Serious Weight Loss Tools (for those who are serious about getting it right)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, there are a few essential tools that can help you get serious about doing weight loss the right way: with an accurate calorie goal and a way to track body composition. Remember, not all weight loss is the same.

The thing is, you may not be losing as much fat as you think you are. When someone is actively losing weight, especially when restricting calories and upping their cardio, you also lose muscle at the same time! That’s no bueno, especially given we already lose a certain percentage of muscle mass for each decade of life. Let’s not make that worse!

That’s why I recently invested in this handy contraption, the In-Body 570. It measures your body composition and allows us to track this over time. This way we can make sure you are burning fat and maintaining (or hopefully growing) your lean muscle. If not, we can course correct and get things going the right way.

For any of my clients that want to have this done during a session, the cost is only $25. For anyone else who just wants to pop in and have it done, the cost is $40. Tell your friends and come on in, especially before the holidays get in full swing!

Now, while knowing your body composition is important, we also need to know your actual metabolic rate. This is the only way truly set a correct calorie level to more quickly reach your weight los goals.

While unfortunately I have not yet invested in a machine for this, there are a few places in Seattle where you can go to get this done.

The first is DEXA Fit Seattle. They have DEXA scan machines which can evaluate your body composition, AND they have machines to measure your metabolic rate. It’s like a one-stop shop. This would be a good first step for anyone serious about starting a weight loss program.
Dexa Fit Seattle

The second option is Body Spec. They have trucks all over the city that set up shop at various businesses. They are often at gyms, PT offices, etc. You can check their website and find their next location. Ask about their services and fees for testing resting metabolic rate (RMR).
Body Spec Seattle

So there are some steps to take to get the ball rolling on a safe and effective weight loss plan. First you want to make sure you get an accurate assessment of your calorie level, and secondly you want to track and make sure you are losing fat, not muscle.

Please reach out if you have any questions on these methods and if you want to get yourself set up for the In-Body test. Get it done before the holidays and you will be all set come January!

Weight Loss: Why is it so damn hard?

You know it’s funny. People often ask me what my favorite type of client to work with is. I usually say something like digestive disorders or food sensitivities. You know why? Because there is generally a methodical way to go about figuring out the root problem and coming up with a well defined plan to see results.

What is not my favorite genre? Weight loss! And believe me, it’s not because of the clients themselves. I adore my clients. I have some of the hardest working and most motivated clients in the world. It’s just that achieving weight loss is hard. Damn hard. And it doesn’t always follow logic. Eat less + move more does not necessarily equal weight loss. It’s extremely frustrating not only for me, but ten times more for my clients.

weight loss

Last month I once again attended the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. While yes, there is a lot of fluff at these events (what do you expect with sessions sponsored by Nestle and General Mills), I do always have some profound take-aways.

This year there were several sessions on weight loss. I made it my goal to attend all of them and compare messages. There must be something I am missing, something I could glean that would turn the corner for some of my clients.

So I listened. And I compared. And I pondered. Do you know what I discovered? No. One. Agrees. You think the experts have a handle on this? Yeah no. Keto? Intermittent fasting? Calorie restriction? Intense weight training? All topics which were presented by very knowledgeable and well researched experts in the field. They all had very different things to say about the “best” way to reduce body weight.

Let’s take keto. I think I have written about this before. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the premise of the diet if done carefully and correctly, but you have to ask yourself: Is this sustainable? Do I want to live like this forever? If not, you have to choose another approach. Yo-yo dieting, especially on a very high fat diet, is dangerous. Plus, you can gain weight on keto folks. It’s still a calorie game.

What about intermittent fasting? Sure, studies show it may help people lose weight by improving fat burning, but is it because of the fasting or simply calorie restriction by limiting the hours in which you can eat? And again, is it sustainable? Do you plan to carry this on forever? Honestly I think many people can find a form a fasting that would work for them (I like the 12-13 hour overnight fasting idea), but you still have to commit.

Lastly, and with far less enthusiasm, I listened to the good ol’ calorie restriction + increased exercise folks. I was not expecting to be impressed…..but I was. I really appreciated how they took the boring old concept of eat less, move more, and described a practical, defined plan that produced maximum results.

The key, as I alluded to, is doing it right. And since I tend to agree with their premise and design, I’ll lay out the basics here and now for you to consider.

