The Overeater’s Guide to Halloween

Halloween is a bit of a peculiar holiday. Somehow, it simultaneously evokes feelings of pure joy and excitement in young kids and many adults and a paradoxical reaction of fear and excitement in those of us who have struggled or are struggling with our weight.

In my prime dieting years, I felt I was living a one-woman stage production of Jeckyll and Hyde when Halloween rolled around:

Dieting Danielle (Dr. Jeckyll) would think “oh, Halloween. I am going to be so virtuous because I’m on a diet and this year is going to be different”

Fat kid Danielle (Mr. Hyde) would think “Excellent, Halloween. I’m going to eat everything I come across and I’m going to troll all the best places to find treats (office cabinets, common rooms, etc.”

Neither of these were conscious and neither was distinctly separate. No, they would merge together in an exhausting storm of eating myself sick and then beating myself up for eating myself sick. Rinse and repeat until November 1…or 4th.

5 years on the other side of losing 100lbs, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be ok no matter how you handle Halloween.

There is no horse, no wagon, and no “track” for you to hop off today (October 31)  and hop back on when you feel so disgusted with yourself that you can’t bear to be still. It’s all just you and your journey – which, by the way, doesn’t end for as long as you live. This is life and Halloween is a day. Even if it’s 3 days, it’s just a series of days where you made choices. On day 4, you can wake up and make totally different choices. Really!

And so, a few thoughts to help you navigate Halloween so you wake up on November 1 feeling awesome (which you are, by the way):

 

  • Taste your treats. I mean really taste them. By all means, eat what you want, but what message are you tossing into your self-feedback loop when you gorge yourself on candy you don’t even like. If Twix is your favourite and Crispy Crunch is just ok, then dang – get yourself some Twix and love the crap out of every one.

 

  • Believe there’s more. Seriously – there is always more candy at the store. In abundance. Never-ending!! Yes, Halloween is a time when candy is all around you and if you’re someone who is used to wrapping candy in duct tape and locking it in a safe, then you’ve likely convinced yourself that candy is something you “can’t” have around. Truth is, you CAN always have candy. If you aren’t, it’s because you’re choosing not to, but the tipping point is whether you are choosing not to eat candy from a place of fear or a place of love. Sounds a bit granola, sure, but really think about whether your choice to limit your candy consumption is rooted in fear that you’ll eat way too much (which results in believing you can’t be trusted and locking it away to restrain yourself) OR knowledge that having candy at that particular time will lead you to feel gross – because maybe you’ve already eaten a lot that day, or already had a bunch of mini chocolate bars – and therefore making an executive choice to show yourself love by NOT eating more than you know feels good in your body.  Which leads to my next tip…

 

  • Believe you deserve to feel good/proud. Because you do. You are worthy of being nice to yourself, and this applies whether you eat ALL THE CANDY on Halloween or not.  If you’re used to self-flagellating, this will seem crazy, but I guarantee you that you can do no harm by taking this approach rather than making yourself feel like shit, throwing out every sugar-containing item in your kitchen and vowing you’ll never eat chocolate again…until you binge. After all, we know that self-forgiveness is a key to long-term weight loss.

 

  • Own your choices. This stems from the tip above. Whatever you choose, own it. You ate a whole box of fun-size chocolate bars? Oh well! Tune into your body afterwards, and the next day, and use your sensations as feedback for next time. Approach yourself with curiosity  and fascination, replacing “You gross pig, I can’t believe you did that. You’re so disgusting,” with “Huh! I wonder what was going on that made me feel like I wanted to eat all of those at once even though I knew deep down I would feel gross afterwards!” and get on with your day. And yes, you can even have chocolate again the next day. Just commit to making the choices that feel good to you in your soul and body and I promise that the balance will come naturally

 

  • Practice. All of your choices are just practice for the next time you’re in a similar situation. If you overeat on Halloween, you did not “Fail Halloween.” And this does not mean you are consequently going to “Fail Christmas” too. You made choices about food on one day or a few days out of many in your life. If you eat in a way that you aren’t proud of, then that is practice for the next time you’re in a situation where your favourite foods are available in abundance – what can you do differently? How can you allow yourself to truly enjoy the foods you absolutely love but in a way that doesn’t send you down the shame rabbithole? There is no end-point where you have mastered food and you are some sort of diet Ninja; the only end-point is your best-self and all we can do is make choices that take us closer and avoid choices that take us further away.

