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Monday, December 22, 2014

3 Reasons Why Restricting Junk Food is Actually Bad For Your Health

Have I finally lost it? Have Christmas cookies taken over my brain (I wish!)?

With the holidays in full swing the treats are a'plenty and the preparation for reluctant New Year's resolutions will be in full swing a week from now. (read here about how to set killer resolutions)

I want to challenge you to shift your thinking when it comes to junk food. Abandon the 'all or nothing' mentality and just eat the food, and enjoy it. 

Here are the top 3 reasons why deprivation and restriction ruin your health and 8 steps to eat junk without derailing and gaining weight

1) Deprivation increases your brain's reward response to food


This means that if you restrict food from your diet, your brain will actually react more strongly (pleasurably) when you finally do eat it than it did when you cut it out in the first place. A study by the Oregon Research Institute found that "abstaining from food intake for longer durations of time increases the reward value of food, which may lead to poor food choices when the individual eventually does eat." Though this study specifically evaluates overall calorie restriction, many attempts to restrict a particular food, like sugar, coincide with an overall restriction of food in an attempt to lose weight. Bad move. Restriction is almost impossible to keep up (thanks to our Amygdala) and will likely cause you to overeat when you finally cave. And you will cave.

2) You likely eat more junk than you believe you do

Most of us have a pretty poor memory when it comes to what we eat. What did you eat for breakfast today? How about yesterday? What about lunch four days ago? We think that we're keeping good mental track of our food intake, but in reality, we remember very little about what we eat day to day. We do remember the feelings and emotions we associate with food. For  example, if you are always telling yourself that you shouldn't eat sugar, you're more likely to believe that you don't eat very much sugar. So when you come face to face with that snowman cupcake, you're more likely to indulge because you honestly believe that "you never do this." The best way to find out how true that really is, is to keep a food journal for three weeks. You'll likely be surprised at how often you really do indulge. Which leads to reason three.

3) Restriction leads to all or nothing/binge cycles 

The game looks a little like this: You stress often about not eating junk and so you tell yourself and believe that you rarely indulge. So when you finally do allow yourself, you eat
 way more than you otherwise would because "you never do this" and aren't "going to do it again any time soon." So instead of eating one bowl of ice cream, you eat the entire pint so it's not there tomorrow. Wouldn't want to eat it two days in a row, now would you? While you're at it, why bother working out? No amount of reps at the gym tonight are going to burn that off. We'll call this day a loss. But shit, now you've eaten the entire pint of ice cream and skipped the gym, so you feel guilt and shame. Enter the new motivation and self loathing. You're not going to do that anymore, are you? From now on, no more ice cream. Do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars, go right back to the beginning and get your ass back into body jail. Sometimes these cycles can last days and some can last for months, gaining tens of pounds in the binge/nothing phase.

So if you want to lose weight and you're not supposed to deprive yourself of the foods that make you fat, how are you supposed to eat junk and still lose weight?


Here are 8 tips to eat whatever you want without going overboard and gaining weight:

1. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want

Much of our desire to eat crap comes from telling ourselves that we're never allowed to do it. Our inner rebel wants to eat it just because we're not supposed to. Let up a little on your tight grip and watch the desire diminish.

2. Eliminate the concept of "cheating" and "rewards"

Similarly to number one, "cheating" and "rewarding" yourself with the same food is a big of a mind mess. Instead of cheat days, just eat the food if you want it so badly. Just make sure you enjoy it. Instead of rewarding yourself with junk, reward yourself with healthy habits, like a massage or manicure. Indulge when you want, reward yourself with some great non-food treats and you will eliminate the confusion.

3. Cultivate a relationship of caring for your body, not fighting it

Despite how it may feel, your stomach fat isn't out to ruin your life. Your body is a physical manifestation of the choices you make and belief system that you hold. Your current form is your body's best efforts to maintain itself despite crash diets, binge drinking and constant bad mouthing from your brain. Cut your gut a little slack. Instead, try to work in partnership with your body. If you're not feeling your best, take a step back and evaluate what you can do to better care for your soul's temple. Your body craves nutrients, and responds well when it gets them on the regular.

4. When you do indulge, really indulge

Upgrade your junk food. You can indulge in chips, ice cream and beer without eating Doritos, Little Debbie and Miller Lite. Try exploring the aisles of Whole Foods and make the switch to gourmet, hand made ice cream sandwiches, baked chips and organic craft beers. The price tag is usually higher, which means you'll buy less of them and probably less often. If your ice cream sandwich is five dollars, you'll probably just buy one, which means you can't eat the whole box. But holy crap are they delicious and worth every single calorie, bite and penny.

5. Add healthy foods in before or after, even if you're full

Eat more?! Junk food doesn't provide your body with any nutrients. Eating high sugar and salt foods that lack nutrients sends your body into crave-mode. Your body has to communicate that it isn't getting what it needs but can't tell you that it's time for a dose of magnesium. So you begin to crave in hopes that you'll eventually eat something with nutrients. So even if you've already had pizza and ice cream, choke down a green smoothie or a salad so that your body still gets what it needs. This will prevent you from continuing to eat junk for three more days. 

