Archive | January, 2013

2X4 moments

31 Jan

The first step in making any change is to be aware of the need for change. I would argue that most big people are very aware of their size. You know you might be overweight when…(insert a list of Jeff Foxworthy type one-liners here). We get it…we see it every morning in the mirror. So overweight people are aware of their current state, but are they aware of the need for change?

While it may seem obvious, it is not always for us. It takes a “2X4” moment. What’s that? When you get hit upside the head with some harsh reality. Sometimes it is a comment from an “innocent” little kid “lady, why do you have three tummies?” Sometimes it is something we hear from a family member “mommy, how come you never play soccer with me?” Sometimes it comes in a difficult conversation with your doctor “if you don’t lose weight, you are not going to be able to have children”. Sometimes you stand at the edge of giving up a dream “we can’t put you on active duty at your current size”. Everybody has a reason…you just don’t know it until you know.

Then you need to be aware of WHAT IT TAKES to make a change. To get something different, you need to do something different. Whatever it is you are doing (or not doing) right now with eating and exercise is contributing to your current state and it all needs to change (not 100% right now, take baby steps). Sacrifices will need to be made. Change the way you think, what you believe about yourself and what you are doing. There is no magic pill or formula. It takes hard work EVERY DAY and sometimes all frickin’ day long.

Okay, so we are now aware of the need for change and the discomfort it will bring…is that enough? Almost. A 2X4 moment for me was being aware of what I was doing throughout the day. The best example is what I was eating. In my head I wasn’t eating that much. I wasn’t really sure, but I made a good guess that eating wasn’t the problem. That was until I started writing down what I ate and calculating calories. Suddenly I have evidence to show that I wasn’t eating the way I thought I was. Having a food/activity journal helped me be aware of what I was doing because I had to write it down and look at it. No more mindless eating. No more “expensive” calories choices. See “Evidence and Food Police

Even more important was becoming aware of my automatic pilot. Tired? Eat something. Stressed? Eat something. Lunch time? Eat something. Watching TV? Eat something. Super stressed? Eat a lot….and on and on. Eating was my “go to” reaction to everything and it took me quite a while to realize it.

To get something different I had to do something different. So I picked up the 2X4 and knocked autopilot out of the captain’s chair. At first, I was just happy to realize what I was doing and why. Then I got better at being able to see when it was coming. Once I was able to predict it and realize what was happening, I eventually got better at managing the moment. The more I am aware of what I am doing, the higher the chance I can do something different. Awareness works as a first step in changing behavior.




Readiness to change, Prosci style

29 Jan

Warning: this post is me geeking out on change theory…keep reading…it will be worth it.

One of the coolest parts of my education at Northwestern was learning about change management. We had 2 classes on it to talk about the theory behind it and how to do it. We studied quite a few models, evaluated a change of our own, and used a case study to design and test a change.  Through these classes, I learned about the Prosci Change management certification.

Prosci is an organization that has studied change management for years. They publish leading research on what works in change management, as well as several books and training programs. I am a HUGE Prosci fan. Instructional design wise, the certification program was a solid learning experience incorporating lecture, group activity, practical application, case study, and fun. Seriously, can’t say it enough….one of the best certifications I have under my belt. I have used their method to much success to get stuff done at work. More importantly, it was Prosci that provided a key insight for me on weight loss well before I was ready to take action.

Before I attended the certification class, I read their book “ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and Our Community”. Here is the basic ADKAR model:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

To get it from the original source, go here:

The basic premise is that you have to move people from one step to the next in order for change to happen. People will not change if they are not aware of the need to change. If they are aware of the need and desire to do it, next comes providing the knowledge to do it. You have to know something about it before you can do something about it (ability). That change needs to be carried out over time so reinforcement is necessary. Change won’t work by announcing a change (awareness) and then reinforcing behavior…you have to fill in the why, what and how. (There is much more to the ADKAR model, but that is all you need to know for now).

What struck me is the brilliance of this change management model. You can use it to see whether you are ready to change or not. It also walks you through a 5 phase process to lead change at the big overview level. Then on a smaller level, it helps you manage the day-to-day or moment-to-moment transition that happens during change. Both are guided by ADKAR. Let me explain.

