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The power of your story

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A flutter of negativity can ruin your day. That’s when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Honor your past to inspire your future. Loaded words.

This was one of themes in my training this week. And oddly enough before I completed the assignment, I was feeling very reflective. Monday night, I spoke to a room full of potential bariatric surgery candidates and shared my story. It was a very moving experience, and gave me a bit of a mind shift. You can read more from my personal Instagram account which documents my journey post-bariatric surgery.

Connecting the dots: I have to step back and look at where I started and where I am now, and use that to inspire me to push towards my future goals. As I build my coaching practice I have been thinking of what really differentiates me from other graduates of my program.

Everyone’s journey is different, and destination too. But what I have learned along the way is what inspires me to help others, whether they are considering bariatric surgery or another medical intervention for obesity. I have learned through mistakes, I have gathered a significant amount of information about the disease called obesity and the negative stigma associated with it. I understand weight bias. I understand the frustration of feeling hopeless and like a failure.

But I also know what it feels like to emerge from the darkness and capture the true power of my own story.  I am ready to share what I have learned, and what I am learning.

Monday night I had the honor and privilege of being the guest speaker at my bariatric surgeon’s New Patient Seminar. Before I was called up, she played a video with the song “everybody wants to rule the world” over dozens of transformation photos (which of course made me a little teary-eyed). At the end of the song, it paused on these three “before” pictures. And then I walked up. Hard to imagine standing in front of this crowd of people knowing I was in the audience not so long ago. My journey is different than most, but still inspiring to people who are just starting on their path. It made me feel completely relevant. And the person on the left is so much happier — and healthier. It made the difficulties of this year fade away and gave me renewed inspiration and a sense of accomplishment. I have maintained my weight loss for a year. I never expected I could do it. But I did. Time to reflect and give myself some credit for a year of hard work, mental toughness, and asskicking victories. #obesitysurvivor #wlsjourney #longstrangetrip #2017inreview #whatayear #enjoytheride #livelife #seizetheday #carpediem #healthcoach #iinsession

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Bariatric-style baking: Hermit cookies

As a bariatric surgery patient, the holidays can be a challenge. Staying on track with eating low carb can be a struggle, especially at potlucks and holiday parties. I’m about 17 months out from my surgery, but am celebrating a full year at my goal range and maintaining my weight. It’s easy to see how old habits can come back, so finding safe alternatives to bring to parties is one of my keys to success.

I am so not a baker.  Growing up in a house with a diabetic and a Weight Watchers instructor (mom and dad respectively), I didn’t learn about baking at home. I’m learning from Pinterest! You can find pretty much anything there, and there are so many resources for bariatric-friendly recipes and ideas, you are more than likely to find something within your skill and patience level and that works with your dietary goals.

IMG_8434 Bariatric Eating is one of my go-to sites for recipes and for information about maintaining post-surgery. Their Inspire protein line is definitely one of the best-tasting supplements out there in the bariatric formulated arena. I subscribe to their email updates and recently received one that was full of holiday cookie recipes. I saw the one for Hermit Cookies and I knew I had to give them a try. My baby brother and my grandmother used to bake hermit cookies together, so there’s a touch of nostalgia there. I’m pretty sure the recipe called for brown sugar and molasses, which is strictly off limits for me, post-bariatric surgery.  This bari-friendly recipe uses almond flour, so it cuts down on the carb content and is also gluten free, which is important for people with gluten and wheat sensitivities.

I know a sugar-free recipe is successful if my husband tries one and tells me they are okay to bring for our Christmas Eve dinner. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, so might be a good one to try if you’re wanting something lower in carbs and sugar but definitely a seasonal taste.

So consider hermit cookies to bring to your next gathering.  You can bring hermits, so you don’t have to be one.

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups almond flour
  • ⅓ cup Truvia
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large brown eggs
  • ¼ cup raisins, chopped – optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blend the almond flour, Truvia, Pumpkin Pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the raisins if you choose to add them.
  3. Next add the eggs and blend into a soft dough. Gather into a smooth ball. Divide in half.
  4. Roll each piece into an even 1½ inch log, place on lightly sprayed baking sheet, press to flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until logs begin to turn golden and are firm to the touch.
  5. Cool and cut into one inch bars with a chef’s knife.

