Mediterranean Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

Most parents are emphatic about their role as the guardian and care giver of their children.

A parent puts their child in car seat to drive three blocks for a play date. They do exhaustive research and check the references of the local day care centers before making a choice to leave their child there. At home the cabinets are secured with safety latches, the fire detectors have working batteries, and a camera keeps an eye on babies and toddlers while they sleep.

The parent needs and wants to make sure that their children stay out of harms way.  But that’s not all. As a parent, your goal is to raise children to be healthy, active, productive adults.

If you’ve watched the Fed Up movie trailer and follow the trends on childhood obesity and diabetes you know that raising a healthy child is getting harder. Currently 17% of our children are overweight or obese. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to 25%. Each year nearly 4,000 children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Fed Up isn’t the first movie to make these claims.  The HBO documentary, The Weight Of The Nation tackles the same issues and presents a startling and scary look at what is happening to the health of our children. The Weight of The Nation says that unless you do something different than the average American your children will grow up to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that your child is probably not predestined for overweight, obesity or diabetes.  There is not an unstoppable force that you, as the parent and guardian of your children, can’t do something about. You can make sure that your child doesn’t becomes a statistic and it might be easier to do than you think.

Child eating fruit

Flickr photo by Bruce Tuten

Mediterranean-Style Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

A recent study suggests that adopting a Mediterranean eating style will help prevent overweight and obesity in children.  The study looked at the weight and eating habits of more than 9,000 children in eight countries for a two year period.  The children’s weight and body fat was measured at both the beginning and end of the study.

The study found that kids that followed a Mediterranean style diet were 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not follow that type of diet.

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries,” the researchers said. “Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.”

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria. Until then they’ve published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary.

Adopting a Mediterranean Lifestyle Can Help You Too

The Mediterranean diet was first publicized by Dr. Ancel Keys and became popular in the 1990s. The ‘diet’ is based on mimicking the eating patterns of the people that live in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea; Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, to name a few.

Along with a longer life expectancy, people that live in these areas are found to have lower rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Ironically these are the same health conditions that are on the rise in the United States and Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet is similar to the Paleo plan in that it calls for eating whole or ‘real’ foods but does not go to the extreme of eliminating entire food groups.

The diet calls for eating an abundance of plant foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts and whole grain cereals such as oats, barley, corn and brown rice. Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat. Cheese and yogurt (with no sugar added) are the main sources of dairy. Moderate amounts of fish and poultry are consumed. Eggs are limited, and so is read meat.

Below is a picture of the Mediterranean food pyramid that shows the foods that are to be eaten in quantity and those that are to be limited.

Mediterranean pyramid

Flickr photo by alenjandromercer

There’s nothing particularly epic about the eating plan. It is based on applying common sense to the way we eat so that most of the foods we consume are dense in nutrients and low in calories, sugar and fat. The diet also calls for healthy amounts of physical activity throughout the week.

Getting children started at a young age eating fruits and vegetables, lean sources of proteins, and whole grain cereals may be the best prevention there is to make sure they don’t become an overweight teen or young adult.

My call to action for you is to change the way you eat by starting a Mediterranean Project in your household. There’s no need to go it alone. Invite you friends and family join you!

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Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step

Changing A Behavior Is Easy.  Making it Stick?  Not So Much.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man that has lost over 140 pounds. His story was amazing and we talked for awhile about how it did it, what strategies he used, and what he’s doing now to maintain the weight loss.

Maintaining the weight loss proves to be the most difficult part.  He says that the pounds are starting to creep back on and he is struggling to keep doing the behaviors that helped him lose the weight. He finds he’s slipping back into his old habits.

We talked about what that one thing might be that he could start doing today to get back in motion.  After talking to him I was reminded of this post that I wrote almost two years ago and is what I encouraged him to do. Just take one small step.

Start

Flickr photo by jackandlindsay

How long is it from the time you download a phone app to motivate you to track your calories, steps, carbs or whatever it is you feel you need help in controlling before you’re no longer using it?  Three months?  Six months?  Five weeks?  Two days? I’ve downloaded several apps that have helped me drink more water or deliver positive affirmations to get me through a rough spot but after a few months I stop using them.

The company I work for has made an investment to provide employees with a wellness web site where we can track nearly everything we do.  We get points for healthy behaviors and a cash payout at the end of the year if we acquire enough.  You’d think everyone would sign up, but the participation rate is about 10 percent.

People lose weight and gain it back, spend money on gym membership and not go, decide to give up fast food, admit how much better they feel without it, and then end up back at McDonalds.

