Category Archives: Simple Weight Loss Steps

Eat These Instead, Part 2

Lunch and snack time are one the biggest opportunities for making healthy choices.  Most people want something quick and convenient to eat at these times without having to think about the health impact on their decision.   You can still enjoy your soup and crackers, your cracker topper, your carbonated beverage and your chips and eat healthy!  Comparing similar foods will help you apply this knowledge to other similar foods.

Eat These Instead:  Health Valley Soups Over Campbell’s or Progresso

Campbel'ls soup Vs Health ValleyFirst of all when you compare any label you want to make sure you are looking at similar serving sizes. All these soups are based on 8 oz, even the Campbell’s because it is condensed.

One of the most important things to consider with canned soups is sodium. Canned soups tend to be really high in sodium and the USDA recommends people over 51, with diabetes or high blood pressure not exceed 1500 mg of sodium in a day.  Even though the Campbell’s soup says 25% less sodium than their other brands, their serving still contains 660 mg of sodium.  Most people would have that whole can for lunch, which means nearly 1700 mg of sodium – and that is supposed to be low!  Don’t think that Progresso is looking much better.  If someone were to eat a whole can of the Lentil soup, even with its respectable 320 calories, they still would be getting 1620 mg of sodium.  But if you look at the Health Valley, even eating the entire can or 2 servings, would still give you only 60 mg of sodium, 240 calories, 52 grams of carbs, a whopping 16 gms of fiber, and a respectable 18 gms of protein.

Eat These Instead:  Triscuits Thin Crisps Over Cheez-its or Ritz

healthy crackersEating crackers are a great opportunity to eat some heart healthy whole grains filled with fiber that will keep you fuller longer.  And there is evidence  that the fiber from whole grains improves insulin sensitivity for those who are insulin resistant (think metabolic syndrome or prediabetes).

Not all crackers are the same.  When choosing a cracker you want to look at the amount and type of fat per serving as well as the ingredients. The labels above consist of different serving sizes.  Since the size of the cracker is different the best way to examine the servings size is to look at the grams or weight of each serving.  The Triscuits and Cheez-Its servings are both 30 gms, while the Ritz label is based on 16 grams, essentially half of the weight of the other two per serving.  In fairness to the Triscuits and Cheez-Its the food nutrients on the Ritz need to be doubled in order to compare similar serving sizes.

With this is mind, 10 Ritz crackers will have 8 gms of total fat, with 2 coming from saturated fat making it equal to 27 Cheez-Its crackers.   While 15 of the Triscuits Thin Crisps only have 4.5 gms of total fat with only .5 gms coming from saturated fat.

Since crackers can be an opportunity to get a serving of whole grains, you need to look at the list of ingredients.  If the first words under the ingredients is the word “whole” or “100% whole”, then you know the cracker is made from the whole wheat berry – the bran, the germ and endosperm, in their proper proportion if it is processed in any way – cracked, rolled, etc.   Triscuits have the first word “whole” under ingredients while the others don’t at all (take my word for it).  Often times the packaging might say, “contains 12 whole grains” but not have the first word “whole” in the ingredients.  So 12 different grains may have been used but only part of those grains are contained in the food item, and usually mixed with white flour.  Because the Triscuits are made with whole grains, they also have more fiber – 3 gms per serving compared to none and 1 gm in the other crackers.

Eat These Instead:  Low-Fat Cheese over Full-Fat Cheese

Comparing Food Labels in Cheese

The biggest thing to be concerned about with any dairy, which includes cheese, is the heart clogging saturated fat content.  Even keeping cheese to low-fat, doesn’t mean you can eat all you want.  The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 5-6% of your daily calories come from saturated fat.  Based on a 2000 calorie diet that amounts to about 130 calories and if you divide that by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) that amounts to about 13 gms total per day.  That can easily add up if you are not careful and would be less if you were eating fewer calories.

When comparing full fat cheese to low-fat cheese you want to make sure you are looking at similar servings sizes.  Cabot’s label is based on a 28 gms serving, while Sargento’s label is based on 21 gms or one cheese stick.  So to be fair to Cabot, we would need to reduce the nutrient values by 25%.  Even after adjusting, you can still see that for the same gram weight, the Sargento cheese delivers 4.5 gms of total fat with 3 gms coming from saturated fat while the Cabot cheese delivers 7 gms of total fat with 5.5 gms coming from saturated fat.  With 13 gms being the recommended daily limit on saturated fats, (and that’s not including the saturated fat found in meat, crackers, chips, chocolate and other dairy), even one cheese stick gets you a quarter of the way there.  At least cheese sticks reduce temptation with the individually wrapped portions.  Personally, I eat hummus for the most part.  I love it and it has no saturated fat.  But I’ll save that topic for the next blog.

