Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

moss-covered-rock-wild-ivy-and-a-spider-webThe health benefits of an attitude of gratitude have been a headliner in the field of positive psychology research for at least a decade.  Being grateful or thankful, however, has it’s roots back as far as time.  From Genesis right on through the Bible, thankfulness is intertwined with so much of our Christian life — an indispensable virtue to our well-being.

The field of science was just a little slower at getting on board with the concept.  But when they did, they pulled out some very encouraging research results.  In general, people who practiced gratitude were happier, more energetic, built more stable relationships, had stronger immune systems, slept better, experienced more positive emotions, dealt better with adversity, and were more kind and compassionate.  That’s a big return on a relatively small investment.  That investment being a concerted, consistent effort of just noticing and appreciating good things.

Here’s some more encouraging news.  If you’re not a particularly grateful person, it turns out that gratefulness is a fairly easy character trait to cultivate.  And this is my favorite part: when we practice being thankful and grateful we actually develop those areas of the brain that generate positive feelings.  Who couldn’t use some of that!

So, what’s a simple way to practice gratitude?  Writing in a gratitude journal is one way to take note of the pleasant, good, enjoyable, beautiful, positive things we experience each day.  All you need is something to write on (by hand or electronically) and a few moments to dig into your memory bank for some things you are grateful for.  And this is important — choose things that are truly meaningful to you.  When we take this brief time out to notice small acts of kindness, appreciate the beauty of nature, savor a special moment with someone  — and are thankful — we become more likely to seek out the positives in life.

Try it for yourself.  For me, I like to journal so I always have some kind of journal handy.  I date the page and number it 1-5.  I try to write 5 things I’m grateful for.  I don’t always come up with 5 but it gives me a goal.  Think: quality over quantity.  I keep each item brief, just a few words that capture something that causes me to be grateful.  Consistency is important but every day isn’t necessary.  Once or twice a week works, too.

Here’s one of my days.   I’m grateful for:   1. Moss ivy growing on wet rocks   2. Clean sheets on my bed   3. God’s mercy   4. Ice water   5. My women’s Bible study group

As Robert Emmons, professor of psychology and a pioneer in gratitude research says, “It’s as if we need to give thanks…”  Yes, Dr. Emmons, that would be exactly how God planned it!

blessings

 

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The Fifty-Something Fifty

scale help!You remember the Freshman Fifteen, right?  The idea that the average college freshman gains about fifteen pounds during the first year away from home.  Some of us can attest to that.  But that’s nothing compared to the Fifty-Something Fifty.  If you’re somewhere in the vicinity of fifty years old, you may know what I’m talking about.  If you’re not yet in that vicinity, well, hold on to your big girl panties — it’s not called The Change for nothing.  It’s — The Change — because everything you knew about managing your weight changes!

Let’s go back a couple years.  I’m officially in my fifties, thinking, this isn’t so bad.  I’m cruising along, managing to maintain a reasonable weight.  And by ‘reasonable’ I mean crowding the borderline but not quite tumbling into that place on the Weight Chart right after Ideal Body Weight, called: Overweight.  Embracing my lot in life that ‘skinny’ never had been, nor ever would be, a description used of me.  I could live with that.

Then, bam!  About eight months ago, I began gaining weight at nearly a pound a week.  Much of it started to show up around my middle-section.  I’ve always had a fairly small waist and it was disappearing at an alarming rate.  Suddenly, out of the blue it seemed, I was hungry, really hungry, like, all the time.  I like desserts occasionally, but I was craving sweets constantly.  I ate healthy foods most of the time.  I just wanted more most of the time, too.  The exercise hadn’t changed.  I had even stepped it up a notch by adding more minutes when I walked.  But even as I climbed hills, the weight climbed up as well.  What had once worked to stop a gain was not working now.  My hourglass figure was gradually but unmistakably moving into a time zone of its own.  What in the world just happened!

There had to be a logical explanation.

So, I did the logical thing.  I panicked!  Do I have a tumor?  Am I pregnant?  Did I swallow a watermelon – whole?  No, wait, I don’t even like watermelon!

Here I was, dodging the bullet all this time only to find myself fitting (rather snuggly, I’m afraid) right square in the middle of the category I deplore: Overweight.  And I had even lost about fifteen pounds just a few years ago.  I mean, I posted about it.  Boy, do I feel sheepish.

As a wife and mother to two teenagers, I had too many urgent demands to take the time to figure this out early on.  I really believed it was just a temporary adjustment to being a fifty-something, pre-menopausal insomniac with major depressive disorder.  I honestly thought, after a couple of months of gaining that I would self-adjust and the gaining would just stop.