Bonus tip: do this before you eat the junk and you'll eat even less.

6. Continue with other healthy habits after, instead of deciding that you've failed

Accept gourmet indulgences as part of your routine. Deciding that these foods are just as much a part of your life as the healthy ones can be transformational. When you accept indulgence as reality, you eliminate the feeling of the need to be constantly starting your diet over. This is critical for breaking the all or nothing/binge cycle. After indulging, keep going on your merry, healthy way. Take out the trash and hit the gym. Business as usual here, folks.

7. Add some luxury non food indulgences

Binge on luxury indulgences instead of food from time to time. Get a massage with a friend, buy a $50 candle, organic body products or shower balls. Work a little more pampering and self-care into your routine and your need to binge on junk food will depreciate accordingly. A hot shower with a lavender shower ball trumps a pint of Ben and Jerry's any day. Ok that's a flat out lie, but it definitely does from time to time.

8. Maintain some non-negotiables

Junk or no junk, binge or not, add these ingredients to your "Non-negotiable, I will never eat" list. Hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners and artificial coloring. These foods are 100% toxic crap. In fact, they're not even food. Hydrogenated oils interfere with your body's ability to control hunger, metabolism and weight regulation. Each type of artificial sweetener comes packaged with its own toxic aftershock and artificial colors carry numerous health impacts. See a comprehensive list and health affects here.

When it comes down to it, eating junk is a part of life. Parties will always have sugary snacks and not all of your friends will be down to go to Whole Foods for lunch. The sooner you can make peace with this reality, the faster you will be on your way to joyfully accepting the balance of indulgence without derailing and losing weight for good. Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too, just maybe not the whole thing.

Happy Holidays!

With love,

Vanessa

Monday, December 1, 2014

3 Steps to Owning Your Resolutions This Year



The New Year always feels like a fresh start. When that ball drops, anything seems possible. That energized, “I can tackle anything,” mentality is like a high you know you’ll ride to all the way to your happiest, fittest self. For those first few sweet weeks, 5am doesn’t seem too early for the gym, sugar doesn’t even taste as sweet and those old bad habits seem to have stayed in hibernation.

Enter February. That jerk knocks you right off that pretty little high you’ve been riding and stomps your goals into the frozen mud under a grey Pittsburgh sky. “Four weeks in this year,” you think. “Not bad. Next year for sure.”

It’s time to break the cycle. 2015 is the year that you’re going reach your goals. It took you a lifetime to build the habits that you have. The decision and will to change are a great start, but they likely won’t carry you all the way to the finish line. To make sure you reach your goals this year, follow these three simple steps. Let’s use weight loss as the example.

1.      Identify the what – then figure out the why
The motivation to change can make or break your commitment to your goal. Weight loss will only motivate you for so long. The underlying reason you want to lose weight is the prize you win for reaching your goal. The goal itself is usually not enough to motivate you to make long term sacrifices to your sleep, or to step away from unhealthier foods and habits that you’re comfortable with. To find your underlying reason for change, state your goal and then ask yourself why you want to achieve it three times. The progression might look something like this:

Goal (what): I want to lose ten pounds.
Why 1: I want to feel better in my clothes and out of them.
Why 2: I want to feel more confident about the way I look.
Why 3: So that when I’m out with friends, I can focus more on what I’m doing than how I look when I do it.

The outward goal is to lose ten pounds but the real motivation and true desire is to feel self expressed in every interaction without the distraction of worrying about your outward appearance.

2.      Once you have the ‘why,’ work backwards to discover the ‘how’
Once you know what you want, it’s easy to make the decision to change everything in order to get there. In doing this, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s incredibly difficult to change many things at once and stick with it. Instead, once you’ve identified where you’d like to ultimately be, identify one or two things that you can do in the next two weeks to get you closer. Going back to the example of losing ten pounds, assuming you aren’t currently exercising, a reasonable change in the next two weeks might be to exercise once or twice each week. Once you feel comfortable with one step, you can increase it, or add another. The aim is to build a foundation of small changes that will get you closer to your goal without completely overhauling your life in the short term. This method is unnerving to some, as making small changes over time may mean delaying the instant gratification of greater change in the short term. Making small changes over a longer period of time however, is more effective in creating habits that will enable you to reach your goals and maintain your new lifestyle habits in the long term. 

3.      Forget failure
The only way to fail is to quit trying. Abandon the idea of failure, forget cheat days and ditch deprivation. Although change requires discipline, it requires even more flexibility. There are going to be weeks where everything works out and you get closer to your goal by the minute. There will also be many days where nothing goes right and you feel like you’ll never get there. The key is to shift your mentality around the latter. If you view each messy day as a failure, you’re much more likely to abandon your efforts. When you adopt the mentality of flexibility, the off days aren’t as big a deal because you know you can do better your next meal and that tomorrow is another day to hit the gym. The more you allow yourself room to mess up without the mental beating you’re used to, the more likely you are to keep going. 

Remember that the decision to make changes to your lifestyle can be intimidating and sometimes isolating. Making smaller changes and having patience with your progress can help reduce the stress around making these changes. Feel the fear and keep going. 

How will you make your goals work for you this year?

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