This question of how to stay motivated, and to me even more important – how to keep other people motivated – is perplexing.  Is this back and forth, stop and start, inspired then uninspired cycle that most of us seem to go through the trade off for having a brain that is complex enough to be able to make choices? Certainly it does have to do with our ability as humans to participate in a decision making process above and beyond basic instinct.

Why And How People Change Health Behaviors

Several years ago the book “Why and How People Change Health Behaviors” attempted to reveal the secrets to successful behavior change.  The book is written by Joseph Leutzinger, PhD and John Harris, MEd, who decided to throw off their ‘scientific research hats’ and put on their ‘curious but not judgmental’ hats to seek out individuals who had been successful at changing one or more behaviors.  The book is a collection of stories gleaned from those interviews.

Leutzinger and Harris found there were some recurring themes in the stories they heard.  Here’s what the interviewees told them:

– Do what works for you
– Be well informed about the change you are making
– Be ready – don’t go in unprepared or lacking confidence
– Set SMART goals
– Make a total commitment
– Take it one day at a time
– Plan ahead for scenarios that you find threatening
– Control your environment
– Take small steps
– Seek support from others
– Realize that compliments from others are motivating
– Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success
– Know that one successful change leads to another
– Reward yourself for success

Pick One

That’s a good list with plenty of suggestions to help with adherence. But, if I had to pick the one most critical to successful behavior change it would be “Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success.”

This darn brain of ours allows us to make choices.  Sometimes they’re good choices, sometimes not so much.  Both can gain momentum.  Once we get started practicing a ‘good’ behavior – for example taking a thirty minute walk before work four days a week – we get in the pattern of doing that.  It feels easy to do and we enjoy the aftereffects of knowing that we’ve kept our commitment and met our goal.

Then the day comes when we decide to go for a couple of birthday drinks with friends after work.  The following day we don’t feel like getting up early to walk so we stay in bed.  The next day it’s raining.  We know there are rainy day options; at home work out DVDs or the stationary bike in the spare bedroom, but we sleep in instead.  Before you know it, two weeks have passed since our last early morning workout that made us feel good all day long.

Take The Smallest Possible Step Forward

I read an interesting blog post yesterday on Daily Blog Tips about procrastination.  The author, Daniel Scocco, was working on a software development project that was overwhelming to him.  It wasn’t that he had no interest in working on the project.  Just the opposite was true, but because of very specific guidelines he had to follow he was having trouble getting started.  Day after day he pushed the project around his desk but couldn’t bring himself to tackle it.

After a couple weeks of this he decided he would try a new strategy.  He would take one small step. He would type the title of the project on a blank page.  That was all.  After he typed the words of the project into the word processor, ideas started to flow and within a couple of hours he had written over 1,000 words.  Daniel says, “Taking that first step is the hardest part for most projects and things, so if you are procrastinating with something lately, simply take the smallest possible step forward, and the rest should start flowing more easily.”

The Law Of Motion

The difficulty we have getting started again once we’ve stopped is the basic law of motion.  The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”  It may take a little more effort to get the resting body back in motion, but it can be done.

Are you letting a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success?  What is the smallest possible step you can take to initiate the law of motion?  Take that step today!

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Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.” — Peter McWilliams
 

Human beings are the only species that deliberately sabotage their own best efforts to improve their life. We have the intellect to know that the behaviors we’re clinging to are holding us back from reaching our goals yet often times we can’t change.

You know that you need to lose weight and cut back on sugar yet you continue to order a large sweet tea at McDonald’s on your way to work each day.

You’ve promised yourself that you’ll get up and take a 20 minute walk before you start your day but when the alarm goes off you hit the snooze until it’s too late to go.

You’ve made a delicious salad and put it in the fridge at work, but when co-workers say they’re going to Pizza By The Pound for lunch you easily dismiss the salad and join them.

Why?

Comfort Zone

Flickr photo by Steve Heath

Is it because we are a bunch of pampered, lazy sloths that we can’t get motivated or tolerate any discomfort that might come from the process of changing the bad habits we’ve developed?

I don’t think so.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m a wellness coach and program administrator. If you know a psychologist, go ahead and ask them what they think.  Their answer might be different from mine.

I think people find it very hard to change their behaviors because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. And most of, fear of being uncomfortable, maybe even miserable, during the process.

I don’t think that, as a species, we’re a bunch of lazy sloths.  I do think that most of us like to be comfortable. We like routine. We avoid change. We are content with the status quo. We make excuses, procrastinate, and avoid.

As soon as you set a goal and realize what action steps you’re going to have to take to achieve it, the repetitive self-defeating thoughts inhabit your brain. It’s too hot or too cold.  You’re too tired. You don’t have enough time. You never see the results fast enough. You need a break. You’re burnt out. It doesn’t matter anyway. What difference does it make?

