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The Willpower Instinct with Dr. Kelly McGonigal 

“What’s something that you could change about the way you’re living your life that would help you be the version of yourself that you want to be, reach goals, and contribute more fully to the roles and relationships that matter to you?” – Dr. Kelly McGonigal 

 

Willpower. What is it, and how do we harness it to become the version of ourselves we want to be so we can reach our highest goals? In the latest episode of the Stronger U Radio podcast, psychologist, best-selling author, and educator Dr. Kelly McGonigal sat down with Stronger U’s Manager of Nutrition Education and Innovation, Gianna Masi, RD, to talk about the science of willpower and her book The Willpower Instinct – which our community is collectively reading in September as part of our #StrongerUs book club. Specifically focused on the human response to willpower and its effects on our body’s chemistry, Gianna and Dr. McGonigal explore how we can develop stronger willpower in our lives. 

 

During their deeply engaging and relatable conversation, they dive into the significance of putting our energy and attention on what matters over choosing to avoid discomfort, the power of connection and celebrating successes, the place of willpower when it comes to habit change (you may be surprised on her take,) and meeting challenging moments with whatever it is you need: courage, self-care, wisdom, or sometimes, restraint. 

 

Dr. McGonigal touches on the “feel better effect” phenomenon of how exercise and movement change the brain short term. This includes the science behind how by moving a bit and getting your heart rate up slightly through, say, walking or dynamic stretching, your body releases adrenaline and dopamine that results in an energizing effect and a more positive outlook. She also goes into the long-term effects of exercise on the brain and how consistency is key to fully experiencing these changes. 

 

This not-to-be-missed episode is filled with nuggets of wisdom and aha moments that will leave you feeling inspired. Grab a pen and notepad because, trust us, you will want to take notes.  

 

LISTEN NOW 

The Willpower Instinct with Dr. Kelly McGonigal

To learn more about the #StrongerUs book club and join Dr. McGonigal live on September 29th in the Stronger U Community, head to: https://fb.me/e/2DefxIyXj. 

 

Mona’s Stronger U Story

Tell us a little bit about yourself!:

First of all, I am a Mom and Nana. I cherish my family, and they always come first. I work full time, take care of my family, and spend time with my boyfriend. After all that, I try to take care of myself. I am active or try to be, hiking on weekends, and love exploring new places.

What did your life look like before Stronger U?:

I was an emotional eater. Eating because I was happy, sad, or anything in between. I tried many diets that worked well at first but always reversed when I stopped gaining more back. My activity level was sedentary. I work at a desk, so most of the time, I sit. I was exhausted after work which led to more sitting. I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. Just felt yucky.

What does your life look like now?:

I know that I have to eat to survive. Working with SU helped me understand macro nutrition and healthily balancing food. I learned that over time and consistency matters. Not one day or one moment. Creating good habits and doing them consistently matters. As a result, I have more energy, feel better, and believe in myself. One example is my hiking and running ability. My goal for steps is 10000 every day. I have completed a 5k and have more energy when hiking. Previously I could not hike without stopping or asking my boyfriend to go get the car. Even with 12 plus miles, even if I have to pause for the moment, I accomplish it.

Why do you think Stronger U worked so well for you compared to other programs or diets?:

My firm belief is that I had tremendous support from my coach. She was awesome and was there every step of the way. Jamie Tuttle.

What was something you regularly ate while on Stronger U that people wouldn’t expect you to eat on a diet?:

You can eat anything as long as it fits within the macros for the day. Planning is the key.

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?:

48

How many inches did you lose off your waist?:

6

Did you have any favorite non-scale victories to share?:

Fitting into clothes, enduring longer hikes, just feeling good in general.

Has Stronger U positively impacted you professionally?:

I prioritize taking my breaks to eat and get my steps in, which has, in the long run, made me feel better and more productive.

Has Stronger U improved your overall health? If so, how?:

I feel better. I was working on my cholesterol but need to go to the Dr to measure it.

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what advice would you give them before beginning their journey?:

Just start. Planning, eating, and taking care of yourself will come. The first step is the hardest. It’s one moment at a time.

