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?

10 Ideas To Spring Into Action

I can’t wait to get outside after this looong winter!  The sun is finally shining, I hear the birds again and the snow is slowly melting!  It’s a great time to change up my workout and get outside. So here are my top ten ideas for taking things up a notch for this season:

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1.  Get yourself some new kicks!  Sneakers only last about 4-6 months.  If you can’t remember when you bought your sneakers, it’s probably time for new ones! I love the feeling of lacing up some new colorful sneakers and feeling cushiony new socks (I love my Thorlo’s!) under my feet.  It literally puts spring in my step!

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2.  Commit to an upcoming event.  Look around for a local 5K walk or run.  Maybe a Mudderella or Warrior Dash!  Having that deadline will give you a goal to strive towards.  Okay, you don’t have to get as muddy as we were, but you get the idea!

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3.  Get a friend or family member to exercise with you.  Exercising with a buddy makes it more fun, and makes you more likely to stick with it.  Commit to regular early morning walks or weekend tennis matches.

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4. If you’re still listening to December’s music, splurge on a new playlist!  I just created an 80’s playlist that really makes me move!  (I just posted it on my Facebook page if you want to check it out here).

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5. Try outdoor exercise!  If you’ve always wanted to try canoeing or hiking or even yoga on a paddleboard, you can start now and be ready for some real adventure by summer!  (You can tell from the three colliding canoes above that my family always makes these sports violent, as in jousting on canoes.)

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6.  Change up how you’re fueling your workout. Spring is a great time to overhaul your snacks. Try some different seasonal fruits and veggies in your smoothie, like fresh berries, spinach, and arugula.  Watch your juicing, though!  If you wouldn’t eat a banana, an apple and a pint of blueberries in one sitting (that’s a lot of food), why would you drink it?

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7.  Reward yourself!  Find an awesome summer top that you can reward yourself with, and post a picture of it in your kitchen so you’ll be inspired by it throughout the day.  Then buy it for yourself when you accomplish your goal.  For me, it’s absolutely anything from the Boston Proper catalogue!  (Oh, and always get the earrings, too!)

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8.  Get a fun new water bottle!  Let’s face it – drinking water isn’t the most exciting thing, but having a cute water bottle makes it just a little bit easier to stay hydrated!  The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink.  Keep it next to you all day long.

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9.  Take lessons in a new sport!  Tennis or golf lessons are great ways to get outside and meet new people.  And lessons make the sport so much more enjoyable (Sorry, Frank.  I saw this photo, and just had to put it in!)  Bonus:  What’s more fun than shopping for new tennis or golf clothes?

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10.  Plan an family outdoor adventure vacation!  Book the ultimate escapade for you and your family.  Hike one of the national parks, or ride horses at a dude ranch, or climb an island volcano.  I think I just talked myself into it!

Whatever you do, enjoy it!

 

 

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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Great Way To Chisel Off The Weight – Get “NEAT”

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Those last few stubborn pounds.  How many times have you lost them and put them back on again?  You can’t do much more – you get a lot of exercise, you eat pretty healthy, and you still have to fit in the rest of life, too.  But this tip is a no-brainer!  Chisel off the weight by getting NEAT!

What is NEAT?  NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  It’s the movement you get in all day when you’re NOT at the gym.  It’s the stuff my mother always said to do; park the car at the furthest spot in the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to your co-workers’ office instead of emailing or calling them.  You can get creative with this; drink lots of water every day and then use the furthest bathroom, dance to music while you make dinner (sure to embarrass your kids)!  And according to research from Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of Arizona, it adds up to a whopping 350 calories per day! Times 7 days a week, times 52 weeks per year:  that’s 36 pounds per year!  You can do that!

Here are some other easy ways to get in those extra steps:

  • Do yard work.
  • Clean the house.
  • When folding laundry, do a squat as you pick up each item.
  • Bring in the groceries one bag at a time.
  • Take the dog for a quick walk to the corner after dinner.
  • Walk to your friends’ house instead of calling.
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
  • Stand or do lunges in place when you’re on the phone.
  • Get up off the couch every time there’s a commercial.
  • Walk up and down the stairs between TV shows.
  • Do ten squats every time you sit down at the desk or couch.

It all adds up!  Sure, it’s a little quirky, but for 36 pounds a year?  You can do that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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… 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.