Really, it’s not what you think. Well, maybe it is. But the point here is that I’ve been studying Hormone Health through Institute for Integrative Nutrition and it’s been fascinating. It’s pretty amazing how the endocrine system works to keep everything in balance, but if one things gets out of balance, it has a big impact on the rest of the body.
So why hormones? Why now?
My focus as a nutrition and lifestyle coach has been helping women take control of their health optimizing nutrient balance and lifestyle changes. Every client is different, so the approach is different and tailored to specific goals. The common theme is hormones. Stress and sleep impact cortisol and adrenaline levels which can then impact the metabolism and cause weight gain. Thyroid hormone imbalances are common amongst my clients, and that impacts weight management as well. In today’s busy life, stress has become the norm, as have late nights, early mornings meals on-the-go, and work taking over as the number one priority.
How do I get started?
First, you need to take a good hard look at your nutrition and lifestyle. Are you choosing a lot of processed foods, quick meals on the run, or eating out a lot? Do you exercise? How’s your sleep? The quality of food, your activity levels, and your sleep habits all factor in to your hormone balancing act.
Are you feeling tired and worn out? Are you constantly fatigued? Are you having mood swings? Are you suffering from depression and anxiety? Are you putting on weight even though you’re on a restrictive diet? These may be signs of a hormone imbalance.
Over the next several months I will be rolling out some programs to help guide you with nutrition and lifestyle tips to restore balance to your body. Reach out if there’s something specific you have questions about.
Summer’s here and the 100+ degree days have kicked in here in Northern California so here’s your reminder to stay hydrated! In the sunshine of summer, there’s nothing like an icy glass of water to quench your thirst. When it’s hot, you sweat and need to replenish your hydration.Makes sense, right?
The human body is 70% water. Since you are made of water, your hydration levels can have a big impact on how you feel.If you are feeling sluggish and lackluster, you may need to drink water to help energize your brain and feel more focused and present.
Drinking water can help promote weight loss in a number of ways. Prior to eating, drink a glass of water. That may suppress your appetite and help with portion control. Sometimes our brains can mistake thirst for hunger. If you’re not sure you are hungry, try drinking a glass of water. That may hold you over until your next meal and cut down your snacking.
Water is also the first line of defense when you feel a headache coming on. You may be a bit dehydrated.
There are other sources of hydration besides water. You can get water in vegetables and fruits, and herbal teas. Another tip for hydration — skip the caffeine and alcohol. They act as a diuretic and can actually contribute to dehydration.
Fruit and Herb Infused Waters
I have clients that struggle to get their daily water intake and one of the things I suggest for them is to infuse water with some tasty herbs and fruit. There’s certainly no shortage of ideas out on Pinterest, but I thought I would share a few of my favorites, especially since delicious fruits are in season right now! Pro-tip: Freeze your fruit for extra refreshment on demand.
This year has been one of great personal transformation for me. I am about to wrap up a year long program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition which has kickstarted a whole new passion and career as a health coach. It’s been busy and hectic, but manageable for a number of reasons.
First of all, I had a lot of support from my friends and family for pursuing something completely new. My main motivation was to keep me on track with my own wellness journey. I’ve maintained my weight loss from bariatric surgery for over a year now, with my second surgiversary coming up on July 5. So — mission accomplished there.
I’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge about coaching behavioral modifications and helping my clients find their own definition of health. It looks very different for each of them, and they all have different goals and different areas of focus.
One of the main reasons I got through all of this has to do with mindset. I am winding down my career as a government worker bee, so I have the motivation to be successful in this new chapter. But it’s not always easy. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for many years now, and while it’s a lot more manageable now post-surgery, I still have to work at it.
Meditation, not medication, has been my secret. Oh yeah, I am medicated too, but that’s not what has kept me focused. Mindfulness is such a buzzword these days, but it was my gateway to meditation. I found the podcast 10% Happier in 2016 while contemplating weight loss surgery, when I was overcome with depression and grief after my dad died. The host, Dan Harris, is an ABC news anchor who had a panic attack live on TV which ultimately led him to meditation. I love his irreverence and skepticism about nearly everything, but the thing that sold me was his interview with the Dalai Lama. (Definitely check this out for all of the feels!) I didn’t actually decide to practice meditation however until I started my health coach training.
Journaling was an amazing outlet for me (we won’t talk about my office supply and journaling materials fetish) and I had already established a gratitude journal which really transformed my mindset. But I never really tried meditation because I figured I couldn’t shut that damn voice up in my head — that voice that is always churning. I started with some breathing exercises that I learned at a stress management training I took at work. Then when my Apple watch upgrade introduced some mindfulness apps I tried a few out. First it was Headspace, then Calm, then Simple Habit. After a bit of experimentation with longer form guided meditations on YouTube, I settled on Calm as the one I liked the most. Ten-ish minutes a day I can fit in. It quiets the mind, even mine with the spinning hamster wheel squeaking away.
