Why NOW is the easiest time to give up sugar
If all the latest reports of how sugar is truly addictive, feeds cancer cells, raises cholesterol, inflammation and risk of depression--just to name a few--has you thinking you need to ditch it once and for all, then consider doing it NOW.
Here's why THIS IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR to get off sugar with the least struggle:
Summer fruit can help transition your taste buds. Try putting cinnamon on peaches, plums, berries and apricots. Try filling a hollowed-out half of papaya with unsweetened yogurt and chopped nuts. See how unsweetened cocoa sprinkled on watermelon tastes like fudge cake. By the time these delights are out of season, your taste buds will have adjusted to hopefully not even enjoy sugary foods anymore.
The long days, fun and warmth of summer are better than dark cold winter nights for riding out the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
Extra sunlight means extra vitamin D means lighter appetite and weaker cravings.
Getting out for some physical activity at night can replace the relaxation and comfort that a sugary dessert may have been giving you.
Extra sunlight helps boost mood, which makes it easier to resist the brief high of sugary treats.
So consider saying goodbye to sugar...at least for the summer. Most clients who do so are amazed at how much better their bodies and brains feel without it. You'll never know til you try it.
When am I "There"
Get the right mindset for nutrition and weight success by identifying the right goal.
You are NOT "there" when...
you reach your college weight
are a size 6
can run xx miles
hit the perfect body fat %
Research shows that 95% of people who get "there" don't stay "there". So work toward something better.
In my experience, you're "there" when:
your taste buds are trained to truly prefer "clean" foods
you know how to win back your taste buds, should they defect to the dark (processed) side
you look forward to running xx miles
your healthy habits are on automatic pilot
your family and friends are trained to support you
your appetite is smaller
you know how to shrink your appetite, should it defect to the dark (big) side
These are just skills to learn, like any others. But you might forget to work on them if you are too focussed on the wrong definition of "getting there."
It's just like that saying about "give a man a fish..." versus teaching him to fish.
Learn to fish.
Have a good week!
The Guilt-Wracked Lemming
Healthy people can't have it all.
Social Norms Say:
--you are supposed to eat sweets on holidays --a good host serves somes unhealthy treats --it's rude to decline offered food --you are ruining the party if you don't drink --you are "high maintenance" if you order off the menu --it's un-American to forego popcorn at the movies --and so on.
Our Bodies Say:
--I was not designed to eat this way, but I can do it. HOWEVER there's no avoiding the consequences to weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.
Our body don't care that "everybody's doing it" or "it's a special occasion" or "it would be awkward not to."
So we often have to choose between social consequences and health consequences. In my opinion, following the crowd these days is a lot like being a lemming. If you look at it that way, it's easier to be the non-conformist.
So lose the guilt. Step out of the lemming-line!
Have a good week!
Post-Vacation Weight Gain
Usually in September I see lots of folks who can't figure out why they gained so much weight since getting home from their summer vacation.
I think it's because vacation foods blitz your taste buds and stretch your stomach just a little, and you don't always realize it. You come home, and you FEEL like you're eating just the way you always did. But your slightly stretched stomach wants a bite more at every meal....and your desensitized taste buds are no longer quite so satisfied by clean foods.
So I recommend this Post-Vacation Nutrition Plan :
Remove any processed or avalanche foods from your home (do this before you leave, ideally, so that during your trip you can forget you ever liked them.)
Re-Stock your kitchen with loads of healthy foods. That first week back, you'll be too busy to eat anything besides what you prepared....even if it tastes bland and overly-healthy.
Repent : Spend 2-3 days being a nutrition SAINT, even measuring your quantities.
Here is why just "getting back to normal" often doesn't work:
A) Rich, salty or sweet vacation foods likely blitzed your taste buds. Clean foods will taste bland and unsatisfying until you spend 2-3 days eating clean. Get those days out of the way, while you are still in post-vacation-bliss.
B) Larger vacation meals may have stretched your stomach. Even if they only stretched it 5%, if you need to eat that much more every meal to feel full, it will add up. So measure your foods for a few days and let your stomach shrink back to size.
This will get you back on track nice and fast, and allows you to enjoy vacations without eroding your good at-home habits. Think of it as your healthy welcome-home party.
Have a good week!
