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Last Saturday morning, my husband informed me that John wasn’t feeling great.  Apparently he was having some stomach “issues” and had spent a little extra time in the bathroom that morning.  Ugh!  When he came downstairs a bit later he smiled at me and said, “Man, I don’t know what my problem was.” 
I knew he had gone with his friend to see the new Batman movie the day before so I asked, “Well, did you get anything to eat at the movies?”
“Yeah, popcorn,” he replied.
“What size popcorn?” I asked.
“Um, medium …but I didn’t finish all of it,” he quickly responded.
“Okay.  And then you had fried chicken for dinner, right?” I asked.  (His father ordered take out the night before as I had met with a friend after work.)
“Uh, yeah.  I guess that did go so well on my stomach,” he said.
“I’d say.  With all that fat and grease you put in there it was kind of like a slip and slide for your food, huh?” I replied.
He made a face and grumbled as he walked out of the room.  Yes, pretty gross, but I can assure you he won’t do that again anytime soon.  Later in the day I explained to John that his body isn’t used to eating that way (thankfully!) and the reaction to all that fatty food was his body’s way of letting him know it wasn’t happy.

We should all listen to our bodies more often.  For example, think about a time when you’ve felt extremely tired.  Have you been sleeping okay?  If so, check your diet–is there something missing?  Maybe you’re lacking iron and the fix would be to add iron-rich foods to your meals like spinach and beans.

How about listening to what your body tells you about feeling full.  Are you eating because you’re hungry or because you’re bored?  Do you stop eating when you feel full or continue until you’re uncomfortable?  Learning how to read your body is an important part of healthy weight management.

For me, listening to my body is an ongoing learning process.  One area where I can do a better job is in keeping hydrated.  I find that, especially during summer, I usually figure out too late that I need to drink something.  I should be paying better attention to the signals my body is sending me before I actually reach for the water bottle.  I try to pay attention to how I’m feeling on a daily basis.  I know I feel much better when I follow a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables.  If I do stray too far away from my usual fare I’ll end up feeling cranky, lethargic or having stomach issues much like John.  The bottom line is to be in tune with your body if you want to feel good–it’s sending you messages all the time, all you have to do is listen!

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One reason people stop exercising is lack of interest or loss of motivation.  Let’s face it–after a while doing the same thing can get boring.  That’s why so many personal trainers will tell you to mix up your routine by adding different kinds of exercise into the mix (swimming, running, weight training, etc.).  Not only will it challenge your body, but it’s hard to get bored when you’re constantly doing something different.  I find this strategy works to keep you motivated once you’re actively exercising, but what about if you’re losing the motivation to get out and do it?

Here’s the scenario–you get home from work and this is the usual time you head to the gym or outside for your walk/run, but you’ve lost the motivation to get changed and go.  The challenge is getting out the door and getting to your destination.  I find that once I’m there I’m okay, it’s the getting there part that’s difficult.  This is where a workout buddy or social network can really help!  It’s hard to bail out when you have a partner who is relying on you to meet him/her at the gym.  Plus, you’ll find that you’ll be looking forward to the social interaction you have with your workout friend, an added bonus and extra motivation to make it to your scheduled exercise time.

I was recently reminded of this important strategy while watching a group of my neighbors.  There is a group who get together almost every evening and walk several loops around the neighborhood.  One loop is roughly a 3/4 mile so depending on how many times you walk around, it can quickly add up.  Our neighborhood is new and homes are being added each month so this is not only a terrific way for the neighbors to keep in shape, it’s also a great way for everyone to get to know each other.  What’s nice is that members of our community know when the group meets and whoever would like to join that evening does so–the group varies from having 3 to 8 or more people walking together from night to night.  One neighbor even wears a vest that allows her to add weights to it in order to make her walk more challenging.

You might see if something like this exists in your own community and if not, perhaps start something similar.  Finding a friend who is interested in hitting the gym or taking an exercise class works just as well.  Simply think of it as a “happy hour” the healthy way!

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I was recently at a barbeque where I met a woman who had lost over 150 pounds–quite an accomplishment!  She had drastically modified her diet and made exercise a regular part of her daily routine to reach this goal.  The conversation revolved around dieting for a bit and some of the party-goers were talking about how cutting out all dairy is what works, one said don’t eat any sugar–not even fruit, another heard going gluten-free does the trick and so on.  The woman who lost the weight spoke up and said she hesitates to suggest anything to anyone because what works for her may not work for someone else.  Hmmm …wise words I thought to myself.

Dieting can be a very confusing subject.  Ask three different experts what to do and you’ll get three different answers.  Gluten-free, vegan, raw food diets, low-carb–it’s enough to frustrate anyone.  The thing I agree with is that what works for me may not work for you.  It’s not so much that I don’t believe a well-balanced diet won’t work for someone, it’s more that another person’s expectations may be different than my own.

My diet is based around the MyPlate guidelines of making half my plate fruits and vegetables.  I have found that over the past two years adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet and substituting them for snacks has gradually resulted in the loss of roughly 20 pounds.  While 20 pounds is a significant accomplishment considering I wouldn’t have been classified overweight at the start, it did take me two years to reach this point.  Many people want instant results.  Instead, I was looking for a healthy lifestyle change I could live with long term, not a quick fix, so this “diet” is the right one for me.

What I would encourage you to look for in any kind of eating plan is to make sure it provides you with the nutrition your body needs to function.  If you’re barely eating anything and you’re feeling weak, your body is sending you warning signals that something isn’t right.  Cutting out entire food groups can also be concerning unless you’re doing it because of a food allergy (dairy or wheat).  If you’re going to do something so extreme, I would recommend you look at what nutrients that food group provides and be certain you’re incorporating them into your diet another way.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a great section on Creating a Healthy Eating Plan that can help get you started and teaches you about portion control.  The right diet should be one that you can live with long term and not have to think too much about.  I have found that you really can lose weight, enjoy your food and not feel like you’re starving while you do it! 

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