Author Archives: Barbara Groth

About Barbara Groth

As a knowledgeable and compassionate healthcare provider, I have years of experience coaching individuals and groups to finding their unique path towards health and lasting lifestyle changes, bringing energy and happiness into their lives at their pace.

apple pie

Successful weight loss requires a large portion of this

What do your pieces of pie look like? Does it come with a large slice of resiliency?

I don’t mean that steaming, flaky, buttery-crusted, apple pie. I mean another type of pie – your personal pie chart that will get you and keep you to your weight loss goal. You can still enjoy a slice of that apple pie, but you should know first what makes up your pie chart.

I believe the process of losing weight and keeping it off requires equal emphasis on each of these four components: Resiliency if important for losing weight

  • Eating three healthy meals with adequate protein, quality carbs and some healthy fat to keep you full.
  • Curbing unhealthy snacking.
  • Exercising 5-7 days a week.
  • Developing resiliency.

If you eat 3 balanced meals but snack a lot on chips at night, the scale won’t budge.

If you are a workout warrior but follow it by a Big Mac, fries and a soda, that scale won’t budge.

If you exercise regularly, eat 3 balanced meals and control your unhealthy snacking but are not resilient, eventually you will get bored, your negative self-talk will take over and gradually you will be lured back to old bad habits.

Resiliency is essential to permanent weight loss.

Eating three healthy meals

ChooseMyPlate.GovThe simplest way to put together a healthy plate is to use the ChooseMyPlate.Gov developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their simple graphics and website give recommendations on how to create a healthy plate consisting of slightly more than a quarter of your plate consisting of non-starchy veggies, another slightly more than a quarter consisting of grains, and the other two slightly smaller quarters containing protein and fruits. Each meal should be accompanied by a serving of dairy.

The key to staying full between meals is the combination of protein, fiber from good carbs, and a small amount of healthy fat. Following the Choosemyplate method will achieve that magic formula.

Here are some examples of each category to complete your plate. Start with a 9” plate and choose one from each column – it’s like putting together a puzzle but you get to choose the picture.

Food Group Examples

 

 

 

 

Examples of balanced, healthy meals

Breakfast ideas:

  1. 1 cup steel cut oatmeal topped with 1 tbsp chopped nuts and ½ cup Greek yogurt.
  2. Egg/egg white omelet stuffed with sautéed spinach and 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread.

Lunch ideas:

  1. Salad topped with 3 oz chopped chicken, ½ cup kidney beans, and ¼ cup sesame seeds with 1 tbsp balsamic dressing.
  2. Turkey sandwich in wrap with spinach, tomatoes and ¼ avocado.

Dinner ideas:

  1. 1 cup chili with side salad and 3” square of corn bread.
  2. 4 oz of salmon with ¾ cup brown rice, 2 cups roasted cauliflower, and ¾ cup apple crisp for dessert with a side of 1 oz of cheddar cheese.

If your plate seems skimpy, then add more veggies. People don’t gain weight from eating too many veggies and part of losing weight permanently is developing a cozy relationship with veggies 😊

Curbing unhealthy snacking

There’s not a soul on earth who doesn’t love those tasty refined, crunchy, salty snacks or soft, moist, sweet cakes and doughnuts. But losing weight is about a strong offense and a smart defense.

On the offensive side get to the root of binging on bad carbs. Determine the variables and triggers that lead to the splurge.

  • Is it not eating 3 square meals?
  • Is it stress or boredom?
  • What are your triggers? TV, idle hands, being with certain people?
  • Is it a reward for getting through another tough day?
  • Is it loneliness?
  • Is it not having a healthier substitute?
  • Is because you’ve just “always eaten this way”?

On the defensive side you must make your environment safe. If your favorite munchie is in the house, no matter where you hide it, it will find its way into your mouth. If you don’t live alone, and your housemate (s) is not on board with keeping junk food out of the house, then find foods that will satisfy them, but won’t tempt you – find alternative cookies or chips (I love Utz potato chips, but hate Fritos), different flavored ice cream, or a can of walnuts instead of peanuts.

Find a good substitute that will work – maybe fruit, a cup of tea or a 100% fruit bar.

Go to bed earlier. It’s natural to be hungry 4 hours after eating dinner. If you’re eating dinner at 6:30, go to bed by 10.

Build in one day a week where you can ease up and eat some of your old favorites.

Exercising

Starting around age 40 you lose 8% of your muscle mass each decade. Muscle mass is what determines your metabolism. An exercise regimen that incorporates both aerobics and strengthening will not only burn calories during the workout, but will raise your resting metabolic rate – helping you to burn more calories at rest. These are the American Heart Association recommendations:

AHA exercise recommendations

There’s also evidence that exercise decreases inflammatory proteins that lead to heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re not someone who likes to go to the gym, walking the hills in your area, taking yoga classes and even participating in adult education fitness programs can get your muscles more fit. Weather should never be an excuse; there are walking, aerobic and even dancing DVD’s to get you moving.

