Sunday

How To Get Going When You're Overwhelmed With Everything..

Whether you’re about to start a new weight loss program or are some way into your journey, there are likely to be times when the whole prospect of everything that needs to be done to achieve your goal feels SO overwhelming.

And it’s no wonder really; as well as sometimes feeling like our eating habits and our weight are out of control and hating the way we look, we’ve got dietary changes to think about that will help trim calories. Then of course you also need to think about making sure that what you ARE eating is giving you adequate nutritional value. Then we’ve got to think about which activities we can engage in, and when. As our lifestyles get busier, and our time seems to get spread ever more thinly, exercise, activities and even some MEALS are difficult to fit in. And on top of all that, what about all the foods you should or shouldn’t eat to help control blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc. How do you get started and what takes top priority?

Trouble is, when we become too overwhelmed and overloaded, if we really can’t see where to start, we’ll generally do nothing.

So what is the answer..?

Suppose you were tasked with picking apples. You’re stood underneath a huge apple tree and it’s your job to empty the entire tree and collect every last apple. It’s a big task; so easy to get overwhelmed. There must be hundreds of the damn things… where on Earth do you start…?

Well, this is a bit more obvious… you’d start by collecting the low hanging fruit. The apples you can reach effortlessly. Not only are these the easiest apples to reach, but collecting them also allows you to build a bit of momentum and inspires you to then try to work out how to claim the apples which are just slightly out of reach. Collecting those ‘slightly out of reach’ apples adds to your momentum and inspires you with ideas on how to reach further up the tree, and so on.

‘Cherry pick your goals’

You can apply this apple picking principle to your weight loss progress. Instead of worrying about a huge, ‘shopping list’ of things you want or need to change, cherry pick (or apple pick) the easiest tweaks to begin with and just focus on these. When you feel confident that you have achieved this change consistently (e.g. reducing how frequently you dine out or making one of your ‘short car journeys’ on foot regularly), then cherry pick another goal or two to focus on.

Doing the easier stuff at the start, helps you to get some momentum going, however small, which in turn motivates to ‘reach’ to the slightly more challenging changes as your weight-loss progress takes you further ‘up the apple tree’.

If you don’t yet feel ready to identify behaviour change goals, then start by ‘logging’ what you are currently doing for food and exercise. After a few weeks, review your log; it will be much clearer to you to identify where you can make changes. Writing things down that relate to your goals is very powerful.

If you struggle with weight control and also have high blood pressure and/or Type 2 diabetes, then one of the first and most important changes you may make is to increase physical activity. Doing so will help you control all three health problems at the same time. If you can't do activity for more than 10 minutes at a time, then start exactly where you are and DO 10 minutes. From there, you can build on this, to doing multiple sessions of 10 minutes each throughout the day.

If you are a meal skipper, then your very first step could be to consciously start eating three regular meals a day. This is very important if you are trying to lose weight; skipping meals tends to cause us to consume more calories throughout the day.

The key here is to NOT think about the bigger picture (for now), but to focus your attention on one or two things that you ARE able to make changes to. And don’t worry about all the other things you need to change; they represent the apples at the top of the tree. By the time you get round to picking those, you’ll have learned valuable lesson along your journey, you’ll also have momentum on your side and those ‘farthest reach apples’ won’t feel anywhere near as daunting.

Next Time: Walking To Lose Weight

Thursday

How Junk Food Is Designed To Trap Us Into Addiction..


Eating healthy and losing weight seems downright impossible for many people. Despite their best intentions, they repeatedly find themselves eating large amounts of unhealthy ‘junk’ foods, despite knowing full-well that it’s having the opposite effect on their weight than they’re aiming for.

So, what ‘strange force’ causes us to behave in such a contradictory way..?

We all feel we ‘know’ the health dangers of junk food - foods that can most generally be described as those which contain ‘empty calories’ and excessive amounts of substances known to cause harm to the body. What we don’t always appreciate though, is what keeps them SO popular? What makes tens of millions of people consume processed junk foods daily, even when they’re well aware of their health and dietary pitfalls?

Well, part of the reason is by design; that is, the way such foods are designed to appeal to our senses.

Junk food makers have perfected a process known as ‘subverting sensory-specific satiety’; a key food industry concept that sabotages your brains own ‘normal’ mechanisms for feeling ‘satisfied’, by creating a tendency for big, distinct flavours to overwhelm the brain, which then responds by enhancing your desire to have more.

