Tuesday, August 31

Food Spotlight: Eggs

First it was cholesterol, now it’s salmonella. The poor egg just can’t catch a break.

Since I like to root for the underdog, I’m dedicating this Food Spotlight to my dear maligned friend, the egg.

When they’re not tainted with salmonella, eggs are an incredibly healthy food. With six grams of protein and a list of other nutrients including, riboflavin, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, choline, lutein, folate, vitamin D, and zeaxanthin, that little guy packs quite a lot into a two-inch oval. And it’ll only cost you about 80 calories. Nutritionists call it a “nutrient-dense” food, meaning they are rich in nutrients compared to their calorie content. More simply, you get a lot of nutrient bang for your calorie buck.

I know, I know, there is that thing about cholesterol. Noone’s perfect and my friend is no exception. Eggs have a lot of cholesterol, 212 milligrams per large egg to be precise. But the good news is, it’s completely contained within the yolk. If you don’t want cholesterol, just eat the egg whites. How many other foods make it easy for you to separate out the bad stuff? You ever try taking the sugar out of a Twinkie? Or the saturated fat out of a French fry? At least my friend made it easy for you. He’s like that you know, very considerate of people’s dietary restrictions.

And lucky for us, recent research has debunked the myth that eating eggs increases your risk for heart disease. A 2007 study published in Medical Science Monitor observed no significant difference in cardiovascular diseases (like stroke and heart attack) between people who consumed more than six eggs per week and those who consumed one or fewer eggs per week.

Now, nutrition guidelines suggest that healthy adults can eat one whole egg a day. (Diabetics, individuals with heart disease, and people with high cholesterol still need to check with their physician regarding egg consumption.)

This week, ready to fill my shopping cart with eggs, I stopped to study my choices. I had never paid attention to the labels before. Nestled among the standard brown or white eggs were “cage free,” “free-range,” “certified organic,” and “Omega-3 enhanced” eggs.

Good God, I thought. Isn’t an egg just an egg?

Apparently not.

I’m skeptical of any marketing claim on a food label, especially when the cost rises with each bold statement. My mind quickly jumps to, “Does it really matter if the hens are cage free, or are they just trying to gig me for more money because it sounds better?”

After some research I deciphered the meaning of all those marketing labels. Here’s a rundown of what those terms mean.

“Cage free” means exactly that, the chickens aren’t in cages, but they’re not roaming around the farm pecking at the ground either. They are often in barns or warehouses and generally don’t have access to the outdoors. More disconcerting is that there’s no third-party audit of the farm. So you have to trust that the supplier is being truthful in his “cage free” claim. Um, yeah, I don’t know about that.

The same goes with “free range” eggs. These chickens have some degree of outdoor access but the amount, duration or quality of access isn’t regulated. And again, there’s no third party audit. Yeah, I have a “free range” dog too. Does that mean I could charge more for her if I wanted to sell her?

If you really want eggs from a hen that is living the most natural life it can, your best option is a “Certified Organic” egg. These hens are cage free and are required to have outdoor access. However, the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program and compliance is verified through third-party auditing.

“Omega-3 enhanced” eggs are from hens fed a significant amount of flaxseed. This claim has nothing to do with how the chicken lives, it could be a caged hen or free range. It is simply stating that the chicken’s feed is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

With all this confusion about labeling I wondered, does it even matter? Does the way a hen is cared for impact the nutritional quality of the egg?

Well, maybe. It certainly makes sense that a hen allowed to forage naturally would have a more diverse diet, leading to different nutrition in her eggs.

A study conducted by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences showed that eggs from chickens allowed to forage in pastures were higher in some nutrients. There’s also a study fromMother Earth News touting the nutritional benefits of free-range eggs versus caged hen eggs, but with a name like “Mother Earth News,” it makes me question their results. Although they claim the eggs were tested by an accredited third-party lab.