As it turns out, Denial is not my friend.  After eight months I’ve concluded this is not a temporary adjustment.  This is a real problem and it has reached a crisis point.  I’ve been evaluating and researching and thinking myself to death.  Something has most certainly changed.

I’m sure my ignorance is surfacing.  Somehow, I’ve been oblivious to see this phenomenon happen in other ‘older’ women.  Until now.  Sometimes, you just don’t put two and two together.  Unfortunately, in my case, by the time I put two and two together, it equalled thirty.  Thirty pounds!  In eight stinking months!

So, I did the most scientific thing I could think of.  I Googled it.  Were other women dealing with something similar?  Turns out there are lots and lots of women with stories like mine.  Some experiencing this at forty years of age.  Some with one hundred pounds gained in three months.  What I found was that many women are in the same boat.  And, this boat is big, and I mean ‘big’, as in lots and lots of us in it together.  Knowing I am in this with other women has brought some comfort, not much, but some.  Enough comfort to continue searching for insight and answers.

As I continue to gather more scientific information, here are my very non-scientific deductions:  1. I am not a freak of nature.  I am experiencing normal middle aged womanhood things. 2. I may not like some of the things aging does to my body but there’s only one alternative to getting older…and it’s much less desirable.  3. At this point in my life the amount of time and effort I put into something has got to be worth it.  Exercise, eating well and caring about my health are still priorities.  Fanatical, obsessiveness with weight, body size, and youthful appearances are not.

And, perhaps, one final overriding thought:  When I die and stand before the Lord, what’s going to matter is how I lived, not how I dieted.  That said, I’m not giving up or giving in.  I’m moving forward, searching for relevant, real-life advice and sensible solutions.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

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Heart Sisters — Guest Post

 

Montana Sunset

Miss Nostalgia visited a very dear, very gifted, long-time friend recently.

And I quote what she wrote on Facebook…

For my sisters of the heart, some going thru life’s big lessons and curves, some being the mom that lets go and lets the babies fly, some in the middle of raising up godly and good children, some teetering on the edge of an abyss, some coming home to an empty nest, all in need of support from their heart sisters, the family not hooked by blood but by the bond of friendship, the family you can call on day or night and know one will arrive to take the next step with you, or dragging you and even carrying you. Life is waiting for you, for you to make that decision, that choice, take the road less traveled to where you need to get to. God knows, He loves, He cares, He carries us when there is no energy left, He comforts, He reassures, He Blesses you richly. Call on Him and He will answer. Give HIM your worries, your troubles, your pain. He intends for your life to be abundant and full of fruit, rich to share the glory of the Gospel, the true story of salvation to all who need to hear, of whom there are many. Cast your cares on the Lord, He will provide, my dear sisters of the heart. Would it be that I can take a share of the pain or suffering away…..but know that we all care deeply for each other and what you need done, ask and you shall receive. Much love to all, you know who you are.

Thank you to my heart sister, Sue.

heart scroll

 

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Zucchini, Again?

zucchini etc

Looking for a way to use seasonal zucchini and tomatoes?   Try this quick and easy meatless main dish.  It’s colorful, flavorful and a little bit creamy.  What’s not to like?   

Fettuccine with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Basil

4 oz fettuccine

3/4 c chicken broth

1 med zucchini, cut in 1” by 1/2” strips

1/2 t basil, dried

1t garlic, minced

1/3 c cream

1/8 t pepper

1/8 t salt

6-8 cherry tomatoes

2 T Parmesan cheese (fresh grated is best)

In a large saucepan, cook fettuccine as directed.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat chicken broth.  Add zucchini, basil and garlic.  Cook and stir until tender.

Drain fettuccine, return to pan.  Stir in cream, pepper, salt and vegetable mixture.  Heat through.  Gently stir in tomatoes and 1/2 the cheese.  Spoon into a pretty bowl, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and serve.

Signature Recipe from Luanna Diller, RD
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Cowboy Advice

cowboy-and-sonI grew up in Eastern Montana. 

Cowboys, and most men, really, have a certain way of viewing life.  When they have something to say, they say it point-blank.

 

Cowboy Advice for Those Who are Not

1. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Turn your cap right, your head ain’t crooked.

3. Let’s get this straight: it’s called a ‘gravel road.’ I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you’re gonna get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

4. They are cattle. That’s why they smell like cattle. They smell like money to us. Get over it.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We’re impressed. We have $250,000 Combines that are driven only 3 weeks a year.

6. Every person in the Wild West waves. It’s called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of geese/pheasants/ducks are comin’ in during a hunt, we will shoot it outta your hand. You better hope you don’t have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah. We eat trout, salmon, deer and elk. You really want sushi and caviar? It’s available at the corner bait shop.

