Monday, October 20, 2014

This Post is a Recipe for Success.... Just Kidding- I Don't Cook.

Sometimes, I like to imagine that I will go to sleep and wake up as person who gets some kind of enjoyment out of cooking. It has yet to happen. To me, the very idea of sitting in my kitchen and considering flavor profiles and following instructions is enough to make me want to sob. Not just a small little innocent tear of minor discomfort, but big terrible, my soul is dying and I'll never recover from this sobs of terror and inevitable doom.

As a therapist, I am trained to not share about myself, however, with my clients, in terms of food prep, I do mention that I hate cooking. I think it's because with people who talk about their enjoyment of the process, it's hard for me to hide a visible cringe coupled with a moment of jealousy, and when people tell me that they just order takeout because they don't like cooking, I feel it's helpful to mention that I really hate cooking as well, and then work together to create a plan for the individuals meal prep style.

I was always the kid, who when the bus was on the block, was still in my underwear and looking for a shoe. For me, having my meals planned ahead and ready is not only a convenience, but a necessity. I highly recommend some sort of structured approach to your food for the week. One method is doing one day of food prep, and planning the use of that food over the next few days. If you're like me, you will make a week of food, others are concerned with things like freshness and ecoli and may opt to do every 4 days. The only thing I would like to do less than meal prep on a Thursday night, is have my kidney removed in a back alley by Ray Charles with a butter knife, and even that sounds like it might be okay, because I would get a few days off work. Now, for those of you who enjoy cooking, this is the perfect time to try out one of those new recipes you saw on Pintrest, really highlight your culinary skills. For the rest of us, here is the time to go on Pintrest and find a recipe that requires the least amount of effort and will create the most amount of meals. 3 Ingredient Chicken, feeds a family of 15. Perfect. Sign me up, there is my lunch and dinner for the week. Stalin Work Camp Chili Recipe, feeds 60,000. Even better, I'm not even going to question how this incredible secret leaked. I'm just going to potion this bad boy out into Tupperware containers and call it a year.

For this style of meal prep, most of the work comes from actually knowing in advance your nutritional requirements,  how many meals you will need and when you will need them. Let's say you have a diet of 1600 calories, you eat 3 meals a day and 2 small snacks. You are home for breakfast and dinner, so you just need to plan your lunch and 2 snacks to have with you, but since you don't have the time and or the desire to cook when you get home, you want to have that prepared as well. Start out by writing a sample day. Breakfast, Snack 1, Lunch, Snack 2, Dinner. Write what you would typically be eating, then find the calorie content. Subtract as you go along from 1600. What you will most likely find is that you aren't eating enough. Be sure to add good fats and protein at meals where you are deficient in calories, maybe even add a meal so you can be sure to hit your requirement. Basically, my mom had to have me leave my shoes in the same spot every day or I would lose them within seconds of taking them off. I had an aversion to being in shoes. This aversion as a child is similar to my adult aversion to cooking. If I know what I'm eating and it's ready to go, I'm fine all week, without it, I'm basically standing around in the morning like a helpless underdressed child looking for a shoe.

Planning ahead and making sure you are hitting your daily calories is a tedious process, I know, I get that. After you do this for one week, you will pretty much have a list of the calories in the food you eat most often, and as you go along, you'll just have to look into any new additions you make. I find it helpful, and a little OCD, to have a running excel list, in alphabetical order of foods and their nutritional information. If you don't like tracking your calories as you go through your day, having a base knowledge of the nutritional information of foods common to your diet is extremely beneficial to helping make sure you don't go too far over or under your requirements for the day. If you're not interested in being a nutritional rain man, use an app like MyFitnessPal, or Noom coach to track your meals and calories, and look up calories when you are uncertain.

Now, write out a plan for the whole week, instead of just a day. I like to plan for things I can easily mass produce without paying much attention to: chicken, hard boiled eggs, overnight oats, rice, as well as things I do not personally have to prepare in any way: yogurt, nuts, berries, raw veggies. Another way to do this is to pick recipes you want to try, and then shop for them in addition to the basics on your list. That way as you prepare new recipes you can either portion them out for the week, or freeze some and use it again in the future. Then make your shopping list based on what you are planning. Even if you're not cooking it all on a specific meal prep day, if you've purchased it in advance, say a steak for Wednesday evening, then you are more likely to actually eat that, because its sitting home waiting for you to cook it, then to buy take out or fast food.

