The Secret to Successfully Starting Something New: Develop Your Self Compassion

Do you find that your good intentions to walk every day, plan & prepare healthy foods, incorporate new healthy habits into your life, start out well, but fizzle out too soon, before they become ingrained into your routine? You know what you need to do or what you want to do, you realize you can probably fit it into your day (instead of playing that mindless game on your smartphone) but do you find yourself eventually “blowing it off” or giving up & quitting? Does it feel like a failure? Well, I hear you. Been there, done that. But let’s take a step back before you feel bad about “yet another failed attempt.”

Life is about trial and error and success. Let’s recognize it’s about intentions, learning, forgiving and then adapting. Practice self-compassion. When you develop your capacity for self-compassion, you will have the courage to try something new, to work at it, reflect on the feedback and ultimately to adapt and grow. You develop your capacity for success in the area of your new focus – whether it is a new project, new hobby, new healthy lifestyle habit, new company, new goal. Here are the 4 steps to using reflection to develop your self compassion.

1. Intentions. Reflect on your intentions and appreciate your good intentions. It’s really a good thing…you want to be healthier. You want to incorporate new healthy habits. These are good things. Celebrate that you have good intentions for yourself! You may do a little research, figure out what you will improve, make plans, organize your schedule & your life to make it happen & you start out eager to get going with it.

BUT, life happens. That means there is change. Many changes. Whether it is the season, your routine, your body, the people around you, your surroundings. Here is how this looks…

It’s a new school year for the kids, summer is over. Everyone’s getting back on a “routine.” I am going to wake up earlier 30 minutes, 5 days a week so that I can introduce some gentle exercises before I hop in the shower & get the kids off to school & then head off to work. GREAT!

The first 2 weeks go great. I’m waking up earlier like I planned & I’m working out. Great. I’m into week 3 & my schedule changes…I have a school open house, team sports have picked up & clubs have started…they keep my kids & me busy & adjusting to a new schedule. It takes effort to keep it all straight.

To top it off, the kids can’t seem to get much done before I get home from work, and I’m running late. I am trying to get my kids to do their homework & at least get them into bed at a reasonable hour, but it somehow ends up close to 11 or 12 at night before they are in bed. I have some work that needs to be attended to & those regular monthly bills & the school forms that the kids have brought home that require signing & sending in more money…I’m just trying to catch up & it’s already midnight.

As I crawl into bed, WIPED out, I set my alarm for the “planned time” that will allow me to exercise for 30 minutes in the morning. I have the best intentions, but alas, when the alarm blares, my semi-conscious mind starts making irrational suggestions that sound good – “I will have a better day if I hit snooze 5 times & skip the workout. I will do my “make up” day on one of the days I was NOT planning to work out…” And there it goes.

Do I feel better after 30 minutes with the alarm going off every 6 minutes, pretending I am sleeping? NO. I know this…and yet that knowledge is missing so early in the morning after a 4 hour night of sleep. OR, someone gets sick OR there is a day I have to go into work earlier OR my week’s schedule is somehow altered & my entire “newly created healthy schedule” is thrown off.

Sometimes, my day has just been so hectic, I have to find a mindless activity that allows me to stop getting new input into my brain…I need “time off.” Getting back into the previously planned healthy “early morning” schedule no longer seems to be appealing. The momentum is gone. Now, it feels like another failure.

BUT, here’s the good news! It’s ok. You get to revise & improve your goals and plans. You have shown yourself that you have good intentions to get healthier & have  just provided yourself with a new experience to learn from & you can always get a fresh start.

2. Learning. Reflect on what works (that you can control) & what could be improved (that you can control). This is where to put your focus. These are valuable learning opportunities. Learn various contingency plans. Reconsider what happened & create the back up plan for similar future events. Each time you create a new “health kick plan” you are learning new ways to be healthy – maybe a new workout plan, maybe some new foods, maybe some new ways to be healthy like meditating. In fact, you are constantly learning. You are fine tuning your resiliency to things that act to push you away from your healthy intention. You are strengthening your drive to be healthy.

Life is constantly changing & we are constantly learning how to respond to what is happening in our lives. The act of responding takes extra activation energy and can cause some chaos with our plans to be healthy.  In other words, the energy that you need to respond to changes in your environment might at times in your life, make it hard to ALSO be creating new habits or may require extra time in our day to process, so taking time away from our planned healthy activity. However, we CAN respond to those changes & we can at any time, reintroduce more or different healthy habits into our life. This is learning.

