Category Archives: Nutrition

Make It a Healthy Thanksgiving

Despite the current pandemic, the biggest meal of the year is about to occur. Whether your plans are a lot smaller than in years past or not, the question is, are you ready? The average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2,000 calories. You don’t have to starve yourself or exercise excessively to counteract this monstrous meal. With some smarts and a little willpower, you can eat, drink, and still button your pants when it’s over. Follow these tips to the dinner table and have a healthier Thanksgiving …

Plan Ahead

Before you get to cooking, schedule a workout prior to your big meal. Even a short workout may reduce appetite. Some studies monitored the brain activity associated with appetite. They found a decrease in food interest immediately after exercise.  Don’t take a holiday from your health. Exercise is usually the first thing people won’t make time for. You owe it to make time for yourself. You probably want to spend the day with family and football games and the excessive amount of sitting that occurs with it so make your exercise time count. Be sure to eat a complete breakfast and make time for lunch. Even a light lunch is better than “saving up room.” Always remember to slow down when eating too. When hungry, we often eat faster and dish out larger portions. By eating fast, more food is consumed before the brain registers the stomach’s fullness. Also, alcohol absorbs more quickly into the bloodstream on an empty stomach so drink responsibly.

Choose Wisely

Know everything being offered before you serve yourself. Then, prioritize your favorites as a few splurge choices. You may prefer dark over white meat, yet decide on leaner white slices so you can save a splurge for something that matters more. Serve yourself with a table spoon instead of a serving spoon or ladle. This lets you sample the variety without overeating. Go for the healthiest options first– veggies, garden salads, and lean meats. There will be less room to pile on the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and creamy casseroles. Satisfying your hunger throughout the day prevents gorging on appetizers and pre-meal bread. Leftovers are permissible so stock up on plastic containers to share the wealth of leftovers. Everyone can enjoy a little slice of Thanksgiving in the days that follow. And, no one person is stuck with the burden of a week’s worth of overeating the same foods. 

Get Moving

Many use turkey as an excuse to laze around post-feast. Experts acknowledge turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, popularly cited as a kind of dietary sedative. However, it is not likely the cause of Thanksgiving Day fatigue. Tryptophan‘s sleep effect only occurs on an empty stomach when eaten with no other protein sources. This same amino acid is found in other common foods, like eggs, yet no one claims they have a sedative effect. Perhaps the popular association between turkey and fatigue is a placebo effect. More likely, Thanksgiving fatigue is the outcome of overeating and that extra cocktail. A full stomach requires blood for digestion, which reduces blood flow elsewhere. Big meals, especially those high in carbs and sugar, naturally trigger sleepiness from the effort required to digest.

Seize the Quality Time

Holiday stress, particularly this year, induces fatigue. Instead of sleeping off the effects of food and family, take a walk. Get fresh air and perhaps a fresh perspective on the day, a tense situation, or the meaning of life. An invigorating walk burns off calories and allows time outside the confines of what is likely an over-crowded house. Practice mindfulness so your senses truly come alive this holiday season. Indulge in the moment, notice each breath, and savor every delicious bite.

Wishing all of you a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

Note: See you all again on December 8th for another year of the 12 Days of Fitness

5 Ways to Stop Overeating

Overeating is easy to do, especially during this time of being recommended to stay home. It’s also easy because there are many factors that cause us to overeat, including stress and noshing too fast—both of which we likely experience or do on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, there are many tactics you can use to stop overeating once and for all, from slowing down to learning your body’s hunger cues. Use these tips and strategies to get your eating on track so you can feel fueled and satiated instead of full and frustrated and not putting on what has come to be known as the Covid-15.

Plan Ahead

This is a great tactic even when life is “normal”. Out of sight, out of mind, meaning if it’s not in the house in the first place the chance of eating it is lower. If you’re surrounded by unhealthy food all the time, it can be easy to eat all day long, whether or not you are hungry. Here’s one way to avoid this temptation: Think about how you’ll feel after you eat too much—like those times when you know you’re full, but there’s still food on your plate. A similarly powerful tactic is thinking about how you’ll feel if you don’t eat the food. In almost every case you feel proud, happy and more satisfied than if you’d indulged unnecessarily. Strategy: Before you grab that muffin in your kitchen—especially if you’ve already had a full breakfast—think to yourself: How will I feel when I finish this? Better yet: How will I feel if I walk away right now? Make this a habit, doing it every time you reach for an unnecessary snack; sometimes you’ll want to indulge and that’s okay. But you may find that you say “no” a lot more often than you say “yes.”

Eat Slower

It takes time for your stomach to tell your mind that you’re full because the process of feeling satiated takes time. The stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water. These signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem. This process of sending signals from your gut to your brain can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes, which is why it’s important to eat more slowly. Eating too fast is a surefire way to overeat because we get this cue well after we’ve already eaten too much.  Strategy: The next time you eat, set a timer for 20 minutes and see how long it takes you to feel full, paying close attention to the cues your body is sending you. This will give you an approximation of how long it takes your body to feel full, which you can use to stop overeating in the future. Continue eating slowly until you notice that “I’m full” feeling. 

