Category Archives: Simple Weight Loss Steps

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.

fiber in fruits and veggies

The inside scoop on your poop

Your gut environment impacts your brain. Recent research links specific gut bacteria types with chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). Scientists at Columbia University’s Center of Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health have discovered that the type and amount of bacteria in your intestine is associated with ME/CFS. ME/CFS is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue, body aches and even impaired thinking. It turns out that 90% of people with this condition also have irritable bowel disease (IBS), also a condition that has been linked with an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria.

Gut-brain connection

One would like to think that everything that ends up in the large intestine doesn’t have any other business with the rest of our body at that point. Mission accomplished, body nourished. But that’s not the case. Even worse, the contents of our colon, specifically the bacteria in there, still communicate with our brain even from the large intestine. Furthermore, the more impaired this gut microbiome or microorganism environment, the worse the symptoms of ME/CFS.

The bacteria in the gut affect normal metabolic pathways between the brain and the gut. Lead researchers in the Mailman School of Public Health study state:

“Much like IBS, ME/CFS may involve a breakdown in the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut mediated by bacteria, their metabolites, and the molecules they influence”. 

In other words, the bacteria in your gut talks to your brain. Higher amounts of “good bacteria” leads to positive health outcomes while larger amounts of “bad bacteria” or insufficient good bacteria lead to negative health outcomes.

What’s in your gut?

Bristol Stool Chart

photo from Cabot Health

Your poop says a lot about your general health. The Bristol Stool Chart was developed in 1997 by Dr Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol in England to better understand diseases of the bowel and as a communication tool.  A healthy stool should look like type 3 or 4 in the chart. If yours doesn’t and you have no known digestive issues, then you might want to consider doing some housekeeping on your microbiome. You can even be part of the American Gut and have your stool sample analyzed.

Improving your gut microbiome

Jeff Leach, from the Human Food Project, in an NPR interview, states that even though understanding the gut microbiome is in the early stages of research, dietary fiber is very important. Dietary fiber feeds the good gut bacteria. Leach also recommends:

  • Eat garlic and leeks. These are high in a prebiotic called inulin which feeds the good gut bacteria. Garlic also may kill some of the bad bacteria.
  • Eat more vegetables. Leach believes that they are the best source of fiber and that they should be eaten as whole as possible.
  • Boost your dietary fiber to as much as 50 gms daily in order to really change the gut microbiome. If you decide to do this, increase it gradually and boost your water intake.
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

You are what you eat

The nutrients from your diet impact every cell in your body: their function, structure and integrity. And now we know that the bacteria in our body can turn on and off certain metabolic pathways. Boosting the good bacteria in your colon while limiting the bad bacteria through diet could prevent inflammatory conditions like ME/CFS and perhaps even improve symptoms in those with these conditions.

You have to wonder, are we creating these diseases ourselves by the foods we eat?

The cells in our body are constantly dying off and new ones are being made. Could it be that the overgrowth of bad bacteria is changing the DNA in this process of cell development and creating these inflammatory conditions which also include autoimmune disease like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis? Could the 23.5 million people in the U.S. with these conditions improve their symptoms through their diet?

Could the answer to improving and preventing these autoimmune conditions lie in dietary choices? All I know is that if I suffered from pain, chronic fatigue, poor sleep and impaired thinking, I would much rather try to tackle it through what I eat than through a pill. Improvement of symptoms might not happen overnight, but I can imagine the battle going on in my gut. Now, I think I’ll plant my vegetable garden this week.

Fat Calories in common foods

Fat Culprits In Your Diet

Most people know the difference between good fats and bad fats but do they realize making even small changes in the amounts of the usual culprits high in fat calories can help them lose up to a pound a month with no pain?  Everyone thinks that eating a salad for lunch is going to move that scale needle southward.  But when you load that salad with nuts, olives, avocado, cheese and dressing, that healthy salad can deliver as many calories as a Big Mac with fries.

Fat Calories Add Up

Fat calories are twice as potent as calories from carbohydrates and protein.  There are 9 calories in a gram of fat versus only 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate and protein.  The chart below lists some common foods that people eat regularly that are high in the heart healthy unsaturated fats but calorie dense because they are high in fat. fat calories in good fatsEaten without attention to portion sizes, these foods can pack a lot of calories.  A salad topped with 10 olives, half an avocado, 2 oz of chopped nuts, a few slices of cheese and some dressing can deliver over 1000 calories, or more than the 930 calories in a Big Mac with medium fries.  And you salad eaters are thinking, “that salad didn’t even contain one carbohydrate, so it’s got to help me lose weight, right?”  Nope.  fat calories in salad dressing

Salad dressing is the big calorie kicker depending on the choice.  Two Tbsp of Caesar salad dressing delivers 165 calories, and that’s if you are measuring.  If you are getting your salad from the grocery store and pouring the dressing from those large containers, how do you really know?  I know the prepackaged servings of dressings at the deli near me is a 1/4 cup serving or 4 Tbsp.  That can be at least 290 calories.

