Category: Articles

Do You Wish You Had the Perfect Body? It’s a LOT of Damn Work

At the gym one day, I shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation between two women that went something like this:

(As a tall, thin, glistening woman walked by) “Oh, look at her. She’s so skinny, she probably hasn’t eaten since Clinton was president.”
“You know she’s had work done–nobody could look that perfect without some help.”
“Listen to you talk! I would kill for your thighs.”
“Oh, please–look at these flabby things! And you’re one to talk, Ms. Perfect Abs.”
“Perfect? Maybe perfectly awful.”

Here’s the thing: These women looked great. They were strong, curvy and obviously fit but, like many women, they were so focused on their imperfections, they weren’t seeing what I was seeing. And it’s not just women who are so hard on themselves. Men also talk about their bodies, just not the same way women do. Witness this conversation between my husband and one of his buddies:

“Dude, I’m getting fat.”
“Dude.”
(Shrugging) “Let’s go get a beer.”

Whether you’re a man or a woman, chances are you don’t have the perfect body. Chances are even greater that you’ve done things to try and get the perfect body. Things like leg lifts, crunches, squats, lunges, hours on the treadmill, hundreds of salads, thousands of glasses of water…all of it in the hopes that you will finally get rid of those love handles or those chunky thighs.

What you’ve probably figured out is that all the exercise and dieting in the world may not be enough to achieve that perfection so many of us desire. We’re still a product of our genes. The question then becomes, how much can we really change and what do we do if we can’t get that perfect body?

How Much Can You Change Your Body?

We all approach our bodies differently. Some people scrutinize every detail to see what they have or haven’t achieved. Others studiously avoid looking at themselves unless they absolutely have to. With images of effortless perfection coming at us from TV, magazines and the Internet, it’s no wonder we fret over our own bodies. Why can’t I look like THAT, we wonder?

One reason is that many aspects of your body are determined by factors beyond your control and that starts with your body type.

What’s Your Body Type?

It’s hard to know how large of a role genes play in what we can accomplish with our bodies. They determine things like height, hair color and eye color, but they also determine your basic body type:

  • Endomorph – This body type tends to have a higher body fat, big bones and a slower metabolism. For that reason, it may be difficult to lose weight.
  • Mesomorphs – With this body type, a person is more muscular and may have an easier time losing fat and gaining muscle.
  • Ectomorph –  People with this body type tend to be lean and may even have trouble gaining weight due to a faster metabolism. Yeah…that sucks, right?

Most of us fall somewhere in between these different body types, which means that some of us will lose weight easily and quickly while others won’t. There are also different body shapes:  Apple, pear, hourglass…you know the drill.

While we may think that the right combination of exercise and diet will give us the ideal body, we may be limited by our inherited body type.

So, what does that mean for you?

The truth is, no one can tell what you can or can’t change about your body. You can lose or gain fat by burning more or less calories, and you can change the amount of muscle you have by lifting weights.

You can control the calories you put in your body and the calories you expend with exercise and activity, but, what you can’t do is choose where you lose that fat or gain that muscle.

So, what if you do everything right and you still have stubborn areas of fat you can’t seem to get rid of? One option is, of course, plastic surgery, but, I have a better idea. What if you could change your idea of a perfect body? This process requires dedication and commitment, a commitment to changing how you think about yourself.

Can You Accept Your Body?

The idea of accepting your body just the way it is may seem completely foreign to you.

In fact, it feels like the world around us is set on keeping us unhappy with our bodies. We constantly see ads, commercials and informercials for diets, pills and gadgets to help us reshape every inch of our bodies.

There are magazines with pencil-thin models on the front and headlines promising solutions for everything from flabby abs to dimpled thighs.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think getting the perfect body is something we should all be working on morning, noon and night. Even if we don’t work on it all day, a lot of us are at least thinking about it.

And many of us may balk at the idea of body acceptance. If we accept our bodies, won’t we become complacent? If we embrace our bigger thighs or love handles, won’t we get even fatter?

Many of us are afraid that, unless we put ourselves down and remain constantly aware of our flaws, we won’t be motivated to exercise or eat right.

The good news is, there is some evidence that a healthy body acceptance actually encourages us to exercise and eat right. In

There are a number of ways to work on body acceptance and, yes, I’m going to talk about exercise.

First Exercise For a Healthy Body

While exercise isn’t a magic pill for creating the perfect body, it does have magical qualities on your body image and self-esteem.

A variety of studies have shown that people of all ages and genders experience improved self-esteem, self-worth and perceptions of how attractive they are after starting an exercise program.

While many of us use exercise as a tool to get the perfect body, it can also be a tool for shifting your focus away from perfection and on what you can accomplish each and every day. Exercise improves your:

  • Strength and endurance. When you exercise, you may be so focused on the scale that you’re not aware of other progress you’ve made. But, if you pay attention, you’ll notice those strength gains in other areas of your life – being able to carry more groceries or pick up your kids or grandkids without throwing out your back. You’ll have more energy to get everything done without feeling exhausted.
  • Confidence. Mastering a new activity makes you more confident. You may start that kickboxing class or strength training workout tripping over your own feet or feeling a little ridiculous, but, it only takes a few workouts for your body to get used to those activities and get better at them. That confidence may spur you to even greater goals like signing up for a race or taking an active vacation.
  • Connection. We spend so much time sitting, we forget what it feels like to actually move our bodies. When you start exercising, you learn about your body in a whole different way – how it feels when your heart speeds up and your breathing increases. You can feel your muscles contract and, best of all, you feel your own power. That awareness makes you realize you’re capable of so many things.
  • Function over appearance. When you spend more time moving your body, you become more interested in doing things to make it work more efficiently. Now, instead of only focusing on how to make your thighs thinner, you’re focusing on how to make them stronger so you can make it through that next 3-mile run. Your goals change as you focus on staying healthy and fit.

Rethink Your Goals

If you’re ready to give up on the idea of perfection, it’s time to set new goals for yourself.

Doing this will open the door for new ways of thinking and new ways of exercising. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a goal to lose weight or even to improve on different areas of your body.

It’s when those goals leave you frustrated that it may be time for a change. Try this step-by-step process for creating new goals:

  1. Make a list of your goals. Write down every goal you have and estimate how long you’ve had that goal (e.g., “I’ve wanted smaller thighs for the last 25 years”).
  2. Assess your goals. Put a star next to any goals that, a) you’ve had for years and haven’t achieved, b) may be out of reach and, c) that make you feel bad about yourself. For example, if you’ve been trying to get rid of those love handles for the last 5 years, nothing has worked and you feel awful every time you think about it, that goal deserves a star.
  3. Get rid of your impossible goals. Go through the goals you marked and ask yourself how likely it is that you’ll reach that goal, given all the time and energy you’ve already spent on it  (or maybe HAVEN’T spent). Then ask yourself what would happen if you crossed it off your list. What if you decided to forget about getting rid of those love handles for once and for all? If you’re ready, do it! This may take some practice in your thinking.
  4. Set new goals. Just because you get rid of some goals doesn’t mean you stop working towards something. The difference now is that you can set goals based on new parameters. Instead of getting rid of your love handles, what if you focused on getting in a certain number of workouts each week or building strength so that you can do more around the yard or house? Think about what you want your body to do rather than what you want it to look like and set your goals accordingly.

You may need some help in both letting go of old goals and setting new ones. These resources can help you get started:

Another part of giving up perfection is changing how you think about your body and about exercise. It’s funny how exercise can seem impossible when you’re trying to change your body…and why not? Doing hundreds of crunches to get flat abs would frustrate anyone since spot reduction isn’t in the cards.

