Food Is Not Your Enemy

A Healthier BBQ
September 11, 2019, 8:55 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Vegetables, weight loss | Tags: ,

Everyone enjoys a good cookout, myself included. What many of us don’t enjoy, though, is that “OMG I’m going to burst” feeling that too often follows a day of mindlessly grazing on hot dogs and potato salad and washing it all down with Coke. Or that nagging sense that we just consumed enough salt and grease to keep our hearts on high alert for the next 48 hours.

Whether you’re hosting or a guest, here are some tips on how to have a healthier barbecue …

-Beware the mayo salads. Mayonnaise has about 100 calories per tablespoon. And there are a lot of tablespoons in potato salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, etc. Take a small dab on your plate if you enjoy this stuff, but really, just a dab.

-Embrace the shrimp. Fish and seafood are delicious on the grill, and have fewer calories and less saturated fat than other meats.

-Choose a drink other than soda. Soda and other sweetened soft drinks are literally the only things I ask my clients to consider cutting from their diets entirely. Regular soda and sweet iced tea have a ton of sugar and calories, and the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can lead to sugar cravings later.

-Avoid the black stuff. The charred areas on grilled meat contain mutagens called HCAs, which can change our DNA. And when that happens, our risk of getting cancer goes up. Fish has fewer HCAs when grilled, and vegetables have virtually none. Scrape away any excess charring when you can.

-Load up on vegetables and green salads. Fill at least half your plate with the veggie sides—they will help fill you up and crowd out some of the less healthy stuff you might otherwise have eaten.

-Watch quantity. Pay attention to how much you’re eating overall. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry for that second burger, or that third piece of chicken. And avoid standing by the bowl of potato chips and mindlessly dipping your hand in again and again as you catch up with Aunt Angela.

-Be a little decadent. Let’s be honest: When all is said and done, even if you follow some of the above tips, barbecue day is likely not going to be the healthiest day of your week, and that’s okay. If you opted for a cheeseburger on a potato bun, enjoy every bite, and think about choosing lighter fare the rest of the week. We all like to have a more decadent meal sometimes. The last thing you want to do is beat yourself up about it.

Negativity Will Get You Nowhere
December 10, 2018, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , ,

Have you ever worked with a nutritionist or trainer or done a diet program where you’ve been scolded or shamed if you didn’t follow the plan exactly? Or worse, do you scold or shame yourself if you don’t follow the plan exactly?

Many health/fitness practitioners who sincerely want to help you may think that acting like a drill sergeant or judgmental mother is the best way to motivate you to reach your goals. And you may think that speaking harshly to yourself, telling yourself that you are an utter failure of a person if you eat a pint of ice cream, will help you stay on course. But I find that motivation via negativity, judgment, and fear don’t work in the long run.

Realize that you are human, and that it can feel very difficult at times to change old habits. When sugar, for instance, literally affects the brain in a similar way that heroin does, it helps to be forgiving when you can’t resist the cookies or the chocolate. You are not alone in having trouble kicking your sugar (or carb, or fried food, or salty snacks) addiction. It takes some time and practice. I’ve found it’s much better to focus on all the times you don’t go for the sugar in situations where, in the past, you absolutely would have. Celebrate your progress, your many small victories, instead of homing in on the times you didn’t make the best choice. Better choices will come the longer you stick with your new healthy habits. And remember that negativity never leads anywhere good.

My Favorite Advice From the Twitterverse

Every day I make a point of trying to learn something new. Our knowledge of nutrition and health is constantly changing, shifting, and growing, and it’s important for me to keep up on what’s happening in my field. In addition to reading scientific journals and studies that cover nutrition, one of the ways I like to do this is to follow on Twitter some very wise people who are passionate about improving our health and well-being. Below are some of the best tweets I’ve come across lately, tweets that contain some excellent food for thought …

Michelle May M.D.‏ @EatWhatYouLove Jul 12

Feeling overly hungry doesn’t mean you need more food than usual; it just means you need to eat soon.

My comment on this: This is so smart. So many of us think that if we’re super hungry, we need to order more food or put more food on our plate, when in fact, a normal portion will do just fine. This is an issue of timing, not quantity.

Frank Lipman MD‏ @DrFrankLipman Jul 4

For many headache sufferers, a diet lacking in magnesium may be part of the problem. So I recommend magnesium-rich leafy greens as well as cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower.

My comment on this: I have seen this work with my clients! On several occasions more greens led to fewer or no headaches.

Frank Lipman MD‏ @DrFrankLipman Jun 7

Crucial to develop healthy habits…..because once a habit is developed, they work effortlessly for you, partly because the brain loves habits. When actions become habitual, they are automatic.

My comment on this: Building healthier habits over an extended period is a big part of what I do. This is why I don’t meet with my clients just once or twice, but 6-12 times over 3-6 months. We need that much time to overwrite our old unhealthy habits with new healthier habits.

Blue Zones‏Verified account @BlueZones Apr 27

The five pillars of every longevity diet in the world are: whole grains, tubers, greens, nuts, and beans. If you’re an American and eating a cup of beans a day, you’re probably adding 4 years to your life expectancy.

My comment on this: Blue Zones is all about tracking what leads to a healthy and long life. Beware of fad diets that try to tell you that whole grains, root vegetables, and beans are on the “no” list. Evidence from around the world proves they should be at the top of your “yes” list.

Dalai Lama‏Verified account @DalaiLama May 4

Scientists warn that constant fear and anger are bad for our health, while being compassionate and warm-hearted contributes to our physical and mental well-being. Therefore, just as we observe physical hygiene to stay well, we need to cultivate a kind of emotional hygiene too.

My comment on this: This speaks for itself!

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.

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.

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.