In the above example, it would be helpful to have a back up exercise routine for the afternoon on days that the morning workout didn’t happen. For example, walking outside after dinner or doing the 7 minute workout. If you find you can’t get yourself to do that, it means your mind is on overload & you will need to give yourself 10 minutes of just being with yourself processing your day. This is the “default plan.” This can be as meditation, journalling, talking to someone or just playing a mindless solitaire game. Some people find it helps to organize & plan the areas of our life that we have more control over. Clearing off your desk top, organizing all the things you are carrying in you head, etc. This COUNTS as a healthy activity also. It can recharge you so that you are ready to get going again tomorrow.

3. Forgiveness. Remind yourself, “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” Because life is constantly changing & we are human, we can forgive ourselves when we are not being “perfect.” So you miss your workout today or you ate that food you didn’t want to eat…if it is now in the past, you can forgive & move on. Later, identify what caused the problem & think of ways to prevent or respond to a similar challenge in the future. That is the learning. Allow yourself to be human and accept yourself. Often, this again, means that you need to sit with yourself & process your day, your recent events, your experiences. But you can let go of your disappointment and instead, show yourself self- compassion. Nobody is perfect. Our goal is to learn and keep moving forward.

4. Adapting. Self compassion allows us to appreciate that change requires adaptation and adaptation takes time and may require some trial and error. Unless we practice self compassion, we can become rigid, stuck in negative self-talk when we make a mistake, become unable to tolerate change. This  lack of self compassion limits our ability to fully adapt. With self compassion, fear of failure diminishes. This allows us to try something new, take on a challenge. Then, this whole process results in allowing our natural adaptive process to develop and get better with time. This is personal growth. This is how we get better with age, incorporate new healthy habits into our lives. We continue to strive towards improving our health, trying new things, fine-tuning and reworking previous things we liked until eventually, something sticks and becomes routine.

Here’s an example:

Intention: You want to consistently include exercise as part of your healthy lifestyle. You may try 10 different workout routines over several years, but the new workout routine falls off around week 3-4. Write out your intention as a specific statement and as if it is already true. “Exercise 5 days per week is consistently part of my healthy lifestyle.”

Learning: Figure out what exactly is happening so you can identify the problem. What isn’t true about your intention statement right now and why?

You start strong, working out 5 days per week for 2 weeks, then work gets busy  or you travel or you drink coffee before bedtime one evening and end up unable to sleep that night or you have some change to your desired routine and you stay up late and miss out on your sleep. By the 3rd week, you may exercise 1-2 times and then being disappointed for not sticking to the plan, you stop working out. What isn’t true: you aren’t working out 5 days per week consistently.

  • What is meant by “consistently”? What happens if you exercise 5 days weekly every 2 out of 3 weeks? What if some weeks you don’t exercise 5 days? Could you be ok with that? Would missing a day “ruin” your healthy lifestyle? During your busiest times, would it be better to know you will exercise when you can and you will be ok if you miss a day?
  • What you do mean by “exercise”? What counts as exercise? If you perform 15 lunges, 15 squats, 10 push ups, 50 crunches and a minute of plank pose, would those 5 minutes count? Can you squeeze that in when you first wake up or before bedtime on days you missed your planned workout?
  • Do you recognize any patterns when you deviate from your plan? For example, you start falling off your plan around 3-4 weeks into any workout plan, or if your sleep schedule gets disrupted and you feel sleep deprived? Can you plan for those times? Maybe you need a new workout routine every 2 weeks so you stay interested or you can find a “back up” workout plan for when you need more time for catching up on sleep. This might be alternative body weight exercise that can be completed in a shorter time period without going to the gym or taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator?

The good stuff: you also notice you really like doing crunches and you feel like it really helps your body.

Forgiveness: Remind yourself that you are only human and practice self compassion.

Each time, something happens that derails your good intentions to exercise 5 days weekly and you are disappointed in yourself. You may even tell yourself, “I always fail, I just can’t stick to anything.” This is not helpful. In fact, if you wanted to start up again, you might hear yourself saying, “I will start next month when I can really focus. Right now, I can’t exercise 5 days weekly.” This is negative self-talk. This makes it harder to commit to exercise because there is the fear of (maybe even a belief of) failure…again.

