Ask Dani – Did I Make The Right Choice?

Dear Dani,

I was in the cereal aisle of the supermarket the other night trying to decide between two cereals. One had 100 calories per serving, but no fiber, and the other had 140 calories with 5g of fiber. I ended up choosing the one with the fiber, figuring that the fiber makes it better, but now I’m not sure if I made the right choice. Can you help me out?

Thanks, Munching Michelle

Dear Munching Michelle,

You definitely made the right choice by going with the fiber filled cereal. Just because something is lower in calories doesn’t mean it’s a better choice, because they can be empty calories and your body doesn’t use them as efficiently as nutrient dense calories. Fiber creates more bulk in your food which will help you feel fuller longer and ultimately help you eat less, plus it’s great for your digestion and colon. But, just because something has fiber in it doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want. There are a lot of products on the market now that tout added fiber, but that doesn’t give you leeway to eat 5 fiber filled cookies. Plus, the added fiber that they put in yogurts or even cottage cheese isn’t necessarily the same kind of fiber that is naturally found in grains and produce (but, that’s a whole other conversation…). If you’re looking to lose weight you still need to take in fewer calories than you burn. So, you did a great job at choosing the fiber cereal, but always pay attention to the ingredients and serving sizes to make sure that you’re actually making the best choice. It sounds clich

Emotional Eating Survival Strategies

Emotional eating isn’t something that only overweight people do. People of all shapes and sizes use food to comfort themselves, because they’re bored, sad, lonely, or angry. At first you think that you’re hungry, so you go for a pint of ice cream in the freezer, but then before you know it, you’ve eaten almost the entire pint and you’ve gone from hungry to disgusted in a matter of minutes. Where those minutes have gone you have no idea, because it seems like you were almost in a trance through the whole thing. Even if you did notice what you were doing you probably rationalized all the thoughts that were telling you to stop, because “you deserve it”, or “you’ve been really good lately”, or “it’s only today, I won’t do it tomorrow, so let me just enjoy it.” But, what ends up happening is that today becomes tomorrow and then tomorrow becomes the next day and the next, and before long you’ve created a habit of comforting your anxiety with food, thinking that it’s going to help. All it does though is make your problems worse, because now on top of your boredom, loneliness, sadness, or anger is guilt. And what you’re left with is a vicious cycle that won’t end unless you make a conscious decision and effort to end it yourself.

Here are a 10 tips to use the next time you feel like masking your feelings with food:

1. Dig deep – The first thing you absolutely must do is figure out why and when you eat. What feelings are you trying to avoid dealing with? Did something happen at work, do you feel sad or angry? Figure out your patterns, so you can watch out for them next time.

2. Make a List - Make a list of things you can do instead of eating the next time you feel the urge to raid your refrigerator. You can include all the tips listed here plus some others that you think might help you specifically, such as calling a friend for help or occupying yourself with something else.

3. Wait 10 Minutes – If you feel the need to eat make sure to wait 10 minutes before indulging. Most of the time you’ll be able to talk yourself out of it and see that you don’t really want to eat.

4. Ask Yourself This Question – “What purpose is this serving me?” If the purpose of eating is to console yourself maybe you need to find another strategy. Think back to all the other times you ate out of discomfort and think about how you felt. Probably the only purpose it served was to make you feel good in the moment, but pretty badly for hours after and maybe even into the next day. You don’t need to feel that way. You’ll feel much better if you fight the urge.

5. Brush Your Teeth – – Ever have orange juice after brushing your teeth? Not so good, huh! Walk away from the temptations and instead go for your toothbrush. You’ll be less likely to eat after you brushed your teeth.

6. Use a Reminder Designate an object as your reminder and put it in a place where you can see it, such as the kitchen, so that the next time you go towards food for comfort you’ll see it and be reminded that you don’t really want to eat right now.

7. Repeat – Tell yourself, “this is my pattern, this is what I do.” When you understand what’s really going on with yourself and you recognize it as a series of habits and behaviors it’s easier to get a handle on things and steer it in a different direction. Keep telling yourself this mantra when you feel like eating, so that you drive home the point that this is just your pattern. You can change that pattern!

8. Journal – Writing down what you’re thinking and feeling can really help you work things out. The process of writing can help you get to the bottom of your thoughts and can help make sense of things. Remember that no one is reading it, so let it all out there and don’t worry about judgements.

9. Have a Support System – Choose someone you trust who you know will support you in your fight against this. Call them when you need to (kind of like a sponsor at an AA meeting).