I don’t get panic attacks very much, but over the past few weeks, I have been awakened out of the blue from a dead sleep with that horrifying chest tightness and heart palpitations which for me are a telltale sign that a panic attack is happening. It’s odd to wake up in the middle of the night to something so scary, so I am definitely looking into what that is all about, but it’s made me appreciate knowing that if I bring everything back to the breath, I can get them under control.
I’m normally encouraging people to step away from their phones and get some sunshine and fresh air, but this week, I thought it would be good to recommend something that really can enhance your health and get control of those damn hamsters churning away in your head.
Do you have any apps that have helped you on your health journey? Let us know what’s your fave!
We can be so hard on ourselves, and this time of year when the calendar gets full and work gets intense trying to meet deadlines while working around holiday schedules, it’s important for me to remember: self-care is not selfish.
Over the past few weeks, I have found myself overcommitted, full of anxiety, and with a to-do list a mile long. The most important thing I did was to recognize those feelings, own them, then come up with a plan to mitigate what felt like an impending implosion. Okay, truth time: I had a bit of a mini-meltdown.
I know I am not the only one who has experienced these emotions.
So what are some strategies for rebooting? Here’s a few I have been employing.
Sleep. I have worked on my sleep habit over the past few years. I aim for 7-8 hours which is a huge improvement over 4-5 that I thought was enough. After my mini-meltdown, I set an 8:30 bedtime for myself and even chose sleep over exercise to just get my energy back on track.
Protect your time. I have had to pass on some lunch and coffee invitations because as an introvert, they are a huge effort for me. I love my friends, but I needed to recharge before I can engage, at least for now.
Take some mental health time. I have so much banked vacation time, so I have been using it as a way to rest and refocus my energy, especially while building up my coaching business.
Eat well. Nutrition for your body contributes to the nourishment of your soul. What you eat affects how you feel.
Practice gratitude. Daily reminders of the good things in life help reframe your mental energy when in a rut.
Hug your dogs. (Well, that’s what I do.) If you don’t have a critter to hug, maybe it’s time to open your heart and adopt one!
Hydrate. Dehydration can add to your funk. With the weather getting cooler, herbal teas have worked their way into my hydration agenda.
Laugh. Read or listen to a funny book, or indulge in some Netflix time for a mental break.
Breathe. Practice focused breathing or meditation to help bring some mindfulness to the situation.
What are some of the ways you choose to reboot? Share them here or tweet with me @OffthePlateMC.
I have now completed six months of my coach training program so I am ready to start small and start building up my practice. For now, I will be available on Fridays for initial consults and coaching sessions, which can be conducted in person for you local folks, or by phone, Skype or FaceTime for anyone outside of the greater Sacramento area.
So what would it be like to work with me?
The initial consultation takes about 50 minutes to an hour and includes getting a health history where we’ll discuss your health goals, a bit of your history, and your current nutrition and fitness plan. This is a great way to determine if we’re a good fit to work together and to identify a few areas of focus. Health and wellness can be within your reach with some gradual changes. Should you decide to work with me, we’ll create a customized program to focus on helping you refine and achieve your personal health goals.
You’ll get 2 coaching sessions per month, either in person or by phone, FaceTime or Skype. We will customize an approach based on goals that we set together. Local clients can go on field trips to farmers’ markets and their regular grocery store to get some tips on healthy, balanced, and whole food eating. You’ll also get handouts, recipes, meal prep tips and newsletter articles tailored to your needs. What I really offer is a holistic approach to creating a more balanced life, both on and off the plate.
Why do I need a health coach?
To be honest, not everyone does. Some people have worked to achieve the right balance of nutrition and lifestyle, physical activity and career, relationships and body/mind connectivity. I can tell you that I’ve been working at this a long time, yet I still have a core group of supporters that help me stay on track and focused on my goals. I even have my own accountability coach I have been working with through my training to help me hone my coaching skills and strategize my practice.
You need a health coach to help stimulate some ideas about how to get out of a rut, how to figure out where to start, and how to make the changes you already know you need to make — and make them sustainable over time. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re really ready to dig deep and mix things up, it might be for you.
There’s this concept in my coaching program called “the magic of mirroring.” When listening to clients, there’s often this inner dialogue going on where you completely relate to what they are saying, and as you go on in dialogue providing guidance, you hear yourself answering your own struggles. Speaking with one of my “practice” clients, we got into a conversation about being good or being bad. Why is it that we take this all or nothing approach to so many things? We say, “I eat really well, except when I am bad.” We let this notion of being “good” allow us to indulge in “bad” things as a reward, or we punish ourselves for being “bad,” by spiraling into more “bad” behaviors.
