3 Rules for Healthier, Supportive Weight Loss Talks

by: Danielle Ternyila

The way we talk about our weight has changed so much in my family over the years, and it has definitely been a change for the better. Weight seemed like such a private matter, and it could be considered rude to discuss or hurtful. That’s the way we all are used to thinking, but I think that’s only holding us back.

My mom and I, for example, have regular conversations about our health, and I don’t mean just updates on doctors appointments out of curiosity. We talk about recipes, we talk new healthy cooking hacks and swap ideas, brainstorm new workout routines when I get in a rut, celebrate our successes weekly or even daily… Health is not an “bad” topic in our family, even when we fall off the wagon and haven’t been making the healthiest choices; those times are most important to communicate so we can get help and motivation to keep going.

That said, there are a few important ways the conversations have changed that make these most beneficial to us. Use these 3 tips to have more positive discussions around weight and our health, whether in our families, friendship circles, or an online support group of like-minded friends. Here’s a few rules to keep it positive:

Judgement Is Not Invited

The discussions we have aren’t judgmental; they are supportive and encouraging. We do our best to compliment each other and celebrate wins, as well as help overcome the battles and struggles along the way too. It feels a lot more possible and real in your mind when you have a team of support behind you, starting with your family or those closest to you. When there is no judgement or feel of embarrassment, the conversations are better all around and more productive.

This is most important on the bad days especially. We need to be supportive of each other, and so whether we are having a bad day or our friend is having a bad week, those are the most important times to hold all judgement. Things happen, life can change, and it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. Just support one another all the same.

Honesty Supports Succcess

If the whole idea of positive health talk in your family is new, everyone has to start somewhere. It can be hard and feel personal to talk about your weight, and it can feel really hard to admit your inner thoughts, even to the most cherished loved one. However, you need to know you are in a supportive environment and can say anything without judgement. Be honest and don’t tell lies about your journey.

The only person you are doing a disservice to when you lie about your health is you. Think about that! Whether your doctor, your mom, or your significant other knows you’re still eating junk food, skipping the gym, or lying about your weight, you’re only hurting yourself at the end of the day. Use honesty and their support to help motivate you in your weight loss endeavors.

Share And Learn As You Go

Not only has this completely shaped the way our family talks about health, but I think the biggest impact has been sharing everything we’ve learned as we go. My sister will call me with a new healthy cooking hack, my mom will email me a new recipe, my dad will unwillingly sign me up for a 5k at random. Not only do we support each other, but we can provide more support for one another when we are involved. Even if I can’t go to the gym with my mom due to conflicting schedules and I can’t have dinner with my sister every day, we still share our successes and lessons so we can all benefit from it.

No matter what, taking any steps, big or small, toward achieving your weight loss goals is going to push you further along. Having support from home or around you changes your own mindset and helps you believe in yourself.

Not to mention, there are so many benefits to having a workout buddy too! It doesn’t have to be about sharing your own journey with someone on the same path. If there is anyone you can talk to about your weight and health goals, it should be your gym buddy, and if you don’t have one yet, there’s too many reasons why you should.

Health Tips for Holiday Feasts and Festivities

by: Danielle Ternyila

It’s about to become the most sugary time of year, and not just because of the sugar plum fairies dancing in our heads. We all know with the holidays comes junk food, delicious treats, and too many side dishes. Losing weight, or maintaining, can be incredibly challenging for these reasons, as well as all the additional events and celebrations. Spending more time with family and friends often goes hand-in-hand with overindulging.

Since my weight loss journey began, I have held myself accountable even during the holidays. After a few years of giving it my all, I have a few lessons to share that can make your life easier and your plate lighter. Whether it is just making smarter decisions around the table or putting in some extra effort, your health can get through Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinners, and all the end-of-year celebrations unscathed (somewhat).

1. Pack It Up

The first rule of eating healthy out is to just bring your own food! It can feel really “extra,” but there are a number of smart ways to do this! I get it; why cook your own dinner if you’re going out to eat with your friends or family? It is, however, the easiest way to avoiding the extra calories and fats.