First of all, you do have to restrict calories….but not too much. The main take home point is that measuring metabolic rate is key. Us dietitians and every calorie tracking software out there are always basing people’s calorie needs on equations. Equations are equations, not actual people, and cannot take into account the nuances in everyone’s metabolism. If we guess too low, we put someone on too far of a calorie restriction and potentially decrease their metabolism further while making them feel terrible. If we shoot too high, we don’t see the desired results. If you want to lose weight, have your resting metabolic rate (RMR) measured. (see our next post for how to get this done)

Secondly, anytime you cut calories, your body will compensate by decreasing your metabolism. Tricky bodies we have, eh? How to get around this? Increase muscle mass. Yes, muscle is highly metabolically active. If you achieve a good calorie level while simultaneously increasing your muscle mass, you will boost your metabolic rate, burn fat, and build muscle. This creates the ideal conditions for weight loss and improved body composition over the long term.

Best of all this type of plan is sustainable, assuming you can continue with regular workouts and healthy eating, and you don’t have to do anything drastic like cut out all carbs or eat a staggeringly low amount of calories. You don’t even have to do long sessions of cardio. Incredible!

In fact, you need to be eating carbs to keep up your energy level (high quality carbs are best, of course). You also need very good protein intake to build muscle. You need a moderate amount of fat for general health. It’s almost like…..a return to the center. We need carbs, but not too much. Also protein, and a decent amount. And we need fat, but again, in moderation. And you need to exercise, but it needn’t be this long, drawn out event five days per week. 3-4 sessions of weights and you are good. Add in some cardio, but only if you wish.

But in reality, does it work? It seems to, at least in their clinics, assuming you work hard to build muscle and eat well. It is still no walk in the park, but certainly more achievable for most people, especially for those like myself who enjoy food and despise the idea of eliminating entire food groups! Plus you might even save time by cutting a few of those boring and useless sessions on the elliptical.

So if you are serious about losing weight or at least changing your body composition (swapping out fat for muscle), come talk to me! Let’s make a personalized plan that works for your lifestyle and lets you enjoy food in the process.

See our next post very soon about some fun new equipment in the office that we have for measuring body composition, plus check out some links for Seattle area locations where you can get your metabolic rate tested.

And….stay tuned for next month’s blog post where we will talk about the up and coming “Health at Every Size” approach. What if all this weight loss talk is actually damaging us in the long term, both physically and mentally? What if we could take away the stigma and focus around weight and just help people find foods and activities that make them feel good? Ooh, so many angles to consider!

What is the best eating schedule? Three meals, many meals or even fasting? Reviewing common diet patterns and what may work best for YOU.

Question

It seems the “experts” are always changing their minds on what and when we should eat. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Stop eating that thing we told you to eat last year and eat this instead. Eat 3 meals a day. Eat 6 meals a day. Fast one day a week. Do intermittent fasting 3 times a week. Never eat after 5pm. Don’t skip breakfast. Actually it’s ok to skip breakfast. But don’t forget, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! My goodness, it’s enough to make your head spin.

A recent study (see link below) suggests eating within a 10-hour window each day may be ideal for reducing weight and metabolic disease. They don’t talk about the pattern within that window, but simply limiting the hours in which calories may be consumed. Interesting.

This adds to the piles of research and opinions around when to eat. Are you confused about the ideal eating pattern for you? Are you confused by all this talk of meal timing and intermittent fasting? If so, read on to break down some of these common suggestions. Hopefully you can come to an understanding of what sort of meal schedule will optimize your health and allow you to reach your goals, whether that’s weight loss, balanced blood sugar, improved mood, etc.

schedule

First of all, there is no ideal pattern for everyone. Let’s get that straight. The ideal eating times for you are those that work with your schedule and lifestyle. I’ve seen many eating patterns that work for people, from the regular 3 meals a day to 2 meals per day + snack, or 6 small meals, etc. The only reason to change a pattern is if it isn’t working for you or is clearly an unhealthy one (which usually you know if that’s you).

Before we even get too far, let me say up front I am not a fan of the 6 small meal per day sort of schedule. First of all it’s often quite stressful for people to be able to remember to eat as many time as they need do. Say you have a small breakfast before work but can’t take a break to eat 2 hours later because of a big meeting? Now you are starving and prone to make poor choices later in the day.

Also, blood sugar rhythms tend to follow a 3-4 hour cycle. When you eat a meal, typically, your blood sugar peaks about 1-2 hours later. Then it slowly comes down over the following couple hours and you gradually become hungry again. Now, if we are constantly fueling every two hours, our blood sugar is never given a chance to return as low as it should between meals. Granted a smaller meal is going to have a smaller blood glucose rise, but the point is that we aren’t following the natural rhythm of our glucose cycles.