Drink These Instead:  Seltzer Over Soda

Seltzer bs CokeI know it is really hard to give up strong bubbly flavors.  For a long time I drank Diet Pepsi thinking it was much better for me than regular soda. Then I realized that all the chemicals in the diet soda were not really helping my body and there is evidence that diet soda can alter the gut microbes – probably those same microbes that enhance insulin sensitivity.  So what is a carbonated lover to do?  Switch to seltzer water.  Seltzer now comes with noncaloric natural flavors that satisfy that need for flavor with your bubbly.  It has zero sugar, no carbs, and no calories unlike a 12 oz serving of coke that has 55 gms of sugar making up the 55 gms of sugar-spiking carbs and 200 calories.  We all need a little pick me up at times, but why not get it from some ice coffee or better yet, a stretch and walk around the office instead.

Getting Healthy One Step At A Time

Becoming healthier doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It starts with gradually switching to healthier foods by looking at the labels of some of your favorite foods and slowly making better choices.  Choosing the recommended food item over the alternative will help reduce your daily consumption of sodium, saturated fat, unhealthy carbs and increase your dietary fiber.  No one is expecting perfect, but moving along the continuum of making healthier choices will pay you back in the future.


whole world in your hands

How To Start Eating Healthy

I hear the comment often, “I don’t know how to eat healthy”.  Packed between those words after exploration are fears of being overwhelmed with the idea of EATING HEALTHY as if that means suddenly having to transform into a Jedi Knight with the Force giving strength and determination to conquer the late night munchies, the afternoon nibbles, the morning Stars and Dunks.  Making changes in how you eat does not have to require this monumental overhaul.  There are steps you can take to make it easy but first there are some preliminary things to consider to help you have success at eating healthier.

Eat Healthy For The Right Reason

Knowing why you want to eat healthy is the first question.  Is it your desire to eat healthier to lose weight or for better health?  Are you doing it to look better or to be healthier?  If the desire is more about appearance, then the barometer for success is only the scale, not the improved blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, energy level and improved relationships as you gain confidence from your effort.  Furthermore, losing weight only for appearance tends to lead to expectations for rapid weight loss, usually from a fad diet.  And losing weight this way can lead to complications and regaining of weight once the diet is stopped.

Not that appearance can’t be part of the reason for eating healthier, but isn’t it more compelling to eat healthy in order to feel better and be healthier?  Having lab numbers, waist size, blood pressure and energy level become the barometer for success, not just the scale, sound a lot more convincing?


Make sure you have realistic expectations.  I don’t know of anyone who has said to themselves that today he/she was going to start eating three balanced meals with lots of veggies, lean protein, no refined carbs, no sweets and start exercising for 60 minutes every day.  Maybe I should qualify that, I’ve known a few who have attempted it, but they did not sustain it for long and it only added to their stress.  Eating healthier is not the same as going on a diet.  “Prescription” diets like the Blood Type, Cabbage Soup, and Master Cleanse are designed to lose weight quickly.  Even the Adkins diet and the Paleo diet will help you lose weight but can you eat that way for the rest of your life?  Once people quit eating the structured meal plan, weight is most often regained.  Furthermore many fad diets are lacking in key nutrients for health.

Knowing you are in this for the long haul will help you to have success.  Learning how to live a healthier lifestyle should be a gradual series of small changes.

Make Your Environment Safe

Where you live and work can be toxic.  The prefrontal cortex controls our inhibitory decision-making.  Parts of the prefrontal cortex are stimulated when people exhibit control over food urges.  Research in this area has shown that some people have better self-regulation because of more stimulation in this part of the brain.  If you find that you are someone who can be easily tempted by unhealthy foods, then make your environment safe.  Clear tempting foods out of your house.  Take different routes home from work.  Get your coworkers on board with keeping healthier foods around so that you can reduce temptation.  It’s better to go out and splurge on a single serving than it is to buy a larger amount (hate those 2 for 1 chip sales!) and bring it home.