Get Comfortable With Discomfort

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy
 

What is it that you want to do but know that in order to achieve it you’re going to have to suffer a little?

Maybe you’d like to try the HiiT class at the Y but you’re afraid you’ll feel funny, look clumsy, or won’t be able to keep up. Being the new person in an exercise class is very uncomfortable.

Three months ago you signed up to run a 10K that’s now two weeks away. You haven’t kept up with the training program. You can probably get through the race but it won’t be as easy as you’d like. You’re going to suffer a little.

You just came home from your annual physical and the doctor pointed out that you’ve gained 10 pounds since she saw you last year. You know you need to lose weight but there are so many other things going on right now. You don’t have time for work on your diet and exercise. You need a magic wand to make this happen.

This behavior change stuff is hard work. There’s no easy way for it to happen. You have to do the work and you’re going to have to sacrifice and suffer. A little.

But on the other side of that discomfort, awkwardness, and misery is something special.  There’s a feeling of achievement and reward that’s waiting for you that is greater than all of those things that held you back. If you’re feeling too cushy, too comfortable, too settled into your routine it probably means you’re not reaching, growing, or moving towards your goals. It’s time for you to get uncomfortable.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

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What You Can Learn From Jonathon Walters: Quit Quitting

“Quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.” — Denzil John Walters

Eight months ago Jonathon Walters weighed 477 pounds had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and severe fatty liver disease. Today he weighs 270 pounds, runs 10 miles a day, lifts weights and works out at the gym.

Walters says that his weight loss was 100% natural with diet and exercise.  He didn’t have surgery, use pills or weight loss supplements.  How did he do it on his own?

He quit quitting.

Flickr photo by Christine

Flickr photo by Christine

Jonathon Walters was the ‘big kid’ in grade school.  At five years old he weighed 95 pounds. By the time he was a junior in high school he was over 300 pounds and was bullied every day. He says that high school was such a nightmare that he quit.

And that began a cycle of quitting. He quit school, quit jobs, and quit caring about his health. Then when his father, Denzil Walters, died at the age of 53 of a heart attack, his world collapsed and he hit bottom. He ate to numb the pain of losing his father and put on even more weight.

But Walters didn’t stay at rock bottom for long.  His father’s death was a wake-up call and the words that Denzil said to his son when he quit school stuck with him.  Denzil told Jonathon that “quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.”

Jonathon realized that if he didn’t make some changes he wouldn’t be around for long either.  He made up his mind to quit quitting and his 200 pound weight loss journey began.

Quit Quitting

Over the last six months he has gone from not being able to walk without getting winded to running a mile in under nine minutes. He typically runs about 10 miles a day and works out on machines at the gym.  He’s replaced his fast food favorites with fruits and vegetables. He’s lowered his carbohydrate intake, and increased protein. Fried foods and soda pop are no longer on the menu.

As a result, Walter’s has gone from a 58/60 pant size to 42. His blood pressure has dropped and his cholesterol has gone from 230 to 100.  Before his weight loss his resting heart rate was 116.  It is now around 65.

Most of all, he no longer calls himself a quitter.  He says he’s as determined as he’s ever been and uses his story to inspire and motivate others. He’s even created a Facebook Fan Page, JWALT Fitness.

This video that Walters created to provide motivation to his followers says it all:

What You Can Learn

I love writing articles for the What You Can Learn From tab. Because there are so many inspiring people in the world sometimes it’s hard to know who to write about, but Jonathon Walters stood out. We all have something that we can take from his experience.

If you have a story to share about yourself or someone else that we can learn from, please send me a link or an e-mail.

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Why Cheat Days (And A Few Other Things) Are A Bad Idea

I hear a lot about cheat days when I’m talking to people that are trying to lose weight.

Many people say one cheat day a week keeps them motivated to stay on the diet on the other six days. If you’re truly seeking long-term weight loss, being on a deprivation diet where the reward is one day when you can eat anything and everything is a bad idea.

Cheat days are a sign that your relationship with food needs some work and keeps you stuck on that wheel of using food as a form of punishment and reward.

Dog with bone

If you are someone that is engaged in a lifelong battle with your weight I’m willing to bet you follow a pattern that goes something like this.

1.  Is That Really Me? – Something happens in your life and you decide you have to lose weight right now.  Maybe the decision was brought on by a trip to the doctor where you get some not-so-good news about a health condition related to your weight, or you see a picture of yourself and can’t believe that’s how you look. Maybe there’s an event like a wedding or high school class reunion coming up that you want to look great for. You’re ready to get started and your motivation is high.