But, opening your mind to the possibility that exercise can be used for something other than reshaping your body may just put physical activity within your reach. Consider these different activities and how you might use them to further your new goals:

Cardio Exercise

You know cardio burns calories and that helps with losing weight. But, it can do so much more

  • Strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently
  • Increases your lung capacity
  • Improves bone density
  • Lowers bad cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Lowers stress, depression and anxiety

Looking at these benefits may help you come up with those new goals. For example, knowing cardio can lower bad cholesterol, you could set a goal to get off your cholesterol meds using regular workouts. Or, you could work towards reducing your stress by scheduling short workouts throughout the day.

Strength Training

Like cardio, strength training is great for losing fat and gaining muscle, both of which contribute to looking better. But, since you’re getting away from perfection, other reasons to lift weights include:

  • Increased strength and endurance
  • Protection from injuries
  • Better coordination and muscle control
  • Improved balance and stability

Use some of these benefits to set your new goals. For example, if you have problems with back pain caused by sitting too much, set a goal to work on your core strength. This Quick Fix Core Workout can be done in about 5 minutes!

The point is – start using exercise to your advantage rather than thinking of it as an evil thing you HAVE to do. All the benefits of exercise are yours for the taking, not something you have to dread. As long as you stick with what feels good to you, you can sort of forget about exercising into that perfect body. Because unless you’re genetically blessed already, it probably ain’t gonna happen.

And that, as they say, is ok.

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This Is Where You Start if You Want to Start Exercising

You need to exercise. I need to exercise. Everyone needs to exercise.

We know this. We also know all the many benefits of exercise:

  • Hormone regulation
  • Weight loss
  • Better sleep
  • Better sex
  • Protection from disease
  • The ability to burn fat more efficiently
  • Balancing the earth’s chakras

Okay, that last one could be untrue, but it’s not like scientists have studied it, right?

First, let’s start with what exercise is. I know that you know but it’s good to define the absolute basics, because more than that is just more noise you don’t need in your head.

The Guidelines

You probably know that the Department of Health & Human Services puts out guidelines for exercise every so often. You’ve probably never read them. The only reason I do is because I have to for my job and I’ll do you a favor by summarizing the basics:

Here’s what HHS Says:

  • You should move more. Some activity is better than nothing and you get health benefits even if you just stand up more often. Acutally? Quite reasonable.
  • If you want more benefits and more weight loss, you gotta do more than just move more. Here’s the deal:
    • You should do 2.5 hours to 5 hours a week of moderate exercise (that would be like a Level 5 on this Perceived Exertion Scale) OR 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2.5 hours of higher intensity exercise (like Interval Training). OR a combination of both. That may seem confusing and it kinda is, but basically you want to do some cardio most days of the week starting with what works for you.
  • For more bang for your buck, do 5 or more hours of exercise a week.
  • You should also lift weights 2 or more days a week, focusing on all the muscle groups.

Okay, that pretty much sums it up and you’re probably not the least bit surprised by any of this information.

You know the guidelines. You know all the benefits. So why aren’t you doing it?

Exercise is Hard

We sit a lot. We get older. We have injuries, pain, stress, kids, life. We could list a million reasons why we just don’t have time.

The truth is, we all have time. I have time to play my Candy Crush game at the end of the day. I also have time for other things like watching Netflix. Getting a pedicure. Online shopping for things I don’t need.

It’s the VALUE of exercise that we need to focus on. It needs to matter to you…not as much as Netflix, mind you, but just enough for you to do it.

The Fix

First, do a little brainstorming here. Why is exercise important to you? Is it important at all or do you just wish it were? List all the reasons you don’t exercise and then list all the reasons you should exercise.

Get inside your mind and just tell the truth: “I don’t exercise because I hate sweating.” Or “I don’t exercise because I have no idea what to do so I do nothing.”

Next, start doing it. Just. Start. If you hate sweating, do something that doesn’t require sweating. If you have no idea where to start, start here.

Start SIMPLE. Too often we’re like – OMG I’m fat I have to do everything NOW. No. Your body doesn’t like that and it will rebel. Your mind will also not like this and both need to be on the same page here.

Try this:

  1. A 5-minute walk every day
  2. A short stretching routine in the morning
  3. Anything in which your body moves rhythmically in a way you don’t hate

Whatever it is, be consistent. It doesn’t have to be running a marathon. It’s just establishing 3 important things:

  1. A time that you can exercise
  2. Knowing that this is ‘exercise time’
  3. Showing up even if you just do some stretches or something

Do that every day and a miracle will happen: A habit! Habit is what keeps us going, especially for the things that are challenging.

I’ll get into the mechanics of the actual exercise – cardio, strength, etc. later but, for now, this where you start.

 

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10 Exercise Rules to Live By – Here’s How to Get Yourself Moving

Exercise isn’t easy, even under the best circumstances. It’s something a lot of us know we need to do, but knowing that doesn’t make it so.

But what if you could do a few things to make it easier? There are a few common rules that, when followed, can give you the support you need to make exercise a regular part of your life.

These rules may even make exercise so much easier, you actually start to enjoy it.  The key is to think about your approach to exercise and what you do that helps or, sometimes, hurts your chances of success. Here are a few things to think about if you’re struggling with exercise.

1.  Give Yourself Time

Establishing an exercise program isn’t just about having goals or making a plan, it’s about time management.  In fact, it’s an investment. You need time to invest in the process before you reap the benefits.  I know – we all want something that’s more instant gratification-ish, and exercise DOES have that element – when you’re doing it, it feels goods (or it something close to that). But you have to invest in that regularly in order to really get everything exercise has to offer. That time allows you to:

  • Figure out what you like – What you start off doing may not work right away, so allow time and freedom to practice different activities. People think that they HAVE to start running or do a certain type of workout. But it’s okay to start with what feels a little more natural or simple. Walking, yoga, stretching…stick with things that feel good to you and you’ll naturally want to do more over time.
  • Fit exercise into your current schedule – You don’t have to workout for an hour every time. Instead of trying to change your schedule to work around a workout, fit the workout into what you’re already doing. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, that counts! It takes trial and error to figure out how to fit in exercise and you may not get it right the first time. Or you may need to exercise at a time you normally don’t. That takes time and you have to take it slow. Allow yourself the room to figure that out.
  • Learn the exercises – We aren’t born knowing how to exercise.  You need to learn the moves, the muscles they work and practice good form. If you follow me in any capacity, you know you’ll always get full instructions for each exercise.
  • Build strength and endurance – Your body needs time to get used to exercise before you can work at a level that stimulates weight loss. It’s kind of like learning a foreign language. You can speak it until you learn the ABC’s. Allow your body time to adjust to what you’re doing.

