Tag Archives: calories

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

Why Sleep Should Be Taken Seriously

As we continue in these days of uncertainty, we must strive to stay positive and find a silver lining. For me, I had the unusual opportunity to attend not one, but two online seminars just over a week ago. And the best part? They were free! Unfortunately, both had been set up to be live events but due to the current situation made good on their promise to deliver and went online instead. Now to most people, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when you consider most multi day conferences run anywhere from $300-$500, I call that a win. I wanted to share with you though the one conference that I know you would find the most valuable and interesting and that was the one on sleep and recovery.

Sleep Needs a Bigger Priority

One thing I’m sure most would agree on is that we need more sleep. Our lives have become this constant state of go and while most would complain about being tired or drained, the cycle seems to repeat endlessly. Have you ever noticed the amount of “energy” products that exist in the marketplace? While it appears to be highly unlikely to return to a time when we awoke at sunrise and were asleep by dark, we have to adapt or it can certainly kill us. Insufficient sleep is a public health concern.

Sleep Loss and Deprivation

There are many factors that contribute to insufficient or poor sleep, such as hormones and psychological factors, but the reality is with some focus and concentration on making sleep a priority, we have the ability to improve it. Lifestyle changes such as choosing to go to bed at the same time everyday, turning off all electronics 1 hour before going to bed, and either adopting a meditation or breathing regime can go a long way. You simply can’t afford to not improve your sleep and following are 10 reasons why.

What Poor Sleep is Costing You

  1. Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight. People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively.
  2. Poor sleepers tend to eat more calories. Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
  3. Poor sleep causes poor concentration and productivity. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
  4. Poor sleep can negatively affect athletic performance. Less sleep duration has been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation.
  5. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors.These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.
  6. Poor sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population.
  7. Poor sleep is linked to depression. Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.
  8. Poor sleep decreases your immune function. Not the best thing to hear during these times. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.
  9. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease.
  10. Poor sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Believe it or not, sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially. Kind of like the reason for being a moody monkey. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

The bottom line: along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

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

 

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.

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 11 – What Does It Mean to be Healthy?

(This is part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘healthy’? Some may visualize a lean person perhaps with ripped abs or shapely muscles. Others conjure up images of perceived healthy foods, like broccoli, chicken, Greek yogurt, nuts, and kale. Now, let me ask another question. What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘unhealthy’? Do you visualize someone unkept and overweight? I think most of you would come up with a list of food that contains some or all of the following: fast food, carbs, trans fats, processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, soda, etc. Regardless of what you pictured when you thought about each word, you are right… and wrong.

Understanding Context

I’m really not a fan of the terms healthy/unhealthy. More often than not they are used without proper context. Most times they are used as click-bait by editors in headlines to get you to read what they have to say. Instead I find it very important to understand not only what they mean, but also what they mean in the context in which they are used. The problem with words like ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ is that they are thrown around with little thought given to context or understanding. They are used to scare or force you into making decisions without fully thinking it through.

Healthy Does Not Equal Fat Loss

One of the most common diet approaches when it comes to fat loss is just ‘eating healthy’. And while this approach is undertaken with the best of intentions, it often sets the dieter up for failure, for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that most people can’t agree on what eating healthy really is! The problem with labeling foods as healthy vs. unhealthy is that it forces people to see them as either good or bad. And that can create a dangerous relationship with food. When you limit what you can eat while dieting, you greatly increase the chances that the diet will fail. The more severely we restrict our food choices the greater stress we place on ourselves, and the harder the fat loss process will be. Yes we should limit our consumption of certain foods but notice I said limit, not eliminate. There is room in everyone’s diet for a reasonable amount of ‘unhealthy’ foods, even when fat loss is the goal. The important thing is not classifying foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad’; but rather being able to identify which foods you should limit, which ones you should eat more often, and which foods will move you closer to your goals.