2. It Worked For My Cousin’s Mother – You share your plans to lose weight with a friend or co-worker. They tell you about a diet their sister-in-law is on. She’s lost 20 pounds in three weeks.  You say “sign me up”.

3.  Game On – You start out on the top of the wave.  You’re losing weight, maybe drop a pants size or two, and are having no trouble adhering to the diet. It doesn’t bother you that you can’t join your friends once a week for lunch or meet your co-workers for a cocktail after work on Friday because the slightest digression could blow everything.  There is no temptation strong enough to come between you and your goal.

4.   Victory – After several months of weekly – maybe even daily – weigh-ins and the highs and lows that come from that practice, you reach your goal weight.  You. Win!  No one really knows or understands how much you’ve had to sacrifice to get that scale to display the arbitrary number that you selected six months ago.

Now What?

You look great. You feel even better. Three or four weeks go by and you decide an occasional splurge will be okay. You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself forever. That would just be wrong.

You go to lunch with your friends and order the creamy shrimp alfredo that you’ve so missed and join your co-workers for the Friday happy hour drink specials once again. You begin to slip back into living your life the way you did before that moment in time when you vowed that things were going to change.

The pounds creep back on, and, as disappointing as that is, you can’t find the motivation you need to go back to ‘the diet’.

What Does This Have To Do With Cheat Days?

Cheat days are a sign that you are participating in a process that is unsustainable. Having a cheat day means that you feel that you’re giving up so much on days one through six that on day seven you deserve a treat so you’ll be able to keep doing the deprivation thing on the other days. You’ve made a deal with yourself.

Rather than trying to keep your promise to be good six days out of seven, why not put some work into figuring out how important it is to be at that oh so coveted weight and what you’re going to have to do different from now on to stay there? Getting there is easy. Staying there is much trickier because, over the years, you’ve developed habits and eating patterns that make gaining weight inevitable.

Although you may not recognize it, you’ve also developed this internal belief that having to eat right every day and exercise at least a few times a week to stay healthy and look good in your black dress isn’t fair.

Don't reward yourself

It’s Not Your Fault (but it’s up to you to fix it).

Dr. Phil says that you are not to blame for what happened to you as a child.  But, as an adult, despite whatever took place back then, you have to take responsibility for your life now.

The same is true of your battle with food. We live in a society that is obsessed with high calorie, overly processed, yet highly satiable foods.  These tempting foods are on every street corner. Super market rows are stocked full of them. Indulgent foods are at the center of every social event.

We ignore that the purpose of food is to provide fuel to our bodies. Most of the foods that are consumed today don’t fulfill this primary objective.

You’re not to blame for the obsession our society has with food that has led to obesity for 35% of American adults.  There is nothing you can do about the endless deluge of foods that test your willpower each day. That’s all way bigger than you.

You’re also not to blame for the prevelance of the idea that healthy, nutritious whole foods that provide vitamins and fiber along with a bunch of ther nutrients that our bodies actually need are tasteless. Or that ‘clean’ eating (forgive me for using that buzzword) is nearly impossible to do for any length of time. Neither are true.

I hope you will begin to re-think your truths about food, what you’re eating, why you’re eating it and whether or not you should be on a diet where the incentive is a day of eating ‘bad’ foods. The reward for even the most heroic of acts should never be a cookie.

What do you think? Do cheat days work for you?

If you liked this article, you might also like Do It Right The First Time So You Won’t Have To Do It Twice.

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What You Can Learn From B.J. Fogg: B = mat

“I’m obsessed with how behavior works.  Even on vacation I’m thinking about behavior, I’m watching behavior, I’m reading stuff on it.  I’m trying to understand it systematically.” — B.J. Fogg

What desired behavior change  are you struggling with?  Maybe you want to lose those last 10 pounds or get to the gym three times a week.  It could be that you just want to increase your productivity at work or keep the house from being so cluttered.

It’s all about getting and staying motivated, right?

Not according to B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.  Fogg says that long-term behavior change doesn’t have as much to do with motivation as you might think.  It’s more about establishing tiny habits that are anchored to already established ones.

Fogg Behavior Model 2

Motivation applies to temporary behavior change, but not long term.  Fogg says “Relying primarily on motivation to change your behavior long term is a losing strategy. Motivation is very slippery. If you set yourself up to do something really hard and you have to somehow sustain the motivation, the motivation is going to drop down and there’s going to be a point where you won’t do it.”

He says the same is true of willpower.