Eat Mindfully

In our on-the-go world, we’re often eating breakfast in the car, rushing through lunch at our desk, and half-heartedly chowing down on dinner while watching our favorites shows. In all of these situations, your focus isn’t on the food you’re eating. It’s on driving, working or watching television, which can lead to overeating. When you’re not paying attention to your body, it’s easy to miss the “I’m hungry” cue—just like when you eat too fast. Strategy: Make a rule to eat at least one meal a day without doing anything else. Notice the difference in recognizing your satiation (feeling full) cues and how satisfied you are. Slowly increase this to two meals each day and eventually to all three.

Give Yourself Time

How many times have you looked down at your plate, knowing that you’re full, and finished it anyway? When you’re done, you feel full and mad at yourself: “Why did I eat the rest of that? I didn’t need it and now I feel like crap”. It’s hard to resist food in the moment, thanks to our need for instant gratification. But giving yourself time to decide whether or not to finish the plate may be exactly what you need. Strategy:  The next time you’re in a moment where you would normally eat more, but know you shouldn’t, stop for 10 minutes. Give yourself time to decide if you want to eat the rest of the food on your plate. Almost every time, you’ll be happy to toss or save the rest of the food when your 10 minutes is up.

Pay Attention to All Your Hunger Cues

If you’re waiting for your stomach to growl, you may be setting yourself up to overeat, because we don’t all experience the same hunger cues. Sometimes it shows up as a headache or a bad mood that comes on suddenly. Knowing how hunger can show up in your body is key to recognizing it before it’s too late and you’re starving. Other potential hunger signals include:

  • Growling stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Low energy
  • Suddenly irritable (“hangry”)

Strategy: Make note of which hunger cues you experience each time you eat. Slowly you’ll discover what means “I’m hungry” for your body, allowing you to eat right away rather than waiting until later, when you’re ravenous, and therefore more likely to overeat.

Overeating, just like overtraining, is a behavioral choice, knowingly or unknowingly. By creating awareness and developing a strategy that is unique to you, meaning you find what works best for you, and implement it is the key to your success. These are just some of the more sensible strategies you can try, but in the end, you’re just looking to create a lifelong habit.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

What Does it Mean to “Eat Right”?

Eat right and exercise – the generic plan for most who embark on the journey to getting better, healthier. At the turn of the New Year, it was the promise or resolution made by many. Now at almost half way through only the second month of the year, did they ever clearly know what it meant? Exercise is easy, right? Join a gym or a program, start running, or use the exercise equipment received over the holidays. But eat right right? What does that even mean?

Misinformation

Eating right has got to mean eating more fruits and vegetables and I think most would agree. No one has gained weight from overeating vegetables or fruit. But wait! I thought fruit was dangerous from the sugar. Hold on. Proof number one of the dietary myths that permeate the landscape. Fruit in and of itself is nature’s candy sweetened by a substance known as fructose. However, in the presence of the fiber and water that accompanies fruit that is consumed should offset the “fear” of eating fruit for its sugar content. Fruit juice on the other hand is simply sugar flavored water, no where near the same thing. While most would agree consuming more fruits and vegetables is a good start, I would question where or how they actually increase consumption of the two. Potatoes are not a vegetable. They are a starch. Corn is the same thing. A starch is defined as a type of carbohydrate, or more specifically a complex carbohydrate, since it is made up of long chains of sugar molecules. Other sources are peas, beans, pasta, rice and grains. No vegetables here. What about the dangers of carbohydrates? Proof number two of bad dietary myths. Carbohydrate is an essential macronutrient to our living, functioning bodies. A small, small percentage of the population has to control and monitor their carbohydrate consumption due to its effects on their blood sugar. For most of us, carbohydrate presents no reason to avoid it like the plague. Its gross popularity has grown from the simple fact that we consume way too much food in general, not just carbohydrate. Carbohydrate gets its undeserved reputation because it’s in more than 70% of all food consumed. Eliminate or drastically drop how much carbohydrate you consume and of course changes are going to occur. You do the math! What about meats and proteins? Everything from grass-fed, to antibiotic, cage free, wild caught, sustainable, etc. has created a big furor of, “What the hell am I supposed to eat?”. These terms are only meant to describe how the animal is treated and/or harvested. Says nothing about a protein being good or bad. Protein is another important macronutrient to the body and vitally important because our bodies don’t manufacture protein on its own, a component to all living tissues and cells.So my question again is, do people really know what it means to eat right?

