Here are 10 ways to make your Thanksgiving Day a little healthier. Do at least 3 of these and I'll be very thankful!
Have a very happy Thanksgiving!
Now we're starting Holiday Weight-Gain Season, so here are a few of the latest research findings on how to prevent holiday heft:
People who eat breakfast consume about 5% fewer calories over the course of the day. That's about 100 calories, which adds up to losing over 10 pounds per year!
New studies are finding that cortisol--the stress hormone--interferes with the transmission of leptin, the "satisfaction" hormone that tells you to stop eating. This explains why you are hungrier when you're stressed. Try to manage stress and be extra consciencious about watching your portion sizes when things get hectic.
Saturated fat--the kind in cheese, cream, butter, beef (i.e., fat from any animal except fish)--does not trigger the release of leptin as much as healthy fats, like nuts or olive oil. That means you get less satisfaction and "fullness" from these unhealthy fats.
Tips for Weight-Gain Season
I hope you had a happy Halloween and have thrown out all the leftover candy. (If you haven't, do it right now! Yes...NOW! You'll be happy you did!)
Now we're starting Holiday Weight-Gain Season, so here are a few of the latest research findings on how to prevent holiday heft:
A study at Arizona State found that people who eat breakfast consume about 5% fewer calories over the course of the day. That's about 100 calories, which adds up to losing over 10 pounds per year!
New studies are finding that cortisol (the stress hormone) interferes with the transmission of leptin (the "satisfaction" hormone that tells you've had enough to eat.) This explains why you eat more when you're stressed. Get proactive about managing your stress this holiday season and do your best not to overeat when you are stressed.
Workouts that burn the most fat are ones that include intervals and (not surprisingly) are longer and more intense. It turns out that you don't get very much of a metabolism boost for the day unless you do a fairly long hard workout.
Have a good week!
Didn't throw your leftover candy out yet? Now! Do it NOW!
The Great Pumpkin
With Halloween behind us, it's time to bring in The Great Pumpkin to help get rid of your leftover candy.
Monica DeMoulin, a health-conscious mother of two, came up with this fabulous idea: Kids choose their very favorite 10-20 pieces of candy that they have collected. They leave the rest for The Great Pumpkin, who will come during the night and take it, leaving behind a toy or gift for the child. The more candy donated, the nicer the gift that The Great Pumpkin leaves behind.
If you don't have kids, be your own Great Pumpkin...there's nothing wrong with a little self-bribery!
Have a good week,
Halloween haunts 'til New Year
Here's a haunting statistic: The average American gains 4-8 pounds between Halloween and New Year's Day. Yikes!
The first step toward prevention is don't spike your blood sugar on Halloween !
Many people find that a single sugar binge can throw off your body chemistry and cause:
You can't afford to have that happen just as the holiday season starts...you're going to need to be at your best to weather all the holiday parties and treats coming your way until January!
So spend this Halloween bobbing for apples, toasting pumpkin seeds or spooking your friends, but don't go crazy on candy! If you do go crazy on candy, make sure to throw away your leftovers so that it can't become a habit.
p.s. Sugar-free candy won't spike your blood sugar, but remember that it's often not as low-calorie as you might think. Read the label.
Chilling & Cheating
It's a good time to know that recent studies confirm what we Northerners have long suspected: Being cold makes you hungry.
In one study, people consumed 30% more calories at a meal when they had recently been subjected to cold. That's a lot of extra calories! So bundle up this winter and if you do happen to get cold, be extra mindful of what you eat afterwards. Keep hot tea and hot brothy soups on hand and feel free to use this as justification for a few more long hot bubblebaths!
Food and Acne
While research has never supported the old wives tale that grease or chocolate causes acne, it has recently found a diet-complexion connection. While some acne is caused purely by bacteria or hormones, there is also a dietary culprit. It is...drum roll please...
These are the processed foods that raise your blood sugar quickly, often causing an insulin surge. High-glycemic foods include:
-almost everything made from white flour: bread, pastries, pretzels, muffins, cereal -almost everything high in sugar: soda, candy, cookies, cake -most processed foods
You should already be avoiding high-glycemic foods because they contribute to weight gain, diabetes, mood swings, high triglycerides and have poor nutritional value. But now, as if that weren't enough, they've also been shown to promote acne.
Sticking with low-glycemic foods (veggies, protein, fresh fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy) will help give you clear skin AND healthy insides too.
Losing Over Labor Day
Researchers have estimated that the average person eats 500-1000 extra calories on weekend days...without even realizing it. Yikes!
Givin that we have a long holiday weekend coming, it pays to make a plan for getting through it without gaining weight:
Figure out what super-healthy breakfast you can eat (egg white omelet with veggies and salsa?) in anticipation of extra treats tempting you later in the day.
What healthy snacks can you bring with you to parties? Crudite and shrimp cocktail are perfect, easy options.
Should you eat a salad or an apple before going out?
Can you fit in an extra workout over the weekend? How about a few extra hours of sleep?
Remember the 3 Bite Rule: 90% of the pleasure of any food comes in the first 3 bites
Make your plan right now so you'll have time to prepare. You'll be glad you did! Happy Labor Day!
Intensity is IN!
If you don't have much time for exercise there's good news. Lots of new research is finding that intensity--even more than duration--is important for most benefits to health and fitness. For example, intensity is more valuable than time spent exercising when it comes to:
Try interval training for shorter and more effective workouts. Just make sure to get your doctor's OK and warm up first. The intense intervals can be as short as 8 seconds or as long as 2 minutes, with a slower pace afterwards until your heart rate recovers, usually 1-5 minutes.
Try it twice per week and see how fast your fitness improves! If you are a bootcamper or take my cardio-sculpt class at Caltech, Congrats!--you are already interval training.
