Food Is Not Your Enemy


“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.

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How Your Diet Can Heal You–Or Harm You

There’s a pill for everything. Pills to treat symptoms, pills to help prevent diseases, pills to deal with mental health issues. Sometimes these pills are very necessary, and can truly save lives. But there are times when food can work as well as medicine—if not better—when it comes to addressing specific health concerns.

Here are just a few examples:

-Just recently a study found that we can reduce the risk of dementia significantly just by changing our diet—eating in a way to lower blood pressure and weight make a big difference here.

-Many people can avoid taking drugs to lower their cholesterol—which can cause such side effects as headaches, muscle pain, and increased risk of diabetes—by switching up their diets. Eating more nuts, seeds, fiber-rich foods, olive oil, and fish and sidelining such foods as white/refined carbs and sugar can make a huge difference in our cholesterol numbers.

-Increasing intake of healthy fats from plants and fish and reducing the toxic combination of sugar and too much caffeine can really help people who are suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

-Blood pressure can respond quickly to changes in salt intake. Before committing to a lifetime of taking blood pressure meds, which also can have unwanted side effects, try significantly reducing your salt intake by eating less restaurant food and processed food like chips/pretzels, cold cuts, and canned soups.

-Rather than taking acid-reducing pills (which inhibit absorption of B vitamins) or downing Tums like candy, notice if there are particular foods that are causing your reflux or stomach upset. From experience working with my clients, I’ve found that this is true virtually 100 percent of the time.

You really can think of every bite of food you’re eating as something that is either going to lead to greater health, or something that could harm your health. So choose wisely, and make food your medicine rather than your poison.



How to Slow Aging

When most of us think about the process of aging, we look at the external—our skin, our hair, our belly pouch that may have appeared in the past year. Our first response to seeing these changes may be to slather on an expensive cream, or dye our grays away, or go on a fad diet to whittle down our thickened waist. But one of the most effective ways to truly slow down our body’s aging process is to think differently about the foods we eat over the long term.

Some recent studies have found that structures in the body called telomeres play a large role in our longevity. Telomeres protect our DNA by capping the ends of our chromosomes and preventing them from becoming damaged. And it turns out that people with longer telomeres live longer than people with short telomeres.

The most effective way to ensure that you have long telomeres is to consume plenty of carotenoid-rich foods. Carotenoids are the natural pigments that are responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, which can help fight the oxidative stress that can lead to the shortening of our telomeres.

It’s also important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet to help prevent signs of aging. This means avoiding added sugars as well as refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice as much as you can. When it comes to preventing inflammation in the body, vegetables and fruits are again your friend here, along with healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish. Healthy fats also help regulate our hormonal systems, an important factor when it comes to aging as well.

And as for applying cream to our skin? I do recommend using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen daily on the face, 365 days a year. The sun does play a large role in aging our skin.

The nice thing about eating to prevent aging is that the foods I’m recommending will also help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. So eat colorfully, don’t fear fats, and nourish those telomeres!



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.



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.



When the Number on the Scale Starts to Creep Up …

Inevitably, this seems to happen to all of us at one time of life or another. Maybe you haven’t weighed yourself in a while. And then you do. And the number is not what you expect. Wait, really? When and how did that happen?

I myself have remained in the same five-pound weight range for many years. But I am now in my mid-40s, and it’s clear that as I get older I cannot continue to eat the same way I did when I was 25. Looking down at the scale for the first time in months let me know that some changes were in order.

I didn’t feel any big changes were required. I just wanted to be sure to stop a potential upward creep, and maybe get down a few pounds back into my usual range (or at the top end of it, anyway). So here’s what worked:

-No seconds. I realized that I never really needed a second plate of food at dinner. I would often just take another helping because the food tasted good. I stopped this habit.

-A big lunch, then no snacks. I’m very hungry for lunch, and like having a big hearty meal mid-day. If the meal is filling enough, then I don’t need snacks and can comfortably make it until dinner. This is a good thing for me, because once I start snacking I often find it hard to stop.

-One or two fewer drinks. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health. Unfortunately for women, drinking alcohol raises our risk of breast cancer. Once I read that fact, I decided I wanted to cut down my own alcohol consumption—which would have the added benefit of reducing my caloric intake for the week. So now instead of having two to three drinks when I’m out socializing, I’ll have one or two.

-Dark chocolate is dessert. Sugar is addictive, and the more of it you eat, the more of it you want. I feel much better keeping my sugar and calorie consumption lower by sticking with a few squares of dark chocolate as my only dessert. (Except for perhaps a weekly indulgence in something a bit more decadent.)

-More greens, less charcuterie. When out in restaurants, I now tend to order an appetizer that is vegetable based, like a salad of some kind. In the past I would more often pick charcuterie plates, or pate, or something cheesy.

-More fish, less pasta. And I now order pasta in restaurants less frequently, opting instead for fish when I can.

What small changes can you make to reverse the upward creep?