healthy living while dining out.

This is Part 28 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Nicole and I drove up to New Hampshire to visit my brother Matt and his girlfriend Kelsey today!

They showed us all around their home and their quaint little town…

(…and then I fell in love with their cat, Ellum.  Sigh.  I need a dog or a cat in my life. 😉 )

Around 12 o’clock or so, our stomachs drove the four of us into Portsmouth, NH.

Portsmouth, NH, is this awesome, trendy little  town full of quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants.  It’s a lot like Northampton, MA.  Only larger.  I absolutely love it.  In fact, if I didn’t have my heart so set on living in Rockport someday, I’d consider this the town after my own heart. 😉

For lunch, we decided on a place called Flat Bread Pizza.

Eating out is such a rare (i.e., special!) occasion these days.  So when I’m eating out, I tend to focus less on eating “healthy foods” and more on “staying balanced.”  I don’t want to walk out feeling stuffed (ick,) but I also don’t want to walk out feeling deprived either.  

Balance!

Which is, really, the whole point of “healthy living” anyways.

Nicole and I split a large side salad and the veggie pizza…

This was an easy option since we both tend to have pretty similar tastes in most things.

Obviously. 😉

I’m really not one for following hard and fast “restaurant rules” while dining out.

Mostly because I believe that a “diet” is a way of life.  And life without sweet potato fries or the occasional slice of cheesecake just isn’t living.  I do, however, always find myself ordering a large salad to take the edge off.  And I love sharing my favorite foods with friends and family, so splitting is an easy option!

I don’t, however, believe in swearing off any one food in particular.

It’s all about balance.  Saying no to the extra hunk of bread and saying yes to the sharing of dessert.  Saying no to the extra-extra-extra cheese pizza and saying yes to the cappucino.  Saying no to one more bite (when your stomach says you’ve had enough.)  Saying yes to that post-dinner walk.

Because it never hurts to finish the meal off with a little walk down main street.

(Oh gosh.  We’re sooo serious when we get together!) 😉

I guess I don’t have much to say in the area of dining out.

A lot of it depends on how often the dining out occurs, what types of foods are usually selected, and what the goals of the individual are (weight loss?  weight maintenance?  weight gain?)  One of the best ways to start the process of incporating dining out into a healthy living plan is just to know yourself and your own personal goals.  And then to find your own personal weaknesses and find strategies on how to get around them.

For example, I can never turn down cheesecake at the cheesecake factory.  Never.  It’s just not happening.  So I’ve learned that it’s easier to just skip the bread basket ‘n’ butter and the appetizers, thereby saving room to savor the dessert with a few friends (and an espresso!)  Balance, balance, balance.

That is, after all, what healthy living is all about.

QUESTION: What are some of your best strategies for healthy living while dining out?

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stomping out the stress.

This is Part XVIII of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

“How do you handle stress?”

I asked myself this question this morning at—oh, I dunno—somewhere between 7:15 and 7:20AM.

I was driving down the highway, heading to a (very scary/exciting/nerve racking) dietetic job interview, and all of a suddenly the traffic came to a crawl, a step, a stop.

So.

There was the question again.

“Sarah?”

“How do you handle stress?”

“Pretty well, actually,” I smiled to myself.

I took a sip of my coffee, scanning the sun coming over the horizon with a gentle fierceness that woke the world with its glaring rays.

Ah yes.  The guilty subject in today’s sudden traffic jam.

And then the traffic moved on.

Stress averted.

No biggie.

The interview came and went.

Stressful, yes.  But again, it didn’t amount to much.

And then, later in the night, I found myself feeling more and more on edge.

It might have had something to do with this scarf valance that I picked up at JCPenney’s.

source

This was all in an attempt to update my bedroom, which I’m currently in the middle of remodeling.

Mom held the middle of the valence.

And then I attempted to artfully fluff the ends, drawing in a nice “fan” as pictured above.

For an hour.  Two hours.  Three!

“Sarah?”

(that question again)

“How do you handle stressful situations?”

Well.

I’ll tell you.

First, I whined.

Then I tied a giant gaudy bow in the curtain and stated that it looked like a rag.

And then I had a big bowl of oatmeal for dinner, because all I wanted was something carbohydrate based.

Sad but true.

Ironically enough, I was reading a very interesting article in Psychology Today, about how our body reacts to stressful situations.

When we’re stressed, our body sends out a hormone called cortisol which keeps us pumped and ready for action (it also gives us that racing heart when someone cuts us off on the highway!)  Cortisol can shut itself off by signaling this message to the brain, which is convenient during short term stress.

