Friday, January 23, 2015

Facing The Addict

I have a confession.

I am an addict.

Once upon a time, my addictions were of the more destructive type. That might be a story for another day. For the sake of this particular newsletter, I wanted to tell you about my addiction to something you may relate to better.

I’m addicted to sugar. 

In 12-step programs, members are told that it isn’t necessarily the amount of a substance you elect to consume but the psychological impact of it.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a sweet tooth. However, when I found my passion for this line of work, I realized that I had to temper my consumption of sweets. For me, if they’re not around I do just fine. Every so often, a craving will strike and I’ll buckle. My problem is when the sweets around, it’s as if they call out for me.

This past Christmas, 3 different people (clients, mind you!) brought me cookies. All shapes, sizes, flavors, etc. I had more variety than I knew what to do with. And like many of my clients who are battling weight loss, I would attempt to justify eating any of them.

“I’ll just eat one”
“I’ll train harder today, since I ate three”
“I worked out really hard so I can afford to eat these”

Now, I’d like to think I’ve got more knowledge about this song-and-dance than the average Joe. I KNOW you can’t out-exercise bad food choices. But the addict was taking over.

I finally had to make the decision to regretfully throw the remaining cookies out. When the sweets aren’t around the temptation to eat them and the craving for them tends to subside. But like any consistent addict, it’s the first few days of withdrawal that are the worst.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit to my other dietary addictions in this order: caffeine and salt.

I joke with a lot of people that due to my long hours here at the studio, I’m nearly brain-dead at 4:30 in the morning when I go to brew my first cup of coffee for the day. Now, I still make sure I get my 20 or so ounces of water in before I start with the coffee, but it’s never far away.

Because I tend to internalize stress and lack of sleep when it strikes, I can always tell if I’m giving in to my caffeine addiction by how late in the day I continue to consume it. It’s usually a bad sign for me if I can have a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage in the afternoon but still fall asleep at night. Then I realize I have to start cutting it back again.

But enough about me, the inspiration for this newsletter came from one of my newest clients. When I sit down with a potential new client, our consultation always covers food and dietary habits. In this most recent conversation, she said the words that a lot of people fail to admit:

“I’m a sugar addict.”

I was quick to tell her that I too, have a sugar addiction. Judging by the look on her face when I said that, she probably wasn’t expecting someone in my line of work to struggle with the same thing!

I relayed my cookie story to her and we were able to commiserate over the hold that sweets had over us.

So, how do you succeed over your addictions?

I realize that not everyone has a sweet tooth. Some people don’t know how to stay away from potato chips (salty foods), or cheese (fatty foods), or diet coke (artificial sweeteners/caffeine).

There are several different things that can play into our dietary weaknesses:

-mineral deficiencies
-lack of sleep
-patterning issues (my personal favorite)

Let’s say you have developed a habit of having dessert after dinner every night. Most dinners are salty in nature and having that complimentary sweet treat can balance things out. After a week or so of this habit, your brain starts to expect the dessert. Perhaps you tell yourself you aren’t going to indulge in the ice cream this evening. Sure enough, the pattern is ingrained and you find yourself right back in the freezer, salivating at the thought of your treat.

The trick is to change the pattern.

Find something new to do directly after dinner. Maybe you go for a walk. Or maybe you brush your teeth. Or read a book. Maybe you just need to drink something to keep your mouth occupied. No matter what you choose, a new pattern has to develop (just like it did when you started your trend of after-dinner desserts).

For some people, it’s just about minimizing the caloric damage. Instead of a bowl of ice cream, it’s a small square of dark chocolate. Or maybe you share the ice cream with your spouse or significant other. For other people, they have to stop cold turkey because they’ve lost the control over this particular food.

Where you can really run into trouble (as is the case with my aforementioned client) is when the treats (or trigger foods) are always lurking at your place of work. Despite your best attempt to abstain, just knowing that the foods are around is too much temptation.

You have to learn your limitations and decide the best course of action. It’s true that one cookie or one small bag of chips won’t make you gain legitimate weight. But how does that one indiscretion cascade into other issues?

In the case of my fellow sugar addict, one trick that recently worked was the recognition of investment. We spoke about her monetary investment in me as her trainer. I asked her to justify that expense against her cookies.

“Is that dessert worth the equivalent to the price you pay me as your trainer?”

