Breakfast is the meal I enjoy eating out the least. That’s probably because I eat pretty much the same breakfast every day of the week – and I love it.
As a result, I was getting a little cranky while staying at a Chicago hotel recently. Not surprisingly, my bran cereal with 13 grams of fiber, hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, plain yogurt, bananas, berries, almonds, walnuts, and of course milk, was nowhere on the menu.
The allegedly steel-cut oatmeal was actually highly processed. The granola and yogurt was loaded with sugar. Eggs? Not my favorite, but if I must . . .
I choose to see myself as discriminating versus difficult to please. I make food important. I prefer whole foods, as opposed to processed foods. I enjoy healthy dishes with a little attention to preparation and flavor. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
A flag goes up when I hear clients talking about “grabbing something” to eat. What they usually mean is something “instantly available” or “fast” from a business that sells food. It can also mean something they can eat fast, or eat while doing something else – fast. What’s the hurry? How about “fixing” something and taking some time to enjoy it?
If you’re concerned about your weight, or generally improving your health, pay attention to the voice that says, “I’ll just grab something.” If you hear it a little too frequently, fear not. Just take a deep breath and slow yourself right down. Remember that YOU are important. Challenge the belief you might hold that you don’t have time to eat or to fix something simple.
If all you can do is grab something, grab an apple or a banana instead of muffins or other baked goods. Grab some raw vegetables or nuts.
Here are some ideas for fixing a simple lunch or snack. Culinary skills not required.
• Nothing cooks faster than an egg. Boiled? Scrambled? You decide.
• Pre-washed greens make salad prep super simple. You can even put an egg in it.
• Cottage cheese with a dash of balsamic vinegar, cucumbers and tomatoes is a tasty, balanced meal.
• Try plain yogurt with real fruit on top instead of the sweetened stuff on the bottom.
• Canned salmon with chopped orange slices and a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is quick.
• Maybe you prefer tuna with celery and/or apple and a splash of mayonnaise.
• A boned and chopped chicken breast cooks very quickly. Add salad greens or other vegetables.
• A bowl of high-fibre cereal (5 + gms per serving) with milk, fruit and nuts is sure to satisfy.
• Remember the old faithful – sandwiches. Make it healthy with whole grain breads, vegetables and meat. Go easy on the cured meats.
You get the idea. While I’m mostly referring here about what to eat, how you eat is equally important. Stop what you’re doing and take a deserving break. Eat slowly and mindfully, notice and enjoy what you’re having and what you’re doing.
I’ve worked with many clients who never take a break during the workday. Sometimes encouraged by a work culture, this can easily become a habit that has the potential to undermine both health and happiness. I can’t believe it’s really productive to the workplace either.
Because I make food important, and I really do enjoy good food, it’s always worth it to me to prepare something. It’s a little easier for me, as I work from home. (Did I mention I appreciate my own cooking?)
With a little planning you can prepare lots of simple things to eat. Clients always tell me that when they plan their meals ahead they eat a lot better. Make a list of possibilities, then keep adding to it. A little planning prevents being caught off guard and compelled to grab something you might later regret.
If you don’t have time to cook or eat, what are you making more important? Is it truly more important? Remember that food is the fuel for your body. Besides water, what can be more basic and important to your life than the food you eat and how you eat it?
When you make food important you might:
• plan your meals
• keep the fridge stocked
• eat out less often
• use fresh, whole foods versus processed
• eat a balanced breakfast daily
• not skip meals
• understand the basics of nutrition
• read labels
• be willing to pay more for groceries
• grow your own vegetables
• sit down at a table to eat
• take time to chew, savor and enjoy your food
• remove distractions like TV or the newspaper
Now let’s make an important distinction. When I talk about making food important it comes from a positive, healthy place. It should feel good. If you are constantly thinking about what you will eat next, or constantly eating, or obsessing about calories, you too are making food important – but in an unhealthy, negative, kind of way. It doesn’t feel very good to be here. Perhaps food has become the enemy instead of an ally. And the availability of food on every corner is not supporting you. Let the list above inspire you, one step at a time.
Food on every corner, and everywhere in between, means tempting, fast food is always available. Ironically, restaurants and food vendors don’t always make food important. They make profit important. Don’t be taken in.
I’m left wondering. Why is it that at a White Sox game all there is to eat are hot dogs and ice cream? (Now I’m really cranky!) Come on food industry. Let us grow up instead of out.
Given my mother-in-law’s slower pace than our own, her presence in our home over the Christmas holidays slowed us down too. As much as I enjoy her company and enjoyed slowing down, I reached my slowing and sitting threshold. Consequently, I had energy to burn. You know that feeling of ants in your pants?
It was quite fascinating to discover that the moment we delivered grandma to the airport I felt exhausted. I wondered why, as I was very well rested. “How could I possibly be so tired?” I asked myself. “What changed?”
My thoughts and feelings changed, that’s what. Her leaving meant the end of the holidays. That created a feeling of sadness, and with that a complete, albeit temporary, loss of energy. Identifying the cause was the cure.
I haven’t met a client who doesn’t want to have more energy. Poor health and excess weight can certainly be barriers to energy. But, so too can negative thoughts and feelings, as the above example illustrates.
