7 Strategies to Breaking Free of Diet Addiction

August 6th, 2014 by Joan Maiden

Are you a diet-oholic?   There are strategies that we can implement to help us overcome the “Diet Addiction”.

1.  Eat mindfully.  Be aware of what you are eating and make each selection you “choice”.  Don’t beat yourself up if some days the selection is better than others.  Aim to eat healthfully 75% of the time.  Take responsibility that the choice is always up to you.

2.  Learn what healthy eating really is.   Eat a variety of fresh, real food.

3.  Eat real food.  If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.  The best food choices don’t have a label.  Our bodies are made to use food, not chemicals.  I read the ingredient label first.  If the label takes up half the package, it probably has a lot of junk in it.

4.  Never eat anything with the word “diet” on the label.  This is another way of saying this product is loaded with crap.  I recently saw “Diet Water” on the store shelf.  As opposed to high calorie regular water?  Reading the label, I found that  it was loaded with artificial sweetener, artificial flavor and other chemicals.

5.  Never eliminate a food group from you diet.  Fat, protein and carbohydrates are called “essential nutrients” because they are all essential for good health.  Any diet that eliminates or extremely restricts any one of these groups is not a healthy diet.

6.  Don’t make anything off limits.  If you’re like me, if someone tells me I can’t have something, I want it all the more.  Give yourself permission to have the occasional treat and you will be surprised the cravings aren’t nearly as great.

7.  And the hardest one of all–don’t read the latest diet book from this weeks popular guru or turn on the TV when the newest “miracle” weight loss plan is announced.   You will only receive conflicting information, mis-information and end up more confused in the long run.

Food is to nourish our bodies, repair our cells, give us energy and most of all it is to be enjoyed.  If we can ignore the media and eliminate the “diet brain”, we will all be healthier and much happier.

7 Symptoms of a Diet-aholic

June 4th, 2014 by Joan Maiden

Are you addicted to diets?  Are you always looking for the next “miracle”?  Here are 7 symptoms that you may be a diet-aholic.

1.  You find yourself turning on Dr. Oz or other shows whenever the latest diet is featured or the newest diet/fitness guru is the guest.

2.  You pick up the magazines at the checkout that feature “lose weight fast” articles.

3.  Your bookshelf if overflowing with a collection of diet books–most of which have never been used because there is always a new once coming out.

4.  When you go on amazon.com it defaults to the diet section.

5.  You have a collection of supplements on the shelf promising to “melt fat”.  (If you could really “melt” fat, it seems like we’d all be standing in a puddle of melted lard.)

6.  You know all the lingo–no fat, low-fat, no carb, low carb.  high protein, glutton free and have tried most.

7.  You find yourself gravitating to items on the grocery store shelf with the “diet” on the label.  ( I recently saw “Diet Water”.  Since regular water has so many calories.)

Coming soon–7 Strategies for Overcoming being a Diet-aholicism


My Knees are Killing Me

April 2nd, 2014 by Joan Maiden

I spent the weekend moving boxes and furniture up a flight of stairs.  Since I stay active, run and am up and down stairs all day, I was unprepared for the pain I felt in my knees that night?  What happened?  Then it dawned on my I had been carrying a lot of extra weight.  What does carrying just a few extra pounds do to your joints?  A recent study showed that one pound of excess weight equals four pounds of stress on the knees.   Even though I was carrying the excess weight for a short period of time I realized:

  • The 10-20 pound boxes I was carrying was adding 40-80 pounds of extra stress on my knees,
  • Walking on level ground, the force on your knees is the equivalent of 1½ times your body weight,
  •  The force on each knee is two to three times your body weight when you go up and down stairs,
  • It is four to five times your body weight when you squat to tie a shoelace or pick up an item you dropped.

No wonder my knees hurt!