2.  Plan Ahead

If you already struggle to exercise, anything can derail your plans – a chaotic sock drawer, a missing eyelash, a bad hair day.  It’s worse if you spend half your morning searching for lost keys, shoes or your smartphone.  Make it easier:

  • Plan your workouts – Map out a plan for which days you’re exercising and what you’re doing. Knowing what you’ll do and what you need to do it makes it easier to prepare ahead of time.
  • Pack up – The night before, get everything you need for a workout –  Clothes, shoes, water bottle, headphones, etc.
  • Bring snacks and meals – Being too hungry to exercise is the kiss of death.  Keep quick snacks like yogurt, cheese, fruit, trail mix or energy bars nearby so you’re always prepared

3.  Fully Commit to Your Workouts

When you plan a workout, you may feel committed at the time, but there’s often an “unless” behind it.  As in, “I’ll do my workout…unless I’m too tired/don’t feel like it/something better comes up.”  Avoid too much mental wiggle room by trying these tips:

  • Schedule it – Make it official by scheduling it and giving it a name (“6 am PFM (Personal Fitness Meeting)”)
  • Make it nonnegotiable – Show up for your workout, no matter what.  Even if you only warm up, you’re still showing your commitment. Make it a rule that ANYTHING counts even if you just do 5 minutes.
  • Have Something to Look Forward To – Committing to exercise is easier if you know something good comes after it – A soak in the hot tub, a massage after a week or month of workouts or a getaway once you’ve been consistent for 6 months. I like having some wine. That isn’t the best advice for people trying to lose weight but it works for me.🍷🍷

3.  Exercise in the Morning

While any time is a good time to exercise, morning exercisers are often the most consistent. Just a few reasons to workout in the morning:

  • It’s easier to stick to your routine when you get it out of the way
  • You have more energy for the rest of the day
  • You’ll boost your metabolism
  • You set yourself up for a healthier day overall
  • It may help you sleep better

Tips for becoming a morning exerciser:

  • A Gentle Wake Up – Give yourself extra time to wake up, have coffee or do some gentle stretches before doing anything more intense
  • Bribe Yourself – A promise of a treat (a good book, a movie, a glass of wine) can help get you out of bed
  • Get Ready Right Away – Put on your workout clothes as soon as you get up and start moving before your mind has a chance to argue
  • Start Slow – If you’re not a morning person, morning exercise may feel like torture. Start small by getting up just a little earlier each morning and doing a simple workout – Like this Wrong Side of the Bed Workout. Practice that and slowly add more intensity as you get used to it.

5.  Think Before You Skip

When it comes time to your workout, there’s a moment of choice: Will you or won’t you? If you’ve followed the previous rule, there’s no question that you’ll at least try. If you’re having trouble deciding, ask yourself:

  • Will skipping this workout help or hurt? – You may need to workout to stay on track or you may genuinely need a day to rest, recover and come back stronger
  • How will I feel?  – You may not want to workout right at that moment, but how will you feel later?  Guilty?  Regretful?  Think of that before you decide
  • Why am I avoiding exercise?  – Are you tired?  Or maybe your workouts are boring.  There are so many reasons we avoid exercise – what’s standing in your way?

 

6.  Recognize Your Excuses

We may talk ourselves out of exercise with excuses that disguise themselves as reasons, but being honest with yourself is crucial if you’re going to start exercising. You may be telling yourself things that aren’t true which can set you up for failure. Some examples:

  • “I’m too tired” – If you did manual labor all day, you may be physically tired. If you sat all day, mental fatigue is the culprit and exercise will give you more energy. Just start something – anything. Take a walk or try this easy stretch workout. Just starting can raise your energy levels.
  • “I’m too busy” – Most of us can find a few minutes each day to exercise. Three 10-minute workouts are just as effective as a continuous workout
  • “I don’t know what to do” – Confusion is common, but at its heart, exercise is about movement. Everything counts! Take a walk

7.  Listen to Your Body

One of the best benefits of regular exercise is getting to know your body better. You learn your limits and what your body is capable of but, too often, we ignore signals that something’s wrong:

  • Pain – We often ignore signs of a coming injury, especially if the pain is intermittent. When you feel something unusual, stop and try other activities to work your body in a different way. Never work through the pain
  • Fatigue – A workout should give you energy. If you feel worse as the workout goes on, that’s a sign you may need to rest
  • Stress – While there are signs you should back off, there may also be signs that you really need a workout. Exercise can help relieve

8.  Find Balance in Your workouts

Many of us have at least one area of fitness we struggle with or completely avoid. Some do all cardio and no strength, some do the opposite. Some workout hard every day, allowing for very few ‘easier’ workouts and others never get out of their comfort zones. Finding balance means:

  • Working All Aspects of Fitness – A balanced program includes cardio for the heart, strength training for the muscles, bones and joints and stretching/balance training to work on range of motion and stability
  • Pushing Yourself…Sometimes – To make progress, you have to challenge yourself, but too many hard workouts can backfire. Try a mix of intensities and training methods to avoid going too far in one direction and to work all of your body’s energy systems

9.  Embrace Variety

We tend to be creatures of habit and once we find a program we like, or at least one we can tolerate, we tend to stick to it like velcro.  What long-term exercisers know is that doing the same thing for too long can cause burnout, boredom and injury. To avoid that:

  • Change Your Workouts – Every so often, change some aspect of your workout.  Try a new cardio exercise or different strength moves.  Take a new class or simply do things in a different order. Or replace a regular workout with something fun – a stroll in the park, some stretching, a glass of wine…did I say that?
  • Evolve With Your Lifestyle – Allow your workouts to evolve.  Our lives change, our needs change and our interests change over time. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out new ways to exercise

10.  Allow For Failure

You won’t always be perfect at exercise.  There will be times you skip a workout, maybe times you stop for weeks on end.  There will be times when motivation is nowhere to be found, no matter how hard you try and you may wonder – “What’s wrong with me?”

We all fail, but that doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we can’t come back from it:

  • Get back on track as soon as you can.  Ease into it and give yourself time to build back your strength and endurance, both mentally and physically
  • Forgive yourself – Rather than waste time on guilt, treat yourself the way you would a friend in the same situation
  • Learn from it – Your failure is only a bad thing if you keep repeating it.  Figure out what went wrong and plan ways to avoid it in the future
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How Protein Can Help You Lose Belly Fat

You probably already know about the importance of protein in your diet, right? And it’s really important for losing weight, especially belly fat.

More on that in a minute, but let’s do a painless summary of what protein is. There will be no math.

A Little Bit of Science, I Promise

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body.

They are made up of amino acids, and help build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. In fact, our bodies are made up of mostly water and, next to that, protein. Most of that protein is found in the muscles (which is why you need to lift weights. Lecture over).

Now there’s a lot more here to unpack, but I won’t bore you with that. Basically, there are different kinds of amino acids – Some that are supplied by your body and some that are supplied by food. The bottom line is that your body needs these essential amino acids both for your health and? To lose weight.

Getting the Right Kind of Protein

Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products like cheese and milk
  • Pork
  • Wild game (not for me, thanks…bison’s ok tho)
  • Lentils
  • Tempeh
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Peas
  • Chia seeds
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Quinoa
  • Tahini

Now, not all proteins are complete proteins. This isn’t something you need to worry about if you eat anything on that list above. But if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may have to combine proteins to make a complete one. Here’s a little cheat sheet if that’s your bag: To get all of the essential amino acids, simply choose foods from two or more of the columns.

GrainsLegumesSeeds & NutsVegetables
BarleyBeansSesame SeedsLeafy Greens
Corn MealLentilsSunflower SeedsBroccoli
OatsPeasWalnuts
RicePeanutsCashews
PastaSoy Products Other Nuts
Whole Grain Breads

How Protein Helps You Lose Belly Fat

Now to the good stuff. Protein is one of the single most important things you can eat to help get rid of belly fat because:

  1. It keeps you satisfied. When you eat more protein, you eat less food. Voila!
  2. It can help reduce cravings, which is huge for those of us who, well, have them.
  3. It takes longer to digest, which means you burn more calories when you eat protein and it can boost your metabolism by up to 80-100 calories a day. What? Yep.
  4. Studies have shown that people who eat quality protein have less belly fat.

The bottom line? You can eat and lose belly fat. Win-win.

Figuring Out Your Protein Needs

So, how much protein do you need? The RDA is about 56 grams per day for the average male, 46 for the average woman. You need more if you exercise.

