Setting Goals

The benefits of planning and setting goals are well known. People are more likely to achieve reasonable goals by setting objectives than by saying they want to accomplish something without setting a plan of action. Use this same advice to develop a lifestyle change plan.

The key to achieving an objective is twofold. First, identify what you’d like to accomplish and set a realistic time-frame to achieve it. That’s the easy part. The second piece of the puzzle is to figure out how to do it.

Is your goal to eat less junk food? If so, it’s useful to know what triggers you to turn to junk food. For this issue, it’s helpful to keep a food diary to track when you eat it and briefly note how you’re feeling at the time. This strategy will reveal patterns of behavior that you might be unaware of that you can then address.

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The Feeding Season

With Thanksgiving, what I think of as “The Feeding Season” has officially begun. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could space out all of those parties and holiday meals throughout the year instead of within just over a month? Alas, that is not the case, so we must strategize to survive The Feeding Season. Using my strategies, it’s possible for January to arrive without adding unwanted weight, an elevated cholesterol count, or going into a sugar coma.

It's okay for this growing puppy to gain 2 pounds a week over the holidays, but not me!

It’s okay for this growing puppy to gain 2 pounds a week over the holidays, but not me!

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Oh, My Aching Feet!

Without question, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on attempting to resolve foot issues. I even resorted to buying gel mats for the kitchen and for my standing desk to minimize discomfort. Aside from my (presumably genetically) weak ankles (that, despite my rigorous efforts at strengthening, still occasionally cause me problems), my foot issues began as I became less sedentary when I made my lifestyle change. I expect it was also because–unlike my high-school self who could stand for 10 hours a day on a concrete floor wearing Keds at my summer shore kitchen job–I was a lot older.

Lots and lots of insoles!

Lots and lots of insoles!

Plantar Fasciitis
My first problem was plantar fasciitis. Regular walking started doing me in and I’d wake up with a super sore right heel. The irritation came and went, and like my general approach to medical nuisances, I rode out the intermittent occurrences.

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Phase 4: The Dreaded Plateau

Phase 4 will happen, and may occur more than once.  Hitting a plateau is an unfortunate roadblock your body will put in your way a few times as it readjusts to losing weight. I found this utterly frustrating because I knew each time I had been doing so well following the plan and BAM! All the sudden I was stuck. I wouldn’t lose another pound for sometimes two or three weeks.

Strategies
It’s likely I experienced this in the first several months of my lifestyle change, but since I didn’t weigh myself, I thankfully wasn’t aware of it. I think this was a good strategy because I didn’t get discouraged or derailed early on in reaction to reaching a plateau. Plus, I had more than 100 pounds to lose, so cutting calories at that point would have undermined my overall plan.

By the time I was well into my lifestyle change, I was better prepared to accept that sticking with the plan worked. I reminded myself that it wasn’t just about losing pounds, but also inches. First, I tried to push through it without that reward from the scale or tape measure. Even though I didn’t see the quantitative changes reflected in the numbers, I tried to consider how my clothes fit. If, however, I found that more than three weeks went by and the scale still hadn’t budged, I cut back on calories.

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Oh My God, I’m Starving!: Phase 2

At this point, the honeymoon is over. The newness of the plan has worn off. You’re more familiar with the structure of the food regimen. You have a better idea of what to expect. You’re starting to feel a bit more deprived by what seem like measly portions. You look at your pizza and think “I’m still going to want more when I’m finished. There’s no way this will satisfy me.” I know, because I’ve been there. Part of dealing with these issues is to try to approach it with the attitude that some deprivation now will pay off, but this rational approach isn’t necessarily going to work when your stomach is screaming for more or your brain is sending out signals of cravings.

The reality of your body getting what it wants, when it wants it has set in and you’re miserable. This will happen. Know it will happen. This is one of the most vulnerable times in a lifestyle change. But you’ve already put in a few weeks, so why waste what you’ve already accomplished? It was a huge commitment to get started. Do you really want to have to go through that yet one more time? Instead, try to remind yourself of the reasons why you wanted to make a lifestyle change in the first place. You feel bloaty. You feel like you’re always digesting food. You hate the way you look. You are uncomfortable in your own skin. People make fun of you. Then remind yourself that you’ve already lived on less food for a few weeks and that it didn’t kill you.

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When Bugs Strike

It's no good feeling like this.

It’s no good feeling like this.

For the last several days, I’ve been fighting flu germs. I realized that while I’m not immune to getting a bug now and then, I don’t get nearly as sick as I did before I started my lifestyle change. Had I not been writing the blog doing lot more self-reflecting on the healthful changes I’ve made since 2001, I’m not sure I would have made this connection.

Though I had the benefit of eating a vegetarian diet, before my lifestyle change, I was very overweight and didn’t regularly exercise. What’s worse was that I’d run myself ragged, taking on too many responsibilities and activities, trying to balance school, work, and a social life. When I got sick, I didn’t take time off until I just couldn’t function anymore. I tried to push through feeling terrible hoping I’d magically recover.  Practically every semester I’d end up in bed for at least a week with a bad cold or sinus infection, bronchitis, or some flu bug. Continue reading

The (Sort of) 7 Minute Workout

The exercises in the New York Times 7 Minute Workout

The New York Times 7 Minute Workout

When I began my lifestyle change, I recognized that exercise had to be an integral part of my life. Though I knew from past experience that I couldn’t rely solely on exercise to lose weight, I realized that to live a healthier life, exercise had to become a regular activity. To be sure I didn’t overwhelm myself when I began my lifestyle change, I waited a few months to integrate that part of my plan.

A few years after I achieved a healthy weight, I began to feel oppressed by my exercise commitment, driven by the fear of gaining back unwanted pounds. A number of big things had changed in my life–I finished graduate school, moved 650 miles away, started teaching full time, met Michael and got married, and got some awesome dogs. Suddenly, I had a whole lot more commitments than living alone, basking in the last days of the intellectual indulgence of writing a dissertation and teaching just two classes.

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How Many Calories are You Eating?

Ever wonder, if you’re not keeping track, how many calories you eat in a day? I used to wish I could just get a device that alerted me when I hit 2,000 calories so I could just stop eating for the rest of the day. With all the new techy gadgets coming out, maybe this one’s not so far off. Until that day comes, there’s another way to figure out how approximately many calories you’re eating to maintain your current weight.

Trekking burns a lot of calories, but how many hours a day can you spare?

Trekking burns a lot of calories, but how many hours a day can you spare if you’re not on vacation in Hawaii?

Though peoples’ bodies burn calories differently, this formula offers a rough approximation:

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Take a Walk

With the promise of beautiful weather across the U.S. this holiday weekend (except for the poor people who are in the midst of dealing with yet another hurricane that has blown through the country), it’s a great time to take a walk. It’s definitely important to have a regular exercise plan, but it’s also really good for our bodies to take breaks and move around.

orangutan

You might not see a wild orangutan…

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I’ll Just Walk it Off

And now a note on exercise.

Sorrento

Hiking on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

There are two important things to keep in mind about exercise.

  1. It’s really, really good for us in terms of increasing energy, helping out our bodies, suppressing appetite, and improving mood (unless you’ve just spent an hour hiking through spider webs every three steps, which is why I’ve hung up my hiking boots until autumn begins).boots
  2. Relying exclusively on exercise as the way to lose weight will not work. More than once in my life I really ramped up the exercise. I lost some weight, was more toned, and felt better, but I didn’t stick with it because I got discouraged when I didn’t lose much weight. The problem was that I didn’t change my eating habits. I thought I could burn what I needed to with extra exercise, cut back a bit, and it’d all fall into place. Wrong.

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