Happy Birthday To Me!!!

It’s my birthday!!! That’s right. Today is my birthday and I’m going to treat myself, like I always do on my birthday. I loooove celebrating my birthday.  I throw my own birthday parties, take the entire week off of work and splurge on myself. I treat myself to things I usually don’t do…… ultimately I truly enjoy my birthday.

In looking back to how I’ve celebrated in the past, I now see that I’ve celebrated so much on my birthday because I celebrate myself so little the other 364 days of the year. A one-time quick celebration doesn’t actually help the 70 hour work weeks and constant stress.

But this year, I don’t feel the need to take a full week off of work or disengage from the norm in order to relax or celebrate. I’ve been thinking about it and I believe it’s not because I don’t want to enjoy my birthday. Believe me, I love me some me and I love celebrating me! But I think the reason I don’t feel the need to retreat is because I’m actually taking pretty good care of myself.

So what is good self-care? Most people can’t answer that because we are too busy living our lives to take proper care of ourselves. The best way to implement good self-care is with consistent daily habits. Here is a list of some good ideas for self-care. These ideas seem very simple and you may be tempted to roll your eyes or move on to the next blog because you don’t need to read this. But there’s a reason I’m writing about this. Because as simple as it may seem, we just don’t do it. So here goes……….

1) Eat food that is good for you. Most of us cringe at good food because we automatically assume that we won’t enjoy it. Eating is one of my favorite hobbies but I have slowly made changes that have been extremely beneficial. A small change like juicing in the morning for breakfast or snacking on almonds instead of candy can make long-lasting differences.

2) Work-out. Exercise is one of the most underrated types of self-care. Just a quick walk in the morning or at lunchtime can help clear your mind and help with chronic medical problems. We all know that exercise releases endorphins but research also shows that exercise increases production of serotonin and norepinephrine which reduces depression and stress.

3) Go to bed. Getting good sleep is an important goal. If you’re consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep then you are sleep deprived. Make it a point to stop whatever you’re doing and go to bed early. Or close your office door for about 15 minutes and take a power nap.

4) See a doctor. We make sure that we take our kids and our pets to the doctor but we don’t see the importance of it for ourselves. It is important to set aside time to get the medical attention you need. Prevention is much easier than treatment.

5) Unplug. Some people have a weekend away with no electronics which is amazing! You may not be able to do that but simple strategies like screening your calls, turning off your computer and phone for an evening will help you to unplug and unwind.

6) Compliment yourself. Take time out of your day to really appreciate your physical beauty, accomplishments, values and talents.

7) Do something fun. That might be reading a book, going to a museum or splurging a little on yourself. Life is too short not to have a little fun!

8) Take time off of work! ** this is my favorite one** Statistics show that Americans use only 50% of their vacation time. I hate to burst your bubble, but you are not that important! If you skip a day at work, the sky isn’t going to fall. And you’ll probably be more productive in the long run if you take time off occasionally.

If you’re doing all of these, you are taking very good care of yourself. If you’re not, then pick just one to start with and go from there. Remember, how you treat yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you.

Freedom & Food

As summer sets in, most of us are facing the struggle to avoid tempting foods such as ice cream, good ol’ BBQ, chips with salsa, and a large handful of salted nuts. Somewhere between making a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and starting to plan your menu for the summer BBQ with the neighbors, perhaps you have lost that motivation to prepare fresh foods. Instead, you might be feeling guilty that you ate another cookie, went back for seconds when you weren’t even hungry, or ate a large serving of the ice cream because “it was a really stressful day at the office or with the kids.” is there any freedom from the cycle of good vs. bad eating?

Absolutely. I call it mindful eating, but the concept is also well-known as intuitive eating. Most of us know what is “healthy” to eat; however, mindful eating allows us to freely consume foods that are typically less helpful for our bodies in smaller quantities and enjoy them. Mindful eating means pausing to consider the type of hunger you might be experiencing when you grab that extra snack or reach for a sugary beverage. There are many types of hunger that I challenge my clients to take notice of when they are completing their food records for their nutrition consultations. I typically encourage someone to use the following types when recording what triggered their snacking or eating a meal:

  • Emotion – boredom, stress, sadness, happiness, frustration, tiredness, etc.
  • Availability – the food was easy to grab
  • Hunger – it was about 3 or 4 hours since the last time you ate something
  • Craving – you really wanted the taste of the snack
  • Activity – you were doing something, such as watching TV, that makes
    you want to snack

Then, we review this record and “unmask” what’s really causing those “cravings”. Finally, we determine which practical ideas would work to address that particular type of hunger instead of eating more food. For example, someone who routinely snacks because they are an “emotional eater” might set a goal to mindfully enjoy snacks seated at the table, instead of standing in the kitchen, and perhaps even honor themselves enough to eat the snack off of a beautiful china plate rather than out of the package.
This is just one exercise in mindful eating that clients (young and old, male and female) seem to benefit from. Most importantly, it unveils that hidden temptation about foods and provides us with the freedom to mindfully choose the best approach to honor our hunger! For more information on mindful eating or to schedule an individual consultation, please contact Danielle McGee RD, LD at 713-365-9015.

Food Freedom

“Is this food good or bad?” As a dietitian, I regularly hear this question! I face the challenge of how to teach an alternative way of thinking about nutrition. Recently, I tried to explain a new concept to one of my youngest clients (a nine year old female). I asked her, “What if there were no good and bad foods. What if, instead, foods were least helpful, helpful, and most helpful?” She then rephrased what I was trying to say: “Like when my mom fills the car up at the gas station?” Initially confused, I realized she saw food as fuel and was picturing the different octane levels on the pump (such as 87, 89 & 92). I applauded her creativity!

A “fuel for the body” concept groups foods into 1) maintenance 2) enhanced, or 3) improved performance. Perhaps we don’t need rules to never eat “bad” foods and can assess how they contribute to our overall goals for life performance. Do you desire to lose weight? Are you fatigued? Are certain foods coping mechanisms? If so, maybe those chips and cookies are foods that maintain weight, energy or emotions. What if you felt freedom to eat foods that enhance energy, emotions, or weight goals? For example, a small granola bar, ½ cup of 100% all natural fruit juice, or baked pita chips with hummus substitute for your afternoon or nighttime snack. Then, consider options that might improve performance towards a healthy body weight, improved energy, and mindful eating: a handful of unsalted nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc), a cup of Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp of honey, or a green smoothie may improve your long-term nutrition goals.

A healthy mindset about our eating habits promotes food freedom! Meal planning and dining do not have to be burdensome. If this brings you some relief, look forward to more tips on mindful eating soon.