All else being equal, I’d buy certified organic eggs, for the sake of the chicken and also because I agree with the logic that a naturally fed chicken will produce a higher quality egg. But it’s not equal. Organic eggs are $2.89 a dozen at Kroger versus $1.89 for standard, caged hen eggs. Ugh, what to do? My family of five goes through about three dozen eggs a week.

I think this is the perfect product to start buying local. This Wednesday I’m going to check out the West End Farmer’s Market. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Sources: http://live.psu.edu/story/47514


Thursday, August 26

It’s Personal

Sitting in my sister Tammi’s house in Augusta, Georgia, I stared out the window at her beautiful Rose of Sharon bush. Its branches, heavy with their load of white blossoms, rose six feet above the deck before arching gracefully over the railing. Shifting my gaze to the right, I glanced at their forested backyard and two-acre pond. Sipping my coffee I absorbed the beautiful scenery before me. Giggling silently to myself, I remembered that, initially, staying with Tammi on her 13-acre property scared me. “But, but, if someone breaks in, no one can hear you scream,” I told her.
“Yeah, that kind of doesn’t bother me,” she replied in her lilting Southern drawl. “Besides, we’ve got about a dozen guns in the gun cabinet. If they get in, they’re definitely not getting out.”
My fear of the isolation slowly diminished and is now replaced with a sense of calm. She and her husband Robbie have a beautiful country retreat, only ten minutes outside town. It’s the perfect getaway. So while Michael partied in Vegas for his annual boys’ trip, the children and I enjoyed a final summer fling visiting my family.
The whole Georgia clan! My mom, two sisters and their families, and my family.
Whether dining with my mom, walking along the Augusta Canal with my brother-in-law Robbie, or sipping wine on Tammi’s back porch, the conversation always shifted to nutrition and fitness. It seems that everyone in my family is on some sort of health kick.
After five days of discussion on what it takes to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program, only one thing is clear—it’s different for everyone.
For example, my mom recently joined Weight Watchers. She finds that the personal accountability of a weekly weigh-in keeps her motivated and focused on making better choices.
Tammi, burned out from the gym, has decided to focus her efforts on nutrition. A busy working mom, she wants to get her diet under control and on autopilot before she reintroduces a vigorous fitness regime.  
For my brother-in-law Robbie, a multi-faceted approach seems to work. He runs or walks daily, watches what he eats, and tries to limit the number of times he dines out, since restaurant temptations are difficult for him to resist.
So what works for me, I thought? What motivates me to stay on track?
Back in graduate school, I remember Michael and I making a bet with Tammi and her first husband. I’ll call him John.
The rules were simple. Whichever couple lost the most weight combined, won the bet. The losers not only had to buy the other couple dinner, but when they ordered their meal they had to introduce themselves to the waiter as follows: “Hi, my name is [  ] and I have a weight problem.”
This strategy tapped into two elements of my personality: competitiveness and my fear of public humiliation. It worked beautifully. No way was I going to tell a perfect stranger that I had a weight problem. And Michael, who doesn’t normally give a hoo-ha about weight loss, can’t stand to lose, so his natural competitiveness kicked in too. Not surprisingly, we won.
Seated at dinner for the celebratory meal. The waiter stood before us and said, “Hi, my name’s Jason and I’ll be taking care of you this evening.”
Michael and I stared at Tammi and John, waiting for their reply.
Tammi dutifully jumped right in. “Hi, my name’s Tammi and, as you can see, I have a weight problem.”
Amid bursts of laughter, Michael and I urged John to introduce himself too. He refused. Embarrassing himself in public was not something he was comfortable with. Welching on a bet, apparently was. Tammi and John are no longer married. Honor, it seems, was a problem for him in multiple categories of his life.
The fear of public humiliation is a powerful tool. One of the happy side effects of writing about health and wellness is tapping into this aspect of my personality. By putting information out there, I feel accountable to you. I feel obligated to “walk the talk.” So as much as I hope I pass along good information and tips to you, I wanted you to know that simply by reading this, you’re helping me. Thanks!
If you think about a time when you were successful, not just in weight loss, but with anything, what helped you get there? Was it a supportive team around you? Was it a clear purpose or goal? A tangible reward? Public acknowledgement?
Whatever it is, apply those same motivators to your health goals.
If you need support, join a weight loss program, encourage a friend to do it with you.
Do you have a wedding or reunion next year? That could be your goal.
Eyeing a fabulous pair of shoes or handbag? Treat yourself once you’ve lost a certain amount of weight or lowered your cholesterol.
Are you like me and need public accountability? Start a blog! Or, simply tell your friends and family your plans. Trust me, they’ll bug you endlessly about your progress.
Good luck!