Know Your Causes For Unhealthy Eating Or Overeating

Are you not making good food choices or overeating because you are stressed, bored, eating out of habit or need to decompress, or just eating mindlessly?  If any of these reasons sound familiar then you need to start here first.  Food fuels our body, but it can also alleve stress, anxiety, boredom and become an unhealthy habit.  Addressing the stress in one’s life, through time management, conversation, delegation, planning, exercise and even counselling may need to happen first.

Food Cravings

Food cravings can happen from big swings in blood sugars.  Look at your style and pattern of eating.  Are you eating too many refined carbs at lunch from white rice with the Chinese meal, white flour from the pizza or white flour and sugar from cakes, cookies and chips and notice you get hungry and have food cravings in the mid-afternoon?  That sugar spike from all those “white” refined carbs will hit you like a ton of bricks a couple of hours later making you reach for any candy lying around or that leftover donut or slice of pizza to make that feeling go away.  Looking at your hunger level and how it fluctuates during the day will convince you to try eating differently or reinforce what you are already doing well.  It may also convince you to reach for a cup of tea or go for a walk instead.

How To Start Eating Healthy

Where to begin all depends on what you are currently doing.

  • If you eat most of your meals out:   Begin by making better choices at those restaurants or switch to restaurants that will give you healthier choices.  Getting a turkey sandwich with lots of veggies and little mayo on a whole grain roll at Subway would be a much better choice than going to Burger King and getting a Whopper value meal.  The next step might be to decrease the frequency of eating fast food and stopping instead at the grocery store to buy a rotisserie chicken and hitting the salad bar (put the dressing on the side and skip the cheese and mayonnaise-packed salads)
  • For the breakfast skipper:  Begin two days a week and try eating something small like:
    • a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit
    • a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
    • a low fat Greek yogurt topped with walnuts
    • a half cup of low fat cottage cheese with diced fruit
    • a package of old fashioned oatmeal  topped with walnuts                                                                                   

Notice that each of these meals includes some protein, fiber and some fat.  These are key nutrients for fullness.   Dietary fat should come from the heart-healthy fats like nuts, canola and olive oil, avocado and fish, rather than from animal fats like red meat, whole fat dairy and palm oil.  Take notice of how you feel on those days you eat breakfast.  Do you have more energy?   Do you eat less the second half of the day?  Do you think better at work?  Do you have fewer cravings?  Listen to how your body talks to you.

  • For the person who does not like to plan meals:  Plan just two healthy meals for the week with enough for leftovers for two other meals.  Write down the list of ingredients and take with you when you go shopping.  Include on the list some quick things you can take for lunch like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole grain crackers and pre-cut fresh veggies.  The next step might be to make foods on the weekend or days off that you can eat during the work week.  Use this cooking strategy to save you time and stress.
  • For the person who does not like to cook:  Try grilling chicken or fish for several meals and eat with lots of fresh produce around will keep it simple.  Soups and crock-pots also reduce food preparation time and can contain a whole balanced meal.  check out some of the soup recipes like my chili or chicken soup on this website for ideas.
  • For the person who does not have time to prepare meals:  If you can’t get help from family members then buy prepared veggies or frozen veggies.  Buy a rotisserie chicken or meats that are already cut up.  Buy canned beans or grains that are already cooked.  When you do cook grains, make extra and freeze.  Brown rice and other grains like bulgar and barley freeze well.  Pre-prep some of your meals on your day off.  Use a crock pot so you can get up a bit early in the morning or prepare the night before so the meal can cook while you are at work.
  • For the night snacker:  Start by eating breakfast.  Research shows that when people eat a breakfast with focus on healthy protein they remain fuller during the day and eat less at night.  Then make sure you are eating a dinner with a good amount of protein, some healthy fat, lots of non-starchy veggies and a fiber-rich starch.  Here are some ideas;
    • 4-5 oz of chicken, 1 cup of brown rice, 2 cups of broccoli or salad, and healthy fat from canola oil or olive oil on the veggies or maybe some nuts stirred into the rice or sunflower seeds topped on the salad.
    • 4-5 oz of salmon grilled or baked in the oven (salmon and other oily fish contain a lot of the heart healthy fat which will also help with fullness), 1 medium baked sweet potato, 12 asparagus and one piece of fruit
    • 3 egg omelette with 1 cup of spinach, onions and mushrooms, 2 pieces of whole grain toast(the first word under ingredients should be “whole” or 100% whole) and topped with 1 tsp each of whipped butter, and a side salad.  Try using salad spritzer dressings instead of pouring a high fat dressing on the salad.

