Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Binge Eating Day

Binge (noun): a period of excessive indulgence in an activity, especially drinking alcohol or eating.

I am not really quite sure when Thanksgiving became more about the food than giving thanks but without a doubt in my mind, no other holiday is as focused on food as Thanksgiving.  Just tune into the Food Network or walk through the magazine aisle and see all the ads, programs and articles devoted to making a Thanksgiving feast. 

Talking to friends, clients and family I am struck by how many people really look forward to overeating.  It's almost like they look forward to overeating but then after without fail, they always feel like they ate too much.  They overeat and feel proud for doing it.  Because this is the one day of the year when you are allowed to sit down on the couch after the meal, unbuckle your belt, take a deep breath and sigh because you ate too much.

So I'm unofficially changing the name of Thanksgiving to Binge Eating Day.  Maybe if we acknowledge that this is really our behavior, we can take steps to change it.  

As I discussed holiday eating with my clients, one said something that really made sense.  They said, "My family and I really love Thanksgiving meals so what we do is we make turkey and stuffing a few times during the year.   That way we get to enjoy that food more than once a year.  Then when Thanksgiving roles around, we don't go overboard because we know that we are going to have turkey again soon."  What a brilliant statement and a perfect example of Intuitive Eating.  They realized that they were so looking forward to turkey and stuffing that they would overeat because they thought they could have it only once year.  By having it more frequently, they didn't have to binge on Thanksgiving.  It's exactly what we all should be doing to help us make peace with food.  It is a foundation of Intuitive Eating

During this holiday, I hope that you can use some Intuitive Eating skills to try to prevent the yearly binge.  Maybe some of these tips might help you focus on your internal cues and be more mindful at this year's Thanksgiving.

1) Ask yourself how hungry you are before you start to eat.  Try rating your hunger on a 1-10 scale and check with yourself as you eat to see how it changes as you eat.
2) Avoid mindless snacking before the meal.  
3) Be concious of how alcohol can change your eating pattern.  Often times, people tend to eat more after having a couple of drinks so be aware how that might affect you.
4) Eat with gratitude.  Reflect on how the food you are eating got to your table.  Think about how long it took to cook the meal.  Think about the workers whose job it is to grow the food you are eating.
5) If you love it savor every bite!  Don't shovel it in your mouth but instead eat slowly and really experience each mouthful of food.

I hope you all have a great holiday and give thanks for all the positive things in your life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I'm Not Playing the Box Top Game

Photo Courtesy of Simply Organized Blog
I'm sorry, I don't like Box Tops!  There, I said it and there's no going back now.

For those of you who might not have kids or who don't work in education, Box Tops are a program where you buy certain products which have the logo on the right, clip the top of the box, deliver them to your child's school and the school then receives money from the Box Top for Education organization.  From the Box Top for Education website, "Box Tops has helped America's schools earn over $475 million since 1996."  With school funding always an issue, especially here in California, it's great that there is a way for schools to have access to extra funds to provide quality education.

So if it's such a great way to help fund my local school, why should I hate Box Tops?  The answer is simple.  MOST (not all) of the products with the Box Tops logo are (how can I say this nicely) nutritionally challenged.

You can see the whole list of participating products here.  If you look at the list you quickly notice that there are some big name brands that participate.  Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Cheerios, Chex, Pillsbury, Kix, Fiber One and Yoplait to name just a few.  If you dig a little, you'll find that all of these products are owned by (drum roll please), General Mills. Interesting, right?  Can you guess which company started the Box Tops For Education program?  That's right: General Mills.  According to their site, Box Tops for Education was launched in 1996 in California on cereals like Cheerios, Total and Lucky Charms. 

What's wrong with General Mills being brilliantly smart by creating a program to boost sales and also help fund struggling schools?  Absolutely nothing except that their slogan which they proudly display is :

Photo Courtesy of Box Top for Education
How can you "nourish young lives" when the majority of the food you are feeding them is full of added sugars, artificial colorings and trans fat?  We hear a lot about how marketing to kids affects intake, but this program is genius because the schools do all the marketing to the kids and partents.  Kids come home excited to find Box Tops and compete to bring in the most in their class.  Parents feel good because they are helping their child's school and General Mills laughs all the way to the bank.  But General Mills simply can not "nourish young lives" when the food they are supplying is hindering our children.

There is some good news. 1) There are some healthier products that have Box Tops like Cascadian Farms cereals, Green Giant produce and frozen vegetables and Larabar Multipacks.  2) Box Tops are available for a variety of non-food items like Avery labels, Ziploc bags and Brita waterfilters.

Where does that leave me as a parent whose children are now Box Top crazy?  If it comes down to just money, I'll be happy to donate a few extra bucks to help fund my children's education.  Let's say hypothetically, my kids bring 10 box tops a week.  That's $0.10 per top for a total of $1.00.  If you subtract about 12 weeks for summer and vacations, that's about 40 weeks.  At $1.00 per week for 40 weeks is a grand total contribution of $40.  I can handle that!

As always I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let's Have a Healthy Halloween

Originally written for and posted on Grandparenting Plus Blog.  In the interest of full disclosure the authors of this blog are my mother and grandmother.   (Yeah they blog too...who doesn't these days?)

No other holiday tests our parenting skills more than the issue of how we handle candy on Halloween.  But as with many of our current holiday traditions, Halloween and candy haven't always been linked together like they are now.  Halloween was originally a Celtic harvest holiday and was brought to the United States with the 19th Century Irish immigrants.  As the holiday evolved, kids began to trick-or-treat and until the 1950's trick-or-treat'ers were more likely to get non-food related booty, like coins, pencils and other trinkets rather than candy.  It was not until candy manufacturers started to market candy as a way to boost revenues that sweets became synonymous with Halloween.   To illustrate just how much emphasis candy companies put on Halloween I took my 5 year old son along to check out two very different stores: Whole Foods Market and Rite-Aid Drug Store.  It's pretty shocking to see the stark difference between them.
The Halloween candy section at  Whole Foods in Tarzana, CA
The Halloween aisles at Rite-Aid in West Hills, CA
When we think of all the candy that kids might get for Halloween, the first thing we think about is all the sugar that our kids are going to eat.  Unfortunately, the sugar is the least of our worries.  Sadly, it's the artificial food colorings and trans-fat that is pervasive in many of these foods that we should be concerned with.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published a great report on the risks of artificial colorings in 2010 called, "A Rainbow of Risks".  You should definitely read it and you might reconsider buying M&M's.

