Filed under: Chronic Disease, Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: abdominal fat, belly fat, visceral fat
You’ve probably heard about the pear-shaped body vs. the apple-shaped body. The pear shape, characterized by more fat in the hips/butt/thighs, is seen as less problematic than the apple shape, where more fat is carried around the mid-section. Why does it matter where the fat is concentrated, anyway?
The fat that accumulates in the abdominal area is known as visceral fat; it lies deep in the abdominal cavity, and pads the spaces between our organs. Fat cells—particularly abdominal fat cells—are biologically active, meaning that they essentially function as an organ that produces hormones and other substances that can affect the functioning of our bodies. And the substances released by these excess cells have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and gallbladder problems.
The good news is that you can tackle belly fat. Regular moderate-intensity physical activity, for 30-60 minutes a day, will do wonders—walking, biking, aerobics, swimming, dancing, or any other type of cardio will work. Strength training can play a role as well in helping to trim your middle, but sit-ups and crunches—while they can firm your abs—won’t get rid of the visceral fat.
Diet-wise, you’ll want to avoid the usual villains—white flour and sugar, trans fat, and excess saturated fat. And eat plenty of fiber-rich foods.
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Grains, Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Oils, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: bagels, cured meats, donuts, fried food, soda, unhealthiest foods, worst foods
There are a lot of mixed messages out there about which foods we should eat, and which foods we should avoid. Depending on whether you’re following the Paleo diet or the macrobiotic diet, the Bulletproof diet or a vegan diet, bananas, avocados, whole grains, and red meat are either the healthiest foods ever, or the worst foods in the world. There’s a book or a study to back up virtually any claim about nutrition.
But there are at least a handful of foods that any nutrition researcher (unless they’re on Coca-Cola’s payroll) would agree are just flat-out bad for our health. And the losers are …
Soda and other sweetened beverages. Empty calories. Higher risk of diabetes. Increased sugar cravings. Obesity. Need I go on? There is nothing redeeming about soda, sweetened teas, fruit drinks, or Vitamin Water. These drinks have a lot of calories, a ton of sugar, and are one of the main drivers of our nation’s obesity epidemic.
Bagels. One bagel equals about five servings of bread. They are essentially white flour bombs, high in calories and low in nutritive value. Inflammation, a powerful force behind so many chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, is largely caused by the consumption of added sugars and white flour.
Cured meats. Hot dogs, salami, bologna, bacon, and other cured meats significantly raise our risk of colon cancer. And in a study, men who ate processed meats five times a week were found to be nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes as men who ate them just twice a month.
Anything deep-fried. All fats and oils have about 120 calories per tablespoon. That’s nothing to worry about if you’re sautéing some vegetables in olive oil, or drizzling some oil on your salad. But foods that are battered and then tossed into a deep fryer soak up a TON of oil, and end up loaded with hundreds if not thousands of calories. The high amount of omega-6 fats in the types of oils used for deep frying also contribute to inflammation in the body.
Donuts. A triple whammy of white flour, sugar, and deep frying leads to a deeply unhealthy food. The worst breakfast you could possibly choose.
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Oils, Sweets | Tags: depression, diet, gut bacteria, omega-3 fats, sugar
Do you struggle with depression, or know someone who does? If so, you’re not alone. More than 100 million Americans cope with some level of depression—that’s one in three people. Why is this problem so widespread, and is there anything you can do about it, other than taking prescription pills?
There are many factors that can lead to depression, and those factors are going to differ for everyone. But one factor that is usually completely overlooked by the medical establishment is diet. On the whole, Americans eat so poorly that we are literally starved of the nutrients we need to keep our brains healthy. Here are some easy changes you can make to your diet to help ward off depression…
Eat your fats. Your healthy fats, that is—specifically foods high in omega-3s. Omega-3 fats are critical for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and 99 percent of Americans do not eat enough of these fats. The best sources of omega-3s are fish, nuts, and seeds. It is worth noting that in Iceland, a country whose people eat a ton of fish, depression rates are extremely low (and this is a country where it is dark much of the year).