Recipe credit goes to Susan Maria Leach, founder of Bariatric Eating.

Self-preservation during the holiday season

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How well do you know yourself? If you’re anything like me, the holiday season just saps the life force out of me. As an introvert (who seems to get more introverted by the day), I have learned to be very protective of my time. The social calendar keeps stacking up with work holiday parties, multiple family holiday parties, and other social gatherings. This year I’m putting into practice all of my strategies for managing the stress of a busy calendar.

I found myself a little overwhelmed a few weeks ago, and my live-in health coach (a.k.a. my husband) asked me a really great question. “What would coach Marilyn tell you to do?”

That’s it, right there.  I could tell you the same thing you can read on HuffPo — rest, gratitude, self-care, time management, etc.  In fact, those things seem to be a theme on this blog.

But really, ask yourself, “If I was my own health coach, what advice would I give myself?”

Only you know and understand your threshold for family drama, exposure to excessive sugary baked goods and alcohol, and small talk with acquaintances at parties. Really take some time this holiday season and come up with your own plan to manage life’s chaos. We really do have our own answers, but sometimes we just need to ask ourselves the right question.

Having trouble finding the answers? Or the questions? Let me know if I can help. You never know how a single conversation can change your outlook on everything.

Peace to all.

Breathe.

Are you ready to change?

I was at a party over the weekend and was talking about my health coach business, and the question came up about whether I could help someone eat better. It was a trick question.

The truth is that someone needs to be willing and open to making changes, no matter how big or small. Thinking about some simple things like adding in more water and greens and crowding out fast food and processed food. Those simple suggestions were met with resistance.

That tells me the person doesn’t really want help, or is not willing to commit to the changes he needs to make. Yet.

How do you know you are ready? Every journey needs to start with a single step. Maybe “lifestyle transformation” is too overwhelming. With the help of a health coach, small changes can happen over time that will eventually add up to bigger transitions. Still, you have to be willing to let go of all preconceived notions and be willing to trust the process.

Not everyone is there. And that’s okay. I will continue to model the behaviors in my own journey and hope he comes around. My nature, I’m a fixer. But I am learning not everyone wants to be helped or is ready to do the hard work.

Are you ready? Contact me to learn more about my coaching approach.

Reboot your thinking

Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break.

Period.

We can be so hard on ourselves, and this time of year when the calendar gets full and work gets intense trying to meet deadlines while working around holiday schedules, it’s important for me to remember: self-care is not selfish.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself overcommitted, full of anxiety, and with a to-do list a mile long. The most important thing I did was to recognize those feelings, own them, then come up with a plan to mitigate what felt like an impending implosion. Okay, truth time: I had a bit of a mini-meltdown.

I know I am not the only one who has experienced these emotions.

So what are some strategies for rebooting? Here’s a few I have been employing.

  • Sleep. I have worked on my sleep habit over the past few years. I aim for 7-8 hours which is a huge improvement over 4-5 that I thought was enough. After my mini-meltdown, I set an 8:30 bedtime for myself and even chose sleep over exercise to just get my energy back on track.
  • Protect your time. I have had to pass on some lunch and coffee invitations because as an introvert, they are a huge effort for me. I love my friends, but I needed to recharge before I can engage, at least for now.
  • Take some mental health time. I have so much banked vacation time, so I have been using it as a way to rest and refocus my energy, especially while building up my coaching business.
  • Eat well. Nutrition for your body contributes to the nourishment of your soul. What you eat affects how you feel.
  • Practice gratitude. Daily reminders of the good things in life help reframe your mental energy when in a rut.
  • Hug your dogs. (Well, that’s what I do.) If you don’t have a critter to hug, maybe it’s time to open your heart and adopt one!
  • Hydrate. Dehydration can add to your funk. With the weather getting cooler, herbal teas have worked their way into my hydration agenda.
  • Laugh. Read or listen to a funny book, or indulge in some Netflix time for a mental break.
  • Breathe. Practice focused breathing or meditation to help bring some mindfulness to the situation.