Despite all the horrible things in candy, for me as a parent and as a dietitian the biggest issue during Halloween is how I approach and handle my kids' candy intake.  If you follow my blog (www.BVMRD.com) you know that I believe in a non-diet approach to eating.  I am a believer in Intuitive Eating and I apply these principles to my clients and also to my family.  The other philosophy that fits nicely with Intuitive Eating are some of the theories on feeding children from Ellyn Satter.  When I decided to talk about eating and Halloween, Satter was the resource that I knew I had to include and thankfully she addressed the topic both in her book and in her website:
Halloween candy presents a learning opportunity. Work toward having your child be able to manage his own stash. For him to learn, you will have to keep your interference to a minimum. When he comes home from trick or treating, let him lay out his booty, gloat over it, sort it and eat as much of it as he wants. Let him do the same the next day. Then have him put it away and relegate it to meal- and snack-time: a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert and as much as he wants for snack time. (From EllynSatter.com The Sticky Topic of Halloween Candy, Family Meals Focus #30 on 10/22/08)  
I know you are reading this and saying, "Are you serious?", or maybe, "Oh hell no, I am not going to let my child dive head first into a full bucket of a candy."  But hear me (and Satter for that matter) out.  By allowing your child to have the freedom to learn to manage their own candy instead of you controlling it will allow him or her to develop a sense of trust around food.  If your child breaks this trust, you can take the candy away until they demonstrate that they can handle it.  The goal is to let your child build confidence and self-reliance around listening to their internal cues of hunger and fullness.  If this method still seems too extreme for you, try to modify it, but the key is for you not to interfere with what they choose or how much of it they eat.  The hope is that the relationship your child develops with food and sweets is based on their own internal cues and not on restriction.

One important thing to remember is that the best way we teach our children is though modeling our behaviors. If we call food "junk," "bad" or "garbage," our kids will pick up on that.  Conversely, if our children see us having a healthy relationship with candy, the chances are that they will develop the same attitude.  Be aware of how you handle candy because that will affect you child's behaviors.  These are just some of the concepts that are discussed at length in the new edition of Intuitive Eating in which the authors devote a whole chapter on raising Intuitive Eaters.  I highly recommend you read it.

Don't think of Halloween as a power struggle between you and your children.  If they are old enough explain to them what your plan is.  If they are too young to understand, try explaining your rules for Halloween so they know what to expect.

Halloween is just one day but feeding a child and raising an Intuitive Eater is the foundation for healthy eating for a lifetime. Here are some simple things you can do:

1) Don’t restrict dessert. Make it a part of regular meals and try serving it with all the other things during dinner time.

2) Try to refer to food in non-judgmental terms. Take out the “good” vs. “bad” so that kids don’t feel guilty for eating “junk.”  Try using terms like "play food" vs. "growing food."

3) Divide responsibility. It’s your job as a parent to provide balanced, nutritious meals with a variety of play foods. It’s your child’s job to eat.

4) Don’t be a short-order cook.

5) Trust in your child’s innate abilities. Children know how much food they need so allow them the freedom to choose how much to eat. Overall, they will choose foods that help them grow and most of all they’ll develop a healthy relationship with food.

As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Slow Cooker Brisket

There is something really great about making brisket at home!  One reason I love to cook brisket is tradition.  I can think about many of the Jewish holidays I celebrated with my family and I can remember my grandmother's brisket at our table.  Having those same smells in my house transports me back to my childhood.  The other reason I like brisket and the reason all of you (who are not vegetarian/vegan) should try to make it at home is it's hard to mess up brisket.  It's a tough cut of meat that requires a long cooking time to break down that tough connective tissue and transform it into a melt-in-your-mouth treat.

The Slow Cooker Photo property of BVMRD

My wife and I bought a slow cooker a few years ago and we are always looking for things to cook in it.  A few years ago we also started hosting Passover so we needed to find a brisket recipe.  Thankfully the folks at Epicurious.com had a simple solution for us: Slow Cooker Brisket.  This recipe is super simple and you don't need much prep or cooking time.  Most of the time is hands off while the brisket cooks in the slow cooker. 

Since we've been hosting so many folks for Sukkot (and I took the day off work on Friday to take my daughter to school) it was a perfect storm to make some brisket for Shabbat dinner.  I scooted off to Trader Joe's to buy some of the ingredients but since I've made this a few times, we had most of the stuff already. 

Ingredients for our slow cooker brisket.  Photo property of BVMRD

The first thing you do with this brisket is to brown the sides of the brisket in a hot pan.  Browning does one main thing: it adds flavor!  It turns a "ho hum" brisket into a "OMG that was amazing" brisket.  Yes, it adds one more step and one more dish to clean but it worth it.  The key is to get the pan hot, set the meat down and not to touch it again for about 4-5 minutes.  If you try to move it too early, it will stick and that's not good.

One side of the brisket browned.  Photo property of BVMRD
While the brisket is browning, slice the potatoes into disks and add them to the slow cooker.  They will make a great addition to the final dish...trust me.

Potatoes added to the slow cooker. Photo property of BVMRD
Once the brisket is browned on both sides, add it to the slow cooker.  Onions are then added to the pan you browned the brisket in and cook those until they are soft.  Add some garlic to the onions and saute for a few minutes and add the garlic and onions to the slow cooker on top of the brisket.   Once the pan is empty, you add the beer and the broth to deglaze the pan.  Just like browning, deglazing is all about flavor.  You've spent time browning the meat and when you are done, you'll notice there are all these bits left in the pan.  These bits are called "fond" and by adding them back to a sauce or dish, we add flavor.  Remember, we're going for an "OMG that was amazing" brisket here!

While the onions are cooking, I assembled the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and mixed them up.  You are basically making a BBQ sauce.

BBQ sauce ready to be added to the slow cooker.  Photo property of BVMRD
Once the onions are done, the deglazing liquid is added to the slow cooker, the BBQ sauce is added and you are done.

Everything added to the slow cooker Photo property of BVMRD
You can cook the brisket on high or low settings.  I have done both and they are equally good.  Once the brisket is done cooking you'll notice how some of the sauce has reduced.  You'll know the brisket is done because you will be able to just pull a piece off with you hand.