10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up - If you do have an emotional eating episode do not be mad at yourself. What’s done is done, so feeling guilty is pointless. It will only feed into the cycle and force you to continue this pattern. All you can do is learn from the experience and strategize on how you’re going to deal with it next time. Instead, give yourself some major praise for actually thinking about these things and trying to do something about it. You can’t be perfect, you can only try your best.

4 Ways To Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus

Weight loss plateaus are frustrating. You feel like you’re doing everything right – watching your portions, eating 6 small meals throughout the day, doing your cardio and weight training, staying active, and making good choices when eating at restaurants, etc. – but for some reason, all of a sudden, bam, you’ve stopped losing weight. You have no idea what else you could possibly be doing to lose more weight and you feel like you’re stuck. Now what?

First figure out if you’ve really hit a plateau. It’s only a plateau if 3 things are happening: You haven’t dropped any pounds on the scale, you haven’t lost any body fat, and you haven’t lost any inches. The scale isn’t the only indicator that you’re losing weight. Sometimes you might be going down in inches, but the scale doesn’t move because you’re replacing body fat with muscle (and muscle weighs more than fat). So, if one of these things are happening then you haven’t really hit a plateau.

But if you truly have hit a plateau here are a few things that may shake things up a bit:
1. Food Diary – Start writing down everything you eat and see if maybe you’re eating more than you realize. Sometimes when people lose weight they get comfortable and take it as permission to get a little lax. Maybe you’re giving yourself permission to eat more than you should be.

2. Change up your workout – Your workout routine should change every 4-6 weeks. The body adapts to exercises and needs to be challenged. You can change the kinds of exercises you do, repetitions, sets, or all three. I give all my clients interval workouts, because it keeps the heart rate up throughout the entire workout and the little bursts of cardio will cause you to burn at least 150 more calories per workout. I suggest doing three exercises in a row and then follow that up with a 60 second all out sprint, then rest 2 minutes and begin again. Keep this up through your entire workout.

3. Take inventory - Thing about the past few weeks and see if there’s been any extra stress, anxiety, or anything else that might be tripping you up and leading to some sort of sabotage. Are you being as consistent with your workouts and eating as you think you’ve been? The best way to do this is to journal.

4. Persevere – Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep at it and eventually you’ll start to see some movement again.

One last thing… This may be some advanced brain food, but think of the plateau as an opportunity to regroup. You need to check in with yourself every now and again to see if what you’re doing is really helping you. Without the plateau you might go through your routine without ever thinking of how you’re really feeling. Maybe what you really need is to simply change things up. Stop and look around for a minute. A plateau is a doorway to something new.

** Get more of these tried and true tips, plus a detailed weight loss plan when you join my 12-week weight management group. Email me for more info!

Ask Dani – A Reformed Gym Avoider

Dear Dani,

I recently signed up for a gym membership and as a welcome they offered me a free session with a personal trainer. I’ve worked with a personal trainer from a gym before and wasn’t all that thrilled with her. She basically made me go from exercise to exercise until I felt like my heart was going to pop out of my chest. I felt embarrassed and defeated by my lack of fitness, and was so sore for days after that I never went back. Seriously, I could barely walk down the flight of stairs to leave the gym afterwards, my legs were so wobbly. I desperately need to lose 40 pounds and I realize now that I can’t avoid the gym forever because of one crazy trainer, but I really don’t want a repeat of last time, so basically I’m looking for some pointers from you on what to ask the trainer and what to look out for to make sure that I’m getting what I need out of the session.

Thanks,
A Reformed Gym Avoider

Dear Reformed Gym Avoider

Good for you for not letting an embarrassing session get in the way of your weight loss. And even more good for you for not making excuses for not losing the weight. You should never let a bad experience define what you can and cannot do. Here is my list of 5 important things to look out for:

1. Is the trainer certified? This is the most important question that you should ask. Most people don’t know this, but after years of working in a gym I can tell you that many of the “trainers” there are not certified. There is a high turnover rate at gyms, so they do a lot of “panic hiring” in order to not be understaffed. They hire these people with the understanding that they will do the orientations and will get their certification within the first few months, but many times new members are learning from people who don’t know proper progression, technique, form, science, etc. This isn’t to say that just because someone has a certification that they’re qualified, but you can be sure that if the trainer you’re working with took the time and money to study that they aren’t just some kid who worked in GNC for a summer thinking that being a trainer will be an easy job. Some of the best certifications are ACSM, NASM, and ACE.