Often we look to the wrong places for energy, like the vending machine during that mid-afternoon slump. Consuming sugar creates another slump not long after the high from the ingested sugar. Start by looking to nutrition for a healthy source of energy.
You are what you eat and drink. All humans need the right balance of nutrients, mostly carbohydrates (45-65 % of your caloric intake), proteins (10- 35%) and fats (20-35%), together with vitamins, minerals and, of course, water (see below). Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are what you need most. And make those high fibre carbohydrates!Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, easily used by the body to create “ENERGY.”
Good quality carbohydrate sources, together with protein and healthy fat go a long way to feeling good and feeling energetic. Ideally, you will have the right balance of the three macronutrients each time you eat.
What you eat makes a huge difference to your energy level, so too does how muchyou eat. Yes, you can have too much nutrition. How do you feel when you’ve overeaten? Eating just the right amount will avoid both pain and lethargy.
Water consumption is an integral part of healthy nutrition. It’s required for most of the body’s processes to function. That’s no small thing. The jury’s out on how much is enough, from 6 to 12 cups (one cup = 8 oz. or 250 ml) a day. Larger people require larger quantities. Know that vegetables and fruits also contribute to hydration. Let the color of your urine be your guide. Very pale yellow is the goal.
If you’re not getting enough sleep you’re going to lack energy. As much as sleep is the most obvious solution to fatigue, it isn’t widely valued in our culture of operating 24/7. Sleep is often the first thing we let go because we want to get more done. I suggest getting more sleep in order to get more done.
If time is a barrier to a good night’s sleep, are you trying to do too much? Could you be more productive with the time you have? A word of warning – while caffeine offers a temporary fix, it can also be a barrier to sleep.
If it’s the quality of sleep that’s lacking, see some tips here for healthy sleep practices. When stress and worry interfere with your sleep, try to mentally, or symbolically, put your stress aside. Make a deal with yourself that you can address it in the morning, that nothing will be resolved during the night.
If you’re still struggling with sleep, maybe you need to talk with your doctor to rule out, or identify, medical issues.
Most people think they need or want more energy in order to exercise. The truth is you get energy from exercise. Energy begets energy. Like attracts like. In the beginning there might be more push than pull. Hang in there. It doesn’t take long before you feel better being active. Start slowly and build up your stamina.
If, like many, you spend most of the day sitting, it’s really important to get up frequently. Going for short walks, doing squats in front of your chair, any way of moving your body, (which is really meant to move) will help prevent the snoozies from coming over you.
Exercise in the outdoors is particularly invigorating.
There is a healing, restorative effect to being in nature. And that creates energy. You know you’ve been there. Unfortunately, sometimes we wait for vacation to be outdoors and then expect a command performance in the weather. Try not to make the outdoors about the weather. Where I live there’s usually more bad news than good in that regard. Make it about appreciating the beauty and wonder of nature. That creates happy thoughts and feelings. Complaining about the weather does not.
In 1990, Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki conducted a small study in the beautiful forests of Yakushima, Japan. Dr. Miyazaki reported that walking in a cedar forest compared to walking indoors was associated with improved mood and feelings of vigor. A lower level of the stress hormone cortisol was also reported in subjects who did the forest walks. As a result, forest walks have become a form of employee wellness for the Japanese. They call it shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing.
Breathing is how energy moves through the physical body. The benefits of deep breathing exercises ensure that oxygen is distributed equally through the body, thereby producing more energy through the oxygenation of blood.
Effective breathing builds energy. Labored, shallow or irregular breathing as a result of stress or disease diminishes it. The practice of yoga is an excellent way to learn to breathe effectively.
7. Happy Thoughts and Feelings
Every thought or emotion experienced in the mind or spirit is also experienced in the body. Sadness, or a negative outlook, will certainly impact your energy negatively. Making time and space for simple (or grandiose) pleasures creates positive thoughts and feelings. And positive thoughts and feelings contribute to positive behaviors, which create more positive thoughts and feelings. Again, like attracts like.
Optimism, an attitude of gratitude, and a balanced life that includes simple joys and pleasures will go a long way to firing up your energy.
In metaphysical terms, everything in the universe is energy, and so are we. It is our responsibility to know how and what fires us up and act accordingly to live our best life.
What creates happy thoughts and feelings for you? Grandma’s visit? A music video?
Not surprisingly, Friday, December 13th was another treacherous, cold, snowy day in Edmonton. I knew it was a bad day for driving. I didn’t know I would be part of a four-car melee spanning three-lanes. Mine was the fourth car.
The first two cars that caused the jumble drove off unscathed. The third car swerved into my lane. CRASH!
The only car that did not lose control, and the one who sustained the most damage, was mine. Yes, I am both the hero and the big loser.
If you’ve ever had an accident you know it’s a pain in the butt (even without injuries) because it requires involvement, and consequently time, with police, insurance adjustors, auto body shops and car rental agencies.
It wasn’t all bad. Nothing ever is. All those businesses were efficient and professional. My insurance company even waived the deductible. But the really good news? The rental car I was assigned had heated seats – a soothing remedy for my pain in the butt.