Saturday, August 21

Food Spotlight: Whole Grain Bread

Back in the day, you were a health nut if you chose a simple wheat bread over white. Now, research has demonstrated that wheat is not enough, you need whole grain wheat. In fact, we're supposed to be eating 48 grams of whole grains daily. 

One of the easiest ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet is with bread. So this week I decided to investigate whole grain bread choices. Plus, bread was on my grocery list, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.

Standing in the bread aisle, I stared at the variety of brands in front of me. Reading the ingredient lists, I encountered the following words: whole grain, whole wheat, whole oats, stoneground whole wheat, wheatberry, wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat, multigrain, and enriched flour. Well, I thought, which of these words describe whole grain bread? Is it just the one that says, “whole grain?” What about “whole wheat” and “whole oats” are those whole grains? And isn’t “multigrain” a good choice too?

All I can say is, holy schnikes Batman, I’m confused.

To sort out the mess, I sought the advice of the Whole Grains Council, an organization dedicated to helping consumers learn more about the benefits of whole grains and finding whole grain products.

Realizing consumers needed help identifying true whole grain products, the council introduced the Whole Grain Stamp in 2005. There are two versions of the stamp, the Basic Stamp and the 100% Stamp.

Courtesy Oldways and
 the Whole Grains Council

The Basic Stamp (on the left) identifies products with at least 8 grams of whole grains per labeled serving. These products have a mix of whole and refined grains. The amount of whole grains per serving is listed on the stamp, e.g., 8g, 23g.

Courtesy Oldways and
the Whole Grains Council

The 100% Stamp (to the right) indicates products that not only meet the minimum 8 grams of whole grains per labeled serving, but are also made with all whole grains. In addition to listing the amount of whole grains per serving, it will have “100%” on the logo.

Thank God for the stamp. It made my search for a whole grain bread much easier. But it still wasn't without some difficulty. 

There isn't a standard placement for the stamp, so it can be tough to find. It was generally located on the back of the bread, next to the bar code. But not always. And many products had no stamp.

Great, I thought. Now what do I do if my favorite bread has no stamp?

You have to read the ingredient list. 

Here’s a rundown of the words you could encounter on packaging and what they mean.

Words on Packaging
What They Mean

Whole grain [name of grain]
Whole wheat
Whole [other grain]
Stoneground whole [name of grain]
Brown rice
Oats, oatmeal [including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal]


These mean “whole grain.” In general, if you see the word “whole,” you’re good.

The kicker is, you don’t know how much whole grain is in the product. Could be a lot, could be a little. Unless they tell you on the packaging, you have no way of knowing.

Wheat flour
Durum wheat
Organic flour

This is where it gets tricky. These products could have whole grains in them, but you can’t be sure.

And “multigrain” simply means there are a variety of grains in the product. Multigrain breads are also described as “7-grain,” “9-grain,” or similar. These words are stating the number of grains in the product, not whether they’re whole or refined. They might be whole grains, they might be refined grains, or they could be a mix of the two.

Finding out that “multigrain” may not always be a good choice really irked me. It reminded me how clever marketing folks are, because that’s a great word. It sounds really impressive and makes me think I’m buying a whole grain product. Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m being dupped. I hate feeling like a sucker.


