Fall Group Health Coaching

The holidays are coming! Will this be the year that you finally avoid the annual holiday weight gain? If you're ready, not just for a happy holiday, but to lay the foundation for long-term health, greater energy and lasting weight loss, I'm excited to announce my fall group health coaching program:

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During this four-week program in Towson, participants will…

  • Learn what a healthy diet is
  • Identify the habits and environmental factors that impact the way we eat
  • Acquire practical skills for shopping for, ordering and preparing healthful meals
  • Master the skills for planning healthy meals and snacks
  • Share recipes and strategize for eating healthfully to make progress towards health and fitness goals through the holiday season.

The greatest benefit of the program is support and accountability, not just from your health coach, but from the other members of your group. 

Full details and registration coming next week, but complete the form below, and I'll forward those details to you directly:

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Are our genes our fate?

My grandmother Shappy partying hard on her 99th birthday, July 2017

My grandmother Shappy partying hard on her 99th birthday, July 2017

This is a strange time of year for me: Over a span of less than three weeks, I celebrated my maternal grandmother's 99th birthday, observed the 14th anniversary of my dad's death, and I'll soon celebrate (celebrate?!) my 40th birthday. 

At this time of year, I can't help but think about that age old question: Are my genes my destiny?

My maternal grandmother was sharp as a tack right up until she was about 97, when she had her driver's license revoked, began losing her memory and started showing signs of dementia. She was always tiny and slim, and looked fantastic dressed up for her 99th birthday dinner. My father, on the other hand, was a giant man, literally and figuratively, who was obese for most of his life, yo-yo dieted for decades, developed type 2 diabetes, and died very suddenly at 57 (which was all at the same time a huge shock and yet wholly predictable).  

Surely genetics play a role in the health and lives of my dad and my grandmother. My grandmother smoked for decades before quitting sometime ago after a health scare. But she also has habits that support her longevity: She's always eaten like a bird. No meal is complete without a pile of tomatoes on her plate. Up until she was no longer able, she was mobile, loved to travel. And she kicks the butt of any fool willing to play her at Scrabble. 

My dad was a Division One football player in his youth but was completely sedentary in adulthood. His diet was lousy despite my mom's attempts to serve the family "green stuff." The cause of his obesity was no mystery, though the reasons he leaned so hard on food are sadly complex. 

I may have genes from my dad's side that make me X% more likely to become obese or to develop type 2 diabetes. I may also have genes on my maternal side that protect me somewhat from the damage of long-term smoking or otherwise promote longevity (alas, I can confirm I did not get the Scrabble gene). 

That said, there are habits I can practice today to support my long-term health: I can move my body regularly. I can fill my diet with nutritious whole foods: Vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. I can make sure I get enough sleep (still not as consistent as I could be here--work in progress!). I can limit risk factors like consumption of red meat, processed meat, added sugars and refined carbs, and I can avoid serious risk factors like smoking.

My genetics are my floor and my ceiling, but I have the power to determine how high off the floor I can rise. I have no plans to hang out on the floor. 

An open letter that big chain store about your checkout area

Dear big chain store containing items for the bedroom, bathroom and other areas beyond those rooms:

I came to your store to purchase a couple kitchen items, and found exactly what I needed! Here is what I did not need: The gauntlet of perfectly organized, brightly colored, carefully arranged snacks lined up along the line to the cashiers. There were gummies, chocolate(ish)-covered pretzels, tins of weird little candies, combo packs of crackers + Nutella, chocolate truffles, and even crap-filled "energy" bars to make me feel like I was making a virtuous choice in the midst of all the junk.

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You forced me into a maze that required me not just to walk past said food, but to stand in the midst of it as I waited in the slow moving cashier line. I felt the strong pull to snack, even though I'd had a perfectly reasonable meal not an hour before I came to your store. I watched as a couple women and one college-aged young man stood with their carts and basket, at first just glancing over at the racks, then casually picking up items, then loading up several items.

Thanks again for the great selection of organization tools in your store, but can't I just buy our "As Seen On TV" items without having to dig in and use all my willpower to make it through the checkout? 

Sincerely,

Lauren Shafer

 

"What did you eat in France?"

When I told clients and friends that Mr. Live Full (aka my husband John) and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Paris--land of crepes, baguettes and macarons--a common question came up: What are you going to eat? 