The Huge Scam

Another problem is the big ‘health food’ push by food companies. They know that people are becoming more conscious about what they are putting in their bodies, and are producing new products as a response. But trust me, they do not have your best interests at heart. Large food companies know that a vast majority of the population fall into the trap of ‘Eat healthy, lose weight’. And they take advantage of this. For almost every food item available, there is at least one (if not more) ‘healthy’ alternative. And most, not all, aren’t that much different than the ‘unhealthy’ version. They usually will contain about the same amount of calories, less fat or carbs, more sodium, more sugar or artificial sweeteners, and of course, cost more. These companies bank on the fact that a majority of people don’t read food labels or serving sizes, and that they will see the fancy packaging with the words ‘Healthy,’ ‘Low-fat,’ ‘Low-carb,’ ‘All-Natural,’ or some other meaningless marketing nonsense and purchase it because its quote ‘better’ for them. More often than not, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these foods. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing them if that’s what they want. But what I don’t want are people purchasing them because they think it will help with fat loss. Because then you are just wasting your money.

Context (and Calories) Are King

When classifying foods, context is king. What better context to classify things other than calories?  ‘Healthy’ food, just like ‘unhealthy’ food, has calories. Regardless of what type of food you are eating, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will not lose fat. 3,000 calories from chicken, brown rice, nuts and yogurt is the same to the body from an energy-in standpoint as 3,000 calories from pizza, beer, and ice cream. It’s still 3,000 calories. No one would probably consider those first food options unhealthy but if your goal is fat loss and you are eating so much of these foods that you are gaining weight, would that really be ‘healthy’? A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, at least from an energy-in/energy-out point of view. You cannot lose fat if you are not in a caloric deficit, no matter how ‘healthy’ you are eating. If you are only burning 2,000 calories a day, but are consuming 3,000 from one of the options above, you will not lose fat; no matter which foods you are eating.

Quantity AND Quality

The quality of your food does play a role in reaching your fat loss goals and eating the right quantity of food will allow you to lose fat. But in order to have a well rounded diet; one that is rich in vitamins and minerals, that will help your body function properly, help you recover from workouts, and leaves you satiated and satisfied, it will have to mostly be made up of ‘healthy’, high quality foods. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for ‘unhealthy’ foods either. If you are flexible with your diet, work these things into your day, or a free meal, you can enjoy the occasional treat or indulgence if that’s what you want. And if you don’t enjoy these foods, or they don’t agree with you, then stick with the higher quality foods. There’s nothing wrong with either approach as long as at the end of the day, you are moving closer towards your goals. It’s about finding the right combination of moderation and balance. In the wrong amount any food, regardless of how you classify it, can be detrimental to your fat loss efforts. So know that if you are looking to lose fat, or struggling with your current efforts, just ‘eating healthy’ probably isn’t enough.

See you tomorrow for Day 12 and the conclusion of the 12 Days of Fitness

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

 

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

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing
Day #10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance

5 Ways Your Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

It can be very disheartening and even more frustrating. You’ve spent a bunch of time committing to doing what you thought was the right thing yet your weight loss has stalled or worse reversed. You’ve dieted and exercised all to no avail to the point where you’re ready to quit…again! Is it really supposed to be this hard? The short answer is no and chances are you’re most likely guilty of a few or all of the following reasons you struggle with weight loss.

1. You Don’t Eat Enough. Sounds counterintuitive but weight loss only occurs when you burn more than you take in, correct? Not exactly. Yes, if weight loss is your goal you inherently do need to eat less but there’s a point where much less is a bigger problem. As sporadic or chronic energy (calorie) needs are not met, the metabolism decreases to spare energy. This is one of the major issues with dieting. With a decreasing metabolism comes an even more uphill battle to losing weight (burning calories). Just eating less for the sake of eating less can do more harm to the body than good. As a general rule of thumb, females should not consume less than 1200 calories and men 1500.

2. You Do Eat Too Much. No one ever wants to admit it but unless your tracking what you consume you really have no idea how much you’re consuming. The classic is not eating all day and then eating a large meal at the end of the day to “spare” calories. Chances are you consume more calories in one sitting than you would if you had just eaten throughout the day. The other issue is overestimating portion sizes thus causing overeating. Portion sizes today greatly exceed how much you should really consume. Coupled with hurried eating and portion sizes it becomes a moot issue.