Sensory-specific satiety is a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Cheetos or Doritos, etc, owe a large degree of their success to complex 0formulas that pleasure our taste buds just enough to be alluring, but don't have a distinct, overriding single flavour that would normally tell the brain to stop eating.

The resulting effects of some of these types of processed foods on our brain, can practically lead to outright addiction, where people often find themselves unable to stay in control around certain foods, no matter how hard they try.

In fact, the sensation of addiction to junk food draws many comparables with the way drug addicts are addicted to drugs. It involves the same areas in the brain, the same neurotransmitters and many of the symptoms are identical.

Processed junk foods have a powerful effect on the “reward” centres in the brain, involving brain neurotransmitters like dopamine. Foods that seem to be the most problematic include typical “junk foods,” as well as foods that contain either sugar or wheat, or both.

So, although we can often feel bad about ourselves when we’ve ‘given-in’ to a junk food craving, more often than not, food addiction isn’t about a lack of willpower, it is caused by the intense dopamine signal ‘hijacking’ the biochemistry of the brain.

Symptoms to look out for..

There is no blood test available to diagnose food addiction. Just like with other addictions, it is based on behavioural symptoms. Here then, are 8 common symptoms that are typical of food addicts:
 
1. You frequently get cravings for certain foods, despite feeling full and having just finished a nutritious meal.
 
2. When you give in and start eating a food you were craving, you often find yourself eating much more than you intended to.
 
3. When you eat a food you were craving, you sometimes eat to the point of feeling excessively ‘stuffed’.
 
4. You often feel guilty after eating particular foods, yet find yourself eating them again soon after.
 
5. You sometimes find yourself making excuses in your head about why you should eat something that you are craving.
 
6. You have repeatedly tried to quit eating or setting ‘rules’ about certain foods, but been unsuccessful.
 
7. You often hide your consumption of unhealthy foods from others.
 
8. You feel unable to control your consumption of unhealthy foods, despite knowing that they are causing you physical harm (includes weight gain).
 
If some of these behaviours seem familiar, then there’s every chance that you, like so many others, have to some degree become ensnared in the traps carefully designed by junk food manufacturers.

So, what are the best ways to free yourself from those unhealthy, addictive patterns of junk food eating…?

Well, once you’re aware that some of our eating patterns have been cunningly ‘engineered’ in a lab somewhere and it isn’t just about a lack of will power, that certainly is the first step in empowering you to do something about it. Here then, are a few ideas to help you tip the balance of control in your favour..

Firstly, there’s a lot to be said for keeping temptation out of harms way. Generally, we’ll do our food shopping at times when we’re in more control (unless you do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach of course!). So exercise that control by NOT buying unhealthy stuff in the first place.

With many processed junk foods, it isn’t that difficult to create your own ‘healthy version’ of something similar at home. Home made popcorn, oven-baked vegetable ‘crisps’, frozen fruit lollies, sweet potato fries (oven baked), are just a few examples of non-addictive, healthier versions of junk food.

Drink lots of water. Junk food consumption is linked closely with emotional eating and keeping yourself well hydrated will help reduce or eliminate those emotional hunger-pangs.

Plan ahead and avoid getting too hungry. When we allow ourselves to get too hungry, the kinds of foods we’ll crave tend to be high calorie, fat-laden or sugary rubbish. If you realise that you’re likely to start getting hungry before your next meal, simply planning a healthy snack in advance and eating it BEFORE the onset of hunger, can keep you free of those cravings in the first place.

Research suggests that our willpower can be measured and quantified throughout the day. Studies show that willpower and self-control are strongest in the earlier part of the day and become progressively weaker toward the end of the day. With this in mind, try to fill up on healthy foods early so that it’s easier to stave off late-night cravings.

Another way to protect ourselves is to supplement wisely. There are a number of natural formulas that help reduce cravings and support healthy blood sugar levels. Look for supplements containing ginseng, medicinal mushrooms, fish oil, alginates, chromium or alpha lipoic acid; these have been shown to help balance glucose and control cravings.

The best news is that good food choices, like bad ones, are self-sustaining. Meaning that when we eat mindfully and healthily, we get better nutrition, control blood sugar spikes and reap countless other benefits. With time, healthy foods and the abundance of good feelings they can generate, create their own special rewards; vibrancy, long-term health, vitality and of course, weight control. As a result, we feel great and start to crave the nutrient-dense foods that will keep us energized throughout the day, whilst at the same time noticing a marked reduction in cravings for unhealthy, processed junk-food.

Next – What to do when you become ‘overwhelmed’ with your weight situation