Enriched flour
Degerminated corn meal

These are code for refined grain products. They never describe whole grains.


“Made with whole grains”


Is your BS detector going off? It should be. If there’s no further information on the package, i.e. “16 grams of whole grains per slice,” or “100% whole wheat,” then be very, very skeptical. 

I could throw a couple of whole grains of wheat into a vat of cookie dough and technically call it “made with whole grains.” I’m not lying, there are whole grains in there, but I’m not being entirely truthful either.

This statement is deceptive marketing at its finest. It reminds me of my push-up bra. The bra showcases my assets in the best way possible. I’m not lying about what I’m made of, but what you see is not really what you get.


I hope this sheds some light on the whole grain issue.

Happy shopping and I’ll see you in the bread aisle. I’ll be the one in the push-up bra looking for the Whole Grain Stamp.

For more information, check out the Whole Grains Council website. (click here)

Wednesday, August 18

Beware! Just Because It Sounds Healthy Doesn’t Mean It Is

Ah, restaurants, you gotta love ‘em. I certainly do. Especially since I do the majority of the cooking in my family. I relish the opportunity to be waited on, to have someone else prepare a meal, and most of all, to walk away from the dirty dishes littering the table without a care in the world. Plus, with everyone ordering exactly what they want, there’s no whining about the food. No comments like, “Do I have to eat the broccoli?”  “Can I just eat the tops or do I have to eat the stems too?” “If I eat three pieces of broccoli can I have dessert tonight?”

Ugh! The stream of commentary coming from my seven-year-old daughter is endless, but when we dine out she gets to choose her own meal which 99% of the time is mac n’ cheese, and I hear nothing but, “Mmm, that’s yummy. Do they have free refills?”

Who knew serenity could be found in a booth at Red Robin.

But dining out has its pitfalls, most notably, high-caloric, high-fat, sodium-laden food. 

Now however, in an effort to please health-conscious customers, restaurants have devised nutritious-sounding menu options. It's a move in the right direction, but not all healthy entrees are created equal. Just because an item has a heart or a low-fat icon next to it doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. And even some of the better options are still loaded with salt. As always, it’s buyer beware.

Below is a list of some healthy-sounding entrees that you’d be better off skipping, along with some alternate suggestions.


Watch out for this:

Grilled Shrimp and Spinach Salad, without the dressing (720 calories, 53g of fat, 1700mg of sodium)

Crispy Shrimp Caesar Salad, without the dressing (610 calories, 31g of fat, 1520mg of sodium)

Add dressing to these salads and the total calorie count jumps up another 150-220 calories, depending on the dressing.

Eat this instead (and tell them to go easy on the salt): 

Weight Watchers Paradise Chicken, with the dressing (340 calories, 4.5g of fat, 2060mg of sodium)

Weight Watchers Steak and Portobellos, with sides (330 calories, 10g of fat, 1610mg of sodium)

Chili’s Grill & Bar

Watch out for this:

Quesadilla Explosion Salad, with dressing (1400 calories, 88g of fat, 2360mg of sodium)

Eat this instead:

Guiltless Grill, Grilled Salmon with sides (530 calories, 19g of fat, 1640mg of sodium)

Guiltless Grill, Caribbean Salad, with dressing (520 calories, 24g of fat, 630mg of sodium)

Outback Steakhouse

Watch out for this:

New Zealand rack of Lamb with seasonal veggies and garlic mashed potatoes (1816 calories, 148.7g of fat, 2593mg of sodium)

Eat this instead:

Grilled Chicken on the Barbie, with seasonal veggies (587 calories, 26.2g of fat, 1357mg of sodium)

Fresh tilapia with pure lump crab meat and seasonal veggies (649 calories, 39.6g of fat, 755mg of sodium)

California Pizza Kitchen

Watch out for this:

Baja Fish Tacos (976 calories, 50g of fat, 1796mg of sodium)

Ginger Salmon (979 calories, 53g of fat, 2299mg of sodium)

Eat this instead:

Small Cravings Asparagus & Arugula Salad (173 calories, 13g of fat, 442mg of sodium)

Wild Caught Mahi Mahi with Wok-Stirred Vegetables (586 calories, 29g of fat, 1591mg of sodium)

Interested in finding out how your favorite "healthy" dish stacks up? Go to CalorieKing.com and look it up.

