Tag Archives: exercise

Getting back on (or staying on) track

How are your New Year’s health resolutions (or word-solutions) coming along? Are you still on track, or did you fall prey to “Fall of the Bandwagon Thursday” and “Fat Friday” (mentioned in an earlier post)? If you aren’t where you’d like to be, never fear! Here are some tips to help you get back on track. If you you are still cruising along, great job! You can still use these tips as motivators to keep doing what you are doing.

1) Realize change doesn’t happen overnight. You aren’t going to magically not want chocolate, sugar, coffee, or whatever it is you are trying to avoid more frequently. You won’t lose 15 pounds in a month (if you did, go see a doctor because that isn’t healthy). You won’t love getting up early to exercise for the first little while (or ever). Change takes time. Hopefully, you set goals for 2017, meaning you have ALL YEAR to accomplish them. Cut yourself some slack.

2) Focus on the positive little steps you make rather than focusing on any missteps. Even if your progress is two steps forward, one step back, you are STILL getting one step forward in the net. I also like to think of “good” and “bad” choices as two separate accounts rather than one. That way, a “bad” choice doesn’t negate any good. It just fills up the wrong bank. I still have my “good” choices accumulating.

3) Know when to quit. Did you make a goal to exercise and you hate every minute of it and every day is a struggle? Maybe that goal or that exercise program isn’t right for you right now. Be ok to give up on that AND pick a new goal or routine. (That AND is very important). Not every goal is right for every person at every time. Learn about yourself and figure out what is right for you right now. For example, I used to run quite a bit. I had hoped to start running again. But I never can seem to get myself out of bed for a run. A workout video is a struggle, but manageable. So, right now, running isn’t for me. It was in the past, and it may be in the future.

4) Find intrinsic rewards. Exercise (generally) makes you feel more energtic and happier. Eating healthy food (generally) makes us have a more positive outlook. Look for these rewards in your choices rather than just the numbers on the scale, the distances/weight/time improvements, etc.

Hope these tips help you no matter where you are on the goal track. Happy health!

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Obesity, empathy, and body image thoughts

Occasionally, in all the media clutter we see and hear each day, a clear, concise message appears to you. That happened to me today. I listened to the most recent post on This American Life entitled “Tell Me I’m Fat”. It was riveting, thought provoking, and entertaining. Everything a great podcast episode should be. You should really listen to it here.

Also today, an article popped up on my Facebook feed about how dietitians need to have empathy and how that can be better “taught” in dietetics training programs. I totally agree with this being a problem. While I had very good education and training as a dietitian, the most “empathy” that ever came into my lessons was teaching you how to keep a straight face while taking down a diet history. As in, when a client/patient tells you that he/she ate an entire cake or 14 tortillas in a day, you smile and say, “ok”. That was a good skill, believe you me. And I’m not criticizing my professors because empathy isn’t something you can really “teach”. It has to be developed with time and experience.

Together, those have prompted me to write a few very open, honest thoughts here.

1) I have never in my life been obese. I have never had to struggle with so many of the daily trials that face obese people. The stories in the podcast highlight many of these: finding clothes, being comfortable eating out, criticism from complete strangers, worrying about breaking a chair, etc. So I can try to be empathetic and imagine how that feels, but I haven’t had that experience.

2) However, I have struggled with my weight. Multiple times in my rather short adult life, so I do have some measure of empathy about weight and body image and those struggles.

When I graduated from college, I didn’t like how I felt or looked or what the scale said. I spent an entire summer exercising and trying to cut back on junk food. The result was maybe 5 pounds of weight loss, which was incredibly disheartening. Luckily for me, I then started grad school. The stress and busy schedule helped me almost unconsciously shed the last 10 pounds I needed/wanted. And then cancer and endocrine instability helped me drop 10 more. I was back to what I weighed in middle school. I’ll admit, I liked how looked and wanted to keep it that way, even if was a bit on the light side of healthy.

Then school ended. Life changed. Thankfully, for a couple years, I was able to mostly maintain my weight.

Then babies happened. My first pregnancy, I gained a bit too much weight, but it seemed to just melt off after I had my baby. One month post-partum, thanks to breastfeeding and some postpartum depression inhibiting my eating, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and feeling really good. Fast forward about 4 months, and things weren’t so easy. But with some frequent exercise, I was able to stay in a good place for me.

Fast forward now to pregnancy number two. I gained more weight. I couldn’t stop gaining weight. When I would see how much the scale went up at a doctor’s visit, I’d feel sad and go home and eat a cookie. Smart, right? I was only about 5 pounds over the maximum recommended weight gain, but I had started pregnancy about 5 pounds up from my usual desired weight, too. This time, the weight did not melt off after I had the baby. 6 weeks out, my 2 year old was pointing to my tummy and asking about baby sister. My baby is almost 11 months old now, and I’m still not where I’d like to be.

