woman walking on pathway under the sun

10000 Steps – A Worthwhile Goal?

10000 steps per day – it’s preset into most fitness trackers and, by now, many of us believe we’re “supposed” to attain that number each day. However, this number is not actually derived from science. Actually, an ad for a Japanese step tracker started it all back in the 60s. The product took off and the number stuck with us.

So does this mean aiming for 10000 steps is pointless? No! Particularly if you tend towards a more sedentary lifestyle, aiming for that 10K a day can help increase your daily movement goals. Plus, it’s easy to remember and attainable for many.

Walking is among the most beneficial things you can do for your health. And most of us don’t do nearly enough of it. So, if having a goal of 10K steps per day gets you walking more, that’s awesome! However, studies have shown that even 7-8,000 steps per day positively impact health.

Our bodies are made to move. And having a daily step goal can be a great motivator and reminder to get moving. One thing to watch out for: attaining that step goal becoming too much of a focus. Also, keep in mind that fitness trackers are not super accurate. It’s important to be practical and balanced with these goals. If you’re tired or achey, your body is telling you something. Closing your rings or seeing 10000 on your tracker isn’t worth injury. So, find daily movement goals that feel best for you.

Do you aim for 10000 steps per day? Do you find it helpful?

women performing yoga on green grass near trees

Employee Wellness Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t include employee needs/input in program creation

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in creating an employee wellness program is to base it on what you think your employee needs are. If your assumptions miss the mark, program attendance will be low and participants won’t get much out of it. Instead, include employees in the planning process, whether it’s by polling them for their needs and interests or having an employee wellness committee.

Make it a one-off

My pet peeve! One-off programs simply cannot provide effective support. Think about it: if your employees are experiencing burnout after months of endless long hours, piles of work, short staffing, and no end in site, is one webinar going to fix it? No. In this situation, it’s putting a bandaid on a broken arm. At worst, it looks like lip service and a half-hearted attempt at appeasement. It feels like management heard the grievances, but doesn’t really care. And in that atmosphere, a program cannot be effective. Instead, your employee wellness program should and must be a holistic, multifaceted approach, a true investment in employee well-being.

Don’t include enough variety

“We’re thrilled to announce 12 hour-long webinars on healthy eating.” What was your reaction to that statement? Probably short of excitement. If your program is too monotonous, it might start out with good attendance, but it will drop off drastically as the program progresses. While health and wellness are complex topics that definitely could require multiple sessions on one topic, we have to consider the human attention span in our planning as well. You can absolutely dedicate multiple sessions to one topic, but be sure to include a mix of other offerings to appeal to different styles and interests. For example, instead of just webinars, include some fitness classes and cooking demos.

Neglect inclusivity

The health and wellness industry has a major exclusivity problem. And I have witnessed and heard about many instances in which employees were made to feel “othered,” excluded, shamed, and insulted because of a program’s content or presenter. Part of your planning should include options for all bodies and abilities. It should also include thoroughly vetting your providers – it’s an unfortunate truth that fatshaming, homophobia, racism, and sexism are rampant in the fitness and nutrition industries. Do your due diligence to make sure there is something for everyone and that everyone is treated with respect.

These employee wellness mistakes can make or break your program. However, with care and planning, you can avoid them and create a fantastic, effective program.

Well and Simple can help you plan your program. Click here to learn more.

nutrition facts label

What does serving size mean

What does serving size mean? Is it how much you’re supposed to eat? Is it a dietary guideline?

You might be surprised to know that it’s neither!

The serving size listed on a food label is actually a standardization created to allow you to compare different foods. 

If you look at the bottom of a Nutrition Facts panel, you’ll see that it’s based on a 2000 calorie diet – the standardization that everything else on the label is based on. So a serving size of 2/3 cup means: if you eat 2/3 cup of this food, you will consume X proportion of 2000 calories. 

So surely there must be a good reason why 2000 calories is the standardization…right? Right? 

Oof, I wish. The FDA arrived at 2000 calories based on self-reported surveys from men, women, and children of how much they ate per day (self-reported information is notoriously unreliable). Well, actually, based on those surveys, they chose to go with 2350 calories. But, when critics worried that setting it at 2350 would encourage people to overeat, they decreased it to 2000 calories. (See FDA calorie recommendations here).

