How to Detox Without Starving Yourself

by | Jul 21, 2014

Photo by Robert Gourley

Earlier this year my husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. If you were following along, you might remember that we didn’t get to have much of a honeymoon after our wedding since my book was scheduled to launch just four weeks later. (Yes, I regret these events being so close together. C’est la vie.)

So for our first anniversary we felt we deserved a real break, a relaxing trip with no friends, family or even Toaster. We took five glorious days off and chilled on a beach in Mexico, making a point to spend more time in the spa than in the gym.

As you might expect we felt a little doughy when we got home, so we immediately called our local juice company and ordered a 7 day detox cleanse to make up for it.

JUST KIDDING.
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Breaking Bad: How to Kick the Late Night Snacking Habit

by | Jul 16, 2014

Photo by nettsu

Whenever I ask people what the most difficult habit is for them to break, late night snacking is often the first thing they say. This doesn’t surprise me.

If you feel like a zombie every night when you get home from work, it’s because you pretty much are one. Even if you enjoy your job, you are still subject to countless stressors throughout the day that deplete your cognitive resources––especially those required for self-control. Without a well of willpower to rely on at the end of the day, our brains go into autopilot to avoid more heavy lifting.

For these reasons, more than at any other time of day our evening actions are guided by habit. All the cues and triggers around our home––the TV, computer, couch, etc.––guide us mindlessly to the pantry for the cookies, or the freezer for the ice cream, and we eat to our heart’s content (not our mind’s or stomach’s content, those guys stopped caring hours ago). Stopping doesn’t even occur to us. We just continue until the cookies are gone, or the carton is empty.

It makes sense that these late night eating habits are particularly difficult to kick. Bad food habits are hard to break as is, but at night we have even less self-control than at other times of day for reshaping them, so we usually don’t even try. These habits are also especially strong, since they are deeply entrenched through weeks, months and years of repetition.

So what should we do?

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How To Have Healthier Lunch Meetings (Willpower Not Required)

by | Jul 14, 2014

Photo by Yarden Sachs

Len Markidan writes about productivity and work/life balance at Home Office Hero. He’s also the Director of Marketing at Groove. To get his latest posts, sign up for his newsletter or follow him on Twitter.

How To Have Healthier Lunch Meetings (Willpower Not Required)

by Len Markidan

A few years ago, I decided to start making healthier food choices.

I threw out the cookies and processed junk in my house and went on a farmers market shopping spree, where I finally learned to properly pronounce “jicama.”

I felt GREAT. I was a new man.

For the first eighteen hours or so, anyway.

Because eighteen hours later, you see, I had to meet a client for lunch.

And while I walked in confident about my commitment and eager to pick the healthiest salad on the menu, here’s what actually happened:

Len: [Open the menu and catch myself lingering on the cheeseburger description. Quickly flip to the salads.] Mmm, the spinach and chicken salad looks good. The avocado jicama one, too. [Look up to make sure everyone caught me pronouncing jicama like a boss.]

Client: I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger.

Len: [Slam menu closed, hate myself.] Make that two, please!

Willpower has never been my strong suit.

To deal with that, I’ve had to build systems to make myself less dependent on willpower, in all areas of life.
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7 Realistic Ways to Be Less Sedentary at Work

by | Jul 7, 2014

Photo by bark

I’ve always considered myself an active person. I joined my first gym at age twelve (my mom lied and told them I was fourteen to get around the age limit––a terrible idea, but that’s another story), and spent my high school years as a ballerina dancing nearly 20 hours per week. In college I stopped dancing but focused more on the gym, then dabbled in tennis, then long-distance running in graduate school.

As an adult I settled into a comfortable routine of working at my desk or lab bench, then spending at least an hour at the gym 5-6 days per week. Most of us would not consider this a sedentary lifestyle, and indeed it is far more active than most Americans. Unfortunately, spending long stretches of time sitting throughout the day is considered sedentary and has been shown to increase metabolic risk and mortality, even in normal weight and otherwise active people. And that meant me. Scary, right?

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How to Know When You’ve Eaten Enough

by | Jul 2, 2014

Photo by Wiertz Sébastien

When I was in college I was pretty much always on a diet. Except when I wasn’t.

The way it worked was I’d grab either a protein bar or diet shake from my kitchen on my way out the door in the morning. At lunch time I would hit one of my favorite three salad places near campus. In the evening I’d either get another salad or make a chicken and vegetable stir fry at home.

I should have weighed nothing, but I was nearly 20 lbs heavier than I am now. Or, more accurately, I’d fluctuate between 10 and 20 lbs heavier, depending on how long I’d be able to go without having a burrito or ice cream meltdown.

My problem was that I was basically starving myself as much as I could, then would periodically eat a 15″ tortilla filled with rice, beans, cheese, guac and a mountain of carne asada. Or maybe in my weakness I’d buy a pint or two of Ben & Jerry’s and eat the entire thing during The Simpsons.

So much wrongness.

