Back in the spring, I excitedly signed up for a summer running camp for grown-ass women. During the course of marathon training this summer, I developed a femoral stress fracture, and when I emailed the organizers to request a refund, I got a hard NOPE. What should have been an empowering weekend for strong women to come together over running...actually was.Read More
A runner doesn't gain speed by running a once or twice in a week.
A person won't increase muscle or lose fat by working with a personal trainer once every couple weeks in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
An overweight person will not lose weight by adding in a couple salads a week to a diet that still includes a plenty of dinners out and lots of refined starchy and fatty foods.
The not-so-magical magic for achieving results is consistency.
It's consistency over a period of weeks and months that leads into years where real results are achieved and maintained. Success in achieving a goal is the sum of all the small efforts in support of your goals, repeated day after day after day.
The more often you practice the skills that support a healthy diet--planning your meals, shopping to stock a health-promoting pantry + fridge, and preparing simple + nutrient-packed meals--the easier it gets and the more consistent you become.
This is where a health coach like myself can be a tremendous asset, providing practical resources, but perhaps even more importantly accountability.
Got a goal? Be consistent in your efforts toward achieving it! And be in touch if you need support (which may or may not include a kick in the ass when your efforts don't support your goals).
I love working with clients one-on-one, but there's something special that happens in the group setting as the participants realize (and as several participants commented in the end-of-program survey), "It's really helpful to know I'm not alone with my struggles."
This spring, I led two Eating for Wellness group health coaching programs where I had the distinct pleasure of helping 30 men and women articulate their health and fitness goals and to help them make progress toward achieving them over a short 4-week session. While everyone's health and fitness journey is unique, I'll be damned if we don't all bump into the same obstacles:
- Food is delicious, including the kind that doesn't support our health goals
- Old habits have a way of sticking around
- We're short on time and seeking convenience
- Our environments often encourage us to overeat or to eat calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods, both at work at home
- Eating out socially can be challenging
- Emotional eating driven by stress or boredom
- Decision fatigue
- Relationships that include rituals and habits that don't support health and fitness goals.
But the good news is that with so many common obstacles, there are also corresponding common solutions! Having access to solutions doesn't mean that a switch is magically flipped and obstacles are eradicated. But having access to a host of solutions, a supportive network of peers and a coach yammering in your ear and showing up in your email inbox is a great start to eliminating those obstacles.
I'm excited to share that the next round of Eating for Wellness launches October 25, with a focus on strengthening healthy habits ahead of the holidays. I invite you to join me and a network of your peers to talk about your goals, uncover your obstacles and share solutions! More information and registration can be found HERE, or shoot me an email with questions.
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.
I came to the pharmacy to buy a hairclip—a hairclip, dammit—and I got waylaid in the seasonal aisle by this perfectly engineered and magnificently organized abundant aisle of expertly manufactured salt, sugar and fat, the triumvirate of deliciosity in Easter candy form.
It’s a work of art, isn’t it? There is nothing accidental about the way this candy is made, packaged of displayed. It’s a setup for suckers like you and me.
But if you think you’re going to buy a bag (or two, or what the hell, three or four) and stash this candy away, be forewarned: You’re going up against a team of scientists who have carefully engineered this candy to be absolutely irresistible. You’re going up against masters of flavor and texture, carefully studied focus groups and expert marketers. They’ve put in a lot of work in the engineering of this candy to blow your mind, and they’re betting you can’t stop at just one piece.
They’re likely right.
When my clients report how frustrated they are that they can’t have just one Reese’s egg, just one Cadbury crème egg, just one chocolate bunny, I remind them they’re betting against the house.
It’s no exaggeration! Michal Moss wrote an outstanding book about the science of junk food, and how food manufacturers are mathematically manipulating the salt, sugar and fat in our food to make it compellingly craveable.
So, before you throw a few bags of candy into your basket thinking this will last till Halloween, may I suggest that either A. You run like hell out of that aisle, or B. Buy a single serving size if you’re confident one bite won’t trigger a binge-fest the ends with you finishing off a box of cereal and a jar of peanut butter.
And in the meantime, I highly recommend reading Michael Moss’ Salt, Sugar and Fat.