Night snacking goes hand and hand with watching TV.  Try turning off the TV, play a game, read, go for a walk.  Even try brushing your teeth after dinner.  If you really must have a little “something something” start first with a cup of tea, seltzer water or just water and see if that hits the spot.  If you still need something then keep it to a serving by putting the food on a plate.  Do not eat out of the box!

  • For the person who does not like veggies:  Hide your veggies.
    • put them in a blender and add to soups
    • make mashed potatoes with half steamed cauliflower
    • double up on what you do like
    • puree them into tomato sauces
    • mix spaghetti squash with your pasta
    • make zucchini pasta
    • try new ways of eating them like roasting potatoes with onions and peppers in the oven
    • try seasoning them or dipping them in yogurt dips
    • try making dips out of them like salsa or a kale, berry and olive oil dip made in a blender
    • try them in a  smoothie

Forming New Healthy Eating Habits

Gradually incorporate some of these ideas into your routine.  If the changes seem unnatural then you are making changes too fast.  In general, it takes about three weeks for a new habit to feel natural.  Start with the above suggestions that you feel more confident about.  If you are telling yourself that you “should” do something, then you’re probably not ready to take that next step.  Focus on what you don’t mind doing and branch out from there.  Over several weeks and months you will begin to notice that some things are easier to do and don’t require as much thought.  This means you are ready to tackle more.  And as you take on new habits, continue to notice how your body feels.  Not only will you start to have more energy, but if you are overweight, you will lose weight as well, naturally.  No pills, no cleanses, no diets.  Just learning how to nourish and fuel your body like a Jedi.  Before you know it, these changes will become less forced and you will have the Force with you as you become that Jedi Knight on the way to conquering the world!



refined carbs

Prediabetes, A Cry For Help

Diabetes doesn’t just come knocking at the door one morning when you wake up.  Diabetes is foreshadowed if you understand its disguise.  If you can catch prediabetes before it becomes diabetes you can prevent some the permanent damage to your cardiovascular system and pancreas, the insulin-producing organ.

The Significance of Prediabetes

There are over 86 million people in the US that have prediabetes and 9 out of 10 of those people do not even know they have it.  Once someone is diagnosed with prediabetes they will most likely develop diabetes within ten years if they do not make lasting lifestyle changes.  Being diagnosed with prediabetes is a gift or warning to make changes now before permanent damage occurs.

How Would You Know If You Have Prediabetes?

Prediabetes doesn’t have any signs or symptoms.  That is the scary thing.  Your body doesn’t give any warning until diabetes has shown its ugly face.  However, your healthcare provider may have checked a basic or complete metabolic panel that includes a blood glucose test.  In our busy healthcare system, having an elevated blood sugar at the prediabetes level often gets missed by busy providers.  Ask for your results and if your glucose level was done after you had been fasting and was greater than 100, then you should have this repeated with one of the tests below.  If you have symptoms of excessive thirst, increased urination, blurry vision or frequent fatigue, then this could indicate that you have diabetes.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a problem with processing sugar or glucose, mostly from the foods we eat, leading to higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be diabetes.   This is partially due to the body not utilizing insulin in the normal way.  Over time this problem with insulin progresses, leading to higher blood sugars and diabetes.  There are three tests for diagnosing prediabetes and diabetes:

  • Glycated Hemoglobin (A1c) which indicates an average blood sugar over 2-3 months time.   An A1c between 5.7-6.4 indicates prediabetes.  An A1c over 6.4 over two different occasions indicates diabetes.
  • Fasting Blood Sugar is done by taking a blood sample after 8 hours of fasting (usually done overnight).  Under 100 is considered normal.  Having a result between 100-125 indicates prediabetes.  Having a result 126 or greater on two different occasions indicates the individual may have prediabetes.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test is a slightly more involved test but probably the most accurate since it directly assesses how the body manages a glucose challenge.  This test is done fasting as well but the individual is given a sugary drink and blood sugar levels are checked before and several times afterwards.  A normal reading is under 140.  Having a reading between 140-199 is considered prediabetes; greater than 199 is considered diabetes.

Who Should Be On Alert For Prediabetes?