Long term stress however (say you’re at the end of a stressful day, dealing with an unruly curtain..wink, wink 😉 ) causes other nodes in the brain to make you want those rich, energy dense foods.  You know.  Chocolate.  Ice cream.  

Carbohydrates.

The problem is when long term stress happens time and time again, and when food becomes the very sole source that we turn to.

We pile on those rich, heavy foods, which turns into unwanted abdominal fat, which in turn greatly increases our risks for diabetes and heart disease (and the dreaded metabolic syndrome.)

In other words, stress causes us to overeat.  Which makes us put on unwanted weight.  Which makes us more at risk for health problems.  Which makes us more stressed.

What a cycle!

So.

How should we handle stress?

Well, let’s face it.  We’ll all have stressful days when we could care less about eating our vegetables and we care more about calming our racing mind.

But if this is a common occurrence, there are ways to combat the issue.  The same article in Psychology Today recommends exercising, yoga, and hot baths, which have all been proven to give our brains the same relief that food does.

The next time you feel drawn towards your chocolate stash (or towards eating big bowls of oatmeal with coconut and chocolate chips for dinner…oops!), take a deep breath, do a few stretches, go for a light stroll, take a hot bath or journal/read in the Bible/do some jumping jacks.

Give yourself 10 minutes to just unwind in this way.  It can make all the difference!

Oh.

And it’s also important to pinpoint those stressful situations in our lives and make them better.

In other words?

I’m returning the silly curtain.

QUESTION: Are you a “stress eater?”  What are some of your secrets in avoiding this?

coping mechanisms 101

I’ve been counseling a lot of patients over the past 8 weeks.  And while the entire premise has been based primarily on diabetes and weight loss, it’s not just about the…well…diabetes and weight loss.

If it came down to just the know-how knowledge of nutrition, most of my patients could be dietitians themselves.  Most, not all, but most of them know what they need to do.  It’s getting there that’s the issue.

The behavioral changes, the way we cope with things, and those things that need to take place before any real life changes can happen are oftentimes so ingrained–such a part of us–that we don’t even notice their existence.

For example.  Coping mechanisms.

We all have them, whether we admit to this or not.  How do you handle stress?  How do you react when you get a huge promotion?  What do you do when you’re burnt, tired, feeling alone, bored, (fill in the blank)?

Some of us smoke.  Some of us drink.  Some of us journal.  Some of us turn to food.  And some of us don’t cope at all.

I always thought I was immune from this “coping” thing.

But then, I felt it last year after I visited my Memere in the hospital.  I felt it again when I was applying for dietetic internships.  And then I felt it this morning, when I realized that the thunder and lightening would keep me far, far away from my much needed run.

Yes.  I am a stress runner.

Coping mechanisms can be a good thing.  We all need to get through the tough, exciting, stressful, wonderful, etc. periods of our life with something.  Something.  

But then.  They can also be very bad.  Messing with our minds, causing us to overeat, or causing us to push too hard in our running regimens.

So.  What to do?  First, find what your coping mechanism is.  Write down your feelings revolving around these emotions and soon you will find a connection.  Acknowledge those feelings (they won’t ever go away completely!) and think about what your coping mechanism does to help you deal.

If you cope by eating, find another outlet.  Another source.  Surround that emotion will a number of possible, healthier outlets, training yourself to turn to these things when you feel the need.  If you feel you deserve to eat something wonderful because of a stressful day at work, replace the eating with going for a walk.  You deserve to leave the stress behind you.  You deserve to treat yourself right.  With respect.  And you deserve to feel the best that you can feel.  Or save money by skipping takeout, make your own meal and plunk some of that saved money into a “massage fund.”

If you cope by running, like me, then be realistic about this.  Don’t go out and chomp out 10 miles when you’re feeling stressed, which will only set you up for injury.  Instead, keep the mileage reasonable and focus on your breathing, your posture, the way your legs feel as you smooth along the road.  Mindful running.  And stick to your mileage plans to avoid overuse!

And when you can’t run?  Like today.  Harumph.  It’s tough, but embrace this as part of your training and find something else to practice mindfulness.  Yoga to strengthen the weaker running muscles.  Or simple sit down, eat your breakfast, drink your cup of coffee and realize that tomorrow your legs will feel fresh enough for that 4 miler you had planned.

QUESTION: Do you notice one (or two…or three) type of coping mechanisms in yourself?