Monday, August 16

The Key to Staying Motivated: A Hot Fitness Instructor

Yesterday I missed my morning workout with my girlfriend. Not a good thing for me since the buddy system is very effective at getting me to the gym. Undeterred I dragged my tired self to the 5:00 pm cycle class.

To my delight, walking in to class I spied with my little eye, a handsome, swarthy cycling instructor. Well, well, well, I thought to myself. Where have you been hiding all this time?

Not wanting to gawk, I quickly walked to the back of the class and set up my bike. Once seated and peddling, I was free to stare unabashedly. He was the instructor for Pete’s sake, I HAD to look at him.

He wore a black sports t-shirt with matching black bike shorts, which set off his jet-black hair perfectly. His bright smile was in stark contrast to the rest of him, lighting up his face like a supernova. (pause here for a dreamy sigh...ahhhh)

For me, he will forever be, The Man in Black.

In a quiet, confident tone, The Man in Black urged us to peddle faster. The class obliged, peddling furiously to maintain the pace he set.

“You’re doing amazing,” he called out. And I’m sure he was looking at me—just me—when he said it. Because I WAS doing amazing. I was peddling hard and pushing myself to keep up.

Never mind the fact that the lights were dimmed so low I could barely see his face. I’m sure he noticed me, even in the low lighting. How could he not? The Man in Black probably has excellent night vision, like a cat, as well as tight biceps and some sweet looking legs.

“Great job. You can do it,” he called out. There he was, talking to me again, urging me to try harder.

And I did.

Forty-five exhausting minutes later, I exited the room. “Thanks for coming,” The Man in Black said directly to me.

“Sure. Thanks.” I offered, not looking at him. You know, ‘cuz I wanted to be cool and not act like a giddy school girl.

Instead, being the mature adult that I am, I went home and cyber-stalked him. I looked online at the cycling schedule to see what days he teaches. Too bad it’s only once a week. It’d be way easier to reach my fitness goals if he was there more often.

Thursday, August 12

Food Spotlight: Butter vs. Margarine

I’ve decided to do a weekly article on a specific food. My "food spotlight" will highlight a particular item and determine, through research, which ones are the recommended product.

This week I decided to tackle butter, because, I love butter. It’s creamy, rich, and decadent. No wonder my mom slathered it over anything green. As a kid it was the only way to get broccoli down my throat.

Even now, one of my favorite delicacies is a mix of butter, flour and brown sugar. Crumble it over a pie or cobbler and you’ve got the yummiest dessert ever. Or better yet, just eat it raw. God, that’s good stuff. Which is also why it’s horrible for you. Because that’s the way the world works. If it tastes that good, you can’t eat it.

Or can you?

There is an entire non-profit organization dedicated to dispelling the myth that butter is bad for you. The Weston A. Price foundation believes that there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease. In fact, their assertion is that butter is better for you. And they make a compelling argument. Add to this their big-industry conspiracy theories and the butter controversy has the makings of a Michael Moore documentary. (Click this link to read more from the Weston A. Price Foundation on this topic. http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/519-why-butter-is-better.html)

Maybe they're right? The butter lover in me really wants them to be right. But how are we, the average consumer, to know?

Unfortunately, I have to go with the medical community's advice. And according to the world renowned Mayo Clinic, because butter is high in cholesterol and saturated fat it is definitely a no-no. They recommend margarine, which is made from vegetable oils and is naturally cholesterol free. But there's a catch. (There always is one, right?) Some margarines contain trans fat and according to Dr. Martha Grogan from the Mayo Clinic, “Like saturated fat, trans fat increases blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.” 

