Smart Shopping

Given just the information below, which of these do you think is a healthy choice for breakfast?

Envirokidz Organic: $4.00           Nature Valley 100% Natural: $3.00

Chances are you chose Envirokidz Organic. What went into your rationale behind that choice? Was it the fact that the label says organic? The gluten free label? Or maybe the fact that it’s more expensive than the Nature Valley?

Here is the nutritional breakdown for each of these:

The Envirokidz bars contain just 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and one gram of protein. That is too much sugar and not enough protein or fiber. Looking at the ingredients list, these contain “natural flavors” AKA chemicals (processed packaged foods don’t have to be 100% organic to have the organic label) and FIVE different types of sugar. This is NOT a healthy breakfast option.

However, the Nature’s Valley bars are no better. Those contain 2 grams of fiber, a whopping 12 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Sugar is listed as the second ingredient on the label. Keep in mind, ingredients are listed in order of how much of each the food contains. That means that sugar is the second most abundant ingredient. The ingredients also include canola oil, which is almost always GMO and heavily processed, and “natural flavors” or chemicals.

So this was a little bit of a trick question since there really is no healthy option listed, but it illustrates what we typically consider when choosing foods and the information that we really need to look at.

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that many people associate higher price with healthier foods. In a world where organic options are pricier and processed junk food is cheap, this isn’t such a strange assumption to make. However, it’s not always true and can lead you to unintentionally make very unhealthy food choices. (Read more about this study here)

The ingredients and the nutrition facts are where the important information about a packaged food lies. Ideally, a smart breakfast cereal choice will contain at LEAST 3 grams of fiber, less than 5 grams of sugar, and at LEAST 3 grams of protein. This is so the fiber and protein can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. The way our food labeling laws work allow for manufacturers to put labels on their foods that may not be entirely true and reading the ingredients list is the only way to know what a food truly contains. For example, a package may say “0 trans fat” but the food still contains trans fats, also know as hydrogenated oils.

In a perfect world, we could all only eat whole foods, but reality is that we are busy and need some convenience in our lives so we are going to buy packaged foods from time to time. With the knowledge of how to shop smart, you can still make healthy choices in any aisle of the grocery store.

This is about YOU

As the temptation-filled holidays are coming to a close and the New Year is fast approaching, many of us are making diet plans and setting health goals with really wonderful intentions for 2017. To be completely honest, though, most of us will struggle with these diet and exercise routines and they will fall by the wayside. There are a lot of reasons for this but the one that I want to focus on here is that these diets and exercise schedules we find online and in books and magazines aren’t made for you. They weren’t put together with your goals, your motivations, your strengths, and your needs in mind. You are setting these goals and starting these changes to benefit YOUR health and improve YOUR life, so shouldn’t the things you do work with YOUR lifestyle?

I am right there with you on the healthy New Year’s resolution train. I have tried so many popular diets and exercised the way others told me and, every time, it went well for a few weeks and then fell off. What I eventually realized is that part of the reason why these things weren’t working is because they weren’t designed to accommodate the way I work.

We are all human and, as such, we all have our own motivations, limitations, and strengths. For any lifestyle change to really work, it needs to factor in what those motivations, limitations, and strengths are.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Fitness Resolutions:

In order to figure out what will and will not likely work for you, you need to figure out how YOU work. I recommend that you start out by asking yourself these questions to help shape your plans.

  1. What motivates me?

For most people, a lofty, long-term goal is not motivation enough to stick with a plan because it is so far off and abstract. Maybe you are success-driven and need to set concrete milestones for yourself at regular intervals. Maybe you are reward-driven and need to figure out a way to reward yourself for your progress regularly in order to keep going. Figure out how you are motivated and figure out incentives for yourself based on your motivation.

2. How do I work?

Some people are great self-motivators and can put together a plan and push themselves to stick with it. Other people need more instruction and supervision so individual training or group classes are a better fit for them than a gym membership. For others, being accountable to a gym buddy is what keeps them going. Figure out what your work style is (looking at how yourwork in your job or in school can help with this) and try some different ways to accommodate it. If you’re a visual learner, having someone recite something to you over and over again isn’t going to help you learn. Likewise, trying to keep to a running schedule on your own when you really need someone to encourage you to keep your pace up isn’t going to get you where you want to be.

3. What obstacles threw me off last time?

“The definition of ‘insanity’ is repeating the same behavior over and over again expecting a different outcome.” I don’t remember what movie this was in and that’s definitely not the real definition, but this statement is perfectly applicable here. If you don’t take the time to examine the things that worked and did not work for you in your past health endeavors, how will you be able to develop a more effective plan this time? Spoiler alert: you won’t. Was finding the time to work out or meal prep a problem for you in the past? Were you bored by your workout routine? Did you feel like your diet was leaving you feeling deprived or dissatisfied? Try listing out on a piece of paper what worked in one column and what didn’t in the other. This will become a helpful roadmap when figuring out your plan this time around.