What if you are adding extra “healthy ingredients” like artichokes or some of the other vegetable like the ones in the Whole Food’s salad bar that are swimming in oil; that adds additional calories.

Count Your Fat Culprits

The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program focused on the total grams of fat in the diet with fat gram goals geared around an individual’s weight.  CDC Fat Gram GoalI always thought it was strange that a diabetes program would focus on fat and not carbohydrates, but truthfully it is much simpler to track just fats than total calories.  Furthermore, you get more bang for your effort by reducing total grams of fat since they are high in calories.  With 3600 calories in a pound, cutting out 15 gms of daily fat will mean a one pound weight loss in about 27 days.  That doesn’t seem like much, but that’s 14 pounds in a year and it’s painless with just a little awareness and a few substitutions.  low fat substitutioinsHere’s how you can find cut those fat grams in just your lunch salad.  Reducing the avocado to  one quarter will save 7 gms of fat.  Cutting the portion of nuts in half will save you another 7 gms.  Using fat-free Feta cheese, which is sharp and still has the consistency of cheese, will save you another 10 gms.  Being mindful of salad dressing portion sizes, or better yet making your own by using a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to oil (I like adding lemon juice and herbs to mine) will save you another 7 gms.  With just these suggestions you would save 21 gms of fat, 190 calories and a pound in 19 days.  That doesn’t even include making other small changes like switching to light mayo, or using mustard or hummus in lieu of mayo on sandwiches, or using fat-free Greek yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream in dips.

Your Culprits Are Calorie Dense

Often times I hear people being frustrated that they are not losing weight despite their best intentions of eating a salad every day.  Making these small changes are painless and yield big results.  It doesn’t take a radical diet to lose weight.  It takes knowing what your culprits are, making small changes that don’t lead to feelings of deprivation, and being mindful of portion sizes.  Losing weight gradually is a much healthier and more sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off.  That’s the healthy way to a happy weigh!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.

 

Sugar Baby, Let’s Get To 10%

The 2015 dietary guidelines are broad and nonspecific, emphasizing whole grains, eating  a variety of colors of vegetables, lean protein, nuts and oils.   The only specific recommendations are around keeping saturated fats and added sugars each to less than 10% of total daily calories.   For the average American that’s not much direction, but hopefully the next few paragraphs will shed some light.  My last post explained how to get to 10% on saturated fat; today’s post will focus on getting to 10% for those sugar babies.

Added Sugars

hidden added sugars

Added sugars

Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages through processing or preparing them.  It doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit and milk but it does include that syrup I just had with my pancakes this morning, the sugar in my French Vanilla yogurt and the sugar in the coconut cream pie I’m going to make for company this evening.  It also includes the tiny bit of sugar I put in my coffee and tea.

The biggest source of added sugars for Americans is from soda, sports and energy drinks. It’s also found heavily in the specialty coffees from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts – a Venti Caffe Mocha has 44 gms of added sugar.  Some not-so-obvious added sugars are found in cereal, sauces and soups, and even ketchup.  Keep in mind, this also includes other sweeteners that are popular today like Agave, honey and coconut sugar.  So how do you know what 10% of your total daily calories looks like?

Calculating Your Sugar

Using the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator and estimating calories for a 55 year-old woman who is 5′ 6″, weighs 160 pounds and is somewhat physically active 2-3 times a week, her daily calorie recommendation would be around 1850 calories.  If you were to take 10% of her calories, based on the 2015 dietary guidelines, she should limit her added sugars to about 185 calories a day.  To convert this into usable information you need to understand that there are 4 calories in a gram of sugar.  Dividing 185 by 4, it leaves her with 46 grams of sugar with which to titillate her mouth for the day.

What’s In Your Sugar Bank

It’s all about choosing wisely by knowing where the hidden sugars are, while also learning how to find good substitutes for favorite foods that are high in sugar.  A 20 ounce serving of coke pours 65 grams of sugar down your throat.  Four pieces of that Godiva Milk Chocolate bar yields 21 grams.  My coconut custard pie calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Divided over 8 pieces that is still 38 grams of sugar.  My favorite yogurt, Cabot’s Low-Fat French Vanilla has 28 grams of added sugar in one cup!  Youser.  That was an eye opener when I first saw that.

