Monthly Archives: May 2013

Eat More Veggies – #2 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Popeye had it right eating his spinach to gain his strength – “I am what I am”, chuckle, chuckle chuckle!  We are what we eat as well.  And putting emphasis on eating more veggies helps us to get the nutrients to lower the risk of getting hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and age related eye disease.   But it is not as simple as just eat more veggies.  There has been more recent research on how the quality of our fruits and vegetables has declined over the years due to breeding of plant species for disease resistance and taste.


The DASH diet plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends eating a minimum of 4 servings of veggies a day.  The benefit of filling half of our plates with dark leafy greens like arugula, kale, spinach are that they are high in potassium which offsets some of the damage done by sodium.  It is thought that potassium makes arteries less stiff.  Hypertension is caused by stiffening of arteries and having to pump too much volume (sodium makes us retain fluid, leading to increase blood volume that the heart has to pump, thereby raising blood pressure).   Eating more dark leafy greens that are high in potassium helps our arteries.

Type 2 Diabetes

Vegetables are full of fiber, high in magnesium and can be low in carbohydrates.  This means they will have little impact on your blood sugar and can actually slow down the usual rise in blood sugar after eating.  Some studies have indicated that magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, consequently eating foods high in magnesium reduces blood sugars for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes.  However starchy veggies like potatoes, winter squash and corn can raise blood sugars so for those with diabetes they should plan for them as part of their total carbohydrates for the meal.

Weight Loss

You don’t hear of anyone gaining weight from eating too many veggies!  There is nothing better for weight loss than loading up on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts which are low in calories, high in fiber keeping you fuller longer without all fat – provided there is no cheese topping!  Vegetables have low calorie density meaning that they are a low calorie food choice that will go a long way with giving you volume without all the extra calories.

Age Related Eye Disease

Vegetables are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that benefit the lens and retina of the eye, which many studies have linked to lowering the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Breeding of Vegetables

In Jo Robinson’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review May 25, 2013 she writes about how many varieties of fruits and vegetables have lost there nutritional value partly due to natural mutation over time, but mostly due to breeding by farmers to create more disease-resistant and tastier produce.  She recommends eating foods that have a stronger taste to improve nutritive value like dandelion greens, arugula, deep yellow corn, scallions (particularly the green part) and fresh herbs.  She states that the more bitter the food, the higher the nutritional value.   She also  says to go for peruvian purple potatoes and blue cornmeal (can be found on Amazon) to boost the healthy food nutrients as well.

But What if You Don’t Like Veggies

OK, the idea of eating 4 servings of vegetables a day can be a little daunting!  So how could you sneak them in?  Make a Frittata (see under my breakfast recipes) or a veggie omelet with chopped broccoli or spinach.  Have a glass of low sodium V8.  Add frozen chopped veggies to your soups, chili’s and casseroles.  Prepare some fresh veggies like carrots, celery, scallions, cauliflower and broccoli and have with some fat free yogurt dip or humus.  Know that veggies are better than medicine and by eating more of them you might find yourself needing less medicine.  After all, would you rather develop diabetes, heart disease, lose your vision or have weight concerns or feel and be healthier and perhaps even lose some weight?  Would you rather look like Popeye or Brutus?


Avoid All Or Nothing Thinking – #1 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Sometimes my clients have “all or nothing” thinking.  If they do not do something 100% perfectly, then they think they failed and will not give themselves any credit at all.  I tell them that small changes do add up and do count and to adjust how they think about changing habits.  That no matter what, they are on a different path than they were on last week.  They have already left their old lifestyle and are moving towards a healthier version of themselves.

I tell my clients that my motto is “enhance the good and dilute the bad”  which corresponds to my belief that our actions do not have to be perfect, they can just be better choices.   It’s when you add up all the small changes that real achievement is acknowledged.

Dilute the Bad

So what are some of those small steps?  You can “dilute the bad” with some of these suggestions. Switching from 2 Tbsp of half and half in your coffee to 2 Tbsp of 2%  milk will save you 25 calories and 2 grams of artery clogging saturated fat. And that’s just one cup of coffee.  Switching from 1 cup of whole milk to 1% milk will save you 50 calories and 5.5 grams of saturated fat. Using  2 Tbsp of light ranch dressing instead of regular ranch dressing will save you 84 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.  Eliminating the thin slice of American cheese on your sandwich will save you nearly 100 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat. You can see how combining all these small changes can save over 300 calories a day.  It takes about 3500 calories to lose one pound, you can see that in about a month one could lose about three pounds.  Weight comes on gradually; why not have it come off gradually so it feels more natural and sustainable.

Enhance the Good

On the “enhance the good” side of the motto, adding chopped frozen spinach, turnip greens or broccoli to a chili adds all kinds of wonderful nutrients like potassium that are important for heart function and can improve blood pressure eating proper amounts.  Adding low calorie foods like vegetables reduces the calorie density of foods, gives us more volume to help give us a feeling of fullness after eating without all the extra calories of just the standard meat chili.  Switching from regular yogurt to Greek plain fat free yogurt and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit will give you much more protein – one of the macronutrients that helps maintain our muscles and prevents the aftermeal sleepiness that often happens. And since our body does not store protein, it’s important to eat some with every meal. Topping your potato with plain fat free Greek yogurt sprinkled with fresh chives instead of sour cream will save you about 25 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat plus it will give you added protein.  Adding barley to your rice or adding kidney beans or some other canned beans to your soups will give you added fiber, particularly the soluble kind, that will fill you up, improve bowel health, help with weight loss, lower blood sugars for those with diabetes or prediabetes and lower cholesterol.