Given this winter was unusually cold pretty much everywhere, you probably understand my euphoria. If you are lucky enough to own heated car seats, you are used to having warm buns at the touch of a button, day after day.
Of course I had experienced heated seats before, but never from the driver’s seat. Attachment to this luxury was instant and my use of it was constant. I found myself not wanting to get out of the car.
The funny thing about luxuries and advances in technology is that once you experience them there’s no going back.
• turning the dial on the television to change the channel
• using a telephone attached to a wall
• waiting until after your vacation to see your travel photos
Ha ha ha! That’s not going to happen.
When you didn’t have a remote control for the TV, you got up off the couch to change the channels, or to turn it off, because that was the only way to do it. But there came a time where you had to learn to use the remote. All those buttons! And now you’d never go back – in fact you can’t.
Do you remember the first, under-utilized bank machines? Many people didn’t trust them. You wouldn’t wait in line for a teller now if you didn’t have to, would you?
Getting used to something new is often worth the effort, isn’t it?
What is a change you’ve purposely assimilated into, or out of, your life? I’m betting you would never go back to the old way.
As Lou Tice of The Pacific Institute says, “Goal setting is simply deciding what you want to get used to in the future.” Often technology decides, but so can you.
What new habit would you like to get used to in the future? Maybe you’d like to:
• enjoy nature
• floss your teeth
• drink more water
• eat less sugar
• sleep more
• work less . . .
Choosing a habit, or goal, you really want and are ready for increases your chances for success. In fact, there’s not much point setting any other goals than ones that you want and are ready for. And visualizing your success is part of getting ready. It helps you get used to what you want. Before you know it, you’ve assimilated a new habit into your life because the old way no longer matches your picture of reality.
If you’ve ever sabotaged your weight loss because you weren’t ready for the smaller body you found yourself in, you know it’s important to visualize the new, desired state.
In my life I have gotten used to daily meditation. I feel cheated when I don’t fit it in, or if I have to cut it short. Hemp hearts and flax seeds are staples in my diet. I never even heard of hemp hearts ten years ago.
I will never go back to believing meditation is weird or eating an unbalanced breakfast. I think this formula sums it up. Desire + repeated experience = habit. Thinking about, and seeing yourself successful is repeating the experience. So is practicing the habit. Eventually there’s no going back.
Unfortunately, I had to go back to the car rental agency. My car was ready two days early. Normally that would be considered great news . . . but I didn’t want my car back. I wanted to keep the rental with heated seats.
I’ve decided I will get used to heated car seats in the future, as my next car will have to have them. But I won’t get so used to them that I stop being grateful for warm buns at the touch of a button. Ooh la la.
It just so happens that the gym at which I am a member is located in the biggest mall in the country. At one time it was the biggest mall in the world. I’m not bragging or complaining. Well, maybe a little. What I’m doing is making excuses.
You see, when Boxing Day hits (the Canadian equivalent to Black Friday) you have to get up before the birds and fight for parking at the mall (and sometimes merchandise). So that’s one reason why my exercise regime was not quite up to snuff during Christmas 2013. I am not a fighter.
One of the reasons I didn’t eat my usual quantity of vegetables is I because I ate more sugar. Well, it’s not a direct connection, as in substituting one for the other, but I’m pretty sure there is an indirect connection. I can only eat so much.
Not only that, I stayed up late during the holidays. It’s probably because I wasn’t working, did some entertaining, had some fun and felt just a little bit bratty and rebellious. Yup, I was pretty much living on the edge at year’s end.
Given I’m pretty committed to my health, I’m not worried about any of this because I’m happily back on track. And I’m much happier when I’m on track then when I’m not. Looking back I probably wouldn’t change much, except maybe the location of my gym. I would definitely change that.
For those of you who are easily thrown off your game and who reluctantly return to balance, I’d like to provide five points to restore your confidence and your healthy habits.
1. Put the holidays and resulting behavior in perspective. The holidays are the most challenging time for everyone. Three weeks of ‘naughty’ don’t wipe out 49 weeks of ‘nice.’
2. Forgive yourself for the behaviors you’re not happy about this Christmas. If it has resulted in a little weight gain, deal with it, but don’t panic. If you’ve maintained your weight, consider yourself successful. If you lost weight I hope you weren’t down with the flu.
3. Forget perfect balance. It doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t last. Let that idea go. Get skilled at monitoring your balance and resulting stress levels and adjusting accordingly. Get comfortable with ebb and flow.
4. Learn to listen to your self and tell the truth. Recognizing when enough is enough requires honesty and the ability to say no. This will help you be in balance and prevent exhaustion and burnout, or colds and flu.
5. Practice “everything in moderation including moderation” all year round. That means you’re not being good or being bad. You’re just being. That’s reasonable and sustainable. Perfection is not.
The more you practice these concepts the more resilient you will be. Resiliency protects you. As long as you always bounce back, the sooner the better – that’s what’s important.
January is about renewal. What a great opportunity! I’m grateful to be back to my regular gym schedule. Now it’s the New Years resolution crowd filling the parking lot. But I’m not complaining. I’m with you all the way.