Have a good week, Jill
You may have never asked the question "What is food made of?", but the answer will change the way you think about and choose foods.
All foods have varying amounts of: 1. Fat 2. Protein 3. Carbohydrates 4. Fiber 5. Water 6. Vitamins & minerals 7. Additives (if the food has been processed with them)
Americans these days are eating too much of ingredients 1-3 (where all the calories are) and not enough of 4-6, which is why Americans are called "overfed but undernourished." How do you get more of the good stuff while cutting down on the other? It's easy and not surprising: eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean meats. These foods are naturally high in water, fiber, vitamins and minerals, which is why they are more filling per calorie than other foods.
Processed foods generally have the least water, fiber, vitamins and minerals because these things are removed or destroyed during processing. For the next few days try thinking of your food as the components that make it and see how it affects your choices. For example, a salad is just a big pile of water, fiber and nutrients!
Is your mouth watering?
Diet-related inflammation is a hot topic these days because it affects both health and beauty--It causes tissue to become red and puffy, which isn't healthy or attractive!
Inflammation most commonly contributes to joint pain, cardiovascular dammage and a ruddy complexion. Here's how food works in:
Inflammatory Foods: -white flour -sugar -salt -high-fat beef -high-fat dairy -anything highly processed (even bread and breakfast cereal)
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: -nuts (especially walnuts) -seeds (especially flax) -green, white or red tea -berries (any kind) -olive oil -salmon, tuna, other fatty fish -all colorful vegetables
This is a great way to eat for health and weight loss, so long as you don't overdo the healthy fats (remember--a serving of nuts or seeds is only 1/4 cup and a serving of oil is only 1 Tbsp.) If you have arthritis, rosacia, heart disease or just want radiant skin, give this a try and see if you look and feel better.
In my experience, people don't blow their diet on vacation as much as they do upon returning from vacation!
When you get back from vacation you are swamped with mail, phone messages, etc. and there is nothing to eat in the house, right? Here's an easy solution: Plan your menu for your first day back before you even leave. For example, stock the kitchen with:
--frozen veggies and protein for making a quick stir-fry dinner --oats and frozen berries for breakfast --egg beaters and frozen veggies for a quick omelette --cans of tuna, healthy soups, wasa crackers or other convenience foods from our "favorite foods shelf" --a grocery list of everything (especially fresh fruits and veggies) that you should buy ASAP
It pays to get right back to your good habits the minute you return because you don't give any bad habits a chance to take hold. Think of it as throwing yourself a healthy "welcome home" party!
We all know that sleep makes us feel great, but new research shows that only 2 nights of sleep deprivation (defined as 4 hours of sleep) changes your body's hormonal chemistry to:
Even if you get more than 4 hours of sleep regularly, a small sleep deficit may add up over time, so make sleep a priority if you are trying to lose weight!
Now isn't that better than having to exercise more?
Sweet (and juicy) success
Ever since the low-carb fad came along, many folks have avoided fruit because it contains sugar. Well, new research proves that fruit is a sweet and juicy way to stay slim! A new study has concluded that frequent fruit eaters experience less weight gain over time compared to people who report low fruit consumption. Fresh fruit is high in fiber and low in calories, especially for how filling it.
So stop feeling guilty about fruit and ENJOY!
Junk Food Justified
I'm just back from running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and boy,what an experience! Exercising all day at high altitude requires the 4 big sports performance enhancers:
...in other words, lots of the tasty processed foods you can't normally justify!
Crackers, energy bars, granola bars, pretzels, energy drinks, candy, bread, chocolate-covered espresso beans are all good ways to get quick energy when you're in the middle of serious endurance exercise. You actually need low-fiber, high-calorie foods at this time because they are fast and easy to digest. Your stomach isn't too good at digesting high-fiber foods when your muscles are using up most of your blood and oxygen.
Enjoy these junky foods during long bouts of exercise because after you recover, it's time to get back to the fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and unprocessed foods that are full of nutrients and fiber.
We all crave a little junk food sometimes and, in my book, this is one good reason to take up endurance sports!
Often when we enjoy a food, it isn't the taste we like so much as the texture. For example, potato chips and pretzels are little more than salt flavor made crunchy. Why eat extra fat, sugar and unwanted calories if it's just the texture you want?! Think about the textures you enjoy in your foods and come up with some healthy ways to get them.
For crunchy snacks try: cucumber slices jicama water chestnut dill pickles hearts of palm baby carrots kale chips (bake de-veined kale leaves at 350 for 10 min and add seasoning if you want them to be salty or spicey)
For smooth creamy snacks try: nonfat yogurt nonfat pudding (sugar free is also available) pureed fruit (like applesauce)
For frozen treats try: popsicles fudgesicles carbo-lite frozen yogurt no-sugar-added, fat-free blended coffee drinks (Coffee Bean makes the only ones I know of)
Please let me know if you have other ideas for good texture substitutes!
Everybody knows it's healthier to spread out your caloric intake over the entire day with frequent small meals, but many people still prefer to save up most of their calories for a big indulgence once a day or week.
Here's why that makes you gain weight:
An average body can handle at the very most 800 calories at once and every calorie above that gets turned to fat (it's less if you are small and inactive.) So no matter how much you starve yourself before that big dinner, you'll still store fat if you eat (or drink!) more than 800 calories.
Unfortunately it's extremely easy to reach 800 calories at a restaurant or any time you consume alcohol or dessert with a meal. The good news is that if you are eating frequent, small meals throughout the day you won't want to overindulge so much at dinner.
Happy light eating!
Are you feeling like your salads, fish, poultry, veggies & whole grains have become more boring than the last hour of traffic school? (Yes, I did traffic school this weekend, so it's salient!) Well then it's time to rediscover salsa!