A General Consensus

Most of us will eat the way we were raised; what we learned from our parents. Food science has changed a little bit, but not that much. Fat, protein, and carbohydrate are essentially the same thing we knew them to be over 100 years ago. We have a better understanding of how we react to certain macronutrients but in small percentages, not the vast population that marketers and the pseudoscience would have you believe. Nutrition is a very individual concept. What works for others may or may not work for you. As frustrating as that may seem, you have to go with what works for you and no one or no diet may have the answer for you. Not overeating is a great start and if you think you don’t overeat, I would suggest examining closer just how much you consume. Quantity and quality of food are very different. Cut down on the amount of everything you consume and instead focus on quality of the food you consume (less processed, less dining out, etc.) and you’ll be on a better way to eating right.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 10 – The 11 Most Common Weight-Loss Blunders

(This is part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Losing weight can be tricky business: When you’re insanely busy, it can be tough to focus on your goals in a healthy, sustainable way, let alone work towards them at all. It’s easy to fall into pitfalls, but hey, knowledge is power—when you know the traps you’re most likely to fall into, it’s easier to steer clear.

  1. Focusing on what you CAN’T eat. So many people embarking on a weight loss journey focus on what they can’t have – no sugar, no alcohol, no dessert, no bread, no cheese. Shift your focus instead on what you can have and make a list of all the filling and nutritious super foods out there.
  2. Adopting an all-or-nothing attitude. Don’t eliminate foods you love. Too many people who are trying to lose weight develop the all-or-nothing attitude. This way of thinking can be detrimental in the long run. Instead of depriving yourself of foods you love, learn how to incorporate them into your diet in a healthier way. For example, love pasta? Instead of adding a creamy high fat sauce, add lots of veggies, grilled shrimp, and toss in olive oil and garlic. Can’t live without bread? Well, you shouldn’t have to. Make a healthy sandwich for lunch on 100 percent whole grain bread with grilled chicken, avocado, lettuce, and tomato.
  3. Not having a solid plan. Not having a solid, realistic plan is a mistake. People should set themselves up for success by coming up with small, challenging yet attainable action steps to work towards. Start off with a few actionable and specific goals for the first week. Once you master those, keep adding on. Before you know it, those action steps will become lifelong healthy habits.
  4. Cutting out an entire food group. When you are trying to lose weight and you cut out an entire food group, like carbs or meat, this usually just results in an unbalanced diet and even deficiencies in certain nutrients. Plus, for most people, this is not sustainable for a lifetime. Words of advice – if you couldn’t do it for the rest of your life, it’s a diet that’s probably not going to work in the long run.
  5. Replacing meals with liquids. Green juices and smoothies are very popular, and a lot of people will use these as meal replacements. Unfortunately, oftentimes these beverages aren’t made up of the right mix of nutrients. Green juices lack fiber and protein, which are key nutrients in keeping you full and helping you meet your nutrient recommendations, and smoothies are typically loaded in sugar from juice, sweeteners, or too much fruit, and can be really high in calories from over-sized portions of healthy fat sources like nuts and seeds.
  6. Eating too few calories. One of the biggest pitfalls I see constantly is people falling into the calorie counting trap. Sounds counter intuitive but trust me – you need to eat! We live in a culture that is so obsessed with calorie counting that oftentimes we are depriving our body of the very nutrients that will actually help us not only to live healthier, but lose more weight. What you eat is just as important as how much you eat.
  7. Steering clear of healthy fats. Unfortunately too many people still fear fat and are stuck eating low-fat or fat-free versions of food, a holdover from the fat-phobic days of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. A moderate amount of fat is important as it helps with satiety. Plus, people end up replacing fat with refined carbs, which we now know can have a detrimental effect on health and weight. Include healthy fat at every meal, in the form of nuts, seeds, liquid oils, avocados, oily fish, soy, and dairy products.
  8. Ditching fruits and veggies with high sugar content. Cutting out certain fruits and vegetables because you think they contain too much sugar is just ridiculous. Sure, some do contain a bit higher amount of naturally occurring sugars, but they also contain fiber, which helps counterbalance the effect on blood sugars. Compared to highly processed snacks and drinks, there is nothing to be worried about.
  9. Relying on weight loss pills and supplements. The bottom line here is if there was a pill or a potion that really worked in the long term, then not one of us would be talking about weight management at all! The weight loss industry is so successful because we are so desperate to find a quick fix. The only long-term effective weight management skill is to change the way you think about fueling your body. We need to think of food as fuel for daily living and to fuel it the best way we can. The rest takes care of itself.
  10. Taking the weekends off from healthy eating. You should take the weekends off from your job, not your diet. Sure, you can still have fun and go out to eat on the weekends, but make an effort not to stuff yourself to the brim with food or drinks. Simply eating mindfully when you are enjoying good food can be enough to not wreck your hard work during the week. If the weekends are a problem for you, consider weighing yourself Friday mornings and Monday mornings. If you see that number routinely creeping up on Monday, try changing your weekend routine to include more exercise and healthier food choices.
  11. Not drinking enough water. A lot of people simply don’t drink enough water. Changing this habit is one of the easiest ways to help your health. Studies show that drinking water or eating a water-rich salad or broth-based soup before a meal can help decrease how much you eat during the meal—plus, staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, which can lead to stress eating. Figure out how you prefer to get your water: Do you like a bottle with a straw or a wide-mouthed top? Whatever your preference, keep a water container at your side as often as you can. You’ll reach for it a lot more if you don’t have to get up to fill a glass.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