However, while the methodology behind Nutrition Facts labels leaves a lot to be desired, the information on the label is not completely useless. It still can give you a rough idea of that food’s nutritional content. And it does allow you to compare different foods to each other. It can also serve as a starting point for finding a reasonable serving size for you. 

However, you should not be eating what the serving size states just because that’s what’s on the label. And you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty if you eat more than the serving size. 

woman doing exercise

Personal Trainer Red Flags

Why personal trainer red flags? A client relayed a very upsetting experience she recently had with a personal trainer to me this week. While this experience was truly egregious, unfortunately, some of the behaviors this trainer engaged in are not uncommon. And, even more unfortunately, many folks feel discouraged and embarrassed after experiences like this and give up on their fitness goals. So I wanted to share with you some things I view as red flags from my perspective as a nutrition coach, fitness instructor, and someone studying to become a personal trainer.

Red Flag 1:Your trainer continuously tries to upsell you

While your trainer’s pay does depend on their ability to sell sessions, their time spent with you should be focused on you and your workout. They should respect your boundaries and your time and avoid pushing you to buy more.

Red Flag 2: Your trainer gives the same workouts to everyone

Everyone has different needs. Everyone has different goals. You pay for individual attention from your trainer. Therefore, your trainer should not be giving all their clients the same program. It’s laziness.

Red Flag 3: Your trainer pushes you too hard

Two integral parts of being a trainer are meeting a client where they’re at and recognizing when to increase or decrease workout difficulty. If you are telling your trainer you’re in pain or the workout doesn’t feel right, they should respond to that promptly and appropriately.

Red Flag 4: Your trainer strays outside their scope

Your trainer should not be offering nutrition advice unless they are properly trained in nutrition. Likewise, they should not offer medical advice. Doing so demonstrates irresponsibility and carelessness with your well-being.

Red Flag 5: Your trainer does not obtain consent

Your trainer should not ever touch you without your explicit consent. Ever. Additionally, if you tell your trainer you do not want to discuss eating habits, that should be sufficient for them not to bring it up. It’s about boundaries and respect.

Red Flag 6: Your trainer spends most of your session looking at their phone

Last time I checked you were paying them to watch you, right? If they’re absorbed in their IG feed, they won’t notice when your form is off or you’re at risk of injury.

Red Flag 7: Your trainer doesn’t cheer you on

Your trainer should be a source of encouragement and motivation. They should be telling you when you’re doing well and celebrating that with you. If they only focus on what you need to improve, that’s discouraging.

These are some of the personal trainer red flags I think you should look out for. Are there any you would add?

tasty salad and smoothie on table

Employee wellness and community

Last week I had the pleasure of giving an employee wellness presentation to one of my corporate clients in person for the first time in 1 1/2 years. They recently brought their employees back to the office and so we wanted to do something different.

So we decided to do a presentation on how to eat healthy on your busiest days. The second part of the event was a communal lunch where everyone got to assemble their own salad.

While my presentation was informative and fun, the real star of the show was the communal lunch. There’s just something about gathering together and sharing food that really creates a stronger sense of community. There’s a reason why food is so often part of our big celebrations and holidays!

As I watched everyone chatting, laughing, and making their way through the assembly line, it made me think about the importance of including community in wellness programs. The last couple years spent working from home have taken their toll on us. And, while a wellness webinar may provide some helpful tips and advice, being able to share in that experience with others makes a difference. Whether it’s hearing others’ stories or collaborating on solutions to a problem or just the reassurance that comes from knowing others are in the same boat as you.

So I recommend that, as you plan out your wellness program, ask yourself how you can build community into it. That could look like:

  • Making sure breakout rooms are included in webinars for folks to interact with each other
  • Allotting more time to your wellness program to allow for discourse
  • Including team or group activities
  • Sharing a meal together
  • Having your employees play a role in planning your programming

How have you included community in your company’s employee wellness programs? Do you think there are ways you could increase that communal aspect?

man and woman eating healthy food

What does anti-diet mean?