Macros 101: What they are and why they matter.

There is a lot of nutrition noise out there, so understanding nutrition basics can be beneficial in making food choices that work best for your lifestyle and goals. This awareness supports your success long-term, which is why Education is one of our core pillars at Stronger U. Instead of telling you what to eat, your dedicated coach will teach you how to eat and equip you with the science-based knowledge you need to achieve and maintain results for the rest of your life.  

 

Achieving your desired results is about more than the number of calories you consume but is also about getting the adequate amount of nutrients within those calories to fuel your specific body. More precisely, getting the nutrients that support your overall health, body composition, energy, performance, and more. These are referred to as macronutrients; being aware of the type and quantity you’re consuming is foundational to Stronger U’s nutritional approach.  

 

Macronutrients, commonly called “macros,” support many essential functions in your body and are the primary source of energy that enters our bodies. Macros fall into these three categories:  

 

PROTEINS 

CARBOHYDRATES 

FATS 

 

Let’s take a closer look at the three macro types and the role each plays in your nutrition.  

 

Protein

4 calories/gram   

Protein’s primary function is to build new muscle and repair your existing muscle. It’s made up of long chains of amino acids, also known as the “building blocks” of your body. Protein is essential in fat loss.   

Some protein sources include: chicken breast, lean ground meat, pork tenderloin, egg whites, Greek yogurt, legumes, and tofu.  

 

Carbohydrate

4 calories/gram   

Carbohydrates serve as one of the body’s primary sources of energy. The carbohydrates we eat in food are broken down to glucose (a type of sugar) that your body uses as fuel for workouts and daily energy needs. Carbs are found in food in the form of sugars and fibers.   

Some carbohydrate sources include: fruits, vegetables, and grains.   

 

Fat 

9 calories/gram   

The most concentrated form of energy, providing twice as much energy per gram compared to protein and carbs. When we eat more energy than we need from any type of macronutrient, our body stores much of that excess energy as fat. Fat serves as the primary fuel for our bodies when we are at rest and supports some of our energy needs during activities. Fat helps with satiety, absorption and transportation of nutrients, is a component in many physiological processes and is required to produce various hormones.  

Some sources of foods high in fat include: oils, butter, full-fat dairy, and many cuts of meat. 

 

At Stronger U, our method for helping you move toward your health, body composition, and performance goals begins by providing you with individualized daily macronutrient targets. Your Stronger U coach works with you one-on-one to create a custom nutrition strategy by getting to know you, your lifestyle, health condition(s), and preferences. This level of personalization helps them identify the right balance of macronutrients for you, which they input into your Stronger U app’s nutrition tracker. There, you can easily log your food and check your progress. Over time, as your goals evolve, your coach may adjust your macronutrient targets accordingly.   

 

Tracking your food intake to encourage you to eat a specific amount of each macro can be a healthy and effective method for sustainable results. Unlike most diets or weight-loss programs that restrict certain foods or eliminate specific macros, our approach, Structured Flexibility, allows you to enjoy a variety of foods within specific guidelines. We don’t expect our members to track forever, but it’s an excellent tool for building awareness and learning how to eat to achieve your goals.  

 

Want to learn more about macronutrients, boost your nutrition IQ and get support from an experienced Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutrition Coach? Join Stronger U now. 

Kevin’s Stronger U Story

Tell us a little bit about yourself!:

I’m a concert pianist, and I chair the Gloria Narramore Moody Piano Area where I’m lucky to teach students from around the globe. I love having the opportunity to travel to share music with audiences and work with other piano teachers throughout the country and abroad. However, I also love being home with my partner of 15 years and our two cats—Tanda and Paulie. I also happen to be a huge Disney fan and love every chance I get to escape to Walt Disney World!