Reduce sugar intake. There are a million reasons to avoid foods with added sugar, and one of them happens to be that sugar can contribute to depression.
Eat lots of whole, real foods. The American diet of convenience tends to leave us shortchanged when it comes to nutrients. And a deficiency of such nutrients as folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D can lead to increased risk of depression. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits every day, in addition to lean proteins like eggs and chicken, whole grains, and legumes.
Heal your gut with food. More and more research is showing that there is a strong connection between the brain and what’s going on in the gut. Eat the kinds of foods that will help the right gut bacteria proliferate in your intestines: green vegetables as well as fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: setting goals, setting intentions, weight loss
Two friends are chatting about their diets. The first one says, “I want to be healthy and feel great.” The second one says, “I intend to be healthy and feel great.”
Which one do you think is going to get healthy and feel great? Yep–the one who intends to do it.
Wanting is simply wishing you can have or do a particular thing. Intending means you’re committed to achieving something by making a plan for success–and sticking to it.
The Fuel for Desired Results
The key to fulfilling your intentions is action:
- Get clear on what you want, and why. Are you hoping to lose weight so that you have more energy to run around with your kids? To reduce your risk of heart disease? To feel more confident? List all of your reasons and keep that list someplace where you will see it regularly.
- Do something to make your desire happen. Let’s say you want to eat four servings of vegetables a day. Your first action may be to go to a farmers’ market and purchase a few veggies you can cook for dinner.
- Celebrate your achievement! Don’t forget to congratulate yourself for meeting your goals.
It can even be helpful to set an intention each day. Rather than diving into your morning and hoping you’ll achieve your day’s big goal, why not take a moment and set yourself up for success?
Try this “Setting an Intention to Succeed” exercise used by professional athletes, speakers, politicians, and performers:
- Upon waking, lie in bed and think about what you have planned for your day (or, find a quiet spot to sit and contemplate).
- Think about your desired outcome. Take a deep breath and visualize yourself succeeding.
- Replay your success several times in your mind.
- Next, add other senses, including sounds, smells, and touch. For instance, as you replay your success, you now also hear the director offering you the gig, or you feel the physical sensation of your finger hitting the “send” button on your latest assignment.
- Lastly, replay the scene again, adding emotions. Feel your elation at getting the part, or your pride at finally finishing your work.
Get Healthier in 2016
Do you intend to lose weight, eat healthy, and feel fantastic this year? Then make a plan to succeed and get the support you need. As a holistic nutrition counselor, I specialize in helping people make their own healthy changes. I will help you shift your behavior to develop lifelong healthy habits and a deep understanding of your bio-individual needs. If you’re ready to get started, you can contact me to schedule an initial complimentary consultation. Or, pass this offer on to someone you care about!
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: healthy holiday eating, holiday weight gain, weight loss
Welcome to December–a month we may love, or a month we may fear. There’s much to love: time with family and friends, parties, gift-giving, and indulging in our favorite holiday foods. But many of us have such a fear of gaining weight this time of year that it colors the whole holiday season for us. It can get to the point where we dread receiving an invitation to a good friend’s holiday party because we know we’ll see those pigs in a blanket and butter cookies there and completely lose control.
Here are some tips to help you through the coming month, and hopefully keep your weight from fluctuating as you enjoy the holiday season …
Feast on feasting days. This is my mantra from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Eat whatever you like on the big holiday feasting days—but don’t treat the entire month of December as one big feasting day. There’s no reason you should be eating twice what you’d normally consume on a random weekday, using the justification that “hey, it’s holiday season!” Writing off all of December in this way is a guaranteed way to gain 5-10 pounds.
Eat super healthy on non-event days. So on days when you don’t have a holiday party or a big dinner at Grandma’s house, choose very healthy foods. On the days leading up to Thanksgiving this year, for instance, I made a point of cooking a few dinners in a row that were vegetarian and pretty light. Eat lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and pay attention to portion sizes.
At parties, be mindful about quantity. For both food and alcohol, you may want to go in to the party with an idea of limits—you’ll only have x number of drinks, and you’ll only eat one of each type of hors d’oeuvre, etc.