Thus, Dr. Grogan advises, “When selecting a spread, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel and pay particular attention to the grams of saturated fat and trans fat. Look for products that have the lowest combined amount. Also, look for products with a low percent Daily Value for cholesterol.”

Further research from the Cleveland Clinic gave me even more specific guidelines:
“… keep the total trans fat as close to zero as possible and saturated fat under 2 grams per serving.

Since I have nothing better to do with my time, I decided to stand in the butter aisle at Kroger and read labels. Here are the products I found that had zero trans fat, the lowest level of saturated fat, and the lowest total grams of fat.

  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter LIGHT
  • Smart Balance LIGHT
  • Brummel & Brown
  • Smart Balance Heart Right LIGHT
All of these had 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat and total fat of only 5 grams per serving.

So, there you go. For now it looks like margarine's the winner, but I'm hopeful that with more research butter might make a comeback. Because let's face it, it really does taste better.

Wednesday, August 11

Letting Go of Guilt

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to the Jersey shore, Ocean City to be exact. I had never been and it was surprisingly lovely. I had imagined thousands of “Snookies” running around with their fake tans and tall hairdos, but thankfully, the city was void of any Jersey Shore wannabes.

Instead, the boardwalk was filled with families. Wide-eyed toddlers in strollers pointed excitedly to the carnival rides at the amusement park. Teenagers laughed and joked with each other as they drove the rented surreys. And grandparents sat on benches watching their grandchildren engulf cotton candy.

It was the quintessential summer scene and I was happy to be immersed in it.

So happy, in fact, that I indulged in a Kohr Bros. frozen custard covered in chocolate sprinkles. I strolled the boardwalk with my friends and family devouring my treat and for the first time since joining the In8 program, I felt no guilt.

Every splurge before this had been served with a side of guilt. My inner voice telling me, “You really shouldn’t eat that. It’s loaded with sugar and probably has a million calories. It’ll set you back weeks on your diet goals.”

That voice was silent. And no, I haven’t given up on this wellness business. Far from it. I think this marks the next level of the program for me—the beginning of balance.

I felt no guilt because I know when I get home, I’ll return to my healthy habits. I know this because I survived three weeks of eating on the road, my husband’s subtle moves to sabotage my diet, and wino friends tempting me with fabulous wine. And after all of that, I still got back on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon.

I’ve learned to splurge and bounce back.

That confidence has finally allowed me to let go of the guilt. I wasn’t expecting this revelation, but I certainly am basking in it. It allowed me the guiltless pleasure of licking the sprinkles off my ice cream cone while I strolled hand-in-hand with my seven-year-old daughter down the boardwalk. Enjoying our treat in the cool evening air, we debated which was better, vanilla or chocolate.

It’s the vanilla. Definitely.

Thursday, August 5

Movement Is A Nutrient

I’m too tired. It’s too hot. My knee hurts. I have to go grocery shopping. The dog needs to go to the vet. Three books are due at the library.

The excuses I come up with for not going to the gym are varied, sometimes highly creative, but they all share a common theme: they are baseless. It’s just me rationalizing my decision to skip a workout.

Sticking to a structured exercise routine is hard for me. The slightest deviation from the status quo, a sick child at home or travel, has the capacity to derail my workout schedule for weeks.

Recognizing this, I consistently look for ways to keep me on track. Whether it’s planning to go to the gym with a friend, purchasing a cute workout top, or downloading some new songs, I’m always trying to mix it up and keep myself motivated.

Talking to my sweet personal trainer Marq about my challenges, he suggested the following: “Think about movement as something your body needs, like water, or vitamins. Just like you feed your body fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to function properly, you need to give your body exercise. Think of movement as a nutrient.”

Ooh, I thought. That’s good.