Need support in building healthy habits and learning to treat treats as treats? Let's talk!
As a health coach, one of the toughest things I ask of my clients is honesty. Not just with me, but with themselves. As we begin the work of setting goals—whether it’s weight loss, fueling a long-distance race, improving diet per a doctors’ orders or a combination of the above—honestly assessing the obstacles to those goals is a key step.
Assessing your daily behaviors with brutal honesty can reveal uncomfortable truths: Some of the best parts of your week and some of the most important relationships in your life revolve around habits that counter your health and fitness goals.
Your beloved daily sugary coffee drink break with coworkers, your twice-weekly happy hour complete with beer and wings, your weekly date night with your partner, or regular dinners from your favorite takeout spot could all be preventing you from achieving your goals.
What do these habits have in common? A. They’re fun. B. They’re full of empty calories.
I’ve worked with clients who are in denial about these obstacles. They consciously or unconsciously decide that they’re not willing to budge on these habits, so they tell me they’ll be 100% on point every other time except during these events. Or frequently they minimize these habits and don’t tell me the full story. And sometimes (would you believe it?!) my clients don’t disclose these habits at all, thinking they’ll be able to make progress without changing these details. Then weeks or months in, the details come out, and the reason lack of progress becomes very evident to me.
If you’re stymied on making progress toward your health or fitness goal, and ready to begin the tough, honest work of assessing your obstacles and making real change, I invite you to join “Eating for Wellness,” a four-week group health coaching program I’m offering beginning in March at Charm City Run Timonium and Columbia locations (yes, it’s at Charm City Run, but no, the program is not designed for runners).
I am SO excited to share that next month, I'm launching two group health coaching programs with a focus on the basic tenets for eating healthfully, including understanding what a healthy diet is, healthy habit-building, stress management, and plenty of practical skills! One program will be in Baltimore County and another in Columbia.
Why group health coaching? There are distinct benefits to group coaching as opposed to one-on-one:
A. The price is SUPER affordable
B. You have not only my support and resources, but the support of a peer group. Group work is especially effective for men and women who don't feel they have positive reinforcement from their family or friends in regards to making healthful change.
I can't wait to share all the details with you, but for now, if you're interested, please complete the form below, and I'll email you as registration opens!
Feel free to share any requests or to let me know what some of your challenges are when it comes to healthy eating.
If you want to lose weight, cut back on sugar, or clean up your diet, change doesn't start on your plate. Change begins with your mindset. Here's an example I've encountered, oh, let's say, 500-something times...Read More
If you've been struggling with weight loss goal or if your efforts to eat more healthfully never quite seem to pan out, would it surprise you that your inability to achieve those goals may have nothing to do with the food?
If all we needed was education on why it's important to eat vegetables and reduce our reliance on heavily processed foods, more than one-third of Americans wouldn’t be obese. And my job would be really easy: I'd meet with my clients a couple times, then I'd send them on their merry way to achieve their health and fitness goals.
So if it's not the food, what is it? Food is the final step in a pleasure-seeking chain of events. It can be a very short term pleasure followed by guilt, but pleasure nonetheless. We have to examine the steps leading up the chain that result in our making food choices that directly counter our health and fitness goals:
Habits: Habits are awesome. We create a habit by frequently repeating a behavior until that behavior becomes almost involuntary. If you always eat ice cream after dinner, stop at the drive through on Thursdays or eat chips while watching TV, you've created a habit. Longstanding habits took time to build and are extraordinarily difficult to break without a tremendous amount of intentional effort.
Nostalgia: Sometimes a cookie isn't just a cookie. A cookie reminds you of mom or of being a kid or of a favorite time of year. For some, eating the cookie is not just consumption of energy in the form of flour, butter and sugar. It's love. Powerful food associations charge food emotionally as symbols, and eating them can have effects far beyond the calories consumed.
Environment: Neatly tied in with habit, your environment is a huge impact on what and how we eat. Keep a cereal box on the counter, and that cereal is getting eaten. Keep a bowl of oranges on the counter, and you eat an orange. The food you bring into your environment is the food you will eat.
Stress and boredom: We're pleasure-seeking animals, and the antidote to stress and boredom is a hit of pleasure. One of the easiest ways to hit that pleasure spot in our brains is to eat.