3. You Dine Out Too Often. It doesn’t matter how “healthy” a restaurant claims a food item to be. If you’re not cooking it, you have no control over that. Sure they may decrease the portion size but you’re still ultimately at the mercy of the restaurant’s chef. Dining out should be a treat saved for special occasions or for one time on the weekend. Portions are bigger, food is prepared for flavor, and they would love nothing more for you to order an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

4. Overdoing It On Weekends. Lets say you’ve been good Monday through Thursday but once Friday hits it all gets forgotten. Maybe you decided Friday night was your night out but then there was a dinner date for Saturday night and a brunch on Sunday. Shouldn’t 4 out of 7 days count for something? Maybe, if weight loss isn’t something you are struggling with. The body systemically processes, burns, and stores calories. A bad weekend won’t show up right away but you can bet it will in time for a repeat weekend performance.

5. Jumping From Plan to Plan. Diets work when they are strictly adhered to. If it’s repeatable and palatable and you can live that way for the rest of your life, it will work. Why? Because by some method you’re simply eating less, plain and simple. But the reality is diets are nothing more than calorie deprivation tactics disguised as some new finding or mechanism, one that most likely is not realistic for people to stick with over the long haul. I’ve always said the thing wrong with Weight Watchers or similar programs is that people keep going back. A lifetime plan should not require anyone to go back.

Weight loss is and always will be a long, not short term process. The good news is that the time it took to gain the weight and the time to lose the weight have no correlation, meaning you can lose weight faster than you gained it. But it takes a conscientious, no excuse approach with a margin of error that affects us all individually. No tricks, no gimmicks, no potions, no magic fairy dust, no supplements- NOTHING – can replace the work of a hard working individual with vision.

Til next time, Train Smart, Eat Well, and Be Better.

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

As it is with many subjects, fat loss is awash with mythology. What’s unfortunate is that most people blindly follow the latest and greatest “fad” or are clinging to outdated information that in the end really hurts their efforts to get leaner. Then there all of the ridiculous programs promising to “cleanse” the body and “reset” the metabolism as if there were some magic ctrl-alt-delete feature for the body. Furthermore, weight loss and fat loss are not synonymous with each other as there can be weight loss without fat loss and vice versa. Following are what I consider to be a few of the many myths about fat loss in the hopes of offering you some clarity.

  1. Eating For Fat Loss Isn’t Always The Same As Eating For Good Health

Despite what various diet marketers will tell you, losing weight is pretty much all about calorie control. Sure, the proportion of fats, proteins, and carbs do play a role (more about that later in this article), but ultimately, if you consume less energy than you expend, you’ll lose weight, even if those calories come from “unhealthy” foods or food ingredients. Now there’s an interesting corollary to this: if you’re fat — let’s say even obese — you’ll improve your health by getting leaner, regardless of what you ate to lose the weight. I’m not necessarily suggesting you eat “bad” foods to lose weight; I’m just trying to achieve some clarity on this subject. And as much as many people will cringe when I say this, but you can and will lose weight eating cookies and chips and ice cream and any other forbidden foods you can imagine, as long as you eat too little of these foods. Again, I’m not advocating these foods; I’m just making a point.

  1. The Dangers Of “Chemicals” And Food Processing Are Largely Overblown

Why you ask? Well for starters, everything you eat or drink is a chemical, and everything you eat or drink has been processed to some degree. With that being said, some chemicals are less healthy than others, and of course, some types of food processing are worse than others. As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the dose:” even pure spring water will kill you if you drink too much of it. And even arsenic is safe if you consume a small enough amount of it. This isn’t to say that you should be completely indiscriminate in your food consumption. Some types of processing, such as trans fats, have been shown to adversely affect human health. Other types of food additives and processing methods are still the subject of vigorous debate in scientific circles. With that said, is there really a downside to eating an extremely “natural,” totally organic, and/or “unprocessed” diet? Aside from the potential expense, probably not. It’s just that such an overly cautious approach probably isn’t necessary. So why make things more difficult than they need to be?

  1. No Single Food Is “Fattening”

I mean that literally. Ice cream isn’t fattening. Big Macs aren’t fattening. Pizza isn’t fattening. What is fattening then? Eating too much food relative to your energy needs. Once again, pizza and ice cream certainly aren’t “helpful” foods if you’re attempting to lose weight, and they’re also not particularly great for your long-term health. But they certainly can be eaten as a part of a fat loss strategy, as long as your overall food intake is appropriate.

