be surprised to know that it is not the number that stares up at me in digital blue font each morning. No, despite that number being a part of my daily routine, that is not THE number. The number I am obsessed with is a calorie budget. And not just my calorie budget – in fact, my own calorie budget interests me the least. Maybe it’s because I’ve become so acquainted with it over the last 6 years it’s as familiar to me as my ATM pin. Other people’s calorie budgets I dare admit, excite me. I love calculating someone’s daily caloric needs and I handing over the four digit number with as much glee and reverence as if I am handing over the code to the holy grail. Surprisingly enough, the response is generally somewhat lackluster.

At first.

Because, whether or not they chose to humor me or they are just hopeful and willing to try anything, most people give it a try. Why not? They’ve tried eating burgers wrapped in “lettuce buns.” They’ve tried yellow cellophane wrapped bars that offer a delightfully balanced ratio of nutrients. They’ve plugged their nose and gulped down apple cider. They’ve tried all these and more, so why not see what a harmless little number has in store for them? The excitement on their face when using a calorie budget turns out to be not only effective, but not even that hard…. there’s no better reward for this girl. Another fan joins the Calorie Counting Club.

I truly believe that choosing what to eat each day without knowing your daily caloric needs is like taking out a mortgage without knowing your monthly salary. Sure, people do it. But it’s stupid. Can we all agree on that? Each of our bodies is hard-wired to need a certain amount of energy to go about our daily functions. Take it more than those energy needs and your jeans start feeling aweebitsnug *gasp*. Take in less and … voila! It’s not rocket science, but it is basic science. Calories in versus calories out is the foundation of weight management. We can talk another day about where those calories come from as far as you feeling your best (oh, you bet I can talk about that), but for today, let’s suffice it to say that simply knowing what you need is as important to the management of your weight as…. well, as nothing else. It is THE single most important factor. It’s the starting point.

And here’s the beauty of it all. It ain’t that hard to figure out. In fact, you can google your heart out and find plenty of calculators that will even do the math for you. I have now passed out 163 calculators teaching people how to calculate their caloric needs…. while I am not sure everyone gets as excited as their dear, sweet, overzealous coach (c’est moi), I daresay the successful ones are the ones who use it.

One man summed it nicely to me a few months ago. He said “Knowing this calculation is like knowing what goes on under the hood of your car. It’s not information you’re going to use everyday, but it can sure save you a headache when things start breaking down.” And just to toot his horn, he’s holding tight to a 41 pound weight loss.

I teach my clients to calculate budgets so they’re self-sustainable beyond their work with me. Let’s say a few years pass, life gets in the way, and oops, you hit the Rocky Road. (Literally and gastronomically.) Your weight has crept back up and you’re at a loss. You know what to do… eat less than what your body needs. So, do you have to call me up to find out what your body needs?

Nah. You know how. Just call me up to tell me you’re back on track. You’ve got my number, and now you’ve got yours.

Food For Thought: Get to it! Find out what your number is. This is a great calculator here and has a nice little blurb about how to use a calorie budget. But you can find any by googling “daily caloric needs.” Find one that takes into account your age, height, weight and gender. It will give your daily needs and remember, to lose weight you need to eat less than that. (Ideal is to subtract 250-500 calories from your maintenance budget to lose 1 lb-0.5 lb a week. Men will usually be in the 1600-1800 calories for weight loss, women in the 1200-1400 calories. It is recommended that no one consume less than 1100 calories per day.)

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

Years ago I came across one of those kitschy post-it note pads that declared “STRESSED SPELLED BACKWARDS IS DESSERTS!” and the adage has been stuck in my head ever since. However, there’s a deeper connection between stress and our favorite comfort foods that goes beyond a palindrome word game. The majority of my clients tell me that when they are stressed, they eat. There truly is a well trained emotional and physical balance between stress and the desire to plow through an entire carton’s of Edy’s Slow Churned. Under stress, your body pumps out cortisol as part of its natural “fight or flight” response to such threats. In chronic stress situations, however, the body no longer responds to the natural signals that tell it to shut down cortisol production. One of the jobs of cortisol is to replenish the energy that would have been used in our fight or flight response (say, to run away from that saber tooth tiger in our caveman days) and thus, hunger is spiked. Cortisol is also responsible for ushering all the excess energy being taken in through Edy’s, oreos and wheat thins and guide them straight to storage in the abdomen area. Helpful when you’ve just run 4 miles to get away from that saber tooth, but not so helpful when the source of your stress is ongoing and usually involves you being pinned to your desk chair, driving around like a chauffeur or vegging out in a near-coma in front of The Office reruns as you try to forget your office drama. Now we’ve got elevated hungry, cravings for quick energy (hello, sugar!), and quick and easy storage of that extra energy.

So, where does this leave us? Helpless to cream puff cravings when your boss is cracking the whip? Having to accept that the moment your daughter says “Mommy, there’s this boy…”, you’re destined to increase a pants size? Hardly! The good news is that while these physiological pathways do exist and can help relieve us of some of our “why can’t I just get my act together” guilt, there is a very strong psychological aspect of stress eating that we evolved humans can do something about. A strong part of this chain is the learned behavior. Under stress, your body responds as it has since its caveman days. We respond as we have since our childhood days – by using food as a comfort and an automatic response to these triggers. Do this enough times (say, the course of a few decades) and we’ve become the proverbial Pavlovian dogs to our pantries and freezers.