In Fogg’s Ted Talk, Forget Big Change, Start With A Tiny Habit, he shows you how you can change your life and change your behaviors by making a series of tiny changes. He believes that if you design your goals around the outcomes you’re deisgning at the wrong place.  You need to focus on the behaviors that lead to the desired outcome.

For example, if the desired outcome is weight loss, there are many, many behaviors that lead to that losing weight.  As we create these tiny habits, little by little we will approach the health outcome in a very reliable way.

B = mat

Fogg has created a behavior change formula that consists of three elements:  Motivation. Ability. Trigger. There has to be some level of motivation present.  You have to have the ability to do the habit. There has to be a trigger to get you to do it.

In the Ted Talk he explains how the trigger is the key to the behavior change process and explains how to set up the triggers so that they work.

About B.J.

Fogg devotes 50% of his time to his Persuasive Lab at Stanford and 50% to industry innovation.  At his lab they focus on methods for creating habits and automating behavior change.  Over the years, improving health outcomes has become a theme.

Another focus of the lab is peace innovation and they are investigating how technology can help change attitudes and behaviors in ways that bring about global harmony. While they realize that is this an “idealistic project, and [they] may fail, given the state of the world, choosing not to pursue this line of research would be irrational.”

He has a body of work that includes a Behavior Design Boot Camp which is a two-day event that takes place at his guest house in Northern California and  a book titled Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.

Fogg was chosen by Fortune Magazine as one of 10 New Gurus You Should Know.

Join Tiny Habits

B.J. can help you create new behaviors through his Tiny Habits program that he has shared with over 20,000 people around the world. This 5-day method starts every Monday and he will check in with you via email Monday through Friday of the week you’re registered for to see how you’re doing.

Space is limited. The current session is sold out, so if you’re interested in joining, you will need to check the web site on a regular basis in order to get in.

What tiny habits are you working on?

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What You Can Learn From Star Trainer Michelle Bridges: Just Friggin Do It!

“Success is all down to how badly you want it.  Nothing will ever be handed to you, and if it is you never appreciate it anyway. Successful people are hard workers.  Period!”
— Michelle Bridges

There’s a lot you can learn from Michelle Bridges. Not just in relation to reaching your health and fitness goals, but about life in general.

Michelle has been a trainer on the Australian version of The Biggest Loser since 2007. She is the author of eight bestselling books including Crunch Time: Lose Weight Fast and Keep It Off, and Losing the Last 5 Kilos: Your Kick-Arse Guide to Looking and Feeling Fantastic.

Michelle Bridges

She started the on-line 12 Week Body Transformation program in 2012 and has helped people around the world lose over a million pounds.

Michelle has been a go-getter since she was 14 when she began teaching fitness to the other teenagers at her school.  At the age of 26 she realized that it was time to take her fitness career to the next level and moved to Sydney, Australia where, with $275 in the bank, she began her own personal training business, became a freelance group fitness instructor and a trainer for Les Mills.

The business that she began with $275 is now a multi-million fitness empire that reaches people across the globe.

Her enthusiasm for health and fitness is infectious and engages millions of people around the world. Much of her inspiration comes from her “don’t overthink it, just friggin do it” mantra.

Besides, “just friggin do it”, here are five things that you can learn from Michelle:

1.  Motivation Is Like A Bad Boyfriend – Michelle is shocked by the obesity epidemic that is facing many countries and says that people are eating their way to the grave.  She believes part of the problem is that people are hung up on motivation and if you’re waiting around for it, it may never come. Losing weight isn’t about motivation.  “No way.  Motivation is a crock, you see.  I’m in the motivation business; but motivation is like a bad boyfriend.  He’s never there when you need him.”  Michelle says being healthy is about forming good habits and practices.”

2.  No Matter What Exercise You’re Doing, Go Hard In the End – Michelle calls this the Final Blast and says it’s what you have to do at the end of every workout.  “Leave it all on the field.  Hold nothing back.  Go all in.”  Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s running, doing ab crunches or squatting, the final push at the end will help your fitness go up and your weight go down.

3.  Don’t Let Low Temps Keep You From Training – Michelle answers the age old question, “How do you stay motivated to exercise in the winter?” She says she likes to look at winter exercise as “a time of careful preparation for the coming spring and summer.” If you’re not sure how to approach exercise during the winter months, consult with a personal trainer who can help you put a plan in place. Whatever you do, don’t use the winter months as an excuse not to exercise.