4. What is my goal?

Having a concrete, measurable, time-bound goal is the key to success in pretty much anything. So many people start out their resolution with “I want to lose weight.” Okay, how much weight? by when? If you can’t answer these questions, how will you know when you’ve succeeded? how will you track your progress? how will you stay motivated? You can’t.

 

It took me a long time of progress and set backs to figure out what truly worked to keep me on track with my workouts. Eating well was one thing, but, when I got home from work in the evening, a glass of wine and the couch was WAY more appealing than getting changed and going back out to the gym.

First, I figured out that if it’s up to me to get myself to the gym regularly, I’m not going to do it. Period. I need to have a set time to be somewhere and I need the added accountability of losing money if I am not there when I’m supposed to be. Knowing this, I figured out that fitness classes are key for keeping me on track. I book in advance, have it on my schedule, and, if I don’t go or cancel too late, I lose the $15 I paid for the class. Once I started going to these classes, I also figured out that I was working much harder and seeing better results than I was when I was actually making it to the gym. Having an instructor to regularly challenge me to work harder and to switch up the routine was what I needed to continue to improve. On top of that, I have fun in those classes! And that is some solid motivation, too.

We live busy lives and are surrounded by temptation and excuses every day. Why make it harder for ourselves by trying to force ourselves into a mold that doesn’t fit? If you want to live a healthier life, you absolutely can and you can find a way to do it that suits you.

 

 

My Journey

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been there: having to torturously force yourself to get out of bed 5 mornings a week, the dread of heading in to the office, the tiresome feeling of going through the motions, the struggle to keep from flipping your desk and running out screaming, the overwhelming and constant nagging knowledge that you are not doing what you are meant to be doing. You’re not fulfilled. You’re not happy. You’re trapped. Truly, I think only the most fortunate of all of us have never had a work experience like this.

But that’s what I was doing for years. I was forcing myself to go through the motions at a job that I had no passion for anymore. It left me stressed out, resentful, depressed, drained. It hurt my mental health, it hurt my relationships, it hurt my self-worth. I stopped taking care of myself. I started drinking more. And I felt like crap.

But what was I supposed to do? This is what I went to college for. This is what my mother sacrificed so much for me to pursue. This is what you’re supposed to do. You go to college, prepare for a field, get a job, and you slave over it until you retire and if you’re really lucky you won’t hate it.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. The thought of another year, no, another day, in that field without an end in sight was enough to make me cry. I wasn’t being true to myself and I wasn’t making a difference – not the way I wanted to anyway. But I literally had no idea what to do. This was all I’d ever known. I came from a family where everyone did the same thing for decades. And, on top of that, all of that time spent pretending left me without a sense of myself.

I knew something needed to change and I didn’t know what or how, so I started with what I knew: myself. Step 1: start taking care of myself again. So I stopped keeping wine in the house, I started meditating again, I started working out again, I started eating right again. And,man, what a difference! I started doing things for myself instead of doing things out of obligation. And, slowly but surely, I started reconnecting with myself and my passion.

It took a while and a lot of conversations with friends and strangers and a lot of research, but I started shaping an image of what I am passionate about. And then I learned that this could be a career and that there is even a name for it! I was going to become a wellness coach.

Holy crap.

What does that mean? I’m a government major! I work in government. I went to school for this. I’ve been doing this for years. How do I just drop all that? Oh my gosh, people are going to judge me. People are going to be disappointed in me. What if I fail? What if I’m wrong and I hate it? Will my partner forgive me if I drive myself into poverty following some harebrained idea and make him shoulder the entire financial burden of the household?

Step 2: stop overthinking, follow your heart, and take a risk. Turns out, the people who care about you care more that you are happy than that you’re following a more traditional career path. The people who care about you will support you in your pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. And the people who don’t support you? Well it turns out they were pretty shitty anyway and you’re better off. But be grateful for them, because they test your commitment.

So, I took my leap, put my money where my mouth is, and enrolled in the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. The wellness coach certification landscape is CRAMMED with different institutes, trainings, programs, etc. so it took a while to find the right one for me. One of the perks of my initial college education is that it taught me the value and process of evaluating the integrity and veracity of information. What appealed to me about Dr. Sears’ approach is his insistence that you “show [him] the science.” This program appealed to my more holistic leanings by focusing on more than just nutrition, but also appealed to my critical side by basing itself in science.

I’m four weeks into my training and have not a single doubt that I made the right choice. I am so excited and intrigued by everything I’m learning and can’t wait to share it. This is where my passion lies.

Within a couple months, I will be certified health coach focusing on family health and pregnancy. My goal is that within the next year, I will be able to quit my job and be working for myself in my own coaching practice. For now, I’ll be using this space to post about my journey training and following my dreams.