What are some of the ways you choose to reboot? Share them here or tweet with me @OffthePlateMC.

Namaste. 🙏

Finding balance in your financial house. 

I’ve announced my retirement from my day job. It’s actually 449 days from today. Not that I am counting, but it’s an important data point for setting and achieving my measurable goals. So what does this mean?
I need to maximize my time and save as much money as possible.

A Strategy for Saving Time

Time is a valuable commodity. This year will fly by, so I feel like I can’t waste any of it. With prompts from one of my most valuable mentors, I’ve been thinking about how I use my time, and how I feel while performing various activities. Just thinking about this has made me curb the mindless Facebook trolling, and other non-productive uses of my time. Instead I have been focusing on getting more grounded. Recoginizing signs of stress and when I am overcommitted. Ramping up to be a health coach takes a lot of work and planning. However, none of this effort really feels like work. That’s a sign that it’s my calling! Talk about an affirmation.

Keeping my eye on the prize is what I tell myself. Maintining that single point of focus.

Last week, I revisited the goals and intentions I set six months ago. I did not and would not change a thing. It just goes to show that despite a major surgery in July, and lots of change at my day job, keeping my eye on the prize is paying off.
My best strategy for saving time is simply not to waste it. But that includes time for breathing and reflecting. For saying no when I feel overloaded. For holding myself accountable for my own state of mind.

A Strategy for Saving Money

I have had to define “want” and “need.”

Now that I have a target retirement date, I am asking myself, “do I really need this?” I think I have talked myself out of buying an iPhone X or an iPhone 8 on 3 separate occasions in the last week. I am looking at every purchase with a different lens, and just that way of looking at things has really impacted my behavior. 
This goes back to the single point of focus. I don’t think I have ever been so focused. This feels like a new beginning — the next chapter.
Connecting the dots: budgeting time is as valuable as budgeting your finances. Everyone needs to find their own balance that aligns with their goals and lifestyle. And then stick to the plan. And when something goes awry — stick to the plan. We will all have bumps in the road, but success comes through perseverence.
In the spirit of gratitude — I give thanks to my very wise mentor for her coaching, even when she isn’t coaching.

Open for business!

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It’s true! It’s go time!

I have now completed six months of my coach training program so I am ready to start small and start building up my practice.  For now, I will be available on Fridays for initial consults and coaching sessions, which can be conducted in person for you local folks, or by phone, Skype or FaceTime for anyone outside of the greater Sacramento area.

So what would it be like to work with me?

Initial Consultation

The initial consultation takes about 50 minutes to an hour and includes getting a health history where we’ll discuss your health goals, a bit of your history, and your current nutrition and fitness plan.  This is a great way to determine if we’re a good fit to work together and to identify a few areas of focus.  Health and wellness can be within your reach with some gradual changes.  Should you decide to work with me, we’ll create a customized program to focus on helping you refine and achieve your personal health goals.

What’s Included?

You’ll get 2 coaching sessions per month, either in person or by phone, FaceTime or Skype. We will customize an approach based on goals that we set together. Local clients can go on field trips to farmers’ markets and their regular grocery store to get some tips on healthy, balanced, and whole food eating. You’ll also get handouts, recipes, meal prep tips and newsletter articles tailored to your needs.  What I really offer is a holistic approach to creating a more balanced life, both on and off the plate.

Why do I need a health coach?

To be honest, not everyone does. Some people have worked to achieve the right balance of nutrition and lifestyle, physical activity and career, relationships and body/mind connectivity. I can tell you that I’ve been working at this a long time, yet I still have a core group of supporters that help me stay on track and focused on my goals. I even have my own accountability coach I have been working with through my training to help me hone my coaching skills and strategize my practice.

You need a health coach to help stimulate some ideas about how to get out of a rut, how to figure out where to start, and how to make the changes you already know you need to make — and make them sustainable over time. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re really ready to dig deep and mix things up, it might be for you.

Sound intriguing? Let’s talk!