Salsa has tons of flavor for only about 5 calories per tablespoon because of the zesty (and nutritious) spices. In addition to mild or spicy, there are exotic salsas, like mango, ginger or grapefruit. Find a few you like and use them to flavor just about everything. We have recipes at the office, or just use Google. And please share your favorite recipes with us!
When in Rome
Ever wonder how Italians remain slim? Well I don't know how they do it, but they must not be eating in our Italian restaurants!
The average plate of pasta in an American Italian restaurant is up to 3.5 cups--that's 7 servings and 700 calories before they even add any sauce--Yikes! Here are some tips for eating out Italian:
Don't let the bread basket sit near you (don't even let it on the table if your tablemates are willing.)
Get salad or minestrone soup for an appetizer.
Look for seafood, chicken or salad dishes on the menu. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side.
Avoid cheese and alfredo sauce (the original "heart attack on a plate.")
Ask for the "to go" box right away and put half of your meal in there before you even start eating.
Need pasta? Ask for a child-size portion in addition to your soup or salad.
Need pizza or calzone? Ask for a cheeseless version with lots of veggies and chicken. Restaurants will always be able to accomodate you (they get plenty of demands for cheeseless pizza from people who are lactose intolerant.)
Instead of wine, how about that fancy Italian bottled water?
Now for tips on another most fattening ethnic meal out: Mexican.
Tip 1: Order your meal without the cheese! When you eat full-fat cheese you might as well just paste it to your rear and block off some arteries.
Tip 2: Lose the sour cream, guacamole and chips.
Tip 3: If you must eat tortilla chips, slow yourself down by breaking each one into a dozen or so mini-pieces. Make yourself eat one mini-piece at a time.
Very Best Choices: -tostada salad with chicken (but skip the 800-calorie fried tortilla shell) -chicken fajitas -any taco or burrito that has mostly lean meat, veggies, lettuce, tomato and salsa (but keep in mind that a single burrito-size tortilla has about 450 calories, so try not to eat the whole thing!)
Good luck and remember the two most important words in the Mexican restaurant language: "sin quesa."
Rack the Thai
The next few entries are going to contain tips on what to order at your favorite ethnic food restaurants. We're starting with tastey, but often not-so-healthy Thai food!
Tip 1: Try to go to a more upscale Thai restaurant, where healthier dishes are easier to come by. In general, Thai food contains loads of hidden calories from oils, coconut milk and sauces.
Tip 2: Order the simpler meals on the menu so that you know exactly what ingredients are in your food. Avoid anything fried or swimming in coconut milk, peanut sauce or curry.
Tip 3: Get an order of steamed veggies on the side.
Tip 4: The healthiest Thai food I know of in our area is at Saladang Song in Pasadena.
Best choices: -Broth-based soups containing veggies, chicken or seafood -Stir-fries containing lots of veggies, chicken or shrimp -salads with the dressing on the side -simpler fish, chicken or seafood dishes
I hope this finds you without too much stress in your life, but if it does, here are some things you can do:
Eat fish, nuts and seeds daily. Salmon, tuna, walnuts and flax seeds are especially good. The healthy fats in these foods help boost mood and prevent anxiety.
Don't skip meals or snacks. When things get stressful you mustn't forget to eat. Low blood sugar will worsen your mood and your ability to cope.
Exercise the stress hormones away. If you let adrenaline and cortisol build up in your body, they age you and damage your health. When you exercise, you use them up and they actually help you burn fat!
Don't turn to comfort food for relief. Yes, it calms you, but you'll be sorry later! Be strong and try relaxing with laughter, massage or a bubble bath instead.
Timing is everything
Did you know that timing is everything when it comes to eating for best energy, metabolism, muscle-building and fat burning?
It is best to eat proportionally to how much energy you are burning at the time. That means if you are burning the most energy in the morning and being sedentary all evening, you should eat the most calories in the morning and eat light in the evening. This is the biggest mistake I see people make --they don't eat too much, they just time it wrong and consume all their calories at night when they burn most of their calories earlier in the day.
You may need to wake up earlier to make time for a bigger breakfast and to pack some snacks for the day. You'll also need to resist the urge to reward yourself at the end of the day with a big meal (unless you plan to be very active in the evening.) These changes are tough at first, but will make all the difference in the end.
Remember that the key is timing your calorie intake to mirror your calorie output. Try it and see what great results it gives you in terms of energy, mood and weight loss.
Sleep & Eating: Mystery Solved!
You already know that sleep deprivation contributes to hunger, cravings and weight gain, but new research shows why. It has to do with 2 hormones that regulate appetite: Grehlin, which stimulates hunger and Leptin, which suppresses appetite. I bet you can guess what researchers found. People who slept fewer than 5 hours per night had more ghrelin and less leptin than people who had 8 hours sleep or more.
This makes sleep one of the most important (and painless!) parts of your weight loss efforts.
Here's a research tidbit you can use: Researchers had 42 women eat as much pasta as they wanted for lunch, with or without a salad first. If the women ate a salad with only veggies and low-cal dressing, they ate 12% fewer calories overall than eating the pasta alone. No big surprise.
Here's the surprise: If they first ate a calorie-dense salad (with regular dressing and cheese), then they ended up eating many more calories than if they ate only pasta!
Moral of the story: Either stick with low-cal salad ingredients or don't bother eating salads at all!
Try flavoring your salads with salsa, fresh fruit, a variety of veggies and vinegars and you'll have plenty of flavor.
