Food Is Not Your Enemy


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?



The Foods I Eat

As a holistic nutrition counselor, I’m often asked, by my clients as well as my friends and acquaintances, what I myself eat every day. Do I do Paleo? Do I start my day with oatmeal or Greek yogurt? Do I mostly eat fish and broccoli for dinner?

So I thought that I would put together a list of typical meals I might have during the week. Here goes …

Breakfast: A smoothie. The recipe template I use is here.

Lunch: I rely a lot on leftovers from dinner the previous night. If there are no leftovers, I will often make two fried eggs and have them on one piece of buttered dark German rye bread, with perhaps half an avocado on the side. Or I’ll do a can of sardines (I know—not a popular choice with most people!) with some buttered whole grain toast, or a turkey sandwich. I always also have fruit with my lunch, and maybe also some nuts, hummus with whole grain crackers, and/or a little cheese. This is often my biggest meal of the day.

Snacks: I choose not to snack, with rare exceptions. Once I start eating snacks, I find it hard to stop! I prefer to just eat a nice large lunch that keeps me full for 6-7 hours until dinnertime.

Dinner: I’m a big fan of variety when it comes to dinner, so I rotate between probably 40-45 different recipes. Some typical dinners might include a quarter of a roast chicken with half my plate full of leafy greens or other vegetables, turkey and bean chili with a side salad, whole wheat pasta made with any number of different sauces or vegetables, homemade soup with salad or whole grain baguette on the side, salmon with vegetables, shrimp and vegetable stir-fry (using brown rice), homemade tacos on soft corn tortillas, BLTs on whole wheat toast with side salad or vegetables, and pork ribs or pork shoulder made in the slow cooker, with vegetables and maybe also a whole grain like black rice or potato on the side.

Dessert: 85% dark chocolate, 1 or 2 rows broken off the bar. I have this a few times a week. Once a week I might have a more decadent dessert, often out at a restaurant. That can be anything from ice cream to crème brulee to pie.



Is There Any “Life” in Your Work/Life Balance?

Are you working longer and harder than ever? Do you struggle to get enough sleep? To find time to cook? To relax? To look away from your phone for more than 20 minutes at a time, because important work emails may come in, even on a Sunday?

If you’re answering, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes,” you may have also noticed that you’ve put on a few pounds over the past few years. Or that your anxiety levels have kicked up. Or that you’re always tired, no matter what. Or any other number of changes to your health.

Overwork and the deterioration of our health are closely related. Numerous studies have borne this out. And you likely know it on an intuitive level. But what can be done?

If your job is stressing you to the breaking point, you have two choices–find work you love or a way to love the work you have. If you dread going to work every day, and it’s been that way for a long time, think about whether this is really the job or career for you. Make a list of pros and cons about your job, and if the cons outweigh the pros, it may be time to either seek a similar job elsewhere, or think about what you really want to be doing with your life. Our time on this earth is short–do you really want to spend most of your time on it doing something that makes you unhappy?

If you’re not currently happy at your job but feel it truly isn’t possible to leave at the moment, then think about what steps you can take to improve your current situation. If your workload is killing you, speak with your supervisor and see what can be done to potentially lighten the load or get you support, and identify any time-wasters in your day and then eliminate them. Communication, planning, and smart time management can go a long way in helping you get through your day’s tasks. And it can really help to manage others’ expectations—if you’re routinely at work at 9 p.m., people will just come to expect that that’s what you do, and wouldn’t think twice about shooting you a work email at that hour. You may want to ask your boss—if he or she emails you over the weekend, are they hoping that you’ll deal with their request then and there? Some bosses don’t expect that—they just send the email over the weekend because they’re thinking about that particular issue and want to send the email while it’s fresh in their mind, expecting that you’ll get to it when back in the office on Monday.

With today’s seemingly endless work days, it’s more important than ever that we allow time for self-care, fun, and pleasure in our lives. If you have to schedule time for yourself into your calendar, then do it! Allow yourself time to browse your local greenmarket. Treat yourself to a massage. Sit at an outdoor café and linger over a cup of tea and the Sunday paper. Try out a new recipe you saw online. You get the idea. Whatever you choose, just know that these small steps to help you de-stress and care for yourself will make a big difference over time when it comes to your health—both mental and physical.



Food Everywhere You Turn
June 14, 2016, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

Why is it so hard to resist that platter of snacks at your work meeting? You just ate breakfast. But those little brownie bites and those potato chips are just so tempting…

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t say no. If you place food in front of most people, they tend to eat it. It’s just the way we’re wired.

The food-served-at-every-meeting scenario is one of the many ways we’re cued every day to eat. Or more accurately, to overeat. Everywhere we turn there’s food available or food being pushed in our faces. At the checkout line in the office supply store. At halftime at our kids’ soccer game. At the subway station (churros, anyone?) In the U.S., the message is loud and clear—it’s always time to eat.

To avoid getting sucked into the habit of grazing all day long when you’re out and about, before you pull into the drive-thru or wander into the mall food court because you smelled cinnamon rolls, stop and think–am I actually hungry right now? Or am I about to buy this food simply because it’s there? Would I have felt the need the get a snack right now if I hadn’t seen this concession stand?

This may sound simple, and you may wonder if it would actually make any difference, but awareness is the first step in making changes in your life, and can be very effective. Try it and see what happens.