The finished product in the slow cooker Photo property of BVMRD
Take the brisket out and scoop out the potatoes.  Slice the brisket across the grain of the meat and plate it up.  I made it this weekend with some broccoli and farfalle pasta.  This dish is great for everyone.  Kids will eat it, your friends will think you are a genius and your spouse/partner will not even think twice about doing the dishes for you because you are such a culinary God! 

I hope I inspired you to try this dish.  If you do, let me know how it goes. If you have another favorite brisket recipe, please share!


The finished dish plated up and ready to serve. Photo property of BVMRD

My own plate do delicousness! Photo property of BVMRD

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Snack Ideas for Your Child Athele

My son just started playing organized sports this year. He finished one season of t-ball and he just started soccer this fall.  Maybe it's just an occupational hazard but I can't help but marvel at some of the snacks my son has been served since starting these sports.  In my brief experience with children's sports, I've noticed that many of us parents are sending the wrong message to our kids.  What does it say when we reward performance with doughnuts and Rice Krispy Treats?  Are we missing the connection between playing well and eating well?  Are we stressing team work and good sportsmanship but serving our teammates food that does more harm than good?

It can be daunting to feed a whole team of kids, but here are a few tips that might make things a little easier for you.

1) Serve whole fruit instead of "fruit" snacks like roll ups.   Fruit roll ups from General Mills are "made with real fruit" but when you look at the ingredients (see image below), you find some interesting things.  First, the main ingredient in the strawberry fruit roll up is pears, not strawberries.  The next three ingredients are sugar (in the form of corn syrup, dried corn syrup and sugar) and the fourth ingredient is partially-hydrogenated cotton seed oil or commonly called trans fat.  Last I heard, trans-fat and corn syrup didn't help improve any sports performance that I'm aware of.  Instead of these "fruit" snacks try some fresh grapes, oranges, apple slices, or melon.
Photo Courtesy of General Mills.com


















2)  Include a whole grain starch in your snack choice.  Try making small sandwiches made on 100% whole wheat bread or whole grain crackers.  I found that most kids enjoy the Kids Clif Z Bars which come in a few different flavors.
Photo Courtesy of Clifbar.com


3) Try to provide a simple protein in your snack.  String cheese or peanut butter could be a great addition to your whole grain crackers or bread.

4) Read the ingredients list when you buy processed foods and try to avoid products that have high fructose corn syrup.

5) Leave the cupcakes and doughnuts at home.  The common thought is, "My son/daughter is burning so many calories that it doesn't matter what they eat."  Well that is just wrong.  Yes, they are burning calories but don't we also want our kids to be healthy?  If you want something sweet, try making some whole wheat banana bread or whole gain muffins.

6) Be sure to remember to bring fluids, ideally water.  Unless you child is exercising for more than an hour, you probably don't need a sports drink but it might be appropriate if it is a hot day.  Kids are more likely to suffer from dehydration so be sure to encourage your little athlete to drink plenty of water before, during and after the game.

By making just a few simple changes our children will see how food can help then score the winning goal, hit that home run and sink the game winning shot.  Healthy food is just as important as sportsmanship and teamwork.  It all lays the foundation for habits that will help them succeed not just on the field but in all aspects of life as well.

I'd love to hear what great sports snacks you've come up with for your son's or daughter's team?



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Children, the Casualties in the War on Obesity

CNN posted an article recently about how eating disorders among children are on the rise.  Watch the video below for an idea of what the article discusses.

 
One of the more alarming things I read in the article was:
A study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006.
As with any war, there are always casualties.  In the War on Obesity, we are beginning to see that children are among the casualties from our focus on losing weight.  As the article points out, children in the 3rd and 4th grade are already developing anxiety over their bodies.  The unintentional result of our focus on obesity versus good health is the increase of low self-esteem and a trend of prejudice against overweight people.

Where does this anxiety, obsession or focus come from?  Sure, part of it is media driven but it also comes from the home and from other children.  How do we as parents affect our child's body image and cocern about weight?  At what age do they become aware of our own actions: weighing ourselves; saying negative things about our bodies; restricting foods; avoiding bathing suits; avoiding pictures?  They hear us talk about eating healthy but we might unintentionally reinforce poor eating habits by using food as a reward or celebration on one hand but then restrict foods because of a diet or punishment.

It's not only what happens at home but also what happens at school.  Are our children being bullied at school about their weight?  Are they targeted because they are fat or made insecure about their body?  These factors all play a role in our children's body image and how they relate to food.

How do we change? What can we do to start to spare our children a lifetime of body shaming, weight issues and dieting?  One of the new chapters in the 3rd edition of Intuitive Eating is about how you can raise an Intuitive Eater.  This new chapter provides many great suggestions and tips that will help you and your family make peace with food.  If you are a parent, the Intuitive Eating 3rd Edition and Ellyn Satter's The Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family are must haves books!

As a parent, intuitive eater and dietitian, here are some things that my wife and I have always tried to do in our house and with our kids:
1) We are responsible for providing healthy and balanced meals for our children.
2) Our children are responsible for eating the foods we provide and eating until they are full.
3) We don't "bargain" or make deals with our kids.  We never say, "Just eat two more bites of ____ and you can be done."
4) We sit down as a family, without distratctions like the the TV, and enjoy mealtimes together as often as possible.
5) We provide a "treat" or dessert at almost every meal.
6) We do not hide foods.  Cookies are placed at our children's level in a cupboard that they can open and access at any time.
7) We don't allow any adults to talk negatively about their body while they are in our house.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Believe the Hype!