Summer is officially here, so eat these super-foods while they are in season:
--Gazpacho soup (keep it handy as an anytime snack) --mango slices (with cinnamon, perhaps) --Corn on the cob (if you consider it a grain instead of a veggie, it's super nutritious!) --berries & cherries (the fountain of youth) --grape tomatoes --button mushrooms (you can buy them pre-washed and ready-to-eat) --red peppers (they travel well as snacks. Slice them ahead of time, or just bring the entire pepper plus a paring knife) --papaya with lime --portobello mushrooms (grill them like hamburgers) --watermelon (sprinkle cocoa powder on top and it tastes like fudge cake. No foolin') --anything else you find at the farmer's market
...well... almost anything you find at the farmers market. When it comes to Kettle Korn and candied nuts, enjoy your free sample and don't even think of buying any!
Beating Overeating (Part 2)
If you love to eat and sometimes struggle with stopping, here are some interesting research tidbits that help.
Strategies to help prevent overeating:
Minimize side dishes. The more food choices you have, the more you eat. Studies show that when you have only 1 or 2 dishes in front of you, you eat less food overall than if you have 3 or 4 choices. This means you need to be extra careful at buffets and potlucks.
Use music to your advantage. Listen to mellow music at mealtime. A study at Johns Hopkins University found that diners chew faster and eat more when listening to lively music and eat less with relaxing music.
Dim the lights. Another study at Johns Hopkins found that diners ate less food under low lighting.
Use smaller utensils. This forces you to take smaller bites and eat more slowly.
Get enough sleep. Well-rested people overeat less, probably because they have fewer cravings and don’t need to rely so much on food to keep up their energy level.
Be the slowest eater in a group. The larger the group, the more each person tends to eat—without realizing it. Be aware that group meals lead to overeating and try to be the slowest eater at the table.
Eating is one of life’s great pleasures, but overeating ruins the experience by making you feel regret, guilt and physical discomfort. Use a few of these strategies for a week and see if you can get in the habit of eating only until you are satisfied. I’m sure you can find new things to feel guilty about!
Biology of Bingeing, Part I
If you have seen the documentary "March of the Penguins" then you have seen why gorging on huge quantities of food has historically been a valuable habit for survival.
In the movie we see that each year the Emperor Penguins walk (with very small clumsy steps!) over 70 miles to their breeding ground, where they will court and mate. After laying an egg, the female will walk back 70 miles to the ocean to feed while the male stays behind to incubate the egg, trying to keep himself and the egg warm for 4 months of frigid cold and Antarctic storms. He can't eat during that time and is near starvation by the time the baby penguin hatches. If all goes well, the mother returns with a belly full of food to share with the chick and the male walks back 70 miles (nearly starved) to the ocean to refill his belly. If the mother shows up too late, the chick will starve or the father will be forced to return to the ocean (leaving the chick to die) because he needs to eat or he will die.
Starvation is constantly a threat.
Now try to imagine a penguin who, during her brief feeding opportunity says "Goodness, I think I'm satisfied on a small quantity and I don't want to stuff myself." There probably have been such penguins. And they get weeded out of the gene pool very quickly! Only the ones that stuff themselves silly have enough food to survive the long walks and hard living until they will have their next feeding opportunity.
This is one example of why animals are programmed to overeat. Our ancient biology doesn't know that food is plentiful and life is easy. I like to remind myself that rather than feeling guilty about wanting to overeat, I should feel lucky that my ancestors did so, because that's likely the reason my genes survived this long.
Overeating is natural, so we shouldn't feel guilty--but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use smart strategies for avoiding it. I'll write more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, let your conscience be clear about overeating and blame your biology.
Don't trust the chef
Ever wonder why the food you make at home doesn't taste as good as the same thing at a restaurant? Even just rice. Or oatmeal. Or a turkey sandwich? How is that possible?
Well, there are two potential answers:
1) The restaurant chef has skills or ingredients you don't. This is often true. or 2) The restaurant chef uses more salt, sugar, oil, butter, lard, cream, etc. than you would ever consider proper. This is more often true.
I have been astounded by how many professional chefs will not hesitate to use 10+ servings of oil/butter/salt/etc. to make a single serving of food. When "Take Home Chef" (a television show where a 3-star chef comes to your home and helps you prepare dinner) came to my house, the chef used...
That is thousands of calories of added fat for only 2 dinners!
This explains why diners usually underestimate the calories in their restaurant meals by 50%. It also explains why it's usually easier to lose weight dining in.
Eating for Excellent Skin
Diet-related inflammation is a hot topic these days because it affects both health and beauty. It causes tissue to become red and puffy, which isn't healthy OR attractive! Inflammation not only causes a puffy, ruddy, uneven complexion, but also contributes to health problems like joint pain, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimers.
Here's how to minimize inflammation:
Avoid these Inflammatory Foods: -white flour -sugar -salt -anything highly processed (even bread and breakfast cereal) -high-fat beef -high-fat dairy, like cheese, cream, whole milk -anything fried -anything that contains trans fats
Eat more Anti-Inflammatory Foods: -nuts (especially walnuts) -seeds (especially flax) -green, white or red tea -berries (any kind) -olive oil -salmon, tuna, other fatty fish -all colorful vegetables
This is a healthy way to eat, so long as you don't overdo the healthy fats (remember--a serving of nuts or seeds is only 1/4 cup and about 200 calories!) If you have rosacia, heart disease, arthritis or just want radiant skin, give this a try and see if you look and feel better.
There is some fascinating research on eating habits and containers! Get this:
--People automatically eat and drink less when they use taller, thinner bowls and glasses. Shorter, wider containers give the illusion of less volume, so people eat more from them.
--People eat less candy or chips out of an opaque bowl than out of one that is transparent. Apparently you are more tempted when you have a better view of the contents.
--People eat less candy or snacks out of a bowl when it is less full. The more snacks in the bowl, the more people eat.
--People eat less food off of dark-colored plates than off of white plates. Without realizing it!
So if you tend to overeat, get yourself to Pottery Barn and get the darkest, tallest skinniest opaquest bowls, cups and plates you can find!