4.  Unless You Change Your Mind Set Your Weight Loss Endeavors Will Fail – One of the biggest challenge Michelle faces in helping people achieve their weight loss goals is getting them to overcome the victim mentality and the blame game.  They say “It’s not my fault, it’s my children’s fault.” Or, “It my husband’s fault. When the truth is staring back at them from the fridge.” Her advice is to ditch the victim mentality and start accepting responsibility for absolutely everything you do. Everything.

5.  Accept Your Body For The Things It Can and Cannot Do – Comparing ourselves with others isn’t just bad.  It’s disastrous. You probably heard your parents tell you when you were young that there will always be someone better looking, smarter, and more athletic than you.  Michelle agrees.  “Put the work into your emotional self to get to a state of truly accepting your body as the gift that it is – the way it looks, and the things it can and can’t do.” It’s okay to be you.

Globe Trotter

Last year Michelle came to the United States to launch her 12 Week Body Transformation and is quickly becoming a fitness celebrity here too.  She is in the business of changing lives and works to help people conquer their mental barriers about weight loss, food and exercise.

According to Michelle, “The whole yo-yo—up-down, off-on, in-out is far more damaging than being overweight will ever be because that stuff messes with your head.  It’s almost like psychological obesity.  Then I come in with a sledgehammer and go, “Right. Let’s get real!”

For more information about the 12 Week Body Transformation, click here.

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Sugar Is Bad For Your Waistline and For Your Heart

Sugar doesn’t just make you fat, it also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.  And, according to Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Center for Disease Control, a recent study shows that the more sugar you eat the more your risk of death from cardiovascular disease increases.

Sugar

Flickr photo by Umberto Salvagnin

Yang was the lead scientist on the largest study to date that shows a link between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease.  For the study, Yang and his colleagues reviewed data from more than 31,000 people that participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The goal of the survey was to look at trends in added-sugar intake and evaluate dietary habits based on personal interviews. According to the study, most adults (71%) consume 10% or more of their daily calories from added sugar.  Nearly 10% of adults consume 25% or more of their daily calories from sugar.  In a typical 1,600 calorie-a-day diet that amounts to 160 and 400 calories of sugar, respectively.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons) and men no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons) of added sugar.

More Sugar Means More Health Risks

At the conclusion of Yang’s study, the following findings were published in the online JAMA Internal Medicine article:

  • People who consume more than 21% of their calories from added sugar are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease than people that consume less than 10% of calories from added sugar.
  • People who consume between 17% and 21% of their daily calories from added sugar have a 38% higher risk of death from heart disease than people who consume less than 10% of calories from added sugar.

The study also showed that even if you eat a healthy diet, and keep you weight under control, the extra sugar still takes a toll on your health.

“I could be eating a 2,000-calorie diet, not overeating, not overweight. But if I just drink a can of soda a day, I increase my risk of dying from [heart] disease by one-third,” said Laura Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine who wrote an accompanying journal commentary. “I think people would assume one can of soda a day would not have that kind of impact over the course of their lives.”

But it does.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

You might not be washing down a Krispy Kreme with a McDonald’s sweet tea but that doesn’t mean you’re not consuming more sugar that you should.  Many foods and beverages are marketed and labeled as ‘healthy’ but aren’t.

An innocent looking 16 ounce bottle of Minute Maid orange juice has 48 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar. One cup of Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart cereal has 14 grams (3 teaspoons) and a 5.3 ounce container of Chobani blackberry Greek yogurt has 15 grams (3 teaspoons).

Sugar can add up very quickly so it’s good to get in the habit of reading food labels and tracking sugar consumption. The three items in the paragraph above could easily be consumed in one day which would supply a total of 16 teaspoons of sugar.  Then, eat  a couple of foods with minimal amounts of sugar and you’re way over the top and into the unhealthy range.

Need Help?

Some experts believe that sugar is as addictive as cocaine so kicking the habit is easier said than done.

Margaret Wertheim, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of the book Breaking The Sugar Habit has 10 tips to help you break up with sugar. Giving up soda is the first step but beyond that there are many things you can do to limit sugar in your diet.

Below are some tips Margaret shared with me to get you started:

1. Never eat sweets on an empty stomach. This is a recipe for a “carb coma”: high blood sugar with an energy rush followed by an energy crash that leads to subsequent sugar cravings. The earlier in the day you start eating sweets, the more likely it is that you’ll continue to eat sweets throughout the day.

2. Always eat desserts from a plate instead of  the container. Eating out of the container is a surefire way to overeat desserts. Use small bowl and plates for small servings of desserts. If you use a large plate or bowl, your portion is likely to be too large.

3. Brush your teeth after eating. Sometimes the sweetness of the toothpaste is enough, and the act of brushing your teeth means that mealtime is over, helping you move on to other activities. Also, ice cream or a cookie just doesn’t seem quite as appealing when you have a minty taste in your mouth.