For smaller scale events with friends, I will pack myself my own meal if there are plans to eat dinner together or such. Yes, that means awkwardly walking into a party with my own Tupperware (I recommend glass for easy reheating in the microwave!) and eating my chicken, rice, and veggies while everyone else enjoys the big pot of pasta and garlic bread. Do I ever look back and regret not eating that pasta though? Nope!

Instead of bringing your dinner plate, you can also bring your own desserts! I have a problem with gluten, which is typically the main ingredient in most treats (brownies and cookies and cakes, oh my!). To avoid these temptations, I bring fruit with a dip most of the time. My go-to is pistachio dip, and by bringing this or some gluten-free cookies along, I’m not only a great guest, but I’m doing great at prioritizing my health too!

2. Bake Smart

The internet is a beautiful thing; it gives you access to some incredible recipes, some thousands or millions of them, that is! Search for healthy recipes, and you will find plenty to scroll through. However, there are some simple swaps you can do with most recipes to make it healthier without having to reinvent the wheel.

Have a cookie recipe you just love? Swap the flour for some almond flour. Consider replacing eggs with apple sauce in a recipe to lower cholesterol, fat, and sugar. Use dark chocolate instead of milk or white, and research sugar alternatives; stevia, for one, is a natural sweetener without all the calories, emphasis on natural!

3. Greek Yogurt Is The New Cauliflower

This is the most genius food to hit supermarkets, if you ask me! I always have some in my fridge because I use it regularly, and not to just eat with a spoon. I’ll freeze my favorite flavors for a yogurt-based ice cream, or I’ll scoop a dollop onto my tacos to act as sour cream. It is easy to substitute for many things, and when you’re using the right flavors, you will never taste the difference.

Did you know? You can use Greek yogurt to replace butter, sour cream, heavy cream, and mayonnaise in most recipes? Paired with the right food, you would never notice the difference. It’s like cauliflower – we’ve replaced pizza crusts, chicken nuggets, and even pasta with this super healthy alternative that takes flavor of whatever is mixed with it. Greek yogurt is just as versatile!

I have swapped out some key ingredients for Greek yogurt and served it to friends and family. I’ve replaced the sour cream with plain non-fat Greek yogurt without them knowing the wiser, used it in chicken salad to replace the mayo, and even baked it into desserts; this should be a whole food group of its own with all the possibilities that come with it. My favorite recipe lately is to use it for 2-ingredient bagels! (All it takes is Greek yogurt and self-rising flour, or a gluten-free alternative flour with yeast!)

4. Talk Yourself Up

This sounds superficial, but there’s a method to the madness. Tell your family and friends about your diet, your journey, your successes and failures. Brag about your health accomplishments as much as you brag about your child doing something hard. Make it known that you are conquering your health goals. When you do, you’ll be much less tempted to indulge because everyone will be watching you; you told them all you’re behaving on your diet, so why would you want to be caught cheating an hour later?

It’s also really nice to have a support system behind you, which is why you should be telling everyone about your journey, or your closest family and friends at the very least. The more people you tell, the more there are to hold you accountable. Even if they don’t say anything, you will think twice about picking up an extra slice of pie because you don’t want to let them down now either since telling them your big plans.

5. Make Realistic Plates

If your holidays are anything like mine, you and your 40 closest family members will be jumping in line to wait for all the delicious food, and you all will fill your plates to the brim! Be realistic. You only need so much food for 1 meal, so it’s super easy to overindulge this time of year, especially after waiting so long on that line to finally get in front of the stuffing and mac-n-cheese!

When I finally get here, I make a realistic plate for myself; I don’t put anything on it that I know I won’t enjoy; I avoid “empty calories”, which is what I call foods that don’t provide any real nutritional-value. At my holiday parties, that’s usually the dinner rolls, pasta, fried mozzarella sticks, and all that deliciousness. Next, I focus on vegetables and meats and fill my plate with those first, then I’ll see how full my plate is before I add anything else. I stick away from anything fried or coated in cheese, and I eat it all slowly once I sit down.