Here is assessing my readiness to change Prosci style:

“Miss Gramiak, do you know you could lose some weight?”  Yes doctor, I am painfully aware EVERY DAY that I need to lose a significant amount of weight. Thanks for pointing that out. Awareness? Check.

“Don’t you want to lose weight? Then you can shop in more stores” Well, yes I do. Like nothing else. Who in their right mind would say they are perfectly happy being significantly overweight and limited by their body size? Desire? Check.

“You know, weight loss is really like basic math…eat less and move more.”  Again, thank you Dr Obvious. If you read my patient information sheet you will see I have an MPH which means I spent quite a bit of time studying the impacts of healthy eating, regular physical activity, and stress management. I KNOW it works…significant evidence exists to prove it. Now doing it myself…that’s another story. And what I don’t already know right now, I can easily access on the Internet or by talking to friends, etc. Knowledge? Check.

“All you need to do is buy a good pair of shoes and walk 30 minutes a day. Move more than you do now and you will feel better.” Gosh Dr Obvious, I know how to walk….but do I want to? (going back to desire here) I know that walking will make me sweat…can’t do that during the day. Am I able to schedule some time before or after work to do it?  Probably. Ability? Check.

“Just keep up the good work. You will feel great so that will motivate you to keep going. If you need to, buy yourself a treat when you reach a small goal.” Wow, Dr Obvious. That was really inspiring…because changing your life is that easy. So glad we had this talk. I do like your idea of buying stuff to reward my success and keep going.  Reinforcement? Check.

I think I can take the real brilliance of ADKAR and make a whole series of posts this week. Until then, remember that you have to do something different to get something different. Try walking through the ADKAR steps…how does your story fit? If you are skipping a step, your “something different” is to go back and take it one at a time.

Food is just food

28 Jan

Sitting at work and I overhear someone say “no don’t eat those, they are so bad for you.” A friend of mine just starting to think about cleaner eating was telling me about a dinner she was making and how the only “bad thing” in it was bread crumbs and at that only a half cup. Then there’s the person who says regular yogurt is bad and Greek yogurt is good. And don’t forget my battle with pretzels…are they good or bad?

Here’s the deal. Food is just food. It is an object. A banana. A hamburger. A tomato. A candy bar. Food does not have a soul, it does not have feelings, it does not act with intention. When we talk about the “good and bad” of food, are we really talking about the food itself? No, we are talking about the meaning we assign to what happens after we eat it. Our thoughts and feelings about food start developing in our childhood…but what if they change?

Take for example a chocolate chip cookie. A cookie is just a cookie. It sits in the oven and goes from a gooey ball of dough to a nice and warm sweet treat. For some people eating a cookie is just eating 150-200 calories and it’s over. Then there are those of us that it means something more. A cookie is a sweet and so it must be bad for you. All that sugar and chocolate…I shouldn’t eat that because it is bad. I only get cookies on special occasions because they are so bad for me. What part of the cookie is bad? The cookie in and of itself is not bad.

Depending on where you are, the result of eating the cookie may be neutral, good or bad. For me, cookies used to be “good” because I thrived on the sugar, they were a convenient binge food, and helped ease the stress of the day. Then I started watching what I ate and cookies became “bad” because they were so high in calories and one just leads to another. And now a cookie is just a cookie. I choose not to eat them every day because I don’t care to waste calories, throw a workout out the door, and most importantly mess with the weekly weigh in. If I see a cookie that I really want to eat, I will eat it, no big deal. A cookie is a cookie. It is my mindful choice of the results…do I want to eat it and deal with everything that comes with it or do I want to pass and deal with everything that comes with passing? So which is it…good or bad? The answer: neither. A cookie is a cookie.