I’m always on the search for a low sugar tomato sauce and even at 3 gms of sugar in half a cup, Muir Glen has much less than most with some containing up to 13 grams of sweetener in their sauce.  I know what you’re thinking, I used to think the same way.  You’re saying,  “tomatoes are good for you with all that lycopene, right?”  So next thing you know that pasta is hidden underneath 2 cups of sauce and 52 gms of sugar.  Why not wash it down with some coke and follow that with a nice brownie – the all American favorite.  And I know what tends to happen with that brownie mix.  I’ve thought this same way.  It goes into a 8″ x 8″ pan and cutting it into 9 brownies looks so much better than cutting it into 16.  A 2″ brownie, really?  Is that a dessert or just a nibble?  Now that 18 gms of sugar has turned into 32.  Combine the pasta sauce, the coke and the generous brownie and voila!  You’ve consumed nearly 150 gms of added sugar – more than 3 days worth!

You Can Make This Work Sugar Baby!

Ahhh, I love my sweets too, I understand.  This is how I’ve made it work for me;

  1. Save your desserts for the end of the day and have just one paying attention to portion size and take small bites, savoring each one.  Let it dissolve slowly in your mouth.
  2. Instead of sodas, try seltzer water.  I bought a Soda Stream and I add a natural, calorie free flavoring.  Or as a transition try mixing regular soda with diet soda and limit your soda as much as possible.
  3. Stop the energy and sports drinks.  If you are thirsty, have water.  If you really need a little flavoring then add some fresh lemon or lime to your water or a tablespoon of 100% orange juice.
  4. Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  It has far less sugar and delivers more of the heart healthy flavonoids than milk chocolate.  Eat it mindfully, knowing where your other sugars are going to come from in your meal and over the day.
  5. Move away from artificial sweeteners and sugar-free sodas if possible.  They just raise your sweet thermostat in your palate and make you want added sugar in your other foods.
  6. Read food labels, become informed and get smart.  You would be surprised how much sugar is in everything we eat.
  7. Make more of your desserts with fruit.  My Blueberry-Rhubarb crisp is delicious but you can substitute with any fruit.  Even frozen mango makes a delicious crisp!  Fruit crisps have less fat and carbs than a pie and are a delicious way to get some whole grains while controlling the sugar.
  8. Cut sugar in recipes by a third.  You won’t notice it.  I made my last coconut custard pie by reducing it to one cup and added some extra vanilla extract a touch of nutmeg to enhance other flavors.
  9. Stop eating cold cereal for breakfast or have just steel-cut oats with a tsp of honey or sweeten with about 25 raisins (dried fruit is concentrated with sugar since the water is removed).  Whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a smoothie or even low-fat cottage cheese with some fruit, is a fabulous breakfast.
  10. Make fresh fruit your dessert.  Some fresh in season cut up fruit tossed with some lemon or lime or some cinnamon does satisfy the sweet craving, delivers crunch as well as a boat load of vitamins and fiber.  We need to look at fruit differently.  It needs to be elevated to dessert status and not just a box to be checked off.

Some might ask what is the big deal about sugar.  The bottom line is that it comes to emotional and physical health.   We know big swings in blood sugar leads to mood swings and impairs sleep.  Eating too much sugar also raises triglycerides, leads to weight gain and puts added stress on the pancreas.  With 29 million people in the United States with diabetes and 8 million of those not even aware they have it, isn’t it worth knowing what’s going in your mouth so you won’t be caught by surprise?  And who knows, you might find that following a few of these suggestions are no big deal.  Now that’s a nice payback!  Please forward this to the people you care about.

 

 

Mole Hills, Not Mountains

This is the continuation in the series looking at the emotional side of the logistics of losing weight.

For some people anticipation is worse than realization.  The anticipation of starting a diet might as well be like climbing Mt Everest.  And in here lies the problem.   First of all, don’t think of it as a diet.  The word “diet” implies a beginning and an end.  You’re not heading for a destination; you are on a lifelong journey.  Secondly, if it feels like you are climbing a mountain, then you need to start back at the mole hills.

Get The Right Focus

Any change starts with a decision.  If the change is just for a destination, like looking nice in a bathing suit or for a wedding or for a reunion, then chances are one of two things will happen.  You will either not meet your goal or you will be like the 80% who regain their weight.  But what if your decision is not to reach a definitive destination but rather to feel better in your clothing, have more energy throughout the day and to take of yourself.  Imagine that, doing it just because you are worth it.  Shifting the focus from losing weight to eating healthier changes the perspective.  Making lifestyle changes to lose weight implies giving up and taking away, while eating healthier implies adding more and taking care.

Start And Stay With The Mole Hills

mole hillsThe second mistake that people make is taking on too much at once.  In my training as a health coach the emphasis was always on making changes based on the areas where a client feels most ready and confident to begin, and to start with small, action-oriented changes.  These are the mole hills that will take you down the path to taking care of yourself, while incidentally losing weight.