The exact cause of prediabetes isn’t well understood but there is a genetic link and it is associated with leading an inactive lifestyle and having abdominal fat.  The following are indications for getting checked for prediabetes:

  • Have/had a parent with type 2 diabetes
  • Having a waist circumference > than 35 for women, > 40 for men
  • Are overweight
  • Are inactive
  • Are of Asian, African, Pacific Island, Hispanic or American Indian descent
  • Are over 45
  • Had gestational diabetes or a baby weighing over 9 pounds
  • Had PCOS- polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Have sleep apnea
  • Have high triglycerides, low HDL or have high blood pressure

Prediabetes Is A Chance For A Do-Over!

The Diabetes Prevention Program, a multi-center clinical research study, showed that a 7% weight loss along with 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week greatly reduced the risk of developing diabetes in those who had prediabetes.  For a 200 pound individual that’s only 14 pounds!  That’s not a huge amount of weight.  Couple that with a walk after dinner most nights and that’s a pretty doable plan.

Let Me Help You

This is my passion.  I understand the nuances to making lifestyle changes.  I will help you find your steps towards prevention of diabetes.

good carbs

Make Your Carbs Count

Some of us are carnivores, people who crave steaks, ribs and other bloody meat, and some of us are carbivores, my definition of people who crave chips, cookies and candy.  But too many carbs, especially the processed ones, do us more harm than the few minutes of pleasure we get from eating them.  It’s not about abstention from them; it is about making informed choices.

Carbohydrate Sources

Carbohydrates (carbs) are those foods that contain sugar, starch and/or fiber.  Some grow naturally in the environment while others are manufactured.  Naturally occurring carbs inherently contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than manufactured carbs.  Manufactured carbohydrates are often times more manipulated to enhance shelf life, taste, advertising appeal and texture.  These are the kinds of manufactured carbohydrates I’m referring to in this article.  It’s the degree and intent to which these “man-made” carbs are manufactured that is the issue when it comes to health.

Naturally Occurring Carbs

Naturally occurring carbs include fruits and starchy veggies, legumes and whole grains, and some dairy.  The amount of carbohydrates found in fruits can vary depending on the kind and the ripeness.  A cup of grapes has 28 grams of carbs, while a cup of raspberries has 15 grams.  Less ripe fruits have more resistant starches in them that are not digestible while riper fruits have more of their starch converted to easily digested sugar, raising their carb load and their impact on blood sugars.  Starchy veggies include all potatoes, corn, peas and winter squashes.  Think of veggies that are denser and sweeter.   Lower carb veggies are less sweet and have a higher water content like celery, zucchini and broccoli.

And like those resistant starches converted in riper fruit, the same thing happens when grains are cooked longer.  Soft pasta has a higher carb load than the less boiled al dente pasta.

Milk has the natural occurring sugar, lactose, which adds about 12 grams of carbs per cup.  Cheese and plain unsweetened yogurts, especially plain Greek, have less lactose, therefore fewer carbs.

Manufactured Carbs

Manufactured carbs include things like certain breads and pasta, candy and baked goods, chips and crackers, and ice cream and fruit-filled yogurt.  In particular I want to focus on the manufactured carbs that strip the good, naturally occurring benefits out of the product and then try to add other ingredients to artificially enhance a product.

Manufactured goodness pasta labelFor example, Barilla Plus pasta tries to appeal to the health conscious consumer by advertising on their food label “multigrain”, “protein, fiber and ALA Omega-3”.  When you look at the complicated food label you can see that what they’ve done is take wheat flour (only part of the wheat berry) and blended it with flour from lentils, chick peas, flaxseed(tha t’s how it gets to promote the ALA omega 3), oats and barley, and enhanced the fiber artificially by adding oat fiber, enhanced the protein by adding egg whites, and enhanced the nutrients by adding vitamins and iron.  There are 16 ingredients in this product.  Now compare that to Luigi Vitelli organic pasta which contains only one ingredient – whole wheat durum semolina flour grown organically – and you can see what I am talking about.  Not only is the Luigi pasta higher in naturally occurring fiber but there is no food manipulation going on.  A food shouldn’t brag on the front of the box when there are 16 ingredients in it when only one truly good ingredient is needed.  You don’t need to mess around with mother nature to try to enhance a product.