2. Does she do a complete health history? Before you even begin to work out with a trainer they should take you to a quiet place where you can discuss your health history. They should know if you have any injuries, pain, illnesses, history of heart disease with yourself or in your family, or are on any medication that may affect your workout. In certain circumstances you may need to get medical clearance, so a trainer that doesn’t go into detail on these things can really be jeopardizing your health. Even if you don’t need medical clearance the trainer might need to know if any modifications to the workout need to be made.

3. Does she discuss your goals with you? One of the most important things for success is to have clearly definable and realistic goals. Without them you’ll have no motivation and the road will seem endless. If your trainer doesn’t discuss this with you she either isn’t competent enough to know that this is important or she is just going to treat you like a cash cow and string you along. Also, if she doesn’t know what your goals are then there is no way that she could possibly design a proper workout for you. It’s really important for the trainer to know what drives and motivates you, otherwise how can she help you succeed?

4. Does she take a baseline measurement? There has to be some sort of baseline to work off of, so that you can tell if you’re making progress. I don’t believe in asking a client who is coming in for weight loss to get on the scale, because one, it’s embarrassing, and two, you’ve already told me you need to lose weight, am I really going to subject you to staring at that number? Likewise, I don’t believe in body fat testing either at this point. Again, we’ve established that you have more body fat than is healthy. There’s no need to put you through that. Once you get to a healthier weight then we can look at body fat and see if that needs to be tweaked. For now, I like to take other measurements, such as a Step Test to see what your fitness level is according to your heart rate. This way, you have something else aside from your weight to base your fitness on. Fitness isn’t only about being a size 6, it’s about how quickly your heart rate can recover from activity too. It’s a good thing to put the focus on something else other than the thing that you’re most obsessed about.

5. Is the workout understandable? Your first workout should never be filled with anything too complicated. A lot of trainers at gyms want to give you the workout of your lifetime, because they think that if you walk out of the gym feeling like Jell-O that you’ll buy more sessions. This is ridiculous and can really set you up for injury, or at the very least turn you off from working out all together, because you’ll think it’s too hard. Make sure that your trainer is giving you things that will build the foundation for the future. Anything at this point will seem new to you and perhaps awkward, but at this point make sure they are focusing on building core strength and stability. Ask the trainer about this if you want and make sure that she can give you a reason for every exercise that she’s giving you. The workout should be something that challenges you, but also something that you can do on your own. After your session a good trainer will ask you how you feel, if you have any questions, and will send you on your way with the workout that you just did.

These things are just the beginning. Obviously there are many more things to look out for, especially if you’re going to hire the trainer long-term, but now you’re prepared for your orientation session. If you feel like something is off, don’t feel bad about asking for another trainer. You have the right to ask for someone else if you feel like your needs are not being met. Make sure that you walk out of that session feeling energized, invigorated, and excited about your new routine.

Have a question that needs answering? Send ‘em in! Every Thursday I’ll be answering a new question, and it might just be yours!

Ughhhh, I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing! – Weekend Survival Guide

If you have it too much or too often it's not a treat anymore.

Ever have that feeling? Did you have it this weekend? I’m sure many of you went to at least one party and had your fill of burgers and booze only to wake up the next morning thinking, “why did I eat all that”?. And if it wasn’t this weekend (good for you, by the way!) then it was for sure some other time. Either when you came home from work feeling like you could eat your dog if it came down to it, but instead polished off 5 cookies, or when you went to dinner on Saturday night way too hungry for your own good and ended up eating the entire bread basket, 3 glasses of wine, your entire plate of pasta and a few bites of your friend’s, plus dessert. We’ve all had that feeling of wanting to just undo the entire thing and make like it never happened.

Well, I can’t do that for you, but what I can do is help you avoid it the next time. You can be a bit more relaxed on the weekends, but don’t let all the good habits you’ve been working on fly out the window. Here are 5 tips to help you the next time you’re looking at your dog and licking your lips.

1. Always stay one step ahead – Start your Saturday and Sunday mornings off with a workout (if weekends are your weakness then try to schedule your rest days during the week). This will help set you off on the right track and will be a little reminder to stay balanced.

2. There’s a little something called the Interweb, or Web Machine, or something like it – If you like to go out to eat on the weekends, but lose control when you get to the restaurant, take some time to plan ahead. Decide on where you’re going to eat beforehand and then look up their menu for the best options. This way, when you get to the restaurant you won’t even have to open the menu and be tempted to order something you’ll regret later. Plus, if they have a dessert you really like you can plan to make up for it either by your workout in the morning or by going a little lighter at breakfast and lunch.