 

A Few Other Resources

Do You Have FOMO Around Food? – Jill Coleman

What To Do When You Have an Endless Pile of Candy at Your House – Sarah Jenks

The 9 Best Ways to Avoid Overeating Halloween Candy – Psychology Today (these are more superficial but good if you’re someone who knows you won’t overeat chocolate if you’re well fueled).

 

Happy Halloween!

Danielle

Halloween Recipe: Sweet & Salty Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

Ahh, Halloween!

I have been buying pumpkin seeds for years because I always throw them on salads or even in with cereal. Not only do they taste nice and crunchy (yes, that’s a texture and not a taste), they’re also:

  • High in magnesium (which most people are difficient in, by the way), manganese, phosphorus, zinc, and calcium
  • High in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • A source of protein
  • A source of non-heme iron (basically non-animal iron)
  • Rich in tryptophan (that amino acid in turkey that makes you sleepy – it’s a good thing!)

Last night, I carved a pumpkin for the first time in at least 15 years. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of one of those things that I always say I’m going to do and then never do. Like sledding in the (shudder) winter. Not this year! No – this year I carpe’d the diem and got to carving. And I almost threw away the seeds, thinking “I have a whole bag of pumpkin seeds in the pantry. I don’t need more.”

Heed my advice – “real” pumpkin seeds are worlds different than the ones you buy at the bulk store or at Costco. Hand to heart. They have so much more flavour!

As a kid, we would also roast our pumpkin seeds with your standard seasoning: salt. And while salty pumpkin seeds are tasty, the ones I buy at the store are always salted (I think unsalted nuts s are to salted as Clark Kent is to Superman.) I decided that if I’m going to grant these seeds real estate in my pantry, they’re going to be different.

And thus, Sweet & Salty Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds were born.

Sweet & Salty Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin2

Ingredients

- pumpkin seeds, separated from pumpkin flesh and rinsed and dried

- 1.5 tbsp coconut oil

- cinnamon

- stevia (I used 4 packets) or sugar (1 tbsp – 1.5tbsp)

- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Celsius

2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt coconut oil.

2. Toss pumpkin seeds in coconut oil until all seeds are coated in oil.

3. Add cinnamon, salt and stevia to seeds/oil mix.

4. Distribute seeds on baking sheet, making sure each seed is touching the paper (you may need 2 sheets).

5. Roast pumpkin seeds for 15-20 minutes, tossing half-way through.

pumpkin3

Monday Must-Reads

I’m always – always - soaking up whatever I can find on weight loss, weight maintenance, and general health.  I’m often on sensory overload because if I’m not reading a blog post, article, or study, I’m listening to a podcast about health. It’s clearly a passion of mine, but lately I feel like I’m on information overload because there is so much goodness being put out there.

As much as I am so thankful to everyone who swings by this blog, whether they comment or not, I often find things that are too good not to share…and then I don’t share. So, rather than randomly drop info-bombs on strangers and store clerks (which I’ve done and, let’s be honest, will continue to do), I wanted to share some of the most influential things I’ve come across lately. I’m planning to post my recommendations every Monday, so sometimes it will be just one person/blog/book,etc. and sometimes it will be many!

1. First, you should all check out Andie Mitchell’s post over at Can You Stay For Dinner? called What I learned losing weight the second time. As someone who lost a lot of weight and then regained it all and a bonus 20-25lbs, I understand the shame and heartbreak that comes with regaining weight after working so hard to lose it in the first place.

Andie, of course, has the added pressure of being in the spotlight, having had massive success with her blog and also writing a book about her weight loss. I recommend her whole blog, as I think she’s funny, creative, and sweet – not to mention stunning! But this post in particular is worth making your first trip over there. Understanding how your weight or obsessive relationship with food/your body is a mechanism of distraction and procrastination is mind-blowing and revolutionary and also terrifying because – what are we putting off doing/acknowledging and stuffing away with thoughts about food, exercise and our bodies?