Another example is oatmeal.  Oatmeal comes as quick cooked, old-fashioned, steel-cut and in its pure form, the “grout”.  You can find quick cooked that has added fiber to make consumers think they are getting a really good thing but they really aren’t in this case. Quaker Oats High Fiber Instant Cinnamon Swirl Oatmeal is made from precooked and dried oatmeal, a created fiber called maltodextrin, sugar and sugar substitute, caramel coloring and vitamins and minerals to make it sound really healthy.  Keep in mind that maltodextrine is a type of  manipulated fiber that doesn’t provide the same health benefits of naturally occurring fiber.  This cereal gets high ratings for taste but in a man-made, less healthy way.  The less processed the oatmeal grain – which starts with the grout, the more naturally occurring fiber, vitamins and minerals you will get.  You’re better off eating steel-cut oats flavored with a teaspoon of honey and cinnamon than a quick cooked sweetened oatmeal if you are really trying to take care of your health.

In general, look at the number of ingredients in a label when you are comparing similar foods.  The fewer the ingredients, the less man has manipulated it, and the more nature leaves its imprint.

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

I think of carbs as the body’s gas pedal.  When you eat a lot of manufactured carbs, especially ones made with white flour and lots of sugar, the body’s rpm’s go really high.  This causes blood sugars to go really high and the pancreas to have to work really hard to take care of the extra blood sugar.  Getting back to the car metaphor, carbs are the gas pedal and the brake pads are the pancreas.  Eating foods that are highly processed, laden with sugar and stripped of the bran and germ of the grain is like pressing down hard and fast on the gas pedal and the pancreas, like the brake pads of your car, gets worn out.

Not "whole" foods

Not “whole” foods

These kind of carbs in the picture at left, are what cause the insulin spike and when consumed frequently, keep blood insulin levels high creating the cascade of events mentioned in the previous post.

Getting back to the gas pedal metaphor, choosing mostly intact carbs with little processing like whole grains, fruits and beans it’s like gently putting your foot on the pedal to  accelerate.  When you choose these kinds of carbs you get a more gradual blood sugar rise and put less stress on the pancreas.  And because they are high in fiber you stay fuller longer – which is like getting more mileage for the same amount of gas.  Furthermore, the best payback that I hear from my clients is that they have more energy.  With fewer blood sugar swings there are also fewer times during the course of the day where they have trouble focusing and feel sleepy.

How Many Carbs Should You Have?

Last post I talked about reducing carbs to the lower end of the Institute of Medicine acceptable range of around 45% of total daily calories.  How many grams of carbohydrates does that amount to for a day?  First you need to calculate your recommended daily caloric needs that considers your age, sex, height and activity level.  The Mayo Clinic has a nice interactive calculator you can use here.

For me to maintain my current weight considering my activity level, I would need 2100 calories daily.  To determine my daily carbohydrate needs Based on the points made in my last post, I will multiply the 2100 calories by the 45% and then divide it by 4 since there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate.

                                                                     2100 X .45 = 945                                                                                                                                              945/4 = 236 grams

If I divide the 236 grams over my three meals it works out to about 80 grams per meal.  If I were to have a snack containing carbohydrates I would reduce the carbs in the meals accordingly.  You can look at the food label under total carbohydrate to see how many grams a serving has.  For those foods that do not have a food label The Calorie King Calorie and Carbohydrate Counter Book is a nice resource.  Keep in mind that many prepared food items contain more than one serving.  The Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese in the above picture actually contains 5 servings in the box.  Many people would either eat the whole box or split it with someone.

How To Begin

  • Cut out or reduce your soda intake.   A 12 oz. coke has 55 grams of sugary carbs.  Try seltzer water with natural flavoring or tea.
  • Reduce the amount of chips you ea.   A serving of Stacy’s pita chips has 19 grams of carbs.  Measure your portion and put it on a plate, do not eat out of the bag.  And don’t think that just because pretzels have little fat and are low in calories are a good choice.  Most pretzels are make with white flour.  Eating a few servings of those is just like putting the pedal to the metal.
  • Switch to black coffee or coffee with whole milk with less sugar or use Truvia.  A vanilla Frappuccino at Starbucks has 68 grams of carbs.
  • Eat your fruit instead of drinking it so you get the fiber.  Juice glasses use to be 4 ounces, now they are 8 oz – that’s 30 grams of quickly digested sugary carbs.
  • Cut out the donuts and muffins (unless it’s my high fiber, high protein recipe) and eat a breakfast with more protein and fiber from whole grains and fewer carbs- like my frittata with 2 pieces of whole grain bread.  Or something more simple might be a cup of plain Greek lowfat yogurt, with 1/2 cup of thawed frozen berries and some chopped nuts.
  • If you are a candy lover switch to one small piece of dark chocolate which is lower in carbs (4 gms) and has heart healthy flavonoids.  A candy bar like 3 Musketeers can have 42 grams of sugary carbs.