Power of prevention
As I sit here with a raging case of Poison Oak, I'm reminded of how some problems are much easier to prevent (scratch, scratch) than to cure!
This is surprisingly true in the case of weight gain. You might think that losing a pound of fat involves simply burning off the excess calories that you overate in the first place. Not so, unfortunately. Burning off a pound of fat is much more work than preventing it.
Recent research is showing that once new fat is stored on your body, it can be reluctant to leave. It may release hormones that increase your appetite and destabilize blood sugar, making it tougher to eat right. In addition, when you burn off the extra fat you are likely to lose some lean tissue along with it, which lowers your metabolism.
This is not to say that weight loss is futile! Everybody backslides sometimes, but you'll save yourself some work if you minimize the number of times you let yourself pig out today with plans to burn it off tomorrow.
Here's a useful new research finding: Calories from saturated fats don't raise leptin levels as much as calories from other foods. Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied, so you want the foods you eat to release more, not less.
Alcohol also tends not to release it.
Interesting! This is one more reason to lay off the cheeseburgers and fries.
Afternoon Energy Boosters
If you are like most people, you sometimes suffer from an afternoon energy slump that leaves you wishing for a siesta. Many people turn to foods full of sugar or caffeine for a quick energy boost, but those are short-term fixes that leave you worse off in the long run. Luckily there are some healthy alternatives.
Spices like ginger, red cayenne pepper and peppermint can raise your metabolism and give you a natural, healthy lift. You can find ginger and peppermint in herbal teas, chewing gums or hard candies. You can also add these spices to your afternoon snack--try adding red pepper to your cottage cheese or hummus (to eat with veggies) and sprinkle ginger on your apple slices. It works!
Ideal after-dinner drink
Here's a simple way to burn a few more calories, according to a recent study: Follow your meals with a tall glass of ice water.
In a small study, men and women who drank 2 cups of cold water after a meal temporarily experienced a 30 percent increase in the rate at which their bodies burned calories. The increased calorie burning was attributed to thermogenesis, a process by which the body burns calories for digestion purposes. It has been estimated that you can burn about 60 extra calories per day this way. That doesn't sound like much, but as a daily habit that adds up to 21,900 calories (or 6 pounds of fat lost) per year!
Buffet Brunch Beware
With Easter & Mother's Day coming, it's time to discuss strategies for surviving buffet brunches. They tend to embody everything you don't want to do if you are watching your weight, so the #1 strategy is to avoid them when possible! If that's not an option:
Finally, in case you were wondering, you won't do well by stuffing yourself at brunch, and then not eating the rest of the day. Your metabolism, blood sugar, cholesterol and intestines much prefer a few smaller meals. If you have an Easter egg hunt, don't forget that toys and coins are better egg stuffers than candy! All my best, Jill Diet for Health will be closed this Friday and Saturday for the Easter weekend. Have a good one!
If I had 3 wishes from a magic genie, I'd probably use 1 of them to invent guilt-free chocolate! Until that happens, here are the best alternatives I know:
Please let me know if you have other chocolatey ideas or if you know where I can find that magic genie!
Tune in or tone up
A recent Harvard study found that the risk of becoming obese rises by 23% for every 2 hours of daily television viewing...and the average American watches 5 hours! Yikes!
Why not make a deal with yourself? If you must watch tv, don't just sit there. Do sit-ups, leg lifts, and other exercises while you watch. Or chop veggies to have on hand as a healthy snack. Incidently, tv watching is also correlated with dissatisfaction with one's own appearance, even before you've gained any weight! Apparently watching those starlets makes us want to be unrealistically thin, even as it makes us fat! How about a good book instead?
How to gain fat on 1000 calories per day
Everybody knows it's healthier to spread out your caloric intake over the entire day with frequent small meals, but many people still prefer to save up most of their calories for a big indulgence once a day. Here's why that makes you gain weight:
An average body can handle at the very most 800 calories at once and every calorie above that gets turned to fat (it varies by body size, exercise, etc.) So no matter how much you starve yourself before that big dinner, you'll still store fat if you eat (and/or drink!) more than 800 calories. Unfortunately it's extremely easy to reach 800 calories at a restaurant or any time you consume alcohol or dessert with a meal. The good news is that if you are eating frequent, small meals throughout the day you won't want to overindulge so much at dinner. Happy light eating!
There's a dangerous threat to your healthy diet lurking out there and you may not even realize it: Arriving home at the end of a tiring day with an empty stomach and low blood sugar . It sounds so harmless, but it's not!
This is the evil monster that leads people to overeat at night. It happens for a simple physiological reason--low blood sugar and a tiring day make your will-power weak, so you give in to the powerful pleas of your empty stomach.
Here's a solution: Have a snack 20-30 minutes before you arrive home. It should be a fruit, yogurt, healthy crackers, or something with some complex carbohydrate to get your blood sugar up. Now when you arrive home, your brain and your stomach are in a better position to help you eat right.
Training Prevents Complaining
This week I want to remind you that your time is precious, so don't be one of the many poor souls who wastes their time exercising ineffectively! For cardiovascular exercise, effective training means getting in your proper heart rate zone. For weight training, it gets a little more complicated and this is where lots of exercisers waste their time with improper methods. I recommend having at least a few sessions with a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer. It's a bit expensive, but well worth it, since you'll forevermore get better results for every minute of your workout.
Healthy Mother's Day Ideas
Your mom, wife (or YOU, if you are a mother) deserves the gift of great health this Mother's Day, so instead of a big old brunch, where the whole family stuffs themselves and then feels guilty, how about one of these healthy ideas:
Have a Mother's Day picnic with mom's favorite healthy foods and a frisbee to get everyone active.
Go for a Mother's Day fat-burning activity like hiking, bowling or mini-golf.