Now for an example to really challenge you on how you think about food. Kale is just kale. It is one of the most health enhancing vegetables out there. You can buy baby kale or adult kale and use it in a salad, sauté it up with pine nuts, or make it in a hundred other ways. A friend of mine puts kale in Vitamix shakes all the time and loves it. I made kale chips and tried it a few other times but I just don’t think kale is for me. The same thing is happening here…the calories and nutrients from the kale are entering our bodies. For my friend, kale is “good”…she likes it (blech!). For me, kale is “bad”. I don’t like the smell and think that if you don’t eat it fast enough it is as close as a human can get to knowing what it is like for a cow to chew cud. At the end of the day, kale is still one of the most nutrient rich foods out there. So which is it…good or bad? The answer: neither. Kale is kale.

To get something different, you need to do something different. Start looking at how you think about food items. Is it good or bad? Why? And is it really the food or the how you feel about the result? It does not have be so black and white. Try “poor, good, better, and best choice” on for size. This helped me change the way I think about food and the choices I make.

“I’d do anything to be that size”

21 Jan

One of the absolute stupidest things I ever heard a fat person say was “I would do anything to be that size” as they saw a skinny person walk by. Really? Would you really? I mean, really? I have been there. I remember wishing on many occasions, “man I’d almost anything to be able to fit in to a size 10.”  REALLY?


This is where we go to dream land and think about all the big sacrifices or crazy things we would do to be that smaller size. We see ourselves robbing a bank, going on a spy mission, stealing, cutting off a finger, giving away our first born. Maybe these are too extreme. Maybe dream land is more like we would hold our breath and promise to be more grateful every day for our new life. We promise to spend more time with family or to give back to the community “if only” and that “one day” we could be the ideal size. We hang our hat on the “one day someone will come rescue me from here” and all will be better with the snap of a finger and until then I’m just powerless.


Because this big weight loss thing is soooo out of my reach. Man…I’d do anything to be that size….sigh…


Really?  Anything? Think about it. Think about where you are right now and what you are doing. Think about your daily schedule. What 1 thing in your day would you sacrifice to be at a healthier weight? If you are not ready to sacrifice 1 thing, no matter how small it may be, you are not ready to “do anything to be that size”.


Will you change the way you spend your time? Would you drink more water? Would you cut out mindless eating? Would you get off your butt more? Would you plan out your meals in advance? Would you have healthy snacks on hand? Would you choose to eat less sugary foods? Would you write down all the food you eat all of the time? Would you fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal? What about eating one less serving of crap food a day?


Gosh Anne…all of those things sound so hard…and some of them I don’t WANT to do…what kind of life would that be anyway? I mean, how do you live without bread?  Okay, that’s fine. But you are willing to “anything” to lose weight, right? So what does “anything” mean then? Don’t start focusing on a huge shift in your life. Start by picking 1 thing and do it. What is one habit you want to pick up? What is one thing you can do to be more mindful of what you are eating? What is one way you can incorporate more exercise in to your day?  Start small and build…it all adds up. This is not a race. You are not in a competition. Give yourself time to make the transition.


To get something different you need to do something different. Pick your one “anything” and get to work.



Simple things to get started

17 Jan

I was sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch with Renee and Jill, two very active and healthy friends of mine. It was sometime in April or May and I was talking about my upcoming trip to Disney in July. I was worried about whether or not I could handle the heat and the walking. At that point, making it through a low impact aerobics DVD was a stretch. I wasn’t ready to go to a gym yet because… Walking made me sweat and… And if I have to take care of Denver after work that means…


Renee made the most simple and brilliant suggestion. She said I should go buy a new pair of running shoes and a cute workout shirt and only wear them when I’m walking. That way wanting to wear the new shoes will give me incentive to workout. I did and it worked.


There’s nothing like the feel of a brand new pair of running shoes. I used this little trick as an incentive for the rest of the year. I bought new shoes every 20 pounds. Did I need them that often? No, but it kept me going. I would buy the new pair when I was down 17 or 18 and I would put them next to my TV. Every night as I watched TV I looked at the shoes and knew I was so close to getting to wear them it kept my butt out of the kitchen and away from mindless snacking.