Relationships: This one is tough. Our relationships can either support or hinder healthier eating. If you're trying to eat more vegetables but your wife despises them, or if you're trying to cook more at home but your boyfriend wants to go out several times a week, now you have a hurdle. Our family, friends and romantic partners have HUGE influence on what we eat. My clients who draft in this network to support them in healthier eating fare far better than my clients who don't.
Food really is the last step on a pleasure-seeking mission. Focus on food or calorie-counting alone is the equivalent of telling a drowning person to start swimming. There are many more factors at play than the water.
If you're seeking support in unravelling those habits and factors holding you back from becoming your healthiest self, let's talk.
Over the last month, I’ve heard some variation of the phrase “I didn’t have a choice,” in regards to food about 7,290,261 times. Intelligent men and women with big health and fitness goals (including weight loss goals) are sitting down with me to recount with regret the horrors of cheesy, greasy, sugary, starchy holiday feasting…
I was at a party, so I didn’t have a choice.
I was out to dinner with friends, so I didn’t have a choice.
Someone gifted it to me, so I didn’t have a choice.
I was traveling, so I didn’t have a choice.
[ ____________________ ] is a family tradition, so I didn’t have a choice.
The beauty of being an adult human who is not in captivity is that we always have choices. The trick is whether you choose to use your choice.
You can choose to eat a big green salad before going to a party, so you’ve gotten some vegetables into your diet.
You can choose to split an indulgent meal out instead of eating the whole thing (because eating half of a cheesy, greasy, sugary, starchy thing is always a better choice than eating all of it)
You can choose to say “Thank you!” for the food gift and not eat it.
In the days before and after “feast” days, you can choose to plan, order and make nutritious meals loaded with vegetables and healthy proteins to make a little room for indulgences.
Or you can say “fuck it,” and eat whatever the hell you choose.
But you alone own your choices and the consequences or benefits they produce.
My clients lean on me all year, but this time of year in particular, as their own personal Jiminy Cricket, chirping away in their ear to remind them to take accountability, own their choices, and to keep the goal in sight. If you need support in making choices—or simply OWNING your choices—please be in touch!
And click on if you need reminders on how to eat at a buffet, how to get around over-indulging in those office breakroom treats, and generally how to enjoy the holiday season and make progress toward health and fitness goals).
My calendar is filling up with clients seeking support to make it through the holiday season with fitness goals intact. The BIGGEST recurring lament this year is the state of the office break room.Read More
With the holidays upon us, it’s time to put your health and fitness goals on hold. You’ve got family events and work parties, plus there will be all manner of food gifts, more meals outside the home and plenty of celebrations centered around holiday treats. It’s nearly hopeless to hold on to your current level of fitness, much less to actually make progress toward goals, right?
In the words of our orange president-elect, “Wrong.”
I posit that YES! You can absolutely continue to make progress toward your health and fitness goals AND enjoy the holidays!
If you go in to the season expecting to blow it on your goals, you will. That’s called planned failure. How about opting for planned success this year? I’m sharing a few of my favorite strategies for making it through the season better than come into it!
1. Set a healthful intention! The intention you set ahead of the holiday season has a tremendous impact on your behavior. Draw on the reason behind your health and fitness goals: Are you working to lose weight? Are you trying to eat better in light of recent bloodwork? Are you training for a race or wanting to stay in race-ready shape for the spring? Keep that inspiration at front of mind and move to item #2.
2. Set specific, achievable behaviors in support of your goals. Instead of committing to lose 2 pounds between now and January 1st, how about committing to exercising 4 times per week, eating two vegetables at every dinner Monday through Friday, snacking only on fruit, or making dinner at home 5 nights a week? Then track those behaviors and be accountable to your commitments.
3. Eat your vegetables. When we’re eating indulgently, vegetables are usually the first item to go missing from the plate. At holiday meals and parties, fill at least half your plate with raw, sautéed, roasted and steamed vegetables first (I’m not talking about god-awful casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions, either!). With your plate full of nutritious stuff, there’s still room—just a little less of it—for more indulgent choices.