Exercise must become as necessary as the air you breathe. Honor the importance of it and you will find the time to make it happen.

Developing resiliency

Losing weight and keeping it off requires being open-minded and optimistic. It calls for a curious, inquiring mind with a willingness to let go of old unhealthy habits and develop new ones. It’s that old saying:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

Start with the habits to which you have the weakest attachment and then either reduce the frequency, find a substitute or decrease the amount.

  • If foregoing a crunchy snack in the evening sounds like punishment, then try light popcorn and eat one kernel at a time.
  • If it sounds too onerous making a lunch on workdays, go to the salad bar at the grocery store.
  • If giving up the candy bar from the vending machine at work means missing out on a pick-me-up and mental break, then go chat with someone while you munch an apple.

Once you’ve addressed the low hanging fruit, move on to the areas where you have more resistance. Explore the reason you don’t want to change a certain habit and see if there is an area you should address first before making the bigger change.

Perhaps you hate to cook for just yourself but notice you make better food choices when you prepare your meals at home. One suggestion might be to cook a larger amount, but less often, and freeze the extra portions to eat on another day.

If you frame the new habit to replace the bad habit the right way, you will end up with a more positive picture.

Is your pie chart out of balance?

Too much snacking on junk food, despite regular exercise and eating 3 healthy meals

Low resiliency and weight lossIf your pie chart looks like the one to the left with a low-level of resiliency and a lot of unhealthy snacking, despite eating 3 balanced meals and exercising regularly, your weight loss may stall if your daily snacking consists of a bag of chips at night or a fast food excursion mid-afternoon. You’d have to sweat up a storm for hours to burn off those extra thousand calories. It raises the question of whether there is a larger emotional need not being met.

Not enough exercise or eating 3 balanced meals, but resilient and choose healthy snacks

Successful weight loss requires resiliencyThis is a great place to begin! Being open to change is half the battle.

Start small by gradually adding structure to one meal at a time. Start a walking routine by breaking it up into segments and find a partner or music to help you keep a good pace.

It takes a few weeks for a new habit to feel more natural. These changes will gradually feel less strained and you will start noticing your clothing is looser and the pounds are gradually coming off.

There are 3500 calories in a pound. Losing a half pound to a pound a week can take as little as cutting out one customary treat a day and walking a mile most days of the week.

Resiliency is as important as a balanced plate, exercise and curbing unhealthy snacking

The hardest part about losing weight is keeping it off. It requires flexibility in thinking and self-forgiveness. There will be days where you will make unwise food choices and that’s ok.  Get back on track the next day and don’t berate yourself.

Reconnect with why you wanted to lose weight and remind yourself how much you enjoy how you feel in clothes, your ease of movement and the pride of accomplishing what you did in losing weight in the first place.

Stay positive, be resilient and make sure your good habits are deeply embedded to your daily routine. Keeping to a schedule and finding ways to reward yourself without food is helpful.

Keeping lost weight off requires equal portions

Losing weight permanently requires a healthy meal structure, regular exercise and limiting unhealthy snacking. But the trait that keeps people on task for the long-term is resiliency. Flexible thinking, constructive self-talk and the ability to get back on track after derailment are the essence of resiliency.

Life happens, but how quickly you bounce back is the key to permanent weight loss.

Please share if you find this information useful.

 

 

campfire

This may be your best way to lose weight

You want to lose weight, but your insulin might not be working well. You’re not alone. Almost a third of our country is in the same boat.

Impaired insulin function is genetic. It’s the precursor to diabetes that may go undetected for years. It gradually damages the insulin-producing pancreas to the point it stops making enough insulin and blood sugars rise eventually to the diabetes range. In the early phase of impaired insulin function, the pancreas makes extra insulin. This extra insulin causes our body store more fat.

If you have a family history of diabetes, then there is a good chance your insulin levels are high. Diabetes is often not diagnosed. You may not think you have a family history of diabetes, however if you have a family history of stroke or heart attack, there was probably undiagnosed diabetes lurking in the background as well. Diabetes is a vascular disease, so strokes and heart attacks are complications of diabetes.

The best way to lose weight if you have high insulin levels

The best way to lose weight for people with high insulin levels, in addition to regular exercise, should focus on limiting carbs, getting adequate protein and fiber, and topping it off with good fat to keep you full between meals.

When it comes to eating this way, the best metaphor comes from a friend. If you’ve ever sat by a campfire and observed how different types of wood burn, you will understand.