3. Dear Diary – If food journaling helps you, make sure that you’re tracking everything you eat – even on the weekends and if you go overboard. Many people have the tendency to leave out foods that they’ve overeaten, because they don’t want to look at it again and be reminded of it, or they figure, “what’s the point of tracking it, I know I went over.” It’s important to write everything down, so that you can really see what you’re taking in and keep things in perspective. Maybe you can have that extra slice of pizza if you see that you haven’t actually eaten all that much. And on the other hand, maybe you’ll think twice about having it if you see that you’ve had more than enough that day too.

4. Stop loitering – Going to a party? Fill your plate up and then leave the food table. You don’t need to mingle around it with your friends like a swarm of flies. If you really want seconds then you can go for it, but first walk away. Make sure that you’re filling up on healthy foods first and then if you want the other yummies decide on how much you’re going to have and stick to it. It’s ok to have a little of the things that are really tempting you, but remember that you don’t want to fill up and then have the thought, “why did I just do that”?.

5. Don’t shop til you drop – Shopping can actually be a pretty good workout. You’re walking around, trying on clothes (working your way out of something that’s too small without ripping it, or even just getting it over your boobs can be a major arm and back workout!), carrying bags, and walking some more. Make sure that you carry a healthy snack, like a Kashi Crunchy bar or an apple and some nuts, so that you can nibble when you feel hungry and don’t end up sluggish and ravenous. You don’t want to be so hungry that you end up eating the first thing you see.

So, there you have it, my 5 tips for weekend survival. Good luck and remember that there’s a reason things are called “treats”. If you have them all the time they’re not treats anymore. You’ve worked hard on replacing your bad habits with healthy ones, so don’t let your weekends get out of hand and have them go to waste.

Ughhhh, I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing! – Weekend Survival Guide

If you have it too much or too often it's not a treat anymore.

Ever have that feeling? Did you have it this weekend? I’m sure many of you went to at least one party and had your fill of burgers and booze only to wake up the next morning thinking, “why did I eat all that”?. And if it wasn’t this weekend (good for you, by the way!) then it was for sure some other time. Either when you came home from work feeling like you could eat your dog if it came down to it, but instead polished off 5 cookies, or when you went to dinner on Saturday night way too hungry for your own good and ended up eating the entire bread basket, 3 glasses of wine, your entire plate of pasta and a few bites of your friend’s, plus dessert. We’ve all had that feeling of wanting to just undo the entire thing and make like it never happened.

Well, I can’t do that for you, but what I can do is help you avoid it the next time. You can be a bit more relaxed on the weekends, but don’t let all the good habits you’ve been working on fly out the window. Here are 5 tips to help you the next time you’re looking at your dog and licking your lips.

1. Always stay one step ahead – Start your Saturday and Sunday mornings off with a workout (if weekends are your weakness then try to schedule your rest days during the week). This will help set you off on the right track and will be a little reminder to stay balanced.

2. There’s a little something called the Interweb, or Web Machine, or something like it – If you like to go out to eat on the weekends, but lose control when you get to the restaurant, take some time to plan ahead. Decide on where you’re going to eat beforehand and then look up their menu for the best options. This way, when you get to the restaurant you won’t even have to open the menu and be tempted to order something you’ll regret later. Plus, if they have a dessert you really like you can plan to make up for it either by your workout in the morning or by going a little lighter at breakfast and lunch.

3. Dear Diary – If food journaling helps you, make sure that you’re tracking everything you eat – even on the weekends and if you go overboard. Many people have the tendency to leave out foods that they’ve overeaten, because they don’t want to look at it again and be reminded of it, or they figure, “what’s the point of tracking it, I know I went over.” It’s important to write everything down, so that you can really see what you’re taking in and keep things in perspective. Maybe you can have that extra slice of pizza if you see that you haven’t actually eaten all that much. And on the other hand, maybe you’ll think twice about having it if you see that you’ve had more than enough that day too.

4. Stop loitering – Going to a party? Fill your plate up and then leave the food table. You don’t need to mingle around it with your friends like a swarm of flies. If you really want seconds then you can go for it, but first walk away. Make sure that you’re filling up on healthy foods first and then if you want the other yummies decide on how much you’re going to have and stick to it. It’s ok to have a little of the things that are really tempting you, but remember that you don’t want to fill up and then have the thought, “why did I just do that”?.