Give (or ask for) healthy Mother's Day gifts, like exercise gadgets or gift certificates for a personal training session or massage. And don't forget that some of the best healthy gifts are free--foot massages, back massages or just the promise of some time alone, without any parental duties.
Remember-- Holidays don't have to be about food! Finding other forms of celebration--games, activities, outings, etc.--will be fun and healthy.
Just Say No
Happy Holidays! If you are getting more holiday stress than holiday cheer this year (and I know many of you are!) try just saying no to non-essential holiday obligations. By reducing stress you will also have a much easier time watching your weight over the holidays because stress tends to: 1. increase your appetite. 2. exaggerate cravings for sweets and starches. 3. interfere with sleep (better sleep means easier weight loss.) 4. make your blood sugar levels less stable (making it harder to lose weight.)
So take time for yourself this season, even if you have to let a few things slide. Just say no to holiday obligations that will be more trouble than they are worth. One of the best gifts you can give your friends and family is a happier, healthier, more relaxed you !
Too much of a good thing
With all the recent news about how green tea aids weight loss, prevents cancer and protects health, some of us are bound to overdo it sometimes. If you get nauseous or dizzy from your green tea, you may be drinking too much too fast. Try less gulping and more sipping and you'll probably feel fine.
Nutrition Bar Blues
I know you don't want to hear this because they are so convenient, but nutrition bars get a big thumbs-down.
According to an independent testing laboratory, over half of the 46 bars tested were lying about their nutrition information. They tended to have more sugar, carbs and calories than listed on the nutrition label.
Nutrition bars are not filling enough for the calories they provide. For example, you could eat a large salad or a few cups of fruit for the calories of a Luna Bar. This makes many people eat more at their next meal.
If you regularly eat nutrition bars and aren't getting the results you think you deserve, try replacing them with "real food snacks" like fruit, veggies, cottage cheese, etc. That usually makes a big difference!
Throw out your antioxidant supplements of beta-carotene and vitamins A and E. A very large examination of 86 studies recently found--to the surprise of many--that folks taking large doses of these antioxidants had shortened lifespans. This is counter-intuitive because antioxidants are thought to protect cells from free radicals (a normal by-product of metabolism.) Antioxidants in fruits and veggies are known to help prevent cancer and premature aging.
This is one more demonstration of man-made nutrition supplements gone wrong. Whereas naturally-occurring antioxidants in fruits and veggies are known to protect cells, the man-made versions in high doses don't have the same effect. It isn't yet known why or how man-made antioxidants affect the body, but for now you are better off without them.
Eating and depression
I've always wondered how people could enjoy fishing so much and this might explain it. Get this:
The higher the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3s in your blood, the more likely you are to suffer from depression.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils used in margarine, baked goods and snack foods. In the western world, consumption of omega-6 oils is 15 to 17 times that of omega-3s, which are found in fish, flaxseed and walnuts.
Ohio State University College of Medicine researchers found that participants suffering from major depression had blood levels of omega-6 that were nearly 18 times as high as their levels of omega-3. Those who didn’t have major depression had blood levels of omega-6 that were about 13 times their levels of omega-3s. The study was published online in Psychosomatic Medicine last month.
For a healthier omega-6/omega-3 balance, eat more flax, walnuts and fatty fish including salmon, mackerel or sardines and eat fewer processed foods made with vegetable oil. Fish oil supplements are also thought to help correct an imbalance.
Earth Day Diet Tip
“Do you want climate change with that?”
Imagine the voice at the drive-thru asking you this question when you order your cheeseburger. Sounds crazy, right? Not according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Their 2006 report warns us that our increasing consumption of animal foods (meat and dairy) is taking a heavy toll on the planet.
The problem is that livestock—while delicious—is tough on the environment in at least three different ways. First, they pollute our water, air and soil with manure and methane (a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.) Second, the corn, soybeans and hay grown for livestock feed requires huge amounts of fertilizer, which generates large amounts of nitrous oxide. Finally, trees and rainforest lands are being sacrificed to create more land for livestock pasture. One extreme example is Brazil, where about 70 percent of onetime forest land is being used as pasture and to grow animal feed.
The UN report concludes that eating less meat and dairy foods is one step we could all take to help reduce global warming and other environmental damage.
Here’s the great news: what’s good for the planet is also great for your health. Replacing animal foods with plant foods—like fruits, veggies, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes—prevents obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. That’s one powerful habit!
Serving Size Deception
Research shows that people underestimate their caloric intake by around 30%. So this week I want to warn you about foods that seem guilt-free, but who's calories add up fast if you don't watch the serving size. I see lots of folks gain weight on these seemingly harmless foods:
Fat-free whipped cream or Cool Whip: sure it's only 15 calories per serving, but a serving is only 1-2 TBsp! Almost everything is low-calorie at that portion size! See how much you really use and do the math.
Fat Free Parmesan Cheese: a serving is 15 calories, but that is for only 2 tsp.
I Can't Believe it's Not Butter: Even though it says 0 calories per serving, it actually is caloric and the manufacturer is rounding down. The second ingredient is oil, so it is possible to overdo it if you go nuts with spraying or--I know people do this--take of the top and pour. There are about 900 servings in the container, so if you finish a container a week, you know you're using enough oil to add up!
Low-calorie salad dressing: Same as above--it's only low calorie in small portions. If you like lots of dressing on your salad, consider using gourmet vinegar or salsa.
Every Meal Counts!
I have a true tale that shows just how fast your health can change after a few good or bad meals!
Today I met a client who was worried about his cholesterol because it had skyrocketed up to 320, despite his normally healthy diet. His doctor wanted to start him on medication that he would need to take for life.
