Food Is Not Your Enemy

Should Any Food Be Completely Off Limits?
March 21, 2018, 10:49 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: ,

One of the reasons that strict diets don’t work so well over the long haul is that we can start to feel deprived. Maybe we’re okay for a few weeks or even a couple of months eating no carbs, or no this, or no that. But sooner or later we can’t take it anymore, and we binge, or simply throw in the towel and say, “I’m done.” And then we regain the weight.

It’s human nature to rebel against constraints. When it comes to dieting, if you feel that there are stringent rules to follow and you’re a failure if you slip up, this becomes very taxing, both physically and emotionally. “Why can’t I just eat what I want?” you might find yourself saying.

What can often be helpful when you’re looking to lose weight is to tell yourself that you’re allowed to eat whatever you want. There are no strict rules, and therefore there is no way for you to “cheat” or “mess up.”

But you are going to want to think carefully about what foods you choose to eat. If you choose to eat lots of cake and chips every day, then you will gain weight. You know this. So is that really what you want to choose to eat today, given your goal to lose weight? Each time that you choose to have chips for a snack instead of fruit or nuts, each time you have cookies or ice cream or fries, you need to realize that this choice will directly lead to a high likelihood that you will not lose weight this week. So which is more important to you—the five-minute joy of the cookie, or your desire to be lighter?

And it doesn’t have to be all about will power. I understand that in the moment when faced with the choice of whether or not to eat the chocolate in your pantry, you may feel like a junkie trying to just say no to a fix. Remember that eating healthier foods on a regular basis will lead to a physical calming of those strong desires to eat junk.

So stop telling yourself, “I can’t eat this,” or “I shouldn’t.” Instead, ask yourself if you truly want to be eating this, if this helps further your goals. This small change in the way you talk to yourself can make such a difference.


How to Gain Control of Your Hunger
February 8, 2018, 11:59 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

When new clients first begin their programs with me, they will often express the concern that it’s hard for them to lose weight because they just feel hungry all the time. They find themselves grazing all day, perhaps, or feel “out of control.” Maybe they even get up in the middle of the night to eat, so hungry that they can’t go back to sleep unless they have a bowl of cereal or some leftover pasta.

Why does this happen?

In my experience, there are four main reasons why you may feel like you’re never satisfied:

You’re consuming too much sugar and/or refined carbs. Foods with added sugar as well as refined white carbs like white bread and white pasta are appetite stimulants. Choose whole grain foods instead, and keep sugary treats to a minimum.

You’re not eating enough protein and/or fat. Vegetables and fruits are a super important part of a healthy diet, but they’re not terribly filling on their own. Protein and fat will keep you fuller longer, and curb that feeling that you just want to keep eating.

You need a more substantial breakfast and lunch. When we’re trying to lose weight, many of us make the mistake of skimping on breakfast and lunch, thinking that the fewer calories we consume, the better. But what tends to happen then is come late afternoon, we become ravenous. We snack too much, then we have a huge dinner, and then maybe we keep eating after dinner in front of the TV too. In the end, we take in more calories overall than we would have if we had a nice hearty breakfast and lunch. It’s better to frontload your calories earlier in the day—going to bed on a very full stomach leads to fat storage.

You’re not actually hungry. It’s important to learn to distinguish between true hunger and what can simply be a desire to eat. Is your stomach rumbling with hunger pangs? Or do you just really want a bag of potato chips because you love chips so much and they sound really good right now? And if you’re not sure if you’re truly hungry … then you’re not hungry.

How to Turn Your Goals Into Reality
January 22, 2018, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

The uplifting and inspiring stories are everywhere:

  • The woman who created a wellness clinic for under-served populations in her neighborhood
  • The man who lost 200 pounds after being housebound for a decade
  • The mother who worked tirelessly bringing her sick child to radiant health
  • The grandfather who quit cigarettes to realize his dream of running a marathon

Every day, people just like you go out into the world and make their dreams come true.