  1. Low/No Carb Diets Can (And Often Do) Work, But Not For The Reason You Might Think

People love weight loss diets that give you hard and fast rules, and I understand why: it removes the uncertainty from the process. So I’m not against rules necessarily, nor am I necessarily “against” low carb diets, but it’s important to understand that they don’t work for the reasons that their proponents state. For example, the common rationale usually put forth about low carb diets is that when you eat carbs, your body produces insulin, which is a fat-storage hormone, so the result is, you get fat. There are a few problems about this scenario however: First, insulin does act as a fat storage hormone, but it also has very beneficial properties also — that’s why it exists in the first place after all. Secondly, carbs aren’t the only types of food that produce insulin — proteins for example, also stimulate insulin production. Third, your body can store fat without insulin. So even if you find a way to totally prevent insulin secretion, it doesn’t mean you can’t still gain weight. So how do low carb diets work? Any time you remove large categories of food from your diet (such as carbohydrate-containing foods, or animal-based foods, just to cite two common examples), you tend to eat less, and therefore, you lose weight. Simple right? Actually, it’s so simple most people never consider it.

  1. Most People Have No Idea How Much They Eat

If losing weight isn’t about what types of foods you eat, but rather, how much you eat, then it’d certainly be important to know how much we’re eating, right? Unfortunately, research has shown over and over that most of us tend to significantly under-estimate how much we eat, and most people also tend to over-estimate how much physical activity they do over the course of a day. The solution? Self-monitoring. By the way, the most common characteristic among people who lose weight and keep it off for long term is self-monitoring.

  1. It Doesn’t Really Matter How Many Times A Day You Eat

 One of the oft-repeated myths about nutrition and fat loss is the idea that “you need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism from slowing down.” Like most folklore, there is a kernel of truth in this idea: going long periods with no food does indeed decrease your metabolic rate, and eating anything does in fact speed up your metabolism. But when you look at the science, what we find is that, on a practical level, it doesn’t make much difference if you eat twice a day or 6 times a day. What does  matter is how much you eat in 24 hours.

So if you’re one of those people who don’t get hungry until noon or so, don’t worry about eating breakfast. Or, if you find that your energy levels and overall mood is better when you eat more frequently, go with that. In other words, use whatever meal timing and frequency that will make your overall nutrition program more effective and easier to comply with. Just make sure that in the space of 24 hours, your caloric intake and nutritional needs are being met.

  1. Fiber And Protein Make Any Diet More Successful

As a final suggestion, I’d like to leave you with a quick and easy tip that will make any nutritional program more effective, both in terms of weight loss and long term health: Most people would be better off with more fiber and more protein. There are a number of benefits to both, but for this discussion, I’m mostly talking about the satiety (feeling of fullness) that these two nutrients provide. The irony is however, that calorie per calorie, foods with a relatively high protein and/or fiber content are much more satisfying on a calorie per calorie basis. Feeling full is a GOOD thing because it makes you less likely to binge on less-productive types of foods.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

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

 

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

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness

 

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels

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

About half of shoppers report reading nutrition labels “most of the time” or “always”. However, reading labels and understanding them are two different things. Even professional such as myself with extensive knowledge of nutrition can have trouble interpreting food labels. How much more confusing must it be for the average consumer? In addition, food-labeling regulations are complex and can contain excessive jargon. Still, with some basic guidance, I hope I can change that.