When you take practice self compassion, you take this opportunity to forgive yourself and remind yourself you are only human. Life happens. You are getting wiser. You can continually learn from your experiences and be better prepared next time. Tell yourself, “I am doing the best that I can, right now. This is the best I can do right now.” Repeat it until you phase out the negative self-talk.

Adapting: Each time you reintroduce exercise into your life, you add crunches and walking into your routine. You decide that you will even do crunches at some down times even when you didn’t fit in your workout for the day. You like crunches, you feel good after doing it, & it becomes easier to continue to do it. This is adaptation & those healthy efforts that stick, are valuable & add up over a lifetime.

Over time,  you may find yourself choosing additional workouts that include crunches because you enjoy them.  You may have more flexible options for working out so it is easier to complete 5 exercise sessions per week. You may recognize that skipping a day or two or even a week, may happen from time to time but the key is to do the best you can, right now. You can always jump back in. You are free of the fear of failure and negative self talk.

Without the fear of failure, you will continue to add new workout activities you like. This will give you variety and also allow you to cross train. You will develop a larger pool of options to move you forward towards better health. It may be crunches and walking on the treadmill and working out to a favorite workout video. It could be kickboxing. It could be a new app for body weight exercises.

So jump in & enjoy each time you make an effort to start a new healthy habit, no matter how long it lasts.  With self compassion, you are free to explore, try something new or try again. Each experience can be an opportunity to learn and fine tune your process until you succeed in achieving your goal. Practice self compassion regularly. Be the best you, right now.

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Healthier Together Series: Cycle 6B. 3 Steps to Developing a Daily Exercise Habit

You know you should exercise. You want to exercise. You have a gym membership. You have cute workout clothes. But…You haven’t slept well, so you need to get that extra half hour of sleep in the morning, so your workout doesn’t happen in the morning…You plan to work out later that day but then traffic was bad/work was brutal and you are exhausted/you still have work to do at home/you are tired/your kids need your help with homework/you have a million errands you want to do/you are hungry and have to cook dinner/you just blow it off…You will catch up tomorrow…

Does this sound familiar? Here are 3 steps to improving the odds that daily exercise will become a routine.

  1. Link one part of your exercise prep to something you do every day. For example, you always brush your teeth every day (I hope so). You always wear a sports bra to exercise or you always wear a certain pair of shoes when you exercise. Then link the two activities. Put on your sports bra or shoes when you brush your teeth. Do that every day. You don’t have to work out if you don’t want to, but just link the 2 activities together.
  2. Have a variety of methods of achieving your goal of daily exercise. Have them different enough that they fit different scenarios. For example, if you are tired or have not time, you need an effective workout you can do at home – try body weight high intensity interval training (HIIT) where you don’t even need any equipment and you can complete the workout in under 5 minutes. If it is a lovely day out and you want to spend time with a friend or loved one, have a walking route that allows you to enjoy each other’s company while walking. Take a bike ride. Dance to music. You can use an app like 8Fit or Sworkit. If you want to take a class, you can go to an exercise class or follow an exercise YouTube or DVD or app. You can always go to the gym if you have time and want to get a complete workout with weights or cardio equipment or take a class or with the help of a personal trainer.
  3. Log what you do and keep track of your progress. My bullet journal is where I write out the plan for my workout 2 weeks in advance. Then, as I complete my workouts, I jot down notes about my day and always end with a positive note to myself, “Feeling great! Went up on the number of crunches! Yeah!” I use my apple watch to monitor my overall activity and aim to close my activity rings every day. Then, I see how many days in a row I can complete all of my rings and I check it out on my phone. This is tremendously motivating since I love the 3 colors of the rings. image1

Basically, you want to lower barriers and make it easy to get started on any single day. Have various options on how you can achieve your goal to work out daily. Track it and celebrate each day’s success. Aim to do something physical every day and it will become a habit much faster. Then watch. Other areas of your life improve too. Sleep gets better, mood improves, eating improves, confidence improves, work improves…you get it. With the inevitable ripple effect of daily workouts, you may find that the rest of your life starts to fall into place and you become more and more successful in more and more areas of your life. Try it.

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 6A. If Food is Medicine, “What should I eat?”

Keep it simple.