9. The ‘Opener’ refers to the first day of deer season. It’s a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That’s applied to all women, regardless of age.

11. No, there’s no ‘vegetarian special’ on the menu. Order steak, or you can order the Chef’s Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham and turkey.

12. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.

13. You bring ‘Coke’ into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice.

14. College and High School Football is as important here as the Giants, the Yankees, the Mets, the Lakers and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.

15. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don’t hit the water hazards – it spooks the fish.

16. Turn down that blasted car stereo! That thumpity-thump ain’t music, anyway. We don’t want to hear it anymore than we want to see your boxers. Refer back to #1.

wild-west-facade

Just so you know, I did not make these up. (But I may have tweaked the original list a bit.)

Thank you to my family in Montana for sending me this reminder of my roots.
 
 
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Maintenance = Action


old fashioned gardenAccording to the dictionary, the word maintenance means “the action of continuing, carrying on, preserving, or retaining something” also, “the work of keeping something in proper condition.”

What are you trying to maintain? Physical fitness? A job? Your marriage? A healthy weight? Your garden? Your sanity?

It seems maintenance doesn’t just happen, it requires ACTION and WORK.

Take action today!

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Weight Management is Tough – Encourage Yourself with Motivational Words

images-12Managing your weight is hard work.  Finding ways to keep it upbeat, rewarding, encouraging, and from a positive point of view makes it a little easier.  If you’re ready to discover your own encouraging words to enhance your motivation, you’re in the right place.

Let’s say you struggle with staying positive.  Maybe you need help finding the right affirmations, motivational messages, encouraging words and positive thoughts that inspire you to strive towards or maintain a healthy weight.

Sometimes a few optimistic words can boost your morale – affirming and reinforcing your progress.  Positive thinking can propel you toward your goals and is important for long-term success.

You’ll find some self-affirming statements for physical activity, eating well, and a healthy lifestyle below.  When you find that certain motivational message that inspires you, remember it, and repeat it often.

 

Motivational messages to inspire physical activity

  • I will do what I can.  It would be a mistake to do nothing just because I can only do a little.
  • Exercise is a priority in my life.
  • My muscles are becoming lean.
  • I am limber and flexible.
  • My muscles are becoming better fat burners.
  • Exercise is coming to me easily and effortlessly.
  • Exercise is becoming more and more enjoyable.
  • I am replacing fat with muscle.

Motivational messages to encourage eating well

  • I control my food choices – food does not control me.
  • I enjoy the refreshing, cleansing qualities of drinking water.
  • I am able to leave food on my plate.
  • I eat slowly and enjoy every bite.
  • Healthy eating is coming to me easily and effortlessly.
  • It’s OK for me to enjoy a yummy treat from time to time.
  • I eat when I am hungry.
  • I love fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
  • I am in control of sugar.
  • I enjoy a healthy eating style.

Motivational messages that affirm a healthy lifestyle

  • Wellness is a choice – a decision I make to move toward optimal health.
  • Wellness is a way of life – a lifestyle I design to achieve my highest potential for well-being.
  • I am finding new non-food ways of nurturing myself.
  • I am becoming more responsible for my health and well-being.
  • There’s no room for guilt in my life.
  • I can learn from my mistakes.
  • I am successfully managing my weight.
  • I choose to be free of feeling deprived.
  • It’s OK for me to take time for myself.
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People, Bugs and Whole Grains

OatsI was chatting with a friend today.  We were commiserating on our struggles with the extra time and dedication needed when we set our sights on eating high quality whole grains instead of the pasty, white refined grains.  Our dilemma was that even though we wanted to avoid refined grains, they are what we find more of in our neighborhood grocery stores.  Regardless of how we sliced it up, we concluded that whole grains were better by far but refined grains were often more convenient.

It makes one wonder (ok, maybe just me), why are refined grains this readily available?  Why do they take up so much more shelf space than whole grains?  Why aren’t whole grains more common?  I mean, a refined grain once started out as a perfectly good whole grain, right?  What happened?

Here’s what I believe was a big part of the problem.  At one time when whole grain, let’s say wheat, for example, was being transported in its natural state, bugs were attracted to it.  As they happily munched away on the wheat bran and germ, it was pretty much ruined before it got to the people.  So, of course, the powers that be, stripped it of bran and germ, successfully removing fiber, B vitamins and essential fatty acids — the good stuff.  Low and behold, no more bugs!  It could then be transported bug free.  The bugs moved on to find something else while we were left with what the bugs didn’t want.  I’m wondering.  In this scenario, who was smarter?  Bugs or people?