Now, I don’t know about you but I spend most of my day counting how many grams of protein I’m eating.

Not.

If you’re looking at percentages, experts suggest you aim for 25-30 percent of your diet as protein.

The questons are: How do you know how much protein you need and if you’re eating the right amount?

First, you can use this protein calculator which will give you an estimate. I’ve also provided a formula below (I said there would be no math, but that’s up to you).

As for how to plan out your protein needs, if you follow the 30 percent idea for protein, that usually comes out to mean 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat.

To make it easy for you to visualize there, how about a sample plan for 40-30-30? Which is also the ratio for the Zone Diet, if you didn’t know.

Click Here for Your 40-30-30 Sample Daily Weight Loss Plan

Take a look and you’ll at least get an idea of what a typical day’s worth of meals might look like.

The take-home here is simple: Get some protein at every meal and you’ll notice a change in your how you eat, how you feel and, hopefully, in your body.

Now for the math nerds:

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2.Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.

Example: 154 lb male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights
154 lbs/2.2 = 70kg
70kg x 1.5 = 105 gm protein/day

Calculating Protein as a Percentage of Total Calories

Another way to calculate how much protein you need is by using daily calorie intake and the percentage of calories that will come from protein. To do this, you’ll need to know how many calories your body needs each day.

First, find out what your Basal Metabolic Rate is by using a BMR calculator.

Next, figure out how many calories you burn through daily activity and add that number to your BMR. This gives you an estimate of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

After you’ve figured out your maintenance calories, next figure out what percentage of your diet will come from protein. The percentage you choose will be based on your goals, fitness level, age, body type and metabolic rate. Most experts recommend that your protein intake be somewhere between 15 and 30%. When you’ve determined your desired percentage of protein, multiply that percentage by the total number of calories for the day.

Example:
For a 140lb female, calorie intake=1800 calories, protein=20%:
1800 x .20 = 360 calories from protein. Since 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, divide protein calories by four:
360/4 = 90 grams of protein per day.

No matter what your calculations are, remember that there are no magic foods or supplements that can replace the right training and the right diet. I know. Not fair. But getting more protein in your diet is pretty easy, right? You’ve get a head start with your meal plan.

Sources:

Healthline: 6 Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat With Science

Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CLH, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity. 2011;19(4):818-824. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.203

Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):41-48. doi:10.1093/ajcn/82.1.41

 

 

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How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables Without Your Head Exploding

We all know that little box on the side of packaged foods, right?

The Nutrition Facts table or, as I like to call it, Swahili.

The purpose of it is to help you make better nutrition decisions. When you can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, you should be able to eat better, right?

Except, it’s confusing. Yeah, there are the calories, the carbs, the sodium – But what numbers should I be looking at and how do I know which ones are too high or too low?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not (and I say – it could be written in plain English), let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay.

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

 Step 1: Serving Size

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to figure out the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. Tricky little boogers, aren’t they?

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

Cut to the next few years when food labels will change. The FDA finally realized that we don’t eat, like 2 Oreos or 9 potato chips and decided that food labels must match with the quantities that Americans actually consume.

They can’t hide the real amount of sugar you’re getting in a Dr. Pepper or the sodium in those Doritos.

This will make it easier to compare foods…no more artificially small servings.

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco. (it’s probably a 90-lb bag, right?)

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts). I did this with my wine – 5 oz is a serving.

I’m fairly sure I was drinking at least twice that, if not more. I like my serving better.

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day (yeah…um..I live in the opposite of the ideal world).

This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule. You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

🥜Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

The Bottom Line

I know it’s hard to follow sometimes, but hopefully this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.

 Recipe (walnuts): Delicious & Super-Easy Walnut Snack

Serves 1

8 walnut halves
4 dates, pitted

Instructions

Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

Serve & enjoy!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

Sources:

Nutrition C for FS and A. Labeling & Nutrition – Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm.

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How to Improve Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

How Your Gut Affects Your Overall Health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health.

Improve Your Gut Health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed the friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

The Bottom Line

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes. The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Fun Fact – There are new guidelines for nutrition labels – Now, they have to tell how much added sugar is in the product. That makes it so much easier to control your sugar, right?

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

Serves 12

4 1/4 cups warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

Instructions

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

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Facebook teaser #1:

 

Does all disease really begin in the gut? Are there links between gut health and allergies, pain, or moods? Has the importance of gut health been under- or over-rated?

 

I spill the beans on gut health in my newest post here.

 

Facebook teaser #2:

 

There are two main parts to gut health. One involves the parts of the gut (of course!). The other involves the friendly gut microbes that also link to gut health. And both of these link to overall health.

 

Grab my gut-friendly tips right here.

 

Facebook teaser #3:

 

Want to make your own probiotics without a probiotic pill, kombucha scoby, or kefir grains? I mean a super-easy, gut-friendly probiotic recipe? Click here for my newest gut health recipe.

 

 

 

 

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Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. There are competing opinions everywhere. We’ve got calories in/calories out, no pain no gain, workout harder, workout more, slower, faster…it’s like the voices in your head keep multiplying, right?

But let’s forget about who’s right and who’s wrong…let’s focus on what’s right. Because what gets results is what I’m focusing on in this post.

I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.

There are too many weight loss myths out there. I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.

Myth: Calories cause weight gain, and eating less is how you lose weight

Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter…of course they do.

But, they are not the “be-all and end-all” of weight loss; they’re important, but they’re the symptom, not the cause. Let’s think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let’s focus on the causes.

People eat too many calories, not because they’re hungry, but because they feel:

  • Sad
  • Lonely
  • Bored
  • Tired
  • Stressed
  • Happy/celebrating

All these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.

Stopping emotional eating isn’t something that happens overnight, but there are some simple things you can do to get started:

  1. Keep a food journal – You can keep track of how your moods affect when/what/how you eat
  2. Find better ways to deal with your stress
  3. Get rid of the foods that tempt you – if it isn’t there, you can’t eat it
  4. Get busy doing something if you’re bored – Take a walk, take a bath, clean out a drawer…give yourself something to do
  5. Connect with someone – on the phone, social media, etc.

There are more, but that gets you started.

Myth: “Eat less move more” is good advice

Well, then we’re all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.

The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).

Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we’re dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are “obesogenic.”

Now that’s just a fancy word for environments that influence obesity.

So that means what? Reshaping your environment. This is about as difficult as it sounds, since we can’t control our surroundings. We can’t control when people bring donuts to work or when someone brings home a big bag of Doritos.

The only thing we can control? Is ourselves. But if it were that simple, none of us would be overweight, right?

Controlling Your Environment

All you can do is the best you can. Keep junk food out of your house. Ask co-workers to put the donuts somewhere you can’t see them. Ask the restaurant to hold the bread and bring a to-go box to put half your food in there.

Just pick one area where outside influences make it hard to be healthy and ask yourself – Is there anything I can do about this?

Myth: A calorie is a calorie

Can we please put this one to bed already?

Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.

For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.

Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they’re metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren’t utilized or stored the same way as other fats.

So it’s not necessarily your fault if you’re trying to reduce calories and aren’t seeing results. Your body responds to all of them a little differently.

#acalorieisnotacalorie

Myth: Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight

There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.

There are products that make these claims, and they’re full of garbage (or shall I say “marketing gold?”). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.

Save your money and your energy.

The bottom line is weight loss is hard! There are too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!). But all they really want is your money and once you realize that weight loss really is hard, you can take the pressure off yourself.

Take a deep breath. Take things one thing at a time. It’s NOT YOUR FAULT.