If you don’t add any wood to a fire, the flames will fade away. Add soft wood like pine to the fire and “snap, crackle, pop” sparks will fly, the flames will roar and the wood will disappear in no time. Add hardwood like oak and you’ll get a nice even burn that will last much longer than soft wood.

Skipping meals is like not adding any wood to the fire. Your energy level will slowly fade away.

Eating a meal consisting of a heavy dose of simple carbs with little protein or fiber is like the soft wood fire. You may get a surge of energy but it will quickly flame out leaving you tired and ready for a nap. Examples of meals like this might be a few bowls of Corn Flakes or heavy portions of Chinese food with white rice or a bag of chips or pretzels with a soda.

But make your meals mostly “hardwood” and you will have more energy and stay fuller longer between meals. You will also keep your insulin levels lower which will aid in weight loss.

Getting your meal planning to burn like hardwood

Don’t worry, eating this way won’t taste like hardwood. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just do so in moderation and plan for it in how you combine your foods.

My recommendations are based on information from the American Diabetes Association, the 2015 dietary guidelines, the 2015 Protein Summit  and the Institute of Medicine.

The ADA recommends people with diabetes limit their carbs to 45-60 g of carbs per meal and carbs from snacks limited to 15 gm. Some of the people I worked with preferred eating even fewer carbs in order to avoid going on medicine to manage their blood sugars.

The 2015 Nutrition Guidelines recommend getting at least 130 g of carbs daily. Eating fewer carbs than this will zap your energy if you are trying to do any strenuous work or workout – carbs are the gasoline for your body, you just want to learn how to make them the premium carbs.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 10-35% of total daily calories come from protein. For a 2000 calorie diet that’s about 50 – 175 g.

The 2015 Protein Summit recommended a higher level of dietary protein, particularly in older adults, for improved muscle health and satiety and to aid in weight management. Furthermore, they suggest:

“Emerging science supports a protein intake for adults of 25–30 g/meal”

When you put all this information together your daily total of carbs, fiber, protein and fat should look like this:

daily carbs, protein and fat

Impaired insulin function?  This is your meal goal

You want each meal to burn like hardwood. That means you want to get the right amount of carbs, fiber, protein and fat each time you eat. Most people fail on getting adequate protein and fiber at most of their meals. Each of these components is essential not only for health, but for satiety. The goal is to slow down digestion so you stay fuller longer and reduce the demand for insulin.

Each of your meals should contain just a serving or two of carbs, no more than 60 g per meal. Your carb choices should be high in fiber to slow down the rise in blood sugar, decreasing the need for insulin.

Your protein goal at each meal should be at least 25 g per meal. An ounce of meat, fish and even an egg is about 6-7 g.

Since dietary fat takes longer to digest and helps with satiety, you should also try to get about 10 g per meal with the focus being on heart healthy unsaturated fat.

The ideal goal for each meal should look something like this:  

  • 50 g of carbs
  • 8-10 g of fiber
  • 25 g of protein
  • 10 g of heart healthy fat.

That’s the hardwood that will help you lose weight. Now, let’s look at the big picture at what kinds of foods will meet the “hardwood” criteria.

“Hardwood” foods

Some foods are combination foods. Quality carbs are also high in fiber. Whole grains, citrus fruit, and beans are all examples of quality carbs. Fatty fish is both an excellent source of protein and healthy fat. Other protein, like white chicken and fat-free Greek yogurt have little to no fat, so you will need to get your fat from other sources. And there are some foods that contain a small amount of protein, carbs, fiber and healthy fat. They are like “hardwood” bark mulch😊

This is how I breakdown food categories(it’s not a complete list – just some of my favorites). I compose my plate according to how much protein, fat and carbs a food offers. If one food is a combination of carbs or protein or fat, I would combine it accordingly. Most veggies, other than the starchy ones are free territory. Eating as much as you can will help blood pressure, brain function and health in general.

healthy food list

Breakfast

People with high insulin levels should stay away from cereal in my opinion. Cereal does not contain enough protein considering the carbs in a serving. Adding milk only increases the carbs – there are 12 g of carbs in a cup of milk. You are much better off eating your leftover dinner than eating a bowl of cereal. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Smoothie made with 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp chia or flax seed, 2 cups baby kale, ¾ cup frozen berries and enough water to blend.
  2. ¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup fresh chopped fruit, and 2 tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds.
  3. ¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with ¼ cup Uncle Sam’s Cereal, 2 tbsp chia seeds and ¼ cup fresh blueberries.
  4. 2 eggs or egg white combination omelet with spinach and 1 slice of swiss cheese served with one piece of toast.
  5. ¾ cup bean salad with ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese.
  6. ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup chopped fruit and 2 tbsp chia seeds.