And all of a sudden, we have a different perspective on the trigger food. More than anyone, I always want there to be a return on investment for people who train with me. Personal training is not cheap. And the fact remains: very, very few of us (see elite athletes) can out-train poor diet habits.

The first step towards breaking away from your respective addiction: sweets, alcohol, salty foods, caffeine, etc is realizing how it’s contributing to the problem. Then you have to decide how you’re going to change your patterns. Will you do it on your own or will you develop a support system around you? Whatever decision you make it’s on YOU.

Some people can have a little of their trigger food and they’re okay not to overstep boundaries. Others (like myself) have to completely distance themselves for fear of overindulgence.

Not sure if you have a food or substance addiction? Ask someone close to you whose opinion you value and trust. Someone who is unlikely to cast judgment on you. The truth might not be easy to hear but sometimes we’re blind to our own misgivings.

Ready to conquer your weaknesses?

We can help!

Friday, January 9, 2015


I think I’m on at least 15 different mailing lists regarding fitness. Some are trainers I follow, others might be nutrition or therapy based. Not to mention, the countless trainers, programs or organizations I might follow via different social media outlets. And this is the time of year that you see the words in some way shape or form:

New Year, New You.

The message remains essentially the same.

You survived the holidays, now let’s reinvent you.

In my heart of hearts, I know I’m supposed to convey a similar message. I want you to lose the holiday weight. I want you to feel better about yourself: to be stronger and have a better self-image. Contrary to what happens at the box gyms around me, I don’t really see much of an uptick in business in January. Perhaps it’s because the price point for personal training is higher than the fees of joining a place like Planet Fitness or the like. Or maybe it’s just that many people believe they can do it on their own and so that’s the first course of action at the beginning of the year.

But rather than see how many massive changes we can make in your already busy and demanding life, I would only ask that you simplify what needs to be done. Take a look at this list and see what would be the EASIEST change to make in your life starting NOW.

Not drinking enough water? Add 16-20oz to each remaining meal or snack today. Refrain from drinking more water after your last meal of the day. Tomorrow morning, wake up to 16-20oz of water and repeat the drill for the rest of the day. If you find it difficult to eat frequently enough to match water intake to your meals, I recommend setting the timer on your phone to go off every 2-3 hrs. It sounds a little tedious but it will help you develop the habit of keeping yourself hydrated through the day. After a week or two, your body will start asking for the water with signals you’ll be well aware of and you won’t need to use the timer on your phone any longer.

Eating too much in the evening? Start balancing the size of your meals at the beginning of the day so you’re not completely famished at night. One counterproductive trend I see more often than anything else regarding food is people who cram the majority of their calories into the end of the day. If you reverse this trend and keep evening consumption smaller, you will wake up with more of an appetite making this change easier to implement. This is not an easy change to make for many people because they have trained themselves on the habit of overindulgence at night.

Drinking too many calories? This can go hand in hand with the effort to drink more water in general. Look at what you drink throughout the day. Remove or drastically limit ANY drink that has more than 10 calories per serving. This will likely include juices, sports drinks, creamer or sugar in your coffee/tea, alcohol, and pop. While I can’t completely change those who drink diet pop, I would ask that you limit the intake of those drinks and switch for water instead.

Confused by what should be on your plate? The media might have you believe there are bad foods out there. As in, if you eat these foods you’ll never lose weight or look the way you want, etc. While this may be true for those with diagnosed food allergies, the general problem for many is just too many calories in general devoid of food selection. A simple change would be to look at your plate and fill it like this: 50% of the plate should be a fibrous veggie (spinach, broccoli, etc), 25% of the plate should be a protein (beef, chicken, fish, tofu, etc.) and 25% should be a starchy or low sugar carb (rice, potato, etc). No calorie counting necessary.

Crunched for time and don’t think you can exercise? Your body will benefit from ANY movement you do above and beyond what you currently do. Granted, you will need to ramp up the intensity of your movement at a certain point but there are countless studies proving that 3 bouts of 10 minutes of exercise in a day can be just as beneficial as a straight 30 minutes. The important thing is to continue to challenge yourself with the time allotted.

Find one change and implement it immediately. Then, remember to forgive yourself if you happen to derail. Life happens to all of us. Any one of these changes can make a difference for you, you just need to determine which change fits your lifestyle right now. As life and work and family continue to dictate what happens for you, some of these changes may need to revolve around that.

We’re here to help!