Mindfully Changing An Overeating Habit

Like any action that we have repeated over and over again through the years, much of our eating has become habitual. And habits are things that we have done so often that they are automatic responses. That mind-less nature of these responses is what can make them difficult to change.

Becoming mindful of what you are doing is the first step in changing it. What’s the old saying… “Knowing you have a problem is the first step in curing it.”, or something like that. If we want to change our eating habits, we need to take a look at what we are currently doing, before we can come up with a strategy for changing it. Keeping a journal is best way to do this. While, ongoing journaling can help you continue to change and stay on track, even just journaling for a couple of days can help reveal trouble areas.


One of the most common overeating issues is when we eat while distracted. If we have a bag of chips in front of us while watching TV, they seem to disappear without us realizing it until the bag is empty. The same is true if we have snacks at our desk while working on our computer. By not paying attention to our food, we are unaware of how much we’re eating and we’re not even really enjoying the flavor of the food.

If this happens with you, ask yourself why. Are you actually hungry, or it just something you always do (habit)? Do you snack while watching TV because you need to do something with your hands? Understanding why can help you find a solution.

mindful-eatingIf you are hungry, stop what you are doing. Turn your TV off or leave the room or your desk. Get the food you want. Take the time to enjoy the food and think of it as an eating meditation. Experience it. Look at it, smell it, place it in your mouth, notice the texture, the feel. How does it taste? Food will be a lot more enjoyable and you will eat less if you eat mindfully. Then you can go back to whatever you were doing. Sometimes, this mindfulness can even help you make decisions to eat better food. If you really pay attention to the taste of those lousy chips you’ve been eating, you might say to yourself, “Hey, these chips taste awful.” and find something better (dare I say healthier) to eat.

If you find that you are eating because you needed something to do with your hands, find something else to do. It could be knitting, doodling, coloring, making things with modeling clay (or Play-Doh). These may not sound like things you normally do, but you will be surprised how well they work. (If you have other things that work for you, share them with us in the comments below.)


What are your eating habits? Do you find yourself eating without thinking about it? Do you know how much you are eating and how the food tastes? Keep a food journal for a few days and see what your eating habits are. If you find that there are times that you are eating without really paying attention, try these approaches to control those mindless moments.

What a Pain!

Pain is a funny thing. For personal trainers, we have been taught that when a client feels pain it is a red flag. Stop what you are doing and send the client to a doctor. But pain is not redflag1always that simple. First, everyone perceives it differently. I’ve had clients that, after a few reps of an exercise, said that it hurts. ? OK, do I stop and send them to a doctor? Well, I do stop. But then we talk about what they are really experiencing. Where does it hurt? In the joint? In the muscle? OK, it’s in the muscle. What does that feel like? Is it sharp or stabbing? Is it dull or achey? Is it tension and fatigue? You’d be surprised how many people are unused to feeling muscle fatigue and report that as pain. I’ve also had clients that would tell me that their backs hurt when they did abdominal crunches (back when I used to have them do crunches). We’d discuss what they were sensing and determine that they were feeling a stretch tension in their lower back. This was neither harmful nor uncommon as one of the limiting factors in how high someone could crunch was the flexibility of the low back.

My point here is not to support the common declarations of “No pain, no gain.” or “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Rather, I bring this up to make you aware that there are many sensations when you are working out that are often lumped into the pain category and to take a moment and analyze what you are really feeling.

“Pain”, like Baskin-Robbins ice cream, comes in many flavors and depending on the flavor and where it is located, can help you understand its severity. First, let me say that joint pain is always more concerning than a muscular pain. With muscles, you can feel a burning fatigue, stretch tension, acheyness, soreness, cramping, etc. All of which are really more discomfort and, while not pleasant, they are not that concerning. A tearing feeling or pop, on the other hand, you had better pay attention to (stop what you’re doing and see your doctor). Joint pain should rarely be ignored. If ysevere-knee-painou have diagnosed arthritis or are just stiff and achey, maybe you can keep on keeping on. However, if you feel a sharp, stabbing sensation, a radiating pain, or even a strong ache in a joint, it is cause to stop what you are doing and seek medical attention. Joint issues can be very serious and should be addressed before returning to activity.

Backtracking a little, if there is any chronic pain that you are experiencing, no matter what flavor,  you should see your doctor. It’s always better to know what you’re dealing with. The diagnosis will let you make an informed decision as to what you can safely do or not do.

So, while some discomfort is expected in a fitness program, being able to discern between what might be considered normal and what is potentially a real injury, is important in keeping your body healthy. Listen to your body and get to know your flavors.


What’s Really Affordable Care

As I write this, the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare) is being dismantled for who knows what as a replacement. Although I personally think that the ACA was a great, first attempt at finding something better than a health care system that was already too expensive for most Americans, it does have it’s issues. aca-logoBut, you can never know all of the problems until something is actually put in place. In my humble opinion, we should now be focusing on correcting the things that don’t work with the ACA. That said, what I really wanted to talk about was the most affordable care… preventative care.

According to the CDC, 75% of health care costs are on people with chronic conditions. These chronic conditions include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that eliminating these 3 risk factors – poor diet, inactivity, and smoking – would prevent:

  • 80% of heart disease and stroke
  • 80% of type 2 diabetes
  • 40% of cancer.

cover-chronic-care_281731694While I know that the majority of smokers know that smoking is hazardous to their health, I believe that benefits of exercise and eating healthfully are too often thought of as just a way to look better. Many people don’t understand the magnitude of health benefits that also come with them. Managing your diet and physical activity really is a health intervention. See Exercise is Medicine!