Lunch/Dinner Ideas

  1. Salad topped with chicken, beans and balsamic dressing and a piece of fruit.
  2. Turkey and arugula sandwich on whole grain bread with mayo and mustard along with celery and carrots and hummus.
  3. 6 oz Greek yogurt, apple and sliced cucumbers.
  4. Tuna and whole grain pasta salad mixed with chopped carrots, celery, cabbage, mayo, salt and pepper
  5. 1 cup lentil or some other bean soup with 2 celery and peanut butter.

Or make your plate look like this:

healthy plate

Emphasize vegetables and limit the carbs most of the time and you will lose weight. If you miss something sweet, then skip the carbs at dinner and have the dessert instead – ideally eating it right after your dinner so you can slow down the blood sugar rise with the fiber and protein from your dinner.

This is the hardwood that will help you lose weight by preserving your muscle mass and keep your metabolism at a steady even burn – even while you’re roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

reduce carbs to lose weight

Losing weight is not just about calories

A calorie is a calorie, is a calorie, right? Can’t you just lose weight by reducing calorie intake?

I don’t think it’s as simple as that and here’s why.

It boils down to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body, particularly the muscle, fat and liver cells, don’t utilize insulin as effectively. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells for energy. The body compensates for insulin resistance by making extra insulin, a condition called hyperinsulinemia.

If someone with high levels of insulin eats a diet high in carbs, then more of those calories are going to be stored in the body because insulin is the gatekeeper to the utilization of digested carbs. The more insulin in the body and the more glucose from digested carbs, the more will be stored in the body. This is my opinion, and it’s based on experience.

It reminds me of a person I knew who tried to lose weight by lowering her calories to 800 a day (way too low) and her diet consisted mainly of carbs. Her weight didn’t budge an ounce. Part of that may have been due to her body thinking she was in starvation mode, and really slowed down metabolism. But I believe the other reason is she also had hyperinsulinemia and all those carb calories were being stored. This doesn’t mean you should avoid carbs. However it does indicate, in my opinion, the importance of eating a balanced diet with adequate protein, healthy fat and fiber. I’ll go more into that in the next blog.

For a while the insulin-producing pancreas can keep up with the increasing demand for insulin and blood glucose levels stay in a healthy range. But eventually, the beta cells of the pancreas stop producing enough insulin and blood glucose levels start to rise leading to prediabetes, and eventually type 2 diabetes.

This period of hyperinsulinemia may go on for years before blood sugar levels rise. And what’s behind it is most likely a genetic component that makes someone prone to insulin resistance and a diet high in quickly digested carbs.

Genetics of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is thought to be due to the “thrifty gene”. Certain cultures historically were exposed to periods of food scarcity and their bodies compensated by slowing down metabolism. And then these same cultures over time were exposed to a higher carb diet with foods like processed grains, fried foods, and sweetened drinks. Not what you want to be eating when your body is on the slow burn road. According to the National Institute of Health, these cultures include Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Asian Americans, American Indians and Hispanic or Latino.

Since genetics plays a role, ask your relatives about any family history of type 2 diabetes. Be aware, that out of the 26 million people in the U.S. with type 2 diabetes, there are 7 million who don’t know they have it. Indications that someone may have undiagnosed diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst – high glucose levels cause dehydration.
  • Frequent infections including yeast infections in folds of skin that are slow to heal.
  • Blurry vision that comes and goes – glucose and fluid collects in the lens of the eye when glucose levels are high causing swelling that distorts vision.
  • Extreme fatigue – glucose is not getting into the cells sufficiently to provide the body with energy.
  • Hunger – people with type 2 diabetes are constantly hungry, even right after eating probably due to changes in other hormones affecting digestion like Leptin and partially due to the cells “starving” for glucose.

Other indications you may have insulin resistance

There are other conditions that may indicate that you have insulin resistance. If you have any of these then you most likely have insulin resistance.

  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Were a large baby at birth, > 9 pounds
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Low (good) HDL and high triglycerides
  • Hypertension
  • Over age 45
  • Depression
  • Have a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans, dark, velvety skin around your neck or armpits
  • Overweight or carry excess weight around your middle

Symptoms of insulin resistance can be very subtle

Perhaps you may notice that you’re more tired and hungry than usual. Perhaps you’ve been a bit down and depressed. Maybe you’ve gained a few pounds. You might chalk it up to stress at work, but perhaps your body is shifting to a more insulin resistant state and you’re developing hyperinsulinemia. Maybe your just don’t want to think about that right now because you’ve got too much on your plate.

Danger of hyperinsulinemia

Insulin makes our body store more calories which contributes to weight gain.

The increased work load on the pancreas eventually exhausts the beta cells of the pancreas and leads to diabetes.