Each of these small steps, done on a daily basis, can add up to gradual, sustainable weight loss but more importantly a healthier, better performing body!

2.  Eat More Veggies ….next week

Changing Lifestyles Takes Trust, Confidence and Experience

blueberryChanging how we live is a decision based on trust, confidence and experience.  Do you remember the time when you first took the training wheels off your bike and your Dad encouraged you to try to ride without them, but it meant you had to go fast enough for the bike to get momentum and get your body properly balanced to stay upright?  Those handle bars would be jerking back and forth, your feet would hesitate between staying on the pedals and dragging on the pavement and your eyes went wide with the ever so slightest growing smile the longer you went.  This was an act of both trust in your father, confidence in yourself and skill to stay upright.

Making the decision to be healthy takes the same kinds of qualities. For someone who has always eaten only to assuage their hunger, without thinking about their food choices, and without planning their meals, the concept of doing anything differently can seem absurd.  But this is where changing one’s mindset can make a big difference and increase the confidence in one’s ability to master fueling the body while having fun in the process.

A Good Coach Builds Confidence and Skill

This is where a good coach can give you the confidence and skill to be healthier.  There is a saying in health coaching – that the coach’s confidence has to greater than the clients doubt.  A good health coach will get to know you and help you connect with your strengths as you are taught how to fuel your body in a way that is energizing and fun.  From my experience, after a few sessions with a good coach, my clients have an entirely different outlook on life, on all the possibilities as they find their way to sustainable change.  I tell my clients that they are not on a diet which implies the changes only being temporary.  I tell them that they are on a path of making lasting change.   There might be a few wrong turns along the way but they have already left the destructive path that they were on before and are heading to the holy grail of health.

Coming up next – Ten things you can do that will make a big difference

It’s the Small Health Changes That Make a Big Difference! (May 8, 2013)

small changesI remember a conversation I had with a client a while ago who was morbidly obese and required a rolator walker to get around.  She came to a weight management program of mine with trepidation on her face.  “I have so much to lose, is it even worth it?”  I said to her that this program is not about a diet; it is about making small changes and exploring our food choices in a very nurturing environment.  It’s not about the big goal that is way out there, rather it is about enjoying the health changes and new experiences along the way.

The following week she returned elated and surprised when she stepped on the scale to see that she had lost over 6 pounds.  But what really surprised her was that her knees were not hurting her as much over the week and that this was accomplished by just decreasing her food portions.  “I didn’t even write down what I had eaten because I wasn’t ready to and yet I still lost all this weight!” she said with a surprised smile.

Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.  When we step back and observe what we notice along the way, these small changes are reinforced.   Learning to eat in a way that not only improves inflammation in the body, but also leads to weight loss is a win-win solution.  You must enjoy the view between the trees before you get to the end of the forest!

There is Payback for the Hard Work of Making Lifestyle Changes! (May 1, 2013)

IMG_0148Remember how awkward and uncomfortable it is getting back into a healthier diet or exercise routine? Have you asked yourself where is the payback for all the work and just quit because you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? It is very normal to feel that way and this is where coaching can make the difference and get you over the hurdles.

My father recently dropped considerable cash for some hearing aids. After finally deciding on a pair, getting fitted, adjusting frequencies and then disconnecting from the machine, hearing aids locked and loaded, the audiologist asked how they felt. My father paused in contemplation, and commented, “Unpleasant – I can hear my voice too much. I sound loud!”. The audiologist explained that the brain has to relearn how to hear sounds differently after getting new stimuli for the first time, but that this would improve and he would completely adjust in a couple of weeks and begin to enjoy all those sounds he had not heard for years.

This same kind of process applies to making lifestyle changes. Often times as old comfortable habits are stopped and new ones are put in place it can be awkward and unpleasant those first few days, but then there is wonderful payback as thinking patterns adjust and our body begins to notice the positive changes. Like hearing the sounds of birds chirping or being able to hear in the movie theater for the first time in many years, having energy restored, a sense of confidence and control, moving towards healthier habits does awaken other positive changes that reward all the initial unpleasantness. Become aware of the subtleties of these gifts and know that it does get easier and so much better!

How to begin making lifestyle changes? (April 25, 2013)

IMG_0210It’s not easy changing how we do things.  Our emotions drive most of our actions.  We constantly hear how we should eat healthy and be more active but often times we think we are already doing these things or we say to ourselves we’ll do it later when there is more time.

Change is difficult and we make it even more difficult my setting the bar too high so that we can not sustain the change.  Connect to the “why” of making lifestyle changes with a strong drive and desire. Know what your cholesterol numbers, fasting blood sugar and blood pressure numbers are.  Know your family history.   It has been estimated that 30-70% of type 2 diabetes is due to genetics. Perhaps it’s to have more energy so that you can feel more productive and content.  Perhaps it’s to come off some medications that are expensive and are causing some unpleasant side effects.  Perhaps it’s to be more attractive and physically agile.

The more you create the picture of where you want to be and what does that look and feel like, then the more committed you will be.  Decide on a strategy that starts with small steps and is sustainable.   Tell yourself that you are not going on a “diet”, which implies these changes are temporary until you reach your goal.  Rather, it is changing your perspective, your mindset, and your habits for this new vision you want for yourself forever!