2. I’m a huge huuuuge fan of  Susan Hyatt, a Martha Beck Life Coach (swoon…that’s Oprah’s Life Coach. Just sayin’) and Certified Weight Coach. She is hilarious and empathetic and kind and any other adjective a great life coach should be, in my opinion. She posted recently about how to love yourself when you hate how you look and I think it’s brilliant. The highlight:

You can love yourself, deeply and absolutely, but when you’re heading for the fridge at midnight searching for food you’re not really hungry for — you’re not going to be soft. You’re going to say to yourself, “Overeating doesn’t feel like an act of love right now. It feels like an act of punishment. An act of self-violence. It’s not happening. Not tonight.” That’s love.

Gah! Yes!

A nice summary graphic, courtesy of Brooke Castillo at The Life Coach School (who I am currently training under):

Not taking care of yourself is procrastination of your work in the world. (Brooke Castillo) | TheLifeCoachSchool.com

Source

Anything you feel like sharing this week?

FAQ Friday: Loose Skin

I recently got an email from a reader asking about how to deal with loose skin following weight loss. As I was responding, I thought about my own weight loss and realized that my response might be of interest to other aspiring weight-losers out there.

First Things First. [Bonus points if you thought “I’m the realest” after reading that]. Whether or not you end up with loose skin as you lose weight depends on a myriad of factors, including your age, how much weight you lose, how quickly you lose the weight, and the elasticity of your skin. That being said, there are a few things you can do to help prevent loose skin as you are losing weight, or mitigate the appearance of loose skin that has stuck around post-weight loss.

1. Eat and supplement properly. The creation of a caloric deficit is a cornerstone of weight loss, and if you reduce your caloric intake too dramatically, you will struggle to get enough micronutrients (vitamins & minerals), which are critical to skin health. This site has some great information on the specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you’ll want to focus on to ensure that you’re fueling your body appropriately throughout your weight loss.

2. Lose Weight Slowly. If you plan to lose a lot of weight, some loose skin might be inevitable. However, you can minimize the effects by losing weight in such a way that your skin can tighten as the volume of mass underneath is reduced. If you lose weight quickly, it’s possible your skin will still tighten, but it may take some time (like years in some cases) and there’s no guarantee.

3. Lose Weight For GOOD. Make sure that you’re losing weight in a sustainable way – that is, something you can do easily for the rest of your life. I am confident that losing 100lbs is not what led to my loose skin, but rather losing 100lbs TWICE. Had I not regained the weight I’d lost in 2004 – and then some – I am sure that my loose skin would be minimal as I was younger and would have put my body through the stress of weight loss only once.

loose skin

4. Lift Weights. This isn’t a miracle cure and it won’t tighten your skin, but burning fat and building muscle will give you great definition and tone and you should just do it! Essentially, you are replacing some of the lost tissue from fat loss with volume from muscle, which is more desirable anyway. Trust me. Lifting weights is a weight-losers best friend. I wish I had started sooner.

5. Moisturize. Just as eating a sensible diet and supplementing with skin-enhancing vitamins and minerals can help prevent loose skin from the inside, a good moisturizer will help your skin’s elasticity from the outside. I keep a tupperware of coconut oil in my shower and use it in a bath or after washing and shaving to moisturize, and it’s a godsend. I also keep a little travel container of a mix of other nutrient-rich oils – right now I have avocado, hemp, argan and rosehip (basically whatever is onhand) – and will add those to my baths or use them in place of coconut oil once a week or so.

6. Hydrate. Yup, good old water. One of the DIY tests for dehydration involves pinching skin and observing how quickly it bounces back – if it doesn’t ‘snap back’ right away, it’s a sign that you need to hit the water cooler. To help your skin maintain as much elasticity as possible, make sure to drink enough water.

7. Accept. I understand that it is heartbreaking to work incredibly hard to lose any amount of weight and to have to carry evidence of your former size with you. I have heard people say that they would rather be overweight or obese than to have  saggy skin on their stomach, chest, thighs and arms (those are the most common places but I even have a bit on my calves). Unfortunately, tightening loose skin requires a combination of time (to allow the skin to tighten, if it will), money (for surgery), and acceptance (of the fact that it may never tighten). This last one is a hard pill to swallow, I know. People say to carry your head high and see the skin as proof of your hard work, but I know what it’s like to want to cry in the gym because you feel like you are working for nothing. Here’s the thing, though: It is entirely possible that you’ll never be able to change it, whether for financial reasons or otherwise. Virtually the only surefire option is to reframe your thoughts about your loose skin and your body. I will probably post more on this later, or feel free to email me and I am happy to give you some tips.