4. Get enough sleep. It’s more difficult to make good decisions when you’re sleep deprived, and inadequate sleep is associated with decreases in levels of the hormone leptin, leading to decreased satiety and increases in ghrelin, which in turn increases appetite.

Keeping your sugar intake within the recommended guidelines is the key to maintaing a healthy weight and heart so taking the steps to get the sugar out of your life will be worth it in the end.

Breaking The Sugar Habit is available for $3.99 at Amazon.com.

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Ten Healthy Strategies For Easing The Winter Blahs

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Sunday so that means we have six more weeks of winter to survive. The groundhog-sees-his-shadow thing might be a myth but the winter blues aren’t.  They can be very real, and even debilitating if you live in a wintery part of the world.

photo posted on post-gazette.com

When Phil sees his shadow it’s bad news for sufferers of SAD.  Flickr photo by Gail DuPont

If the winter blues are getting to you, it’s possible you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  SAD hits millions of people at this time every year and unless you’re fortunate enough to be able to travel to a place where you can drink in natural sun light you may find yourself a few weeks away from a remedy. At least that’s what Phil predicts.

If you plan to power through on your own and without the help of prescription medications to ease your symptoms, there are some things that you can do that will help.

Below are 10 tips for you to try that will push back the winter blahs, enhance your mood, and increase your energy level.

1.  Mood Foods – Researchers that have looked at which foods increase levels of serotonin (the mood enhancing chemical that regulates hunger and the feeling of well-being) haven’t come up with an exact list of foods proven to work. What nutritionists do know is that following a balanced diet of lean proteins and lots of colorful vegetables and fruits will help you feel better because your nutritional needs are met. This means you’ll have more energy and less dips in blood sugar. Chicken, fish, and an abundance of fruits and veggies will make you feel better and more energetic on the dreariest of days.

2.  Avoid Sugar – Eating simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice and pastries will cause a surge in blood sugar followed by the inevitable crash.  When your blood sugar drops your mood will go with it.  In fact, according to the Brain Bio Centre, poor blood sugar balance is often the single-biggest factor in mood disorders amongst the people that seek the center’s advice.

3.  Increase Levels of B Vitamins – The B’s play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Research shows that low levels of B-12, B-6 and folate is linked to depression. Foods high in B12 and folic acid are organ meats, legumes, wholegrain breads and fruits and vegetables like spinach, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus. Oranges, bananas, almonds, and egg yolks are also good sources.

4.  Limit Alcohol Consumption – Drinking alcohol is one of those things that often ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’.  But the after effects can be disastrous on our mood.  Alcohol is a depressant and many people have an unexplained feeling of lonliness and depression after a fun night of drinking. Plus, alcohol acts as a diuretic and flushes nutrients – like B vitamins – from our system which makes us worse off. If you like to socialize and drink alcohol, drink a large glass of water after each alcoholic beverage and limit your consumption to two or three drinks.

5.  Music – The American Music Therapy Association’s web site lists 57 pages of articles touting the research that proves that music is successful in treating depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and chronic pain. Music can boost your mood, make it easier for you concentrate, and assist with motivation to exercise.  What you put on the play list is a personal choice.  I like up-beat, rhythmic music but you may find that classical music or old rock-n-roll tunes works best for you.

6.  Exercise – This should probably be number one on the list because of the direct correlation between exercise and mental health.  The steady stream of endorphins that are released when you exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of depression.  Plus it boosts self-esteem and makes you sleep better. So, beyond the positive physical benefits of exercise, the mental ones are just as important; maybe even more so when we’re in the middle of a cold, dark winter. Pick a physical activity that you like to do and aim for at least 30 minutes four to five times a week.

7.  Check Your Vitamin D – One of the primary causes of SAD is a lack of vitamin D. Our bodies create Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.  During the dark winter months, our supplies of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ diminish and lead to depression and a lack of energy.  Your doctor can take a blood test that will tell you where your vitamin D levels fall and prescribe a supplement if needed. You can, or course, self-prescribe by purchasing Vitamin D at the local drug store, but if your levels are real low, you still may not be getting an adequate amount.

8.  Light Boxes – I know more and more people who are purchasing light boxes and benefiting from their effects.  Light boxes come in various shapes, sizes and price ranges. The time you’ll need to spend in front of the light to get the desired benefits varies, but it is usually around 30 minutes a day.  Light boxes are a good investment if you have persistent SAD symptoms.  A quick Google search or a visit to Amazon.com will provide you with numerous options.

