Habituating 2017

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Hey friends! Long time no talk. I’m sitting here on a random day in January thinking about the goodness that’s going to be this year. Working in the health and fitness industry, it often feels like a rat race to make sure you’ve got new content, new products, new life changing evidence that is going to help your clients be happier, healthier and better than ever. The truth is, I don’t have anything crazy and new for you to start off the year better than ever, just a basic reminder.

S  l  o  w  and steady wins the race.

There’s a lot of research on resolutions and habit change. One of my favorites is from psychologist and researcher, B.J Fogg. He emphasizes that to create a real lifelong habit, the focus should be on training the brain to succeed at small adjustments, then gaining confidence from that success.

The first step focuses on being very specific with your outcome. For example, I’d like to lose 5% of my body weight, or I want to feel less stressed at work. Second, figure out those “easy-win” behaviors (I call them quickies) that put you on the path to that goal. The key here is to figure out what works for YOU, not your co-worker, or your best friend. Maybe you find short walks or chopping vegetables more meditative than actual meditation. Perhaps you’re not into green smoothies but you sure like eggs, apples, and green salads.

The next step is to find something you already do as a habit and pair it with your new habit. This is key! Maybe that’s setting out your gym clothes next to your work bag, or putting out an apple on the counter every time you start the coffeemaker in the morning. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use your gym clothes or even eat the apple. Let’s not get crazy.

From there, it’s all about the little victories. One day you actually wear your gym clothes. Maybe you didn’t make it to the gym, but you wore the clothes. Sounds silly, but slowly, naturally, you’ll start walking in those clothes, and then adding in other more ambitious goals to your routine. Instead of identifying yourself as a failure for not remembering your clothes, you’re allowing yourself time to make the change. With every little effort, you’re succeeding and implementing positive behavior changes. You also get to celebrate! Tell yourself you’re doing a great job along the way. I do this with clients all the time by high-fiving them, and they think I’m crazy, but we’re celebrating little wins!

I’ve never been one to make big sweeping changes in my life starting January 1st, but instead, this has gotten me to think of habits I’d like to shift in my life.

My goals for new habits in 2017 include:

Waking up with my alarm and not hitting snooze twice…or three times.

Drinking more water at home. I’m great out and about with my bottle, but forget about water when I’m working from home.

Putting my phone away after 6pm. As a business owner, you feel like you need to be available 24/7 but you actually don’t. You need time for yourself (and Netflix) too.

Writing on the blog more! I did a lot of work-related stuff that kept me away from writing these past few months, but I’ve noticed that I miss just having a space to jot down my thoughts and rambles. Hope you like it!

Happy New Year to you! To hear more from Dr. Fogg, check out his Ted Talk from 2012:

What are some of the habits you’d like to adjust this year? Let me know!

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Finding Balance: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

In my time working as a private practice dietitian, I’ve had the chance to work with a wide variety of clients. From women and men who are seeking weight loss, those in recovery from eating disorder treatment facilities, seniors seeking more energy and weight management, those with Type 2 Diabetes who want to manage their blood sugar, and more. Of those clients, a lot the women I work with live with a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which can often leaving them wondering, why me? They often struggle with the inability to manage weight, feelings of anxiety, depression (which often leads to disordered eating habits), little energy to get through the day, and even Type 2 Diabetes. First, in case you’ve never heard of PCOS before or are interested in learning more, here are some facts about the condition:

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The biggest reality that stands out to me is that the condition is so “new” in the medical world. The criteria for diagnosing PCOS has only been around since 1935! There’s also often an unclear understanding of the symptoms, and even the lack of symptoms can be tricky for determining diagnosis which is why 70% of women with PCOS often go undiagnosed for years. If you feel you may have PCOS, your doctor will perform a series of tests including a physical exam, pelvic exam, blood panels to measure blood lipids and hormones, and an ultrasound to take a look at the uterus and the ovaries.

In an effort to raise awareness to PCOS, and because I believe in the power of storytelling, I’m sharing with you, my good friend, Ashley’s powerful and eye-opening diagnosis story. Ashley works in the school nutrition field but specifically with local farmers, and other companies/organizations in promoting and building the supply chain to get fresh, locally grown food in the schools. Ashley is also passionate about women’s health and using nutrition and lifestyle changes as treatment for PCOS. Here’s her story:

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Ashley making pumpkin seed dip as part of a Mesoamerican diet session at the 2016 Food Farm Finance Forum.

“I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 25. I waited until then to go to my first well woman visit. I’ve always thought something was “wrong” with me because unlike my two sisters, my first cycle came years after theirs (age 15) and has always been inconsistent. There were so many embarrassing moments during that time period since I had no way to “prepare”- it was basically like getting your period for the first time…every time.