See you Monday for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full
Day #6The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing
Day #7 – The First 5 Things Nutritionists Will Tell You To Cut From Your Diet
Day #8 – Dispelling 5 Common Training Lies
Day #9 – Fitness is a Choice and Mindset

 

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 7 – The First 5 Things Nutritionists Will Tell You To Cut From Your Diet

(This is part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

We can all agree that restrictive diets are a total drag. Plus, they’ve been proven to be detrimental to our health in the long run. For our sanity, it’s important to enjoy what we eat, and registered dietitians insist that most foods are fine in moderation. That said, “there are some foods that provide minimal nutritional benefits that we should limit or avoid,” says Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics. So how can you begin phasing them out? Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that it’s a gradual process: Start by eating that food less often, then cut down the portion size when you do eat it. Finally, sub in a healthier option. The bottom line is that healthy eating is about being mindful and aware of what you’re consuming. Here are the 5 foods registered dietitians say you should totally nix from your diet.

  • Sugary Beverages “Beverages with added sugar are one of the easiest things we can cut from our diets,” says Ginn-Meadow. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. To give some perspective, one 20 oz. lemon-lime soda has a whopping 77 grams of sugar—more than triple the recommended daily amount. Sheth adds that fancy coffee drinks can also be total sugar bombs that add up quickly. Before you know it, you may consume 400-900 calories and 10-15 teaspoons of sugar from that white chocolate mocha.
  • Sweetened Cereals According to Sheth, sweet cereals and flavored instant oatmeal are packed with added sugars and typically made from refined grains, which contain minimal fiber. Instead, enjoy whole grain cereal or old-fashioned oats with fresh fruit.
  • Processed Meats You may want to think twice about bringing home that bacon. According to a 2010 Harvard University study, processed meats including bacon, ham, and hot dogs have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease by 42% and the risk of diabetes by 19%. Additionally, research has linked sodium nitrate—a preservative found in these foods—to cancer.
  • Ingredients You Can’t Pronounce No idea what that ingredient list says? “Put it back on the shelf,” says Ginn-Meadow. And especially be on the lookout for artificial coloring and added preservatives, which don’t add any nutritional value. Plus, research has shown that some food dyes are toxic, which ups the risk of various health concerns. Best to steer clear.
  • Trans Fat “Trans fat increases your overall cholesterol, lowers your ‘good cholesterol,’ and raises your ‘bad cholesterol,'” says Ginn-Meadow. In short, according to research by McMaster University, trans fat has been linked to a greater risk of “early death and heart disease.” Foods that contain trans fat include shortening, prepackaged biscuits, store-bought pie crusts and cookies, and packaged frozen meals.

Sounds like common sense, right?

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full
Day #6The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 6 – The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing

(This is part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Here’s how you know a good doctor: A good doctor is one who asks a lot of questions and then listens to the answers the patient provides. A good doctor doesn’t make a recommendation or prescription before knowing the patient inside and out. A good doctor doesn’t have a one-size-fits -all solution for what ails the patient. Doctors take a Hippocratic oath when they become physicians. They swear to practice medical honesty. They swear to keep their patients from “harm and injustice.” The same should hold true in the world of fitness and wellness. Unfortunately, I can say that does not.

It’s All a Big Fat Lie

I’ve been in fitness for a long time now and have seen many trends come and go but none as prevalent as many of the multi-level marketing products sold. Not a day goes by when I hear or worse see fellow fitness “professionals” hocking something that claims to add beauty, fitness benefits, weight loss, and a cure for obesity. We all know deep down these claims are false, irresponsible, and self-serving. We want to believe though, both those who sell and those who buy. We want to believe because we will do almost anything to avoid being uncomfortable and face hard truths. That is why people who sell multi-level marketing products talk a lot more than those who are their customers. If they talk and dance fast enough perhaps they can convince you otherwise of what you already know deep down is a lie – that you can have your cake (or diet cheese puffs) and eat it too, or that you can enjoy that brownie-flavored energy bar and it will help you get and stay thin. You want so desperately to have the body you’ve always wanted and to find something that tastes as good as the food you’re addicted to. Unfortunately for you, there are plenty of people who are happy to sell you that bill of goods and with good reason – there’s potential for plenty of money in it for them. It’s profitable to give customers what they want and tell them things they like to hear. Unfortunately, in fields like medicine, fitness, and wellness, doing so is also often an injustice. We all know the truth about diets of all kinds. They only work in the short term. Period.

The Truth

You know what solves the obesity epidemic? Telling people the truth. Telling people they need to face why they are addicted to processed and toxic food or asking them to face why it is they don’t want to get uncomfortable with rigorous daily exercise. Again, telling people this truth is often not profitable or sexy. It is much more profitable to tell people what they want to hear, which is that there is a fun and easy way to do exercise, and that there is a version of packaged food that is good for you. If you look at the definition of dietary supplement you’ll notice that these supplements are “not considered food.” The same goes for the diet products our country consumes en masse. The fact is we are addicted to toxic and processed food, much of which isn’t even food in the first place. Many of the foods we eat are derivatives of food mixed with chemicals we cannot pronounce, and they come to us in boxes that have shelf lives of months. Selling people products, potions, pills, and powders based on shoddy science or popular belief is downright laughable to me.

