Obstacle or opportunity? How this influences your eating habits
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Healthy eating change – see the opportunities rather than the challenges

By Andrea Holwegner, Calgary Herald   December 15, 2010

obstacles or opportunity? how this applies to heathy eating

The way you choose to look at it will determine your success

In April 1997 outdoor enthusiast Warren Macdonald set out on a backpacking trip to Hinchinbrook Island, off the coast of Australia.

He became trapped under a one-tonne boulder in a freak rock fall accident when he was climbing to the top of one of the tallest peaks in the area.

Life as he knew it would never be the same. Macdonald lay crushed for two days before he was rescued and had to have both of his legs amputated at mid-thigh.

Within a year, Macdonald climbed Cradle Mountain in Tasmania using a modified wheelchair and the seat of his pants. In 2003, he became the first double above-knee amputee to reach the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. More recently, he climbed El Capitan, America’s tallest cliff face. This amazing three-day journey required 2,800 pull-ups.

Earlier this week, I had the unforgettable opportunity to hear Macdonald speak at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers convention in Montreal. His perspective on persevering amid the inevitable challenge of change was remarkable.

He believes you have a choice to view changes in your life as obstacles or opportunities. If you look for obstacles, they will most certainly be there.

Macdonald could have commiserated that the loss of his legs was the end of his life. Instead, he chose to look at it as the beginning of a new life.

He could have allowed the frustration of living in a wheelchair-unfriendly society to consume him. Instead, he chose to approach these barriers with the mantra that “you are going to have to do better than that” to prevent him from experiencing anything he wanted to do.

When it comes to lifestyle and nutrition change, are you viewing what you need to do as obstacles or opportunities?

The people who are most successful with their health have certainly looked for the opportunities.

Instead of wallowing in the difficulties of replacing some of the junk food in your diet for healthy foods, could you look for opportunities? Here are some to consider:

  • Better snacks can cause your energy levels to soar.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, simply switching to lower-calorie snacks can be enough to reduce your weight without making other changes to your diet or adding more exercise.
  • The old saying “fake it until you make it” will serve you well. Once you get into the groove, you will experience a new-found enjoyment for the taste of healthy food.
  • If you are continually frustrated that preparing and cooking healthy food takes time and feels like work, could you see the following as opportunities?
  • Once you get organized and learn some cooking skills, preparing supper can actually be a peaceful unwinding time from a busy day.
  • Meals with your family increase family connectedness and overall health, and reduce the risk of obesity and eating disorders for your kids.
  • Learning something new often takes time and patience – but once you get in the groove, meal preparation will become quicker and easier since you will have learned time-saving tricks.

Could going out for a walk, even when you are tired and would prefer not to go, be an opportunity for you?

  • Research has shown that, ironically, spending energy actually gives you energy. Ever notice that you might not have felt like going for a walk, but when you finished, you felt more energized than when you started?
  • There is emotion with motion. You can sort out many things you are nervous, stressed or sad about during a walk. The rhythmic side-to-side movement of walking causes nerve impulses to cross the brain from the left hemisphere “thinking” functions to the right hemisphere “feeling” functions. When your left and right brain communicate more effectively, decision-making skills and overall emotional health are enhanced.

If you feel you don’t have enough time to make needed changes to your health, could you see the following as opportunities?

  • Time invested in choosing to eat well and keep physically fit pays off in productive sustained energy to actually accomplish more in both your work and personal life.
  • As the old saying goes, what you resist will persist. Not choosing to take charge of your health now will come back to bite you. Changing habits you have had for years becomes even harder with time. Why not take slow strides on your own terms rather than being forced to make extreme changes because of an illness or chronic disease?
  • As tempting as it is to use lack of time as an excuse, life never really slows down long enough to give you time to make all the changes to your health you want. Instead of complaining about how hard it is, your energy would be better spent by taking action right now.

When you believe that changes in your life are opportunities instead of obstacles, you have the opportunity to challenge yourself to be better than you dreamed possible.

For more inspiration on overcoming mental barriers to change, visit Macdonald’s website: warren-macdonald.com.

Andrea Holwegner is president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com andwww.chocoholicdietitian.com or phone 403-262-3466 for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, seminars and to subscribe to our blog or free monthly ezine.

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Success stories

"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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