5. Don’t shop til you drop – Shopping can actually be a pretty good workout. You’re walking around, trying on clothes (working your way out of something that’s too small without ripping it, or even just getting it over your boobs can be a major arm and back workout!), carrying bags, and walking some more. Make sure that you carry a healthy snack, like a Kashi Crunchy bar or an apple and some nuts, so that you can nibble when you feel hungry and don’t end up sluggish and ravenous. You don’t want to be so hungry that you end up eating the first thing you see.

So, there you have it, my 5 tips for weekend survival. Good luck and remember that there’s a reason things are called “treats”. If you have them all the time they’re not treats anymore. You’ve worked hard on replacing your bad habits with healthy ones, so don’t let your weekends get out of hand and have them go to waste.

Ask Dani – Surviving Vacation

Ahhhhhhhh, vacation.

Dear Dani,

I’m going away for July 4th weekend and am worried about how I’m going to eat healthy and stay active while I’m away. I’m not sure what’s around me, so I’m worried that I’m going to slip up and eat whatever’s around. And the people who I’m going with aren’t too conscious of their weight like I am. I don’t want to be too crazy about it, but I also don’t want to lose control and throw away all my hard work. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks, Tempted Traveler

Dear Tempted Traveler,

Going on vacation is so exciting, but it can also be stressful when you’re worried about your eating. The first thing I’m going to tell you is not to stress out about it too much. It’s just a weekend, so nothing that you do can be too damaging. This doesn’t mean that you should completely let go of everything, but allow yourself to indulge and enjoy yourself a little bit. This isn’t a time to lose weight, rather focus on just maintaining.

Here are my 5 tips that you can take with you:

1. Make A List – Before I go on a vacation or sit down to a huge meal with family and friends I like to put together a little “Survival Cheat Sheet”. I simply write down a list of things that will help me make the right choices, such as reminding myself to ask for help from someone supportive if I need it, and walking away from the table when I’m done eating, so that I don’t overeat. I also jot a few things down that remind me why I want to stay on track. For instance, I need to remind myself that I feel so much better when I don’t overindulge and that if I do it’s only going to make me feel bad.
Make sure to put this on your list: Ask yourself “what purpose is this serving me?”. Before you give into something tempting or feel lazy and don’t want to work out ask yourself this one question. If your answer is legitimately that you want to indulge this one time and that you won’t be mad at yourself later then go for it this once. But, if your answer is that it serves no purpose other than to have some immediate gratification and then be upset later, then you know that you don’t really want to give in.
Take this list with you and look to it when you need some extra support.

2. Have A Battle Plan – Before you leave for your vacation do an internet search of markets and restaurants near where you’re staying. That way when you get to your destination you won’t feel tempted to eat the first thing that you see. You can stock up on good foods at the market and know where to go for a nice night out. Most restaurants have full menus online, so you can choose the place that has the best options for you.

3. Be “That Customer” – When eating out don’t be shy about asking the waiter for some healthier. Don’t worry about being annoying. If you’re nice about it they won’t mind too much. I always start by making a joke about how “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be “that customer” tonight”. It usually lightens things up and then I can ask for what I want, such as dressing on the side, an egg white omelette made “dry” instead of with a ton of oil or butter, or even to have my salmon baked instead of fried. Be sure to leave a nice tip too.

4. Pack Your Bags – Of course you’re going to pack your bags, but what I mean is to make sure you’re well equipped for your getaway. Just in case you don’t have time to buy food or you need something in a pinch pack some things to take with you. Some things that pack nicely are Kashi Crunchy bars and instant oatmeal. Even some part-skim cheese sticks and yogurts (secured safely in a Ziploc bag) will hold well in cargo (it’s freezing down there!).
And don’t forget workout clothes, so that you set the tone for your trip. Packing your Lulu Lemons and sneakers will remind you to make time for your workouts while you’re away. Resistance bands and a jump rope are super light, take up next to no room, and are like a full gym in a bag.

5. Be Kind To Yourself – Vacation is a time to let go a bit and not be so hard on yourself. Do your best to stay on track, but also cut yourself some slack. If you slip up, don’t worry about it, you’ll get back up. Allow yourself to enjoy the moment, because you don’t always get a break. Sometimes allowing yourself some time to go a bit easier on yourself renews your vigor for later. You can’t always be perfect, so take some time to enjoy yourself.

Bon Voyage!

Have a question that needs answering? Send ‘em in! Every Thursday I’ll be answering a new question, and it might just be yours!