Healthy thoughts are key to healthy living
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By Andrea Holwegner, For the Calgary Herald  May 18, 2011

When it comes to achieving good health and optimal nutrition, you may think you are headed in the right direction — but are you really?

This past weekend, I was fortunate to hear a remarkable message from Vince Poscente, author of The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World and The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership for the Self. While his message is not specifically about wellness, it still rang true.

According to Poscente, researchers have determined that, in one second, we have approximately 2,000 neurons of conscious thought and four billion neurons of subconscious thought. Poscente used the analogy of a small ant for the intentional, conscious element of our brain. On the other hand, an enormous elephant represents the subconscious agenda of our brain, which is influenced by memories and emotions. If an ant is facing east, riding on the back of an elephant who is headed west, it’s no surprise who is in control.

While you may know your conscious “ant” really well, are you overlooking the power of your subconscious “elephant”?

If you need to lose weight, improve your diabetes control, or recover from an eating disorder, chances are you already know, consciously, what you should do. But if you haven’t been able to follow through with that, your subconscious may be holding you back.

Consciously select what to eat; subconsciously drive how much to eat.

Consciously understanding what types of foods are best for your long-term health is an important first step. But I suggest refusing to read diet books that prescribe strict rules about how much to eat.

If you truly listen to your subconscious, it will tell you accurately how much to eat. If you under-eat because you think you “should” stop or if you try to give up foods you deem off-limits, inevitably you will crave them more and then overeat.

Similarly, if you munch on food for comfort when you are not hungry, your subconscious mind will be uncomfortable with your tactic to numb important emotions. Having the courage to work through tough emotions and examine how to comfort yourself without food is the key to achieving optimal health and weight management.

Get psyched up rather than psyched out.

What are you saying to yourself when you aren’t paying attention? If you listen closely, you might be like many people who are more critical than supportive. You give yourself more feedback than anyone else. It’s time to start giving yourself an encouraging pat on the back.

Comments such as “I’m fat,” “I hate my body” or “I’m not good enough” are powerful negative messages that grow your subconscious elephant even bigger. Trying to stop negative thoughts is often harder than you think. The more you try not to think about something, the harder it might be.

Imagine what would happen if you are unhappy with your beer belly and someone keeps repeating messages to you to stop thinking about how big your belly is. You will likely be thinking about your belly more and feeling worse about yourself the more you keep trying not to think about it.

Instead of trying to stop damaging thoughts, replace them with positive thoughts. Just as a muscle needs to be exercised to get stronger, your thoughts about food and your body need to be trained. What if each time you heard a negative thought you said to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect, I am strong and moving toward healthy?”

It might seem cheesy, but as the old expression goes, you’ve got to fake it until you make it.

Andrea Holwegner, the chocoholic dietitian, is the owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466 for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, professional speaking and to subscribe to her blog or free monthly ezine.

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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