Translating the “Alphabet Soup” of Nutrient-Intake and Food-Labeling Standards

To make sense of food labels, you have to be able to distinguish among multiple individual nutrient-intake standards—which can apply to people of different ages, genders and life stages (i.e. pregnancy) and the nutrient intake standards used in food labeling. A two- or three-letter acronym represents each of these standards; here’s a look at the principles behind them:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were first published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1943 and were revised every 5-10 years as new scientific information became available. Still updated periodically, RDAs are now a subcategory of the Dietary Reference Intakes.
  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) were introduced in 1997 when the IOM (Institute of Medicine) broadened its scope by including not only RDAs but also new nutrient-intake standards that apply to several life-stage and gender groups.
  • Daily Values (DV) are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; they’ve been required on food labels since 1994.
  • Daily Reference Values (DRV) can vary depending on caloric requirements. Information on the labels is intended to apply to people aged 4 years and older. DRVs typically apply to daily diets of 2,000 and 2,500 calories, although there are also DRVs for 3,200 calories.
  • Reference Daily Intakes (RDI)are similar to the U.S. RDAs found on food labels before 1994. RDIs apply mainly to essential vitamins and minerals, with four sets that apply to infants, toddlers, people aged 4 years and older, and pregnant or lactating women. One problem with DVs on food labels is that many foods, like breakfast cereals, are consumed by people with dramatically different individual nutrient requirements. Owing to space limitations, labels on most food packages will list DRVs for two calorie levels and one set of RDI numbers (typically the 4-and-older category). Thus, DVs provide only a general guideline for comparison, and they won’t necessarily match the specific nutrient needs of the consumer of that product.
  • Trans Fats, Sugars, % of DV You may have noticed that food labels have no DVs for trans fats or sugars. That’s because the IOM simply advises consumers to keep their trans fat intake as low as possible; it does not offer a specific recommendation. As for sugars, the IOM advises that no more than 25% of our overall energy intake should come from added sugars. Unfortunately, sugar values reported on the Nutrition Facts panel do not distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. You also might have noticed that some products list a “% Daily Value” for protein, while others do not. If a product makes a claim like “high protein,” its protein content must be listed in grams and % DV). Otherwise, listing the protein content only in grams is acceptable.

Understanding Serving Size, Calories, and Calories From Fat

  • Serving size.The FDA has established serving sizes, or Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, for 139 food product categories. For example, a typical RACC for a beverage is 8 fluid ounces. Be careful to note the serving size and number of servings per container on food labels. For example, the label on a 20-ounce bottle of soda may list 120 calories per 8-ounce serving, but if you drink the whole bottle, all the label values (and % DV) must be multiplied by 2.5. Failing to take the number of servings into account is one of the most common slip-ups consumers make when reading food labels.
  • Calories. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats have 4, 4 and 9 calories per gram, respectively, so the calorie value on a food label should be represented by this mathematical formula: (fat grams x 9) + (carbohydrate grams x 4) + (protein grams x 4). However, the calorie value on the label will not always exactly match this calculation. Dietary fiber is included in the carbohydrate gram count, and dietary fibers typically have 0-2 calories per gram. In addition, some rounding is allowed.
  • Calories from Fat.This percentage is calculated by dividing the calories from fat by the total calories in the food and then multiplying that result by 100.

Interpreting the Ingredient Listing

Ingredients in a food are listed in decreasing order by their weight in the product. Thus, ingredients at the top of the list are more plentiful than ingredients at the end

Allergen Claims

FDA rules come from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The FDA has identified eight major food allergens that account for more than 90% of all food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (for example, walnuts, almonds and pecans), peanuts, wheat and soy. The law requires that the label list the food source name of all major allergens used to make the food. Good manufacturing practices dictate that food companies appropriately clean food-manufacturing equipment between processing batches of allergen-containing and non-allergen-containing foods to avoid cross-contamination. However, some manufacturers may say on the label that the product is made on equipment that is also used to process a food containing a particular allergen. It is important to note that FDA guidance for the food industry states that food allergen advisory statements such as “may contain [allergen]” or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen]” should not be used as a substitute for adhering to current good manufacturing practices and must be truthful and not misleading.

Understanding Definitions for Nutrient Content Claims

The FDA has definitions for a large number of terms related to nutrient content claims. For example, if a product claims to be a “good” source of vitamin A, it must have at least 10% of the DV; if it claims to be an “excellent” source of vitamin A or be “high in” vitamin A, it must have at least 20% DV.

Interpreting food labels can be confusing. I hope that this article will help you clear up some of your uncertainties about food labels. Being a skilled label reader can be of great help for making better nutritional choices.