9.  Boost Your Colors – I wear black. A lot.  And when I’m not wearing black, I usually have on gray or neutral colors.  The colors that you wear can have an impact on your mood and wearing bright colors, as opposed to drabs or darks, can give you an unexpected boost.  The psychology of color show that blues are calming, purple is associated with wisdom and green is a symbol of nature.  Wear a bright blue, orange or purple and see if cheers you up.  It may even perk up those around you.

10.  Socialize (even if you don’t feel like it.) – Get out from behind your desk and chat with a co-worker for a couple of minutes, invite a friend to lunch, join a group fitness class at the gym instead of spending all of your time on the treadmill. Studies show that people that socialize live longer and are happier. The winter months leave many people feeling isolated and lonely.  Even short bursts of socialization can do wonders for your mental health.

Typical symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include tiredness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, body aches, irritability, overeating, weight gain, and depression.  The Winter Blues Coach dedicates her web site to helping people find remedies for the SAD and she has an abundance of ideas that can help.

If you’re unable to find relief for your symptoms using natural remedies, or you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or bouts of severe depression, call your doctor for help.

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New Study Shows Avocados Are Good For Appetite Control and Weight Loss.

For anyone trying to lose or maintain weight, the hunger factor can be a big problem.  Diets always start out great. You’re following the plan, tracking calories and the pounds are melting away.

Then you hit a wall. You’re hungry. No, not hungry.  Famished!  You’ve been hungry for days, or even weeks, and you’re over the diet. You can’t live like this any longer and into the bag of kettle chips or tub of rocky road ice cream you go. You’re on a bender and there’s no stopping it.

Once you’ve recovered from the food coma you have a couple of options.  You can pick up where you left off and get back on the diet and deal with being hungry all of the time.

Or, you can think about your diet in a different way.  Instead of thinking about how many calories are in the foods you eat, you can pick your foods by where they fall on the Satiety Index.

Avocado

New studies show that avocados may be a natural appetite suppressant.

Solving Your Hunger Crisis

Some foods – potato chips for example – are irresistible.  It’s true that no one can eat just one.  The crunchy saltiness of a potato chip is one of those foods that can destroy a day of dieting because we can eat a ton of them before we feel the least bit full. Combine that with the fact that they are high in calories (20 chips has about 147) and have little to no nutritional value makes them a dieter’s disaster.

Watermelon, on the other hand, is a dieter’s friend.  It is sweet and crunchy, loaded with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.  It is low in calories (one cup has about 46).  Watermelon will fill you up quickly and keep you full much longer than the chips will.

Researchers have been studying satiety for year.  The results?  Some foods fill you up quicker and stay in your stomach longer and therefore do a better job of holding off hunger.

Avocados: Friend or Foe?

A recent study on satiety found that consuming half of an avocado leads to a greater feeling of fullness and less of a tendency to snack between meals.  Since the study, the internet has been aflutter with stories about how avocados can help people lose weight.

The avocado is a fruit rich in nutrients that is high on the Satiety Index.  Oranges, bananas, apples and proteins like lentils, cheese, fish and beef also rank high on the index.

In a detailed study, led by Suzanna Holt from the University of Sydney, researchers fed human test subjects fixed-calorie portions of 38 different foods.  They recorded the subject’s perceived hunger following each feeding.

From this study the researchers determined that satiety is “most strongly related to the weight of the food consumed”.  Foods that weigh the most, satisfy our hunger the best, despite how many calories they contain. The study also found that high amounts of certain nutrients, protein, and dietary fiber improve satiety.

Low In Calories/High In Satiety

The key is to consume generous amounts of those foods that rank high on the satiety chart, but are low in calories and, at the same time, avoid high calories foods that have a low satiety rating.  Potato chips, for example, have a satiety score of 1.2.  Watermelon is at 4.5.  A roasted chicken breast is at 3.4 while a Snickers bar is at 1.5.

You can spend a lot of time trying to find out where all of the foods you eat rank on the Satiety Index. If you purchase whole foods and make your meals at home you’re sure to consume foods higher on the scale.

Fast foods and heat-and-eat convenience meals have, through processing, been stripped of most their nutrients and fiber so they don’t leave much for your digestive tract to do once you’ve eaten them. Processed foods are on the Satiety Index along side the potato chips and Snickers Bar.

Meals that you create in your own kitchen have the most staying power. I love this video, How Cooking Can Change Your Life.  It says it all in two and a half minutes.

You can learn more about where some of your favorite foods rank on the Satiety Index, and get help calculating meals using the Fullness Factor at Self Nutrition Data.com.

What’s your favorite filling food?

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