A meal prep day usually takes a significant portion of time. However, one of the most common reasons we fail to meet our fitness goals, either losing weight or gaining muscle, is because we fail to eat appropriately. If you know you aren't going to cook your meals during the week, setting aside a few hours to meal prep one day a week is just as important as making it to the gym. Make it an appointment with yourself, plus if you want to cut down on time, order your groceries for delivery from a company like Fresh direct, or buy in bulk from Costco and freeze the food that you can, so that way you only have to shop every other week maybe, and only pick up your produce and dairy weekly. You will also find that you save money, because you always have food on you, so you buy out less. You can save this money to buy yourself new clothes as you lose weight, or hire a personal chef to do this shit for you- that's the real goal here isn't it?

An added benefit to this style of preparation is that, life gets in the way. You may have your Tuesday food all set and in the fridge, but you're running late and leave your food home. By knowing what you were going to eat, you can easily make good choices by ordering similar options through take out, or running to a near-by deli or store and recreating your day. Additionally, if you brought your food but now the whole office is ordering Chinese food for lunch, you can make an order that's close to what you were originally going to eat, either content wise or calorie wise. Like, as much as we enjoy a turkey sandwich on Ezekiel bread with a side salad and a yogurt with pecans, let's be real, if being surrounded by 47 people eating General Tsos chicken isn't enough to make you want to change into sweatpants and put your diet on hold until takeout food is illegal, than I don't know what is. But now you know you have 500 calories to use toward lunch, and you can make a choice based on that. No guilt, no cheating, and you have an extra turkey sandwich for the meal prep vault.

Some people choose to prepare their food fresh, everyday. And to these people I applaud and bow, and extend an offer- if you ever want to come do that for me, I will pay you in love and appreciation of your skills and passions. If you are this person, it is still helpful to have your food planned out, that way if you are cooking your Monday food on Sunday night or Monday morning, you will know that you are hitting your nutritional requirements. So make a list of meals for the week that you are intending to make, then the same concept applies. If you over sleep and can't cook, instead of eating pizza, or just getting a salad and not making your calories for the day, you will have your list and see, "Oh I was supposed to eat Stalin work camp chili, for 2 meals, that's about 400 calories, with 20grams of protein,  and then almonds and yogurt as a snack." So when you go to create a Plan B for your meal, you will be able to say, hmm, I will get grilled chicken, and a vegetable, and that's only 220 calories, so I will add some rice, and maybe some peanut butter and carrots. Without the planed meal, you might think, "Eh I messed up, I don't have food, this day is a wash. I'll have pie."

Ideally, you will plan your food, prep it, and then eat it. In a perfect world this may happen. In the real world, by having a plan set, you are prepared for all of the occasional bumps in the road. Over sleeping, not wanting to cook, going out to dinner, being hung-over and not having the mental capacity to brush your teeth let alone plan a day of food. So buy a lunch box, and a ton of Tupperware, in the long run it will pay off. Whether you cook in advance, or day of, having a plan for the week is one of the best ways to stay on track with your eating.

You don't need to love cooking to be successful at healthy eating, but more than likely you do need a plan!

Here are some text messages that I actually sent to my brother, who fears for my health and safety:

My cooking style is basically, minimal effort, maximum hope I don't die.

This one proves I'd rather risk my life than cook a meal on a day that isnt set aside for meal prep:

Hey, we all do what we can in life. Embrace whatever feelings you have towards cooking and meal prep so you can better make a plan that works for you and your realistic abilities to make the food that will help you reach your goals during the week. Or, hire my brother. He seems to enjoy cooking enough to tell me how to live my life!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How To Avoid Setting the World Record For Largest Spandex Pants Ever Created

One of the hardest things about fitness can be staying motivated 100%  of the time. We look at people who run ultra marathons, or weigh 220 pounds of pure muscle with 2% body fat, and here we are, just being normal, using the elliptical for 45 minutes a day and asking to doctor to weigh us completely nude. Sometimes, this can be a great motivator, "Look at that guy, he has one leg and ran 300 miles, if he can do that, I can run a 10k" or, sometimes it can be a real mind -fuck "Well that guy with one leg can run 300 miles and I can barely make it up a flight of stairs. What's the point?" You look at these people, and think, "there is no way they ever wake up and don't want to do that, and today, if I was given the option, I would go get a root canal over going for a 2 mile run right now."

There is a quote, and once again, I am going to not look it up and not give anyone credit, but essentially, the quote says that you should compare yourself to yourself, or that you are competing with who you were yesterday, or something to the effect of that as long as you are giving it your all, you're winning. This might also be three different quotes. But I write a blog, I don't manage the archives of, and the main point I am trying to make, is that it's easy to compare ourselves to others, but really, you have to keep in mind your growth. You should be your own motivation. And if that doesn't show up in a google search im taking credit for it myself.