Don’t fall for the myths that say:

  • Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss.
  • “Eat less move more” is good
  • A calorie is a calorie.
  • Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight.

Now check out my magical “weight loss salad” recipe below (just kidding!)

Bonus Recipe (Myth-free salad, filling and nutritious): Kale Cucumber Salad

Serves 2

Salad

4 cups kale, divided
1 cup cooked beans of your choice (white beans, chickpeas, etc.)
1 cup cooked quinoa, divided
1 cucumber, sliced and divided

Cucumber Dill Dressing

½ cup tahini
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp dill
½ cup cucumber, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
½ tsp maple syrup
2 dashes salt
2 dashes black pepper
¼ tsp garlic, minced

Instructions

Divide salad ingredients into two bowls.

Add all dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until creamy. You may need to add water to thin. Add it slowly, a tbsp at a time until desired thickness is reached.

Add dressing to salads and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days

References and Sources:

Lake A, Townshend T. Obesogenic environments: exploring the built and food environments. Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. 2006;126(6):262-267. doi:10.1177/1466424006070487

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-12-biggest-myths-about-weight-loss/

https://authoritynutrition.com/metabolism-boosting-foods/

https://authoritynutrition.com/5-chemicals-that-are-making-you-fat/

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4 Mental Hacks that Help You Make Exercise a Habit

Exercise is NOT like a box of chocolates.

It’s more like a bottle of Windex and some paper towels…you know it’ll feel good when the window is clean but doing it? Is a chore.

That’s why it’s hard to make exercise a habit. It feels like work, doesn’t it? Like something you’re supposed to do. And it involves a lot of things like scheduling it and getting dressed for it and doing it and sweating and those things don’t always sound fun.

There are lots of reasons we don’t exercise, but the real barrier isn’t lack of time or motivation or whatever else you say to yourself. It’s your mind.

Your mind is always looking for the shortcut and who can blame it? We all want to get there faster, see results right now, get to the finish line. But weight loss just doesn’t work that way. There is no shortcut.

There is no way to drop all the weight TODAY. If there were don’t you think I’d be rich and famous?

And skinny?

With that in mind, how do you make your mind, well, mind you? How do you change that instant-gratification mindset and look at exercise in a different way?

1. Ditch the All or Nothing Thinking

One reason we don’t exercise, or tell ourselves we can’t exercise, is the idea that we have to do a certain amount of exercise at a certain intensity for it to count.

Like, my mind always tells me I have to do an hour of exercise. But, sometimes I can’t do an hour or I don’t want to do an hour and my mind is like, “Well, let’s just skip it cuz what’s the point?”

That kind of thinking is one of the number one reasons we don’t workout.

You need to change that kind of thinking to this:

Everything Counts.

Like this:

  • Taking a walk
  • Going up and down the stairs a few extra times
  • Doing a few squats while waiting for your coffee to brew or your water to boil
  • Standing up and doing some stretching every now and then
  • Doing wall pushups
  • Doing some exercises while you watch TV – Crunches, squats, lunches, stretches

How about trying these Quick Fix Workouts?

2. Lower Your Expectations

Look – Here’s the thing. Exercise is NOT great at helping us lose weight. It’s just not. There are a lot of reasons, but here are just a few of them:

  • Exercising can increase your appetite and you may end up eating more without realizing it
  • We sometimes compensate for exercise – Meaning, resting more during the day which offsets the calories we burn
  • Exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of your total daily energy expenditure. Bummer
  • We don’t burn as many calories exercising as we think we do

I’m not saying “forget exercising – it’s a total waste of time.” What I AM saying is that you need different reasons to exercise than just weight loss because that has zero staying power.

As soon as you sweat through a week of workouts and see zero changes on the scale? You’ll be like – Why am I doing this to myself?

The key here is to dig deeper into why exercise is worth doing besides weight loss. I don’t have to go into all the health benefits – you know it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to preventing certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

All of that is great but it’s a little abstract, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not like you do a workout and get some sort of award that says, “You just prevented a heart attack 7 years from now!”

No, you need some kind of intrinsic motivation…here’s what I mean:

I exercise because I want to avoid gaining weight, but it also gives me energy and makes me feel better about myself. I’m willing to exercise, even though it’s not always fun, for those reasons.

Think about this: How can exercise be valuable in your life? Maybe it’s me-time, or feeling stronger or avoiding some condition that runs in your family. Maybe just avoiding someone in your family! Really think about this – make a list of everything that comes to mind.

What resonates with you?

3. Make Exercise Fit Into Your Current Life

One mistake I see people make is trying to change your schedule to fit around exercise. But when you think about that, you kind of go a little cuckoo.

Say you’re trying to do an hour of exercise in your already busy non-exercisey life. Now you have to take multiple steps to make that happen. You have to carve, not just an hour, but:

  • Prep time before your workout
  • Time to plan your workout
  • The actual workout
  • The post-workout shower and clean up

That’s a lot to add to your schedule if you’re not already doing, right?

So instead of trying to bend your life around that hour, bend exercise around your life. Can you take a brisk walk after lunch? Could you do three 10-minute workouts throughout the day? Maybe you could walk on your treadmill while watching a movie on your iPad.

Maybe a few minutes of yoga in the morning?

Be creative and be generous with yourself. What would really work?

4. Be Where You Are Not Where You Want to Be

This kind of fits in with the one above, but it bears repeating – We all approach exercise as though we should be working out at Level 10 when, really, we’re probably at a Level 2 or 3 because of long breaks, injuries and whatnot.

We also tend to think that we should workout like we did in our 20s. Yeah, I worked out like a madwoman and I didn’t even have to.

Now, if I could workout the way I did back then, I would look much different.

But I can’t and neither can you.

Ask yourself these questions:

Where is my body right now?

What does my body really need besides weight loss?

Is there something I need to take care of – an injury or chronic pain before I start exercising?

What would actually feel good to my body right now?

For example, coming off an injury, I realized that easy cardio and light stretching was what I really needed. My mind yelled at me to start jumping around but my body was like – “Look, I’m almost 50. You’re going to have to STFU.”

Listen to what your body needs and do that.

The bottom line is, making exercise something you actually want to do requires rewiring your brain a little and learning what ‘rules’ you have about exercise (I hate it, it takes too long, I can’t do the amount I’m supposed to) that you may not even be aware of.

Take some time to think about the simplest ways you can move more and do that.

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Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What You Weigh

How often do you step on the scale? A lot of us do it every single day and you probably do what I do: You step on it, you squint at the number, you feel like s**t and you shove it back under the bed hoping it will be more cooperative tomorrow.

Do you wish you could totally ditch your scale?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”. I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously). Yet, it does sometimes, doesn’t it? It can determine how the start of each day feels.

But, here’s something to think about: Your weight only matters to a certain extent.

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Your Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”)

You’ve probably heard of body shapes, right? Like we’re all shaped like some kind of fruit like an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?

Yep – that apple!

And it’s not because of the fat you can see under the skin (aka subcutaneous fat) that you may refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is. It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

That’s why your scale weight isn’t always the most important thing to look at. Where your fat is actually stored is more important than how much you weigh.

Am I an Apple or a Pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.

Here’s how

  1. Starting at the top of your hip bone, bring the tape around your body level with your belly button.
  2. Keep the tape straight – Look in the mirror to make sure it is and don’t pull it too tight.
  3. Inhale and then exhale. At the end of the exhale, make a note of the number on the tape.
  4. Pour yourself a glass of wine if needed.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course. For men, the number is 40”.

