Archive | April, 2012

You really are what you eat.

17 Apr

One of the things I stress with my clients is the importance of keeping a food and exercise log.  There are several reasons for this.  First, statistics show that people who keep a food and exercise diary are much more successful in achieving their weight loss and health goals than those who don’t.  Second, it can be fun to see your progress and the best way to measure that is by keeping a log. Last, it’s a great tool for me, as a trainer, to be able to give clients input on things they can do to improve their diet, exercise performance, etc.

To help my clients with this process, I have them use a tracking program.  One of the components of this program is that it emails me their log each week.  This way, I can see exactly what they ate, what exercise they did and monitor their progress and make suggestions.

One of my clients started running in the last year or so.  He has been running 5k races and doing very well, but now he wants to move up to longer distances.  When he hired me, we talked about his training goals.  He had two: increase endurance and lose the last 10 pounds he hasn’t been able to drop since he started running.

As someone who has been an endurance athlete for more than five years, I told my client that his nutrition would be the key driver in meeting his goals.  It’s the old saying, garbage in, garbage out.  We talked about how and what he ate and how he could improve his nutrition with some simple changes.  Keep in mind he’s married with kids, so I suggested he might want to consider eating different things than his wife and kids.

I get his report the first week with him using the tracking program.  He is following the training program I designed for him exactly.  I’m very pleased.  Then I take a look at his food log.  I see what he ate, the amount of saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium.  It’s way too high, especially for achieving his two goals.  His fiber is also lower than it should be.  I email him that I’m really pleased and proud of how well he’s following the exercise component of the training plan, but I had some suggestions regarding his nutrition.  I explained the areas he needed to reduce and why and that he also needed to increase his fiber intake.  One of the areas I explained he could fix easily was breakfast.  He was eating a frosted cereal with vanilla almond milk.  I recommended he eat a whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal or shredded wheat with skim milk and some egg whites.  I told him I eat a bowl of plain oatmeal and 5-6 egg whites every morning for breakfast because it’s a lean breakfast that gives me healthy fuel to start my day.

A few minutes after I hit the send button, I get a call from him.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Client: “While you’re my trainer, I also consider you my friend.  So, I’m going to tell you this and hope you take it in the context in which it’s meant, which is a complement and a bit of constructive criticism. You’re a food freak!”

Me: “So what’s your point,” I say laughing.  I then go on to tell him that I will give him the same response I give my public relations clients and that is that you pay me to give you the best possible advice.  However, it’s entirely up to you whether you take it or not.

My client laughs too, but goes on to say he is really not interested in being as diligent with his nutrition as I am.  I tell him that I understand that his nutrition is up to him.  But I’m still going to continue to give him the best advice possible regarding his diet and exercise.  What he does with that advice is his decision.

The next week, I see his diary…it’s about the same; however I see some small changes that I’m pleased with.  This time my email is a bit gentler in light of our conversation the previous week. Again, I tell him how happy I am with his training workouts and that my comments about his nutrition haven’t changed much from the prior week.  I encouraged him to continue to make small, positive changes such as the ones we talked about and ones his log shows he made since we spoke the previous week.  I closed by saying the most important thing is for him to be cognizant of the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium he’s consuming and realize those choices have an impact on his goals.

Moments after I hit send, the phone rings.  It’s my client.  But this time, he’s telling me he’s really looking at the packages more, realizing that this one product he really likes and thought was a good choice, really isn’t because while it’s marketed as a low calorie ice cream dessert, it has a significant amount of fat in it and almost of all that fat is saturated fat!  While he cannot see my face, I’m fairly sure he can hear that I’m smiling by the tone of my voice. I tell him that being aware of what you’re eating is half the battle.  Making better choices is the other half.

In the months following these conversations, his awareness about what he eats and the food choices he’s making continue to improve.  He’s on his way to a successful journey into better nutrition and achieving his goals.  And I’m proud and honored to be with him on this journey.

Change is a choice when it comes to your health.

9 Apr

Here are actual stories of people I know.

Last year, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. There is no history of cancer in her family. So, once we got over the shock, we all went into information gathering mode. We gave her books, names of the best doctors and a list of a variety of other resources.

One of her coworkers, who is a breast cancer survivor, gave her a book that is considered to be one of the best and most complete on the subject. My friend read the book cover to cover and called me to say, “I need to make some serious changes, and I need your help.”

One of the key things the book talked about was the importance of healthy eating and drinking habits. It talked about research that says certain bad eating and drinking habits may increase your chances of getting cancer and that a healthy diet may help prevent certain types of cancer and help prevent it from coming back once you’ve had it. So we set out together to change her nutrition for the better.

On her own, she immediately said, I have had my last soda and alcoholic beverage of any kind. She was not a heavy drinker to begin with, but she was committed to give that up. She has stuck to her commitment, and I know she will continue to do so. She also committed to being more diligent about drinking more water each day. So, she had the beverage battle under control.

Now it was time for us to work on the nutrition battle. She is an executive with a large company. She works long hours. Her husband owns a business and works long hours too. They often go out to eat because they’re tired when they get home and she doesn’t feel like cooking.

To be successful, I knew it would come down to choices. So, we talked about what types of things she should order when they go out to dinner, how to order them, etc. We also talked about what types of foods she traditionally cooks, which ones are healthy choices and which ones are not. We talked about the types of foods she keeps on hand and how to upgrade those foods to healthier options such as brown rice instead of white rice, wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, having more fresh fruits and vegetables and buying leaner proteins. She did all these things.

Next, her doctor told her due to the type of cancer she had, she would need to exercise every day for the rest of her life. She dusted off the treadmill they’d had for years and began using it every day.

The outcome is that she has lost 51 pounds in about nine months and plans to lose about 25 more pounds in the months to come. She looks great. She feels great. And the reason for that is she made the choice to live a healthy life in order to save her life. I’m so proud of her. But I have to say, I’m not surprised. When she puts her mind to something, she achieves it and this lifestyle change is no different.

On the other hand, I know someone whose husband just had his fourth heart attack and fourth surgical procedure. His doctors have been saying for years that he needs to drop a significant amount of weight because he is morbidly obese. The doctors have told him he needs to improve his diet and get some exercise. He hasn’t heeded the warnings from his doctors or the heart attacks.

Then there are some acquaintances that have Type 2 diabetes. One is a couple the other is a widow. The doctor told the couple they needed to improve their diet and get some exercise. They weren’t interested in that. Today, they’re on insulin. The widow joined Weight Watchers but wasn’t really sticking to the program. Because of that, she wasn’t losing much weight. So, she decided to have surgery to try to help her eat less. There was a complication with the procedure and she was miserable for several weeks. Her weight loss since the surgery has been about a pound a week…safe weight loss, but not any different than what she could have done if she was willing to modify her diet and improve her exercise. She is also still insulin dependent, even after the surgery.

Studies show that making healthy lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and getting more exercise can reduce or prevent heart disease and can prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes.

I’m always stunned by people like this. I cannot understand why they won’t make simple, safe, inexpensive changes to improve their health, increase their longevity and take steps to insure they’re around for the ones they love for many years to come.

What it comes down to is choice and willingness to change. Nobody can make the choice for you and nobody can force you to change. You have to choose to change your life and improve your health. If and when you’re ready to do that, I’m here to help you.