4. Be a snob. Cheap pastries with red and green sprinkles, flavorless gummy pumpkin pies, waxy chocolates, and all manner of commercially-made candy is showing up in office breakrooms and on our kitchen counters. I encourage you to only indulge in those really special holiday treats made with love, and pass on the packaged and highly processed options. Splurge on really special foods here and there, and savor those bites!
5. Don’t show up hungry. Women’s magazines used to encourage their calorie-counting readers to skip meals during the day and “bank” calories so they could eat whatever they want at the party. We now know that approach backfires: Show up at the party hungry, and you’re much more likely to overdo it at the buffet and the bar. On the other hand, if you make good choices during the day, eating plenty of vegetables and lean protein, your hunger will be more in check, and it’s much easier to make good choices (see #3 and #4).
6. No wallowing allowed. OK, so let’s say you arrive at a party with a good intention but you overdo it on dinner, drinks and dessert. Go immediately to Plan B: Get over it. One meal doesn’t make you healthy, just like one meal can’t give you heart disease or make you fat. It’s about a lifestyle of choices, so get back on track with the next meal or snack.
7. Remember the reason for the season: Sure, there are lots of delicious foods around at the holidays, but this time is really about family and friends. It’s about expressing gratitude for all that we have. Food brings back and creates memories, but don’t let it be your sole focus.
If you need support and accountability to get you through the holidays, let’s talk.
Almost a week ago, I ran my 9th full marathon, the Richmond Marathon. Anytime I run one of these ridiculously long races, I have lots of time rattling around in my own head to do some soul searching, and this race was no exception.
Though I was out there on my own two feet and in my own head (oh, what a place to be!!), I did not run this race alone.
I ran this race with months of training and support from Charm City Run coaches and training buddies.
In the days, hours and even minutes before the race, I was flooded with messages from family, friends and clients sending me good vibes. Every single message was meaningful in my 3 hour, 45 minute and 46-second journey, and I thank everyone who took the time to send them!
I ran this race with my husband's voice in my ear, full of confidence in me, "You've had a great season--this is your race!"
There was the outstanding pacer, Mike, who led the 3:45 pace group. I slipped into the group and let Mike carry the burden of hitting our mile markers at an even pace.
Then there was that guy cheering just before we crossed a big, blustery bridge who called out to me. I was about 50 feet behind the pace group as we moved toward the incline, when this person who had never seen me before, had no stake in my success or failure, yelled out, "You're looking good, but you need to catch up and tuck in behind that pack to get over the bridge! Go! Go!" And he was right. I sped up and huddled in, shielded from the worst of the wind and pulled along by the energy of the tightly packed runners.
Volunteers at aid stations made eye contact with me even when I was at my saltiest (literally and figuratively) and most exhausted, and cheered me on as they handed off paper cups of water.
And I have to thank the coach hanging out around mile 22 who jumped in and ran with me for about a quarter mile when I was tired and achy and had a terrible pins-and-needles buzzing from the knee down in my right leg. This older gentleman was a stranger to me, but he had clearly run a few races. He saw me wincing and said, "Now's the time for you to get REEEAL UGLY with it! Just let it get ugly!" And he whooped. And at mile 25, having been given full permission to get ugly, I howled, I huffed, I spat, and I pushed. And I. Got. Ugly.
Qualifying for Boston has always seemed a distant goal for me, a pretty solid but not exceptionally fast runner. But in this race where I dug so deep and accepted so much from others around me, I almost achieved a qualifying time, missing it by less than a minute. This race was a personal best for me, and while I was the one moving the legs, it most definitely didn't happen alone.
Whether running a 100-miler or a 5K, joining a new gym, committing to a healthier diet or trying to quit smoking, this race reminded me we are so much stronger together than we are as individuals.
Quite a few clients come to me for support in achieving a health or fitness goal, whether it's losing weight, completing a 5K, achieving a personal best in a marathon. But did you know that many more men and women seek out support after they achieve a big goal?
Imagine working for weeks and weeks, maybe months, maybe even years toward a specific goal or event. There's a laser focus on achievement, and daily satisfaction in completing all the little tasks aligning you toward your goal.
Once that event is in the rearview, there's a void left, sometimes even a bit of sadness, and an overpowering question: Now what?
