“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 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.

“Your Move Fitness” – What’s It About?

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“Ask not what your doctor can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.”

Most of today’s chronic illnesses are lifestyle-related, which means there’s a lot you can do to improve your health.  Of course your doctor can try to help you with pills or surgery, but if you continue with your old lifestyle patterns, the problems will likely persist or worsen.  Plus being sick is expensive!  Then there are the side-effects of the medication and/or complications from scarring.  So what can you do?  You can throw your hands in the air and accept your high blood pressure, bad knees, and shortness of breath, saying, “It stinks to get old.” or “It runs in my family.”

OR

… you can do everything you can to help yourself first.  You can take control of your own health, starting from wherever you are today.  Things can improve dramatically with the addition of just one healthy habit at a time. You don’t have to go “on a diet.”  If you just ate a healthier lunch every day, you’d see improvements.  Or if you walked 10,000 steps every day.  Or drank a gallon of water every day.  That success feels good!  Each healthy habit displaces an old bad habit, and builds confidence.  So you add another healthy habit.  And another.  Now you’re winning!    Before you know it, you’re in a different mindset.  You’re in the game now, and on the road to a healthier life.