Life isn’t that clear cut. And for people who have struggled with weight loss, it’s time for a new way of thinking. We’ve been shamed into thinking that we are being bad if we make a poor food choice or if we chose to sleep in over going to the gym. It’s time to listen to that voice in your head and tell it to STFU.
This a-ha moment I had made me very conscious of my inner monologue and how often I think of things in terms of good or bad. I have rephrased my self-talk. I only choose food that will nourish me because that’s just how I eat now. I choose to eat this way because I am proud of my success and I don’t want to go back to my old way of life.
Is it all butterflies, unicorns, and roses? Hell no, but the awareness of that negative self-talk is the best answer to defeat it when things are tough. Weight loss after gastric bypass surgery isn’t just automatic. Well, part of it is — in the beginning, but there’s a lot of work that goes into making smart food choices, getting proper nutrition and supplementation, showing up for exercise, and creating consistently healthy patterns with sleep and stress management. I hear myself telling fellow patients that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I stop and listen to myself. Health coaching is the thing that will keep my inner evil voice quiet and will keep me focused on my own health and wellness. And that, my friends, is good.
There’s so many resources about diet after bariatric surgery when you are post-surgery to about 6 months. Moving from liquid, to puree, to solid stages during weight loss comes with a lot of guidelines. What life looks like post-weight loss is not nearly as well-documented. I know when I was researching surgery, I followed so many blogs of people who were going through weight loss, and they all seem to get to a certain point and then stop documenting the journey. Even my own blogging has slowed down now that I have reached maintenance.
This week in my health coach training, one of our assignments is to create a resource for my clients about clean eating. Do you need to recreate the wheel for bariatric patients? I think not.
Here’s some guidance from our curriculum:
Keep It Whole
Experiment with Home Cooking
Limit Refined Carbohydrates
Maintain Consistent Eating Times and Try Not to Skip Meals
Balance Your Plate
Let’s put the bariatric spin on this.
There are rules we have to follow as bariatric patients (and they may vary from surgeon to surgeon, so it’s important to follow YOUR program). First and foremost, we must take our vitamins and supplements. For me, this means a bariatric formulated multi-vitamin, calcium with vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and 60-80 grams of protein specifically from protein supplement. Since we’ve got through a major surgery to reroute our digestion, supplementation to ensure proper absorption of these nutrients is critical.
Emphasize Quality Over Quantity
This applies to your supplements as well as food. I have chosen bariatric formulated products to ensure maximum absorbtion. It is expensive? Not compared to feeling like crap and being 90 pounds overweight. It’s all relative. We have one body in this lifetime and we’ve already put it through a lot to get to where we are going, so invest in your health.
The same goes for the rest of the things we eat. We’re so limited on how much food we can intake. In the beginning, I was fine with 1/4 cup serving sizes for meals, but as I got more into my exercise program, I gradually increased to 1/2 cup per meal, and now that I am in maintenance, I can eat much more — depending on the food, but the quality of that food matters. Since we can only eat so much, nutrient dense food is the way to go. So:
Choose Whole Foods
When planning meals, think of choosing the most unprocessed food and keep it simple. I always include a protein source as my primary food and eat that first, followed by whole vegetables and fruits. I lean towards a plant based diet, so protein sources can include beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, or hummus but I will also include vegetarian sources like eggs, cottage cheese, string cheese, greek yogurt, or other reduced fat cheese. Occasionally I will eat chicken or fish, but try to choose organic and sustainably raised animal products when I do choose them. I will typically pair these foods with organic fruit or vegetables, usually fresh, sometimes frozen. Simplicity is the key. I will meal prep simple “lunchables” that are roughly the same quantities that I can mix and match over the course of the week and have prepped and ready to go to throw in my lunch bag.
Here’s a few examples:
Eggs with sliced tomatoes
Cottage cheese with sliced peaches
Tempeh with hummus in a lettuce wrap
Kale and red cabbage salad with beans or hummus
Roasted root vegetables with grilled chicken
You are only limited by your imagination.
2. Experiment with home cooking
Food prep keeps things fun and interesting. Typically I will find a recipe on Pinterest that I will make as an entree to have for lunch or dinner for the week, or I will find some kind of plant-based salad to make that can be paired with a protein source or just enjoyed as a snack between meals. My pinterest account has a collection of bariatric friendly and plant-based recipes that I will adapt based on my current nutritional needs.
I am still recovering from my kidney surgery, so I have had to adapt my portions and my food to a reduced intake due to reduced exercise quantity and intensity. Eating at home really helps me to control what I take in, reduce the amount of sugar, salt and carbs I eat, and the quality of food. And home cooking doesn’t have to mean elaborate meals. Choosing one or two recipes a week keeps things interesting, and helps keep things simple. Use herbs and spices and find homemade recipes for things like salad dressing to avoid any additional additives outside of “real” food. Once you find recipes that are easy, you can adapt them to fit your own nutritional needs and your creativity.
