Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Dieting, Stay Inspired & Keep It Real

We touched on it a little in Monday’s tip, but since it’s springtime and our warm-weather clothes make it even harder to hide those extra pounds, let’s talk about it some more. As we all know (because we all read my book, right?)  many of us made it a goal to lose weight at the beginning of the year, and statistically most have given up by now. But it’s not too late to try again, and I have two tips that may help keep you on track this time around.

Weigh yourself faithfully,  every morning, before breakfast.  Monitoring your progress is a key part of reaching any goal, and one that we too often forget to do. If you have slipped and eaten too much, let’s say, on a really stressful day or at special event like a wedding reception, you will catch your weight gain before it gets out of hand.  There’s no need to get discouraged and quit when you’ve only gained a couple of pounds - just remind yourself that you will make up for it in the next few days, which is very doable.

Not weighing yourself daily makes it too easy to forget about your diet, and slide into denial about what you are actually consuming. Even weighing-in every week can have some disheartening results, weakening your commitment to your weight loss goal.

Put a favorite picture of yourself, at your ideal weight, on your refrigerator.  This will remind you of the goal you are pursuing, before you open the door and make your food choice.   Too often when we’re deciding what to eat, we think only about our hunger – about what would taste good.  Your ideal weight photo will help you to remember that deliciousness is not the only thing that matters.

If you do not have a photo that fits the bill, buy a magazine and choose a picture that will work for you. Again, remember to keep it real!  If you have a lot of weight to lose, it’s best not to pick a picture of a very skinny model. You want a photo that reflects a realistic goal over a specific period of time. For example: I will lose 30 lbs in the next 6 months. That is your immediate goal, so choose an image that will keep you focused on that.

Good luck with your goal!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hate To Cook (Or, No Time To Cook) But Love To Eat?

One of my favorite things to do is to treat my Mom to dinner, sometimes in a restaurant but mostly at home (I love to cook.) Her face and words communicate the pleasure she takes in the spices, texture and aroma, as she slowly clears her plate.  She may be tiny, but the woman loves good food.

Given how much she appreciates a tasty meal, you might be surprised to learn that she absolutely hates to cook. She hates spending money on expensive pre-prepared (and often unhealthy) foods even more.  (Though the temptation to go the microwave dinner route is understandable when you are hungry and cooking is a time-consuming chore.)

But in the past seven years that Mom has lived by herself, she has found a very practical way to have a healthy home-cooked meal flavored with her favorite things every day of the week, without spending too much time actually cooking (or inviting herself to someone else’s dinner table.)   The key, as it so often is when it comes to motivation, is advanced preparation.

Every Saturday morning she puts the ingredients for a thick soup or stew into her crock-pot (enough to make 6 meals), turns it on and ignores it for the rest of the day to pursue more interesting activities. At dinner time the pot gets turned off and she has her first meal. Before bedtime the cooled pot gets stored in the refrigerator until the next day, when the rest of the contents get divided into 5 meal-sized containers to be frozen.

Initially, she repeated this process on the following Sunday mornings as well, with different recipes, in order to vary her choices for any given day (no one wants to eat the same thing six days in a row, no matter how much they hate cooking.)

After all this time, her system still runs like clockwork.  Out of the freezer in the morning, heat and serve at dinnertime. No cooking, no pots and pans.

(If you don’t like stew, there are lots of other kinds of meals you can make in batches in advance, like casseroles.  Friends of mine used to barbeque lots of chicken breasts on weekends and then wrap them up to eat during the week.)

This particular system of cooking – doing it once and getting it over with - lends itself to meeting many different goals.  For instance, if you work long and irregular hours and don’t want to take the fast food option, or if you’re on a diet or concerned about maintaining a healthy weight (the fixed portions in this system are great for reaching this goal.)

If a member in the family has special diet needs and you find it a strain cooking two different meals each day, this may be an answer for you, too. For working moms and dads, whose teenage children by necessity are alone at the dinner hour, this is a safe and healthy way to eat home-cooking anyway.

Good luck with your goal!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Feel Better = Do Better

If you are someone who often works from home, I’ll bet the initial thrill of working in your pajamas or sweats is long gone, and ignoring your appearance when you aren’t leaving the house is now simply a matter of habit.

Looking in the mirror, you see your rather unkempt reflection (maybe you try not to look anymore) and ask yourself, Would I want anyone to see me like this?  I understand all too well how and why this happens.  When I first began working from home, I often found myself still in my bathrobe well into the afternoon.