Life is not binary

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There’s this concept in my coaching program called “the magic of mirroring.” When listening to clients, there’s often this inner dialogue going on where you completely relate to what they are saying, and as you go on in dialogue providing guidance, you hear yourself answering your own struggles. Speaking with one of my “practice” clients, we got into a conversation about being good or being bad.  Why is it that we take this all or nothing approach to so many things? We say, “I eat really well, except when I am bad.” We let this notion of being “good” allow us to indulge in “bad” things as a reward, or we punish ourselves for being “bad,” by spiraling into more “bad” behaviors.

Life isn’t that clear cut. And for people who have struggled with weight loss, it’s time for a new way of thinking. We’ve been shamed into thinking that we are being bad if we make a poor food choice or if we chose to sleep in over going to the gym. It’s time to listen to that voice in your head and tell it to STFU.

This a-ha moment I had made me very conscious of my inner monologue and how often I think of things in terms of good or bad. I have rephrased my self-talk. I only choose food that will nourish me because that’s just how I eat now. I choose to eat this way because I am proud of my success and I don’t want to go back to my old way of life.

Is it all butterflies, unicorns, and roses?  Hell no, but the awareness of that negative self-talk is the best answer to defeat it when things are tough. Weight loss after gastric bypass surgery isn’t just automatic. Well, part of it is — in the beginning, but there’s a lot of work that goes into making smart food choices, getting proper nutrition and supplementation, showing up for exercise, and creating consistently healthy patterns with sleep and stress management. I hear myself telling fellow patients that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I stop and listen to myself. Health coaching is the thing that will keep my inner evil voice quiet and will keep me focused on my own health and wellness.  And that, my friends, is good.

Clean Eating: Bariatric Style

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There’s so many resources about diet after bariatric surgery when you are post-surgery to about 6 months. Moving from liquid, to puree, to solid stages during weight loss comes with a lot of guidelines. What life looks like post-weight loss is not nearly as well-documented. I know when I was researching surgery, I followed so many blogs of people who were going through weight loss, and they all seem to get to a certain point and then stop documenting the journey. Even my own blogging has slowed down now that I have reached maintenance.

This week in my health coach training, one of our assignments is to create a resource for my clients about clean eating. Do you need to recreate the wheel for bariatric patients? I think not.

Here’s some guidance from our curriculum:

  1. Keep It Whole
  2. Experiment with Home Cooking
  3. Limit Refined Carbohydrates
  4. Maintain Consistent Eating Times and Try Not to Skip Meals
  5. Balance Your Plate

Let’s put the bariatric spin on this.

There are rules we have to follow as bariatric patients (and they may vary from surgeon to surgeon, so it’s important to follow YOUR program). First and foremost, we must take our vitamins and supplements. For me, this means a bariatric formulated multi-vitamin, calcium with vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and 60-80 grams of protein specifically from protein supplement. Since we’ve got through a major surgery to reroute our digestion, supplementation to ensure proper absorption of these nutrients is critical.

Emphasize Quality Over Quantity

This applies to your supplements as well as food. I have chosen bariatric formulated products to ensure maximum absorbtion. It is expensive? Not compared to feeling like crap and being 90 pounds overweight. It’s all relative. We have one body in this lifetime and we’ve already put it through a lot to get to where we are going, so invest in your health.

The same goes for the rest of the things we eat. We’re so limited on how much food we can intake. In the beginning, I was fine with 1/4 cup serving sizes for meals, but as I got more into my exercise program, I gradually increased to 1/2 cup per meal, and now that I am in maintenance, I can eat much more — depending on the food, but the quality of that food matters.  Since we can only eat so much, nutrient dense food is the way to go. So:

  1. Choose Whole Foods

When planning meals, think of choosing the most unprocessed food and keep it simple. I always include a protein source as my primary food and eat that first, followed by whole vegetables and fruits. I lean towards a plant based diet, so protein sources can include beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, or hummus but I will also include vegetarian sources like eggs, cottage cheese, string cheese, greek yogurt, or other reduced fat cheese. Occasionally I will eat chicken or fish, but try to choose organic and sustainably raised animal products when I do choose them. I will typically pair these foods with organic fruit or vegetables, usually fresh, sometimes frozen. Simplicity is the key.  I will meal prep simple “lunchables” that are roughly the same quantities that I can mix and match over the course of the week and have prepped and ready to go to throw in my lunch bag.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Eggs with sliced tomatoes
  • Cottage cheese with sliced peaches
  • Tempeh with hummus in a lettuce wrap
  • Kale and red cabbage salad with beans or hummus
  • Roasted root vegetables with grilled chicken

You are only limited by your imagination.