INCLUDE  What Your Body NEEDS:

  1. Water
  2. Protein
  3. Colorful and non-starchy Vegetables
  4. Fats

Whole grains and whole fruit may be beneficial in specific doses depending on your weight, exercise routine and other health conditions.

AVOID  What May HARM Your Body:

  1. Sugars of any kind including high fructose corn syrup, agave, natural sugar, etc.
  2. Processed foods including enriched wheat flour, white flour, corn meal, etc.
  3. Sweet beverages & Juice including 100% fruit juice.

 

 

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5D. Putting It All Together – Words Matter: 7 Steps to Self-Compassion.

Words are powerful. I can see this when I am talking with patients, my children, my spouse and my friends and colleagues. In this post, I am thinking about how powerful words can be to someone who is scared, feeling out of control, or uncertain of what is going on. This situation is common in a doctor’s office and in the hospital where people seek help when something unpleasant is happening that seems to be out of the control of the individual seeking care.

Studies have shown that patient outcomes are often impacted by what they hear from healthcare providers even when they hear something indirectly- if they believe it is about them. Consider this: What happens to a patient in the ER, frightened and waiting for a test result, hearing someone outside of the room saying, “Yeah…he’s a train wreck. It’s not looking good. There’s not much we will be able to do. He will have to follow up with his primary care doctor…”? Later (feels like HOURS to the patient), the provider comes into the patient’s room and says, “Thank you for waiting. Your labs were unremarkable and your chest x-ray came back and you do not have pneumonia. It’s probably just a viral upper respiratory infection. We recommend you follow up with your primary care provider…” Might this person be reassured by this visit?

People can be scared, feeling out of control, or uncertain of what is going on outside of the doctor’s office or hospital.  There are times when our senses hypersensitized, when we are on high alert, and what we hear, enters deep into our subconscious mind and begins to influence our feelings, thinking and behaviors. This hyperalert state is usually when we are feeling strong emotions, when our mind is “wide open.” Words at these times are very powerful. They may be accurate and rational, but they may not be. Sometimes, we are aware of these influences and many times we are not.

In my practice, I see that there is much suffering related to the hostile and negative words we have absorbed at various vulnerable times in our lives. Maybe a parent, family member, teacher, partner, close friend, colleague said something hostile or we misinterpreted some comments which were deeply painful and our brain absorbed it and was altered by it. When I hear hostile and negative words being used against oneself, “I was bad,” “I failed,” “I have no discipline,” “I just can’t do it,” “I’m not strong enough,” “I’m hopeless,” “I’m no good,” “I’m stupid,” “I can’t help it,” “I’m just out of control,” I recognize one of the keys to healing and success will be to develop a capacity for self-compassion.

We have mentioned self-compassion before. When we develop the capacity for self-compassion, healing begins. When we practice self-compassion, success follows. If you use hostile and negative words to describe yourself or your character, stop now. It seeps in unexpectedly and it has no purpose. It blocks your ability to progress and limits your success. Good news! This negative self talk can be phased out and left behind. Replace it with a healthy practice of self-compassion. Here’s how:

  1. Become aware of it if you hear yourself saying something judgmental and negative about yourself. “I was bad (this implies a character flaw), I ate that cake even though I knew I shouldn’t. (a routine character flaw)
  2. Identify it and label it. “That was my negative self talk and it’s not true.”
  3. Reframe it.I feel bad (this implies a temporary feeling). I ate that cake even though I knew it would interfere with my weight loss goals. (a simple mistake)
  4. Reflect. “I have been very stressed and bought the cake to “treat” myself. I don’t actually feel better after eating the cake. My stress is not improved after eating the cake.”
  5. Learn. “Taking a walk outside, listening to music, dancing, calling a friend, drawing, or journaling DOES relieve my stress and also would be distracting me from the desire to eat cake.”
  6. Empower yourself. “Next time, I can try some or all of my other stress relieving activities. If I still want the cake, then I can still choose to eat a smaller piece of cake, but maybe I won’t have it. If I do, I will own it and move on. I will know that I am doing the best that I can, at that moment.”
  7. Reaffirm. “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” If you then hear yourself responding, “Well…actually, I COULD do better…” then smile to yourself and say, “I know you can… And, you will when you are ready.”

Given the power of words, imagine what might happen if you protected yourself from negative self talk. Imagine what your day would be like if you heard warm, loving, supportive comments all day and accepted you are human and humans make mistakes and allowed yourself to regularly reflect and learn how to get better and better. Can you appreciate how much you’d flourish and achieve? When you practice self-compassion, you open yourself to your incredible capacity for success and joyful living.

