Food Is Not Your Enemy


Balance Is a Waste of Time
June 20, 2017, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Work-life balance was a mistake from the start. Because we don’t really want balance. We want satisfaction.” – Matthew Kelly, author

Balance is a sticky subject among many people. We have careers, partners, children, family commitments, classes, hobbies … plus big desires to improve our health. How can one possibly balance so many things?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You can’t.

“Harmony” is an easier goal than balance.

Harmony means everything is co-existing in a spirit of cooperation. But whatever you want to call it–harmony, balance, or “fitting it all in”–there is a secret to doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

Although the solution sounds simple, it requires that you get absolutely clear on what you want your life to look like, and what you do not want in your life:

  • First, ask yourself what isn’t serving you. What doesn’t need to be in your life? What is dragging you down? Keeping you awake at night?
  • Have you identified a few things? Now get rid of them (or fix them–now).
  • Next, ask yourself what you want in your life, or in this week or this day. What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to be with? Focus your energy on these things. If anything doesn’t fit into this larger scheme, let it go (or learn how to say “no”).

Ready to dive in and make a few changes? Give these tips a try and see how much more harmonious your life can be. No balance required.



How Much Water Should You Drink?
May 24, 2017, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Water, weight loss | Tags: ,

“How much water should I be drinking each day?” I get this question a lot.

The answer? It depends.

First off, it’s important to note that most people do not drink enough water. The consequences of mild to moderate dehydration can range from headaches, poor digestion, cravings, and sluggish thinking to skin breakouts, bad breath, and general fatigue. Water is necessary to keep every system in the body functioning properly, and plays a role in carrying nutrients and oxygen to our cells, preventing constipation, cushioning our joints, keeping our heartbeat stable, regulating body temperature and blood pressure, and more.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, most people need about four to six cups of water each day. But I think most of us would benefit from more than that, and over the years I’ve seen people feel better and reduce cravings from drinking more water. I actually prefer the almost clichéd advice of six to eight cups a day. In the warmer months, when we tend to play hard, sweat, and spend prolonged time in the sun, drinking even more water that that might be necessary. And of course, if you’re working out you’ll need a greater quantity of water as well.

To start your day off on the right foot, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Drinking water first thing in the morning pulls out toxins from the previous day and freshens your system for the day ahead. Keep a bottle or cup of water accessible throughout the day, whether you are on the go or at a desk. Having water close by will remind you to take a sip when thirsty. The first sip will usually let you know how much more water you need. A sip or two may be enough, or you may need a big glass. If you drink most of your daily water before early evening, you most likely will not be thirsty before bed. This is good, because drinking before bed and then waking to use the bathroom disturbs your peaceful night’s sleep.

If the taste of plain water is unappealing, experiment to see how you can make it tasty and drinkable. Try adding a few mint leaves, a wedge of lemon, a sprig of parsley, slices of cucumber, a twist of lime, or a squeeze of orange to make water more tempting. Herbal tea counts as water intake too! Whichever way you prefer it, make water an important priority each day.



Avoiding the One-Size-Fits-All Diet
May 1, 2017, 10:49 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

I give advice for a living. How to eat well, how to achieve greater balance, and how to sustain it all, through stressful times and holidays and work travel and family meals and whatever life throws your way. There are some bedrock principles about healthy eating and living that I believe will help everyone—eating more home-cooked whole foods, for instance, or creating a specific plan for when and where you will exercise—but in the end, every person is different, and we all respond differently to certain recommendations.

If you’ve ever visited my Web site, you may have noticed that there’s a concept mentioned there known as “bio-individuality.” Simply stated, bio-individuality is the understanding that each of us has unique food and lifestyle needs. One person’s food is another person’s poison, and that’s why fad diets tend to fail in the long run. There really is no one way to eat that works for all of us. One person may thrive on the Paleo diet, while another may feel weighed down and moody from eating that way. One may lose weight from eating a low-fat diet, while many others might be ravenous with so little fat and end up binge-eating as a result.

So I give my advice knowing that any particular recommendation, even if it has a basis in science and has worked for others, might not be the ultimate answer for the person I’m counseling at the moment. We try and we see how it goes. If it works, that’s great. If not, we recalibrate and try something else. Similarly, if you read something in my newsletter and it doesn’t resonate for you, that’s fine! I offered a tip in last month’s newsletter about how eating a larger lunch may help in one’s weight-loss efforts, according to a scientific study. I’ve seen this work for many of my clients over the years, but one of my current clients tried it and found that a large lunch just made her feel sluggish. So we went in another direction.

The same approach would likely work well in your own life. Avoid wedding yourself to one way of doing things. Don’t assume you must make yourself wake at 5 a.m. to go jogging in order to lose weight. Don’t force yourself to eat kale if you don’t like it. Don’t insist on sticking with a particular diet that helped your friend if you’re seeing no change in your own body. Be flexible. See what works. And acknowledge what your body needs.



Is It Safe to Use a Microwave?
March 23, 2017, 10:06 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: ,

Microwave ovens have been in widespread use since the 1980s, and today almost every American home has one. Many of us happily use it daily, whether to warm up leftovers or boil a cup of water, without a second thought. But there are some health-conscious people out there who believe that microwave ovens are a health hazard, and/or that they destroy the nutrients in our food. Should we be concerned?