In order to be accepted by others, a reflectiob of and complete self-acceptance has to come first, flaws and all.

 

 

The Secret to Successful & Lasting Weight Loss

I am a huge fan of the Curly Girl line of cards (being a curly girl myself!) and have always remembered this one fondly:

http://thenewforty.areavoices.com/files/2011/12/curly-girl-live-imperfectly2.jpg

I suspect it’s because the concept of living imperfectly – and being OK with it – is one of those life philosophies that I want so badly to ascribe to, but struggle with tremendously. I’m not alone, at least.

On Thursday night I attended a talk by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, generously hosted by Ottawa Public Health as part of their annual Health Day celebrations. You probably know Dr. Freedhoff as the author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work; I first heard of him through Evil Sugar Radio, a podcast I listen to on occasion. I was incredibly impressed by outspoken (sometimes perceived as Contrarian) views on dieting and diet culture in general. Since then, I’ve been following him on Facebook, subscribe to his blog, and have even visited his Ottawa-based clinic to have metabolic tests run.

Needless to say, I was in serious fangirl-mode when I heard Dr. Freedhoff speak about the Mythology of Modern Day Diets. It’s kind of a dream of mine to interview him for the blog, and an even bigger dream to one day work in some capacity at his office. Rather than summarize the whole talk, I wanted to discuss what I believe was the overarching theme of his presentation, and probably a pretty good summary of his philosophy on weight management. The concept? Imperfection. Mixed with a generous serving of consistently.

I recently heard that the ‘best’ diet is 90% ‘on plan’ 100% of the time. Essentially, you can be an imperfect “dieter,” so long as you’re consistent in your commitment to whatever your weight management plan is. Dr. Yoni really drove that concept home, concluding his talk by saying (I’m paraphrasing) that he hopes we all find an approach to weight management that we can do imperfectly, but indefinitely.

After the talk, I got to thinking about the bizarre unspoken belief in perfection that permeates our society. The dogma doesn’t always present itself as ‘perfection’ proper – sometimes it’s referenced as being a horse, or a wagon that you are on or off, depending on your diet performance of late. Or sometimes it’s expressed as a moral judgment – “I was bad last night. I had  3 bowls of ice cream even though I said I was going to quit sugar.” A woman in the audience asked Dr. Freedhoff why our provincial health care program (OHIP) doesn’t cover weight management programs for everyone, to which he replied “Because there is no one program that’s been shown to work unequivocally” (again, paraphrasing).

We’re learning, based on countless peer reviewed studies, blog posts, personal testimonials and just about any other form of media you can imagine, that the wrench in most peoples’ weight loss plans is that they ‘slip up’ and then promptly lash themselves for having gone astray. The guilt, anxiety, shame, and depression that follows major ‘slips’ causes many people to cease their weight loss efforts altogether, consume more of whatever led them down the rabbit hole to begin with, and repeat the guilt-restrict-binge/rebel cycle indefinitely until they are heavier and less healthy than they were when they began. For whatever reason, we, as a society, see to hold this inexplicable belief that once we pass into adulthood, we aren’t allowed to make mistakes or even deviate from a path toward a goal. How does this make sense? Imagine if we taught children to react to setbacks or choices they regret the way that we, as adults, react?

Oh honey you didn’t study enough for your test and failed? Guess you better stop studying for every test from here on out!.”

So maybe there’s a case to be made for the development of a weight management program based predominantly on self-compassion and resilience – unconditionally. This would mean teaching people that even if you pulled a move a la Baxter from Anchorman:

http://9buz.com/content/uploads/images/August2014/will_ferrell_and_pooping_dog_2013-08-09.jpg

You would forgive yourself and resume your regularly scheduled food and exercise choices.  It stands to reason that if you drive a wedge somewhere in that guilt-restrict-binge/rebel cycle, you cut out the entire compensatory-eating component and essentially just have people making choices to benefit their goals most of the time, and sometimes making choices just for the hell of it…without padding the process with self-flagellation and self-punishing choices. What’s more, building self-love capacity should generally lead most people to want to make better choices, anyways. Rather than making decisions about what to eat or whether to exercise based on what they “should” do, how they want to look, what they ate last night, how many calories they have left for the day, or whether they are going on vacation (and so on, and so forth), people equipped with self-love and self-trust (which I believe comes with self-love) would probably make choices with their physical and mental health, as well as their short and long-term goals, in mind.

oct 19

And so I guess to me, the secret to lasting weight loss is self-love. The big question is: where and how do we start when that concept is so foreign to us?