Want to free yourself of the response overall? For years I worked with clients (and myself) on finding “replacement activities” when it came to eating as a response to stress. While other activities – exercise, yoga, meditation, laughter, reading, hot baths, and even sex – can act to reduce stress (and consequently, diminish cortisol levels), like food they are still a balm to a sore. Crank that stress up high enough and it’s hard to remember that downward facing dog might be a better response than double chocolate moose tracks.

Then one day it occurred to me – why didn’t we go straight to the root of the problem? Eliminate or reduce the stress.

Sound too good to be true? “I can’t help but be stressed – my job brings it on!” “Being a parent means being stressed – there’s no way around it.” I got to thinking as I explored this route – which came first? Are the situations we humans are in inherently stressful, or are our perceptions of them driving the stress? Have you ever been sitting at work and felt like you wanted to leap out your chair, announce to the world at large that you quit and go find some other task – even one with less compensation – if only to avoid the stress of YOUR job?

I polled many women to ask them if they experienced stress at their job. You might not be surprised that the CEO of a fortune 500 company is stressed, but did you ever imagine the woman handing you over your skinny vanilla latte was experiencing her own woes? If you think escaping your life into someone else’s Louboutins is the answer, think again. The real impact comes when we start digging around at how we personally perceive the situations that are causing us stress.

Is it hard? A little bit.
Is it possible? You bet.
Is it worth it? Oh yes. You have no idea.

Food for thought:
Choose one situation in your life that is causing you stress and identify your predominant thoughts around it. Challenge yourself to come up with as many different interpretations of the situation as you can, other than the one you’ve been carrying. Go crazy. Make yourself laugh. When you run out of ideas, choose an interpretation that generates a feeling you’d prefer to have – contentment, competence, empathy, even humor. It may be a small step, but all it takes is making the first one. Let me know how it goes!

*Giving credit where credit is due! A great portion of the information about hormones and stress was based on the truly wonderful research of Dr. Elissa Epel, PhD. Dr. Epel is a health pscyhologist at UCSF.

In pursuit of a skinny latte? Then you better hold that scone…

New Yorkers picking up their usual coffee and muffin at Dunkin Donuts recently were in for a rude awakening. Listed next to the price of their favorite muffin, scone or cookie was – unavoidably – the calorie count.

A law passed recently in New York City states chain restaurants will now have to publicly display the calorie content of each menu item right next to the price. Reactions have been mixed – some are thrilled, some (for whom ignorance may be bliss) are annoyed, and most are shocked. (A Dunkin donuts cornbread muffin… just a mere 510 calories! An 150 lb woman jogging at a 10 min pace for 50 minutes would knock that off. Ouch!)

I think this is an amazing first step for changing the tide of the obesity boom in our country. Of course, personal responsibility is a huge part of the changes that need to occur, but I have never believed that we had simply become just a nation full of people lacking willpower. Education is an essential ingredient to any lifestyle change, and I think most people simply have not had the information at their fingertips of what they are taking in. 40 years ago, no one believed we’d make the changes we have made in this country regarding smoking. Through persistent public health endeavors we have changed cultural norms about smoking. Did you ever imagine that to have a cigarette you’d have to step outside and stand in a glass enclosure, segregated from a population demanding their clean air and garnering glances of disapproval and scorn? It took years, but we changed our society. This small step from the Big Apple may be the one of first major moves in changing many of the cultural and social trends that have made weight loss / management a challenging personal endeavor in an simply unsupportive environment.

Food For Thought: What do you think? A first step towards changing the tide or just another public health warning we’ll continue to ignore? Do you think this will catch on in other cities? Do you think this will change what customers demand and thus, what food producers / restaurants offer? I welcome your thoughts!

Read the article from MSNBC here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25464987/

In pursuit of a skinny latte? Then you better hold that scone…

New Yorkers picking up their usual coffee and muffin at Dunkin Donuts recently were in for a rude awakening. Listed next to the price of their favorite muffin, scone or cookie was – unavoidably – the calorie count.

A law passed recently in New York City states chain restaurants will now have to publicly display the calorie content of each menu item right next to the price. Reactions have been mixed – some are thrilled, some (for whom ignorance may be bliss) are annoyed, and most are shocked. (A Dunkin donuts cornbread muffin… just a mere 510 calories! An 150 lb woman jogging at a 10 min pace for 50 minutes would knock that off. Ouch!)

I think this is an amazing first step for changing the tide of the obesity boom in our country. Of course, personal responsibility is a huge part of the changes that need to occur, but I have never believed that we had simply become just a nation full of people lacking willpower. Education is an essential ingredient to any lifestyle change, and I think most people simply have not had the information at their fingertips of what they are taking in. 40 years ago, no one believed we’d make the changes we have made in this country regarding smoking. Through persistent public health endeavors we have changed cultural norms about smoking. Did you ever imagine that to have a cigarette you’d have to step outside and stand in a glass enclosure, segregated from a population demanding their clean air and garnering glances of disapproval and scorn? It took years, but we changed our society. This small step from the Big Apple may be the one of first major moves in changing many of the cultural and social trends that have made weight loss / management a challenging personal endeavor in an simply unsupportive environment.

Food For Thought: What do you think? A first step towards changing the tide or just another public health warning we’ll continue to ignore? Do you think this will catch on in other cities? Do you think this will change what customers demand and thus, what food producers / restaurants offer? I welcome your thoughts!

Read the article from MSNBC here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25464987/