Over the last month I have been slacking on writing down my food in a journal. The darn thing is somewhere in my house and I’m not really motivated to find it. You know what will motivate me? A new day planner. Sounds silly, I know. I have always loved back to school shopping and doing stuff to get organized and tracking details and the like. So what is going to motivate me to write me food down?  Getting to use my new pretty planner. Is it the ugly, boring workout journal my trainer gave me? No. Does it still accomplish what I need it to? Yes.


Maybe this makes me a princess…maybe a dork. I don’t know and I don’t care. This is about me and what I want, not what other people think of me. So I like to buy and use nice things. So what? I’m using it as an incentive to make and keep these new habits stick. It works for me.


What will work for you?  What is the simple suggestion to get you started and keep you going? I am sure there is something out there that will. To get something different you need to do something different. Where can you start?

Who are you fooling?

15 Jan

The short answer? Nobody.

December was a challenging weight loss month. Actually, I really can’t say loss…more like maintain. It’s the best month to lose weight really, with all the holiday treats and parties and stuff….how I wish that was the real reason for my lack of success. What was the reason? A bunch of things, but mainly because I stopped writing my food down in my journal and showing to my food police.

I told myself I was fine because I still tracked my calories on my phone. I ate within my calories 90% to 95% of the time. I exercised like crazy…even earned the “pool shark” badge on Lose It. There is something about recording food on my phone…I can “hide” from the poor choices much easier.  Then I get frustrated on weigh in days.  Hmmmm…now why would that be?

Tony (my food police) called me out on it today.  In fact, he has been asking to see my journal for weeks. I just kept laughing it off saying “yeah, when I find it.” He will flip through my phone and see what I have recorded. Today I got a “Gram, a pocket sandwich and pretzels…what is going on?” The answer, sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t. This whole month I thought I had him. Tony would not find out my secret…the crappy food choices I was hiding by not writing it down. Turns out he knew the whole time…by the results on the scale. He was just too kind to say anything.

Today’s workout was brutal.  Actually, it wasn’t but I just wanted to quit… my head was just not in the game.  The more progress I have made, the more in shape I get, the harder I have to work during each workout. So yeah, I’m not happy about that. Tony has said time and again things will not get easier.  My strategy today was to kill time. I would pause between sets, drink extra water, move slower than usual. And then he called me out on it. Damn…turns out he knew exactly what I was doing. I wasn’t fooling myself and I wasn’t fooling him.

So the something different here…no more hiding, no more games. Owning my choices and their consequences. WRITING IT DOWN. I have come too far to slack off now. I have worked to hard to lose hope. To get something different, I need to do something different. No more fooling myself…it’s time to work.

You can’t out exercise a bad diet

3 Jan

As much as I try to prove otherwise, you just can’t out exercise a bad diet.

I have seen the evidence time and time again but just this time…maybe if I cross both of my fingers and my toes…it won’t matter that I ate like crap all week. Somehow all the swimming and running I am doing will just automatically overcompensate for all the poor food choices I made. With fingers crossed I get on the scale and am somehow surprised…all my poor choices did not add up to success….huh. how did that happen?

Here is how it happened. I didn’t feel like grocery shopping so I would have good choices available. I didn’t plan my meals out to spread my calories throughout the day. I snacked on the holiday treats that people brought in to work. I let the stress of the holidays get the best of me. I said “just for today I can…” a few too many times. I didn’t track my calories accurately because “any swimming will make up for it.” In effect, I went back in time.

To get something different, I need to do something different….with emphasis on the “do”. The pounds don’t just come off. It takes work…a lot of work. And the real work is not the hour I spend at the gym. The real work is writing out a grocery list, passing up the pretzels in the snack aisle, planning ahead and having good snacks at work. It’s balancing my calories throughout the day. It’s diversifying my greens (eating lettuce and broccoli and spinach). It’s asking “what do you want more” and making the right choice. It is remembering why I started when I want to quit. It is making it through a training session without complaining (telling my trainer “I hate you” is always allowed….he knows I don’t really mean it). It is all the stuff I have been slacking on….but wishing for the number on the scale to magically move. Weight loss is not about magic…it’s about choices. There’s no more wishing and crossing my fingers. Now is the time to figure out my next goal, get focused, and get to work. Wish me luck!