Recently, I’ve challenged myself to nine weeks of exercise and limiting treats to try and feel better about myself for a family cruise. So far, I’ve kept to my plan (gloriously pictured below). But I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve lost a single pound. And I still crave chocolate EVERY SINGLE DAY.

My current exercise and diet challenge

That is more about my life and weight history than maybe you wanted to know. But I hope it shows that I can have some empathy about weight, diet, eating struggles, etc.

3) While I understand it is a very complicated, multi-faceted issue, I am a big proponent (on face value) of the movement of accepting one’s weight, even if you are fat (as discussed in the podcast). I have posted multiple times on this site about research showing that healthy choices at any weight are beneficial, how the number on a scale is just a number, and so much more. AND IT IS STILL TRUE! Might you be better off if you hadn’t gained 30 (or 50 or 100) extra pounds in the first place? Yes. But can you go back and change that? No. What you can change is the future – not gaining more weight, maybe losing some weight, maybe just making healthier lifestyle choices.

In my own life, I have COMPLETELY found this to be true. When I was down to my middle school weight, I didn’t always feel great. Now that I’m up 15 pounds, but exercising six days a week and controlling my eating more, I do feel better. I stared down a plate of brownies all afternoon/evening one day last week and didn’t eat a single one. The mental boost it gave me to feel like I was in control of myself was immensely more beneficial than any endorphin rush from some sugar and chocolate.

No one sets out to become overweight or obese. I don’t think anyone would intentionally choose that life path for themselves, fully knowing the pain, discrimination, health issues and other struggles associated with it. But they can choose to change their future course. And we can choose to not contribute to the discrimination and to help people make better choices in their future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast, obesity, obesity discrimination, and empathy in the comments!

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Temptation Bundling

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really enjoy running. I enjoy the way I feel after I run and the feeling of accomplishing something, but I don’t get pleasure out of actually pounding my feet to the pavement. I also hate cleaning my house. I clean on Mondays, since it is already a kind of “bad” day anyway. Why ruin a perfectly good Friday with cleaning, I say. To make running and cleaning more enjoyable, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. I enjoy listening to these for many reasons: I am at least partially distracted from the task at hand, I learn something, I laugh, or I get something to use as conversation starters. It’s really a win-win.

Turns out, I learned that this is called “temptation bundling” in one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics Radio. Apparently, economists have done studies and shown that people are more likely to exercise or to stick to a diet if you bundle this unpleasant activity with something they like. For example, they only let people listen to really addictive audiobooks when at the gym. Gym attendance increased for those people.

I like this idea as a strategy for eating healthy  since it is making positive associations with healthy behaviors.   For example, one of my friends used to get Frosty’s a lot. She wanted to eat healthy and lose weight and knew cutting that out would help. So, each time she wanted to get a Frosty but didn’t, she put that money in a jar. Then she got to use that money to buy herself new clothes. Or maybe you let yourself eat a piece of chocolate after dinner if you eat 2 servings of vegetables. Or if you are craving sweets, you call a good friend and chat instead.

I’d love to hear any of your health-related temptation bundles in the comments.

To hear or read the whole podcast, click here.

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Exercise on a budget

I have to admit that I am not a gym membership person. While I do enjoy working out on an elliptical or other equipment, I can never bring myself to pay that much money to go somewhere to exercise. Also, I am not a cute person when I exercise. I don’t wear attractive or expensive workout gear, and I sweat like a horse. I don’t want to be around anyone. Plus running on the street is free, which is much more in line with my budgetary constraints.

However, I realize not everyone likes to walk or run outside nor is the weather always conducive to outdoor exercise. (I’m currently looking at about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Not going running in that.) But buying workout videos can get pricey, and I know I get bored watching the same videos over and over.

My solution? Youtube. You wouldn’t believe the number of workout videos available online for free. Yes, for free. I’m sharing here my playlist of videos I work from. These vary in intensity quite a bit. However, I focus on videos about 20-30ish minutes long that include a warm-up. While I don’t expect any of you to just copy this list, I hope you use it as a reference for where to find other workout videos online. If you prefer workouts that are shorter, longer, more intense, more cardio, less cardio, etc., look up the channels for some of the providers on my list. They have tons of videos to choose from.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYUerLQsmE4Jxtikbv0ARIeZcpK7mj5c2

Happy indoor exercising!

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New Year’s Resolutions

I am a big believer in setting goals.  The start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate where you are in many areas of your life and set some goals for improvement.  I hope you will set some health related goals for the new year among your other resolutions.  Here are some tips I have for making any goals, but they might especially apply to any diet or weight goals.

– Be specific.  Don’t set the goal to “eat more vegetables” or “exercise more”.  A nebulous goal makes it almost impossible to measure your success.  For example, my goal last year was to exercise at least four times each week.  It gave me a specific number to aim for, but also didn’t give me an excuse to sleep in every fifth day.