Being a dietitian is one of the best jobs.  I love meeting new people, telling them what I do and then, like magic, they start to talk to me about the latest new diet they are on, hoping to hear my vote of approval.  The only approval they usually get is a smile, a nod and simple comment, "That's nice." I also love just walking around and seeing all the ads and products out there that entice us to lose weight with minimal effort.  Being a dietitian is not just about having good counseling skills, you have to have a little myth busting skills also. This past week I had two different experiences that were great examples of what I described above.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com
First off, my family and I ventured to the local mall on Saturday night.  It's 100+ degrees where we live and my wife and I figured we'd give our A/C a rest and head over to the mall for dinner and some people watching.  As we were strolling along, I came across one of those kiosks they have set up in the middle of the mall.  This particular one was selling a vibrating platform exercise machine (left).  Naturally, I had to stop and take a look.  My myth busting sensors were going berserk. Could standing on a vibrating platform really deliver all the benefits they promised?  They claim that you can replace your 60 minute workout with just 10 minutes on the vibration exercise machine and "melt" the fat away.  The machine is simple, you stand on the platform and it vibrates from side to side.  In order to maintain your balance you contract your muscles multiple times per minute.  The constant contracting creates a feeling like your muscles have exerted themselves but are you getting the same benefit from other forms of exercise?  From what I've found here, here and here, the answer is that these machines do serve some purpose for a select few groups: It can provide a brief benefit to athletes, it can help prevent bone loss and may be beneficial with some improved balance.  There has not been substantial research to prove that it is as effective as a 60 minute workout especially for the benefit of weight loss.  Research aside, these products (and there are a lot of them) prey on our hunger for the easy way out.  We want so badly to think that vibrating for 10 minutes a day will pay off with six pack abs, tighter tushies and will make the fat fade away.  If this is really how desperate we have become, I shudder to think about what product is coming out next.  Your guess is as good as mine.

The second "dietitian moment" I had this week was when I learned about a new weight loss plan: the 4-Hour Body Diet.  I was at a wedding and someone who was sitting at the same table told me about their experience trying this diet. What is the 4-Hour Body plan? Well first off, the author has created this amazing movie-style trailer that would sell anyone!  The program claims: 20 lb weight loss in just 30 days, improved testosterone and sperm counts, increased energy with only two hours of sleep each day and six pack abs with just a six minute workout.  The meal plan is similar to any other low-carb or paleo style diet.  No carbs, no fruit and limited dairy.  What's new about this though is there is one day when you are allowed to eat whatever ever you want and as much as you want.  The author, Tim Ferriss has no credentials in nutrition or exercise to substantiate his boastful claims but instead says he was the "guinea pig" and tested the different ideas on his own body. So for those who love studies, when it comes to the 4-Hour Body, n=1.  There are some great articles that discuss why the 4-Hour Body is not a good idea and you can read them here, and here. Besides not being based on any sound science and totally unrealistic, if you need another reason not to do something like the 4-Hour Body, it is endorsed by my favorite TV doctor, Dr. Oz which should speak volumes enough.  So back to my encounter at the wedding, I asked the person telling me about the diet how they did and they said, "Great, I lost 5 lbs."  They also said that they stopped the diet because they got sick of eating so much meat and ended up craving more fruits and carbs.

One week and two more examples of our quick-fix mentality about weight loss.  As we focus on the scale and obsess about our bodies, we lose sight of the fact that improving our health takes work.  Getting healthy is not about the number on the scale or about your dress size or about how big your biceps are.  It takes effort.  It takes a commitment to self-exploration.  Improving your health is about learning how to deal with your emotions without food. Its about moving your body not just to sweat or to build muscles, but because movement helps relieve stress and because you feel better about yourself after a workout.

If you want to lose 20 lbs in 30 days go for it.  If 10 minutes on a vibrating machine sounds fun to you, have at it.  Once you get tired of your no-carb, no fruit, high protein diet with one day to "pig out" and once you realize that our rattling innards have had enough, call me.  I'll be here, waiting to help you on the journey to improved health.  No gimmicks, no promises of quick fixes.  Just an honest conversation about food, exercise and your health.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Exercise and Find Your Greatness

I just turned 40 this month.  As with any milestone birthday, I have taken some time to reflect and think about life; where I've come from and where I'm heading.  I'm amazed at how my life has changed over the past 10 years, I have a new career, I got married and had two amazing kids.  

I've also had time to think about my health and how that has changed (for the better) over the past 10-15 years.  From weighing 300+ pounds nearly 15 years ago to working on becoming an Intuitive Eater.  I've biked 100 miles in a day and found pleasure in running.  

I've also been watching a lot of coverage of the London Olympics.  I guess I'm like many others out there but the athletes have really amazed and inspired me.  So I guess I have exercise on the brain!


Coincidentally, there has been some news about the benefits of exercise.  This article from the New York Times highlights a couple of studies that look at which is more effective in helping people lose weight.  Each study showed that exercise did not have the same overall benefit on weight loss as did healthier low calorie diets. 

What does this mean for you?  In my experience as a dietitian (and as a person trying to lose weight and get healthy), most people exercise for one reason: to burn calories.  They join boot camps, push their bodies and go to the gym for the purpose of sweating off the pounds or burning last night's dinner.  But like the article points out, "People stick with low-calorie diet more readily than they continue with exercise to drop pounds."

There in lies the rub. You shouldn't do anything just to "drop pounds"  When you focus on weight you forget the simple goal of improved health.  By just focusing on how many calories you burn on the treadmill, you lose sight of the fact that you might not enjoy running on the treadmill and you'd get much more pleasure from walking outside.  Some people actually gain weight when they start to exercise.  Read this woman's journey with a half-marathon and her weight here

What do I recommend? I recommend finding an activity that you love.  Get inspired to try something new.  Our bodies are capable of so much.  Just watch what the Olympic athletes are doing in London.

Need more inspiration that just watching the Olympics? Take a look at these new Nike ads, "Find Your Greatness"







"Greatness is not some rare DNA strand.  It is not some precious thing.  Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing.  We're all capable of it.  All of us."  Greatness is within all of us, we just need to find it.  So go out and find your greatness, that is what I plan to do.

So in a grand gesture worthy of a 40th birthday, I'm committing to finding my greatness.  Not to burn calories or to lose inches, but because I know I have it in me, and you do too.  Huffington Post had a great article this week about an exercise bucket list and I thought that was a great idea.  Here is my exercise bucket list.  What is yours?
  1. Run the 2013 LA Marathon
  2. Ride up Alpe d'Huez
  3. Complete the Aids Lifecycle
  4. Kayak with dolphins
  5. Embrace the mindfulness of yoga
  6. Complete a triathlon (no matter how short/long) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Invitation to Governor Chris Christie

I don't have much politically in common with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  We are polar opposites when it comes to social issues or the role of government, but the Governor and I do have one thing in common:  We both struggle with weight and deal with it in a public arena.  Granted, my public arena is much smaller than the Governor's but none the less, we are still judged by how we look.  Me because I am a dietitian and dietitians are supposed to "look a certain way" and the Governor because, well, he's a Governor.  I've written about my issues with weight here so I don't need to rehash that old story.  Regardless of the reason, people will look at us and draw a conclusion.