Eat warming, comforting foods. This is not the time of year to eat all salads, all the time. It’s cold out there, and you’ll want to nourish yourself with warm, seasonal foods that satisfy you rather than leave you feeling chilled and wishing you had something heartier to eat. Soups, stews, sweet winter squashes, yams, and for some of us, a little extra meat are just what we need.
Take care of yourself. Amidst all the rushing around and last-minute trips to the mall, remember that you don’t want to run yourself ragged. Allow yourself enough time for a good night’s sleep. Stick to your exercise routine. Relax when you can with a good book or your favorite show. Savor your time with family and friends.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: being thankful, giving thanks, gratitude, positive psychology
Many of us wonder how we can achieve greater happiness. Is it a matter of switching jobs, making more money, moving to another city? Losing 20 pounds? Or would getting a pet help? Any of these things could potentially make a difference, but there is a simpler way to attain greater contentment, and it can be done right now, in the next five minutes—taking a few moments to express gratitude.
In the field of positive psychology, research has shown that when we express gratitude or thanks for things that are good in our lives, our outlook on life shifts and we feel happier. Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, savor meaningful experiences, improve our well-being, and better handle life’s troubles.
It’s so easy to focus on everything that is wrong in our lives. And it’s too easy to forget all that is right in our lives. Taking a few minutes each day to write a few words about what we’re thankful for—“I’m thankful for my loving and supportive husband,” “I’m thankful that I can afford to buy healthy food for my family,” or “I’m thankful for that beautiful maple tree right outside my bedroom window,” for instance—can really put things in perspective and remind us that things are better than we sometimes think they are.
You can express gratitude on a regular basis either by writing in a journal, writing letters of thanks to others, or simply taking the time to think for a few minutes about what is good in your life. Whatever works—but I promise you it’s worth your time.
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: diet, sleep, stress, thyroid, weight loss
Many people seek out my help because they find that they can’t lose weight, no matter what they try. They may tell me they’ve tried Atkins and Paleo, gone gluten-free for a year, done Weight Watchers, undertaken a juice fast, worked out three times a week with a trainer for two years, or all of the above. And nothing happened. Not a single pound was shed.
Why? How is it possible that all of these approaches can fail?
The answer can be different for everyone. Here are just a few of the reasons why your scale might refuse to budge:
Lack of sleep. Numerous studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to weight gain. If you’re regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep, expect to feel hungrier than you otherwise would, and know that you will likely find yourself taking in more calories than if you’d had a good night’s sleep.
Too much stress. As I mentioned in my May newsletter, (you can read it here), stress makes us fat. Stress activates a biological response that makes us feel hungry. And stress leads to increased storage of belly fat. If you change your diet for the better but stress hormones are constantly being pumped into your system by your adrenal glands, those excess pounds are not going anywhere.
Thyroid problems. Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism. And if it’s not working properly, not only will you not lose weight, but you may find yourself suddenly and inexplicably gaining a lot of weight, even though your diet has remained the same. Get your thyroid checked if you see sudden changes in your weight and also experience such symptoms as brain fog, changes in your hair or skin, or debilitating fatigue.
Food sensitivities. If you have a hidden food intolerance–which is quite likely if you are bloated, gassy, constipated, or have diarrhea on a regular basis–then you won’t lose those extra pounds so easily. The offending food or foods is causing a constant state of inflammation in your body, and inflammation produces insulin resistance, leading to higher insulin levels. As insulin is a fat storage hormone, you’ll hold onto more fat, especially around your mid-section.
Restaurant food. Home cooking is increasingly becoming a rare occurrence for so many of us. The problem with this is that restaurant food and other foods prepared outside the home tend to have way more calories, fat, salt, and sugar than we think they do. Take a look at the “Calorie Bomb” section on the left side of my newsletter each month—do you find these calorie counts shocking? I do. The reason I put them there is to underscore how caloric food can be in many of America’s most popular restaurants. Think about this the next time you grab your file of takeout menus.