Food Is Not Your Enemy


Do We Even Need to Work Out?
March 12, 2019, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

There is no question that moving our bodies is a good thing. For those of you who were hoping I was going to advocate a couch potato lifestyle—sorry! But what is worth taking a closer look at is how we go about moving, and if it is so critical that we all sweat at a gym on a regular basis.

The longest-lived peoples in the world, according to Dan Buettner, the author of the Blue Zones books, often do not “work out.” These healthy populations, who live in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California; tend to get their exercise in other, gentler ways. They walk. They hike. They garden. They head down to the pier to buy fresh fish. They bring their dogs outside to run around.

The key is that they are not sitting for eight hours a day, five days a week, with their only movement being an hour at the gym here and there. Movement is part of their days, every day.

This does not mean that you should abandon your CrossFit or spin class or weight lifting regimen if you enjoy it and it makes you feel good. There are certainly plenty of cardiovascular and mental health benefits to more intense workouts, not to mention they can help you with your weight-loss or weight-maintenance efforts. The point here is that there are other ways to approach exercise—if you hate the gym, don’t feel that you have to go! Head outside. Walk or bike every day. Take the stairs. Get a dog. As long as you’re moving, you are doing your body good.

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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.



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.



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.


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.



Time to Hibernate?
December 8, 2016, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: ,

My sister-in-law has a bear problem. She lives in suburban Connecticut—not a place you’d associate with bear problems—where they see the same black bear wandering out of the woods behind their home and into their backyard every so often, sniffing around for food. A glassed-in sun porch caps the back of her house, and as it’s not insulated, come holiday season she’ll use the room as a second refrigerator of sorts, storing leftovers and Christmas cookies out there. Well that bear got a whiff, and late one night over Thanksgiving weekend when everyone was asleep it knocked out a small glass window in that porch, hoping to squeeze itself through that laughably small space. Luckily the bear gave up and moved on. As my brother-in-law said of the incident the next day, “I got home from a gig at midnight and went in for the last slice of cheese cake. It would have been hand-to-hand combat if he was in there eating it.” So it’s good the two never met.

Anyway, that bear should have been hibernating! Alas, it hasn’t been cold enough yet, so instead it is out making mischief, looking to eat food it shouldn’t be eating.

We humans can benefit from a “hibernation” mindset at this time of year too. After a long year, and a busy buildup to the holidays, sometimes all we really need is rest, relaxation, and the opportunity to do nothing. If we don’t allow ourselves this downtime, we may find ourselves, like the bear, looking for food—as a way to “reward” ourselves, as pleasure, something to help us feel relaxed.

So if you start reaching for sugar cookies to help you unwind, think about other ways you can do that without turning to food. How about brewing a pot of chai tea with a splash of warm milk and a dusting of cinnamon? How does curling up under a soft blanket with a good book sound? Or watching your favorite “Harry Potter” movie for the umpteenth time with family or friends?

Give me any of these options—especially in front of a fireplace–and my holiday will be happy. May you too find joy this holiday season in the little things.