2. Experiment with home cooking

Food prep keeps things fun and interesting. Typically I will find a recipe on Pinterest that I will make as an entree to have for lunch or dinner for the week, or I will find some kind of plant-based salad to make that can be paired with a protein source or just enjoyed as a snack between meals. My pinterest account has a collection of bariatric friendly and plant-based recipes that I will adapt based on my current nutritional needs.

I am still recovering from my kidney surgery, so I have had to adapt my portions and my food to a reduced intake due to reduced exercise quantity and intensity. Eating at home really helps me to control what I take in, reduce the amount of sugar, salt and carbs I eat, and the quality of food. And home cooking doesn’t have to mean elaborate meals. Choosing one or two recipes a week keeps things interesting, and helps keep things simple. Use herbs and spices and find homemade recipes for things like salad dressing to avoid any additional additives outside of “real” food. Once you find recipes that are easy, you can adapt them to fit your own nutritional needs and your creativity.

3. Limit refined carbohydrates.

Actually, really just leave these out. I’m not an “everything in moderation” advocate. For most bariatric patients, refined carbohydrates is what got us into this mess.  Sugar, flour, rice, pasta and the like. There are some people who can work these back into their diets, but I know how easy it can be to go back to old habits. My recommendation is to steer clear of processed foods and find whole food alternatives to your favorites. Bariatric Eating is a great resource for recipes to help keep those cravings at bay.

I have been experimenting with whole grains, like millet, quinoa, and freekah. I find that I can use them as a condiment. I will add a tablespoon or two to a salad to provide some density and add fiber and protein. It’s satisfying enough, but doesn’t trigger any cravings for me. I am intentionally avoiding food like edamame or chick pea pasta, because I know if will be a trigger for me. I am a realist, and I see how quickly I can gain weight if not following the bariatric diet recommendations. I don’t want to be that person who gained all their weight back and more after gastric bypass.  I’ve just worked too hard for that. Everyone needs to find their own tolerance level.

4. Maintain consistent eating times and try not to skip meals

One of the most important things for me was to create a schedule/routine for myself around my meals. On a typical workday, I do a protein shake before my workouts, eat a small mid morning meal when I get to work, walk at lunchtime and then have a small lunch at 1ish, eat dinner around 6 and then have a shake before bed, or have my shake as a mid afternoon snack. This has worked well for me once I met my goal weight. I’m currently a few pounds higher than my goal weight which I attribute to being a limited activity, so I am reducing the number of snacks I have and really focusing on nutrient dense and lower calorie meals.  It’s HARD, but sticking with the routine helps me from getting too far off the rails.

5. Balance your plate

I have always tried to have a good balance of protein, carbs and fat at each meal, but the fat typically comes from healthy sources like nuts and seeds, avocado, or olive oil. Carbs are never simple carbs – they are typically vegetables or fruit, and I stick with he lower glycemic fruit like melon and berries per bariatric recommendations. I do my food prep and thinking about variety and creating balanced meals. Very often food prep for me is just making sure everything is washed and chopped and ready to go for mix/match salads, stir fries, or snacking.

So there’s my bariatric take on the IIN clean eating recommendations. When working with clients, I stress that everyone has their individual needs and can typically figure out which foods work best for them, but I look forward with helping clients with those discoveries to encourage variety, simplicity, and health — whether they choose a plant-based approach or not.

Interested in setting up a free coaching session? Contact me and we’ll set something up. You will help me develop my coaching skills, and we can work to find some tips to help you achieve your health and fitness goals too.