Tuesday, February 28, 2012

That's Me...Who Are You?

A student in "Lose Weight" recently asked a question about the role of personality in weight management. That's not something we delve into in the course, and knowing a little something about your personality can indeed make your weight management journey easier. So, let's take a quick look at two popular personality tests, and see how you can use them to your advantage!

One of the most popular personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I've had many people tell me, "Oh, that's that letter test--I'm two letters--I forget which, though." The test divides personalities into four major groups--Artisan (SP), Guardian (SJ), Idealist (NF), and Rationals (NT). From there, each major group is divided into four sub-groups.

If you haven't taken the Myers-Briggs, and you'd like to know your temperament, you can take it here (you'll have to share your e-mail address, though). If you know your temperament, this link will take you to an overview of the four basic temperaments, and from there, you can learn more about the 16 sub-temperaments.

From a weight management perspective, it's worthwhile to note the differences--and possible challenges--posed by the way people approach their goals. Utilitarians--SPs and NTs--focus on getting the job done. This can make the diet mentality extremely tempting--they want to lose the weight yesterday, and they can fall prey to whatever works, even if it's harmful in the long run. That said, once a Utilitarian is convinced of the usefulness of a particular behavior--keeping a food record, for example--they can embrace it wholeheartedly. Once they take on the challenges of lifestyle change, they can be exceedingly effective at acheiving it.

Cooperators--SJs and NFs--are more concerned with doing what's right. They're often more quick to embrace the idea of lifestyle change. However, their challenge tends to be staying focused on the specific tasks that make lifestyle change work in the long run. In particular, they often find it hard to balance their needs against others' needs--and very often, they sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.

For many years, I was a fan of the Myers-Briggs. About five years ago, I discovered the Enneagram, and this version of personality typing has become my preference. The Enneagram offers nine basic types: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. I'm partial to the way Enneagram Institute explains the Enneagram. You can take a free (no e-mail address required) sample Enneagram sorter here.

There's much to appreciate about the Enneagram, but my favorite aspect of it is that it focuses on individual levels of emotional health within each personality type. If you do one thing with regard to weight management, becoming more emotionally healthy just might be your best bet!

If you're interested in some self-exploration, the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram has been especially useful to me. I won't say that the journey has been an easy one. Seeing myself with clarity, including my less-than-perfect elements, wasn't always pleasant. If you're willing to do the work, though, becoming a better version of oneself is some of the most important work we do in life...and that spills over into weight management.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Fat Tuesday!

Today's Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras. (It sounds better in French, doesn't it?) In Christian tradition, Fat Tuesday is a day of feasting, with a special focus on meat and poultry. Its purpose is to prepare Christians for Ash Wednesday, a 40-day season of fasting and abstaining that immediately precedes Easter.

Fasting has been on my radar since school started in September, and I've been doing some reading on its effects on health and weight. This came about after a few particularly hectic mornings juggling work, homeschooling my three kids, and housework. It wasn't a stressful morning--in fact, I accomplished quite a bit, and felt good about the morning's work. When lunchtime arrived, I realized I'd had my morning coffee (which incorporates an entire cup of low-fat soymilk), but completely forgotten to have breakfast. Because I'd been so happily busy, I hadn't noticed I was hungry.

After three or four of these mornings in a month's time, I noticed I lost a little size, specifically--and intriguingly--in my midsection. I've always been an apple, and since perimenopause kicked into high gear about 10 years ago, I've found it wildly difficult to lose weight in my abdomen. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this change.

So, I began doing a little research into fasting. Most organized religions incorporate some kind of fasting into their spiritual practices. And as it turns out, fasting has some surprising health benefits. (Of course, there are risks, especially if you are taking medications or have an existing health condition, so use common sense, and talk to your health care professional before you begin a fasting program.) Fasting is associated with longevity, weight loss, and a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes.

There are different kinds of fasts, but the most approachable is a partial fast. In this type of fast, calories are reduced by about one-half, for one day. If weight loss is desired, the faster resumes their normal eating pattern the following day.