 

 

Say Yes.

I don’t know many people who like to be told “No” when they want something. We all (no? just me?) roll our eyes with disdain when we see kids throwing tantrums at the store after their parents have told them they can’t get toy x or candy z, but let’s face it – when we reeeeeeeally want something and are told we can’t have it, most of us want to throw a little tantrum, too.

As much as we hate when others tell us “No,” I’m willing to bet that if you’re trying to lose weight, you tell yourself no at least once a day:  “No, you don’t want that cookie.Walk away,” or maybe, “No, you can’t have candy right now. You’re on a diet.”

No matter who is dishing it out, hearing the word “No” usually sucks. What’s more, it often imparts a need for rebellion or scarcity. In other words, when we are told we can’t do/have something that we want, not only do we want it more – our brains also become hyper-focused on getting/doing that very thing.  Parents and brains alike typically react the same way when they’re doling out “No”:

  • Give in to the demands – by far the easiest option.
  • Overpower by yelling/getting angry/berating.
  • Acknowledge the demands while informing that no amount of resistance/screaming/tantrum-throwing will work.

Think about the times you’ve gotten into an argument with your brain over whether or not you ‘should’ eat something you’re wanting. Which tantrum-coping strategy have you used in the past? How has it worked for you?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve engaged in plenty of debates with your brain over whether or not it’s ‘OK’ to eat another one of those cookies in the cupboard, or whether or not I’m going to finish what’s on my plate. The old saying rings true: what you resist really does persist. And that’s how I’ve found myself in the fetal position on the living room floor after having eaten a 5lb bag of bulk candy or a frozen yogurt the size of a newborn (and way more expensive).

Here’s a tip I picked up a couple of years ago for negotiating with my brain when I really want something that I know it is not in my best interest to have (or to have more of at that time):

Reframe your Nos as Yesses. Identify what you’re saying ‘No’ to and then list everything you are saying ‘Yes’ to by saying No. For example:

I am saying No to eating more chocolate tonight.

But:

I am saying Yes to going to bed and waking up feeling proud.

I am saying Yes to making healthier choices.

I am saying Yes to having more chocolate tomorrow, if I want it.

I am saying Yes to knowing I am able to stop when I want to.

And so on.

This works for most things and can actually be a helpful way to make life decisions. It’s incredible how focusing your brain on positives rather than negatives – even if it’s just reframing the same thoughts – can be so effective and really make the whole process a lot easier.

Give it a try – it takes practice but so worth it!

 

Fall Workout Playlist

I love sharing my favourite workout songs with you all, and it’s been way too long! I keep finding gems and thinking “I need to share this one the blog” and then totally forget.

I haven’t been doing as much running as in past years, and have been favouring cycling and walking as my cardio these days, along with a lot of strength training. As a result, some of these songs are a little less “fist pump-y” than those found on previous lists, but awesome nonetheless.

A few observations:

  • Music these days is on an upswing as far as both messaging and general vibe/tempo…however;
  • I am disturbed by the fact that almost all of my choices could be classified as ‘Adult Contemporary’
  • Music videos are intense these days

So, without any rambling, here are some songs to check out if you’re in a workout rut. Please share any songs you’re loving that I’m missing, too!

Don’t Tell Em’ – Jeremih

I Heard I Had – Dear Rouge

3 Foot Tall – Classified

Angel In Blue Jeans – Train

Love Don’t Die – The Fray

Shake It Off – Taylor Swift

Fire – Gavin Degraw

Bailando – Enrique Iglesias ft. Sean Paul [I really wanted to hate this one based on a long-standing and fully rational dislike of Enrique…but I just can’t keep from wiggling when this song comes on]

Maps – Maroon 5 [this video is a bit disturbing]

Alive Again – Champion

Jealous – Nick Jonas

Lovers On The Sun – David Guetta