Examples of Mole Hills

What are some mole hills you could easily summit along your journey of taking care of yourself?

  • Find a buddy who will support you.  Spouse, friend, daughter or son, anyone who will take the journey with you and keep you energized and focused.
  • Start grocery shopping with a list and don’t shop when you are hungry.
  • Bring color to every plate through fruits and veggies.  Try to get at least 3 different colors on your plate.
  • Use a smaller plate, even a salad plate if you are not someone who likes fruits and veggies.
  • Drink at least 2 liters of non-caloric, non-diet fluids a day.
  • Shift to whole grain crackers, pasta, brown rice, and cereals.  If that’s too much to do all at once then go half and half.
  • Cut back on eating out.  This means being aware of how many meals you purchase over the week and reducing that number.  Instead, make a date night with a fun menu at home where you can control the salt and fat.
  • Wear a pedometer.  They do make people move more.
  • Keep your treats to the end of the day.
  • Watch TV less, read more.  Choose your shows and then turn the TV off.
  • Reflect back at the end of the day and recall what went well with each day.
  • Go to bed at a set time each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Any of these steps will help you to take care of yourself.  You will notice a difference in how you feel.  You will notice a difference in your energy level.  You will gain more confidence as you realize that you are worth it and that it doesn’t have to be this huge production or insurmountable mountain.  Even these changes will help boost your immune system with its daily fight against cancer cells, reduce the workload on your heart, and help your mind think more clearly, more positively.  Now that’s a mindset that will take you on lifelong journey, not just a destination.

 

 

 

Candy Cravings On Your Mind?

These next couple of blogs are part of the series of common nutritional and emotional mistakes people often make in the logistics of losing weight. Today’s focus is on candy craving.

There are times during the day when the brain just stalls and candy cravings call.   It gets fixated on something or quits making any creative breakthroughs.  That’s when the ole candy dish starts to look mighty fine….and if you grew up on the 70’s you might hum that jingle “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t” and reach into that bowl for something chocolotey, coconutty and chewy.  Maybe some of you have been disciplined enough to still have some of your Halloween candy (or maybe you just stocked up when they went down 50% the next day).  So you open that piece of candy either from home, at work or in your car and you pop it in your mouth.   Mmmmm.  Can you taste it?  Bursting with flavor, little crunchy, little chewy, little chocolatey.  All kinds of sensations and textures filling every corner of your mouth.  You’re in heaven.  You just got that initial pick-me-up feeling.

Mintel’s report on Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015 found that many people are snacking in order to satisfy a craving or improve work focus.  But what you choose to snack on can either be a pick-me-up and keep me up, or a pick-me-up followed quickly by a put-me down kind of feeling.  My goal is to help you see how eating soda, cookies, candy or some other sugary snack is just a short-term fix, only for that mouth-filling moment, and then poof, it’s gone and you’re tired.

Candy Cravings, A Pick-Me-Up or Put-Me-Down

Feeling tired or unproductive at work is a frustrating feeling.  Add time pressure and boredom with a task and you have a magic recipe for a candy craving.  It seems logical that candy does rev us up, giving us all kinds of energy immediately, but you have to understand what comes next.  All that extra sugar tells the pancreas to make extra insulin which then causes our blood sugars to crash.  Soda, cookies, fruit snacks and other sweets do the same thing.  That’s what makes us tired – the fluctuation in blood sugar – especially from a candy craving.

Discretionary Calories, Not Much Room For Candy Cravings

A day's worth of food

Nutrition Action Healthletter visual

Discretionary calories are the “fun” calories we should only eat after we’ve eaten the nutrient rich foods our body needs.  For a 2000 calorie diet it amounts to about 200 calories for a sedentary individual a day.  They include the sugar in coffee, the wine with dinner, the candy for the afternoon pick-me-up.  The governor in our brain should say, “hold on, will your day’s worth of food look anything like the menu above?”  Are your candy and cookie choices using up the calories your body really needs to deal with the daily attack by cancer-causing cells,  building the good HDL to fight off the artery-narrowing bad LDL, wearing out your pancreas and leading you to type 2 diabetes, or aggravating inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis?  How is that short-term candy craving fix really serving you?  If you really want that candy, save it as a reward after you’ve eaten what your body really needs and then go for a walk.

Cravings Pass And There Are Better Foods To Improve Focus

That afternoon lull might really be a sign of boredom, tiredness or need for brain stimulation. Changing your scenery, talking to someone, doing a brain teaser or doing a different task might be what your brain really needs.  If you need a pick-me-up to really improve focus, choose something from the menu example above to check off some of those nutrients your body really needs and save those discretionary calories for later.  If your mouth still really wants that candy delay it by then first get a cup of tea, talking to someone and then see if you still really want that candy.  Cravings pass and will power gets stronger, one craving at a time.