Why eat slow? Your body can’t break down food as fast as you’re chewing it down, and it hardly gives you the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate your meal. You should also give yourself realistic time between helpings, too! Going back for seconds? Give your body 20 minutes to digest what you just ate first because by then, you might already be full! We tend to eat faster than our stomachs, and that leads to overeating.

6. Get Active First

I don’t regret any of the Christmas or Thanksgiving days that I started in the gym, as much as you think you might. Some gyms have limited morning hours to plan around, but even if you just go for a jog in your neighborhood before the festivities or take your dog to the park for a bit, you’ll feel great, you’ll feel strong, and you will not feel weak when the treats come out.

I recommend getting active before you celebrate for several reasons. You’re going to feel happier, lighter, and more confident by working in a sweat before the day begins. Exercise boosts your metabolism, so you can burn more calories during the day. It enhances your self discipline, so you really are more likely to stay strong against grandma’s cookies. It sets the tone for a healthier day!

More than that, a 30-60 minute workout is sure to give you more energy throughout the day, which is never bad on a busy holiday! Regulate your hormones and appetite with a little activity. That’s only 2‐3% of your day! It is too easy.

7. Love Yourself First

All-in-all it is most important to put yourself and your health first, but it’s just as important, if not more, to love and forgive yourself. We all mess up. No one is perfect, and if you slip up, eat bad, or overindulge on your Halloween candy and turkey dinner, remember you are human. Tomorrow is always a new day to begin again!

My Weight-Loss Journey: Making Healthy Choices

by: Danielle Ternyila

The way my family cooks and eats now is so different than a decade ago, which has been one of the best things for my weight loss journey. In the beginning, my parents were both starting their own journeys to take back their health. My father was doing a fad diet with a nutritionist and a 12-week program that cut calories and limited the types of foods he ate. My mother was preparing for a weight loss surgery, “the sleeve”, and so our kitchen underwent some drastic changes.

I was determined to lose weight my own way. I was only 22, too young to be considering surgery, and I had tried enough fad diets before to know it would not work for me; results were too short term. I needed long-lasting changes to my lifestyle so that I could live my healthiest.

Having just graduated college, I was living with my parents again, and our lifestyle began to change. My dad’s diet encouraged him to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and so the whole family did too. If mom is cooking dinner, she isn’t cooking a dinner for every one! If the parents planned to do cabbage and ground beef because of their diets, that was the menu. (Like I said, I just graduated college, and I was in no place to pass up free food, so cabbage and ground beef it was!)

Mom’s diet had to change after her surgery if she wanted to keep off the weight, just like with any type of diet, but this one has been a lot more restrictive. No more caffeine for Mama, so we started collecting all types of new teas to try at home. She is mindful of how much protein she eats, so we started finding all sorts of unique snacks and recipes to get extra protein in. Shout-out to one of our favorite on-the-go snacks: Sargento’s Cheese and Nuts pack!

Eventually our pantry was filled with very nutritious options, and all of the chips, cookies, and sugary snacks were out. This really helped in making healthier decisions because the healthy options far outweighed the bad. One tip I will share is to not throw all your junk food out and fill it with new snacks in one grocery trip! Take time trying new foods and snacks to find what you like, otherwise you’ll be left with nothing familiar as you transition to a healthier diet and probably more likely to run to the corner store or grabbing some drive through grub. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than feeling hungry and not recognizing a single snack in your pantry, or worse: hating every snack!

Eventually we found the snacks we liked that were also better choices, and that ultimately was a huge help in making healthier decisions. When you don’t have junk food around, you won’t eat it. When you venture out of your comfort zone and try new foods, you’ll find new and nutritious meals to eat in the future!

My dad’s diet was big on fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, and that was about it. He was given some really unique recipes however, so we began trying out new recipes that incorporated all of these things in. We started cooking dishes in water instead of oil, sautéing our veggies in apple cider vinegar, and avoiding processed foods entirely.