The Reality

The reality is food doesn’t have a shelf life. As Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, don’t buy anything that is sold at a gas station. Yet another hard truth is that when you switch to eating real food it probably won’t taste as good to you either, at least initially. But understand that we need less stuff from a box or a pill – a lot less. That is the truth we need to be spreading. Obesity and the correlated health issues such as diabetes are continuing to skyrocket out of control. Clearly the rapid and robust growth of the supplement industry and multi-level marketing have solved nothing except make those who sell these goods richer. Money – this is the cause of the multi-level marketing craze in the fitness industry – greed, and specifically greed in response to coming from a position of lack or want. Remember when your parents used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Couldn’t be any more succinct than that.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 5 – 9 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full

(This is part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Let’s face it—there’s no single, magical way to lose weight. Everyone’s body is different, which means everyone’s optimal diet is also different. But essentially, losing weight comes down to three main factors: exercise, food, and mindset. That last one can be the most challenging to conquer. Our brains, more often than not, get in the way of our weight loss goals, and make us think we’re hungry when in reality we’re just bored, tired, dehydrated, or something else. But your brain doesn’t have to be a diet saboteur. In fact, there are plenty of ways to manipulate yourself into achieving your weight-loss goals. Here’s a list of some proven ways to eat less, painlessly.

  • Keep a healthy snack on hand. Fast food or something from a vending machine may call your name when hunger strikes on the go. But if you keep a healthy snack like an apple in your bag or glove compartment, you won’t have to sacrifice your diet to silence a grumbling stomach.
  • Keep a journal. Would you still eat that chocolate muffin if you had to log it in a food diary? Research says maybe not. A Kaiser Permanente study found people who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight over the course of six months than those who didn’t record their meals. Researchers believe writing down what you eat makes you more aware of food choices, and therefore encourages cutting the calories you’d otherwise sneak in.
  • Just keep chewing. If you like to chew gum, it may help you keep off the pounds. One study discovered that women who chewed gum for 45 minutes after they ate lunch ended up keeping snack cravings at bay later in the day.
  • Curb hunger with coffee.You may think you’re just drinking your daily cup of joe for a morning pick-me-up, but in reality, it’s doing more than just giving you a caffeine boost. Drinking coffee can actually boost your calorie burn by 12%, according to findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Plus, it’s a natural appetite suppressant. But be wary of adding sugar and cream, since too many extras will kill your coffee perks.
  • Count your bites. Counting calories can help you slim down, but it can also be time-consuming and/or frustrating to jot down every bite. Try counting your bites instead, which a recent study found actually works. Study participants lost an average of 3.4 pounds over the course of a month by reducing their daily bites by 20 to 30%.
  • Serve yourself directly from the pot. Rather than leaving serving dishes at the table where you can easily dip in for seconds, leave them in the kitchen—otherwise overeating is simply too convenient to resist. If you have to physically get up and walk to the kitchen for another helping, you’re less likely to do so.
  • Start out with a smaller portion. If food is on your plate, you’ll probably end up eating every last morsel, according to a Cornell Food and Brand Lab study. But these findings don’t mean your diet goals are hopeless—in fact, this knowledge can help you outsmart your own appetite. The solution is simple: serve yourself less food. Then go back for more if you’re still hungry.
  • Slow down. Scarfing down your dinner doesn’t give your brain enough time to register that your belly is actually stuffed. Let your body realize you’ve feasted sufficiently by slowing the pace. You’ll end up eating less food and feeling more satisfied.
  • Go for the H2O. One of the best ways to trick your body into feeling full costs you nothing: just turn on your tap and fill a cup. Drinking an entire glass of water before every meal fills your belly, so you’ll likely end up eating less than you otherwise would have. During your meal, taking sips in between bites will help slow your pace and eat less overall. What’s more, staying hydrated boosts your metabolism—making water better than any “diet” beverage out there.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you Monday for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

In a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of Americans (76 percent) said they had had their cholesterol level checked at least once in the previous five years. Despite the commonality of the cholesterol test, many are seriously misled about what the results of the test mean. Many people aren’t even receiving a useful cholesterol test at all. A total cholesterol test, for instance, tells you practically nothing about your health. What you really need to know is how much high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) you have and, beyond that, the size of the LDL particles.

Get Educated

If you’re confused, it’s not your fault. Cholesterol has been a highly publicized scapegoat for causing heart disease for decades, and many have diligently cut all cholesterol-rich foods, which also tend to be nutrient-rich foods, from their diets as a result. Others have opted to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at the recommendation of their physicians. More than 1 in 4 Americans over 45 take them, despite their lengthy list of side effects and dubious effectiveness. But the real question is this: do you really need to be worried about cholesterol? Is it the villain that’s it’s portrayed to be, silently clogging up your arteries and putting you at a dangerously high risk of heart attack, one cholesterol-laden egg yolk at a time? The answer is, for most people, no. So let’s put some of the most widely circulated cholesterol myths to bed once and for all.

Top Cholesterol Myths Busted

Myth#1: Cholesterol Is Bad Cholesterol is not inherently bad. If it were, your liver wouldn’t produce it (btw, your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body’s cholesterol). It’s rather important. Many of the healthiest foods happen to be rich in cholesterol (and saturated fats), yet cholesterol has been demonized since the early 1950s following the popularization of Ancel Keys’ flawed research. In reality, cholesterol has many health benefits. It plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling and may also regulate other cellular processes. It’s already known that cholesterol plays a critical role within your cell membranes, but research suggests cholesterol also interacts with proteins inside your cells, adding even more importance. Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to interact with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow for these interactions to take place. It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.

Myth#2: High Cholesterol Is Caused by What You Eat. This is simply untrue. The biggest factor in cholesterol is not diet but genetics or heredity. Your liver is designed to remove excess cholesterol from your body, but genetics play a large part in your liver’s ability to regulate cholesterol to a healthy level. Eating nutritious cholesterol-rich foods is not something you should feel guilty about; they’re good for you and will not drive up your cholesterol levels as you may have been told. It’s estimated that only 20 percent of your blood cholesterol levels come from your diet. If you’re still worried about the cholesterol in your diet, take a look at the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. As recently as 2010, U.S. dietary guidelines described cholesterol-rich foods as “foods and food components to reduce.” They advised people to eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day, despite mounting evidence that dietary cholesterol has very little to do with cholesterol levels in your body.The latest guidelines have finally removed this misguided suggestion, and they even added egg yolks to the list of suggested sources of protein.The long-overdue change came at the advice of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which acknowledged what the science shows, which is that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Myth#3: Everyone’s Cholesterol Level Should Be the Same What is a healthy cholesterol level? That depends. Despite what your doctor may tell you, there’s no rule that says everyone’s total cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and your LDL less than 100 mg/dL. Further, this will tell you very little about your heart disease risk. If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is important—especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors. For starters, you can ask for a NMR LipoProfile, which looks at particle sizes of LDL cholesterol. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.

Myth#4: Children Cannot Have High Cholesterol It’s possible for children to have high cholesterol levels, which is typically due to a liver problem that makes the liver unable to remove excess cholesterol from the body. Lifestyle changes, including exercise, limiting sugar intake and eating real (not processed) foods, will often help to restore healthy levels.

Myth#5: Margarine Is Better Than Butter for Cholesterol Butter, especially raw organic butter from grass-fed cows, is a wealth of nutrition and nourishing fats. Research points to the fact that butter may have both short-term and long-term benefits for your health. Further, replacing saturated animal fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable fats (i.e., margarine) is linked to an increased risk of death among patients with heart disease, according to a 2013 BMJ study. Swapping margarine for healthy butter is the opposite of what your body needs for heart health, and here’s why. Saturated fats have been shown to raise HDL cholesterol—a benefit—and may also increase LDL. The latter isn’t necessarily bad either, as research has confirmed that eating saturated fats raises levels of large, fluffy LDL particles—the type that do not contribute to heart disease. Further, eating saturated fat may even change the small, dense LDL in your body into the healthier large, fluffy LDL! On the other hand, margarine has historically contained synthetic trans fat, the worst type of man-made fat that increases small, dense LDL—and your risk of chronic disease.

The Anti-Drug Method

Looking for a non-drug way to boost your heart health? Here are some of my top recommendations:

  • Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate gluten-containing grains and sugars, especially fructose.
  • Consume a good portion of your food raw.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Research suggests that as little as 500 mg of krill per day may improve your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.
  • Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter, avocado, pastured eggs and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only, use coconut oil for cooking and baking).
  • Include fermented foods in your daily diet. This will not only optimize your intestinal microflora, which will boost your overall immunity, it will also introduce beneficial bacteria into your mouth. Poor oral health is another powerful indicator of increased heart disease risk.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate—another factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque.
  • Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
  • Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
  • Practice regular stress-management techniques.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day#16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Calories Do Count

Calories count and if you think they don’t let me explain something. You simply don’t comprehend one of the basic physical laws of life, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics. It states that energy can neither be created or destroyed but merely transferred or changed from one form to another. In regards to calories, they represent the energy or heat contained in a food item. When we ingest the calories (energy) it becomes a part of us in some form. We have lots to discuss.

Good vs. Bad

There’s no such thing as good calories or bad calories. Calories are a unit of measure; a calorie is a calorie. Take for example the distance of a mile. You can walk/run a mile, swim a mile, or bike a mile. One might be easier than another but that doesn’t change the distance. It’s still a mile. A food changes based on its nutrient composition and that can impact how much it will fill you up or how helpful it might be for your long term success for fat loss. A calorie is simply the amount of energy a food item contains. What changes is the nutrient composition.

Important Numbers to Know

Your metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life) is a collection of numerous processes, not one single number. Here’s what goes into determining your metabolism.

Resting or Basal Metabolic Rate (RMR/BMR) – RMR/BMR is the number of calories you burn each day at rest, just to breathe, think, and live. This represents roughly 60 percent of your ‘energy out’ and depends on weight, body composition, sex, age, genetic predisposition, and possibly the bacterial population of your gut. In general, men and larger individuals will have higher RMR/BMR rates.

Thermic Effect of Eating (TEE) – TEE is the number of calories you burn by eating, digesting, and processing your food. (Yes, this requires energy.) This represents roughly 5-10 percent of your ‘energy out’. HINT: You’ll burn more calories digesting minimally processed whole foods compared to highly processed foods.

Daily Caloric Expenditure (DCE) – DCE is the calories you burn from purposeful exercise, such as walking, running, going to the gym, gardening, riding a bike, etc.
Obviously, how much energy you expend through DCE will change depending on how much you intentionally move around.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – NEAT is the calories you burn through fidgeting, staying upright, and all other physical activities except purposeful exercise. This, too, varies from person to person and day to day.

Energy In vs. Energy Out

This relationship between ‘energy in’ and ‘energy out’ is known as the Energy Balance Equation, and it’s the most commonly accepted model for calculating a person’s energy balance and how much weight they’ll lose or gain over time. In theory: If you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight. If you do the opposite (i.e. eat more energy than you expend), you should gain weight. This equation at times can really frustrate people.The mismatch between expectations versus reality is not because the Energy Balance Equation is wrong, or a myth. Nobody’s body defies the laws of physics. It’s because the equation is more complicated than it sounds. For one, it is influenced by things like sex hormone levels, macronutrient intake (especially protein), exercise style / frequency / intensity, age, medication use, genetic predisposition, and more. “Eat less, move more” is a good start but that advice alone isn’t enough. Here are some of the reasons why

• The number of calories in a meal likely doesn’t match the number of calories on the labels or menu. Food labels can be off by as much as 20-25 percent.
• The amount of energy a food contains in the form of calories is not necessarily the amount of energy we absorb, store, and/or use. The food we eat has to be digested and processed by our unique bodies. The innumerable steps involved in digestion, processing, absorption, storage, and use — as well as our own individual physiological makeup — can all change the energy balance game.
• We may absorb more or less energy depending on the types of bacteria in our gut. Some people have larger populations of a Bacteroidetes (a species of bacteria), which are better at extracting calories from tough plant cell walls than other bacteria species.

Energy out varies a lot from person to person too. Energy out, energy burned through daily metabolism and moving you around, is a dynamic, always-changing variable. Our human metabolisms evolved to keep us alive and functioning when food was scarce. When energy in (degreased caloric intake) goes down, energy out goes down to match it. (I.e. We burn fewer calories in response to eating less). That’s how our bodies avoid unwanted weight loss and starvation. It’s how humans have survived for 2 million years. Therefore, trying “what used to work” for you, or relying on calorie counting, often won’t get you the results you want. As your energy balance evolves, so must your strategies for losing fat or maintaining your weight. Understanding energy balance means setting better expectations about body change.

What About Dieting?

Losing weight doesn’t “damage” your metabolism but because of the adaptations your body undergoes in response to fat loss (to prevent that fat loss, in fact), energy out for those who have lost significant weight will always be lower than for people who were always lean. Losing weight, and keeping it off, is accompanied by adaptive metabolic, neuroendocrine, autonomic, and other changes.These changes mean that we expend less energy — around 5-10 percent less (or up to 15 percent less at extreme levels) than what would be predicted based on just weighing less and can last for up to 7 years! THIS IS WHY DIETING DOES NOT WORK LONGTERM!!! Nothing really has been “damaged” but the body has adapted to the stresses put on it.

Real Strategies for Real Success

The physiology of weight loss is complicated, but the best strategies for losing fat and keeping it off don’t have to be.

1. Eat plenty of protein. Protein is essential when trying to losing weight / fat. Protein helps you keep that all-important lean body mass (which includes connective tissues, organs, and bone as well as muscle). Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller despite eating less. Just by eating more protein you burn more calories, because of the increased thermic effect of eating.
2. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, quality carbs, and healthy fats. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water, and fiber to help you fill up during meals, stay full between meals, keep you healthy, and recover from your workouts.The carbs will fuel training, boost leptin (a super important hormone), keep up sex hormones, and prevent feelings of deprivation. And the fats also keep up sex hormones, boost the immune system, suppress excess inflammation, and make food taste really good.
3. Adjust your intake as you plateau, or to prevent plateaus. As your weight loss progresses, you will need to lower your calorie intake further to continue to progress, as your smaller body will burn fewer calories, and your body is adapting to your diet. Be ready, willing, and able to adjust portion amounts.
4. Understand that this is complex. So many things influence what, why, and when we choose to eat. Too often, eating and body size / fatness are blamed on lack of knowledge, lack of willpower/discipline, or laziness. In reality, food intake and body composition are governed by a mix of physiological, biological, psychological, social, economical, and lifestyle influences, along with individual knowledge or beliefs. One of the simplest ways to make your decision processes easier is to create an environment that encourages good food choices and discourages poor ones.
5. Do a mixture of resistance, cardiovascular, and recovery activity. Resistance training helps you maintain vital muscle mass, burn calories, and improve glucose tolerance. Cardiovascular exercise improves the health of your cardiovascular system, helps you expend energy, and can improve recovery. Recovery work (e.g. foam rolling, walking, yoga) helps  you maintain consistency and intensity with resistance and cardio training, making them more effective.
6. Find ways to increase NEAT. Even small increases in activity can account for hundreds of daily calories, and therefore make a big difference in fat loss efforts.
Some ideas: Get a stand-up desk or a treadmill desk; fidget; pace while on the phone; take the stairs; park your car farther away from where you’re going, etc.
7. Develop a solid nightly sleep routine and manage your stress. Sleep is just as important to your success as nutrition and activity levels. Don’t pretend that you can get by with less. It simply isn’t true.
8. Have some self-compassion. There are going to be meals or days where you don’t eat as you “should”. It’s OK. It happens to everyone. Recognize it, accept it, forgive yourself, and then get back on track.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Food and Guilt

Here’s a scenario. You’ve done well eating all day and when you finally get a moment to sit down all you can think about are the cookies you have sitting on the counter. The justification begins. “Well, I’ve been doing well all day so eating just two cookies wouldn’t be a bad thing. I think I’ve earned them.” So you eat them and with that comes the tremendous shame and guilt you put on yourself. “Why did I do that? I’m such a fool! I just ruined my entire day!” You suffer from what is better known as emotional eating. That pang of guilt after eating something unhealthy was something that many battle with and say that it’s their “root” of all evil.

Where/When Did This All Start?

Think back to when you were really young and you were praised for eating. Eating to get big and strong was a good thing. But at the same time, if you ate a cookie before dinner, we were told no and made to feel guilty. Then, as you got older there came a lot of pressure. You shouldn’t eat too much, otherwise you would put on weight. That was the message that was coming from friends, family and many other negative influences. The mindset shifted from being “good” because you had finished all the food that had been given to you, to being “bad” because you had eaten everything. Being “good” now meant restricting what we were eating and not enjoying food as much as we once did. That has lead to a lot of confusion well into adulthood and a lot of guilt has come with it. We know so much more about our nutrition now which is definitely a good thing, but along with that does come more guilt if we let it. Eating is no longer just a pleasurable act; it is loaded with guilt, fear and shame. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Good vs. Bad

Understanding that putting labels on food as either “good” or “bad” is where it all begins. There are no such things and is indicative of having an unhealthy relationship with food. By labeling foods as such gives food the power when in reality you possess the power. If you eat the cookies and feel guilty about it, guess what? Nothing is going to take it back and worrying obsessively about it is not going to change that you ate it. It is just going to escalate the problem. The guilt felt usually makes you feel so much worse than if you just say to yourself, “Been there, done it, move on.” It’s an all or nothing mentality and that attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere. By eating the cookies does not mean you have ruined everything and it doesn’t automatically erase how well you have been eating before. Weight gain comes from consistently eating more than you are burning – not doing it once a while. So skip the guilt! There are no “good” or “bad” foods, there are just consistent habits.

Moderation is King

We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a “perfect” diet, comparing ourselves to how “good” people are eating and how “bad” we have been ourselves. All that this pressure and guilt actually does is take the pleasure out of eating, because it certainly doesn’t change what you have eaten. There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet so stop right there. The only diet you ever need to be concerned with is the one that works for YOU, not your neighbor or next celebrity endorsement. Once you can begin to grasp that concept there is nothing to ever feel guilty about. EVER! It goes without saying, moderation of all things will forever be the best advice you could ever receive. You can learn from your eating habits and learn to make better ones without beating yourself up about it constantly.

Steps for Success

  • Identify Triggers. Triggers can sneak up on you without you knowing. Whether it be a certain food item or a certain someone that pressures you to indulge. Do you eat when you are stressed? Do you eat when you are depressed? Do you sneak food to eat alone in secret? Identifying what causes the trigger is the first step to solving the problem. Remind yourself so you can be on the lookout when it happens. Go easy on yourself, and remember overcoming emotional eating is all about progress, not perfection.
  • Make Time for Yourself. Find a place to channel your feelings and learn how to cope, whether it be a workou or a hobby.When you feel an urge coming on, channel the energy into your outlet. Instead of focusing on the food, remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk. Call a friend.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The easiest one of all. Don’t bring it into your house! If the food item isn’t present, there’s a really good chance there’s nothing to feel guilty about. But if you find yourself getting into your car to go out and grab something or leave your desk to hit the cafeteria remind yourself if the time was worth the value. Time can never be replaced but value in yourself can only improve.

Putting an end to emotional eating will take time and patience, so go easy on yourself. Apply these tips when you feel like you need a boost to overcome any urges to much, simply because of emotional circumstances.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.