Losing a few pounds can go a long way toward reducing the pressure on your knees — and protecting them. In one study, the risk of developing osteoarthritis dropped 50% with each 11-pound weight loss among younger obese women. For men who get their body mass index (BMI) down from 30 or higher to between 25 and 29.9, knee osteoarthritis would decrease an estimated 20%. A similar change in women of the same age could cut the incidence of osteoarthritis of the knee by about 30%.

Research shows accumulated reduction in knee load for a 1-pound loss in weight would be more than 4,800 pounds per mile walked,” writes researcher Stephen P. Messier, PhD, of Wake Forest University in the July issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. “For people losing 10 pounds, each knee would be subjected to 48,000 pounds less in compressive load per mile walked.”

Lighten up to lessen your joint pain.

The lies your scale tells

March 3rd, 2014 by Joan Maiden

Do you ever get on the scale and feel like it’s yelling at you?  Does how your day go depend on the number on the scale?  But what does that number on the scale really mean?  The scale is not a good way to measure your fitness progress even though so much emphasis is put on weight loss.  The scale tells what the package weighs, it does’t tell what is in the package.  If you really are just interested in losing weight, that’s easy–cut off your leg.  Ridiculous, right?  What you may be losing when you show a drop on the scale may be just as essential.

Body weight consists of fat mass weight as well as the fat-free weight which is water, minerals, and proteins that make up muscles, connective tissues, organs and body fluids.  A person who has less fat and more muscle may actually weigh more according to the scale than a person who has a higher percentage of body fat and less muscle.  The goal for health and fitness should be fat loss, not simply weight loss.

Quick weight loss is due to loss of body water.  A pound of body water is equal to 16 ounces, or 2 cups of water.  A loss of as little as 2% body-water weight leads to dehydration, which causes fatigue, headache, sluggishness and impaired performance.   Muscle consists of approximately 70% water.  A low carb diet is like taking a sponge and wringing it out.  When carbs are eaten, the fluid is replaced in the muscle and the weight is regained, leading to dieting frustration.

A drop in weight on the scales may also be caused by a loss in bone mineral density.   Research has shown that low carbohydrate/high protein diets may lead to a decrease in bone mineral density, increasing the risk for osteoporosis.

Losing lean muscle tissue will also show as a weight loss on the scale.  Lean muscle takes a lot more calories to maintain than fat.  When muscle is lost, calorie needs decrease which leads to yo-yo dieting.  Go back to eating the calories you did before the diet and you will gain back the weight you lost plus more because you now need fewer calories.   Muscle loss also leads to decreased energy and strength.  To maintain muscle while on a weight loss program, exercise is key.  Any program that advertises “no exercise necessary” is setting you up to lose muscle and leads to yo-yo dieting.

The bottom-line is that the scale is only a tool, and not a very good one, to gage fitness.   Body fat testing is a much better way to show your progress.  There are many inexpensive body fat scales on the market and many facilities offer hydro-static weighing as well as the Body Pod which uses air displacement.  An even easier method is a tape measure and a tight pair of jeans.  Don’t get hung up on the number on the scale.  Go by how you look and feel.


Love Your Fat

February 9th, 2014 by Joan Maiden

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and loved all of you–even the excess fat. Probably never. You may have cursed it, hated it and vilified it. How has that worked for you? Did it help boost your self-esteem? Did it motivate you to make long-term change? Did it help you love and accept yourself?

To make life-long healthy lifestyle changes, the first and most important step is to know where you are starting from, accept yourself, and acknowledge what actions and behaviors  got you there. You probably didn’t wake up one morning and there it was.

Let’s look at where it came from:

Comfort–Food can be a great source of comfort. It can bring back childhood memories, sooth hurts and fill the void of loneliness.

Stuff feeling–Have you ever been so mad you could bite someone’s head off but grabbed a bag of chips instead?

Celebration–Food is central in many celebrations and holidays. Overindulgence has become the norm.

Protection–A layer of fat can be a shield from unwanted attention. Obesity is often a byproduct of sexual abuse.