Gov. Christie did an interview with ABC Nightline this month where the issue of his weight came up.  Read the full article here and watch a video excerpt below.  The Governor makes some honest and personal observations about his struggle with his weight.  He shares how he as struggled with weight for 30 years and how his job makes making healthy choices difficult.  You don't have to be a Governor to identify with that, right? Those are issues that all of us deal with but there are much deeper issues that affect our food choices. Near the end of the article, the Governor says,
“I’ve been living with it for a long time, and I’m going to try to get better,” Christie said. “And if I can get better, that’ll be great for me and for my family and for the public who likes me … it’s something that’s not easy. If it were easy, I’d already have it fixed.”
Governor Christie is a very successful, intelligent and driven individual.  You have to be to run for and get elected to political office.  He is "fixing" important social and political issues every day. His career is defined by successfully dealing with problems. But, despite all that success, power and motivation, he can't "fix" his weight.  Again, you don't have to be Governor to identify with that, right?

It's a common misconception that we can "fix" our weight.  We need to realize that what we need to fix is not the number on the scale but rather the way we think about food. What the Governor needs to do is make peace with food.  You don't have to be Governor to identify with that either.

So, I'm extending an open invitation to Governor Christie.  Governor, you don't need another meal plan or diet that promises results.  Let's talk, man to man, about something men don't usually open up about: how we use food to cope with our emotions.  Let's start a conversation about how food can be our best friend and worst enemy.  Let me help you make peace with food.  Let's start the discussion so you can start listening to your body, honoring your hunger and fullness.  Governor, ditch the food rules that you've grown up with and let's talk about how you can start to give yourself permission to eat again. This isn't a fad diet, this is Intuitive Eating.  I am here waiting for your email.  I'm available for Skype or FaceTime calls so no need to come out to Los Angeles either.  You don't need to be a Governor to open up and talk about food.  My invitation extends to anyone else out there that is ready to make peace with food. 

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Yoda Was an Intuitive Eater!

Photo courtesy of Starwars.com
Just like almost every other kid who grew up in the 1970's, I am a big fan of Star Wars.  Even the new ones hold a special place in my heart.  There was just something about seeing Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star, watching a lightsaber battle and hearing Darth Vader breath that captured me.  Now as a father, it has been fun to experience all that again as I watch those movies with my son.  I've tried to get my daughter to watch but she's more interested in other things...sigh.  Watching the movies again I've been able to see some new things and messages that I had never noticed before.  I've even noticed some interesting things that connect Star Wars to Intuitive Eating.

One of the central themes in all the Star Wars movies is The Force.  It is a simple good vs. bad archetype but also something deeply spiritual.  The light side of The Force revolves around ideals and themes like mercy, benevolence, patience, healing, compassion and enlightenment while the dark side is aligned with fear, anger, aggression, hatred and jealousy.  When I thought about The Force, I realized that in some ways Intuitive Eating and dieting is just like the light vs. dark side of The Force.  I'm not saying that if you are on a diet you are like Darth Vader, but I would like to illustrate a few themes that I've thought about.

Although not written in the book, there is a definite spirituality to IE.  To make peace with food, you need to be a Jedi on some level. You must have patience, compassion towards yourself and your body, and merciful to your vulnerability.  You also need to understand that to make peace with food, you must heal your mind, body and spirit.

But dieting is the way of the Sith or dark side of The Force.  Dieting and focusing on weight is filled with fear of failure, anger at the food rules, hatred of our bodies and jealousy of the "appearance of success" of others.

If Yoda was the master of all Jedi, then he must have been the most enlightened, the most at peace and the most insightful.  With all that inner peace and wisdom, then in my opinion, it goes without saying that he would, of course, also be an Intuitive Eater.  Don't you think he was at peace enough to listen to his body and respect his hunger and fullness?  Since he was to insightful, he must have had some great coping skills when he was emotionally vulnerable instead to heading right to food.  And with all that enlightenment, he probably also loved his body.  Although small in stature, he was powerful.  For a 900 year old, it looked like he had a pretty positive body image.  Those are the exact skills all of us need to become Intuitive Eaters.

If you don't think I'm a nerd already, well then stand back because I'm going to share some Yoda quotes with you.  Yes, I'm quoting Yoda!  I added some key words [in brackets] to reframe your thinking from Star Wars to Intuitive Eating to illustrate my points.
  • Fear is the path to the dark side [of dieting]. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering [and more dieting].
  • Don't think. Feel. Be as one with The Force [Intuitive Eating]. Help you, it will.
  • Clear, your mind must be.
  • Patience!
  • A Jedi [Intuitive Eater] must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.
  • Beware of the dark side [dieting]. Anger...fear...aggression. The dark side of The Force [dieting] are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path [of dieting], forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
  • The dark side [dieting] is not stronger, but quicker, easier, more seductive.
  • You will know the good side from the bad when you are calm, at peace. Passive.
  • You must unlearn what you have learned.
  • Not believing [in your own intuition] is why you fail. 
I know, I might be reaching on some of these but some are so perfect when it comes to our relationship with food. I honestly feel that dieting leads to anger, and anger leads to hating ourselves.  Hating ourselves is suffering and that leads to more dieting.  It is a cycle that we need to break.  I also feel that Intuitive Eating is a difficult journey and it is definitely not an easy path but there are "Jedi" out there to help you.  To trust your intuition and make peace with food is the path to calm, peace, enlightenment, self-compassion and  healing.   May The Force be with you! Or as my Twitter friend Elisa Zied said, "May the Fork be with you!"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bad Body Image - Not Just for Women Anymore

Since diving into Intuitive Eating and using it with clients, I've made an anecdotal observation that I'm not sure is correct but here goes: Intuitive Eating appeals to women much more than men.  Intuitive Eating is not gender-biased in any way but I've noticed this because in most cases, making peace with food forces you to deal with your emotions, something us men have trouble doing.

But does that mean men are not struggling with losing weight, with improving their health or with body image issues?  Obviously the answer is no to the first two but men's body issues is not necessarily a common topic.  