 When we work with goals, both long-term and short-term, when we first start something, it is easy to stay motivated. But what happens when you reach your over-all long-term goal. Imagine your goal was to lose 50 pounds and run a 10k. Because you read my blog, you are enlightened and didn't put a time limit on it, but you were hoping to achieve this is a year. While you were starting, you found Instagram quotes with background images of lions ripping apart prey inspiring. "Yes! I am A lion. I will rip the face off of this run and bring the remains back to my pride," you probably thought, and then you went off and ran 4 miles and felt good. Now, here you are. You have reached your goal. You are 50 pounds lighter, and you ran a 10k. While training, you started to feel like running was not all that fun. It was helping you reach your goal, sure, but you can't really remember ever being on a run and thinking, "Whooo hoo, this is great I want to do this every day for the rest of my life." Also you really don't want to lose any more weight. You made your goal, and you feel like anything lighter just isn't for you. What do you do?

Well, you could, give up. Gain your weight back and start over again. But that probably won't be helpful. A main problem with weight loss goals is that they are so concrete. 50 pounds is 50 pounds. Either you've lost it or you haven't. When this is our focus, we get so caught up in the number, that everything else because a side effect of losing weight, or a means to an end. What made you not give up your 10k goal when you realized you hated running. Was it that douche with one leg? Weight loss and fitness goals can be enjoyable, and running isn't the only cardio available. Previously, I mentioned that this is a lifestyle. If you are creating a lifestyle, don't you want to do it in a way that is enjoyable? When you are trying to set goals, imagine yourself as a new born baby; you are imprinting habits on yourself in this first year of your new life. If you teach yourself that your daily exercise is just a way to get to your 50 pound weight loss goal, once you hit 50 pounds, it's going  to be hard for you to convince yourself of maintaining the motivation to work out. You will look at Instagram photos of lions and one legged men doing great things, and roll your eyes, and start unfollowing accounts. Think of it this way, is it easier to motivate yourself to go to the beach, or to go to work?  If you want to stay motivated long after your goal has been reached, it is helpful if you enjoy the process of getting there. Find a fitness regimen you enjoy, find foods you enjoy eating, it shouldn't feel like work, it should feel natural.

It is important to focus on yourself on your way to your goal, really be aware of yourself during that process of losing weight and increasing your health. Ask questions, reflect on what you're doing.  Am I having fun? What don't I like about this? Is there a fun way I can get the same benefits? Once again, I advocate trying new things; hey, look at all those celebrities on dancing with the stars! They always lose weight and they are ballroom dancing. Find something you really enjoy doing. That way, long after you meet your ultimate goal, you will want to continue doing that and advancing in it as a way to set new goals.

Now, short-term motivation is also an issue. Like I said above, when we start doing something, it's usually easy to see results at first. As we watch our bodies change and as we start to feel healthier, we get into it. We go to the gym, we hit goal after goal, after goal, after goal, and then, sometimes we get stuck. We have a day where we just don't want to go to the gym. Running another mile on the treadmill is the equivalent of making a suicide pact with devil, and the very thought of NOT sitting on your couch watching Netflix until your eyes bleed actually brings you pain and sadness. Maybe we have a week like this. We start to feel discouraged, because we are not the one legged marathoner or the body builder who appears to have descended from Zeus. You feel like if you go to the gym and go less than 150% why even bother. Well, remember being a kid, and your mom told you to clean your room. So everything would go into your closet. Your room looked clean, it took 5 minutes to do, and then you got to go to Sally's and play with Barbie's. Then remember the next day when you were looking for your shoe, and you couldn't find it. You had to pull everything out of your closet and now you're were right back to where you started. Had you taken the extra time to put everything where it went, as I'm sure your mother told you endlessly,  your room would have stayed cleaner longer.