What did your life look like before Stronger U?:

My life before Stronger U was a big ball of stress and eating my emotions. Being on the road frequently, I typically opted for the easiest, fastest option whether on the highway or in an airport, and when I was home, the pizza delivery guys knew me by name. When I was finishing my doctorate in the early 2000’s, I was pretty fit and even taught group fitness a few days a week. However, looking back, I’m alarmed at how quickly I let those habits go in favor of convenience and ease once I got a job. When COVID hit, I at least had started regaining my fitness level with Orangetheory, but during Christmas 2020, I was depressed at how many of my Christmas traditions had to be shelved due to the pandemic. I ate those feelings, and when I went back to work in January 2021, I could not button my pants. I was quickly confronted with the painful reality that I could not out-exercise a poor diet, and it was time to get serious about getting control of my life again. On a personal level this became even more critical to me since I was planning to take my 9 and 12 year old nieces on an epic Disney World vacation in 2022. I wanted to be able to enjoy every moment of every ride and attraction with them comfortably, and I wanted to be able to keep up with them every step of the way. I had tried Noom with little success, and I worked with a nutritionist who I now realize seemed only focused on bulking, which wasn’t the focus on my workouts so I gained weight. I also had eaten low-fat diets in the past. However, I didn’t want a diet this time around. I wanted a program that seemed sustainable long-term because I was brutally aware that was what was necessary for me to live the quality of life I deserved.

What does your life look like now?:

I joined Stronger U in January 2021, and I was amazed at how quickly my energy levels dramatically increased by simply properly fueling my body. While I was already in a regular exercise routine, Derek helped me find a good balance between my workouts while also focusing on being aware of my activity outside of Orangetheory as the life of a pianist can be pretty sedentary. I now stand and walk around much more while I’m teaching, and I supplement my work at Orangetheory with spinning, yoga, and other activities to keep me moving more throughout the week.

My relationship with food and eating has changed dramatically over the past 1.5 years with Stronger U. First, I have become infinitely more aware of portion sizes, and I feel confident ordering from menus at restaurants when I’m out with friends or on the road. I’m not afraid to ask for accommodations on meals when I feel like I may need it, and I’ve learned to appreciate treats in moderation. I don’t love to cook, and I love that I have found ways of making my macros work at a few local restaurants that I trust. Also, I don’t recall feeling deprived since I started the program. While I don’t keep the same foods in the house, I have found foods that I love just as much as the junk I tended to eat before. I’ve also become much more aware of how foods impact my body and how I feel, particularly when my protein and carb balance may get off track a bit when traveling.

In terms of how my life has changed, there was a time in my life in recent years when friends would have worried that a wild animal or a murderer was on the loose if they saw me run. However, I ran my first 5K in April 2022, and it was easy!! I have another 5K lined up for November 2022 (my first RunDisney race!) and two 10K commitments in 2023. I don’t consider myself a runner, but I love that running these races is now something I look forward to. I’m also now adapting my schedule every day around my activity rather than adapting my exercise to my schedule. Learning to plan my meals really helped me learn to do this with my exercise as well. Additionally, it has helped me learn to put up boundaries in my life so that I can guiltlessly claim time for myself every day. When I was in my gaining phase, I too often would give to the point that I had no time left for me, and I feel keeping this in mind is critical for me to continue making my health my priority.

Why do you think Stronger U worked so well for you compared to other programs or diets?:

I was immediately struck by the fact that I felt like Derek was listening, and I have never sensed any judgment from him in the 1.5 years we have worked together. He meets me where I am from one week to the next, and I think that has helped me be consistent. He got a handle on my busy, stressful lifestyle very quickly as well, and I appreciate that even from the beginning I felt he was setting me up for success. Nothing he’s asked has ever felt unattainable, and he has always seemed to have a great handle on when it was a good time to play with my macros and when it was better to stay consistent. I also love that he has always been friendly and interested in me as a person, and he has always been willing to share about him and his family. While we have never had a chance to meet in person, I feel like I’m checking in with a supportive, intelligent friend each week, and one of my goals is to eventually get to Bermuda to thank him in person for transforming my life.

I also feel like part of the reason that Stronger U works so well is that there are no taboo foods. After a month with Stronger U, I felt like I was already establishing sustainable eating patterns, and I was learning a lot about smart eating. When I’ve been in situations where I could not track on trips where I was having to eat with a host family or in restaurants without posted nutritional facts, I’ve felt really affirmed because I didn’t see big weight swings. While I believe in tracking, I also love that this program has allowed me to become a much smarter intuitive eater.