Here are some statistics about male body image and eating disorder issues: 
From the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated DisordersAn estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.  Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”
From the National Eating Disorders Association: Approximately 10% of eating disordered individuals coming to the attention of mental health professionals are male (Wolf, 1991; Fairburn & Beglin, 1990).  Boys are three times more likely than girls to be trying to gain weight (28% versus 9%). The cultural ideal for body shape for men versus women continues to favor slender women and athletic, V-shaped muscular men (Rosen & Gross, 1987).
If you do a Google image search on positive body images, most of the results are images of women.  They are inspiring messages that I am happy to see, but there are relatively few that show any men.  If you add the word "male" in the middle of the same search you find more randomness to the images that come up.  But the few male-specific pictures that do come up are almost all "the ideal" image of a man: six pack abs and well defined muscles.  There are no pictures of "curvy" guys holding up a positive statement about their love handles.  There are no men standing in front of mirrors with "You Are Beautiful" written on it.  I don't have a six pack nor well defined muscles and, like I'm sure many other people will understand, I've struggled with body issues.  So where is our inspiration?

The difference between the search results is striking especially for me--since I know both as an individual and as a clinician--how strongly our body image affects our food choices.  Perhaps the lack of awareness is the exact result of the problem that so often plagues us men; we don't like to share our feelings.  Until we can begin to deal with our body issues and accept that making peace with food might mean sharing some of those emotions we have buried inside, we will never break the cycle.

Maybe our body issues are not the same as our female counterparts, but they are there.  Maybe we don't care as much about being "thin" but we do care about being "bigger."  How can we lift more, build more muscle, look more cut and which foods will help us get there?  Just check out a Men's Fitness cover one day. Regardless of our goal, we have our own food rules and our own issues with food.

Intuitive Eating is not gender specific. Making peace with food has nothing to do with male or female.  Listening to your body's hunger and fullness and respecting your body is a part of all of us.  Although learning to share your emotions might come more naturally to women, it is not exclusive to them.  Men have the capacity to share and can learn the benefit of guided support to help change how they think about food.  So men, don't be afraid to pick up the phone, send me an email or pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating.  It is a journey worth taking.  


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why I Garden

This summer is the third year that I've planted a vegetable garden in our back yard and each time I learn something new.  You might think, "Well of course he has a garden, he's a dietitian." I originally planted my garden for almost that exact reason but also because:  
  • I wanted my twins to know where fruits and vegetables come from. 
  • I wanted to have more control over my food and where it comes from so a garden seemed like a great way to accomplish that.
  • I wanted to see if I could actually get anything to grow!
Now, I must confess that I am a very low maintenance gardner.  I water, I weed, and I harvest and probably not as often as I should.  I basically have a Ron Popeil attitude: I set it and forget it.  I would not say I have a green thumb, it's more yellowish and probably from over or under watering, I don't know which.

As the years go on, though, my garden has become more than I expected.  It all started a few days ago,  my daughter said something to me that really made me think.  She's 4 1/2 and when we were outside watering together she said, "Dad we have to share the food we grow, right?  That's what we are supposed to do with our garden."  She probably said this because she noticed that if we have something ripe to harvest, and we are going over to a friend's house, we bring whatever we pick as a gift. 

After thinking about what my daughter said for a couple of days I realized that yes, part of the fun of having a garden is that I get to share my harvest with friends.  

My garden is not just about what I do to the dirt and to the plants, it's about what the dirt and plants do to me.  If I spend 5 minutes outside in my garden, I notice I am more relaxed.  I am so proud when I see a small piece of fruit or vegetable start to form.  I feel accomplished.  I also get great joy from watching my kids look for worms, pick ready-to-eat vegetables, and help choose what to plant each year.  Although my yield each harvest is relatively small, nothing tastes as good as a vegetable that you grew in your own yard. 

My garden helps connect me to my food which is another exercise in Intuitive Eating.  I want to savor each bite of cucumber, corn, tomato or pepper that comes from my own work. 

To really understand what a garden can do for you, watch the YouTube video below from a recent Ted Talk. 

 


So how is my garden doing this year?  Here are some pictures so you see how things are going.  And I will add more photos as things continue to grow.  As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.

Starters I purchased for planting.  Total cost ~$25

Two raised 4x4 beds divided into 1x1 squares ready for planting
Plants organized in their 1x1 plot

Planted and ready to grow!

Our first jalepenos 

This kids chose to plant "burpless" cucumbers!

Look how things have grown so far
Summer squash flowering after just a few weeks.



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

AND Done

Photo Courtesy of EatRight.org
Photo Courtesy of Coca-Cola.com





This time of year creates some angst in my life. It around this time of year that I get my renewal notice for my membership to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). For the past few years I have really struggled with whether or not I should renew my membership. I have written about my issues with AND here but to put it succinctly, I do not like the fact that AND partners with organizations like Coca-Cola, Hershey's, Mars Inc., General Mills and Kellogg's. I think that it sends the wrong message about our organization as a whole--whose primary goal is to promote good nutrition--while taking money from companies whose products are mostly thought of as not healthy.

 This year I have decided I will no longer be a member of the Academy. What happened this year to change my mind? Two things.

First, I found out that the Academy's new President, Ethan Bergman will be carrying the Olympic torch in England this year. That seems innocent, right? Then I found out that Mr. Bergman received the honor of being a torch bearer because he was selected by Coca-Cola (a major Olympic sponsor). What message does it send when our professional organization President does something as public as carrying the Olympic torch because Coke sponsored him? To me, it paints a picture that the two organizations have a pretty close relationship.

The second thing that finally tipped me over the edge was the Academy's press release after Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of large sugary beverages (soda) in New York City. In case you don't know the original story you can read it here. The proposed ban has sparked a lot of debate on the role of government in regulating our diet and the impact if sugary beverages on obesity. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a statement on the ban. In brief they said,
"The Academy supports strategies designed to encourage people to make healthful food choices," said registered dietitian and Academy President Sylvia Escott-Stump. "To date, most bans and taxations like the New York proposal are based on theoretical models. There is conflicting research on whether these programs actually result in behavior change that leads to positive health outcomes." Escott-Stump added: "As a science-based organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes there must be an evaluation component to these programs. We need to measure behavior changes across the population as a result of the program. Then, we can determine if the changes are long-term and whether they contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes." 
 This release is so "blah" and without opinion that I was blown away! Why not take a stand on the topic either way instead of such a wishy-washy, wait-and-see attitude?  At least join the debate! Did AND hold back because their major corporate sponsor is Coca-Cola? Is AND holding their tongue because they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them? It sure seems that way to me.