They did it. Why not you? You’re no different than any of these successful individuals.

True, it sounds hard. In fact, it probably is hard, with a number of obstacles to overcome. That may be reason enough to put your dream on permanent hold.

“Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.”

  • Orison Swett Marden, writer

Could a Plan Help?

The easiest way to turn a dream or goal into reality is one step at a time:

  • Choose one thing to get done. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • Identify what scares you most. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I face this fear? Write down the worst-case scenario and how you would confront it.
  • Identify a small (non-food) reward for yourself once you’ve accomplished that activity.
  • Then just do it. Complete and check that task off your list.
  • Now treat yourself to the reward, rejoice, and celebrate!
  • Repeat the above steps as many times as necessary and watch yourself get happier and healthier by pursuing what you desire.

Alcohol: The Benefits and Risks
December 19, 2017, 11:40 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

There’s no question that too much alcohol is not good for us—heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death, whether from liver disease or traffic accidents. But what about “moderate” drinking? And what counts as moderate, anyway?

According to the USDA, moderate drinking means one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. One drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol. This quantity of alcohol is considered to be more helpful than harmful—at least when it comes to such issues as heart health. In study after study, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate drinkers have a 25-40% reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. They also have less risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

But other studies have found that even moderate drinking can raise our risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as cancer of the breast, esophagus, throat and neck, larynx, liver, and colon. As far as breast cancer risk, alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen, which can lead to higher levels of estrogen in the body. This rise, in turn, can raise breast cancer risk.

There is some good news on this front, though—folate appears to mitigate this increased risk of breast cancer significantly. In the wide-ranging Nurses’ Health Study, among women who consumed one alcoholic drink a day or more, those whose blood contained the highest levels of folate–a B vitamin found in dark leafy greens, citrus, nuts, beans, and seeds–were 90% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who had the lowest levels of folate.

It’s also good to remember that alcohol contains empty calories that do not help us feel full. If you’re concerned about your weight, remember that each glass of wine, beer, or straight liquor you have will contain 100-150 calories, and that’s before you get involved with added sugary syrups and sodas in cocktails. Have a few drinks on a Friday night and you’ve essentially had an additional dinner’s worth of calories.

So enjoy your booze, but keep your intake under control. And eat your greens!

Pumpkin Spice: Naughty or Nice?
November 16, 2017, 11:05 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: ,

Let me say up front that my newsletter this month is not going to weigh in on the “pumpkin spice wars” and make value judgments about people who like pumpkin spice vs. those who do not. I personally do not like pumpkin spice—you will never see me so much as sniffing at a piece or pumpkin pie or a pumpkin spice latte—but if you enjoy this combo of spices, good for you! Because the spices commonly used in pumpkin spice—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, among them—actually have great health benefits. Lucky for me, I do enjoy these spices separately in other settings, and you can too—cinnamon is great on top of oatmeal, coffee, or sweet potatoes, for instance, and ginger is indispensable in a good stir fry and many an Indian dish.

Be forewarned—the classic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with whipped cream (grande size) has 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar (that translates to over 12 teaspoons of sugar). There are healthier ways to get these spices into your diet, for sure, like a simple plain chai tea with maybe just a splash of milk.

Here are some of the positive effects that these sweet spices can have on our health, according to Harvard Medical School …

Cinnamon. The most popular of the pumpkin-themed spices, cinnamon has antioxidant, antidiabetic, and antibacterial properties. It has been found to reduce inflammation and improve brain function.

Cloves. Cloves are an antioxidant powerhouse, containing more antioxidants than virtually any other food or spice. They have antifungal and antimicrobial properties. And a compound found in cloves has been shown to be more powerful than aspirin in helping to prevent blood clots.

Nutmeg. Nutmeg contains compounds that help boost mood, relieve pain, and lower blood pressure. It may also help slow cognitive decline in people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Added to a little warm milk, nutmeg can help aid sleep.