Being invisible–Being invisible is being safe.  People usually don’t pay much attention to an overweight person and there are less expectations.

Laziness–Exercise is hard.  Watching TV and surfing the net is easier.  Bad habits are hard to break and new habits take effort to form.  Cooking healthy meals takes time and planning.  Fast food is convenient and easy.

Misinformation–All of the so called diet and fitness experts give conflicting information.  It’s almost impossible to figure out what is true.  I Googled weight loss and got over 577 million hits.  Diet got over 500 million.  Fitness got over a billion hits.  That’s a lot of information!

What has your fat done for you?

Carrying excess weight has actually had some benefits.  Under that layer of fat are strong bones and a large muscle mass.  But carrying the excess fat has also increased your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and many types of cancer.

It’s time to say goodbye.  Fat may have been your friend for a lot of years, but that friend can hurt you.  It’s time to move on to healthier ways to deal with your emotions.  Allow yourself to express your feelings instead of stuffing them with food.  Find ways to celebrate without overindulging.  Allow yourself to be seen and shine.  Find an exercise plan that you can enjoy.  Take time to try some new, healthy recipes.

Most of all, don’t beat yourself up for the path you’ve taken up to this point.  Life is about the journey and the  lessons learned.   Enjoy your journey and start down the path to a healthier lifestyle today.

The Secret to Being a Warrior Not a Wimp

November 25th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

I told myself I was crazy to do this again.  After all, I’d proven that I could do it, so why did I feel the need to run the Big Sur Half Marathon for a second time?   At least when clients tried to give me the excuses of  “I’m too old.”  “I just can’t do what I did when I was young,” I have set an example that even at 60 and not a great runner, I did the Big Sur Half Marathon–twice.

I did not go in to the race this year with the same confidence as I did last year.  I didn’t feel like I trained nearly as hard, even though I was running faster.  My head just wasn’t in it.  I really thought about bowing out this year.  My daughter wasn’t going to be running it, so I was on my own.  Quitting seemed like a viable option in the short term, so why didn’t I quit?  I knew if I quit, I would be letting down the people who were rooting for me and believed in me, but most of all, I knew I would be letting myself down.  Quitting when the going gets tough can become a habit I didn’t want to fall into.  How could I encourage other women to be warriors if I was a wimp?

The morning of the race, I dragged myself out of bed and headed down to the starting line before the sun even came up.  I was thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this,”  but I kept giving  myself a pep talk to just give it my best no matter what the outcome.  Heading to the starting corrals, the adrenaline was infectious.  The sun was coming up and it was turning out to be a gorgeous day.  I made up my mind to enjoy the beautiful day and breathtaking scenery.

By the time I got to the starting line, I was feeling pretty good.  Coming up to mile one, I wondered why I was out of breath, then realized I was running faster then my best runs.  I got into my rhythm and started enjoying myself.  The hills didn’t seem nearly as bad as I’d built them up in my mind to be.  Last year I felt like I was going to die going up some of the elevations, but this year I felt really good!  I crossed the finish line and realized I’d knocked off almost ten minutes from last year’s time.

It would have been easy to quit, and I seriously thought about it.  If I had, I would have missed out on the sense of accomplishment crossing that finish line gave me.  When things are tough and look impossible, that’s the time to give it your best and not worry about the outcome.  After all, if you’ve done your best, that’s all anyone can expect and reason to celebrate.

I shudder to think what the psychological effect would have been had I quit.  I would have felt like a total wimp.  What is the difference between a wimp and a warrior?  Perseverance!   A warrior doesn’t give up when the going gets tough.  A warrior understands that you can’t fail unless you give up.  No matter what challenges are ahead of you, as long as you don’t give up, you’re a warrior.  To other people, my time for the race would seem ridiculously slow, but I did the best for me, and that’s all that counted.  Comparing yourself to other’s accomplishments is self defeating.  To be a warrior, just do your best and stick it out to the end.