What was something you regularly ate while on Stronger U that people wouldn’t expect you to eat on a diet?:

Pizza and eating lunch out most days

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?:

128.6

How many inches did you lose off your waist?:

20

Did you have any favorite non-scale victories to share?:

Last week, I took my nieces on an epic 11 day (that became a 12 day, thanks to the airlines) trip to Universal and Walt Disney World. My mom and I had been planning this trip for awhile, and it was what ultimately motivated me to take the jump and start my Stronger U journey in January 2021. I knew I wanted to be able to experience every ride at Universal and Disney with them, and unless I made some changes, I knew that was not going to happen, especially at Universal. Over 120 lbs later, we had an incredible trip! I was easily able to ride every single ride at every park comfortably, and I would not trade the memories for anything. (I have to say that it’s totally amazing to be able to ride all of the crazy roller coasters again even if the nieces were not with me!) While a lot more goals have developed through the journey, it was incredibly satisfying to get to officially check this one off as met and met in spades. I also loved getting to model healthier eating for the girls since weight issues are common in my family, and I loved seeing them voluntarily reading serving sizes on packages by the end of the trip and being amazed at how small they can be relative to package sizes! Thanks to all of you for the daily inspiration and to my awesome coach Derek Hurdle for continuing to help me be a little better and stronger every day!

Has Stronger U positively impacted you professionally?:

Absolutely! I am performing better than I ever have. Having a good balance of fitness, nutrition, and 120+ less pounds allows me to move at the piano more efficiently, and my focus and energy for my teaching has increased significantly. I taught a huge overload of students during the 2021-2022 academic year, and I don’t think I would have survived the work load prior to starting Stronger U.

Has Stronger U improved your overall health? If so, how?:

My blood pressure has gone from elevated to normal.

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what advice would you give them before beginning their journey?:

The only person who can keep you from succeeding is yourself. Use this as an opportunity to do a hard reset on your life because this is not just about food. It’s about the interaction of food with your personal and professional lives. Accept that you have to be open to change and be willing to try something new without judgment before outlining all of the reasons you might not be able to make the change.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your journey?:

I could not have done this without Derek’s coaching, friendship, and guidance, and I also would thank the Stronger U Facebook community. I have learned and been inspired by all of the posts!

Stronger U Community Story: Mir P.

In 2018, Mir P. was at an intersection in her life. Mir filled her days with teaching high school students writing, managing the English department, and supporting her school admin as an in-house professional development facilitator. She used her evenings pursuing her passion for writing but did not gain the traction she aspired to, receiving rejections for articles and book ideas from publishers.  

“I was burning every candle at every end. I was running around all day. It was very hectic. It was demanding. Teaching is demanding no matter how you do it. You stand all day. You’re on all day.”   

As an educator, Mir found that opportunities to pay attention to her nutrition were few and far between. Teachers are confronted with unique challenges regarding maintaining a balanced diet and teaching. Between short lunches, demands on their attention, and frequent comforting snacks in the teacher’s lounge, Mir explains, “It’s really hard to eat well [as a teacher]”. Mir has been a loyal Barre enthusiast for the past 10 years. However, despite her consistent workout schedule, she still struggled with the nutrition piece. She was feeling tired, run-down, and always hungry. “There was just no time for me,” Mir stated.    

Eventually, Mir was tired of being tired. After a few failed attempts at working with other nutrition professionals, she was recommended Stronger U by a teacher friend. Feeling like she was running out of options, she decided to make the leap and signed up for her first session. Within her first 12-week session, Mir reached her weight loss goals and transitioned into maintenance. She was enjoying the extra energy and results from her work with barre. Still, after some time, she realized that there was more she could learn to make her Stronger U habits a lifelong change, “I wanted to sustain this for the rest of my life.”   