I could point to dozens of reasons my actions were idiotic, and I have. But today I want to focus on one of the long-term consequences of restricted eating (then overeating) that recovering dieters need to learn to overcome: knowing the amount of food you really should be eating.
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9 Tips to Eat Without Guilt This Holiday Weekend

by | Jun 30, 2014

Photo by rushdi13

For many newly minted foodists, the upcoming long holiday weekend will be the first real test of your new anti-dieting healthstyle that embraces real food and enjoyment.

Although it can be a little challenging to get started, switching from a dieter’s mindset to a foodist’s mindset is fairly straightforward when we’re in the comfort of our normal lives. But when confronted with a situation where we have multiple days of sun, fun and celebration, fear of sugar, fat and binges can easily seep in.

Can we really handle all this freedom?

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No Really, You Have Time to Eat Better

by | Jun 23, 2014

Photo by flik

Excuses are awesome, aren’t they? Letting you get away with doing nothing about a problem and still feel self-righteous about it. What’s not to love?

I’ve heard them all: I don’t like vegetables, I can’t cook, my husband is too picky, my kids won’t eat it, I work too hard, my knees hurt, my friends are jerks, I love McDonalds, it’s too expensive, I’m too busy.

Yes, yes. Of course you are. But aren’t these still just excuses, illusions we create to mask the real reasons we’d rather watch TV than do something to improve our own lives?

STOP (***Record scratch sound effect***)

If you aren’t getting mad yet, you should be. I didn’t say it, but the implied message is clear: You’re really just making excuses to be unhealthy because you’re lazy.

But that isn’t your experience, is it?

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Introducing Homo nutritiocus: The Perfect Eater

by | Jun 18, 2014

Photo by Kaptain Kobold

Since the discovery of the vitamin, scientists have hypothesized the existence of a previously undiscovered species, Homo nutritiocus. Homo nutritiocus or Nutricons, as I like to call them, eat for one reason and one reason alone: optimal health and nutrition.

Nutricons are completely rational about their food decisions, which is why they are so insanely healthy. They eat three balanced meals every day and always include five to seven (depending on the current health recommendations) servings of fruits and vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables and lean protein are their favorite foods, of course. They never add extra salt to their food, because flavor is irrelevant. They do treat themselves to dessert every now and then, but only in moderation.
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7 Reasons Keeping a Food Journal is Better Than Counting Calories

by | Jun 16, 2014

Photo by Paul Papadimitriou

I’m often asked why I don’t put more emphasis on calories and calorie counting, particularly for people trying to lose weight. The answer is that while I think there is great value in understanding and monitoring the types and amounts of foods that you eat––especially if you’ve never paid attention––your effort is much better spent keeping a food journal than on an endless race between your mouth and the treadmill.

The idea behind calorie counting is that you write down the calories in everything you eat and make sure it stays below a certain number each day. If you want to take it even further you can monitor the calories you burn during exercise as well, and factor that into your daily allowance. In theory it helps to know your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body naturally burns if you sit around and do nothing all day––this is your baseline), but that involves an expensive test in which you breathe through a tube for 15 minutes. I’ve done it, it isn’t fun.

Food journaling also requires writing down everything you eat, but emphasizes portion sizes (e.g. ounces, grams, etc.) instead of calories. It can also include information like the time of day you eat, other activities related to eating (e.g. working out, watching TV, etc.), and how you feel after eating. In Foodist I recommend keeping a food journal for at least two weeks to build awareness of what, why, when and how much you eat. The ultimate goal is to help identify the habits (along with their triggers and rewards) that shape your healthstyle. You can then use this information to build on what works and learn from what doesn’t.

While I would never tell anyone to stop counting calories if it works for them, here are seven reasons I think keeping a food journal is more effective for most people.
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Away Court Habits: Living Well on the Road

by | Jun 11, 2014

Photo by ikarl67

When I was a kid I used to dream of one day having a job that would take me all over the world.  I have always loved to travel, so in my brain I envisioned a non-stop vacation filled with exotic places, foods and adventures.

Of course, reality is nothing like that.

There is a huge difference between traveling occasionally (whether for work or play) and traveling regularly, several times per month. When traveling is a special occasion, there really are no rules. Foodists have accounted for periodic indulgences in their healthstyle already. But when travel becomes your normal, your Home Court Habits become diluted and you need to integrate a new set of (much more complex) habits to make up the difference.

This year for the first time, my travel schedule has moved from periodic to frequent. And adjusting my healthstyle to account for the change hasn’t been easy. Putting aside the difficulty of eating well at airports and on the plane, simply being outside your familiar environment can throw off even your most ingrained habits, like cooking and exercise.

After 6 months––and much trial and error––I’ve finally developed a set of Away Court Habits that help keep my healthstyle in check while traveling. I won’t pretend that these are as powerful as my Home Court Habits, but after nearly two weeks away on my last adventure I came home feeling pretty darn good about my state of health and fitness.
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