New tricks for curbing cravings
Lately it seems that many folks are struggling with cravings, so here are the latest research-proven ways for curbing them:
If you are beginning to crave a junky treat, load up on a healthier version of a similar flavor, so that your taste buds get sick of it. For example, if you are craving pizza, eat plenty of tomatoes and lowfat cheese or Shirataki noodles with tomato sauce and parmesan. If you are craving chocolate mint ice cream, try putting cocoa powder and mint extract in almond milk.
It sounds corny, but a recent study found that daydreaming about happy things helped reduce cravings, especially after a little practice, and when incorporating happy sights, sounds and smells.
Especially if you can find distractions that keep your hands busy, like knitting, video games, or giving your honey a foot massage.
Because of "taste bud ping pong", there are some seemingly-innocent foods that can trigger cravings. Top offenders are coffee, anything salty (even cottage cheese or canned tuna or deli meat), and anything very sweet (even natural sweeteners, like stevia.) One strong taste--even if it was a nutritious or calorie-free food--can send you craving the opposite taste.
Again, it sounds corny, but spending just a few minutes writing and/or stating things for which you are grateful has been shown to help people eat healthier and resist cravings...and boost mood!
Easier said than done, I know, but keep in mind that when you choose to burn the candle at both ends, you also are choosing to increase your cravings.
Okey dokey. Good luck! Have a good week!
The Easter Blunder
After 15 years in this business, I am no longer surprised when Easter rolls around and presents these two depressing facts:
Easter is the biggest weight gain holiday for my clients. I haven't figured out why (Jelly Belly sugar spikes? Spring break? Our guard is down, but the treats are plentiful? End-of-Lent splurge?), but every year so far this has been the case. So be vigilant!
Lots of clients waste all the hard work they accomplished over Lent. Here's the common scenario: You gave up a junky favorite food for Lent, missed it like crazy for a few weeks, forgot about it, tried it again after Easter and didn't even enjoy it....and here's where the common error occurs. Instead of writing it off forever--and being healthier and leaner for it--you eat a whole bunch more. Curiosity, habit or carelessness make you eat it, despite having lost the taste for it. But here's the bummer: If you eat enough, you will blitz your tastebuds back to the Dark Ages and again love that food. Now you need to fight a will power battle every time you resist.
Every year I speak to many people who experience these two bummer situations. Don't be one of them!
Have a good week and a happy Easter!
Learn from Lent
If you struggle to resist any junky treats, here are three valuable lessons that many clients report learning this time of year:
Giving up a favorite junky food (for Lent or any time) is hard....but only for a while. Most people stop craving it after a few weeks. They no longer think about it, pine for it or even want it.
But then, after Lent, they eat the old treat again and...
Upon trying the treat again, many people don't even enjoy the first few bites. The food seems over-flavored and over-processed. But habit, curiosity, or a quest for that old "hit" make them finish the treat and before they know it, they are hooked anew.
When you work hard to give up a junky food, and reach that wonderful place of no longer wanting it, don't get curious about trying it again! Instead, reap the rewards of living free from junk-food-want.
Have a good week!
Smarter Wrapper Foods
Do you eat bread, tortillas, chips or crackers because you love them, or just because they hold your sandwiches, burritos and cracker toppings? It pays to question whether they are worth it and whether you could find a smart substitute. Get this:
You get the idea. There's no point eating junky calories when they were just serving as the delivery mechanism for what you really wanted to eat.
Please share your ideas for smart delivery foods and have a good week!
p.s. The other day I saw a man at Whole Foods trying to wrap his cold cuts in a sheet of sushi seaweed. It wasn't working very well, and his food was falling all over the place. But I applaud his experimenting and the fact he was committed to saving over 45,000 calories per year by skipping the daily sandwich bread!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Happy Saint Patty's Day!
Green beer, cupcakes with green frosting, and corned beef will be out in force today, but what a waste of calories! If we really want a splurge, we can find much better treats than that, right?!
Whether or not you indulge in the normal St. Patty's treats, why not see how many other green foods you can eat today? Naturally green, I mean. Win points by eating the parsley sprig on your plate, sprinkling dried basil on your food, squeezing lime in your water...plus eating your leafy greens. Keep count and let me know how you do.
And why not learn to dance the jig today also?
Erin go bragh!
Will Power of Top Experts
One of my favorite topics is will power, and I especially love hearing practical advice from top researchers, psychologists and neurologists who study will power. As far as I can tell, they all say the same thing:
Avoid relying on it.
