Food Is Not Your Enemy


4 Unexpected Things That Affect Your Weight
July 19, 2018, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

Do you feel stuck? Do you believe that you eat well and exercise consistently, but you still aren’t losing weight? The answer to this dilemma may have nothing to do with food or working out.

It’s important to look at four other factors that might be getting in your way:

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.

Stress. The fact is, stress makes us fat. And actively releasing that stress and relaxing can help us lose weight, in a way that all the steamed broccoli and skinless chicken breast in the world can’t. Stress activates a biological response that makes us feel hungry (which is why so many of us stress eat). Carbs and sugar are particularly appealing when we’re stressed. And stress leads to increased storage of belly fat.

Boredom. Many of us don’t realize how often we eat mindlessly, when we’re not even hungry. Boredom can be a big driver of this, where we end up using food as an activity, a way to fill time. Notice if you automatically hit the fridge when you can’t think of anything else to do with yourself.

A pleasure deficit. Are you having enough fun? If all you do is work and attend to various obligations, and it’s rare that you do anything that brings you joy, you may end up eating for pleasure. That hot fudge sundae that feels like the highlight of your week? It would be helpful to find something else that feels like a highlight of your week that doesn’t involve 1,200 calories.

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Not Just What You Eat, But When You Eat Matters

When I was attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I heard two anecdotes, one from Dr. Mark Hyman and the other from Ayurvedic practitioner Dr. John Douillard, about how much it can matter when you eat.

Dr. Hyman explained how the last thing you want to do is eat most of your food before bed, as that food tends to get stored as fat as we sleep. He called eating like this the “sumo wrestler diet,” as sumo wrestlers in Japan, when they want to put on weight, will make a point of eating right before bed.

Dr. Douillard, on the other hand, explained how he helped a very obese man lose a lot of weight by recommending that he eat only one meal a day—a Thanksgiving-sized meal—at noon. The man was stunned to find that this odd-sounding directive actually worked, and the pounds fell off. According to Ayurvedic tradition, our digestive system is functioning optimally in the middle of the day, and that is when we should be eating the bulk of our calories as a result. While I think the one-meal-a-day approach is a bit extreme for most of us, I do like the idea of a big hearty lunch.

While everyone is different, most of my clients who are looking to lose weight find it helpful to frontload their calories earlier in the day—a good solid breakfast, a big lunch, and then a more modest dinner. Many also find it helpful to stick to regular meal times, and avoid grazing all day. Some newer studies have found that it’s better for our metabolism to wait about 4-6 hours between eating times, and to give ourselves a good 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. If we’re constantly snacking, then our bodies don’t have an opportunity to start burning our fat stores.

So don’t assume that as long as you stick to a certain number of calories a day then you’ll lose weight. For best results, watch the clock.



The Fat Balancing Act
April 30, 2018, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, nuts, Oils | Tags: , ,

There was a time when Americans feared eating practically any fat. Low-fat diets were all the rage in the 1980s and 90s—who remembers Snackwells, those non-fat cookies everyone thought they could eat to help them lose weight, even though they were loaded with sugar and calories?

Today we know better—fats are a critical macronutrient we need for both good physical and mental health, and some trendy diets are even pushing people to eat a high-fat diet to lose weight.

We hear a lot about how important omega-3 fats are, how they are an anti-inflammatory and can lower risk of depression. But what’s lesser known is that when it comes to our omega intake, there’s a careful balancing act between omega-3s and omega-6 fats of which we need to be aware.

Omega-3s are found primarily in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as nuts and seeds. Omega-6s are present in vegetable oils such as corn oil and soybean oil (and the processed foods often cooked in them), and factory-farmed corn-fed beef. Ideally, we should be consuming omega-3 and omega-6 fats in a 1:1 ratio, according to Psychology Today. The problem is that most Americans end up consuming about 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. And this imbalance can lead to inflammation in the body, which contributes to everything from heart disease to diabetes to depression.

What to do? Eat fish a few times a week if you enjoy it, seek out a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack, and switch from corn-fed to grass-fed beef. Use olive oil as your default oil at home rather than corn or another vegetable oil, and limit your intake of processed foods cooked in those oils (chips, fries and the like).



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!