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"Ask the Experts" Wellness Blog

Archive for December, 2011

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year”

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

“It’s the most wonderful time of year” according to the old Andy Williams song we hear sung frequently this time of year.  Let it be “the most wonderful time of year” by keeping up with the healthy habits you have worked hard at developing and maintaining.  Here are a few tips to help support your holiday food, exercise, sleep, and stress management goals:

  • “Low fat, low sugar, low (fill in the blank)” doesn’t necessarily mean low calorie or healthy.  Your best friend may say: “I took all the fat out of this recipe so it’s healthy.”  But beware!  Just because it’s low in fat or low in sugar doesn’t mean you can over eat it.  As with all things, think moderation.
  • Your regular exercise routine is important during the winter holiday season.  Thinking you will exercise more in anticipation of going to a holiday party however, may be a mistake.  Over exercising on a day to make up for a “food mistake” or a “food indulgence” can sabotage your good efforts of mindfulness and balance in nutrition and exercise.
  • Eat moderately.  Starving yourself before a big holiday party—not a good idea.  This is a sure way to over eat at that holiday party.  Be mindful about what you are eating throughout the day and make mindful food selections at your holiday parties; eat when you are hungry, quit when you are satisfied and only eat what your favorite food. 
  • Sleep is always important.   Skipping sleep to “get things done” can actually sabotage your efforts.  Being sleep deprived increases your risk of over eating, decreases the chances that you will do your workout and decreases your ability to handle stress effectively. 
  • Putting off your health behaviors until “after January 1st” can have you going backwards before the new year’s resolutions kick in.  At the very least, be committed to maintaining health habits through the winter holidays.  Thinking “I’ll just start my health program when the holidays are over” can be self-sabotaging.  If we are not mindful of our activity, nutrition, sleep and stress it’s easy to move backwards.
  • It’s easy to think “I have to do it all.”  If we try to do too much it’s hard to do anything effectively or efficiently.  Manage your time, make lists, and be realistic about what you can accomplish. Ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Make a commitment to moderation.  Moderation in eating, in activity, in purchasing, in sleep and in “doing.” 
  • Remember health and wellness is a journey, not a destination.  Enjoy the trip!!

I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

If you haven’t noticed, I think Dr. Michelle May writes incredible articles.  She is very good at sharing her documents, so here is another one for you to read.  Check out her website: and read more.

By Michelle May, M.D.

Excerpt: Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle

I love the holidays. For weeks, our family has been planning for the significant meals we’ll share. We’re each assigned to bring the traditional dishes we’ve become known for-and with our large family, there’s always plenty. During the blessing my uncle always gives thanks for the food that nourishes our bodies. Then the nourishment begins!

I know these types of gatherings take place all over the world, year after year. The comments are as traditional as the food. “Honey, this is the best turkey you’ve ever made. Please pass the potatoes and gravy again.” “I can’t eat another bite or I swear I’ll explode.” “Alright, just a little sliver of pie then.” After dinner people are sprawled out in front of the television, occasionally groaning or dozing off.

As much I love these special occasions, I now know that there’s an invisible line that I can cross if I’m not mindful. That line separates a great celebration with wonderful food from an afternoon of discomfort and regret. I constantly remind myself I live in a land of abundance where turkey and potatoes are available year round and food will always taste good. So why eat until I’m miserable? Why not enjoy the event and still feel good when it’s over?

When you live in a land of abundance, deciding how much food you need to eat is critical for lifelong weight management and health. As importantly, when you eat the perfect amount of food, you’ll feel satisfied–just right!

Just Right

Think for a moment about how you feel when you’re satisfied. If you’re mindful, you’ll notice that as you become full, the flavor of the food goes from fabulous to just OK and it gets harder to give food and eating your full attention. You are content, fulfilled, and happy. You feel light and energetic and ready for your next activity.

When you eat more than you need, you’ll feel unnecessarily uncomfortable, sleepy and sluggish. Eating too much causes you to feel low energy so you may not want to be active. Of course your body will have no choice but to store the excess as fat. It can also lead to feeling guilty which often leads to even more overeating.