But most people are not aware of the link between high insulin levels and cancer. As I’ve mentioned many times before, insulin is like fertilizer to our body. It does get glucose into the cells for energy, but it is also feeds the “weeds” in our body, those cancerous cells our body is always making but not always destroying. Getting insulin levels down reduces the risk of cancer.

I’ll never forget a patient I worked with who developed type 2 diabetes and eventually used an insulin pump to better manage her blood sugars. Her A1c was at a healthy range, but she gradually gained weight. She was eating pretty much whatever she wanted, and doing an awesome job adjusting her insulin dosage, but over time she was requiring more and more insulin to keep those blood sugars under control. She gained over 30 pounds over that period, despite good blood sugar control, but she was requiring a lot of insulin. She ended up passing away not from complications of diabetes, but from cancer. I always wondered what all that insulin was doing to the other hormones in her body, setting herself up for cancer.

A calorie may be a calorie, but I believe the type of calorie counts

Losing weight is not just about calories. High insulin levels in conjunction with a high carb diet will make weight loss difficult. However, I also don’t believe in a ketogenic diet like Dr. Adkins; it’s a radical way of eating that isn’t sustainable and it omits a lot of vitamins, minerals and cholesterol lowering fiber that grains can provide. But I do believe reducing carbs, and making them whole grain and adding more enough protein and fiber will reduce your insulin levels, improve your insulin resistance, help you lose weight and ward off diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

If you enjoy my tips, please share with your friends and family. You can get healthy on your own with good information and a desire to live a healthier life. Please make a donation to the Saint Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen. They are in great need of your financial support while they provide over 10,000 meals a year to Portland, Maine’s neediest population.

breakfast1

Are your carb choices slowly killing you?

Jelly donuts, pancakes with syrup, Devil Dogs, French fries, potato chips, and candy bars – especially Zero bars. Not exactly healthy carbs. As Julie Andrews sings, “These were a few of my favorite things.” I never had a weight or “sugar” problem in my younger years but then getting older happened. Something that none of us can escape.

Now I look at food much differently. I still love my carbs, even the unhealthy ones, but I keep them at bay. I look at each carb splurge as a “bruise” to my body. My favorite sweet potato ginger donut from Holy Donut is only going to spike my blood sugar. I know that once that big bag of potato chips comes into the house, I can’t stop at a serving size. I learned that my former pancake recipe made with white flour and covered with syrup was like a kick to my pancreas telling it to work double time.

Learning to break old habits took time and many bumps along the way. I eventually developed a three-pronged approach.

  1. Add more of the healthy carbs to my diet
  2. Boost my non-starchy veggie intake by experimenting with roasting, sautéing and adding extra to soups, stews, salads, and sauces.
  3. Eat fewer unhealthy carbs.

It’s not rocket science, but it did launch me on a sustainable trajectory that brought my A1c down, helped me lose weight, and gave me more energy.

With over 50% of the nation being insulin resistant, making better carb choices is essential to keeping insulin levels to a healthier level. High insulin levels are linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What are carbs?

Carbs are found in grains, starches and sugar.

  1. Grains – Since flour is made from grains, anything that contains flour is a carbohydrate – things like cereal, crackers, and pasta. Most food manufacturers like to use the cheaper white flour, the starchy endosperm stripped from the wheat berry, and then resuscitate it with fortifying vitamins and leavening agents to make it into something the typical American “pampered palate” will tolerate.
  1. Starchy – Some carbs are naturally starchy like winter squashes, peas and beans. These foods are also high in fiber so they don’t cause a sudden blood sugar rise like the processed carbs do. A half cup of cooked beans can have as much as 7 gms of fiber. That fiber slows down digestion, and slows down the workload on the insulin producing pancreas.
  1. Sugar – all types of sugar are carbohydrates whether it’s brown, agave, syrup or honey. A teaspoon of any of these sugars has 4 gms of carbohydrates.
  2. Foods naturally with sugar – Foods like fruit and milk contain sugar naturally. A cup of milk, regardless of fat content contains 12 gms of carbs, coming from the sugar lactose.  Make it chocolate milk and the carbs go up to 24 gms. Fruit contains fructose. Fruits vary in their amount of fructose and ripening can enhance the sugar content. Ripened bananas are much higher in glycemic index than green bananas. Watermelon and strawberries are much lower carbohydrates than tropical fruits like pineapple, mangoes and bananas.

Desserts are a double whammy

Cakes, cookies and pies are made with flour (which comes from grains) and sugar – both carbs. One Oreo contains 27 gms of carbs. And that’s not double-stuffed!

Don’t get fooled by “sugar-free” desserts. Unfortunately, most brands make up for the lack of sugar by adding extra fat, like palm oil or partially hydrogenated trans-fat to maintain texture that the sugar normally provides.