“I needed to complete the part of my [Stronger U] education that went a little further than experiencing the initial success.” Mir shared. During her second session with her coach Jodi, Mir developed her knowledge in nutrition and solidified her skills to sustain her needs for the long haul. “Jodi was really flexible at looking at different solutions that I could maintain for a long time. She also gave me strategies for the long-term, like: ‘if it starts not to work, try these numbers’, ‘if this is happening, try this’. She essentially taught me how to deal with setbacks, which I hadn’t learned during my first session.”   

Over time, Mir started to apply Stronger U’s approach of looking at the data to build knowledge about herself to other aspects of her life. “Not being afraid of the knowledge, but using it to inform what I do next. That’s been a helpful strategy I’ve learned from Stronger U. When I’m feeling things aren’t going well, I think, ‘okay, so, what can I learn? What can I do to make it better?'”  

Fast forward three years and now, Mir is no longer in the classroom. Instead, she has moved into a new role as an Instructional Specialist. In this coaching position, she helps educators throughout her district hone their skills to be more effective in the classroom and facilitates district-wide professional development. She is also teaching courses at a local university.    

And she’s still writing in the evenings. “With my writing, I had tried to do it many years ago, to publish a book, but again, it didn’t work out. So, I thought, ‘I’ll do something safer, like blogging, where people can’t say no to me.’ But then I started to think, ‘it’s time. When is this going to happen?’ I started sending my articles to a couple of education publications, and they started saying yes.” In fact, in 2020, when the pandemic started, Mir opened her email to see a message she’s been working towards for nearly two decades: a publisher approached her about writing a book. “I started thinking maybe I just had to get to the point where I had something that people wanted to hear. Maybe I just wasn’t there yet. Maybe this is what growth is. It doesn’t happen necessarily when you want it to happen.”   

Last May, Mir’s first book, “Teach More, Hover Less,” was published. Her second book will be hitting shelves in March, and she is scheduled to present at an English Teacher’s Convention in Disneyland. “Just like we tell people with Stronger U: you’re not going to get there overnight, you’re not going to lose the weight overnight. It’s going to happen, you just need to get to that place where you’re ready.”   

As many teachers prepare to head back into the classroom over the next month, Mir offered some of her best tips for prioritizing teachers’ needs while meeting the demands of working in education.    

Plan Well   

Mir approaches her eating the way she does her teaching—with a plan! “You can plan your week using the same skills you use to plan your lessons. So, the question is, how are you setting yourself up for success?” First, she takes the time the night before to input her food into her tracker. Then, she’ll copy and paste meals to help make the process even faster. She believes that the next day will run smoother and create an opportunity for success by taking 10-15 minutes in the evening to pack a lunch, prep meals, or input your food into your tracker.   

Use the Right Tools   

  • Keep transportable containers on hand.  

For example, Mir loves to use her salad container with a separate cup for dressing so that everything is fresh and crunchy when it’s time for lunch (even though she packed it the night before).    

 

  • Keep an insulated bag large enough to carry your food. 

You can place your day’s prepped meals in it and place them into the fridge the night before.  

 

  • Have convenience foods that you enjoy on hand. 

Since school lunches are short and teachers aren’t usually able to leave the building, keeping prepacked protein bars, shakes, beef jerky, and tuna packs in your desk is a great way to have a plan B in case your lunch doesn’t work out. 

 

  • Use the Stronger U Facebook Community as a resource.  

She checks the feed every morning and uses her time in the community to learn more about recipes, progress from other members, and help support other members on their journey.    

 

Keep transportable containers on hand that are functional for your needs. For example, Mir loves to use her salad container with a separate cup for dressing so that everything is fresh and crunchy when it’s time for lunch (even though she packed it the night before).    

She recommends keeping an insulated bag large enough to carry  your food, so you can prep your day’s meals and snacks and stick it into the fridge the night before.    

Mir also recommends finding convenience foods that you enjoy. Since school lunches are short and teachers aren’t usually able to leave the building, keeping prepacked protein bars, shakes, beef jerky, and tuna packs in your desk is a great way to have a plan B in case your lunch doesn’t work out.    