Most of us love our carbs whether they are sweet, salty or crunchie.  Everything in moderation has to be defined.  It can’t be permission to indulge without discretion.  Next post I’ll discuss tips to make this process easier.





Bo Derek

Ten, A Very Important Number

Aside from Bo Derek’s movie, Ten, with her gorgeous body running on the beach knowing how good she must feel, the number 10 is important in health coaching.  The number 10 is where we want our clients to reach in terms of their energy level.  When someone rates themselves a 10, they are able to accomplish more, overcome obstacles, achieve hopes, improve health, and feel life is full of possibilities.  The number 10 is also important in some areas of health.  When these guidelines below are achieved, any individual can feel like a Bo Derek and reach a 10 in energy level.


Fiber – Ten Grams Per Meal

You laugh, but face it, without having a daily poop our comfort is compromised and we feel bloated.  The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber a day – mainly from processed foods.  The U.S. government guidelines recommend 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day.

But fiber does more than just make us happy in the morning.  Soluble fiber helps lower the artery clogging LDL cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber feeds gut flora that helps to boost our immune system and gives bulk to our morning constitution.  Fiber has been linked to body weight regulation and helps to keep people fuller longer.  Aim for about ten grams a meal by eating fruits and veggies, nuts, beans and whole grain breads, cereal, and crackers.  And watch out for isolated fibers like maltodextrin, inulin and polydextrose that are processed fibers and do not give the same health benefits and can cause gas and bloating.

Exercise – Ten Minutes At A Time

The American College of Cardiology looked at the association between jogging at a leisurely pace and it’s impact on mortality and presence of heart disease in over 55,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 100.   They concluded that even jogging at a leisurely pace for 5-10 minutes each day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes and heart disease.  Imagine that as few as five to ten minutes will give you a healthier, extended life.  If you have bad knees or joints then try an elliptical or the Arc, these are just as effective,  and you can watch TV or be in your skivvies and no one will know.

Saturated Fat – Less Than Ten Percent Of Your Daily Calories

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 which are updated every 5 years, recommend no more than 10% of total daily calories come from saturated fat.  For a 2000 calorie diet that would mean about 22 grams a day.  For an 1800 calorie diet it tops out at 20 grams.  For a 1500 calorie diet that would mean no more than 17 grams.  Saturated fat comes mainly from animal fats, but also palm and coconut oils.  Saturated fat is only part of the total fat on the nutritional label, but along with transfats, can lead to heart disease.

Saturated fats can add up.  A Big Mac has 10 grams, a double quarter-pounder with cheese has 19 grams – adding an ounce of cheese to any sandwich will add about 6 more grams of saturated fat.  A half cup of ice cream has 4 grams of heart-clogging fat.  A venti Vanilla Latte from Starbucks has 4.5 grams of saturated fat.  An apple crumb donut from Dunkin Donuts has 9 grams of saturated fat.  You can quickly see how all these numbers add up.  Awareness is empowerment so you can make an informed decision.

It’s All About Getting to Ten

Feeling like a 10 is possible.   Eating using these guidelines along with getting even 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily is going to improve your circulation, digestion, immune system and satiety.  You will have more energy to do what makes you happy.

It doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It starts with getting familiar with food labels and eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts.  Increase you activity by parking further away during errands, taking the stairs more and gradually work towards that 5-10 minutes of exercise.  You don’t have to look like Bo to feel like a 10!

positive thinking

Lose Weight Or Gain Health. Be Positive

Are you feeling like your life is tedious and overwhelming and you really want to lose weight?  Happy, happy, joy, joy as Ren and Stimpy would say!  Actually, I’m not being sarcastic.  Why can’t we look at losing weight as gaining health instead?  It’s not like we really can’t find the weight in our thighs, belly and behind.  And it’s not like we want to be deprived or suffer from the loss of weight.  Why can’t it be thought of as “gaining health”?  After all, aren’t improved blood sugars, cholesterol, blood pressure, appearance, relationships, energy, mood and sleep a huge gain????

Be Positive

positive thinking

half empty or half full?