You’re much better off just having one higher fiber cookie, like an oatmeal cookie. Or better yet making a cookie using a small amount of real sweetener and a non-grain flour like flax, coconut or almond meal. Here is a good peanut butter coconut cookie recipe.

How many carbs should you eat daily?

Even with the emphasis on “no added sugars” on the new food label, the carbohydrate recommendation is still about 285 grams of carbs daily for a 2000 calorie diet. Eating sweets like candy, cake, cookies, ice cream and soda adds up quickly.

I hate to think of the number of people who eat a donut and chocolate milk or juice for breakfast. An apple fritter from Krispy Kreme has 42 gms of carbs and their Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate has 57 carbs, 48 of it coming from sugar. That’s 100 gms of mostly insulin spiking carbs along with 19 gms of saturated fat to keep the spike going for hours. I can just hear that pancreas sputtering, whirling and choking. I love my donuts, but I love my pancreas more.

Healthy carbs – the low-glycemic ones

I don’t believe in eliminating carbs from one’s diet, but the ones you choose should not put your pancreas into overdrive. Grains, beans, starchy veggies and fruit are full of fiber that feed the immune-strengthening bacteria in your gut and maintain satiety between meals. These healthy, low-glycemic carbs like beans, barley, quinoa and winter squashes don’t cause the insulin spike that high-glycemic carbs like white bread, donuts, most crackers, “instant foods”, rice cakes, bagels and most cereals do. Here is a good list put together by Oregon State University.

Glycemic Index

That eliminates a good portion of the grocery store.

What works for me

I use oat or wheat flour when I bake. I don’t eat any cereal other than Uncle Sams Cereal or steel-cut oatmeal the rare time I eat cereal. I keep my favorite “trigger” foods like potato chips to single portion sizes. Instead of rice, I eat barley or bulgar. In fact, their nuttier, crunchier flavor and texture stands up better to my sautés and soups. And the only crackers I buy are Triscuits Thin Crisps which are made from only whole grain wheat, canola and salt, and Wasa crackers also made with whole grains, a fat and salt. And desserts or sweets are a once or twice a week splurge.

Elevate fruit; it’s nature’s treat

Lately, my new dessert, thanks to my husband, is sliced apples. No kidding. My husband has fond memories of his grandmother cutting up apples for him when he was a child. We’ve started this habit ourselves and it hits the sweet spot perfectly. Around 8 o’clock, when we both need a little something-something, he’ll go out to the kitchen and get a cold new variety of apple called Juicci, and slice it up into about 20 slices. They are a juicy, crunchy, hit-the-sweet spot kind of treat that satisfy the urge.

I know that the few minutes of pleasure I got from eating my favorite foods were not going to make up for the longer-term damage to my body caused by eating them on a regular basis. It’s been a journey of self-exploration and recipe experimentation. This is my version of Julie Andrew’s song, My Favorite Things:

Julie Andrews

If you enjoy my tips, please share with your friends and family. You can get healthy on your own with good information and a desire to live a healthier life. Please make a donation to the Saint Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen. They are in great need of your financial support while they provide over 10,000 meals a year to Portland, Maine’s neediest population.

no more carbs

Can you eat a very low carb diet forever?

No more sugar, no more grains, no more processed foods and no more potatoes; yes, to full fat and food products with no processing, just real ingredients. Does this low carb diet sound good to you?

I recently was asked about my thoughts of dramatically reducing carbs and following the above recommendations. This way of eating is essentially the message delivered by Dr. Sarah Hallberg, DO, an obesity specialist with her own patient research to back it up.

No grains or potatoes means no more pasta or rice, or baked potatoes with that steak. It means anything made with flour from grains or sugar is out. Good bye to crackers and cheese, pie and ice cream, all cereal and bread, including pizza. And that means no more Holy Donut…. Hmmmm.

Reducing carbs, reduces insulin levels.

The theory behind this way of eating is very logical: the goal being to reduce insulin levels. Almost half of this country has a condition called insulin resistance where the body makes extra insulin due to compensate for decreased insulin sensitivity. This is partly due to genetics and partly due to eating a high carb diet consisting of too many processed foods.

Insulin is a fat storage hormone so the more insulin on board, the more weight people gain. High insulin levels also raise inflammatory proteins that raise the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

So, reducing carbs, reduces the need for that extra insulin. Less insulin means weight loss and decreased inflammation. Sounds perfect on paper, but how about execution? I’d say daunting.

Why do we eat too many carbs, sugar, potatoes and grains?

If you look at each insulin spike caused by eating too many carbs as the enemy, then this shifts the solution to understanding the motivation for eating too many carbs. It’s emotions that drive our behavior. If you want to make behavior change, you should understand the “why”.