So what can you do to prevent overeating – and what should you do when it happens anyway?

Prevention is the Best Medicine

  • Before you start eating, decide how full you want to be when you’re done. It’s fine to decide you want to be stuffed, as long as you’ve thought about the consequences.
  • Estimate how much food you’ll need to eat to reach that level of fullness. Prepare, serve, or order only as much as you think you’ll need; if you were served too much, move the extra food aside.
  • Before you start eating, visually or physically divide the food in half to create a “speed bump.”
  • Eat mindfully and check your fullness level when you hit that speed bump in the middle of eating, at the end of your meal, and again 20-30 minutes later.
  • If your goal is to feel satisfied and comfortable, it will help to move away from the table or move the food away from you to signal that you’re done as soon as you are get even close.

Am I Full?

Some questions you might want to ask yourself to help you determine how full you are:

  • How does my stomach feel? Can I feel the food? Is there any discomfort or pain? Does my stomach full, stretched, full or
  • How does my body feel? Do I feel comfortable and content? Do my clothes feel tight? Is there any nausea or heart burn?
    Do I feel short of breath?
  • How is my energy level? Do I feel energetic and ready for the next activity? Or am I sleepy, sluggish, tired or lethargic?
  • What do I feel like doing now?

If you’ve overeaten, sit quietly for a few moments and become completely aware of how you feel. Don’t beat yourself up; just focus on the sensations so you’ll remember them the next time you’re tempted to overeat. You may be less likely to repeat the mistake if you think through the consequences first.

Don’t Miss the Lesson

When you realize you’ve eaten too much, ask yourself, “Why did it happen?” and “What could I do differently next time?” Turn your mistake into a learning experience.

There are a lot of reasons people eat past the point of satisfaction: habits, learned behaviors, past dieting, and mindless eating. For example: “It was a special occasion.” You’re more likely to overeat if you only give yourself permission to eat enjoyable foods on special occasions. You don’t need an excuse to have a wonderful meal-so why use a special occasion as a reason to overeat? Ask yourself, “If this occasion is so special, why would I want to eat until
I feel miserable?”

Here are some of the other holiday triggers you’ll learn how to handle in chapter 7 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat:

I felt obligated.
It tasted good so I just kept eating.
I wanted to taste everything.
I was afraid I wouldn’t get that food again.
I saved the best for last.
I ate food I didn’t enjoy.
I wasn’t paying attention as I ate.
I ate too fast.
I mindlessly picked at the leftovers.
I had too much on my plate.
I was keeping up with someone else.
I wanted to get my money’s worth.
I hate to let food go to waste.

I Ate Too Much! Now What?

Even people who eat instinctively sometimes overeat. However, although they may feel regretful and uncomfortable, they don’t typically feel guilty. They don’t think, “Well, I’ve already blown it; I might as well keep eating then start my diet tomorrow.” Instead, they just listen to their body and return to eating instinctively by allowing hunger to drive their next cycle. By listening to your body’s wisdom, you can compensate for occasional overeating.

After you overeat, wait and see when you get hungry again. Rather than continuing to eat out of guilt or by the clock, listen to your body. It probably won’t need food as soon so you may not be hungry for your usual snack or even your next meal.

When you get hungry again, ask yourself, “What do I want?” and “What do I need?” Don’t punish yourself or try to compensate for overeating by restricting yourself. If you try to make yourself eat foods you don’t really want, you’ll feel deprived and fuel your eat-repent-repeat cycle. Trust and respect what your body tells you because it’s likely that it will naturally seek balance, variety, and moderation. You might notice that you’re hungry for something small or something light-maybe a bowl of soup or cereal, a piece of fruit or a salad.

Lastly, don’t use exercise to punish yourself for overeating; instead be active all the time and use the fuel you consume to live a full and satisfying life.

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter, founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program, and award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How To Break Your Eat-Repent