There are a number of dietitians that feel like I do and according to this article,  61% of dietitians who are members of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (HEN) dietetic practice group (DPG) opposed AND's corporate sponsorship.

After much thought and discussion with colleagues whose opinion I value, I decided to vote with my pocket book.  I am not renewing my membership because I do not support the Academy's position on corporate sponsorship.  AND has many things to offer RDs but I choose to not participate until they change their stance on this issue.

I know that some of you will disagree with this opinion and I welcome your comments.  It is discussion and debate that is needed on this topic.  I am taking a stand...will you?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr. Oz Wants You to Slimdown for Summer!

Photo courtesy of Oprah.com
I don't watch Dr. Oz firstly because I have more important things to do during the day but secondly and most importantly, I think he is full of it!  There, I said it!

But I have to admit, he is like a train wreck, however.  I see something he says or writes, and I can't turn away despite all my best intentions.

The train wreck I couldn't turn away from this time was a link I saw via Twitter to his Swimsuit Slimdown Plan.  The article starts by evoking fond memories of your childhood, spending carefree days on the beach or by the pool.  It goes on to point out how many of us avoid these situations as an adult because of the fear of getting into a bathing suit.  The article pulls at your emotions and then reels you in with the common "diet mentality" hook:
You can stay inside all summer, wearing layer upon layer to hide your trouble spots, or always swim in a scuba suit. Alternately, if you’re ready to crank up your confidence, you can follow Dr. Oz’s smart and simple steps to lose weight, feel fit, and regain the confidence you need to wear your bathing suit
What is this amazing plan you ask?  Well let's take a closer look.  It starts like any other fad diet with simple, easy steps to losing weight and a better life.  The first step is to "Sip Smart" with a drink made from 1 cup of grapefruit juice and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Sounds a little tart to me, and maybe to some others too because Dr. Oz allows you to add 1 teaspoon of honey to make the drink a little more palatable. How generous of you doctor! The premise for this drink, (which is supposed to be consumed before each meal) is that it is high in Vitamin C which Dr. Oz argues will help burn fat DURING exercise.  He cites one study (no link supplied of course) which found that participants with adequate Vitamin C levels burned 30% more fat during moderate exercise than those with lower Vitamin C levels. I found the study that the article references here but I could find no others that support this finding...shocking right? The final sentence is another example of Dr. Oz's fad diet sell:
Drink Dr. Oz’s secret slimdown drink before every meal and you’ll literally burn away your fat while enjoying a citrusy delight.
Part two of the plan is my favorite.  The "slimdown salad" is comprised of 1 bunch of dandelion greens, 1 cup of watermelon and parsley.  The "diet" says that you'll get plenty of healthy protein from the dandelion greens.  Yes, you will get protein from the dandelion greens but according to this nutrition data, you'll get a whole gram of protein for each cup of greens.  One measly gram!  Seriously Dr. Oz, no one on your staff could Google "protein content in dandelion greens" and find that one gram of protein will not fill you up?  The watermelon is included in the salad because it is a "good source" of arginine, "which might promote weight loss" according to a study quoted by Dr. Oz.  The study was from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and can be seen here.  I'll let you read the full article but the basic gist is that lab rats (n=8 in each of four treatment groups) that were supplemented with over 1 gram of arginine per day had less fat accumulation than the other groups of rats.  So, arginine MAY help prevent fat mass accumulation (according to 1 study of just 24 rats) but this begs the question how much arginine is in a serving of watermelon?  Well there is a total of  86.7 mg per 1 cup.  Wow, an amazing 86.7 mg!  Stand back fat, prepare to meet your doom.  IF the study on arginine is true and it helped, why would you only choose 86.7 mg of arginine?  If you wanted arginine in the salad, why not just add one cup of cooked lentils to the salad which would give you 1380 mg of arginine, 16 grams of dietary fiber and 18 grams of protein?  Now that will fill you up!  But this salad is not being sold to you for taste or for flavor but only as a miracle fat burner high...a quick fix.

The other two parts of this genius summer slimdown is to buy a $40 bottle of aminophylline cream to reduce cellulite and a "sculping" exercise routine that can be done in just 5 minutes each morning.  Since I'm a dieitian I'll focus my critique on the nutrition content of the article and just summarize these two points simply by saying they are more quick fixes from the doctor.

This article bothers me on so many levels.  First off the research Dr. Oz is highlighting are singular studies on a topic and without large scale validity.  Secondly, the nutrition advice does not support the "diet's" goals and it looks like it has come out of a lab and not based on building appealing, delicious and nutritious meals.  Why would I want to drink vinegar and grapefruit juice before each meal?  Come on! Lastly, the reason this bothers me the most is that Dr. Oz is abusing his MD credential.  He is another example of how celebreties use their name to promote a quick fix to weight loss.  Is this any different than Kirstie Alley or Charles Barkley?  Sure Dr. Oz is not selling any supplements but he is selling himself, his reputation and in this case, a fad diet.

There is no simple four step plan to health, weight loss or summer happiness.  This is just another in a long series of diets that MIGHT help you temporarily but they won't provide any long-term solution.  Your solution to health lies within you.  You will discover your own healthy life when you finally reject the diets, honor you hunger, make peace with food, respect your fullness and stop using food to cope with your emotions.  That is how Intuitive Eating works.  Why not start to listen to what your body is telling you about your food choices?  With some practice you will begin to intuitively know what foods make you feel best. 

As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Intuitive Eating? That Sounds Dangerous"


That is exactly what my close friend's doctor said after their most recent visit this week.  Apparently my friend has gained some weight over the past two years and the doctor said she was concerned about the trend.  My friend mentioned that I'm a dietitian and of course what did the doctor say, "You should have him make you a meal plan." My friend, who has been trying to become an Intuitive Eater, tried to explain some of the basic principles.  That is when the doctor laid out the gem that is the title of this blog post.  Her next sentence was, "I would intuit to have a candy bar every day."  Well doc, maybe that is just what your body needs.

Intuitive Eating (IE) is scary for some people.  Imagine what it must be like after years of dieting and the constant good vs. bad fight going on in your head to then say, I can eat whatever I want.  The answer is yes...yes you can.  One of the basic principles of IE is to make peace with food.  This means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.  When we don't have permission to eat what we crave, we hide what we eat, we binge and most of all we feel guilty and like a failure when we do "cheat."  Until you break down all the existing food rules and diet mentality, you can not learn to listen to your body and choose the foods that honor your health.