If you've ever dieted, that probably sounds really familiar. As you know, I'm not a fan of the diet mentality, so you may be wondering if my philosophy has changed. Rest assured, it hasn't. There's a body of research that suggests harsh dieting results in the release of stress hormones. In contrast, the research I've been reading suggests that when people fast for spiritual reasons, they feel calm and at peace. Researchers assume that's because religious fasters feel a sense of connection to like-minded fasters, as well as a sense of moral improvement.

But what if you're not a religious, or even a spiritual, person? There's some research that suggests fasting like the kind I accidentally created--in which the faster keeps occupied, preferably with enjoyable tasks--is comparable to spiritual fasting.

So, if fasting is a part of your spiritual tradition at this time of year, consider exploring it as a way to improve not only your spiritual health, but your physical health as well. If you've never tried fasting, or if your experiences with fasting were along the lines of the diet mentality, you might consider experimenting with fasting by reducing one or two meals a day in half, and "filling up" on activities that satisfy you instead. If you do, don't forget to share with us what you try, and how it goes! What do you think right now? Would you be willing to consider it? Sound off below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recipe: Updated Macaroni and Cheese

I'm not sure how this tradition evolved, but for the past few years, we've celebrated birthdays by allowing the birthday girl or boy to choose the entire day's menu. My daughter celebrated her eleventh birthday this weekend, and she chose some typical kid favorites, like blueberry pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast, and corn dogs for lunch. I was secretly delighted, though, when she specifically requested Spicy Chipotle Hummus with cucumber slices as a side for lunch, and she wanted Macaroni & Cheese with broccoli for dinner.

When I prepared dinner, I got to thinking about some experimenting I've been doing lately with a lowered-sodium onion dip recipe. Onion powder is a great flavor booster, and because it's commonly used in processed foods, its flavor is reminiscent of many kid-friendly box meals -- including mac & cheese. As it turned out, sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. I was so impressed by how much betteer this recipe tastes with onion powder, I'm updating the recipe here. Enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese


1 pound macaroni (or other small pasta, like shells or bowties)
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu (or other silken tofu)
1 cup milk or plain unsweetened soy milk
6 ounces finely shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dashes ground cayenne


Prepare macaroni according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, puree tofu and milk in blender until smooth. Place pureed tofu in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cheese, garlic powder, peppercorns, nutmeg, and cayenne, and heat until cheese melts, stirring often. Add macaroni and cook until macaroni is heated through, stirring well to combine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeling Anxious? Check This Out!

Over the years, I've begun to suspect that while we all feel the basic human emotions, each of us has one uncomfortable feeling we really struggle to manage. My daughters both wrangle with guilt, in opposite ways: One apologizes to the wall when she bumps into it, while the other struggles to apologize at all. My husband tends to slide from feeling sad right into self-pity. We all know someone who goes from angry to out-of-control enraged.

My son and I both struggle with anxiety. It's all-too-easy for us to go from fear right to panic. Both of us sometimes struggle with getting stuck in our anxiety, a response that's sometimes termed a freeze response. So, I was delighted when I received an e-mail from Stin Hansen that contained five tips for overcoming anxiety and the freeze response. You can read her excellent blog post on this subject here.

I've found each of these tools useful in different situations. (That said, the fourth tip, Distraction, should be interpreted with caution. One thing you don't want to distract yourself with is food or alcohol!) If anxiety is a challenge for you, I hope you'll find these ideas help you identify and manage your feelings successfully.

If anxiety isn't your issue, no worries! You'll find affirmations, guided visualizations, writing exercisings, and a host of other free tools on Stin's Website to help you become your best self. Just click the "free meditations & workouts" link on the left-hand side of the page, then choose an area and enjoy your free sample! If you like what you see, you can become a member and take advantage of a wealth of self-help products Stin offers (and no, I won't receive a commission of any kind).

If you check out Stin's site, please come back and tell us what you think of it! Also, we'll talk about rage, self-pity, or guilt this year, but if one of these is making it harder for you to stay on track with your weight management goals, and you'd like to tackle one of these next, post below and let me know!