Let me know how you have conquered negative self-talk or how you practice self-compassion.

 

 

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5C. Relaxation & Sleep — 7 Steps to Using Traffic and Commuting for Self-Care

After residency, I decided I wanted to live within 10 minutes from my practice so I would not have to spend my precious time commuting to and from work. I moved within a 7 minute drive from my work, no traffic. I loved the extra time I had on either end of my work day. First, I was exercising more, cooking more dinners, and having time for grocery shopping. It was great! As time went on, I was able to fit other activities into that extra time and I could spend more time doing work-related activities. I could run a few more errands each day and I began taking on more work duties that could be accomplished in the extra time I now had.

As a result of my increased number of activities, the exercise routine became more sporadic. Instead of working out before work, I could “get more stuff done” and then plan to workout in the evenings. Of course, EVEN IF my clinic didn’t run late with last minute add-on patients and phone calls or EVEN IF I wasn’t too fatigued or hungry after a full clinic day missing lunch, my family members needed my focused attention and my workouts would be further “postponed.” I now didn’t have time to workout. Basically, the “saved” time started out as more time for self-care, but ultimately was squeezed out with with more time spent on activities and obligations that I didn’t need to do BEFORE I eliminated my commute and less self-care. Poor planning…Lots of reflection and learning…

Fast forward to my current job that I love but that is far from home. (We can discuss in the future about how to grow into the job you love.) When considering this job, I had to accept that I would have a total daily commute of potentially up to 2.5-3 hours with the common severe traffic. I considered taking the train in. The hospital even offers a free shuttle to drive people to and from the train station. However, I do not live close to the train station, so it would still take me about 2-2.5 hours door to door to take the train, and without the flexibility of coming and going as I wanted. It was clear. With this new job, I would have a long commute to and from work, 5 days a week.

I began investigating how to optimize my commute time. After trial and error and rapid “quality improvement,” my commute is part of my self-care time. If you have a long commute, here are my 7 steps to achieving a Self Care Commute:

  1. Figure out when you HAVE to be in your office.
    • Can you work from home on some days?
    • Does it matter the exact time you get to work or leave work?
    • Can you adjust your work day start and end times? If no, move to #4.
  2. Figure out your transportation options that agree with your work hours.
    • Do you need personal space and time without other people during your commute? Do you have a car? If yes, move to #3.
    • Are there ride share or public transportation options for you to get to and from your work that you would consider? For example: Uber, Lyft, Train, Subway, Bus, Carpool with neighbor. List them.
    • How long does it take to get from your front door, to your office door for each of those options? Add to your list next to each option.
    • Is your schedule predictable enough that your schedule can match a ride share, bus or train schedule? If no, move to #3.
    • Will you need to travel from one site to another during the day? If so, will it be easier if you have your own car? If yes, move to #3. If no, list your options for travel during your workday. Include the door-to-door travel times and costs associated with each option.
  3. If commuting by car or truck, review the various driving routes to work and traffic patterns. 
    • Waze, ETA and other apps offer anticipated travel times to destinations at various hours of the day. Make a list.
    • Can you find the range of travel times for the times you could drive to and from work for the hours you need to be there. Circle those travel times.
  4. Make a list of the categories of activities you can do during your various commuting options that you would like more time for. For example, Train: knitting, reading, listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, writing, closing eyes and visualizing. Car: listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, sitting in silence, connecting and talking to family/friends hands-free, driving through scenic route.
  5. Figure out the options for your activities on the way TO work which may be different than the way FROM work to home. For example, I am focused and my brain is eager to learn early in the morning, so I listen to non-fiction educational audiobooks on the way TO work. At the end of my day, my brain needs to relax. I may process my day by listening to music or thinking in silence or I may connect with others by calling my family or friends or I may want to be entertained and eagerly listen to the next chapter in the current detective series.
  6. Organize your commute times to optimize your commute and productivity. For example, my commute is cut in half if I drive in extra early before my scheduled meetings or clinic. This works great for me since that is when my brain is most productive so I can use that early quiet time in the office to achieve more. On my ride home, my commute is not optimized and is longer (by choice). I love that the longer drive home allows me more protected time to “squeeze” in a chapter or two of a fiction audiobook (which I wouldn’t read otherwise), process my day and connect with family and friends.
  7. Try it out and adjust your daily routines to optimize your commute times. After adapting my schedule and travel times, my commute time is not as long as I anticipated. I am more productive, my time is spent more efficiently and I have protected self care time daily. Despite the long commute, I have better integration of my work life and personal life.
    • Maybe you will have more time to connect with more of your family and friends with hands free phone calls.
    • Maybe you will find a new podcast or book series that make that unexpected traffic delay enjoyable.
    • Maybe you will learn new skills with personal development audiobooks or a recorded lecture series.
    • Maybe you will use the time to process your day, think about your family, consider your future.
    • Maybe you will learn a new language and take that trip abroad or meet new people.
    • Maybe you will work out at the gym near work in the evening before you drive home so that your commute time will be shorter and you will achieve your daily workout goals.