Of course, this isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all, it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. Chicken, fish, tofu, yogurt – stuff like that.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

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Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the diet and nutrition info out there? Just standing in the grocery store line looking at the magazine headlines you’ll realize you don’t have the ‘5 Foods that Make You Skinny’ in your cart. Or what if you have the ‘3 Foods That are Dangerous for Your Health?’ What if you have one of those in there?

And then there are the experts trying to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What You Eat and Drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we? If it did, we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits looking at our 6-pack abs.

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Instead of Counting Calories, Focus on This:

Most days of the week, this is what you should shoot for:

  • A colorful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

How You Eat and Drink

The next simple tip: Pay attention to how you eat and drink. This sounds kind of obvious, but a lot of us eat mindlessly, myself included. Studies show that how you eat has more of an impact than we previously thought.

So think about this: Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from GI issues? Do you eat while doing something else like watching TV or messing around on your phone?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savor every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture.

Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food.

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal, not a snack. And don’t gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

The bottom line is, keep it simple and the weight loss will come. Eat veggies at every meal, get enough protein and make sure you get some healthy fats in there. I know we’re all conditioned to believe that everything has to be low-fat, but most of that stuff is garbage. Our bodies need some fat to feel satisfied.

Next – Just slow down. Try for just one meal a day to take your time while you eat and see how that changes how much you eat.

Now if you want a smoothie that will actually fill you up with yummy goodness, try this recipe.

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie

Serves 1

handful spinach

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 banana

1 chopped peach

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).

Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.

Blend, Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions. Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.

Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.

 References:

Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh L, Begay D. Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2010;18(6):260-264. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008

20 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

Nutrition Data Chia Seeds

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4 Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing. And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance. It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days, but it doesn’t always stop there, does it?

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.

Or at regular meals.

Or All. The. Time.

So, why do we do this? We may sit down at the table or at a restaurant with every intention of stopping when we’re full, only to clean the plate and feel awful afterward.

Triggers for Overeating

We know it while we’re doing it, but that often isn’t enough to stop us. What contributes? Just a few common culprits include:

  • Mindless eating
  • Big plates
  • Too much junk food – Junk food is addictive
  • We treat food like it’s a reward – Have you ever treated yourself to a treat after a workout?
  • We keep the naughty foods where we can see them…and eat them
  • We’re tired, stressed or bored
  • We skip meals and then go crazy when we finally eat

Why we overeat is important and it probably changes depending on the situation, but there are some very simple things you can do to cut down on the chances of eating too much.

Here are 4 tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food. But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before your meal, leaving less room for the not-so-healthy stuff, but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

And of course, you’re hydrating so your body, so you’re getting more energy. That doesn’t suck.

Win-win!

Tip #2: …Or start with some umami

You know that foods all have different tastes: Sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. But there’s another taste out there, what the Japanese call ‘umami.’ This includes foods that tend to be savory and include high protein foods like fish, meat and some dairy products.

What makes something umami? One key ingredient is glutamate, which is an amino acid…think of the miso soup or the soy sauce at a sushi place. That flavor is all umami and there’s some thought that having umami broth or soup supplemented with MSG may help you lose weight.

In one study published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology researchers gave healthy women either regular chicken broth or chicken broth with MSG. They evaluated changes after they ate and found that those who ate the broth-MSG combo ate less overall and even ate less saturated fat during their meal.

Other studies have shown the same thing, that broth and MSG prior to a meal can decrease appetite and food intake, especially in women with a propensity to overeat and gain weight.

Now you’ve probably heard that MSG is bad for your health, mostly because it’s blamed for causing allergic reactions. But, most experts today agree that MSG doesn’t cause sickness or allergic reactions…just one of those old wive’s tales that get passed around until we believe it’s true.

To get started, check out 8 Tips for Using MSG in Cooking and in Recipes. You can get some at Amazon – just like everything else!

Tip #3: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits? This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion. Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

In one study published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior experts studied 2 groups – Women who focused on mindful eating whenever they went out to eat and a control group who didn’t change anything.

The findings are pretty interesting – The mindful group lost significantly more weight, ate fewer calories and less fat, improved diet-related capability and had fewer barriers to losing weight when eating out.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste, and texture.

Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less. When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

More: 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Tip #4: Start with the salad or veggies

You may be ready to dig into the main meal, but hold up a second. You can have that…but after your salad.

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating.”

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side whether it’s a one-time event or something you struggle with daily.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, try umami broth, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

References:

Magerowski G, Giacona G, Patriarca L, et al. Neurocognitive effects of umami: association with eating behavior and food choice. Neuropsychopharmacology. March 2018:1. doi:10.1038/s41386-018-0044-6

Timmerman GM, Brown A. The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2012;44(1):22-28. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2011.03.143

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/
http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

 

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Why is My Metabolism Slow?

Metabolism is a word that comes up a lot when it comes to weight loss, and it’s obvious why – Your metabolism is the engine that drives your body. If it’s a little slow, you may feel tired, sluggish and, of course, feel like you’re gaining weight.

If your metabolism is fast then you’re not reading this because you’re probably out eating an entire pizza and not giving a s**t.

The thing is that our metabolisms can naturally drop about 5% for every decade after 40. So, if your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is 1400 at 40, over the course of the next 10 years, often less because the metabolism slows faster as we age (I know – not fair), that means you may need up to or more than 150 calories less to maintain your weight.

And most of us are not correcting for those unneeded calories, right?

The Basics of Your Metabolism

Your metabolism describes pretty much everything that happens in your body – Everything your body needs to do to stay alive. So, when we talk about increasing our metabolisms, we’re basically saying we want our bodies to burn more calories each day, which will leads to weight loss, right?

Well, it’s obviously not that simple because there are a variety of reasons your metabolism may slow down other than getting older. Let’s delve in, shall we?

What can slow my metabolism?

You already know that your metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

That’s why the whole calories in/calories out adage is pretty much crap when it comes to weight loss. Your metabolism is much more complicated than that, but there are some common reasons for a metabolic slow-down.

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 Low thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones directly regulate your metabolic rate and your body weight. It’s pretty much the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.

Ideally, it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

  • Fatigue
  • Unable to sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Depression and/or irritability
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog

There are more and, obviously, these symptoms can crossover into other issues, so they don’t necessarily mean a thyroid problem. The only way to know that is to get to your doctor and get your thyroid tested.

What causes Underactive Thyroid

  • Family history
  • Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Medications such as steroids or lithium
  • Swelling of the thyroid

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

More: Is Your Thyroid the Reason Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

 Your history of dieting

Most of us have spent a large part of our lives dieting. A diet basically comes down to cutting calories enough that you lose weight. The trouble is, diets don’t work for the long term.

When you cut your calories too low, your metabolism actually slows down. On top of that, just losing weight at all causes your metabolic rate to slow down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to keep all your life functions going, but doing it all with less food.

So, here’s the deal:

  • Dieting without exercise can reduce fat, but it can also reduce the amount of muscle you have. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so when you lose it, your metabolism slows down.
  • When you diet and then go off the diet (as we do), your new metabolic rate is based on the new body mass – especially the amount of muscle you have.
  • According to one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, when dieters got to their goal weight, their metabolic rate was severely depressed. They experienced immediate weight gain once they went back to their regular diets.

The bottom line is to avoid cutting your calories so low that your metabolism thinks there’s no food available and shuts down.

More: Calories: How to Know if You Go Too Low

 Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. No that doesn’t mean you should gain weight to increase your metabolism. Obviously, if that worked we would all be sitting around in our bathing suits basking in the glow of life.

You can’t always change your body type or your frame size, but one that you can change is your body composition. This is key to increasing your metabolism and losing fat. In fact, it’s much more important than a number on the scale.