Folks frequently ask me: “what does ‘anti-diet’ mean?” What does it mean to say that I take a non-diet approach to nutrition coaching?

Myths and misinformation about the anti-diet movement abound on the Internet and social media. I can’t speak for all anti-diet nutrition professionals, but I can attest to what many of us believe as well as what my approach is.

What “Anti-Diet” Does Not Mean

One of the biggest misconceptions circulating about the anti-diet movement is that it espouses eating anything and everything without regard for nutrition. This is patently false.

While anti-diet practitioners don’t believe that there are “good” foods or “bad” foods, they do still promote balance. Food has no moral value. And there is room for all foods in a healthy diet. The key is making sure you eat a variety of foods, both nutrient-dense and fun foods. Meeting your nutritional needs is still important, but you don’t need to calorie count, fill color-coded containers, or weigh and measure your foods to do that.

Many critics of the anti-diet movement like to claim that anti-diet practitioners “promote obesity.” First off, just using the word “obesity” gives away the anti-fat bias of these critics. Rather, anti-diet practitioners recognize that weight does not reliably indicate health status. Furthermore, we recognize that bodies are supposed to come in different shapes and sizes. Larger bodies are not failed thin bodies.

Finally, and most desperately, many critics throw around claims that anti-diet means anti-health. This assertion rests on the false notion that weight is a good indicator of health (it’s not). Furthermore, this flies in the face of mountains of scientific evidence disproving a solid link between body weight and health.

What does it mean for your approach to nutrition?

When I work with a client, I don’t focus on calorie counting, stepping on the scale, or any of the typical diet tactics. The statistics make it clear that diets don’t work. In fact, diets can actually cause significant harm, from perpetuating weight cycling and all of its adverse health impacts to contributing to eating disorders.

Instead, I focus on building healthy habits in simple, practical ways using small steps to make it maintainable. We focus on sleep, stress management, hunger cues, and intentional movement as well as food because it’s all interconnected. We work on finding the balance that works best for each individual client and finding ways to make it simpler and easier to eat nutrient-dense foods. It’s not about counting calories; it’s about tuning in to your needs.

If you were wondering what does anti-diet mean, I hope this helped you better understand.

close up photo of delicious meat being grilled

Healthy Cookout Tips

As we are heading into the unofficial start of summer with Memorial Day weekend, many are likely curious about some healthy cookout tips. As with all things, I think the key here is balance – we should be able to enjoy our favorite cookout treats while also eating nourishing foods as well and not feel guilty about it. Here are some healthy cookout tips to help you do just that.

1. Don’t try to compensate

The first thing that many people try to do when it comes to any special occasion involving food is compensate for their food choices either by under eating or overexercising before or after. There are 2 issues with this approach: 1.) it doesn’t work, and 2.) it actually creates more issues. 

If you under eat in order to “make room” for your favorite cookout foods, you set yourself up to arrive at your event extra hungry. And in response to that, you tend to eat more food and more quickly than you would otherwise. In fact, studies have shown that folks who under eat prior to an event actually consume more in total that day than folks who eat normally prior to the event. It’s just not an effective strategy. 

Beyond that, when we restrict and binge as this strategy sets us up to do, we tend to experience feelings of guilt and shame. And those feelings then prompt us to restrict more, which inevitably ends with another binge. This is how the binge-restrict cycle self-perpetuates.

Likewise, overexercising to “burn off” what you ate does not work either. You don’t get to pick and choose what you body burns for fuel. And it takes a lot more to burn calories than you think. Overexercising to compensate for special occasion eating is much more likely to result in your getting injured, possibly keeping you from exercising later. 

2. Don’t deprive yourself of the food you want to eat

Take the stress and pressure off yourself by giving yourself permission to eat the foods you want to eat. If you arrive with a list of foods you’ve told yourself you’re not allowed to have, those exact foods are going to exert so much power over you and it’s going to be increasingly more difficult to resist them. So that once you finally have them, you are likely to binge on them. The best way to avoid that is to allow yourself to have them, normalize them, treat them like any other food. This will help you strike the right balance for yourself.