Once you recognize your commute time can be protected time to fit in the enjoyable activities you currently don’t make time for, you will find it is a luxurious time. While sitting in traffic on my ride home, I am forced to slow down. There is no checking emails or texts or getting online. I am in control of and I choose which activity I engage in. I appreciate the extra time I have for those fun activities that I otherwise would not make time for. The traffic ensures that I dedicate more time to self-care.  It’s now my Self-Care Commute.

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5B. Exercise and Fitness and Sedentary Jobs

Recently, after presenting at Grand Rounds about exercise, it became clear that there are many physicians who appreciate the value of exercise and recommend it to their patients. It is impressive- the number of very busy physicians who are fitting exercise into their own lives, on a daily basis. We see what many people don’t see, the variety of ways we can get older and the consequences of our lifestyle choices. It is with this wisdom that they are living what they preach- “Exercise- however you can fit it in.” Physicians who regularly see patients aging, prioritize exercise.

Exercise and physical fitness is one thing that has the greatest impact on all areas of health and cannot be replaced by pills or medical procedures. Yet, according to CDC, only 20 % of adults get “enough” aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise. This amounts to 150 total minutes of moderate intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) divided throughout the week plus 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activities per week.

Many people state that they have no time (such as “small children and childcare concerns” or “long work day” or “care-taking/traveling sports duties” or “homework”) and/or that they have a “very sedentary job.” They sit for much of the day and it’s hard to find the chunk of time to prepare for exercise (clothing, determine appropriate and effective exercise plan for the day), work out, and then deal with the sweat (shower, change clothes, makeup/hair), never mind the time to get to and from the gym if that’s the exercise zone. It is easy to get discouraged.

However, the great news is that 15 minutes a day of walking UNIVERSALLY improved health in a study of over 400,000 male and female adults of all ages despite other lifestyle choices. The study demonstrated that a minimum of 15 minutes of walking a day, decreased all cause deaths by 14% and extended lifespan by 3 years compared to people who were sedentary. Every additional 15 minutes daily decreased death from any cause another 4% and from cancer another 1%. In fact, the researchers noted that 1 in 9 cancer deaths may be avoided with that 15 minute walk. Maybe 15 minutes of walking daily is possible for an added 3 years of life or a chance to avoid a death from cancer.

And about that sedentary job, many people would choose to be more active at their otherwise sedentary job if given a choice. Sometimes, we might not recognize some of the options. See if you can get up from your chair at regular intervals or consider moving the printer or trash farther from your desk so you have to get up for access. Take the long way to the restroom or the stairs. Many people appreciate the reminders and step tracking from various fitness trackers.

What helps me? It is the stand up desk that I am a fan of. My stand up desk keeps me moving more throughout the day. Treadmill desks (cons: higher risk of serious injury and difficult to use a keyboard or write due to the movement) and cycling desks (cons: non-weight-bearing) are also available but are more expensive, take up more space and often go unused. It is the stand up desk that I am a fan of. And when colleagues see my at my stand up desk, they often end up getting one and using it too.

Find ways to incorporate that 15 minute walk every day. See if you can set up your sedentary job to be less sedentary. Please share your methods of increasing your physical fitness even when you have a sedentary job.

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5A. How To Manage Your Hunger – 10 Things to Know

Hunger can be a natural physiologic signal from the body requesting more fluids or nutrients or it can be cravings (learned habitual behaviors) and pathologic symptoms of a mismanaged metabolism. We sometimes forget to check in and determine why we might be hungry.