So, how do you change your body composition? Besides your diet (adding more protein helps) and cardio exercise, there’s something else that really helps:

Strength Training

When you lift weights, you can increase your metabolism by more than 50 calories a day, which helps close the gap between how much you’re eating and how much you’re burning.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

If you’re new to strength training, start with a Basic Total Body Workout about 2-3 days a week. Even using light weights can help you build lean muscle tissue and change your metabolism.

More – Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Now, while strength training and lean muscle tissue give you a long-term metabolic boost, cardio exercise actually temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also sweating, your heart rate is up and you feel like you’re exercising.

Try to get in regular cardio exercise every day like:

And don’t forget even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

That’s all part of the other equation for your metabolism – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT. NEAT comprises the energy expenditure of all daily activities that aren’t planned exercise – Sitting, standing, fidgeting, basically any movement you do.

Get More NEAT

  • Walk more – at lunch, after dinner, to the store, around the block, etc.
  • Play with your dog
  • Wash your car by hand
  • Park further away when you’re shopping
  • Lap the park when you’re watching your kid’s game
  • Work in the yard or do more chores around the house
  • Use the bathroom on a different floor

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. In fact, in one study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, researchers had healthy participants sleep for 4 hours a night for 6 nights, followed by 12 hours of sleep for 7 nights.

The findings? Even just a week of sleep deprivation resulted in significant drops in metabolism. Lack of sleep also changes your ‘hunger’ hormones, making your hungrier than you normally would be.

That could lead to overeating without you even realizing it. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Go to sleep at the same time if you can and get up at the same time. Practice as much as you can and, if you can’t get it all in, try power naps.

More: How to Get More Deep Sleep

Recipe: Boost Your Metabolism

The following recipe contains selenium, a supplement that can help your thyroid stay healthy and keep your metabolism going.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts
2 cups water
several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk. If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Make a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

References:

Connolly J, Romano T, Patruno M. Effects of dieting and exercise on resting metabolic rate and implications for weight management. Fam Pract. 1999;16(2):196-201. doi:10.1093/fampra/16.2.196

Kinucan, P. Kravitz, L. Controversies in Metabolism. IDEAfit.com

Mullur R, Liu Y-Y, Brent GA. Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiol Rev. 2014;94(2):355-382. doi:10.1152/physrev.00030.2013

Sharma, S. Kavuru, M. Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. . 2010; 2010: 270832. Published online 2010 Aug 2. doi:  10.1155/2010/270832

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/
https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/
http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

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3 Must Eat Breakfast Foods

So, let’s talk about breakfast. Like a lot of people, I tend to eat the same breakfast every day. Gone are the days when I actually made a meal and sat down to eat it..wait, I don’t ever think I did that after I left home.

These days I usually throw some fruit in a bowl, add some yogurt and voila! Breakfast is ready.

If you tend to do the same thing, here are some questions for you:

Do you love your breakfast?

Do you have a very short list of “go-to” recipes?

Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

If your answer is yes, then keep on reading.

Breakfast is for Champions

You know they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and here’s why: Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.

Protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.

So here’s how you’re going to get all the protein you need, as well as veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.

 Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food and for a good reason. I know eggs got a bad rap awhile ago because they have some cholesterol and everyone freaked out about that.

Because of that, a lot of people started eating those processed egg whites in the carton. Kind of gross, right?

However, since then research has found that most of the cholesterol in our bodies is made by the liver – It doesn’t necessarily come from the foods we eat.

Now egg whites are good – they contain mostly protein, but the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Studies show that eggs help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin. Not only that, it’s easy to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

This easy recipe will keep you going all morning long:

Scrambled Eggs with Peppers and Kale

Alternatives to Eggs

I have to admit, I really wish I liked eggs. But I don’t, so I actually tried this recipe instead and it didn’t suck! I will say that working with tofu is something you need to practice.

And of course, anything with protein can replace eggs – Chicken sausage, turkey bacon, greek yogurt…you get the idea.

Tofu Veggie Scramble

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Next on our list of must-eat breakfast food includes nuts and seeds. Why? Because they contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Nuts and/or seeds are great for breakfast. Besides the fact that they’re easy to grab and go if you’re running late, you can eat them just about anywhere without making a mess.

And there are lots of ways to incorporate them into your breakfast:

  • Add some nut butter to your breakfast smoothie
  • Add chia seeds to your yogurt, oatmeal or cereal
  • Sprinkle walnuts on your oatmeal, or spread peanut butter on some whole grain toast
  • Make a kind of ‘trail mix’ to add to your yogurt or cereal – Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, pecans, pistachios…store it in a bowl and add a couple of ounces to your protein.

Don’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butter, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot coffee or tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

If you want something really good, try this one:

Nuts & Steeds Overnight N’Oats

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Okay, I know. It’s hard enough to get all our vegetables in every day and, if you’re like me, you’ve probably eaten 10,000 salads. And veggies for breakfast? Um, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?

But, veggies are critical because they’re powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water. Adding them to your breakfast will give you all of those good things – Not a bad way to start the day, right?

The great thing is, you can have them any way you like – Heck, you can have roasted veggies or even a salad if you like. Too often we think there’s some kind of ‘official’ breakfast food. But there are no laws against making your own rules, right?

Here’s an idea: When making your veggies for dinner, make twice as much. Then add some lean protein in the morning and you’ve got a full meal with all the right things. Try a breakfast sausage, smoked salmon or even chicken.

The key is to open your mind to new possibilities, then search for ideas that fit what you need. For example, overnight oats are great because you make them the night before and they’re ready when you’re ready.

That’s my kind of meal.

Mixing things up will get those healthy foods into your diet and keep your metabolism cranking all day long.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)
¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)
dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred). In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices. Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favorite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

Gray J, Griffin B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth. Nutrition Bulletin. 34(1):66-70. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2008.01735.x

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/
https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/
https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

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Is Sugar Making Your Belly Fat?

Gaining belly fat is one of the most frustrating things that happens as we get older. It seems to creep in overnight and then it stays, a silent stalker that makes us feel pretty crappy about ourselves.

We all know the major contributors to belly fat, right? Looking at it from a distance, it involves the Big 6:

  • Exercise (not enough)
  • Being active (not enough)
  • Diet (eating too much)
  • Stress (too much and)
  • Sleep (not enough)
  • Hormones (’nuff said)

But break it down and it’s a little different for all of us. Some of us might exercise, but our diets aren’t that great.

Or maybe some of us have more wine than we should every night.

Ahem.

But break it down further and there’s one thing we’re all probably guilty of:

Too Much Sugar.

And really, we’re not totally to blame for this because how the heck are we supposed to know how much added sugar we’re getting? Sure, you could control it if you made everything from scratch…yeah. Um, let’s get right on that, right?

Also, there are so many yummy processed foods out there – It’s impossible to avoid all of them, isn’t it? And then there’s eating out…it seems impossible. No we can’t get rid of all the sugar, but there is something we can do about it.

Sugar and Your Belly

What you need to know about added sugar is that it loves helping your body store extra belly fat.

First, let’s talk about insulin, which is basically the ‘belly fat hormone.’ The more insulin you have in your body, the more belly fat you’ll store. Eventually, having too much insulin makes you insulin-resistant which means, yep – Stubborn, won’t-go-away belly fat.

And? Now you’re at risk for diabetes.

So, when you eat too much added sugar, it contributes to that insulin-resistance. Plus, some types of sugar go right to your liver, which gets turned into fat.

So sugar = belly fat.

I know. Not fair.