For some family background, my mom is not a huge fan of going to the doctor. Go figure. In my adolescence, she told me that I would grow into a regular cycle and that the abnormalities that I was experiencing were normal for my age.

This can be true (for some), but I never acquired such normalcy. I had no other symptoms that would otherwise be indicative of PCOS. In fact, you can have PCOS and remain asymptomatic, which means you may have no way of knowing until you try to get pregnant. This is when most people find out and are diagnosed.

I decided to see a naturopath who specialized in infertility issues. I had no desire to get pregnant. I was in my  early twenties, working full-time, unattached, but I wanted to make sure things were in place for when the time came that I wanted children. I went to Dr. Grobe (in Mesa, AZ) based off a referral from a mommy-friend because she practiced both conventional and natural medicine. As a nutrition-focused lady, I wanted to survey a wide range of options in any treatment I might need. I made the decision to see a doctor before I knew that I had PCOS. It was in my first well woman check that the doctor and I discussed my abnormal cycle and she tested for thyroid and infertility issues.

My results showed that my thyroid was clean. The issue was that my sex hormones were all out of wack. Think, estrogen and those androgens. The doctor recommended that I try natural therapies to resolve what she and other naturopathic doctors believe is the underlying cause for PCOS – insulin resistance. They suggest focusing on diet and exercise to help manage. That freaked me out! Diabetes is now on the table. *Serious SAD face*

It is important to point out that I am a short, curvy pear-shaped lady with no previous history of diabetes in my family. My health indicators at the time were normal: blood pressure, waist- hip ratio, blood- lipid panel, blood sugars all “normal.” All of these indicators would point to no risk of developing diabetes except that I later found out…my mom also has PCOS and there’s a large connection to the genetic component to the condition.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll focus on the management and nutrition therapy for managing PCOS.

Resources:

Office on Women’s Health, U.S Department of Health and Human Services – https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.php

PCOS Foundation – http://www.pcosfoundation.org/what-is-pcos

PCOS Nutrition Center and fellow dietitian, Angela Grassi – http://www.pcosnutrition.com

Confessions of a Low-Maintenance Cook, Pt. 1

Otherwise titled as “Why I Don’t Post A Lot of Recipes.”

I’ll be the first to admit that most nights, I’m not exactly living it up in the kitchen. Most people I meet are a bit dumbfounded by this. You’re a dietitian though! Don’t you have your own vegetable garden (maybe someday), can your own salsa (nope), and make your own yogurt? (nope, but always wanted to try!) I consider myself a bit more “semi-homemade.” Not the Sandra Lee “Cocktail time!” and Kwanzaa Cake kind of Semi-Homemade, but more like meals that include various convenience ingredients and can be made in under 30 minutes. So maybe the good parts of Sandra Lee with a dash of Rachael Ray. I can almost hear Anthony Bourdain crying right now…

Working with my clients, I’ve learned that many feel the same way. While most more or less know what to do in terms of nutrition and have every intention of incorporating healthier routines into their lives, they’re just not doing it. Then we start to work on the why. Most of the time, it boils down to one simple reason: life gets in the way. There’s a lot of stuff to do and not enough time to do it. There’s work, school, children, animals, the list goes on and on, and what ends up happening is that the day gets away from us and we wind up over-eating or making poor choices mainly out of exhaustion, stress, or the dreaded “hanger.”

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One thing we focus on is letting go of the guilt of not having enough time in the day. Seriously. This is often the hardest part! Then, learn to embrace a simpler approach, and focus on being honest with yourself about what’s reasonable and what’s not. This is the hardest part! Take a good hard look at your goals, and your daily life, and figure out how to make it fit. It’s ok if your meals aren’t 100% from scratch. This dietitian won’t haunt your dreams if you buy a pre-made chicken, or *gasp* go through the drive-through. Let’s look at some of my go-to combinations:

Microwaveable brown rice + Rotisserie chicken + Frozen vegetables + lemon juice + pumpkin seeds

Whole wheat pasta + garbanzo beans + frozen spinach + jarred marinara sauce

Boxed, low-sodium chicken broth + Pre-cut mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) + (more) rotisserie chicken + diced, red potatoes

Brown rice noodles + frozen shrimp + pre-cut or frozen vegetable blend + Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce + chopped cashews 

Frozen turkey burgers + pre-washed mixed greens + sliced avocado + diced tomatoes + diced cucumber + balsamic vinaigrette

Pre-made pizza dough + jarred marinara sauce + diced low-sodium turkey breast + pre-chopped peppers + jarred olives + pre-washed spinach + pre-diced onion

For Part 2, I’ll share with you my favorite go-to brands and products (like those above) that have great nutritional stats, and also fit your budget. In the meantime, let me know some of your go-to, simple meals that keep you from turning in the Hanger Beast!

P.S My sister sent me this picture a while back on Snapchat (add me: eceegee). Sums up my approach quite nicely.

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