NATURAL & HEALTHY HUNGER SIGNS:
1. Dehydration. In most cases, this can be managed by drinking water.

2. Need to replenish nutrient supply.  For most people, eating a variety of colors of vegetables and supplementing with protein, will meet all the body’s nutritional needs. Make a list of easy naturally nutrient rich snacks that you can have readily available – then you can make healthy choices when you are hungry and need to replenish.

HUNGER SIGNS TO BEWARE OF:
3. Insulin resistance. If your waist line has grown since after highschool and you are not pregnant, you are developing or have developed insulin resistance. As we age, we also naturally become more insulin resistant. This means that our body over-reacts to sugars and carbohydrates in the diet which leads to a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar levels which lead to fatigue, mental fog & “the munchies.” Solution: Drink water, Eat protein or leafy vegetables when hungry and avoid sweetened or carbohydrate heavy foods.

4. Poor food choices earlier (ie. starting your day with sugar or processed carbs). Eating sugar will cause you to crave more sugar later in the day. Sugar can trigger the same area in the brain as heroin. It IS addictive. Solution: Avoiding it is the best way to manage being losing control. Make smart food choices. Start your day with protein instead of sugars or starchy processed carbohydrates. Choose whole foods.

5. Some medication and illicit substances (ie. marijuana). Some medications and illicit substances make people hungry and eat more, usually poor quality foods like most fast food. Solution: If your meds are making you want more broccoli, that’s great, but if it makes you get “the munchies” or you notice weight gain, have that important discussion with your doctor to see if you can find a way to manage it. Also, when you get “the munchies” or are hungry, drink water, eat veggies, nuts, or a cheese stick or have a light soup.

6. Boredom. Solution: Find something to do that is NOT related to food. Do something physical – take a walk, stretch, dance, move. Connect with family or a friend. Journal, garden, read, play solitaire, play a musical instrument, work on a hobby or create something artistic, etc.

7. Emotional unrest. Solution: If you are an emotional eater, it will be important to find new ways to soothe yourself. Consider finding a counsellor to help you process and learn better ways to cope. Find other healthy outlets – take a walk, spend time in nature, contact a friend or family member who nourishes you, spend time with you pet, listen to soothing music, learn meditation, go to a religious/spiritual place.

8. Habit (ie. before bedtime or while watching TV/movie). If you link certain activities or times of the day with eating/drinking, this is a habit and can be challenging. Solution: The best way to change that habit, it to create a NEW (more desirable) habit to replace the old, undesirable habit. For example, instead of having hot cocoa after being out in the cold or at bedtime, have some hot rooibos tea which is caffeine free and deliciously different. Instead of buttered popcorn with a movie at home, try berries or baby carrots. Keep healthy snack options easily available for “break time” at work- have salty, crunchy and “creamy” options available.

9. Seeing or thinking about food/drink you like. Having a variety of options to eat actually has been shown to increase the amount of food we eat. The larger the plate, the more options of different foods at any time, we eat more and sample more. Solution: Use a smaller plate. If you are sampling, think of the size of your stomach when not-too-full (the size of your fist), and look at the total volume of food you have on your (smaller) plate. STOP adding to your plate when it exceeds the size of your stomach. If you have more foods to sample, take less of each item so that you are not OVER-stuffing your stomach as it would not feel good anyways. Really, if you look at your plate and wonder how that would fit in your body, it’s too much. It’s ok to leave food on your plate. Note: Raw leafy greens shrink dramatically when chewed up, so you can be liberal with raw leafy greens!

10. Worry that later you won’t have time/opportunity to eat (ie. busy schedule). How many of you are “go-go-go” all day long and time for eating is a luxury? As a physician who may be running behind because of an earlier unexpected patient emergency, I hear you. Solution: Keep that stash of quick, healthy food/drink readily available, ALWAYS. Nuts, cheese stick, baby carrots and hummus, celery sticks and almond butter, whatever. Remember, IF you are unable to eat, as long as you are drinking, you are going to be fine for several hours. In fact, if you do not eat, but you maintain proper hydration, worse case, you will have to eat later than desired. However, your body starts to draw energy from your personal fat stores. Unless you are medically underweight, you should be ok to be burning extra fat on your body until you can eat later in the day.

Do you have other times you “hunger” triggers? How do you manage your hunger? What are some of your snacks you keep on hand?