-Think through the execution of your goal.  Sometimes you will realize a goal is not possible because you aren’t willing to make the changes necessary.  Say you want to pack your own lunch for work every day.  Thinking this through, this requires buying extra food for those lunches as well as probably getting up 10-15 minutes earlier to make that lunch.  If those aren’t reasonable changes for you, don’t make the goal about packing lunch.

-Put your goals somewhere you will see them frequently.  I use a note on my phone for my daily to-do list.  I keep my goals at the top of that list.  It means I have to see them every time I open my list and helps me remember to put those items among my to-do’s.

-Re-evaluate frequently.  You may reach a goal faster and easier than you thought.  Great!  Challenge yourself to something new.  Maybe a goal is harder to attain than you anticipated.  This gives you a chance to think of new approaches.

-Call an audible.  This kind of goes with the last one.  Don’t be afraid to just say something isn’t going to work.  If you set the goal to go to the gym three times a week and you discover you hate the gym, call an audible.  It’s ok to give up on a goal that is dragging you down.  What isn’t ok is to just give up on yourself.  Take what you learn from the failed goal to create a new, better goal for yourself.

What are your diet or health related goals for 2015?  I’d love to hear them in the comments.

For more on “healthy” resolutions, read here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Post-workout Carb Loading

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I’m running a half marathon tomorrow. In preparation, I’ve been doing a bit more reading on exercise nutrition and came across a good reminder for runners. This applies whether you are training for an event or just run regularly.

We all know you carb load in the days before a big event. But you should also have a mini carb loading session after any good endurance workout, especially if it is an hour or longer. Try to consume about half a gram of carbs per pound of body weight, and aim for a carb/protein ratio of 4:1.

So, a 150 pound person should eat about 75 grams of carbs and 18-20 grams of protein. That looks like 2 cups of chocolate milk, 1 slice of whole wheat toast, and a banana. Or a turkey sandwich with cheese, an apple, and a granola bar.

Timing is very important here. Your recovery meal, as this is sometimes called, should be consumed within an hour of your workout. Right after exercising, your body is primed to store glycogen in your muscles. By loading your muscles with glycogen, you can decrease post-workout soreness and improve endurance in workouts to come.

Getting a recovery meal or snack after even a shorter workout is important, but you don’t need to focus on consuming such a large quantity of carbs. Just getting some sort of carb snack in within an hour of working out should be sufficient.

Happy eating and exercising!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Do you hate running?

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Pre-run photo, hence the smile

While on vacation recently, I had just returned from a morning run. A family member complimented me, saying that she had never been able to enjoy running. I explained that I actually don’t like running either, which shocked her. Why would I do an exercise I don’t like?

According to a Freakonomics podcast I heard awhile ago, I wouldn’t do an exercise I don’t like. The expert on the show shared three “I”‘s for a successful exercise program: intensity, individualization, and “I like to do it”. For more on the first two I’s, you can read here. In this post, I’m going to focus on number three, “I like to do it.”

I agree with the experts on the podcast: the best exercise is the one you like to do. But what if there isn’t an exercise I like? Or what if I don’t have access to or the resources for the exercise I like?

For me personally, I love playing volleyball and would love to do that for my exercise. However, that requires quite a bit of equipment and several other people, so it isn’t feasible for my daily routine. Most “traditional” forms of exercise I’ve tried – running, biking, a treadmill, elliptical – I really do not enjoy. To be honest, I just don’t enjoy exercising.

BUT I do enjoy how I feel after exercising. I feel better, more alert, and like I have accomplished something. I exercise first thing in the morning, and it gives me a positive start to my day.

So if you are like me and struggle to find an exercise you actually like, try finding other motivation for doing it. Here are some tips.

-Workout with a friend or loved one to also enjoy some quality time or conversation. Fat-burning aerobic exercise requires oxygen, so you should still be able to talk during your workout. I don’t enjoy running, but running with my husband is less miserable.

-Focus on the energy or sense of accomplishment you feel after a workout. Even though I’m tired after a workout, it wakes me up in the morning and gets me ready to tackle my day.

-Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks or watch a TV show you love to distract yourself from what you are doing. Upbeat music can help you keep your pace up. I really enjoy listening to audiobooks right now, since the characters can distract me from how much longer I need to workout.

Remember, you may not love the exercise itself, but you can love what surrounds it.

Also, try out different forms of exercise. You may not like any of them, but you may find one that you dislike less than the others. I don’t enjoy yoga or riding a bike, but I don’t hate “running” on an elliptical or doing pilates. And preferences can change over time. I really liked running in graduate school to relieve stress, but now I find it very monotonous.

Any suggestions on what you have found helpful for exercising? Share in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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