Ginger. Ginger can help relieve pain, and is a well-known remedy for nausea and upset stomach. It’s also good for improving memory and focus.

Cardamom. Another spice with antioxidant and antibacterial properties, cardamom has also been found to help lower blood pressure and risk of stroke.

So enjoy these warming, sweet spices—just watch the sugar that often comes with them!

“Why Have I Gained Weight?”
October 24, 2017, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

When it comes to our weight, sometimes we fail to see what’s right in front of us.

Maybe you’ve put some weight on in the past few years, and you can’t understand why. “What am I doing wrong?” you wonder. You feel like you eat healthy, you make decent choices, you exercise. Did your metabolism just slow down for some reason? It can all be very frustrating when we can’t understand the reason behind the higher number we’re seeing on the scale.

This is when you need to do some detective work. Are you simply missing some very obvious patterns and problems? For instance, do you snack in front of the TV every night after dinner, without giving it a second thought? Do you grab a couple of little chocolates from the jar on your co-worker’s desk every time you walk by? If you’re out doing something that doesn’t involve food with friends, are you the one who always suggests you all stop for coffee and a pastry or some other sweet treat? Do you eat nuts mindlessly several times a day, thinking it doesn’t matter because they are good for you?

These are just a few examples of behaviors you may be engaged in that are leading to weight gain. So spend the time really taking a close look at your daily habits, and question everything. Those seemingly innocent habits might not be so innocent after all.

7 Stress-Busting Foods
September 28, 2017, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Grains, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

What we eat directly affects not just our physical well-being, but our mental and emotional well-being as well. If you largely rely on a diet of sugary foods, frozen dinners, bagels, muffins, and coffee, you’re not going to feel as good as you would if you were to eat a diet that provides your body and mind with the nutrients it needs and craves. Foods like pizza, French fries, fast food, breakfast pastries and other refined carbohydrates will actually increase your stress levels. As these foods largely lack vital nutrients and send you into a vicious cycle of high/low blood sugar, you may regularly experience a nagging irritability and a feeling that you’re quick to anger, and as a result get stressed out.

The solution? Crowd out the unhealthy, stress-causing foods you eat with nutritious, stress-busting foods like the following…

Leafy green vegetables: Green vegetables are the foods most missing in modern diets. Eating such greens as spinach, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, arugula, dark lettuces, and broccoli is essential to creating health. Greens help build a healthy gut biome and strengthen the blood and respiratory systems.

Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phyto-chemicals.

Eating dark leafy greens will help you feel a light energy and will lift your spirits and quell depression, all of which will help improve your body’s response to stress. The calmness that greens can impart will set you up for a much different response to a difficult situation than how you might react if you’re feeling jittery from coffee and a donut or cranky two hours after downing pizza.

Whole grains: Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat, are an important component in a healthy diet, but especially in the diet of someone struggling with stress. Replacing refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, white rice, and cakes/muffins/cookies with whole-grain carbs will greatly stabilize your blood sugar, and in turn, your mood and energy. Whole grains are packed with nutrients and fiber, and nourish your body in a way that foods made with refined grains don’t. The ultimate lunch during a stressy day at work? One based on whole-grain carbs–a meal like this will produce a calming effect. Have a stir-fry made with buckwheat soba noodles and veggies (including greens!). Or have turkey on whole-wheat bread with a mesclun or romaine side salad. Or try a Middle Eastern-themed lunch that includes tabouli, hummus, and whole-wheat pita bread.

Vitamin B-rich foods: Eggs, plain yogurt, bananas, fish, and organic poultry are all rich in B vitamins, which help support your adrenal glands and provide energy, thus reducing the symptoms of stress.

So give it a try! Add these foods into your regular rotation, and note how you feel in response. Do you notice any changes in your mood? Your energy level? How your body responds when faced with a stressful situation?