The short answer is no—with one caveat. According to Harvard Medical School, microwaves cook or heat food using waves of energy that are similar to radio waves. These waves primarily affect water molecules in the food, by causing them to vibrate and quickly build up heat as a result. There is no evidence that these types of waves harm our bodies in any way.

And microwaving our food is actually one of the best ways to preserve nutrients. When it comes to nutrient preservation, the faster the cooking method the better, and as we all know, the microwave tends to win the speed contest.

One thing we do need to be vigilant about is microwaving food in plastic. When many types of plastic are heated, either bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates can leach out of the plastic into the food—not a good situation. Both substances can mimic human hormones and are considered endocrine disruptors, which may produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans.

So as long as you’re careful about what containers you use to heat up your foods, you’re good to go!



The Health Benefits of Tea
February 28, 2017, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags:

We’re deep into winter, and you may either feel like you’re going stir crazy and can’t wait until those first warm days of spring, or perhaps you’re reveling in the idea of turning inward and “hibernating.” Either way, this is the perfect time of year to soothe your spirits with a hot cup of tea.

Not only can tea help warm you from the inside out, it can also calm stress, improve your mood, and curb your need for a snack or sugar. There are also many long-term health benefits of drinking tea. Based on numerous studies, thanks to substances called polyphenols green and black tea have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. This translates into a reduction in the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver disease. Bone health seems to improve with greater tea consumption as well.

As for herbal teas, many have been used for thousands of years to treat illnesses and ailments. Chamomile is good for settling the stomach and the nerves, and can help treat menstrual cramps. Echinacea has been used to boost immunity and to help ward off colds. Peppermint can improve digestion and help calm headaches. Dandelion is good for liver health and detoxification. This is just a sampling of teas and their benefits—there are so many other varieties you might like to explore as well.

So brew up a cup, relax, and sip slowly. The warm breezes and flowers of spring will be here before you know it.



Instead of Counting Calories…
February 1, 2017, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Beans, Dairy, Fruits, Grains, Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, nuts, Sweets, Vegetables, Water, weight loss | Tags: ,

Counting calories is a pretty reliable way to help you lose weight, no question. But most of us hate doing it. It’s unpleasant and tedious. And because it’s no fun doing math problems every time you put food in your mouth, most of us stop doing it eventually. And then the weight comes back.

So why does the weight inevitably come back once you stop counting, despite your best intentions? The short answer: because you never learned how to eat.

Rather than focusing on meaningful changes to your diet, and moving toward healthier foods and habits, it’s likely that all you paid attention to were the numbers. And hey, if you ate a tiny dinner, there was caloric room in your day for a sleeve of Oreos! That kind of thinking doesn’t bode well for your long-term health or weight goals.

Instead, I’d recommend getting back to basics and focusing on these key principles for eating well and losing weight:

-Avoid or reduce foods that act as appetite stimulants. That would be foods with added sugar and anything made with white flour.

-Eat fiber-rich foods. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans are deeply nutritious foods that help fill you for very few calories.

-Minimize fried stuff. Deep-fried foods such as French fries, donuts, and fried chicken and fish are among the worst foods you can eat. They just contain a ton of calories from all that oil.

-Choose snacks that are not marketed as “snacks.” Rather than chips, crackers, pretzels, and bars choose fruit, nuts, vegetables with hummus, or any other whole food. Why not even a cup of soup, or a chicken leg?

-Cook. Restaurant food is high-calorie food, and we’re often served overly large portions of it as well. You will lose weight if you start cooking more at home, no matter what you cook (unless you’re frying chicken regularly).

-Watch what you drink. Water should be your default beverage. Unsweetened tea and seltzer work too. Banish sodas, sweetened teas, sports drinks, and other garbage liquids from your diet.



Time to Hibernate?
December 8, 2016, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: ,

My sister-in-law has a bear problem. She lives in suburban Connecticut—not a place you’d associate with bear problems—where they see the same black bear wandering out of the woods behind their home and into their backyard every so often, sniffing around for food. A glassed-in sun porch caps the back of her house, and as it’s not insulated, come holiday season she’ll use the room as a second refrigerator of sorts, storing leftovers and Christmas cookies out there. Well that bear got a whiff, and late one night over Thanksgiving weekend when everyone was asleep it knocked out a small glass window in that porch, hoping to squeeze itself through that laughably small space. Luckily the bear gave up and moved on. As my brother-in-law said of the incident the next day, “I got home from a gig at midnight and went in for the last slice of cheese cake. It would have been hand-to-hand combat if he was in there eating it.” So it’s good the two never met.

Anyway, that bear should have been hibernating! Alas, it hasn’t been cold enough yet, so instead it is out making mischief, looking to eat food it shouldn’t be eating.

We humans can benefit from a “hibernation” mindset at this time of year too. After a long year, and a busy buildup to the holidays, sometimes all we really need is rest, relaxation, and the opportunity to do nothing. If we don’t allow ourselves this downtime, we may find ourselves, like the bear, looking for food—as a way to “reward” ourselves, as pleasure, something to help us feel relaxed.

So if you start reaching for sugar cookies to help you unwind, think about other ways you can do that without turning to food. How about brewing a pot of chai tea with a splash of warm milk and a dusting of cinnamon? How does curling up under a soft blanket with a good book sound? Or watching your favorite “Harry Potter” movie for the umpteenth time with family or friends?

Give me any of these options—especially in front of a fireplace–and my holiday will be happy. May you too find joy this holiday season in the little things.