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

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

 

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

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 2 – The Dangers of Dieting

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

You know what? I don’t like diets. They are highly ineffective for long-term weight loss, yet one in four people start a new diet every year. Of these people, only 20% of them will succeed at losing weight and keeping it off. But what about the other 80 percent? Do they just stay at the same weight? Nope. The majority of them actually lose a little bit of weight at the beginning. Then, they not only regain their weight, they end up gaining even more weight than when they started. So why do the majority of people gain weight when they diet? The answer is quite simple – muscle loss.

The Wrong Path

When we talk about diets, we’re talking about any temporary change to your eating patterns. The idea of “going on a diet” infers that you’ll be returning to your old eating habits once you’re done. What does the anatomy of a diet look like:

  • low calories
  • reduced energy and intensity in the gym
  • fewer nutrients due to fewer calories
  • quick (but short-lived) weight loss
  • slowed metabolism
  • increased cravings

All of these things create the perfect storm for muscle loss. They also create a spring-loaded rebound effect once you start eating “normal” again. Even losing just 5 pounds of lean body mass can slow your metabolism enough that your old calorie intake is now too much. Combine that with a slowed metabolism from hormone down-regulation and add in some binge eating behavior, and you have a perfect recipe for weight gain.
Each time you diet again you dig yourself deeper into a hole. This is the main reason why people diet their entire lives yet continue to gain weight. If you want to stop the cycle you have to put the diet mentality behind you. Focus your efforts on creating healthy eating habits.

Time Works Against You

Diets all have end dates. They last for 4, 8, or maybe 12 weeks and then they’re over. What then? Do you have any idea how to eat once your diet is over? Most likely, you will be returning to old eating habits and then starting all over again months down the road once your weight creeps back up. We want time on our side. When we stick an artificial end date in the future, time crawls to a still. Compare that to a lifestyle change where there is no end date. You might think that the short time period of a diet makes things easier, but this is a common illusion. We want to lift the burden of time. We don’t want to think about it at all. We want to move beyond the day to day intricacies of eating, and instead make our eating habits second nature. Once we do that, we’re just eating. Weight loss goes on autopilot and becomes an involuntary side effect. When you’re not always thinking about your next meal or your next cheat meal break, you can distract yourself from the weight loss process. You put more trust into healthy eating and believe that your healthy habits will take you to where you want to go. Your thinking goes from “if I can just make it the next 2 months eating this way” to “I’m just eating, and 2 months is going to pass one way or another”.

They Don’t Hold You Accountable

Diets give us something to blame when we don’t get results. It’s easy to say a particular diet didn’t work for you. Rationalizing your failure by passing the blame to an inanimate object is the natural thing to do. But was it really the diet that was to blame? Because we never learned along the way about our own relationship with food, and about what works for our individual metabolism, we end up placing all of our faith in our diet. When that diet doesn’t work, it’s on to trying the next one. We must hold ourselves accountable for our actions if we want to succeed. You can’t reach your weight loss goals until you accept complete responsibility for your current lifestyle habits. You are in complete control of your life. That doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult circumstances, but how we choose to react to those situations will determine our ultimate outcome. Weight loss is not a straight and narrow line from beginning to end. There will be a lot of detours. You will need to learn how to react in those moments, and diets won’t show you how. One of the biggest dieting fallacies is that there’s a blueprint you can follow for success. There isn’t.

They Teach You Very Little About Yourself

While diets will teach you what to do, they teach you very little about why you’re doing it. Learning the why’s behind your actions are what create sustainable long-term weight loss. Blindly following a diet or meal plan might seem easier, but no diet goes 100% as planned. If you don’t take the time to understand the purpose behind what you’re doing, you will be easily discouraged when times get tough. When losing weight you spend a lot of time in uncharted territory. You have to make tough decisions on whether you should increase or decrease calories, how many meals you should eat, whether cheat meals are OK, how to recover from a slip up, protein and carbohydrate adjustments, and 100 more unique circumstances. Diets won’t teach you how to navigate off the beaten path, and that’s where success is ultimately determined. If you want long-term sustainable weight loss, you must start educating yourself on the details of a healthy lifestyle.

Say goodbye to your dieting mentality. Stop searching for the next diet to try. Chances are it hasn’t worked out for you so far, and it’s highly unlikely anything will change that outcome in the future. Instead, work daily at creating new healthy habits that will build the foundation for long-term weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

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

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

 

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

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise