Friday, July 25, 2008

5 Ways to Get Back On Track

"I've paid twice for this already" has another great blog up, this one good for those working toward a goal, any goal, particularly those with personal endeavor and a need to change personal habits.

She writes about 5 ways to get back on track when your finances go astray and you wonder, "How did this happen?"

This is how I have felt before regarding food and eating. I pretty much knew the answers, as do most of you, about why we just ate what we ate. It's multi-layered, and like Shrek say, "I'm like an onion" and like an onion, we need to pull back the layers and look at each.

For us, we need to look at the emotional layers of WHY we did something, but sometimes we also need to take a deep breath.

I'll bet each of you can come up with a dozen rationalizations. How about these I came up with: My boss didn't see me when he walked down the hall; my MIL is a B----; I have to be on this stupid diet while everyone else is eating pizza...yadda yadda yadda... You get the drift. On some days, it's easy to complain about everything and easy to find reasons to eat.

Even with legitimate complaints and the need for self-soothing talk, we often allow food to be our primary method of self-soothing. For this, we must find other ways, other personal ways. What works for me might not work for Sue or Joe or Chelsea or Elbert.

The five ways laid out by "Paid Twice" help you get a grip when you just had an emotional binge and used food to soothe yourself.

The five given were:

1. "Keep records."

2. "Reassess your goals."

3. "Remind yourself that a set-back is not a cause for failure."

4. "Take small positive steps in the right direction."

5. "When all else fails, institute a 5-day spending freeze."

Succinct. Good money advice.

I'd like to expand on those by tailoring them to weight loss goals.

#1 - This should help you see that maybe things are not as bad as you think. Maybe, yeah, you ate too much, but you also forgot to drink water, or you could have exercised more, or you exercised a lot yesterday, so you're probably okay today.

#2 - Do you see the whole elephant whenever you think about your "diet"? Do you have a huge goal of 40 or more pounds to lose? Does it just seem impossible to do all the things people keep saying you need to do? Cut that elephant down to bite size pieces then.

Focus on something smaller and shorter, and reassessing it later perhaps? That's another way to reassess your goal. Maybe you say - I'll lose 10 lbs and then see where I am. If that takes 3 months instead of 4 weeks, but you reach that goal in 3 months, would you be happier? Or would you like to keep saying every month, "10 lbs off THIS month" and repeat it monthly?

Whatever works for you is all that matters, but it never NEVER hurts to rethink of what it is that you are ultimately trying to achieve. EVERY project, to be successful, must keep revisiting its goal in order to ensure that success can be achieved! That includes yours as well.

#3 - This is simply the truth. Set-back is not failure. Not even a bunch of 'em!

#4 - This is back to finding the right bite size for whatever elephant you are trying to eat.

#5 - "Institute a 5-day spending freeze!" For most of us dieting, this is going back to what the Atkins Diet calls induction, but on a short-term easy-to-commit-to basis. Usually if we get to 5 days of being strict with ourselves, we can see progress and be remotivated to keep that momentum going.

Don't let the set-back upset your commitment, and let this short intense re-commitment get your momentum going again. If nothing else, it may purge our system of the extra pounds or simply stop our gaining more, both of which are good!!

Using these 5 ways can help you get back on track with not only your personal finance goals, but also your weight loss goals. What else can we apply them to?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Planning Vacations

Recently someone on E*Diets reported she was on Day 3 of Atkins and doing well, then mentioned her upcoming vacation in August where "everyone (would be) eating pasta and drinking wine" and wondered how she'd deal with that. Here's a reply I wrote to help her, having gone through that myself - in more ways than one - during my own journey to drop 40 pounds; perhaps it can help you plan for your upcoming vacation, too!

"Hi Jazzee*,

You are right to think about the trip and vacation with everyone else eating pasta and drinking wine. Now is the time to develop a plan that works for you and that will deal with that. If you are very strict with the induction and continue til vacation time, including increasing your exercise a little bit each day (and taking a rest day or two per week so you don't feel you are killing yourself), plus drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water, you will have more leeway in what you can do while on vacation.

I would suggest the following:

1. Make a plan to ensure you get enough water per day THAT YOU CAN DRINK and work on a plan that will ensure you DO just that.

For example, if the tap water is not drinkable, can you buy bottled water for each day or the entire week or so that you are gone and label them for each day so you can keep track without having to think about it while on vacation?

If you CAN drink the tap water, do you have a system in place for vacation-time that helps you keep track of how much you drink without having to work too hard at it during vacation? I find - must be the golfer in me :) - that I cannot count past 3-4 and remember. With things that "look the same" in my memory (like the same bottle or glass), this holds true anyway.

So, I buy 32-oz gatorade bottles and either save the gatorade in a pitcher for my son or others, or empty it, so that I have a good wide-mouthed container which fits in MY van's cupholders (not my fiance's SUV unfortunately) easily.

I started needing to drink 3 per day and am down to 2-1/2, tho I am trying to up that to 3 since I am trying to lose weight (10 lbs I regained falling in love and the effects on all three areas with time constraints mostly).

2. Food - do you like chicken or steak Caesar salads? These, and those with meat/cheese primarily and caesar, blue cheese, ranch, and some italian dressings are easily found at italian restaurants (tho I can't speak for Italy itself if you're going there!). Chicken wings, meats, eggplant parmigiana, etc, can work well ESPECIALLY if you can FORGO the pasta itself.

Italian restaurants did me in back in January, starting at New Year's Eve and going to 3 such places within a month. The first one I did pretty good at, but then I gave in to the pasta.

3. Find a way to exercise daily - 10 min of stretching in the morning, racing (for you) up and down flights of stairs for 3-5 minutes at some point during the day (or just walk an extra one til your heart or breath feel it, then maybe one more if you can), and then 15 min of stretching at night.

If you can turn on a song and dance like it's 1999 thru the whole thing (i.e., full gusto of joie de vivre involved, no matter which beat you choose), try that once a day too.

If you can go dancing, do that and choose water to drink instead of alcohol.

4. Try to limit your wine to 6 oz of red wine per day, enjoying it thoroughly while you do. There are heart benefits to this, even tho it's verboten during induction. Only 4 carbs for red wine - more for the others.

5. Game plan alternatives to staying OP (cause we all know you won't, the above are ways to LESSEN the effects):

a. goal is to maintain weight loss (no gain)

b. goal is to say the heck with it, and start over when you return (remember day 3 of Atkins is the hardest, but you will eventually beat the cravings).

Remember, we do this so we can enjoy the things that matter the most to us. Weigh each bite against the enjoyment obtained with the work it will take to get that off again, assuming you want to work it off, too. Some things are worth it; some are not.

Have a great time! When do you leave?"

*Name changed.

Another thing I did not mention in my reply to her - because she had not mentioned it in her own post - was dealing with car trips, where boredom on the road can lead to road munchies and crunchies (my favorite are Carb-heavenly Combos and Gummy Bears). I learned that I needed NEW MUSIC to keep me entertained. With a child in the car, that means (s)he might need headphones so the adult(s) can play their own music without listening to whining, too. Always have back-up water sources in the car, too, in case of highway stalemates that come up in the middle of nowhere and lead to road/block parties for 1-2 hours or more. Plan for potty breaks as well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Drinking Water

One of the frugal blogs I try to keep up with (I've Paid Twice for this Already - see related articles in the sidebar) brought up the question of whether or not anyone drinks tap water anymore. Good question!

Since water is one of the three legs on the footstool of changing to and then maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and since we are all getting more and more worried about paying for everything, I thought it would be a good time to discuss water. If you check out the "I've paid twice for this already" blog, you'll see many of these comments already mentioned in my comments there.

A few years ago, I was a member of a team of MBA students doing a consulting project that dealt with water fountains. Our research steered into the marketing area and we looked at how people (target audience) were viewing water. At that time (2002), water was just beginning to replace sodas as the money maker for the soda manufacturers, and its price was beginning to equal that of soda. As an international team, we took a worldview of the market, but also were pinpointing the US which was where the manufacturer we were working for was located.

The water that you buy in bottles is not strictly tap water, but is tap water with some flavor additives (such as sodium) added in. Given the cost of transporting water, most sodas are postponed in their manufacturing so that the major liquid element is added to the soda closer to its intended audience. In other words, water is obtained and added to the soda mixture very close to home - i.e., it's the stuff that you get out of your tap, too.

Some areas of the country will have hardened water naturally, and most homeowners deal with that by adding a water softener if they can, at least to their drinking and cooking water (who wants to scrub out a lime deposit from their pans? Or think about that stuff going into their stomach?) Bottling plants will also adjust the tap water to a palatable mixture of their own choosing, but nothing that is added tends to add those unwanted things like extra sugars, sodium or calories, and if they do, it is noted on the bottle. So be sure to become a label reader!!!

Other than that, I think one's like or dislikes of tap water are based on what they are most used to - we can pretty much adapt to anything, but decreasing our luxury level from necessity to nice-to-have is harder than increasing it in the other direction. You will have to go through a little pain to make that gain and be happy with less than what you could have (a sugary caffeinated soda that has you zipping around the office for a few hours before you hit that afternoon "lull" that is probably caused from the sugar high from lunch (sugars, carbs ingested there) suddenly being depleted.

This is why I like Atkins: Atkins avoids that by limiting those and increasing the proteins ingested because they take longer to digest (6 versus 4 hours, generally) and will keep you feeling "not hungry" longer. Using water to "fill in the gaps" in your stomach and in your mind is a great way to bridge some of those moments, but cannot overcome a sugar/carb low period. You just have to suffer through those - like a hangover - and vow not to do it to yourself again!!

So, start drinking the tap water and treat it like both a vitamin pill ordered by the doctor (in huge quantities and throughout the day), and be glad it also helps you on your pocketbook. Few restaurants charge for water, and you'll be glad for the extra $1-2 per day if you've been paying for soda. Try it iced, chilled, and straight up (sans ice) to see which works best for you. Good restaurants will suggest, but many can also provide this if you ask, adding a lemon slice to it. This might help you in your transition.

Remember that this is a transition. Your taste buds will need to change, and your bladder will also be undergoing changes. In addition, your body becomes accustomed to the increase in water, which it desperately wants, and will initially hoard the water (increasing weight temporarily, and perhaps bloating) until it accepts the fact that you are going to give it more water regularly.

Your body will then stop hoarding what you give it and release the increased water and weight. If you start to decrease later, you may be able to pick up on this when you start craving salty foods. This is a sign your body is wanting more water (salt retains water). So, drink about 8-16 oz of water within the next hour and see if the salty craving has passed yet before repeating.

If you still crave salty foods after 4 hours, then you might give in and find something healthy but with salt. The salt will affect your blood pressure, though, so it might be best to resist it completely if you can. If not, at least you tried to decrease the craving by increasing the water content of your body.

Cheers! Chug-chug-chug