We went over his diet and couldn't find any problems for cholesterol. Upon further digging, we figured out that for a week preceding his last cholesterol test he had been on vacation eating fried foods, alcohol and very few fruits and veggies. He and his doctor had assumed that one week of abnormal eating couldn't greatly influence a cholesterol test.
...but it can!
He went home and took another test and found his cholesterol was down to 190, a much better number.
This demonstrates how even just a few meals can drastically change your health! Cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides can all change radically after just a few bad meals. Newer research is suggesting that just a few healthy meals can immediately improve your resistance to cancer and I wouldn't be surprised if your immune system, mood and all kinds of other health indices change fast too. Every meal counts!
"Gatorade" for the Corporate Athlete
Yesterday I discussed nutrition for the "Corporate Athlete" and touted frequent low-glycemic snacks as the key to great performance. Whereas solid food snacks are the best option, many Corporate Athletes are too busy to stop and eat every few hours during long meetings, while traveling or while interacting with clients. Here's the solution:
A mug full of Imagine brand soup.
Imagine soups are available at Trader Joe's or health food stores and come in a variety of flavors, such as tomato, creamy broccoli, portobello mushroom and butternut squash. They are creamy from soymilk, not cream, so they have a bit of protein without the saturated fat.
Why are they "Gatorade" for the Corporate Athlete?
You can slowly sip on them throughout the day and they will keep your blood sugar at a nice level. They are low in calories, low-glycemic and nobody knows you are drinking soup instead of coffee. You can prepare the soup in seconds by either microwaving it in a mug or just mixing it with hot water.
Try it and see how much better you feel. Not only will your mood and memory be better throughout the day, but come nighttime you won't be as ravenously hungry. They are a great performance food that should always be available in your desk drawer.
p.s. If you can't fine Imagine Soups, try soymilk, almond milk, rice milk, nonfat milk or other non-cream-based soups. Those also work.
The Corporate Athlete
Just like serious athletes use sports nutrition to stay strong and fast, the "corporate athletes" --those people who demand high achievement at work all week--need to use nutrition as a performance tool.
Nutrition can make all the difference to corporate performance because it affects mood, memory, mental stamina and cognitive endurance--all the things an executive or office worker uses to be their best.
The highest priority for the corporate athlete is to have optimal blood sugar throughout the day. The brain runs on blood sugar and can't access energy from fat the way muscles can. This means that low blood sugar will make mood, memory and thinking slow down and suffer.
The solution is frequent low-glycemic snacks. Think fruit, string cheese, nuts, seeds, low-sugar yogurt, cottage cheese, sandwiches, salads, soups, and most foods that are unprocessed. By eating these snacks every few hours, the corporate athlete will notice that they think better all day, are less exhausted at night and are more relaxed for their family.
High performance of any kind--mental, cognitive or physical--needs great nutrition.
Taming the Dog Brain
I believe that folks shouldn't feel so guilty for eating poorly or overeating on occasion. It's in our nature to do so and my dog, Jasper, reminds me of that every day. He will eat almost anything he sees--garbage, dirty socks, tissues--and will beg for more dogfood whenever he isn't busy doing something else.
Jasper reminds us that animal are biologically designed to eat whenever possible, regardless of hunger. Evolutionarily this makes sense, since food scarcity was the biggest danger until the last few hundred years--too recent for our bodies to adjust to the new problem of overabundance .
Humans have big powerful brains that give us will-power, good judgement and self-control and we don't give ourselves enough credit for using these skills to overcome the dog brain underneath. Unfortunatly our big brains also give us guilt when the primitive dog brain underneath succeeds in making us overeat.
We all know "food pushers", those well-intentioned (or not) family or friends who are intent on getting us to "just have a bite." They make us eat to avoid feeling rude or embarrassed, but unfortunately food eaten for them still ends up in our fat cells!
Defend yourself by preparing some phrases or strategies you can use next time. Practice them so you'll be ready. Here are some examples:
A few planned phrases go a long way in this "food means love" culture of ours, so take a minute right now to think of some you can use.
Variety is Overrated
It turns out that being in a food rut can actually help you lose weight! Who knew!?
Even though dietary variety is good for nutrition, it makes you eat more. Studies show that when people eat the same foods often, they eat less without even knowing it! Use this to your advantage by doing some of the following:
These things also make cooking a lot simpler, so now you can use your extra time and creativity to spice up your workouts!
Burn Fat Faster
You probably already know that unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado, fatty fish) are a lot healthier for your heart than saturated fats (butter, cream, beef), but get this: New research suggests that our bodies burn UNsaturated fat more easily than other fats . That means it is easier to lose weight if the fat came from those healthier sources. So here are some ways to replace saturated fats with unsaturated ones:
--use olive or canola oils instead of butter --eat more fish and less beef --replace ice cream treats with soy or nonfat yogurt treats --use nonfat dairy products --replace cheese with nuts, nut butter, or seeds --avoid salad dressing unless it is nonfat or you know it was made with olive or canola oil
This is not a free pass to eat good fats! They are just as caloric as the bad ones and can still make you gain weight, so don't increase your overall fat intake, just replace the bad fats with the good.
Remember Your Meals
As the holiday junkfood gets more plentiful and your will-power wanes, here's a simple strategy for preventing overeating: Think about your last meal.
A recent study revealed that people ate less at a meal when they were first prompted to remember what they had eaten at their last one. So as you set the table or make your way to a restaurant, make a mental note of the foods you ate at your last sitting. Simple, eh?
Take a moment right now to take a slow deep breath. Feel the air go all the way down to your abdomen. Many people go for hours shallow breathing (where only your chest fills with air, not your entire abdomen.) This can lead to muscle tension, headaches, poor posture and a lack of oxygen. Taking a deep breath more often can help relieve stress, give you more energy, improve concentration and increase your metabolism. Easy, eh?