The Diet in Shining Armor

October 18th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

“Maybe he’s the one!  Maybe he will be my knight in shining armor who will make my life wonderful.”  Virtually every woman who grew up on fairy tales has sought their knight in shining armor only to find when they think they’ve found the one, that their knight turns out to be a normal man with dents and dings in his armor.

If you listen in to women talking about the latest diet or fitness craze, it sounds pretty familiar.

“This one really worked for my friend.  She lost 30 pounds, but she gained back the weight because she didn’t do it right.”

“Maybe this new supplement will finally help me melt off my fat.  After all that is what they promised on TV.”

“If I don’t eat carbs, that’s the secret.”

“All I have to do is drink this concoction and I will finally lose weight.”

“This one’s great– they promise no exercise needed!”

“This doctor promises weight loss using a gadget that melts off the fat.”

“If I just have the surgery, I won’t have to worry about my weight ever again!”

“If I buy this diet food, it will be easy to lose weight.”

“This insane workout plan is all I need to do.”

You would think we would have learned by now that there are no “diets in shining armor” or magical weight loss plans or supplements, no matter what is promised by the latest diet guru or even if you heard it on Dr. Oz.  A healthy balanced diet  and staying active is not very romantic and it doesn’t put a lot of money into the diet industry coffers.  

Most of us stopped believing in the knight in shining armor and fairy tales when we grew up.   I think it’s time we grow up and take responsibility for our own weight loss and fitness.  Stop looking for the “diet in shining armor” that makes unrealistic promises.    It’s just another fairy tale.

No Cheating–Ever!

September 15th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

We’ve all seen them—“The Cheaters Diet”, “How to cheat on your diet and still lose weight”, “diet cheat day”.  Can you really “cheat” on a diet?

The dictionary definition of cheat is:  “1.  to deceive by trickery, swindle ; 2.  to act dishonestly; 3.  to be sexually unfaithful.    After all, the definition for diet is simply “one’s usual food and drink; a regulated selection of food” and food is “material, usually of plant or animal origin that contains essential body nutrients”.

Now that we know what we’re talking about, how can you “cheat” on food?  Can you trick or swindle it, be dishonest to it or be sexually unfaithful to food?

People who cheat or are cheaters usually feel a sense of guilt.  You’ve been set up by the diet industry to feel guilty if you don’t follow the plan they’re trying to sell you.  As long as they can make you feel guilty, you are giving them power over you and putting money in their pockets.

When you say “I cheated on my diet” or “I was naughty because I at such and such” you are assuming the role of a child to the “adult” diet expert.  It’s time to take responsibility for the choices you make.  No food should be forbidden and don’t take “guilty pleasure” in eating a “naughty” food.  Don’t make your food choices a moral issue.  After all, it’s just food.

Who is the cheater?  The diet industry is currently a $25.8 billion  a year industry and growing by leaps and bounds.  In 1950, the diet industry was a $100 million a year and the obesity rate was 9.7% and the overweight rate was 30%.  Today, the obesity rate is over 30% and the overweight rate is over 65%.  The obesity and overweight rate have more than doubled since the 1970s.

Why is the obesity rate growing along with the diet industry?  If the diet industry was beneficial, wouldn’t the obesity and overweight rates be going down?  It seems to me that the diet industry is using trickery, swindling us and being dishonest.  (Ok, maybe they’re not being sexually unfaithful, but they break their promises or vows to us all the time.) The conflicting information can’t all be right.    You can’t possible “cheat” on your diet, but unfortunately you have been cheated by the diet industry.

What is the answer?  It’s time to take back your power, use your own common sense, quit buying into all of the latest fads and “miracles” and eat real food, not chemical laden crap posed as “diet” food that is supposed to be good for you.  Processed food products, no matter how they’re advertised, can’t compete with mother nature.

It’s time to let go of the guilt, trust your own instincts and enjoy real food.


