News from Shape Up America!
January 2006
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Are You Ready to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Work?
For many of us, ringing in the New Year means announcing our resolutions. The fact that we call it a resolution and declare it on New Years usually signifies there is something challenging about it. If your resolution is to lose weight and keep it off, a key ingredient for success is “emotional readiness.” If your mind and emotions are in conflict, you won’t be able to reach your goals. Here we offer some strategies to get your emotions and your mind in alignment with your resolutions. Our goal is to help you make your resolutions stick, while providing you with resources that offer weight-loss support.

Mindful Goal Setting

To achieve weight loss, you first need to pick the right goal and focus your mind on that goal. Aiming for a weight that you haven’t seen in decades is probably unrealistic and not the right goal for you. Instead, select a weight-loss goal that is achievable over the next six months – and that could be about 10 pounds.

Next, establish a daily ritual – 10 minutes each day would suffice – that permits you to focus your mind on the weight-loss journey ahead of you. During this daily mind-focusing, discipline-building ritual, leave all other thoughts and worries behind and think only about your resolution to lose weight. What do you have to do today to move in that direction? For example, do you have to join a weight loss program? Do you need to keep a journal or food diary? Should you attend a meeting or get online support, shop for food or plan some meals, take a walk or go to the gym? Identify what you need to do and think about how you are going to tackle that challenge today. Work with your mind as if it were a muscle. Use it daily, in a disciplined and focused manner, and it will not let you down.

The Mind May Be Like a Muscle, But in a Conflict, Emotions Rule

When it comes to disciplining your mind – the control center for your behavior – your emotions can sometimes be your own worst enemy. If you are on an emotional roller coaster, your mind and your emotions will fight each other for control of your eating behavior, and, in the long run, your emotions will win out. But if you address the emotional issues, you’ll free up your mind and allow it to move toward successful weight control.

Establishing “Emotional Readiness”

If you have experienced repeated unsuccessful efforts to lose weight, a lack of emotional readiness may be the cause. If you feel that your emotions are interfering with your ability to follow a weight loss program, consider getting help for your emotional problems first. Here are some organizations that may help:

Emotions Anonymous [], or EA, is a twelve-step organization similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. According to the EA website, EA is composed of people who meet weekly for the purpose of working toward recovery from emotional difficulties. Members are from many walks of life and ages; the only requirement for membership is a desire to become well emotionally. EA’s program has a spiritual component which refers to a “higher power,” although religious beliefs or affiliations are not required for the program to work. EA is not a medical or weight loss organization, but it can help address problems such as depression, anger, low self-esteem and compulsive behavior – many of which can interfere with successful weight control. EA has chapters throughout the US and around the world. Check their website to find out if there’s a meeting near you.

Overeaters Anonymous, [], or OA, is another twelve-step organization that focuses on emotional issues. Their website states that the organization offers a program of recovery from compulsive overeating, and addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. To manage weight loss, OA encourages members to develop a food plan with a health care professional and a sponsor. Like EA, OA is not a medical organization. It charges no dues or fees and is self-supporting through member contributions.

TOPS Club, Inc. [], which stands for “Take Off Pounds Sensibly,” is a nonprofit organization that specializes in weight loss support for people of all ages and sizes. Their website states that TOPS provides a healthy, caring and supportive approach to weight control, at an affordable price. TOPS groups are located all over the world.

If you are interested in any of these three organizations, but there is no meeting near you or that is suitable for you, be prepared with a backup plan. If you have adequate resources or a health insurance policy, it may be possible to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist for help.

Too often people tell us they are dealing with their problems on their own because they lack the resources necessary to get help. Many of these people are suffering from problems that only get worse the longer they remain unaddressed. Do not assume that local professional resources are unavailable to you. Many professionals are willing to take some clients on a pro bono basis and others charge on a sliding scale, making the fees more affordable to you. The important thing is to take the first step: ask for help.

Note: There is no easily defined line that separates an emotional issue that can responsibly be taken to an organization like EA, OA or TOPS or that is more serious and requires medical attention. A qualified health care professional can offer guidance in making that call.

It can be exhilarating to bring your emotions into alignment with the goals you set your mind on achieving. So, this year, get help if you need it, and see how high you can fly!