Lastly, Mir recommends using the Stronger U Facebook Community as a resource. She checks the feed every morning and uses her time in the community to learn more about recipes, progress from other members, and help support other members on their journey.    

Protect Your Time   

“At lunch, kids come, colleagues come. We’re not wired to protect our time. We’re wired to help when people ask,” Mir explains. While on the clock, teachers will compromise their minimal free time to support students and colleagues alike. Mir found that by going outside to eat lunch, she could create some boundaries that allowed her to enjoy her meal without interruption, eliminating the unintended outcome of getting overly hungry and reaching for something that wasn’t in her plan.    

She also has become a well-oiled habit-stacker and considers her daily barre workouts non-negotiable. So how does she find the time? Simple. She treats it with as much importance and consistency as brushing her teeth. She keeps her workout clothes closer to her bed than her work clothes. She wakes up a little earlier than the rest of her family to make sure she has the time to focus on herself.    

Four years ago, Mir was looking for a way to focus on nutrition in an impactful way. With the help of her Stronger U coaches, she now nourishes her body, practices kindness to herself in all aspects of life, and can be the best educator she can be to students, teachers, and now, readers.    

To learn more about Mir’s book Teach More, Hover Less, check out her website 

 

5 Healthy Habits for a Busy Back-to-School Schedule  

It’s one of the busiest times of the year: back to school, back to activities, back to overcommitted schedules. If you’re wondering how you can focus on your health goals while managing so much on your plate (no pun intended,) you’re not alone. That also means you don’t need to go it alone! As parents, we tend to put our well-being last on the list of priorities. So, while you might consider a break from your healthier habits, a coach’s support is most important in these challenging seasons. Life will always be busier than ideal. There will always be something that seems more pressing, resulting in feeling like something else must give. That “something” is typically us. Here’s the thing, prioritizing our wellness will help us accomplish more and be happier overall. Eating the correct number of nutrients, drinking enough water, sleeping better, and getting more exercise can boost our energy and give us a better outlook to optimize our days without feeling burned out.   

  

Setting up a routine is an excellent place to start. We’ve rounded up five habits you can begin to incorporate right now:  

  

Plan Your Meals.  

Review your weekly schedule, determine how many people you’ll be cooking for each day and how many meals and snacks you’ll need to prepare. Next, make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for those meals and snacks. Then, plan a specific day to grocery shop (if you’re short on time, consider using a meal delivery service.)   

  

Pro tip: Have the same meal more than once and choose meal options that last and freeze easily. This reduces planning, prepping, and cleaning!   

Set a Bedtime and Stick to It.  

Does your summer sleep schedule have you reaching for the snooze button more than you’d like? While it might be tempting to stay up and scroll social media during those precious minutes of alone time at the end of the day, your sleep is much more critical. Unplug from your digital devices at least an hour before bed and set your phone in another room so you won’t be distracted by it. If you’re someone who uses the alarm on your phone, consider investing in a traditional alarm clock instead.   

 

 Track Your Meals in Advance.  

If you’re currently tracking macronutrients, you can take planning a step further and enter pre-planned meals into your Stronger U Nutrition Tracker in advance. You can choose to do the entire week or just a day ahead. This takes the guesswork out of your meals and portion sizes and will save you from having to track them later.    

    

Prepack Lunches the Night Before. 

 

Put the planning into action. While you’re packing your kids’ lunches, prepack your own food too. By taking these extra minutes the night before, you can save time in the morning and avoid leaving without your planned food for the day.   

  

Get Your Steps in During Sports and Activities.  

Is soccer practice taking up your weeknights? Instead of sitting on the sidelines, do laps around the field during practice, use a step tracker, and aim for 10,000 steps daily. Perhaps invite other friends to join you for a little friendly competition.   

  

Having the guidance and tools to overcome obstacles that come with new schedules and long to-do lists can set you on the path to success for the remainder of the year. You’ll also have an easier time staying on track with your goals. These are some general ideas to implement, but a Stronger U coach can provide many more personalized tips and support for your unique situation.   

  

To learn more about the benefits of working with a coach, chat with someone from our Member Experience Team.  

 

 

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