How To Get Rid of Added Sugar

There are a few very basic ways to start lowering your sugar intake and I don’t think any of these will surprise you:

  1. Stop drinking stuff with sugar in it – Juice, sports drinks, Coke…you know what these are, right? And don’t forget that alcohol also has sugar in it, something my brain refuses to accept. Does not compute.
  2. Eat real food as much as you can – Meaning things like lean protein, salads, veggies while avoiding the chips, crackers and other starchy carbs that also love to go right to your belly.
  3. Exercise – Not only can exercise reduce cortisol (the other belly fat stress hormone), but it can actually lower your blood sugar levels so they stay more even and you don’t have as many cravings.
  4. Go for the unsweetened stuff – I know that blueberry yogurt is yummy, but stuff like that has a lot of sugar. If you’re into that on a daily basis, slowly start to add unsweetened yogurt by going half regular yogurt and half unsweetened. Do the same with your cereal or oatmeal – Get a lower sugar, higher fiber version and start mixing it in with your Fruity Pebbles (do they still make that?)
  5. Use unsweetened applesauce as a sub – I kind of find it amazing that you can use applesauce instead of sugar when you’re making all kinds of things. Not that I really bake, but if I did…

Okay – so those are some very simple things to think about, now let’s talk about how you can make things even easier.

Apps to Help You Monitor Your Sugar Intake

I’m not a fan of keeping track of numbers – who has time for that? I probably do, but I’d rather let someone else do that…which is why smartphones are an amazing tool for the whole sugar thing.

Below are just a few great apps that help you know what you’re eating and how to change it.

Sugar Rush

With this app, you can actually scan your food with the barcode, search for common foods or enter what you’re eating and it’ll tell you how much sugar is in there. Pretty handy.

Fooducate

This is more comprehensive, allowing you to track your eating and activities, but it also breaks down the sugar in your diet too.

Wholesome Healthy Eating

This neat little app lets you collect recipes from the web, track them and then the app gives you personal recommendations for making them healthier. You get points for good things like fruits and veggies and you lose points if you have too much sugar or salt.

And now here is the easiest, yummy, no-sugar recipe in the entire world. Even I made it and it’s good!

Banana Chia Crisps

The bottom line is, all you have to do is pick one way you can reduce your sugar. Maybe it’s a sugary breakfast you need to tackle or a late night sweet tooth. Pick one and just focus all your energy on that without worrying about the rest of your diet.

Once you’ve got that down, move on to the next. You may just find you not only lose more belly fat, but you just feel better.

Got a sugar tip? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sources:

la Fleur SE, van Rozen AJ, et al. A free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet induces changes in arcuate neuropeptide expression that support hyperphagia. 2010 Mar;34(3):537-46. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.257. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Schwarz JM, Clearfield M, Mulligan K. Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?   2017 Aug 1;117(8):520-527. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.102.

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Why Stress is Making Your Belly Fat and What to Do About It

Remember when you were a kid – like around 8 years old or so – and all you could think of was how fat your belly was?

Yeah…um no. That’s not something an 8-year-old (at least in the olden days) worries about, right?

Now, fast forward from your 8-year-old self to where you are now. For me? Late 40s. Now it’s a whole different story.

It’s like, one day you wake up and you have this belly and it’s gross and it’s in the way and it makes you have to buy new clothes because your old ones don’t fit.

There a variety of reasons we gain belly fat, from changes in hormones to a drop in metabolism. But one very important contributor?

STRESS

Are you stressed out right now? Unless you’re lounging on the deck with a glass of wine, you probably are. Or maybe you’re having that wine because you’re stressed…whatever.

The point is stress affects every aspect of our bodies, especially our bellies. When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol and guess what that does? It stimulates fat storage, particularly around the belly.

Why does this happen? Because our bodies protect us in times of stress by holding onto fat. Now, that was probably helpful back in cave-man days, but now it’s just wrong.

Get Control of Your Stress

If you really want to deal with stress and, in the process, stop the constant cortisol production that’s adding to your belly fat, you have to do one very important thing:

Put Yourself First

The only way to deal with this is to give yourself the time and attention you need to start reducing stress. Practicing a few tools on a regular basis will help you ramp down the cortisol and ramp up the fat loss:

#1 STOP

If you’re stressed, you probably aren’t even aware of the thoughts going on in your head. They’re probably racing because you’re thinking of All The Things:

  1. All the things you NEED to do
  2. All the things you HAVEN’T done
  3. All the things you HAVE to do later
  4. All the things you CAN’T do because you don’t have time

These racing thoughts are not helping you actually be productive, right? And if you want to get off that treadmill (the other one will at least help you burn calories) you have to create some space for you to address it.

#2 Do a Brain Dump

I keep a list of things I can do when I’m stressed because, when I get stressed, I get anxious and when I get anxious I can’t think straight and in that kind of environment – I can’t make even the simplest decisions.

If you find yourself in spin-mode, having a list of things to do to get out of it will immediately calm you down and help you feel more in control. The first thing you need to do is:

Change Your Perspective. This might mean simply walking into another room, taking a walk outside or going for a drive. Getting out of the environment where the spinny wheels are should immediately give you at least some sense of calm.

Now, after that, make list of everything that’s going on in your head. Things you need to do, things you’re worried about…everything. No filters, no stopping and thinking, just write (I prefer writing because it brings you into your head a little more than typing, but do your thing).

Once you’re done that, all that stuff is now out of your head and on paper, where you can actually deal with it.

Look at your list…is it crazy-long? Could any human being tackle this list all at once? Nope. And you don’t have to either.

#3 Get Real

Okay, now that you know where your stress is coming from, here’s where things get down and dirty. You need to get real about what you actually need to deal with and what you can either toss or put aside for another day.

Pick the one thing you’re the most stressed about and set aside some time to face it. If you’re stressed about your finances, digging into them will give you some control and that control will help you calm down.

Once you’ve dealt with it, you won’t feel as stressed.

It’s not always easy facing what’s stressing us out and, sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about it. Sometimes it’s an external person or force that’s stressing you out and that’s when you have to dig deep to find a way to deal with it in a calm way. For example, as I’m writing this my neighbor is sawing something big and it sounds like there’s a helicopter buzzing inside my office.

That is stressing me out but I can’t go punch him in the face, can I? No, but I can put on some headphones with some relaxing spa music so that I don’t give into my violent urges.

Here are some things to try to get your stress under control:

  • Keep a stress diary. Just a piece of paper or something on your smartphone. Set an alarm to go off every hour or so and check in with yourself. If you’re stressed, create some space to actually deal with it now so you don’t fall down the stress rabbit hole.
  • Watch how you talk to yourself. I don’t know how many times I say, “oh my god I am sooo stressed!” Every time I say that, I’m creating more stress.  When you hear your thoughts going in that direction, stop, take a step back and get a little perspective. Can you start a new story about yourself? Maybe say, “Okay, I feel overwhelmed.” Own it and then you can do something about it.
  • Make a worry appointment. This sounds silly but make an actual appointment later in the day to deal with all your worries. Then, every time you get worried about something, remember…you can do that later.
  • Play the 1-, 5- and 10-year game. If you’re stressing over something, ask yourself if you’ll even give a s**t about it in 1 year. 5 years? 10 years? If not, you’re probably wasting your energy.

We can’t get rid of stress and a certain amount is a good thing. But giving yourself permission to manage it on a daily basis is what you must do if you want to feel good and get rid of that extra belly fat. Breathe. It’s all going to be ok.

Source:

Blaine B. Does Depression Cause Obesity?: A Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies of Depression and Weight Control. J Health Psychol. 2008;13(8):1190-1197. doi:10.1177/1359105308095977

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