I feel horrible now because my friend is once again obsessed with the scale.  They are once again looking at diet books and different tools to help that silly number on the scale go in the right direction instead of focusing on their health.

I think what upset me the most about the doctor's comments was two things.  First, the doctor dismissed IE like it's just some trivial notion...that eating what we crave and making peace with food is something from a science fiction movie.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  IE is written by accomplished RDs, it's based on research and we are finding that Intuitive Eaters are healthy individuals.  The second is that doctors have influence over people.  And to make a comment like that to someone who is struggling to listen to their intuition is a real set back into their diet mentality.  This is the exact sort of situation that believers of Intuitive Eating struggle with all the time.  It is part of all of our journeys.

If you would like to read some of the research on IE, just click here.  Also, weight is not the only determinate of good health and some would argue that weight is actually a very poor indicator of health. If you are interested in learning more about that go here and here.

As always I welcome your comments.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How I Got Here: A Career Change Success Story

(reprinted from feed your career)

MY FULL CAREER CHANGE STORY:
I spent almost 10 years as a Producer of on-line video games. I focused mostly on children’s entertainment and educational titles. I worked for both large production companies and small start-ups. I got into that profession just by chance. I dropped out of college when I was 21 after floundering for a long time, I got a job as a game-tester and thought I made the big time because I was being paid to play video games for a living. It wasn’t as glamorous as I thought but I still enjoyed the work and moved my way up the “corporate ladder” until I was managing the development process of games I had thought up. I managed a team of artists and designers and I was the person in charge of timely delivery of a quality product that didn’t go over budget. Even though I worked with great people, I never really loved going to work, in fact I ended up dreading it. I would start to stress-out Saturday night because I knew my weekend was almost over and I would have to go back to work on Monday morning.
Let me pause because I need to give some other background at this time. I’ve struggled with weight my entire life. After high school I became less active and I started to gain weight quite quickly. By the time I was 27, I weighed over 300 lbs. One morning I woke up and literally said to myself, “Enough is enough.” I started to exercise, eat right and I lost over 100 lbs in about a year without any outside help. It was quite literally a life-changing moment, not just because I was healthier, but I realized that I can do anything I put my mind to. So now we return to my life as a Producer which was horrible. I just coasted through my responsibilities, much like my life during college. After realizing that I was not getting anything more than a paycheck from my work, I went back to school to complete my BS in Nutrition so that I could become a RD.
After failing at school the first time, I sailed through my school work the second time around. I was motivated and happy and the grades reflected that. I treated school like my job and dedicated myself to learning as much as I could. Fast forward through graduation and my dietetic internship, to where I am now an outpatient dietitian working at the VA teaching classes as part of the MOVE program to help vets lose weight.

WHAT WAS THE EVENT THAT FLIPPED ON THE SWITCH TO MAKE A CAREER CHANGE OR TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP?
I hated my job as a video-game producer. I was not motivated but I didn’t know why. I had already read, What Color is My Parachute to help me identify what I’m good at so I had some insight into what previous experiences in my past had given me the most fulfillment. I began to research becoming a RD after losing weight but I was scared to go back to school. I was a miserable student the first-time around, but I also knew that becoming a RD was really the most “legitimate” way to go.
Finally, I found a career counselor who sat down with me and talked me through a lot of things. He helped me identify what I really wanted out of work and why I was so miserable in my current career. When I told him about the RD thing and mentioned how scared I was about returning to school he said, “You know your whole attitude changed when you started talking about this.” He said I lit up and was upbeat. He told me not to worry about the school thing, that if I loved it, I would excel. He also said, “So you become an RD at 35…that still means you could work in that job for 30+ years!” It was through those discussions that I really realized this was going to be a great career change for me.

WHAT WERE THE FEELINGS YOU HAD AFTER YOU MADE THE DECISION TO CHANGE YOUR CAREER AND HOW DID YOU KEEP THEM IN CHECK?
I clearly remember telling my now wife that I was going to quit work and go back to school. I was worried about telling her and what she would say but she said that if that’s what I wanted to do, then I should go ahead and do it and we would figure out how to make it work! We were going to live on only one income for a few years, but that was ok. That was a relief!
My biggest freak-out moment though was the first night after I got home from summer school. I had to take college algebra at a community college as a pre-req for the Statistics course I had to complete before I could transfer to the university. I came home and cried for about 30 minutes thinking about what had I gotten myself into. My wife finally talked me down, but that was the first time that I my career change became real.

WHAT ARE SOME TOOLS, TIPS OR ADVICE TO OTHERS LOOKING TO MAKE A CAREER CHANGE?
A lot of people are unhappy with their jobs. I’ve learned that there are pros and cons to every job, no matter what. There is always going to be politics, things you don’t like and things that make you crazy. We each need to make that personal list for ourselves and really understand what makes us happy at work. I knew for sure I needed to change careers, after bouncing around from company to company. At each new job, I was still unhappy. I finally realized the only thing that was consistent at each new place was ME. I was what needed to change.
That forced me to think about what I needed in a career. I realized that I don’t care about being the boss, getting a huge paycheck or being responsible for others. I don’t need to cure cancer or be famous, but what I do need is some positive personal interaction each day and to feel like I made a difference in someone’s life. My best days are the ones when I make that connection with one person; their eyes open up and they feel like they can change their life because of a conversation or advice they have gotten from me. That is worth a million dollars!

WHAT DID YOU TELL OTHERS WHO WERE LESS SUPPORTIVE?
It was interesting to hear what people said when I told them I was going back to school or that I was a 32 year-old full time student. Either they said “that is amazing”, “how great”, or they would question how I would pay the bills, or was this just “an escape from reality” instead of just “sucking it up”. What I found is that those who fit in the latter category, were really just insecure and unhappy in their current jobs. Those were their thoughts about their careers…not mine. That helped me let it just roll off my back.
That being said, I had an unbelievable support system. My wife was willing to move to a smaller apartment, save money, and put off starting our family until I finished school. She helped me study for tests, proof-read papers and listened as I worried about not succeeding. Let me just say, I couldn’t have done it without her! She’s the best!