The bugs may have won that battle.  But we’ve learned a lot since then and I think we are winning the war.  Whole grains are making a strong comeback.  If you really want to eat whole grains, you can.  Even gluten free grains are easier to find.  Branch out a bit when you grocery shop.  Rolled oats, steel cut oats, brown rice, barley, popcorn and bulgar are common whole grains.  Find even more variety at a whole foods store.  Look for wheat berries, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat and wild rice.

Do the smart thing.  Eat whole grains!  (The bugs will take care of themselves, I promise.)

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Calorie Density Counts

biteHere’s another conundrum with eating portions that are larger than we need: It’s not only the larger portions but the larger portions of calorie-dense foods that can lead to weight gain. Calorie density is essentially the calories per bite or per any given portion of food. Lower the calorie density in a meal and you lower the overall calories.

On the most basic level, a higher amount of water content in foods adds volume but not calories. It follows logically then that increasing the amount of water in a food lowers the calorie density. Are you with me so far? An example would be to take a casserole and increase the water content by adding extra vegetables since they are mostly water. A key element here is that the low calorie density casserole must be as palatable as the original higher calorie density casserole. In other words, for this to work, both casseroles would have to be equally tasty. In the world of food research, this took a fair amount of food testing and experimentation.

Barbara Rolls, PhDMuch of the early research on calorie density, sometimes referred to as volumetrics, was spearheaded by Barbara Rolls, Ph. D (see photo). One of the most recent books is The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. You’ll find oodles of recipes and menus that support the notion of low calorie density foods. They’ve done extensive recipe development and testing, saving you a lot of kitchen time.

On a very practical level you can choose lower calorie dense foods in your every day meals, at home or dining out. Say, a pizza with more vegetables and less cheese. Or choosing a broth based soup or a salad with light Italian dressing before eating the main course. Even an apple before a meal will help you eat less calories because of its low calorie density.

There’s really no down side that I can see. You get more food volume (which we all appreciate), more nutrient rich foods (as in vegetables and fruit), and you’re less hungry. An added bonus just might be better weight management.

Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

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Big Food

food-word-cloud-illustration-graphic-tag-collection-40665304Do you remember when our vehicles had no cup holder?  Well, unless you count the dash.  Now, not only are cup holders standard, to accommodate larger drink sizes, the car manufacturers have increased the size of the cup holder over time.  Why does that matter?  It’s just one example of how portion sizes have changed.  Portions began increasing in the 70’s.  Compare a serving of fries in the 50’s at 2 ounces to today at 4 to 6 ounces.

Over the past couple decades the average calories consumed per day has increased from around 1,850 to around 2,000.  If you look at no other factor except calories, an extra 150 calories per day turns out to be slightly more than 1 pound of weight gained per month.  You can do the math from there.

We just don’t tend to be that good at judging the amount of food we eat.  If 1 regular slice of bread (think the size of Wonder bread) is 1 serving, 1 slice of large deli bread is 2 servings and 1 hoagie roll is 3 servings.  If you have been considering 1 hoagie roll = 1 serving of bread, you can see the ‘innocent’ mistake often made regarding how much we eat.  That hoagie is going to have about 3 times the calories (and carbs) of a regular size slice of bread.  Understand, this does not mean that you shouldn’t eat a hoagie.  The point here is that we really don’t know how much we’re eating.

If you find yourself in this boat, you may be joining the 80% of people surveyed who thought the meals they eat at home are the same size or smaller than they used to be.  Even trained dietitians have a tendency to underestimate calories and fat in foods.  Guilty as charged!

As you can see, the amount people eat is usually more than is intended or needed.

Weighing or measuring your food is the most accurate way to determine food amounts.  But, let’s be real.  We need an easier tool.  Below is a visual help for estimating a single portion size.  The idea here is to be aware of a portion so that you can make a more thoughtful choice regarding how many portions you’ll have.

  • 1 cup potatoes, rice, pasta – is a tennis ball
  • 1 cup cereal – is a fist
  • 1 piece cornbread – is a bar of soap
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter – is a Ping-Pong ball
  • 3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry – is palm of the hand, deck of cards
  • 1 1/2 ounces cheese – is a 9-volt battery
  • 1 cup ice cream – is a baseball
  • 1 ounce nuts or small candies – is one handful
  • 1 ounce chips or pretzels – is two handfuls
  • 1 teaspoon butter – is a fingertip
  • 3/4 cup juice – is a small Styrofoam cup
  • 1/2 cup broccoli – is a light bulb
  • 1/4 cup raisins – is one large egg

So, your job is to just pay attention.  Do not over think this.  When you’re faced with the choice of a single or double patty hamburger – one palm of the hand or two – you might decide on a single.  When you’re serving yourself broccoli at dinner, you might choose two light bulbs instead of one (just a suggestion).  As for that handful of almonds, you’re on your own.

my scroll

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