So what’s the problem?  As you may have already realized, when we have taken some care with our appearance, we tend to feel good about who we are. Like it or not, right or wrong, most of us feel smarter, more confident, and more effective, when we feel we look our best (or at least not half bad.) 

It’s also true, unfortunately, that most of us only bother with our appearance when we plan to be among people. The more important those people are, the more effort we apply. (There are some individuals who do not obey this rule, possibly deliberately. Academics, hipsters … well, you know who you are.)

Remember that your reflection in the mirror matters, even if no one else is looking. The funk created by a negative or insecure self-image is contagious – it spreads itself through everything you do. The decisions you make each day are influenced by it. Feeling awful about how you look will affect your enthusiasm, your confidence, your attitude toward other people, and even your job performance.

Taking good care of yourself is a sign of self-respect, not only to others, but more importantly, to you!  Good hygiene, some hair care, and clothes that make you feel a little put together can leave you with a much more positive mindset. (I am not suggesting anything fancy here – just reaching the I’m-not-embarrassed-to-be-seen-this-way level.)

So, today’s tip is: every day, even when no one else will see you, clean yourself up a bit and dress like you care.  If you wouldn’t want to be caught in it outside, don’t wear it inside. Motivation and inspiration come more naturally when you feel good about you, which is a little easier to pull off when you aren’t still in your pajamas after lunch.

Good luck with your goals!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dinner Can Wait

More and more, people are recognizing the true value a family dinner together at the  table holds for everyone.  No matter the size of the family, from 2 to 20, it’s a good thing.

When we think of these dinners in their idealized form, we picture a Rockwell-like scene with glowing faces passing around amply filled bowls of steaming deliciousness. But in reality, it is often quite a feat to gather everyone together at the required time. And a real home cooked meal? Well, lucky you!

If you are fortunate enough to make all this happen, but the Rockwell scene is still mostly
evading you, it may be for this simple reason: everyone brings home some emotional bruising from experiences in the normal course of the day.

For school age children the problems may include rejection from peers, embarrassment, achievement pressures, and as they get older, ever more complex relationships.

Of course the office is also a terrific place for building up stress that doesn’t easily dissipate.  There are the unrealistic deadlines, competition among co-workers, unrealized expectations and of course, worries about hanging on to your job. Oh, and let’s not forget rush hour!

This is the stuff that accompanies your family to the table. Small chance for a pleasant dinner, right?  So here is the motivational tip:

Hold dinner back for a good half an hour. Pour a glass of wine (or what ever goes as a liquid treat in your home) for Mom and Dad and a cool glass of lemonade for the kids and gather in comfortable seats in the family room (no TV) and share your troubles or just LISTEN. Let no one believe you think their problems are silly and not worth your time. When you think everyone has blown off enough steam, ask: ”OK to eat ?” Then go and do it with pleasure and appreciation.

Remember not to reprimand your children for passed or present misdeeds during table time -  keep the conversation light and you’ll be able to enjoy the food and the company.

Good luck with your goal!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Keeping Your Monthly Budget In Check

You may be among the many who use their credit cards to pay for all household shopping - groceries, gas, clothing, gifts etc. It may be because you don’t like to carry a checkbook or too much cash (like my husband), or because your cards reward you periodically with bonus points for free shopping (like me).

Whatever the reason, you may also be among those who hold their breath, or even wait a few days, before opening the bill with the final tally.

If you have ever heard yourself exclaim any of the following…

Holy s—t! There must be some mistake here.

How did this get away from me again?

How can I keep this from Bill (or Elaine)?

…then you know that overcharging is easy and causes some serious stress. And if you have had enough of it, here is an excellent motivational tool to finally put an end to it:

On a simple notepad pad, write down the amount of every charge you make on the same day that you make it.  Keep a running subtotal for the entire month. (Make sure you subtotal each new charge!)  Now, whenever you walk out the door to go shopping you will know exactly how much you have left to spend on necessities (groceries and gas), and after the final total you will know what’s left for the little splurges we all like to treat ourselves to.

Do not trust yourself to keep your totals in your head without writing them down! Memory is a tricky thing, and easily influenced by a strong desire for some tempting purchase.  It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’ve got more money to spend than you do. 

So, to stop the stress, write it down, check it and keep it honest! 

Good luck with your goal!