Going forward, whatever health care system is developed or put in place, it must promote preventative care or we as a nation will never manage health care costs. Of course, you don’t have to wait for that to happen. Take charge of your heath today.

Without concerted strategic intervention, chronic diseases and their risk factors can be expected to cause more harm—and be more costly to society. We cannot effectively address escalating health care costs without addressing the problem of chronic diseases.” – CDC, The Power of Prevention

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Paying Attention to Posture

You may not think too much about your posture, but, in today’s society, it’s easy to find yourself in habitually bad postural positions. We sit all day with our backs rounded over and our heads looking up at a computer screen or down looking at a device. skeleton-with-acs-webPoor posture can lead to numerous problems as we get older. Muscles that are in shortened positions for long periods of time become tight, which will prevent our joints from being able to return to their ideal stretched position. In example, when in a forward rounded position, the muscles in the front of our bodies become tight and make it difficult to stand up with a neutral spine.

Tight hip flexors will pull and tip the pelvis forward which can create low back pressure and pain.


Tight chest muscles may cause the spine to round forward which then create a posture that forces an increased curve in the neck when trying to look forward or up. This, in turn, can create neck pressure and pain.

The rounded posture can also put more pressure on the diaphragm making it more challenging to breathe.

To prevent or counteract these postural deviations, like most aspects of fitness, is very personal depending on your strengths and weaknesses. Stretch this. Strengthen that. However, I’m going to let you in on a simple solution. Sit talls.

Sit on the edge of your chair avoiding touching the chair back. Sit tall and then imagine I offered you $50,000 to sit 2″ taller. As you try to stretch your spine up, pushing the top of your head further toward the ceiling, you engage your core muscles. This will help strengthen your weaker postural muscles, such as your abs and upper back. It can also help stretch tight, front torso muscles. Sit talls can also be performed as stand talls, trying to stand as tall as you can.

Of course, even if you build strength and flexibility, you then need to create the habit of holding good posture. I tell clients to set their watches to chime on the hour and, when it goes off, check your posture and make sure you are sitting or standing as tall as you can. Hold it. You’ll forget after a while, then the chime goes off again. You correct your posture again and bit by bit you create a habit of holding better posture.



Free Weights, Machines, Tubing, or Body Weight?

Should your resistance workout include free weights, machines, tubing, or body weight exercises? The answer is “yes!” It should and could include any or all of those various resistance training forms. The choice you make depends on a few things. These include what you are training for (your goals), what equipment do you have access to, and what have you been using (variety is the spice of life). Let’s talk about what each has to offer.

First, let me note that all are means of adding resistance to movement and, in doing that, have the potential to build muscle size, strength, and endurance depending on the repetition range and volume (a post for a later time). Yes, you can body build with tubing alone. Your muscles don’t know what form of resistance you are using. They only know, “Is it hard?” and if it is, your muscles will adapt.

designFree weights (a constant, external weight) have been around forever. Anything we grab and lift is a free weight. There are many physical professions that produce strong people because they lift heavy things as part of the job. In fact, some of the strong man/woman challenges are taken from these, such as the farmer’s walk and yoke carry. One of the major benefits of lifting free weights is that can replicate the demands that we face in our activities of daily living (ADL). This is typically what is called functional training. Lifting with free weights can make you deal with balance, stability, and gravity in a similar way as lifting something in “real life”.

Machines typically have a pin selected weight stack, seats that need to be adjusted to fit your body, and handles that you either pull or push. The good and the bad? Changing weights are quick and easy. Machines support your body weight so you don’t need to. This makes it less like activities of daily living. However, that support can also allow you to work around injuries and not all exercises need to be directly related to ADL. Additionally, most machines offer variable resistance. Where free weights are always the same (a 10lb dumbbell is always 10lbs), through the use of different shaped cams, machines can increase and decrease the resistance. This helps you to work through “sticking points” to maximize resistance within a full range of motion.

Tubing (elastic tension) offers the advantages of being highly portable, very versatile, and simple to change the direction of force (up, down, horizontal, etc.) by changing the anchor point. It can provide significant resistance both by changing to a heavier gauge tubing or by simply moving further away from the anchor point. The biggest downside to tubing is that you are never sure how much resistance you are using. This makes replicating the tension, from one workout to the next, challenging. Without that measurable progress marker, some people may not be as motivated.

Finally, there is body weight exercise. Using your body weight (BW) is certainly functional, we have to move our bodies around all day long. No external equipment is needed, so it’s a handy portable workout. There’s also an ego advantage. Who doesn’t like the idea of being able to handle their own BW. Push ups, pull ups, and dips are long time fitness standards. We can’t alter our weight, though, to suit the exercise. I watch some guys crank out pull ups and have to note, “Well, you only weigh 150. Try that at my weight (212 as of yesterday, btw).” Sometimes your BW is not enough. BW squats, if challenging now, will rapidly become too easy. You need to be creative to give the whole body the right amount of resistance. (See push up progression here)

So, when the question of which mode of resistance training is best for you arises, you know the answer is “It depends”. What tools are available, what is your goal, what things do you like doing? The important thing to note is that all of these can provide very effective workouts and your body will not respond differently because of the type of resistance you use.