Movement is a nutrient. Now that’s an interesting concept.

For some reason, this explanation has greater appeal than simply telling me to exercise “because it’s good for me.” That rationale rarely works on me. Maybe it harkens back to my childhood, being forced to eat Brussels sprouts, broccoli casserole, and meatloaf because they were “good for me.” Maybe as an adult I’m retaliating against those meals, asserting my power to make my own decisions. I will not eat Brussels sprouts because they are good for me, I tell myself. I can do what I want. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I don’t like being told what to do, even if it is “good for me.” Or maybe I’m just weird. (Um, yeah, that’s probably it.)

Whatever the reason, this subtle shift in thinking about exercise works for me. And it boils down to the word “need.” My body needs movement. It needs exercise to survive and thrive. Forget about what’s good for me, this is about necessity.

Well, since you put it that way… I guess I’ll go to the gym.

Wednesday, August 4

Thank God It’s Over…Oh Wait, It’s Not

When I posted my results from the In8 program last week, one part of my brain let out a huge sigh of relief. It’s over, I thought to myself. No more watching what I eat. No more running. No more weight training. But then the other side of my brain kicked in and reminded me that this is actually a lifelong program, not a one-time project. Oh right, I thought. Crap.

It’s not crap of course. All these healthy habits I’ve started are for the best and I’ve benefited from them in tangible terms: lost weight and inches, reduced headaches, and increased energy. Those achievements are a direct result of the program. But if I’m honest with you, it was a relief to feel like I was done. It did feel like some sort of pressure was off me, which is not a good thing. With no pressure the temptation to return to my previous way of life is pretty strong.

To combat my lax attitude, I researched how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Most of the advice I found was too simplistic. The experts were telling me to “eat more fruits and vegetables, get plenty of exercise, and drink lots of water.” Well, no kidding, I know that’s what I’m supposed to do, but HOW exactly do I stay motivated? How do I prevent myself from falling off the wagon? That’s what I want to know.

I found a better answer in the behavioral sciences area, specifically in the Stages of Change Model. Developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, the Stages of Change Model is a way of describing a person’s readiness to accept a new, healthier behavior. It provides insight into the process everyone goes through when making a significant change. There are six stages in the model.


You are actively resisting change.
“I will not put down the pie! I love pie! And besides, it has apples in it. So it’s healthy.”

You’re thinking about doing something.
“Hmm, I wonder if all this pie is making me fat?”

You’ve decided to take action and are making plans to do so.
“I think I’ll go to one of those In8 orientation sessions and see what it’s all about.”

You’re actively taking the steps necessary to change.
“Okay, I’ve thrown out all my Mrs. Smith’s pies and joined a gym. Let’s do this.”

You continue making healthy choices.
“Ooh, I’d really like some pie, but then I’d have to run for an hour. I think I’ll skip it.”

You have a new self-image and no temptation to return to your old unhealthy ways.

“You know, I don’t even like pie that much. It’s just not worth the extra calories.”

So what, you’re saying? You’re boring the pants off me Dianna, why should I care about this stuff?

Well, for a couple reasons.

First, it’s helpful to understand what stage you’re in so you can be aware of the pitfalls and keys to success for that stage. For example, in the maintenance stage, which I’m currently in, I’m supposed to continue my social support network, reinforce internal rewards, and figure out how to cope with a relapse. (1)
Second, the research also tells us how long each stage typically lasts. I don’t know about you, but I like a timeline. The maintenance stage can last from 6 months to 5 years.(1) Yikes! That’s how long it could take for this new behavior to really stick. Okay, that’s quite a timeframe, but at least now I know and I won’t get discouraged. Well, at least not totally bummed out next year when I still feel like I struggle with daily choices.

Finally, it’s also important to know that relapse is part of the process. In fact, more people relapse than not. And you’re probably going to relapse several times. That’s normal. The key is to figure out what caused the relapse, learn from it, and get back on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon.(2)