Gaining Perspective

March 25, 2011 in Blog Recipes, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

I like to mountain bike. It is so much fun – now. Mountain biking didn’t come naturally to me. I went from the time I was 12 years old until I was 42 without riding a bike and without skinned knees. Mountain bike riding brought back the skinned knees. It was rather embarrassing to go to work with bandages, but I didn’t let the strange looks from my coworkers discourage me.

When I first started, I didn’t ride down the trails like everyone else. I needed to start more slowly. I would ride on dirt roads that that were relatively flat. I would continually practice stopping (to get my feet out of those cages) and turning. Once I got comfortable on the road, then I would pick an easy trail. I would go down the trail a ways, then I would stop turn around and come back. I would go farther down the trail each time and encounter more challenging terrain a little at a time. I worked at my own speed, at a level that I felt comfortable with. This way I was able to build my skills and finally after a lot of practice, I was an accomplished mountain bike rider.

Mountain biking is one example of something that I was absolutely awful at when I first started doing it, but taking it slowly, building skills a little at a time, I was able to master it. When I look back at where I was when I started and where I am now, I am amazed. There are other areas of my life that I have found this to be true also. I used to be absolutely petrified to speak in front of people. When I had to give a speech in front of about 30 people at work, I thought I would have a heart attack. It was that experience that led me to Toastmasters. I was able to conquer my fear and I ended up teaching software classes and giving speeches to large audiences. I would have never been able to do that if I decided to give up and never give a speech again. Through these experiences, I know that if I keep trying I will be able succeed, no matter how bad I am when I start.

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned mountain biking is to look ahead to where I want to be. If there is a really nasty 90-degree turn coming off a steep spot in the trail, looking past the turn to the trail on the other side works like magic -- it is actually quite incredible – looking at where I want to be works like magic. There are a few trails I ride on where trees on either side of the trail are only a couple of inches further apart than my handle bars. If I look at either tree, a “tree magnet” jumps out and grabs my bike and I crash into one of the trees. It will happen like that every time if I look at where I am instead of where I want to be.

In my last blog, Stopping the Pendulum , I talked about the importance of making lifestyle changes to help you achieve a healthy weight and the health benefits that come along with it. There is no doubt that losing weight is difficult and keeping it off even more of a challenge. According to research, most dieters regain about one third of the weight lost during the next year and are typically back to baseline in 3 to 5 years. I firmly believe that anyone can lose weight and keep it off. I am not naturally thin; being at an appropriate weight is a decision that I make every day; some days are harder than others. I would like to share some ideas that might help you in your quest to reduce your weight and become more healthy, if that’s what you want to do. An important point to remember is that studies show improvements occur in health related markers with a weight loss of 5 to 7 percent of body weight. For a person who weighs 200 pounds, this means losing 10 to 14 pounds.

One idea is to apply financial principles to healthy related goals. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who focused on how to achieve a goal may have a harder time achieving their aims than people who think abstractly about why they want to do something. The authors found that when people focus on concrete aspects of how they want to achieve goals, they become more closed-minded and less likely to take advantage of opportunities that fall outside their plans. In contrast, people who focus on the “why” are more likely to consider out-of-plan opportunities to achieve their goals.

One way you can implement this concept is to write down why you want to lose weight. Find the reason that really resonates with you; the reason that will inspire you to stick to your goal. Now, write down why you really believe you will be able to achieve this goal. It is important for you to really believe that you can do it. Next, write down all the excuses or rationalizations that you will tell yourself why the goal isn’t important, why you need to skip this work out or why you should eat food that is not on your eating plan. Then, just take a few minutes to refute the excuses or rationalizations and write down why you are not going to let the excuses and rationalization work. Keep adding new rationalizations or excuses to the list as they come to you and write down why the excuse or rationalization isn’t going to work.

Next you might want to try an idea from the April, 2011 issue of O Magazine. The article, Weight Loss Wake-Up Call, suggests that you create a graph plotting your weight by age. The purpose of the graph is to document the events in your life such as college, work, parenthood, and other significant happenings, and how these events affected your body weight. The premise is that we all have a story we tell ourselves about our weight; the graph allows us to get a different perspective in order to verify the accuracy of our story or to create a more realistic story.

I also recommend that you write down your current weight and your goal weight. Weigh yourself each day and document your weight. Weightbot is one app you can use to do this. If this type of tool will increase your chances of documenting your weight, use it; if not, just document your weight whatever way works for you. At the end of each week, evaluate how you did. Identify any thoughts, situations, interactions etc. that caused you to stray from your plan. Brainstorm and document actions you can take in the future to help you change your behavior in similar circumstances. If you find that you aren’t losing weight and feel that you really aren’t eating “that much,” create a food journal by taking a picture of everything that you eat – use your cell phone or digital camera. Review the journal daily or weekly to get an accurate picture of your food intake.

Although these are just a few ideas, implementing them will give you a good framework for starting to achieve your goals. Identifying why you want to do this for yourself is very important. If it helps, remember my experiences on the mountain bike – it doesn’t matter that you aren’t successful in the beginning; don’t give up and keep trying. Praise each little success you have and stick with it. See yourself on the other side of each challenge; see yourself where you want to be. The results will be phenomenal.

I was going to include a recipe with strawberries since they are coming into season. However, the store was sold out. So, given the fact that winter has returned to the mountain west today -- more snow -- I included a soup recipe.

Gingered Pumpkin-Carrot Soup

I always keep carrots on hand and I had some pumpkin frozen from last fall, so I decided to experiment with soup. It actually turned out pretty good.


8 medium to large carrots, washed and cut into 3/4" pieces
1 cup small onion, chopped
3 cups water
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 small apples cored and sliced
1 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
2 tablespoons sweetener of your choice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Greek yogurt for garnish


Put carrots, onion, ginger and water into a stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add apples, pumpkin, sweetener and spices. Simmer until apples are soft, about 15 minutes.

Puree soup.

Garnish with a dollop or two of Greek yogurt.

Wash carrots.

Slice carrots, chop onions and grate ginger. Add to water in stockpot and cook.

Core apple and add with pumpkin into stockpot.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt.