Is Your Body a Bank Account, Or a Chemistry Lab?

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Like so many people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food.

As a teenager in the 70’s, I remember my well-respected pediatrician writing down the simple formula for weight loss on a little sheet  of paper: “One gram of carbohydrates
has 4 calories, one gram of protein has 4 calories, and one gram of fat has 9 calories.  So eliminate fat, and you’ll lose weight.”  Wow!  That sounded so easy! And I was good at
math. So I tried it.
“Thus began the calorie-counting, fat-free, processed food era of my life.”
In my mind, I associated dieting with self-deprivation, so I began looking for caloric
“bargains.” It was just like the doctor said; if the food said “fat-free,” it was way
lower in calories.  If it was lower in calories, that meant I could eat more of it and
avoid being hungry!  If it said “sugar-free” AND “fat-free,” I could eat even more!
Over time, I was no longer eating to satisfy hunger or to nourish my body.  It was all about scouring the labels and bargain-hunting (calorie-wise) for the lowest-calorie food.  I had completely lost touch with whether or not I was hungry.
Weren’t we all playing the same game?
This rather disjointed view of food continued into adulthood.  All three times I was pregnant, I gained a whopping 50 pounds. After all, I was eating for two, so I felt entitled to more food.  It was good for the baby, wasn’t it?  (I must have forgotten that one of us only weighed a few ounces!)  In order to lose the weight after each pregnancy, I would start counting things again – sometimes food exchanges
(remember those?), sometimes points, and sometimes calories.  But as soon as
I stopped counting, measuring, or else inevitably started cheating the system,
the weight would start to sneak back on.  Looking back, I see that I was treating my body like a bank account, counting debits in (food) and credits out (exercise).
For the record, counting calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that method backfired on me, and perhaps it backfired on others as well. Yes, counting calories can be a very successful method for weight loss.  Research does show that when people start writing down their food, they begin to eat less simply because the act of writing makes them more aware of what they’re eating.  I get it.  And it’s absolutely true.
But as I learned more about nutrition, I knew I was eating way too many chemicals and processed foods.  The media started to report that fat was GOOD for you, and that it was necessary to eat it.  But I still wouldn’t “splurge” for it, calorie-wise.  Everything was
sugar-free, fat-free and processed. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t a healthy way to eat.
I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the food I was eating.
I don’t know how or when it finally dawned on me what my mistake was;
IT’S NOT ABOUT MY WEIGHT, AND IT NEVER WAS.
In the end, it’s about HEALTH.
THE HUMAN BODY IS MORE LIKE A CHEMISTRY LAB THAN A BANK ACCOUNT.
 It’s all about the QUALITY of the food and how it interacts with the body.
That’s when I made a shift in my eating habits.
The shift is that now I look for nutrition bargains instead of caloric bargains! I look for the food that has the most nutrients per serving instead of the least calories.  Wow!  What a concept!
One by one, I changed each meal around:  coffee and a veggie omelet for breakfast, using coconut oil in the pan; a salad with chicken or fish, some nuts and FULL-FAT dressing (GASP)!  Snack is my splurge – usually a high-protein Quest bar.  Dinner has 2 hot veggies and some lean protein again.  And wine sometimes.  And I thoroughly enjoy a gooey chocolate dessert once a week.
I feel so much better now.  No more counting, no sweet cravings, no energy dips, and no frustration over the scale anymore.  It takes care of itself now because I’m eating much more nutrient-dense food.  My food and I now have a healthier relationship.
Does calorie-counting work well for you?  Or did you have a similar experience to mine?

5 Things I’ve Learned From Mindful Eaters

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About ten years ago, when my kids were little, we brought them to Disney World and had dinner at the “50’s Drive-in Diner” style restaurant.  At the end of the meal, I was horrified when the waitress gave all five of us “Clean Plate Club” stickers.

Yes.  That’s right.  All 5 of us got the stickers.  That was a long time ago, and as a family, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about healthy eating since then.

I took a long, hard look at our eating habits.   Why did I eat so fast, and eat up every bit of food that on my plate?  And how did I manage to set that example to my sons?

It probably stems from being the youngest of 8 kids, and whoever got to the food first simply had more to eat.  But that was decades ago!  I’m not that little kid elbowing my way through a bunch of older siblings for food anymore.  I know that I’m going to eat again in a few hours, so why do I stuff myself full?

I started noticing how some of my naturally thinner friends ate.  They seemed to pay more attention to what they ate.  They didn’t just gobble the food down quickly.  They “savored the flavor.”  And in the end, they usually ate less.  Hmmm.  Maybe there’s something more to it.

Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed that these “mindful eaters” do differently:

1)  Mindful eaters are fussy.  If they don’t really like it, they don’t eat it – as if they’re picky kids.  It has to be “worth it” for them to eat anything.  They don’t waste their appetite on food that’s just so-so.  They don’t eat it just because it’s there, like the leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts off their kids’ plates.  (Takes one to know one!)

2)  Mindful eaters don’t keep eating until they’re “full.”  They only eat until they’re satisfied, or until their hunger is gone.  They know that they’ll eat again in a few hours.

3)  Mindful eaters eat slowly.  We live in such a stressed-out society that we even apply that mindset to eating.  But mindful eaters engage in the conversation, and enjoy the entire mealtime experience.  One of my friends says that’s how her parents taught her how to make conversation at the dinner table – she was taught to put the fork down between every bite, engage in the conversation, and then pick up the fork again.  (PS – She wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in my home!)

4)  Mindful eaters are forgiving and flexible.  Once in a while, they overeat.  But they don’t waste time beating themselves up the next day.  They say, “That was delicious, but I overdid it.”  Then the next day, they eat a little less.  They skip the self-recrimination and judgment.  They don’t say, “Well, I’ve ruined my diet, so I’ll just throw in the towel now.”   They just move forward.

5)  Mindful eaters just eat.  They sit down and pay attention to what they’re eating, rather than multi-tasking or just grabbing food in a rush and eating it while standing over the sink. They use more of their senses:  they observe how the food is served, they taste and smell the food, and then they savor the flavor.

Many times it’s not about WHAT you eat, but about HOW you eat.  Being a mindful eater is not as easy as it sounds, but it can make a profound impact on your eating habits.  Try just one of these mindful eating tips for a week, and let me know how you make out.

Healthy Weight-Loss Habits That You Can Start Today

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Those who know me have followed my weight loss journey.  As a teenager, I did crazy fad diets with 20-pound gains and losses.  Then 3 pregnancies with 50-pound weight gains, followed by 50-pound weight losses with Weight Watchers.  Although I maintain my weight now by eating Paleo, I still incorporate a lot of habits that I learned as a Weight Watcher member.  Below are some of the most successful and healthiest weight-loss habits that have worked for me.

1.  Eat nothing after dinner.  Let’s face it; nobody eats anything healthy after dinner!  It’s usually empty calories like chips, or sweets, or drinks.  You can keep your hands busy by painting your nails or knitting.  Bleach your teeth with whitening strips at night to stop the sweet cravings.  Or just go to bed!  Then you’ll wake up hungrier, and eat your normal, healthy breakfast.  This is how my brother started his 107-pound weight loss journey!  This is a great habit to start with.

2.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Put away the candy dishes!  Studies show that if you can see the food, you’re much more likely to eat it.  The reverse works as well.  Try keeping healthy snack foods, like carrots and hummus, or cut-up fruit, at eye level in the fridge.  That way if you open the fridge looking for something to eat, the healthy stuff appears right before your eyes.

3.  Carry a huge bottle of water with you.  Not only is drinking water good for you, but it will make you get up more often to use the bathroom.  (Hey, every little bit counts!)  I’ve even used this habit to make deals with myself:  “I’ll let myself have ________ as soon as I finish one more bottle of water.”  Nine times out of ten, I forget all about it!

4.  Enjoy it, but just one serving.  If you already ate one serving of it, you know exactly what another bite of it will taste like.  If you’re still unsatisfied, allow yourself seconds of vegetables only.  Keep the serving dish on the counter rather than at the table.  That way you’re not staring at the dish, and if you want seconds, you’ll have to get up from the table to get it.

5.  Try the “no white at night” rule.  Rather than bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, try to have both a salad and a hot vegetable with dinner instead. Some people find that cutting themselves off from starchy carbohydrates at a certain time of day, say 3:00, is helpful. It’s not that this type of food metabolizes any differently at certain times of day;  the idea is to avoid those empty calories at the meal when most people pile them on.

6.  Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal.  At breakfast, you can have some berries, or mix some peppers and onions in with your omelette.  Lunch could include a salad or an apple.  Dinner could include a hot vegetable.  This habit displaces your appetite for other, less healthy foods.

7.  How about an afternoon veggie shake?  The protein will help with the afternoon energy slump, and the veggies will fill you up.  Click here for Precision Nutrition’s guide to making healthy shakes:  http://bit.ly/1yKQIu4

8.  Pack a healthy snack in your car or purse with you before you leave the house.  That way, if you’re stuck on the road without any healthy options, you’re ready.  My favorites are snack packs of nuts from Trader Joe’s or Quest Protein Bars from GNC (no, they don’t pay me to say that!).

 9.  Keep a big batch of vegetable soup handy. This recipe is famous among successful Weight Watchers:  http://bit.ly/1IYJRzn  It will fill you up for lunch, snack, or dinner time.  Yummy, nutritious, and very low-cal!

10.  Go to bed earlier.  Yes, this one is true.  The body perceives a lack of sleep as stress.  Stress slows down your metabolism and increases your cravings for sweets.  So, if you’d like to lose some weight, make it a habit to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Black out your room and cover all those digital clocks for a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

Only pick one idea at a time.  Keep it simple and focused.  As soon as one habit becomes second nature, add another one, building a portfolio of healthier habits over time.

What weight-loss habits do you use?

5 Easy Paleo-Friendly Swaps!

Yay!  Spring is here! And it’s time for me to clean up my act a little.  Over the holidays (weren’t they months ago?), some items snuck into my fridge.  It’s time for them to go!  I got caught red-handed when the photographer snapped this shot of me, with the beer and jarred condiments, front and center:

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It’s time for me to make some healthy swaps…..

1.  Homemade dressings and marinades instead of bottled. I know the bottled dressings are easier, but they almost always contain vegetable or canola oils (not good).  The homemade ones taste so much better, and at least I know what’s in them.  Here’s a link to a few good recipes:   http://paleoleap.com/salad-dressing-and-vinaigrettes/  I have yet to find a Paleo mayonnaise recipe that tastes good, so I just ordered a jar of avocado-based mayo from the new Thrive market online.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

2.  Almond butter instead of peanut butter.  This is a hard switch at first, but you get used to it. (And no one loves peanut butter more than I do!)  But there are several reasons that you want to avoid peanuts, even organic unsalted ones:  http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/12-29/peanuts-are-not-paleo/

3.  Zucchini pasta instead of pasta.  Honestly, I don’t try to sell zucchini pasta to my family, saying “It tastes just like pasta!”  The Romano men would never buy that line!  However, it tastes good and has a similar consistency and feel to pasta.  It’s delicious when I cook it with coconut oil, garlic and garlic salt.  You’ll need a vegetable spiral slicer – I use a Spiralizer:   http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Active-Spiralizer-Zucchini-Spaghetti/dp/B00MG6ZEZM

4.  Olive oil and coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.  This is a really easy swap!  I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, and I also use their coconut oil spray.  I use olive oil for room-temperature recipes, like dressings and marinades, and I use coconut oil for cooking.  If you have margarine in the house, please just throw it out.  If you use butter, use real clarified butter, and savor the flavor – try not to use too much because it’s so calorie-dense.

5.  Sparkling water with cranberry juice instead of wine or Diet Coke (I have to admit that I still have a hard time resisting Diet Coke).  If I sip this after dinner, the fizz satisfies my “mouth feel,” and the tartness of the cranberry juice keeps the sweet cravings at bay.  I’m not saying this works all the time (just ask my husband), but it works most of the time to help avoid drinking wine or soda at home during the week.

Do you have any ideas for healthy swaps?  Or do you have a good homemade mayonnaise recipe?

“How Do I Get This Spot Right Here?” Can You Spot-Reduce?

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“How do I get this spot right here?”

My clients ask me this question all the time.  Those areas where fat loves to live:  love handles, thighs, abdomen, and triceps.  (Who remembers “Thin Thighs In Thirty Days” and Jane Fonda’s hydrants, hydrants, hydrants!)  We all have trouble spots on our body, spots where the fat just likes to accumulate.  It’s just where any extra weight wants to go.

Can you actually spot-reduce it away?  Can you perform exercises that target that area and reduce the amount of the fat there?  Well, yes.  And no.  (Did you really think you’d get a straight answer from me?)  Here’s the thing:  while you can perform exercises that target the muscles in that area (crunches for the ab fat, side bends for love handles, etc),  there will be very negligible effect on reducing the amount of fat stored in that particular spot.  Numerous studies have proven this over and over again.  But the myth lives on!

However, there’s a more interesting question here:  

Why does the fat in your body gravitate to that area?

Well, now we’re talking!  Internationally renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, of Canada, has created the Biosignature Modulation Method.  This method is gaining in popularity with healthcare professionals, personal trainers and nutritionists.  Poliquin’s method focuses on achieving specific body fat reduction through hormone balance.  He says that fat accumulates in certain areas because certain hormones are out of whack.

Here’s a quick reference to how his system works:

  • Upper arms and chest – testosterone
  • Love handles and upper back – insulin
  • Upper abs and ribs – thyroid
  • Abdomen – cortisol
  • Bottom and thighs – estrogen
  • Chest and triceps – testosterone

If you’re having problems shifting weight from certain areas, have your body measured with skin-fold calipers by a qualified professional (ahem – me!).  Your trainer can then use that information to address the underlying hormone problems by designing an individualized nutrition plan, supplementation, lifestyle, or exercise schedule to address those areas, and re-test monthly to track changes.  Solutions can range from eating a higher protein diet and fewer carbs, to changing the types of exercise you perform, to eliminating the foods that are stressing your body.

It’s not a concept that everyone buys into, and it is not without its critics.  But there is mounting research that finds that hormones do play a role in deciding where your body stores fat.

“This system will never replace a medically conducted blood and hormone test,” says Joseph Coyne, a sports nutritionist, performance coach, and qualified Biosignature Practitioner.  “But it will give you a good approximation of what your problems might be, and is an excellent starting point for lose weight from a certain area.”

 

The Top Ten Food Lies That Keep Us Overweight – Part Two

The Next Five Food Lies:  Part Two

In the last blog, I exposed the First Five Food Lies:

1.  All calories are created equal.

2.  All you need is willpower.

3.  Diet soda is better than regular soda.

4.  Low-fat foods are good for you.

5.  Whole grain foods are good for you.

 

Now let’s take a look at five more food lies that keep us overweight:

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6.  Eggs are Unhealthy For You – FALSE!  Eggs are just one of those foods that seems to be surrounded with controversy.  A lot of the debate has to do with the large amount of cholesterol in eggs.  According to Dr. Jon Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, research consistently shows that the cholesterol you eat has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood.  (There’s only one possible exception here: diabetics and the 0.2 percent of the population with familial hypercholesterolemia. More research has to be done to confirm this.)  In fact, in controlled trials, when people were instructed to eat 3 whole eggs per day, they LOST weight, experienced decreased inflammation, and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels.

Bottom line: Unless you have diabetes or a rare genetic disorder, eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you. In fact, egg yolks are one of the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods on the planet!

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7.  It’s All About Genetics – FALSE!  While it is true that there are genes associated with obesity, only 9% of overweight and obese people have the genetic or hormonal defect that predispose them to being heavy.  It is more likely that your weight is directly related to the habits of the environment you were raised in.  Even if you don’t eat exactly the way your parents do, it was within your home that you learned how to cook (or if you cook), what to eat, and how much to eat.  Plus, although our genes only change 2% every 20,000 years, by the year 2050, it is estimated that over 50 % of Americans will be obese (up from the current 35%).   What has changed over the last century has not been our genes, but our eating habits.  We have gone from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person per day in 1800, to currently eating about 152 pounds of sugar per person per day!

Bottom line:  Obesity is caused by all kinds of factors, but genetics is the least of them.  The good news is that you can change this!

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8.  Milk Is Nature’s Perfect Food – FALSE!  This one was a tough one for me to get my head around.  I was raised to think that dairy was an ideal source of calcium and protein.  But there are several reasons why this isn’t the case.  Many people have adverse reactions to milk – inflammation, allergies, sinus congestion, intestinal issues, and asthma.  Milk also spikes insulin, which encourages abdominal fat.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of “The 10-Day Detox Diet,” it may increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, and even increase the risk of types 1 and 2 diabetes. If that’s not enough, think about it this way; in nature, milk is provided at times when you want to experience exponential levels of growth (infancy).  Soooo, if you’d like to grow at an exponential rate, drink lots of milk!

Bottom line:  Milk doesn’t always do a body good.  Get your calcium from green leafy vegetables instead!

Do low carb diets really workWeb

9.  Low-Carb Diets Are Bad For You – FALSE  First, let’s define a low-carb diet:  a diet that restricts the type and amount of carbohydrates you eat, typically a daily limit of 60 to 130 grams (or 240-520 calories per day).  The idea behind the low-carb diet is that decreasing carbs lowers your insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy which ultimately leads to weight loss. Here’s my take on it;  most overweight people don’t realize that they are actually on extremely HIGH-carbohydrate diets, and all research indicates that high-carb diets are not good for you.   When you substitute vegetables for the white flour and sugar (the bulk of carbs in the standard American diet), you will dramatically reduce your caloric intake and increase your vitamins and nutrients.  Don’t forget that vegetables and fruit are carbohydrates, too.  But back to the question – are low carb diets dangerous?  No.  Studies show that low-carb diets may help prevent metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bottom line:  A low-carbohydrate diet is a highly effective, healthy way to lose weight and reverse metabolic disease.

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10.  You Should Eat Frequent, Small Meals Throughout The Day – FALSE!  At first glance, this one appears to make sense.  The idea is that by eating frequently, you speed up your metabolism all day, and therefore improve your ability to burn more calories, right?  This idea has been put to the test and refuted multiple times; there is no significant difference whatsoever in terms of “speeding up your metabolism.”  As long as your total daily calorie and nutrient intake remains what it needs to be, the manner in which you consume those calories/nutrients just doesn’t matter. Plus, it’s impractical to be eating constantly.   According to Jillian Michaels, celebrity master trainer on “The Biggest Loser,” by grazing around the clock, you’re preventing your body from burning fat, and causing yourself to lose track of the calories you’ve consumed!   Jillian recommends eating every four hours to stabilize your blood sugar, optimize insulin production and manage hunger.

Bottom line:  For weight loss, keep it simple; eat three balanced meals, plus a snack between lunch and dinner.

The Top 10 Food Lies That Keep Us Overweight – Part 1

When it comes to nutrition, there’s a lot to learn, but there’s a lot to UN-learn, too.  Here are the first five of what I consider to be the…

Top Ten Food Lies:  Part One

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1.  All Calories Are Created Equal –  FALSE!  If you were to eat 1000 calories of broccoli vs. 1000 calories of cake, do you think your body would know the difference?  Of course it would! The old idea that losing weight is just a matter of eating less calories and burning more calories is just what the food industry wants you to think.  Our bodies are more than just bank accounts with a certain number of calories in and calories out.  Our bodies are more like chemistry labs, with every bite affecting our hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism.

Bottom Line:  What really matters is the quality of the food we eat.  There are good calories (like lean protein, healthy fat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds) and then there are bad calories (processed foods, sugars, and white flour).

 

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2.  All You Need Is More Willpower – FALSE!  The implication is that if you’re overweight, then you’re just lazy or you lack self-discipline.  The truth is that we have simply believed the barrage of messages that the food industry has bombarded us with for decades.  We are literally addicted to the processed foods and additives that we consume, and then we are blamed for not being able to resist them!   When our taste buds, brain chemistry and metabolism have been damaged by sugar and processed foods, willpower alone can’t win for long.  First we have to break those very real addiction and cravings.

Bottom Line:  Processed foods and sugar truly are highly addictive.  We need to replace those foods with high quality whole foods that will allow our appetite and weight to function normally.

 

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3.  Diet Soda Is Better For You Than Regular Soda – FALSE!  I have to be honest here – this is by far my hardest habit to break.  Diet soda is so addictive!  But even though artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, it does not mean they are better for you than sugar.  In fact, many studies show a consistent association between artificial sweeteners and obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and depression.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, in a 14-year study of more than 66,000 women, researchers found that diet sodas actually raise the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.  Just one diet soda per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 33%.  But diet soda slows down your metabolism, and makes you crave even more sugar!  Ain’t that the truth!

Bottom Line:  Stay away from all artificial sweeteners, even the “natural” ones.  To break the addiction to diet soda, try a combination of sparkling water topped with a little cranberry juice.  It’s the only effective substitute I have found!

 

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4.  Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You – FALSE!  Many of us grew up in the low-fat era.  In fact, I remember my Yale-educated pediatrician sitting me down as an overweight teenager writing down on a little sheet of paper:

  • Carbohydrates:  4 calories per gram
  • Protein:  4 calories per gram
  • Fat:  9 calories per gram

Therefore, the best way to lose weight is to avoid fat, right?

Well, how’s that advice working out for America?

Here’s the low-down:  When fat is taken out of food, it tastes like cardboard.  So food manufacturers add sugar and artificial sweeteners to the product.  Not surprisingly in retrospect, the low-fat era has been accompanied by a dramatic rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.  We now consume twice as much sugar than we did 30 years ago!

Bottom Line: Low-fat foods are usually highly processed products loaded with sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  They are extremely unhealthy.  Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s food.

 

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5.  Whole Grain Foods Are Good For You – FALSE!  There is a common misconception that whole grain foods are nutritious and you will be missing essential vitamins and minerals without them in your diet.  According to Robb Wolf of “The Paleo Diet Solution,” the fact is that, on a calorie-per-calorie basis, as compared to meat, seafood, veggies, and fruits, wheat is not even very nutritious.  Furthermore, according to Kris Gunnars of “Authority Nutrition.com,” wheat is loaded with gluten, which many people are unable to properly digest.  Most whole grain products have actually been pulverized into very fine flour, which tends to raise blood sugars rapidly and can cause all sorts of problems down the line.   Also, because refined grain products like white bread get digested quickly, they can lead to large spikes in blood sugar.  So at best, it’s filler; at worst, it takes you on a sugar roller-coaster ride.

Bottom Line: The way I like to put it is, there’s nothing that whole-grain food can do for you that vegetables can’t do better.

What do you think?  How many of these did you think were true?

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The Kamikaze Dieter – Thoughts From One Who Survived

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‘Tis the season for binge dieting.  You know the drill:  throw out all the food, spend a fortune on exotic ingredients at the grocery store, and buckle in for the complete overhaul.  “Turn over a new leaf!”  “I’m never going to ….(fill in the blank)… again.”  “This is a new beginning.”  It hurts even to watch.  Why?  Because it’s like watching a kamikaze pilot strap himself in – they teach him how to fly, but not how to land.   That’s what it looks like to me now.  And I dread the inevitable crash when the cleanse/pills/detox/extreme diet is done, which should be right about now – January 24th or so.  As soon as the diet is over and you go back to the old eating habits, the weight comes right back on, and it should! Think about it:  if the diet works (most of them do in the short run), you will obviously lose weight if you stick to it religiously for the prescribed short period of time.  Therefore, the weight SHOULD come back on when you stop.  And in the end, I could be wrong, but you weren’t really doing it for such virtuous reasons as to “reset your metabolism,” or “fill your body seaweed extract.”  Down deep, you were really hoping that you’d lose weight and it would stay off, for once.  Think about how it is when you get a stomach bug – don’t you kind of hope you’re down a couple of pounds?  Or if you get a colonoscopy, the good news is that at least you’ve lost a little weight!  But the weight comes right back on again.  I know.  I’ve been there, done that.  And it just hurts to watch you do it, too.  Because, just like the kamikaze pilot, as soon as you’re done flying, you’re going to crash.   Because you haven’t learned how to land – how to eat under normal circumstances.  You haven’t incorporated any new habits into your daily life.

The key to lasting weight loss is to adopt new habits.  Automate as many foods choices as possible by making the food we eat habitual.  According to the book, “The Power Of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg (a book I highly recommend), 40% of what we do every day is automatic, ritualized, habitual.  That’s almost half of your day!  Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t even have to think about it?  If you could re-habituate some of the foods that you automatically grab during the course of the day?  You see, you don’t have to be on a strict diet to get results.  You’ll see results if you just make one healthy switch and stick to it.  My brother, who has now lost over 100 pounds, says he started by just not eating after dinner.  (Just think of what people usually eat after dinner!  It’s nothing healthy – EVER!  It’s always desserts or snacks.  Then eat mindless amounts of it in front of a TV!  Yikes!)  He saw results, and that built up his confidence to ….. add on another healthy habit! And another!  Think of it as building a portfolio of healthy habits that displace the old habits.

It’s not easy.  But it’s worth it.  You’re worth it!

Downton Abbey Gets It Right

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You might think, “What on earth does Downton Abbey have to do with health and fitness?”  Well, if you were listening closely, you may have heard the conversation last week between Isobel Crawley and Dr. Clarkson, regarding the “invention of a new drug called insulin.”  Well done, Downton Abbey writers!

Not many people are aware that insulin was invented in Canada in the 1920’s.  Until then, a diagnosis of diabetes was an imminent death sentence.  At the time, there were institutions in New York where people could send their children with the hope of extending their lives.  The doctors there experimented with severe restrictions of carbohydrates and calories. Some of the children actually starved to death, but with a diabetes diagnosis, it was their last chance.  My father, who was born in 1919, had Type 1 diabetes, and was one of the luckier patients there.  When insulin was invented and made available in the United States, it saved thousands of lives, including his, emptying out all of those institutions.  (Unfortunately, my father had what they called “brittle diabetes,” which spiked frequently and was difficult to control.  He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1963, and died from complications seven very long years later.)

His life, long illness and death factor strongly into why I am in the business of health and wellness, especially how the body processes sugar.  And it’s why I am so concerned about the amount of sugar people eat nowadays.  Overconsumption of sugar can cause illnesses ranging from type 2 diabetes to heart problems to dementia.  It’s in almost every box, can, or jar in the grocery store under various pseudonyms (high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, etc,), and it’s in everything from ketchup to crackers to marinades.

So what can you do?

Stick it to the man!  Start reading those labels!  Better yet, buy fresh foods that don’t even need labels. Keep your grocery shopping on the circumference of the store rather than down the aisles.  It’s not an easy adjustment to make, but it’s worth it.