Yes, I'm a health coach, and I practice what I preach. But as anyone who's worked with me will attest, I love food. Vacations are all about seeking as much pleasure as possible in a short period of time, and I'm not immune to the charms of the triumvirate of quick and easy, super concentrated pleasure: Salt, sugar and fat. On the other hand, there's no pleasure in feeling overstuffed or lethargic in a food or booze hangover. And there's definitely no pleasure in finding you're a few pounds up and further away from your health and fitness goals when you return from vacation. I refuse to accept the notion that in order to enjoy a holiday, you must gain weight.

So with all that in mind, what the hell did I eat?

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1. Fresh stuff

The citizens of Paris muster up quite a demand for fresh produce. It was easy to choose delicious food off every menu that just happened to be full of vegetables, fiber and lean protein. We also made a point to seek out restaurants that specialized in fresh, local food, and our palates were rewarded. We wandered through a beautiful organic farmers market full of brightly colored vegetables, freshly baked bread and amazing prepared food, and we picnicked in the park. Even convenience stores had a selection of tempting fresh produce, and quick carry out spots always had plenty of nutritious options loaded with vegetables, beans and whole grains. 

2. Indulgent stuff

I'm not going to eat crepes under the light of the Eiffel Tower many times in my life, so you can bet I enjoyed that memorable treat without guilt. And handmade tarts with fresh fruit and flaky puff pastry overlooking the Seine River? Creamy sorbet topped with a perfectly crisp, gem-colored macaron in the park? Don't mind if I do! But I had a few caveats when it came to indulging:

  • I didn't indulge at every food opportunity (see #1 and #3). 
  • I'm choosy. I'm not a calorie counter, but I don't want to waste calories eating something that's "meh." I skipped the cheap packaged stuff in favor of the really special stuff.
  • One I chose, I enjoyed sloooooooowly.
  • I practiced the Michael Pollan food rule, "The banquet is in the first bite." The first bite triggers all the bells to go off in our feel good center. The second bite, while still good, is never as good as the first, the third is even a bit less satisfying, and on and on--it's the law of diminishing returns. I ordered the smallest size (a French small is WAY smaller than an American small!) and I often I split treats.

3. Some stuff in the hotel room

We all know meals eaten out are typically bigger and richer than meals eaten at home, so I controlled for one of those meals by making a simple breakfast in the hotel room. A bag of muesli, some chia seeds and almond milk made for overnight oats in our mini fridge. I also brought along some raw almonds (got to love Trader Joe's Just a Handful of Raw Almonds), which were ace in snacking emergencies in the hotel and on the plane. (Bonus: This saved us some cash because dang, Paris is expensive.)

4. Move my stuff

Basic math tells us that exercising (calories out) creates more room for eating treats (calories in). We were clocking in an average of 9-10 miles of walking per day, but that didn't create enough of caloric deficit to compensate for three meals of serious indulgence plus desserts. It did allow us an extra dessert or chunk of crusty baguette here and there, though. But just as important, moving feels good and walking is an amazing way to see a city, making it a vital part of my overall pleasure-seeking strategy. 

5. Non-food stuff

We enjoyed lots of good food, but our great time didn't revolve around it. We oooh'd and ahhhh'd at tourist attractions and art and buildings and nature; we talked; we got lost in the best possible way in a beautiful city; we people-watched; we walked and walked and walked; we got lost some more; and we created many lovely memories. 

Local produce doesn't have to be difficult

There's a misconception that in order to eat nutritious, locally grown food, we have to...

A. Spend a fortune.

B. Go out of our way to shop for it.

Those statements used to be true, but they aren't any longer. As much as I love shopping at the farmers' market, it's not always practical. Now grocery stores of all sizes, from behemoths like Costco to mom-and-pop shops are hearing our requests for better quality, more nutritious food, and they're answering by stocking more of it. Take a trip to a pretty standard grocery store like Giant and you'll find plenty of excellent options, including innovative growers like Bright Farms. Bright Farms is growing quality produce in greenhouses that lessen environmental impact while preserving flavor and nutrition. They're fresh, grown just down the road in Culpeper, VA, and the cost is beyond reasonable.

In a time when it feels like our voices don't carry a lot of weight, our dollars have carried a lot of weight with grocers! Our requests are being heard, and the spread of quality, locally grown produce in our grocery stores is inevitable. 

 

Need support in navigating your local grocery store and planning menus? Let's talk!