Today I want you to get your creative juices flowing to think about how you can make your next birthday, anniversary, holiday or other special occasion not revolve around food!
Hopefully you are going to have lots of special occasions in your lifetime, so you can't afford to indulge at every one. So here are some ideas for things you could do instead of just going out for a big meal:
Birthday Ideas --have a mini-golf tournament --get a group together for a yoga class to prove you're not old --do something silly, like go country line dancing
Anniversary Ideas --go out dancing or take a dance lesson --go for a walk on the beach --hike to a beautiful place --go for a scenic drive
Holidays with kids --go hiking with your family on Easter to celebrate Springtime --play a game in the park with your family --go bowling --do arts & crafts --play a board game --have a picnic --create a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt
Other Celebrations --have a spa day --get massages --go to a theme park (and bring your own healthy snacks) --go to a climbing wall, batting cage, etc. --ride horses --play video games at an arcade
These things might take some extra effort, but they're more fun than just pigging out and you won't have the day-after guilt trip!
Not always motivated to eat fruits and veggies for your health? Then how about for nice legs ?!
Eating more fruits and veggies can prevent varicose veins. Studies show that the flavenoids found in fruits and veggies such as cherries, blueberries, broccoli and carrots may improve chronic venous insufficiency, a condition that can lead to varicose veins. Apparently, flavenoids can improve the elasticity and tone of veins to keep them--and your legs--looking and feeling young.
A sweet treat you should eat
Did you know that eating more fruit in the morning helps prevent craving sweets in the afternoon and evening? Try it--it works! And don't miss berry season. The fountain of youth (or the closest thing to it) is in those delicious berries!
I’ve noticed over the years that the healthiest eaters aren’t the ones with the best knowledge, motivation or intentions, but the ones with the best preparation .
An eating plan makes all the difference in our busy lives. In fact, the healthiest eaters are often the people who make a food plan in advance and then are too busy not to stick to it!
Try this and I bet you’ll eat healthier and lose weight the next few days: Write down exactly what you plan to eat for meals and snacks the next 3 days. Think about where you'll be for meals and whether you need to bring something with you. Now plan when you will get to the store and prepare these foods. Schedule this time in your calendar and make it sacred, like an important appointment. Do this now and see what a difference a plan makes!
Blossoming (taste) buds
Did you know that your taste buds grow more sensitive to subtle flavors when you cut back on salt, sugar and fat? It takes a couple of weeks, but if you stop eating over-flavored foods you will start to notice that previously bland foods taste wonderful. For example, brown rice (sans soy sauce) and air-popped popcorn (no butter or salt) will start to have a nutty flavor. Carrots, peas and corn will taste deliciously sweet, and a baked yam will be guilt-free heaven! Believe it or not, you will start to prefer your foods au natural because their flavors are more complex and interesting than the tastes of added salt, sugar and fat. Of course, healthier foods will taste bland until your taste buds adjust, but it’s worth it! Invest two weeks to start really enjoying healthy flavors again.
Have you tried portobello mushrooms lately? They're delicious, meaty, filling and only 20 calories for a mushroom the size of a large hamburger! I put them on my list of greatest foods because they are so easy, convenient, healthy and low-calorie. You can eat them like a burger, on skewers with other veggies, stir fried or however you like. They cook best with a coating of balsamic vinegar and a light spray of canola oil. You can grill them, broil them or even put them on your George Foreman Grill. You are all better cooks than I am, so let me know what other recipes you come up with!
If you are getting bored of eating chicken and fish all the time, then consider fresh crab. As long as you skip the butter sauce, it's the perfect nutritious, low-calorie, fat-free protein and it's fun to eat. If you get the whole crab and dig out the meat yourself, your meal will also serve as your entertainment and keep you from eating too fast. If you don't mind getting a little messy, it's the perfect fun and interactive meal.
Sit up and...
Are you slouching right now? Well, stop it!
Sitting up nice and straight will not only make you look ten pounds thinner, but will also burn extra calories by engaging your abdominal and back muscles. Think of sitting up straighter every time you hear a phone ring or stop at a red light. These constant reminders will help you turn good posture into a habit, so that you'll have it all day long.
...and if I don't already sound enough like your mother, "Eat your vegetables!"
Plan to be Lazy
Do you ever get home for the evening and feel too tired to cook? Ever forget to plan ahead and have to come up with a meal at the last minute? Of course you do! Domino’s pizza and McDonalds count on it.
These situations won’t ruin your diet if you keep some of these healthy, easy, “emergency” foods in your house at all times:
KEEP THESE IN THE FREEZER Frozen veggies (to stir-fry or add to canned soups) Skillet Sensations or other similar frozen stir-fry Frozen chicken breasts, turkey, or fish filets Veggie burgers Egg Beaters (to make omelets with veggies) Frozen ostrich burgers (as tasty as beef, but much healthier) Frozen fruit (to add to yogurt, oatmeal) Healthy frozen ravioli (e.g. Whole Foods has some filled with veggies or chicken instead of cheese and you can add more of your own frozen veggies to the sauce)
NON-PERISHABLES FOR THE CUPBOARD Water-packed tuna or salmon Rolled oats Fantastic Foods Chili Mix + canned beans + canned tomatoes Low-fat, Low-sodium raman noodles (add extra water and your own frozen veggies) Low-sodium broth-based soups (Health Valley and Pritikin are two good choices) Low-sodium broth (throw in your own protein and veggies) Popcorn kernels (for air-popping)
TRY TO ALWAYS KEEP THESE IN YOUR FRIDGE Non-fat cottage cheese Non-fat yogurt Bagged lettuce Baby carrots or sugar snap peas Low-fat string cheese Hard-boiled eggs
Having a stash of health “Emergency Foods” makes all the difference when you are busy or tired, so keep this list handy. Print it out and take it with you grocery shopping.