I frequently see long-term dieters who achieve their initial goals seeking out more and more drastic measures so they can achieve further results and enjoy the satisfaction of daily mini-achievements. They undertake juice cleanses, anti-science bullshit diets like Whole 30, and other over-the-top schemes to fill the void.
Many runners become serial racers so they never find themselves in the void. Then the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and they get less and less of a buzz from their efforts, their results become spotty--or worse, they become injured and stop achieving personal bests--and the whole thing feels more like a slog than a healthy and fun pursuit.
There is another option: Pivot to focus not on a short-term goal, but on your long game, by working on becoming the healthiest version of yourself. The work you do now on building new and sustainable, healthy habits for the long term will prime you for achieving your next shorter term goal.
If you're in "Now what?" mode and not sure where to go next, let's talk!
Taking a vacation and properly unplugging is important for too many reasons to list here, but why is it that so many of us return several pounds heavier? Why should a vacation from work also be a vacation from our health and fitness goals?
Here's my theory: Food is pleasure. So is booze. Vacations are pleasure-seeking missions. So if we're looking for a quick hit of "ahhhhh," or a way to accelerate the feel-goods, food and alcohol do the trick. And with plenty of pleasure-seeking free-time and an unending variety of salty, fatty, sugary food plus alcohol at all hours, it's easy to see how those few pounds pack on so quickly.
But I have great news: We can enjoy vacation without getting fat.
In May, I took a seven-day (seven-day!) vacation on the peninsula of western Costa Rica with John (Mr. Live Full) and his folks. We stayed in a suite in a beach house with the back door a short walk from the beach, and the front door a short walk into the jungle. I ate delicious food including my share of treats. We took a surf lesson. Despite being as flexible as a wooden post, I dragged John and his mom to a yoga class in a serene studio on a hill overlooking the jungle. We walked on the beach every day. We visited a monkey refuge! The locals carved out a trail system through the jungle for runners, and John and I explored it on slow slogging steamy runs, listening to monkey and bird calls (and ducking in mortal fear of being peed or pooped on by monkeys). And it was awesome in the literal sense of the world.
I actually made progress toward my fitness goals! Here's the secret formula:
1. Begin your vacation with an intention.
The intention you set as you enter vacation mode is the most important factor in whether you will gain or lose traction toward your health and fitness goals. People who say "I'm going to blow it out and put on a few pounds on this trip," do. People who say, "I'm going to come back from vacation no worse for wear," or even better, "I'm coming back from my vacation in better health, maybe even down a pound or two," do. Above and beyond that, set other intentions, like logging some miles if you're training for a race, walking daily, or checking your phone only once per day during designated times (oh, the horror!). Unless you're actually taking some kind of themed trip, like visiting a bratwurst festival or a city made of chocolate, the purpose of your vacation is not to eat food and drink booze, so set a positive intention!
2. Seek out new pleasurable experiences that are not food.
Lying around in a hotel room watching TV emptying out the minibar is fun. Eating giant meals is fun. Eating pizza and drinking beer? Yep, also fun. But trying new experiences with people you love is much more powerful and creates memories you'll have forever. Seek out non-food-or-booze-related fun.
3. Be active.
You can see more on foot than you can from a car, so use those legs when you can. Find some active adventures (see #2). .
4. Treat treats as treats--even on vacation.
Every eating experience doesn't have to be a total blow out. If you're going for a decadent dinner, make breakfast and lunch more healthful choices. If you're working toward a weight loss or fitness goal, be a food snob. Enjoy the really good stuff, like beautifully-crafted desserts as opposed to mass-produced sweets; local brews vs crappy watered down beer; or freshly baked bread vs crappy white rolls.
5. Have a buffet strategy.
This is a hard-and-fast rule I give to all of my clients: Before you pick up a plate, walk the entire buffet line at least once, and choose with your eyes first. Then pick up your plate, and fill it once, starting by filling at least half the plate with vegetables. Then enjoy a bite or two of the decadent stuff. (More on the blessing-slash-curse of buffets and sensory-specific satiety HERE.)
Have a great summer vacation!
Need support setting your vacation intention? Let's talk!
After years of working with clients, I have concluded you must be willing to make a change if you want to experience one. Allow me to save you some time and soul-searching by sharing some general truths...Read More