Why are so many of us eating too many white, processed carbs?

  • Is it from a lack of understanding of the consequences of food choices?
  • Is it from cravings from too little sleep, too much stress, loneliness or boredom?
  • Is from not knowing how to cook?
  • Is it from unwillingness to change eating patterns due to entitlement, denial, or plain stubbornness?
  • Is it from bringing tempting foods in the house that make it hard to say “no”?
  • Is it from watching too much TV with all the food commercials that trigger binge eating?

The solution lies in addressing both the emotional component of eating as well as the structural component of how to eat. Moreover, the stronger the reason someone has for not wanting to reduce carbs, the smaller the changes in eating patterns must be. It’s like asking someone to suddenly reverse direction going 60 mph. First, they must brake slowly, then down shift and then turn the steering wheel before they can go 60 mph the other direction. Cutting out grains, sugar and potatoes for most people is like being asked to reverse direction mid race. Mindset needs to be shifted first, then change needs to happen gradually before someone can resume usual speed.

If someone is an emotional eater, then it starts with addressing the emotions first and then the plate second.

Damage control

I don’t believe in drastic dietary changes. I believe in making gradual changes that fit the person where they are in life. If someone grew up eating boxed, canned, and fast food, it’s pretty unlikely they’re going to have success in the long run cutting out sugar, grains or potatoes. That’s all I’m saying.

There is another way. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s called damage control.

What if someone reduced their insulin spikes by eating well some of the meals, and eased up a bit on one meal each day. That would be a 50-66% improvement. Not perfect, but much better.

What if someone ate a lower carb breakfast consisting of plain Greek yogurt with some fruit and nuts, or an omelet with lots of sautéed veggies and one piece of whole grain toast, and a lower carb lunch consisting of a couple of hard-boiled eggs with a piece of fruit, a salad with chicken, or some cottage cheese with fruit and then had a burger, chips and dessert for dinner. That would be much better than a donut or muffin for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch and eating the same dinner.

Making two out of three meals lower carb is much better than eating poorly at all 3. Even making just one of your meals lower carb is still a 33% improvement.

Or what if someone followed a low carb diet 5 days out of the week, and the other two days they ate “their way”? This is similar to the intermittent fasting diet.

A good place to begin

People with insulin resistance tend to have the highest insulin resistance in the morning. Skipping cereal and making breakfast low carb with focus on healthy fats and lean protein is a perfect place to start. My experience shows that people who eat this way at breakfast tend to stay full until lunch and be less likely to binge the rest of the day.

Psychologically, when people start off the day on the right foot, they have more confidence to make healthier choices the rest of the day.

Success builds success

From my experience, I also find that when people have success for a few weeks, they have the confidence and desire to take further steps as long as these three things are also in place:

  1. They must like what they are doing.
  2. They must not feel deprived.
  3. They must feel it is sustainable.

I’ve worked with so many people who think making drastic changes will get them into the size 10 pants forever. Some achieve their goal but end up regaining it once a vacation, holiday or stressful event happens.

Making gradual changes allows enough time to strategize, explore and understand what’s behind unhealthy eating. It’s not that people can’t reverse direction in life, it’s that the mindset has to be reversed first.

Cutting out grains, potatoes and sugar makes complete sense for the body, but the head has to be on the same page.

Barbara will work work with you for 3 months free if you make a donation to the St Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen 

 

 

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Flax seed: the best two bites for your health

Flax seeds are the Mighty Mouse of food, smaller than a rice kernel, yet the most powerful two tablespoons of food you can put in your mouth. These tiny seeds help to combat cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, autoimmune and neurological conditions and aid in weight loss. They may even help improve symptoms of psoriasis and menopausal hot flashes. And all you need for this benefit is two measly tablespoons a day. That’s a powerful punch!

History of flax seed

Flax dates to over 30,000 years ago when the fiber from the plant stem was used to make clothing. In ancient Egypt, the fiber was used to make linen for priests and the Romans purchased it for their sails. Linseed oil, which comes from a type of flax seed, is used for finishing furniture and linseed meal, ground flax seed with the oil removed, is used for to feed livestock.

Nutritional value of flax seed

But it wasn’t until about 20 years ago research showed the nutritional value of flax seed. Flax seed is high in Alpha linolenic acid (a type of Omega 3), lignans (a polyphenol that reduces inflammation) and fiber. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is converted in the body to two other essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA and we can only get these from certain foods.

ALA, EPA and DHA are the primary omega-3 fatty acids studied that show significant health benefits. Flax protein is known to help with heart disease and boost the immune system.

Focus on unsaturated fats, but get the right ratio

It’s important to consume more unsaturated fats from plant based foods and fish, and much less saturated fat and trans-fat from dairy, red meat and processed foods.