3. Stay hydrated

A lot of those foods we like so much at cookouts are really salty and can dehydrate you, as can the alcohol. Ironically, the more alcohol you drink, the more of those salty dehydrating snacks you’re likely to eat and vice versa. On top of that, cookouts take place outside in the heat offering more opportunity for dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your gathering.

4. Moderate your alcohol intake

In addition to contributing to dehydration, alcohol can also cause you to eat in ways that you normally wouldn’t – hello, drunk eating! But there is another way in which alcohol can hinder your healthy eating efforts. Alcohol is literally a poison to our body. And so, when we consume it, our body tries to process it out as quickly as possible. This means that the alcohol is processed before anything else you’ve consumed thereby increasing the amount of food you ate that gets stored as fat. Additionally, alcohol can impact your metabolism by disrupting your sleep. It can also impede your performance the next day regardless of whether you feel hungover.

5. Eat mindfully

This is a tricky one for social situations, but it is extremely helpful to eat as mindfully as possible at a cookout or other social event. This means dishing out a portion for yourself and walking away from the food table rather than mindlessly picking from it while you talk. It means pausing to check in with yourself while you’re eating and between portions to see how you feel. Should you eat more? Wait? What are you craving? It also means being consciously aware while we eat. Enjoyment of the food we eat is a key component of satisfaction and to experience that enjoyment we need to be mindful while we eat.

6. Mind your own plate

Avoid comparing your plate to others’ and don’t allow the comments other may make impact your enjoyment of your food. Remember, we all have different nutritional needs. What works for you won’t work for someone else. Comparing how you’re eating to how someone else is eating simply is not helpful. Here are some tips on what to do if someone does try to comment on how you eat.

Follow these healthy cookout tips to find balance for yourself so you can enjoy enjoy the cookout season and meet your goals.

man wearing brown suit jacket

Make Your Employee Wellness Program Effective

How can you make your employee wellness program effective?

Last week we talked about ways to measure the effectiveness, but we need to know the components of effectiveness as well.

Understanding Employee Needs & Goals

First and foremost, you must understand your employees’ needs and goals in order to create a program that caters to them. Regardless of whether your goals are to reduce healthcare costs, decrease absenteeism, or something else, the program must result in changes in employee behaviors and health to achieve those other goals. Understanding employee needs provides direction for your program design. What health issues do your employees struggle with? What obstacles prevent them from reaching their health goals? Where is there room for improvement in daily habits? Gather this information and build your program around it.

Participation

If your employees can’t or don’t want to participate in your wellness program, it can’t be effective. You can’t reap the benefits without participating.

You’ve taken care of step 1 if you’ve designed a program around employee needs because Step 1 is to get employees to want to participate. The programming must appeal to them.

But wanting to participate is very different from being able to participate. If workloads are out of control, employees feel pressured to skip their breaks, or are generally overwhelmed and burned out, they will not participate. Part of planning your program is to make sure employees can actually participate in it.

Another component of the ability to participate is the inclusivity of the program. Not all employees may be able to participate or feel comfortable participating in certain activities. Take those needs into account so you can offer alternatives.

Follow Through

Just as you need to make participation in the program feasible, you need to make follow through on program action items as feasible as you can as well. This could mean the provision of tangibles, such a fitness trackers or food journals. It could also mean encouraging breaks or better managing workloads. Or it could mean new initiatives, like an employee walking group. Remember, because of the tremendous impact work has on our lives (we easily spend up to 30% of our time at work), the onus cannot fall solely on employees to make healthful changes.

Assess and Reassess Regularly to Make Your Employee Wellness Program Effective

Waiting until the conclusion of an employee wellness initiative to find out that it wasn’t helpful is useless. Instead, check in regularly on the effectiveness of your program so you can course correct before it’s too late.

There are many components that contribute to your ability to make your employee wellness program effective. But if you are organized, methodical, and take these factors into account, you will be able to create a more effective program.

yellow and red round fruit on brown and white weighing scale

Is 1200 Calories Enough?

Is 1200 calories enough? If you spend time on social media, you may be a bit confused on this issue. On the one hand there is a crowd that is vehement that 1200 is plenty (it’s actually a hashtag). And on the other hand, you can find loads of posts about how 1200 is sufficient for a toddler. So which is true?