When you are looking for a missing shoe in a clean room, maybe you open a door, check under a bed, maybe things get a little messy, but you can set them right pretty quickly. In the same way, when you are trying to lose weight, if you've been working out consistently and staying on track, taking a day or week off won't ruin all of your work, and neither will doing an activity that's less rigorous than what you are used toa. Things might feel a little messy, but you can clean up rather quickly. By staying on track and working so hard, you've made your body the equivalent of a well organized closet. Maybe for a week, you don't work out as hard, or you don't work out at all. Maybe you stop counting calories for a week, or let yourself have sugar and bagels. You didn't burn down the room, you just threw some things on the floor, once you get back on track, it will be easy to get back to where you were and start making progress again. It will be easy to clean up and reorganize.
When we are lacking the motivation to keep following a diet and exercise plan, it is easy to fall victim to comparing ourselves to others. "Well that girl drank Detox tea for 3 days and lost 15 pounds! That's not fair." This is where we get angry or discouraged with ourselves. Maybe we are still eating and working out in the same way, but now our weight loss has tapered off, we fail to see our progress, because we no longer see huge change. Have you ever been to the point where you just want to give it up, maybe eat 6000 tons of tacos. Week after week you put so much effort in, but you haven't lost any more weight, so now, you've hit a point of frustration where you think to yourself, "Ugh, meeting my weight loss goal is so difficult, I'm going to set a new goal. I'm going to be the largest human on the planet. I want to be so large, that I set a record for the largest pair of spandex ever created, and then I want to set a record for being the largest amount of human mass ever shoved into a pair of spandex. I can easily do that by eating 6000 tons of Tacos, which is really more challenging than not eating any tacos if you really think about it. So. New goal." Thoughts like this happen when we feel like we are putting in so much effort and getting nothing back in return. Thoughts like this are also a real motivation killer.
It's like if you keep your room clean, but then your mom still won't let you have a friend over. "What do you mean, mom? Last time it was because my room was a mess, so now, the queen could come and have high tea in my closet and I still can't have anyone come over?" If you were to respond to this by throwing everything on the floor and making a mess, it probably wouldn't get you very far in terms of playing with your friend. So, maybe you'd make an alternate plan, go to your friends house, talk to her on the phone and simultaneously watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then maybe next week, your room will still be clean, or easy to clean, and your mom will let her come over. In the same way, when you feel like you are doing everything right but still not getting what you want, you may just need to use a different tactic for a bit.

For example, if your goal was just to work out 5 times a  week, you might have fallen into a pattern. Maybe you run on Monday, Do the elliptical Tuesday, Take a class on Wednesday, Thursday you bike with friends, and Friday you see a personal trainer. Now, on Monday you barely want to get out of bed, the class is boring, and your friends all suck, because there is no way anyone who doesn't suck really wants to bike around the block 567 times. This is when you have to mix things up. If you have a personal trainer, ask for some tips, look up some treadmill workouts online, maybe sign up for a road race and train for that. Eventually you might miss your friends and work them back into your new routine, or maybe you won't and they will bike off into the sunset without you.

Similarly, say you have bodybuilding goals and you find yourself all of a sudden not wanting to go to the gym, but you are stuck because you know you need to or you will lose your muscle. So, what can you do? Also, I'm not quoting anything directly here and this is not proven by facts or science, but I would say that happy muscles grow bigger and stronger than muscles being held at gun point in the gym. Mix up your routine. If you isolate muscle groups, maybe just do a few days of full body circuits instead with some of your favorite exercises. Maybe take a week off, take classes that use lighter weights but still focus on muscle training.

If you have always enjoyed your workouts up until this point, chances are you are burning yourself out either mentally or physically. Your mind and your body are trying to tell you something, you have to be alert enough to listen and respond accordingly. Not feeling motivated, or not feeling like you are making progress does not mean you are failing and should give up, but what it does mean, is that you can take a minute to mix things up and create new motivation, or find your existing motivation again. Just like your stomach will tell you when you are hungry, when your mind is telling your body to sit this one out, it might be telling you that you are exhausted. Taking a week off may show you how much you missed it. It may also give your body time to rest and recover and when you get back in there you'll be stronger and more ready than ever.

When we create a lifestyle for ourselves that incorporates healthy eating and exercise it allows us to have weeks that we may not feel like going at 100% and that is okay. There is a reason people take vacations, because if you don't give yourself a break, you may burn out. Look at how far you have come. Fine, you can't run 300 miles with one leg, but do you want to? If you do, then work on that, strive to be that person, but compare yourself to your own progress, look at how far you've come. If you want to set new goals, set them, change them, as long as you enjoy them. The most important thing to remember is taking a day off because you honestly don't want to work out, is not the worst thing, I'd assume having your face ripped off by a lion is. You want to enjoy what you do and maybe you need a break. That doesnt mean you are giving up, or that everything you have done doesnt count, it just means youre tired or bored. Maybe you need to mix things up. Or maybe you need to read more inspirational quotes. Whatever it is you need to do, remember you have built a lifestyle that allows you to make a mess once in a while, but you clean up nicely and you can do it in no time at all.

Mainly this is just a blog telling you to follow my Instagram if you don't already. I'll put a lion post up ASAP @ Wisdom_and_weights.