But it’s also important to get the proper balance of unsaturated fats in the diet. Unsaturated fats consist of mono-unsaturated fat or MUFA’s found in olive oil, nuts, avocado’s and poly-unsaturated fat or PUFA’s which include both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

The American diet tends to be high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which contributes to inflammation, and much lower in Omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acid is found in many foods vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains and seeds. Whereas Omega-3’s are much harder to get because they are found primarily in cold water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, fresh tuna and flax seed.

Keep this in mind when adding flax seed to your diet

You can have too much of a good thing. Eating more than a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seed can increase your exposure to some toxins and constipate you.

You should not consume flax seed at the same time you take supplements or certain medication such as cholesterol-lowering meds, blood sugar-lowering meds or anticoagulants. You may want to discuss with your health care provider first.

Add flax seed to your diet

Flax seed is now added to many food products like pasta, cereal, crackers and chips, so consider those other sources when adding ground flax seed to your diet. WebMD and most research recommends about 2 tbsp daily or 30 gms a day. Here are some good sources of ALA, EPA and DHA:

sources of flax

You also want to keep this in mind:

  1. To get full nutritional benefit, you want to grind it in a coffee grinder or buy it ground. There are some cereals, like Uncle Sam’s that contain the whole seed.  You can still reap the health benefits if you fully chew each mouthful (a wonderful way to slow down eating!).
  2. Keep ground flax seed in the fridge or freezer since the natural oils are more exposed to air and can go rancid.
  3. Bake with it by replacing some of your flour with ground flax seed. I add it to my crisp topping, to my cakes and muffins and even to my meatloaf.
  4. Add a little at a time by putting it in your yogurt, your smoothie or your oatmeal.

Get your two tablespoons a day

You can find flax seed at most grocery stores but here in Maine I get mine at Christmas Tree Shop or Reny’s. I buy the whole flax seed, which does not need to be refrigerated, to put in my smoothie and I buy ground flax seed for baking.

I look at my daily dose of flax seed as one more health installment against my genetics. If it can help my arteries stay supple and reduce the free radicals that contribute to cancer and heart disease, then I’ll continue to chew, chomp and grind away my two tablespoons a day.

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Addiction Crossovers: The Striking Similarities of Food and Drug Addictions

This is a guest blog from Kevin Brenden in conjunction with Westwind Recovery, a sober living community offering support on the road to recovery

People unfamiliar with how substance addictions work falsely believe that people can only become addicted to drugs or alcohol. They fail to realize that food, especially sugary and carbohydrate-laden fare, can be a sort of gateway to drug and alcohol dependency.

As such, binge eaters often experience the same range of emotions, thought processes, and behaviors as people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol. Learn how food can be a crossover to alcoholism and drug addiction and what factors behind binge eating mimic those found with substance abuse problems.

Reward

People who binge on foods like ice cream, cake, doughnuts, chips, and other treats often experience intense feelings of satisfaction and reward. In fact, studies have shown that indulging in foods laden with sugars and carbohydrates trigger the same chemical reactions in the part of the brain responsible for reward and happiness found when someone snorts a line of coke, takes a hit of heroin, or uses a similar substance.

With that, binge eaters continue to stuff themselves with these kinds of foods to get the same sort of high and feelings of satisfaction. However, as with drug users and alcoholics, they eventually plateau and become tolerant to the amount they are eating. They must increase their sugar and carbohydrate intake to feel the same sense of satisfaction and reward, much like how drug users and alcoholics must increase the amount that they use to achieve the same level of high.

Cravings

People who are addicted to food also experience cravings that are as intense and distressing as those experienced by drug addicts and alcoholics. They are desperate for another scoop of ice cream, another bite of pastry, or another plateful of sugar and carb-filled foods. Some binge eaters will even become so desperate that they will resort to stealing or lying to get what they want.

Their desperation and sneaky behaviors are not unlike those that drug addicts and alcoholics will use to score more drugs or alcohol. Cravings are not reserved just for people who are dependent on drinking or using illicit or prescription drugs. They also are found with people who cannot stop binge eating.

Shame

Finally, people who are addicted to food will often feel ashamed of themselves, putting them in the same category of many drug addicts and alcoholics. Just as people who are dependent on alcohol or drugs feel ashamed of themselves, so do binge eaters. They realize that their behavior is abnormal and not acceptable in society. Even so, they cannot help themselves from binge eating.

Like drug addicts and alcoholics, binge eaters stand the best chance of recovering from their addictions by undergoing professional treatment at a dependency recovery center. They can learn coping mechanisms and benefit from professional care as they overcome their cravings for foods that are full of sugar and carbohydrates.