Best recipe we got from this diet, though: Dirty Texas Rice, cooked with lean ground beef, finely chopped cabbage and chili powder with some hot sauce!

All of these things really contributed to my weight loss journey. I made working out a priority in my life, but it was important that I ate healthy too. I think the biggest part has been that I made these changes to my overall lifestyle. I can’t remember the last time my family had pork chops, pasta, mashed potatoes… all those meals that used to be the norm in our household but really weren’t the most nutritious.

Try to get every one at home involved when you are changing your diet! If you want results to last you a lifetime, you need to improve your lifestyle. Make healthier choices daily, start filling your cabinets with healthier alternatives, slowly cut out “the bad” from your kitchen, and it will not only get easier but become routine.

How I Mended My Relationship With the Scale

by: Terry Ternyila

For years I was obsessed with the scale and my weight. I would weigh myself every day, and it would become one of the most toxic relationships I had, or at least that is what it felt like, looking to the scale for approval every morning. I would get frustrated and upset with myself, which would eventually lead to completely derailing whatever fad diet I was on at the time.

I still weigh myself every day but not to focus on my weight; I focus on my health. I have learned that the scale is a tool to help me, not to judge me. In the past few years my journey with food has changed so much, picking foods that fuel my body now and make me feel good, learning which foods I should avoid or eat in moderation.

Every morning I step on the scale first thing to see what effects yesterday’s eating had on me. This is not to judge myself for what I consumed the day before but rather to identify which foods work best for me. I used to think if you just eat healthy foods you will lose weight and feel good, but that’s not the case. I also thought one bad day of eating would cause me to put the weight back on, but it is the daily bad eating habits that will.

I also use the scale to keep me focused; now if I see the weight go up a bit, it is a reminder to go back to the basics, and usually within a day or so, I will see the scale settle down where I expect it to be. If I notice it’s trending up, I need to check in with myself to see what I am eating that is different.

Finding the foods that are triggers for my body to store fat and knowing which foods have a negative effect on me has been some of the best lessons I have learned. I track this through journaling what I eat daily and observing my body changes. I know which foods will make me feel “bloated,” so I don’t necessarily gain weight but clothes are tight and I feel gross. I note which foods trigger my body weight to creep up, as well as how the foods make me feel.

Implementing small changes in my daily routine based on learning my food triggers has made a big impact for me. I have found that certain dairy will make me feel bloated, so I changed my French vanilla creamer in my morning coffee to almond milk, and I feel so much better. Limiting my cheese intake is hard for me since it’s a favorite protein of mine; I make sure to pick the right cheese for me when I do want that snack, not indulging too often, and I’m honestly able to enjoy it so much more.

I have learned my trigger foods that make me gain weight if I consume too much. I am also a chocolate addict…one of my guilty pleasures for sure! If I eat dark chocolate, it does not affect my weight, but if I indulge in milk chocolate, it will trigger my body and some weight gain, especially if I consume too much. I know for my husband that one of his triggers is certain nuts, go figure. I would have never thought nuts would affect someone that way, and nuts do not affect me that way, so I find it’s a good go-to snack when I am craving something salty… Add a little of my dark chocolate to it, and it’s a great cravings crusher without the guilt.

Scales have come a long way. They have so many more features to them now. My scale tracks my hydration percentage, so this helps me see if I have slacked off in my hydration, which affects my weight as well. I can also link my scale to the My Fitness Pal app, so I can link my food journal with my weight and look back at patterns and trends.

Be sure to use all the tools you have at your disposal to help you:

• Use a kitchen scale for a week measuring all the food you consume will check in with your portion sizes
• Find an app to journal your food intake to see how many calories you are consuming
• Use your scale to track your reaction to foods and see when you gain weight or feel bloated
• Invest in a Fitbit or Garmin to keep yourself moving.

Remember, this is a long game…you have your whole life to figure it out, so don’t put stress on having to reach all these goals in a week or a month. As long as you are making progress every day to feel healthy and happy, you are on the right track.