Even they don't have any magic solutions, and acknowledge that it's a fair-weather friend. They tell us it is especially unreliable in times of:
So what's their advice? They suggest planning ahead to avoid tempting situations and environments in the first place. You can "pre-commit" to good choices by making them public or by locking in healthy plans. You can recruit helpers to keep you on the straight and narrow when you can't trust yourself.
A fascinating interview with Oliver Sacks, the famous psychologist, revealed that he avoids will power battles by putting his housekeeper in charge of grocery shopping and cooking. His indulgence is to take a daily walk to buy chocolate from his favorite shop, and he only carries enough money to buy one serving.
So don't feel bad if your will power is weak. You are in good company. Try working around it.
All my best!
Rock your Guac (and a Super Bowl reminder)
Fresh guacamole already holds lots of super-foods, like onion, pepper, tomato, garlic, but why not add a few more? Heck, it's practically like an avocado smoothie, where you won't notice a few extra healthy ingredients.
These clever versions might offer inspiration:
Guac-kale-mole from Whole Foods
"Reduced Guilt" Guacamole with Greek yogurt, at Trader Joe's
Spa Guacamole from Rancho La Puerta Spa, which contains pureed steamed broccoli and green peas
And try spreading it on something healthier than corn chips, like:
Or send me your ideas.
And happy Super Bowl--don't forget that research suggests Super Bowl snackers munch mindlessly, not really noticing whether they consumed raw veggies or fried lard balls!
Taste more dessert with less
My brilliant and science-savvy friends at Caltech taught me something interesting and useful: The temperature of your sweet food affects the strength of the taste. Get this:
Sweet flavors taste sweeter when eaten hot, and taste less sweet when cold.
A classic example is that when people make homemade jelly, the warm cooked fruit needs to taste super overly-sweet, so that when it cools off it will taste just right. The sugar content is the same; it just tastes much sweeter when warm.
How can you use this to eat healthier? You probably already guessed it: Choose warmer sweets. Ice cream needs extra sugar to taste as sweet as hot cocoa. An iced tea needs more sugar to taste as sweet as a hot tea. Cold pie tastes less sweet than warm pie. And this is one more reason to swear off Frappucinos.
Use this to cut your sugar consumption this holiday season...without even sacrificing any flavor!
Have a good week!
P.s. Interestingly, bitter flavor is the opposite. It's stronger when cold. I'm still working on figuring out why. If you know, please share!
Valentine's Day Email
What special things will you be doing this Valentine's Day? Most people will be celebrating in ways that clog their arteries and those of their loved ones. But not YOU! Forget the steak and chocolate souffle and try something more creative, like...
...and what else am I forgetting? I can't wait to hear YOUR ideas for proving that you don't need junk food to show your love or have a good time.
Have a good week!
Nothing shows true love like food that is both romantic and healthy. Here are some Valentine's ideas to get you started:
Lunch or Dinner:
Happy Valentine's Day,
Eating Alone Opportunities
When your family is away, do you eat worse? Do you get lazy, order take-out, eat pre-packaged meals or use it as an excuse to eat junk? I speak to many clients who live on cereal, pizza or delivered Asian food when nobody else is home.
But that's a missed opportunity! When you've got the house to yourself, consider...
Eating super-foods that make the house smell, like:
Eating healthy foods that might produce embarrassing gas, like:
Experimenting with healthy foods that might need fine-tuning before using them with your family, like:
Not only will these things make you healthier, but they make it easier to avoid the temptation of eating junk. Focussing on what you will eat, instead of what you won't is rule #1 of strong will power.
Happy stinky eating!
Fuzzy Fattening Food Math
A number of smart folks have been "burned" lately through no fault of their own--it's fuzzy math on food labels.
If you are counting calories, be aware that although 0 means 0 in the real world, the FDA allows food labels to round to the closest 5 or 10 calories (for foods under and over 50 calories, respectively.)
It's hardly ever a big deal, but here are some cases where I've seen it wreak havoc with results:
Many list 0 calories per serving, and about 1000 servings per bottle. There are actually about .8 calories per serving--which you'd only learn by calling the company and asking!--putting about 800 calories in the bottle.
...which means that taking off the spray top and pouring the entire thing on your broccoli isn't the calorie bargain implied by the label.
Every year I talk to dozens of people who do this, thinking it's the loophole of the century. Other products where this can happen include:
These are still low-calorie foods if you stick anywhere close to the intended serving sizes. It's probably good to have one more reason not to think of these processed foods as "free".
Have a good week!