August 16th, 2013 by Joan Maiden


“Me, write a book?”  Sometimes I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do what I know I’m supposed to do. For years,  I had been telling myself all the reasons I couldn’t possibly write a book.

I recently spent the weekend with someone I tend to ignore a lot of the time…myself.  I don’t spend enough time listening to the small voice inside—there are just too many distractions—the TV is on, the phone ringing, the internet calling and the text messages dinging, not to mention all the things that need to be done—housework, laundry, grocery shopping, messages to return and the list goes on and on with all the “I shoulds”.

“STOP”, solitude was calling.  “But I don’t have time.  How will I get everything done?  What will I do?”  This was my second retreat at Christ in the Wilderness, a retreat center in the middle of nowhere with a cabin where I was totally alone—no phone, no TV, no internet and not even cell phone connection.  Talk about feeling isolated.

To be honest, the first retreat that I went on, I went loaded down with reading material—another distraction.  There were lovely hiking trails so every day I would go for a long hike because I should—I needed the exercise, it was good for me. I even climbed the highest hill on the grounds so I could get cell phone reception.  That was a lot easier than having to listen to the voice I’d been ignoring for so long.

If you’ve never gone on a solitude retreat, let me tell you, it feels weird at first.  I was in a lovely cabin, in a beautiful setting and had absolutely nothing I had to do and no one in sight.  It took me awhile to give myself permission to nap when I felt like it, eat when I wanted and to sit on the porch and do nothing. Instead of “I should” go for a hike, I allowed myself a leisurely stroll and a nice long rest on a bench by the stream.  But “I should” kept rearing its ugly head.  “I should go for a hike or run for the exercise.  I should find something to read or at least write in my journal.  I should be doing SOMETHING!”

“STOP”, the voice inside said once again, “You don’t have to do—just be.”

“But I don’t know how—isn’t that just being lazy?”

There is a message in the silence.   To hear it, you just need to get behind all the words and noise that crowd it out.

For this retreat, I took only pens, paper and for some reason, at the last minute, threw in a box of crayons.  I wondered why I took the crayons—I have absolutely no artistic ability.  The first night, not knowing what else to do, I got out paper and crayons and started to draw.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words—words had always been my medium of choice.  Using a different medium, one that I was uncomfortable with—started the flow of creativity.  I couldn’t write and draw fast enough to get all the words—all the message out.  I found myself, at times, laughing and crying.  (One of the beautiful things about solitude—you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks.  You can let everything out.)

By the second day I was starting to learn how “to be”.  The voice of “I should” was getting quieter.  I was starting to be able to hear my purpose calling me, “Write a book to help women who are going through some of the things you’ve been through.”   And of course “I can’t” raised its ugly head.  I had thought about writing a book on and off for years—but just didn’t believe I could actually write one.  My self-confidence and my words just seemed to be blocked—I wasn’t sure why.  Through the drawing I found an image come out of my voice being shut off, holding down my creativity.  It was time to find my voice which I knew would be a challenge since I had always been labeled and labeled myself “shy and quiet”.

The last morning of my retreat I went for a walk to a quiet place, still contemplating how to find my voice.  In the quiet solitude one word came to me—shame.  I realized shame had been my block—I felt ashamed of my abilities, or lack thereof; my body, it’s far from perfect.  How could I have the audacity to think I could help anyone else when I still have my own struggles?   I found tears streaming down my face.  I felt so inadequate for what  I felt so strongly I was called to do.  I sure don’t feel like a leader.  I’m still on my own journey and at times I fall down or take the wrong path.  I’ve struggled and I still struggle.  I’ve been brave but I’m also afraid way too much of the time.  I’ve taken the leap a few times not knowing if the net will appear—and it always has—but sometimes I still doubt.  “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been given a message and a mission. Maya Angelou said it best, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”   I don’t have all the answers but I can walk beside you on your journey and share with you what I’ve learned.  I can help pick you up when you stumble and fall, because we all do, and I know what that is like.  No matter how tough times have been, I’ve always known this journey is an exciting adventure worth whatever obstacles need to be overcome.  “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller  I can’t wait to see how far we can go.  See you on the journey and remember, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” Marie Curie

The Last Two Left Standing

June 18th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

Who was the sadist who thought it was a good idea to line little kids up on the playground, choose two team captains (who were always the most popular kids) and have them choose kids to be on their team.  “Please don’t let me be the last one chosen” I’m sure went through a lot of little minds.