Barbara Frederickson, a reknowned psychologist, has done extensive research on positive psychology.  Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that uses scientific research to study and determine positive human development.  Dr Frederickson has discovered that experiencing positive emotions changes cognitive pathways in the brain so that people are able to become more resilient to challenges and feel empowered to accomplish what they could only dream of in the past.  Her research supports that a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative thoughts creates physiological changes in the brain.  Her website has a test and tools you can access to assess and improve your ratio.  Some of her tools include meditation and Day Reconstruction Method which involves self-reflection on the previous days to explore patterns and how time was spent.  There is also a tool for analyzing social interactions and the emotional connections felt during interactions.

Why Get To A 3 To 1 Positive Ratio

Emotion drives our behaviors.  Imagine if you come home from work in a negative mood feeling like your boss doesn’t understand you, your bills are piling up, your kids don’t appreciate you, your spouse has it easier than you and you still have to take the kids to evening activities, figure out dinner, do laundry, and finish up some stupid work assignment.  Now that is the frame of mind that’s going to open up all kinds doors of possibility, right?  No, it will probably lead you to open up the door to the stash of chips.

There is an alternative reality.  Perhaps your boss does see your side of an issue but he has pressures from his boss that he hasn’t shared.  Perhaps your kids do appreciate how you support them and take them to their activities but can’t truly understand how you feel because they are only kids without enough life experiences and are dealing with their own social pressures.  Perhaps your spouse is working as hard as you but managing other household responsibilities that you hate doing.  Perhaps you haven’t sat down with your spouse to find alternative ways to simplify life.  Perhaps if you did more planning and cooking on the weekend in bulk and froze meals for the week it would make weekday dinners easier.  Perhaps if you delegated some activities like laundry or meal preparation it would relieve some stress.  Perhaps if you looked at how you managed your time at work you might not be bringing work home.

Negative thoughts can muddle thinking, undermine attitudes and drive us to unhealthy behaviors.  Imagine if the above scenario happened to someone in a positive frame of mind.  That person might come home from work after having a good talk with their boss to clear up some concerns and feel empowered to address the issues at home.  He or she would have the energy while driving home to think about dinner plans, perhaps call the kids to enlist their help (which would empower the kids).  The chores of the evening could be shared with opportunities to talk to each other and connect.  All these actions lead to empowerment and open communication just by shifting perceptions and would most likely not end up with raiding the pantry!

If you are trying to gain room in your clothes and regain your health, start with how your are wording it and then develop that 3 to 1 ratio of positive thoughts.  You might find that just changing your thinking might lead to less unhealthy snacking and improved health with no effort at all.


Nurture Your Self-Talk

What we say to ourselves has a direct impact on what we think about ourselves.  Talking to yourself in the right language will have a direct impact on how successful you will be in accomplishing difficult tasks.  Elizabeth Bernstein’s article in the Wall Street Journal on self-talk supports the notion that what we say to ourselves will help us perform better in competitions, interviews, public speaking events, and even has more success in dating.

How Self-Talk Works

self talkIn Elizabeth Bernstein’s interview with Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, associate professor at the University of Thessaly in Greece who has studied the impact of self-talk on athletic performance, he states that motivational self talk such as “you can do this” leads to the correct reaction.  This kind of instructional self talk can be very beneficial for learning a new task.  Before a speech, someone might say to oneself, “speak slower and make eye contact”.  He also mentions to be short, precise and consistent.  You instruct yourself until it almost become automatic.

Bernstein also refers to a series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that examined how one addresses oneself being also significant.  Using non-first person pronouns or one’s own name was more effective than using “I”.   So before giving a speech saying, “Barbara speak slow and give eye contact” is more effective than saying “I will speak slower and give them eye contact.”

Apply Self-Talk to Changing Habits

So take this a step further.  Making lifestyle changes also requires a series of new tasks.  If you are starting an exercise routine which involves getting up earlier and you really want to press the snooze alarm, you could try saying to yourself: “You will get out of bed and exercise”.  Non-first person pronoun, short and concise.  When you are reaching for a cookie or bag of chips and you are trying to eat healthier, say to yourself: “Barbara, eat an apple instead”.   When you are breaking your habit of going to McDonald’s and having a craving, say to yourself:  “Barbara, this will pass, go home and make dinner.”  When you are going to a party with plenty of temptation, tell yourself:  “you will enjoy one dessert only”.

Why not try making your self-talk direct and with the desired outcome.  Do this with every new task and see how successful you can be.  That little voice inside your head needs to come out louder so you can hear it and follow its guidance!