Abdominal Training
by Michael Roussell
The New Year is here! Along with all the New Year’s weight-loss resolutions come plenty of people trying to sell you quick fixes that will “give” you the results you want for the New Year. One of the many claims of the shameless marketers of pills and potions is “helping” people achieve a trim and toned waistline. These marketers have finally come up with a magic solution that usually consists of buying and using some sort of ab cruncher, blaster or shocker. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, there is no magic solution, and doing countless abdominal exercises is not the way to a slim waistline. The key to trimming your waistline is a consistently healthful diet and regular exercise.

This month we are going to add another exercise to our arsenal that, by itself, won’t give you show-stopping abs, but it will help develop core strength and protect your back from injury. The basic crunch became the most popular abdominal exercise when sit-ups fell from favor because they caused back pain in many people. While most people know how to perform the basic abdominal crunch, we are going to touch on a few points that will help make the crunch more effective.

First, let’s look at the basic mechanics. To start, lie on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Next, make sure your knees and heels are touching; then draw your heels toward your rear end, stopping when your heels are 1 to 2 feet away. Now you are in the proper starting position.

The key with abdominal training is quality not quantity. If you are ripping off 100 consecutive crunches, then it’s time to increase the quality of the crunches. If you are doing them right, an intense burn should resonate from your stomach after about 7 to 10 crunches.

There are a couple ways to make this happen. The first thing to do is increase the mind-muscle connection. By focusing on the muscle at work, you will get a more effective workout. You can accomplish this by putting your finger tips on your abdominal muscles; feeling your abs contract will increase the mind-muscle connection. Putting your hands on your stomach and not behind your head will prevent you from pulling on the back of your head. It is this pulling that causes much of the neck pain associated with abdominal crunches.

Now you are ready to start the movement. Don’t think of the movement as sitting up; instead you want to crunch so that you are decreasing the distance between your rib cage and your belly button. By focusing on crunching in this manner, you will better stimulate your abdominal muscles.

The final tip for maximizing your abdominal workout is to obtain a peak contraction with every crunch. At the top of the crunching movement, you should hold the muscle contraction for at least a count of two (say “one, one thousand, two, one thousand” in a measured, rhythmic way). To further intensify the contraction, forcibly exhale the air in your lungs.

Goal Level Sets/Reps Action Per Week
Beginner Work up slowly to ONE set of 15-20 reps Perform 2 times per week
Intermediate TWO sets of 15-20 reps Perform 2-3 times per week
Advanced THREE sets of 15-20 reps Perform 2-3 times per week

When you apply the techniques described this month, it will be obvious after a few reps that quality is more challenging than quantity. But, remember, for a toned, trim abdominal region, lifestyle changes that involve a disciplined diet and exercise are the most important, not how many crunches you do.

Make a Healthy New Year’s Resolution for the Whole Family
Setting goals for an active lifestyle in 2006 can benefit the entire family. How about launching a “family fitness fun” initiative as a team? The start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to redefine how your family chooses to spend time together. So make the choice to set health and fitness goals as a family, and encourage each other to achieve these goals! For great ideas about getting your family focused on activities that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, go to: 20Circles_FINAL_WEB.pdf

The attractive poster, 20 Tips For Getting Your Family On Track, was made possible by a generous grant from Sweet’N Low to Shape Up America! These full-size posters are still being offered (while quantities last) at no cost, and can be yours for the asking. For information on how to order, visit our website or go to the website of Sweet’N Low [] and click on the “Health/Diabetes” tab to find the Get Hip and Get Fit program materials and information.

Recipe of the Month
This recipe features some of the more popular edible mushrooms you’ll find in the market.
Serves 4


  • 1 pound mushrooms, mixed fresh, cut in large pieces (white, portabella, shiitake, crimini, oyster)
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 zucchini, large, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 onion, medium, cut in 8 wedges
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, ground


  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. In a 13x9x2 inch nonstick baking pan (or spray a conventional pan with vegetable cooking spray), place mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini and onion.
  2. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper.
  3. Bake uncovered, until mushrooms and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 342 calories, 8 grams total fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 300 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

Source: Produce for Better Health, 5 A Day recipe,


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The Shape Up America! newsletter

Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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