More times than not, it would come down to me and JJ—me, the shy kid  who couldn’t throw a ball if her life depended on it and JJ, the fat kid.  A bond was forged on that play ground that endures to this day.

Years went by—and life happened.  JJ and I found that standing together and encouraging one another could give us both strength and take us places we never even imagined back on that playground.

Dealing with a marriage falling apart and my daughter’s anorexia, I had put on a lot of weight.  JJ, always having a weight problem, by 50, was wheelchair bound, unable to walk or live independently.

I knew I needed to take better care of myself so I joined a gym.  I was fortunate enough to work with a trainer who taught me the importance of strength training.  As I found myself getting stronger physically, I found myself becoming stronger emotionally as well and gaining self-confidence.  I finally had the strength to get a divorce.

On JJ’s 50th birthday, her health had deteriorated to the point she was hospitalized.   The doctors and physical therapist basically gave up on her and told her she would never walk again.  I was so ANGRY!  I knew from the strength training that I was doing that you could regain muscle and I thought the right exercise could help JJ.

On a visit with JJ, I took some dumbbells with me.  She told me later she thought I’d lost my mind.  I showed her some things I’d learned at the gym and encouraged her to find a nutritionist who could help her find the right nutrition plan for her.

JJ started getting stronger and losing weight.  By Christmas, six months after she was told she would never walk again, she took her first steps in over two years.

One day I was complaining, as I admit I sometimes do, about how dissatisfied I was with my job as a legal assistant.  Being a good friend, JJ listened patiently, and asked me why didn’t  I quit my job if I was so unhappy.  “And do what?”  I asked.  “Why don’t you become a personal trainer?”  Now I knew JJ had lost her mind.

“You were in gym class with me.  You, of all people, should know how unathletic I am.  Besides, I’m 50—that’s just too old to start a career like that.”

“But people like me need people like you to help us.”  Ok, she guilted me into at least finding out what the best personal training certification was and send for the material.  The books sat in the box for six months.   “I must be crazy to think I can do this at my age” I kept thinking.  But I finally got the books out of the box, studied, took my personal trainer exam and to my amazement—passed!

I had no idea what the next step was that I should take.  Once again, JJ came to my rescue with her advice.   “Why don’t you write a letter to a gym?”  So I did and they actually offered me a part-time job as a personal trainer. I had found my passion and my purpose in life.

In the meantime, JJ was getting stronger, losing weight and decided she wanted to move to California and live near the beach—a dream she’d had since she first heard the Beach Boys as a teenager.  She loaded up her van and it was California or bust.

I was still working fulltime as a legal assistant and part-time as a personal trainer but I knew I wanted to do personally training fulltime.  I was offered a personal training job in another city.  It was a scary prospect so I called JJ, and once again her advice was just what I needed,  “If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder,” she said.  I quit my job, sold my condo and moved to a city where I knew NO ONE.  The stars must have been aligned and I met the right people, started my own personal training business, became a healthy lifestyle coach and new doors keep opening.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Lisa, the person who took a chance on hiring a trainer with no experience (and really had no idea what she was doing) why she took a chance on me.  “I saw your passion,” she told me, “and you still have it.”

As for JJ, she lives about five minutes from the beach—went from being unable to live independently and take care of herself—to living on her own and owning her own boutique.

JJ and I may have been the last two standing together on that playground—and we’re still standing—today we’re standing strong.standing