(Click here if you’d prefer to listen to this instead of reading it)

Content Warning: Discussion of calorie restriction, dieting, and weight loss

To answer whether 1200 calories is enough, let’s look at an example of calorie restriction from the past. During WWII, researchers conducted the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in which study participants underwent 6 months of strict and heavily monitored calorie restriction. As a result of that starvation period, researchers noted the following changes in study participants: decreased energy, increased fatigue, increased moodiness, decreased libido, decreased energy and strength (~20%), slowed heart rate and decreased heart size, and decreased blood volume. They also noted that participants developed an obsession with food. Participants talked incessantly about food, dreamed about food, and ate painstakingly slowly so as to make each meal last as long as possible.

During the re-feeding period that followed, researchers noted that participants regained the weight they lost but it took much longer for them to regain the lean body mass they started with. As a result, by the time participants regained that lean body mass, they weighed more than they did before the study.

The results of this study lead one to believe that these participants were hardly eating anything at all. But, on the contrary, they were consuming about 1550 calories per day.

How many calories per day should an adult consume?

From this we can surmise that if 1550 calories per day elicited that response, then 1200 calories per day certainly can’t be much better.

So if 1200 is not enough, then how many calories should an adult consume per day? According to the FDA, adults assigned male at birth ages 21-35 should consume 2400-3000 calories per day. After the age of 40, the FDA recommends 2200-2800 calories per day. For adults assigned female at birth ages 26-50, the FDA recommends 1800-2200 calories per day. How many an individual should consume within those ranges depends on factors such as: body size, activity level, underlying conditions, goals, etc.

What about weight loss?

We typically see 1200 calories set as a limit in low calorie diets. However, you do not have to stick to 1200 calories to lose weight. You simply must maintain a small calorie deficit, meaning consume fewer calories than your body uses. Please note, that weight loss is not as simple as calories in < calories out, however, as factors such as hormone status, hydration, underlying conditions, environmental factors, and more exert an influence on our weight. However, you do need a calorie deficit to lose weight.

I have several issues with 1200 calorie diets. First, it is extremely difficult to obtain the nutrition your body needs in just 1200 calories per day. Second, that few calories will not only leave you hungry, it’s just not sustainable. Our bodies respond to intense calorie restriction like this by reacting as though we are starving. That reaction includes slowing down our metabolic processes and also enacting a series of responses that drive us to find and consume food. As a result, you can only maintain a low calorie diet for so long before you overeat or binge. This is why dieters experience weight and diet cycling. Those periods of intense restriction AKA dieting can only be sustained for so long. And when they end, the dieter regains the weight they lost (and then some) and starts a new restrictive diet. And so on and so forth.

If you seek intentional weight loss, I recommend working with a professional who can set an appropriate caloric goal personal to you.

woman wearing black bra and white tank top raising both hands on top

How to get motivated

“I just can’t get motivated.” “I want to start but can’t get going.” I hear things like this a lot from my clients and I agree that it can be very hard to get motivated to do what you need to do to reach your goals.

Many people think that motivation strikes like lightening. But that’s not the case. Motivation doesn’t just appear out of the ether…most of the time, anyway. Most often, action must precede motivation. In other words, we need to so something to get motivation going. And, once we do, it can snowball from there.

Exercise illustrates this point very well. Have you ever noticed that getting to the gym is the hardest part? And once you’re there, you just get to work and typically feel good? Exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do, but by taking that action of getting yourself to the gym, you’ve got the motivation flowing to start and finish your workout.

So what can you do to get the motivation flowing for your wellness goals?

Start small and just do something. If your goal is working out, commit to pushing yourself just to warm up. And, after that, if you feel like you can keep going, go for it. If not, that’s OK! Try again another time. if your goal is cooking balanced meals at home, start searching for yummy recipes online. If you want to be more active or walk more, start by just putting your sneakers on. Give yourself the nudge to take a step to start.

There will be days when that motivation just doesn’t show up and that’s OK. But just waiting for it to show up on its own decreasing the chances of it happening.

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