Sara’s Day 10 – Be Alive in the Moment

Oops! See my post from Day 9 for today’s challenge. I got ahead of myself!

So my final thoughts….

My 7th grade son had a basketball game tonight. As I watched him on the court, I noticed a Mother from the opposing team sitting ahead of me. She was very busily snapping photos of her son with her iPhone, then her giant digital camera. Then texting someone, then snapping photos, then showing her friend the photos, then changing accessories on her giant camera, then….it didn’t end! She spent so much time being pre-occupied with her gadgets and conversations that she didn’t spend anytime focusing on the important reason she was there in the first place – her son playing a live game. She spent so much time behind the lens trying to capture the perfect moment, she wasn’t taking in the reality and aliveness of the environment unfolding around her.

Then I realized that sometimes I eat my meals this way – totally pre-occupied with my electronic gadget, or the conversation I’m involved in. Thanks to Dr. Albers, this 10-day challenge has taught me to be alive in the moment – to be mindful of my food choices – to taste, smell, recognize the feeling of fullness, satisfaction, emotional eating, etc. And I am grateful.

So next time you are plowing through your meal without taking in the reality around you, remember the Shutterbug Mom in the bleachers who is missing the moment by being pre-occupied by a different agenda.

It’s been a great 10-days. It’s time to say farewell…..

Be well my friends. Remember to live in the moment and love yourself happy.



Sara’s Day 9 – Eating My Feelings

Ahhhh….my old pal Emotional Eating….

Today’s challenge invited us to make lists (LISTS!) following the 5-5-5-5 pattern. List 5 ways to relax, 5 people to comfort you, 5 activities that provide soothing, and 5 places that are comforting.  All in an effort to be prepared when emotions threaten our good eating intentions.  Like many folks, I eat when I’m happy, sad, bored, anxious, fearful…you name it – I’ll eat my emotions. Every time.

An old Weight Watchers trick that has stayed with me over the years taught me to pause before kitchen cabinet surfing, put my hand on my stomach and ask myself if I’m physically hungry, or emotionally hungry.  If I’m not physically hungry (which, truly, is rare), I refer to my 5-5-5-5 list, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN, and distract myself for 15 minutes. In my case, I always gulp a big glass of water and get my hands busy (there is always a load of laundry to fold somewhere, right?), take the dogs for a walk, flip through a magazine, read a book, etc.  Generally this does the trick for me and the craving passes.

Fortunately for me, I’ve never been an evening muncher, but my health coaching clients often list this as a primary complaint. I encourage them to plan ahead for an enjoyable evening snack, eat it, then brush their teeth. I also recommend preparing a cup of hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon after dinner to cure the sweet-tooth longing (also great for your complexion, cleansing your liver, etc!).

I recently read the book SHIFT, written by Tory Johnson, of Good Morning America Deals & Steals fame,  (which I highly recommend). It’s a quick, easy read about her journey to lose significant weight and I found it appealing because I sometimes forget that behind all the glitz and glam of morning television, that she suffers with weight and self-image, just like the rest of us.  Anyway, in her book she describes a munchy night, and her cure became painting her fingernails. After all, she couldn’t reach into the bag of chips while her topcoat was drying. GENIUS! 🙂

One of my best tricks – especially with Thanksgiving coming up next week – is to place a piece of gum in your pocket, and when you feel satisfied, but tempted to keep refilling your plate (or snack all afternoon), pop the gum in your mouth to satisfy the need to nosh.

Works. Every. Time.

Be Well,




Sara’s Day 8 – Eating for Nourishment

Today’s challenge is to notice how each food impacts your mood and stress levels.  While training to become a Health Coach I’ve spent many days experimenting with how my body reacts to different foods. Over the last year I have become super sensitive to the outcomes. One of which, to my surprise, is my dearest friend Diet Coke.  I have learned the (gasp!) dangers of Diet Coke (and other soft drinks) and have s-l-o-w-l-y weaned myself from my one-a-day (you know, like a vitamin!) habit to an occasional treat.  This was not an easy habit to come to terms with. But this is what I’ve learned about my body’s reaction to Diet Coke over the last few weeks:

  • I began to notice a tiny headache at the bridge of my nose after I drank the soda.
  • My hips and joints don’t ache in the morning
  • I definitely sleep better
  • I don’t have that morning slimy nastiness in my mouth when I wake (I know, gross, but true)
  • Cravings are significantly less when I stay away from pop of any kind

I’m still experimenting with Diet Coke and I quit bringing it into the house, which has been a BIG help. Now, I only enjoy an occasional Diet Coke on Saturday night when we are out to dinner.  But I’m learning that water with lemon is just as satisfying – even with pizza! And I walk away from the table feeling satisfied (not stuffed – from the carbonation?) and not crabby from another failed food choice.

Today’s challenge encouraged us to eat and notice our mood and stress levels. I’m a recent fan of almonds. This has become my go-to snack. I have found that 6-8 almonds in the late afternoon will satisfy me until dinner.  Other items on the list? Spinach (which I mix with romaine in my salads, and aim to eat one salad each day). The Energetics of Food teaches us that eating leafy greens, by nature, lifts our mood (because they ‘spring up’ out of the ground – therefore, we take on that energy when we consume it). Really! Google ‘Energetics of Food’ for more fascinating facts and further explanation.

Oranges and oatmeal also made Dr. Albers’ list. They leave me satisfied and proud that I made a good healthy food decision, which elevates my mood and confidence.  My body also benefits from the vitamins and minerals, and *ahem* digestive regularity.

Be Well,




Sara’s Day 7 – Be Strong

Today’s challenge was interesting for me. Dr. Albers makes a good point about dining companions having a significant impact on how we eat.  It’s important to be conscious of the way others change the way we eat.

Sundays are always a difficult day for me; everyone is home, relaxing, and often mindless munching. Sometimes I think eating is contagious. We see others grab a snack, and automatically we reach for one too.  I try to keep junk out of our house, to help all of us make better choices. If we have a “treat” like soda, cookies, etc. I try to keep it off the counter and out of sight.  On the other hand, I try to promote healthy snacking by keeping a fruit bowl brimming with fresh fruit (this time of year – fresh Michigan apples – red and yellow – yum!).  I also make time to clean, chop, prepare my vegetables when I get home from the store. So fresh, ready-to-eat options in clear containers meet us front-and-center when we open the refrigerator.

Truly, this Sunday, we were under serious storm watches for the afternoon and evening (high wind warnings, tornadoes, hail, sleet, thunderstorms, etc.) so the stress of watching the weather reports had me wishing for a snack. I watched my husband grab crackers, a granola bar, then he made coffee with flavored white chocolate mocha creamer, which almost send me out of my tree for an indulgence.  Very often, if I feel I can’t trust myself to make good food decisions, I will take a Sunday afternoon nap. My logic? while I’m not burning calories, I’m not eating calories either!  Besides, it’s a perfect opportunity to rest and recharge for the week ahead.  It’s been an effective tactic for awhile now so I headed to the couch, cuddled with Piper – my poo-chi terrier, and zonked out while the Lions football game droned in the background.

Very often on Sunday evenings, I lay out a spread of finger foods and we “graze” on things like veggies and dip, apple slices and peanut butter, chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, popcorn, lettuce salad, etc.  This is the one night a week when we fill our plates and watch television. The kids like choosing what they want to eat, I like the simplicity of the meal, and minimal clean-up.

So that was my Sunday. Throughout the day, I remained mindful of my choices, my companions, and my food options.

Oh, and I read the Social Eating chapter in Dr. Albers EatQ book – and found it very helpful with tips for eating over the holidays, at parties and restaurants. Special occasion eating is always a challenge.  Thanks for your pointers Dr. A!



Sara’s Day 6 – Voices In My Head

Boy, it is so easy to criticize myself for the choices I make. Yet I find when I am kind to myself, making the best choice comes easier.

This is an area I have really been working on over the last few months.  Becoming aware of my own harsh thoughts and judgments is just not helpful in loving myself.  It has become so important to change the direction of these thoughts, forgive myself and look for a positive way to acknowledge my efforts.  This learning has been HUGE for me over the last few months. I find when I cut myself a little slack, but continue to be responsible, I am a much kinder person, mother, co-worker, friend, coach.

I loved today’s challenge of writing down five encouraging phrases, sayings or quotes and using them for motivation.  Being a former Weight Watchers leader, I kept several encouraging quotes in my mind and often used one to close my meetings.

Lately, as I’ve shared in a previous post, the mantra that keeps me focused on making healthy choices as I prepare for a meal (or bite-by-bite on tough days) is pausing and thinking “Will this bite take me closer to my goals, or further away?”

9 times out of 10, this simple thought slows me down, keeps me in control, and guides me to my choice.  For example, before I reach for another piece of pizza, I pause and ask myself “will this piece of pizza take me closer to my goal, or further away?”. Powerful! Effective! And an opportunity to praise myself for a choice well done.

Another classic mantra? “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

Healthy blessings,



Sara’s Day 5 – Practicing Presence at the Plate

Today’s challenge was all about staying present at my plate. I have been practicing living in the moment instead of allowing my mind to race ahead of me.

My boys (ages 8 and 12) didn’t have school today so we made some returns then spent the rest of the day lazily perusing the aisles for Christmas ideas (read: Legos and electronics).  We stopped at Qdoba for lunch and sat down just before the lunch crowd started. I really enjoyed focusing on our conversation while practicing everything we have learned in the challenge so far this week. I took time to be grateful for our food, ate slowly and mindfully, noticing each individual taste of my lunch – especially the fresh lime I squeezed over it – YUM-O!

I couldn’t help but notice people around us that were eating alone and numbly shoving food in their mouth or sucking on giant soda cups, while scrolling on their phone or reading a book. That would have been me a few months ago. It reminded me of the small, but consistent changes I’ve made as I’ve become more aware of my mindful eating habits. I’m thankful for all I’ve learned thus far and look forward to the lessons of the second-half of this challenge.



Sara’s Day 4 – Stop! Think! Feel!

Day 4 of our challenge focused on Stopping Yourself by using our mind and psychology to cool our cravings.

It was a very busy day for me so I didn’t spend any time thinking about my cravings but I did notice – for the first time ever – that it’s natural for me to pair things together automatically without pausing to consider whether I am hungry or not.  This was a new (exciting!) thought for me.  I realized I have always paired my salad with crackers. Yesterday, I finished my salad and made a mindful gut-check – and realized I didn’t need those crackers! I was satisfied for the moment.  I didn’t panic, I told myself they would be available later in the day if I got hungry. And I moved onto my next project. BAM! An Aha moment and learning experience.

Then I began thinking about how many pairs I put together without stopping to consider my satiety (hunger/fullness) level.  Eggs and toast, Diet Coke and pretzels (a FAVORITE snack back in the day), two poptarts (they are packaged together so they must go together right?), soup and a big hunk of homemade crusty bread (Mmmmmm!), sandwich + crackers + applesauce + cheesestick + yogurt. Wow.

So I feel like a new woman with a new tool in my tool purse. Stop! Think! Feel! and know when I’m satisfied.




Sara’s Day 3 – Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.

One would think these are the only food choices we make. That’s why I was intrigued to learn from Dr. Albers that we make over 250 food choices each day.

Coffee – black? cream? sugar? in my favorite blue ceramic mug? to-go thermos? Ben’s Stanley?

Breakfast cereal (which?)? with almond milk? fat-free milk?

Or oatmeal? brown sugar? maple syrup? walnuts? raisins? milk? apple? banana? frozen blueberries?

All these choices invade my thoughts, and I haven’t even climbed out of bed yet! Okay, so the research from Cornell is probably true – but 250+ food choices a day? WOW.

Yesterday I was listening to a news interview with a guy who was wrongfully accused of murder and spent 10 years in prison. This week he was acquitted and released. He was explaining the luxuries of making his own decisions – like having a variety of things to eat instead of whatever is served cafeteria-style that day. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have 250+ daunting choices to make each day.

I take comfort in routine and know I make my best food choices when I have a plan. So many of my food decisions are made on Monday nights when I make my meal plans for the week. To you it may seem boring, mundane. To me it means control, satisfaction and security. And I know I can build flexibility within the basic framework.

Dr. Albers’ info sheet on “How Do You Decide What to Eat?” was interesting to me. I never gave much thought to the process of making food decisions until now. I guess I’d conclude that the majority of my foods are PLANNED from HABIT (for example: I often eat the same foods on Tuesdays because of my routine – with the exception of dinner, which varies. But this plan is comforting and satisfying to me, and keeps me on track).

I have also observed over the years with my Weight Watchers Members and now my Health Coaching clients that those who take the time to plan ahead (and stick to the plan) are most successful in their healthy pursuits. It’s always an added challenge to counsel those who don’t have skills or desire to plan ahead, and make consistent choices.  But it can be done – with tenacity, dedication, support and encouragement – folks can make a healthy lifestyle of turning off the autopilot decisions or feeling ‘victim’ to careless food options. Instead, consider making and owning your decisions – one thought at a time – and take the opportunity to make a mindful choice – as Dr. Albers advises.

I also find it helpful to pause and ask myself “is this bite taking me closer to my healthy goals, or further away from them?”. This can be a powerful (and empowering) thought too.

The future is yours to decide. Go to it – one bite at a time!



Sara’s Day 2 – Snooze I Lose…

My mother taught me to be honest, so…..today was a total ZONK.

I’ve learned over the years to be transparent when leading Weight Watchers meetings – and not pretend or presume that when one gets to weight goal, life is peachy.  Today, life for me was the pits.  Here’s why:

Contrary to what I have believed in the past, having PMS is not a ticket to eat endlessly. Today was a crabby day for me. The good news is I have recently become aware of these girl-cravings (chocolate, grease, Diet Coke) and have made valiant efforts to ignore these cravings only to raid the refrigerator and all cupboards and cabinets in search of a suitable substitute. The unfortunate lesson has been that all efforts to substitute still left me searching for THE craving. Needless to say that over the years, I have prowled all kitchen surfaces and eaten a whole lot of things that didn’t meet the need, then ended up overindulging (read: borderline abusing) the craved item anyway. I seem to make progress little by little each month since I’ve been practicing mindful eating. So today I ate the craving but made a few small changes and am satisfied with the compromise.  It was meeting night for my husband and I so (because I didn’t plan ahead) we ordered pizza and breadstix from our favorite local pizza hot spot. But here are a few changes I made:

  • I enjoyed cream and sugar in my morning coffee (instead of my typical black) to indulge my sweet tooth
  • I ordered a medium pizza to go (instead of the all-you-can-eat buffet) which limits the consumption by sharing between four of us (and saves us $$$)!
  • I had half-glass of soda (instead of 2-3 glasses) and finished the meal with water
  • I cut my pizza slices in half (instead of mindlessly gulping down two big slices and reaching for more)
  • I took the time to TASTE and SAVOR each bite of pizza, breadstix and soda.
  • I listened to the excited chatter from my kids about their day at school and my hubby’s work day (instead of being focused on shoveling in the carbs and missing the conversation).

I’ve also learned to acknowledge that days like this aren’t ideal, but are also far-and-fewer between too. I have already forgiven myself for the slip ups, and acknowledged the learnings and adjustments I’ve made.

I started the day with Yoga (a new thing for me), and plan to end my day with a few minutes of peaceful prayer and meditation. I’m learning to be kind and patient with myself, even when the day didn’t go as planned. After all, a little kindness goes a long way in learning to love oneself again.

Kindness, forgiveness, encouragement. Three things I practice each day for better health. You should too.




Sara’s Day 1 – I’m a Recovering Racer, Learning to Pace

For the last several months I’ve been learning to be more mindful about eating so I laughed right out loud when the very first challenge is still something I’m trying to get a grip on. Our fast-forward culture emphasizes multi-tasking and efficiency. So becoming aware of eating and the process seems very counter-cultural to me. So it is refreshing to be reminded during this challenge to GET SLOW and stay slow. It’s intriguing to me to look at the way America eats – through fast food windows, convenience products – frozen, chopped, sliced or heat-n-eat – and now ‘speed dating meals’, to name a few. Did you know there is a movement to bring the joy back into preparing and cooking meals and bring families back together around a table for good, nutritious food and healthy conversation? On our busy days, we do rely on convenience foods and drive-thru’s, but I’ve made a bigger emphasis on home-cooked meals for my husband and boys (ages 8 and 12) in the last few months. We’ve noticed a difference in our wallets and in joyful conversation.

Today I enjoyed reading through Dr. Susan’s materials that came with our first challenge and on her website. For lunch I intentionally slowed down, said a prayer of gratitude for the farmer who grew my salad and fixin’s, then took a moment to take in the color and the beauty of the deep leafy greens, cucumber, green bell pepper, shiny grape tomatoes. I sought out different flavors with each bite – pinto beans, turkey pepperoni, Italian dressing, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I tried chewing each bite at least 20 times and to identify the texture, flavor, temperature of each bite. I even tried to use my right hand to feed my self, as Dr. suggests, but that didn’t last too long! I must be very south-pawed. 🙂

I enjoyed this eating experience and will continue to slow down, savor, and enjoy my meal with intent and purpose. Until tomorrow….happy chewing! Sara


Eat.Q. Blogger: Meet Sara!

Sara Wolfsen, 39, has struggled with weight since elementary school. The ups-and-downs of life have sent her weight in several directions. In 2006, she finally reclaimed her health, lost 80 pounds, and became a Meeting Leader for a popular worldwide weight loss program. During this time she became aware of her blossoming passion for wellness and nutrition and has recently become a Certified Health Coach in West Michigan. Through individual and group coaching she guides others to understand the powerful role that food has on optimal health while promoting positive body image and lifestyle balance.

Sara is a self-confessed peanut butter lover and has finally learned to enjoy this tasty treat in moderation. She does not care for seafood of any kind nor the ‘fishy’ smell.

Sara’s goal during the EatQ challenge is to learn even more about her own mindful eating so she can help others become aware of its benefits, better food choices and healthy body signals.

To learn more about coaching services by phone or Skype, visit Ideal Wellness Solutions on Facebook or www.idealwellness.org.