3. Limit refined carbohydrates.
Actually, really just leave these out. I’m not an “everything in moderation” advocate. For most bariatric patients, refined carbohydrates is what got us into this mess. Sugar, flour, rice, pasta and the like. There are some people who can work these back into their diets, but I know how easy it can be to go back to old habits. My recommendation is to steer clear of processed foods and find whole food alternatives to your favorites. Bariatric Eating is a great resource for recipes to help keep those cravings at bay.
I have been experimenting with whole grains, like millet, quinoa, and freekah. I find that I can use them as a condiment. I will add a tablespoon or two to a salad to provide some density and add fiber and protein. It’s satisfying enough, but doesn’t trigger any cravings for me. I am intentionally avoiding food like edamame or chick pea pasta, because I know if will be a trigger for me. I am a realist, and I see how quickly I can gain weight if not following the bariatric diet recommendations. I don’t want to be that person who gained all their weight back and more after gastric bypass. I’ve just worked too hard for that. Everyone needs to find their own tolerance level.
4. Maintain consistent eating times and try not to skip meals
One of the most important things for me was to create a schedule/routine for myself around my meals. On a typical workday, I do a protein shake before my workouts, eat a small mid morning meal when I get to work, walk at lunchtime and then have a small lunch at 1ish, eat dinner around 6 and then have a shake before bed, or have my shake as a mid afternoon snack. This has worked well for me once I met my goal weight. I’m currently a few pounds higher than my goal weight which I attribute to being a limited activity, so I am reducing the number of snacks I have and really focusing on nutrient dense and lower calorie meals. It’s HARD, but sticking with the routine helps me from getting too far off the rails.
5. Balance your plate
I have always tried to have a good balance of protein, carbs and fat at each meal, but the fat typically comes from healthy sources like nuts and seeds, avocado, or olive oil. Carbs are never simple carbs – they are typically vegetables or fruit, and I stick with he lower glycemic fruit like melon and berries per bariatric recommendations. I do my food prep and thinking about variety and creating balanced meals. Very often food prep for me is just making sure everything is washed and chopped and ready to go for mix/match salads, stir fries, or snacking.
So there’s my bariatric take on the IIN clean eating recommendations. When working with clients, I stress that everyone has their individual needs and can typically figure out which foods work best for them, but I look forward with helping clients with those discoveries to encourage variety, simplicity, and health — whether they choose a plant-based approach or not.
Interested in setting up a free coaching session? Contact me and we’ll set something up. You will help me develop my coaching skills, and we can work to find some tips to help you achieve your health and fitness goals too.
I call myself an obesity ass-kicker because it’s a battle I’ve fought for more than 30 years. And I’m winning! But the process isn’t easy, and along the way I have experienced weight bias by the very people who are supposed to help us achieve health: doctors!
Look at the state of health in our country. According to a recent New York Times article, one in every three people is obese. I can’t even imagine how much money is spent treating obesity-related diseases. That’s what doctors are trained to do. Treat diseases.
Raise your hand if you’ve been told by a doctor you need to exercise more and eat less. I know I have. Countless times. It took me years to get someone to actually look at me as a whole person and try to connect the dots between obesity, thyroid issues, a pituitary tumor, and the inability to lose weight, in spite of the 1200 calorie a day diet. Just treat the symptom and there’s no need to investigate the root cause.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to empower yourself to be your own advocate through the healthcare system. I’ll have a story on that in the future.
The driver for this post is this article shared by the Obesity Action Coalition, Barriers to Obesity Care and How to Create a Support Team. I react when I read that someone isn’t being offered the best medical options because of their weight. As an overweight person with knee pain, I was told it’s arthritis and there’s nothing to be done and I should stop running. Oh, and lose weight. That’s it. No guidance, no alternatives, nothing. I’ve been there.
However, I have also been lucky to have physicians who advocated for me, helped empower me to make decisions that led me to a healthy weight, helped me work with the insurance company to appeal bariatric surgery denial, and get me to a bariatric surgeon who understands the science of obesity and the challenges for someone who has struggled their entire lives and fighting an uphill battle against their metabolism and co-morbidities.
It takes work to build a support team, to research so you know how to ask the right questions, to understand not just “diet” but nutrition and lifestyle changes needed to be successful, and to navigate the complexities of insurance and the healthcare system. This gives me hope that the rise of holistic health coaching can be a compliment to medical care for people like me who battled obesity. There’s some great suggestions in this article about how to put together a medical team for support, but kicking obesity’s ass requires so much more support. I was fortunate to have a mentor through my weight loss process — another bariatric patient who could answer questions or tell me what to expect, cheer me on, or kick me in the butt when I needed it. That emotional support really completed the picture for me and launched me on this journey to becoming a health coach.