Additionally, longer spaces between meals are really great for our digestion. I know I have written about this before, but we have this wonderful process in our small intestine called the migrating motor complex, or the MMC, for short. It’s role is to sweep clear the small intestine and increase motility, allowing things to move along and digest as they should. Thing is, this process only takes place about 60-90 minutes after eating, in a semi-fasted state. And it needs some time to work. If we are eating every two hours, we keep shutting this process down. For some, this sets them up for indigestion and bloating, and can even lead to microbial imbalances. Better meal spacing can help support the MMC and keep our digestion plugging along as it should.

Lastly, many of my clients who have tried the 6 mini-meal schedule are in actuality just snacking all day. Yes, it’s all small stuff, but it becomes a nonstop snack party. Many of those “snacks” are a lot higher in calories than one thinks, and instead of increasing energy and losing weight, it becomes an easy way to gain weight. Frustrating for many, to say the least.

snacks

Clearly I’m not a fan of eating multiple mini meals throughout the day. In my opinion, a 4 hour spacing (or 3 at the minimum) seems ideal. This solves many of the aforementioned issues and tends to fit well for our normal wake/sleep cycles.

What might this type of schedule look like. Certainly it can very, but let’s take an example from one of my days:

7am – Breakfast: 1 fried egg, 1 piece whole wheat toast w/ almond butter, honey, cup of black coffee
12pm – Lunch: Leftover beef and bean chili (1.5 cups) with 2 tbsp guacamole, 1 tbsp sour cream, a sprinkle of grated cheese, 1 orange, water.
3:30 – 4pm – Snack: 12 almonds, 1 banana
6:30pm – Dinner: 2oz baked chicken breast, 1 cup Puttanesca (spaghetti, sauce with anchovies, tomatoes, olives, garlic) ½ cup roasted broccoli, water.

You can see the spacing varies (and it does from day to day), but the goal is at least 3.5-4 hours between meals most of the day, with the evening meal being the least spaced given I can’t always control the exact timing of dinner (kids and hubby have a big say in that!). THIS is the schedule that works for me. You may decide to follow the same principles, but the exact execution may look different. That is a-ok.

Then the next question is, what about fasting or intermittent fasting?

Ah, great question. There is so much swirling around about restricted eating patterns to help you lose weight and even increase longevity.

Look, I have been reading this stuff too, and I won’t say that it doesn’t work. I am sure fasting has many amazing benefits. It is supposed to improve fat burning, boost the immune system, reduce the risk for cancer, raise growth hormone levels, improve brain function, and a host of other claims. It’s likely true. We see some of these in rat studies as the one previously mentioned.

There are various iterations of these fasting schedules. Some fast one day per week, others fast more than that, and others will have mini-fasts one time per week up to several times per week.

The real question with any of these is, is it realistic? Is this something you can stick with? Is this reasonable for your lifestyle and your family? If not, it’s just another fad that will leave you back at the same place you started. Think hard before you decide to go for these types of diets. Again, I’m not saying don’t do it, because the health benefits may be just what you need, but think hard about whether this is a change you want to keep for the forseeable future.

One tactic I personally employ is the same as hinted at in this article, a semi-restricted eating schedule that limits the hours of consumption. I think of it as “night” fasting. By increasing the hours without eating between evening and morning, you can achieve some of the same benefits of fasting and even help reduce weight, at least per this recent study. Also, this tends to cut out eating after dinner which for many is a huge calorie save right there. Per the article, this type of “fasting” can improve metabolism and reduce metabolic disease (reduce cholesterol, balance blood glucose, improve blood pressure, etc).

But the question is, is this realistic? I think for most it is. It’s a hard choice limit eating at certain hours (those cravings can be no joke!) but you can make that choice and stick with it, especially in the evening when work is over and most importantly, kids are in bed!

Not sure this is actually doable? Check out this schedule:

9am: breakfast
12pm: lunch
3pm: snack
6:30pm: dinner (goal of being done by 7pm)

OR:
7am: breakfast
10am: Snack
1pm: Lunch
5pm: Dinner

As you can see in both of these examples, the spacing is slightly less than the 4-hour window, however with the increase space between dinner and breakfast, you likely get many of the benefits as the article describes.

Remember my eating schedule as depicted earlier? You can clearly see that is not a 10-hour window there. I have implemented more of a 12-hour window. I have cut out any evening eating and made sure breakfast is time 12 hours after dinner. Maybe not as great as the article supports, but that’s where I am at!

Hopefully this slightly long-winded discussion gives you some points to ponder in figuring out the “right” plan for you. Whatever your health goal may be, meal spacing and limited eating hours during the day may be just what you need to start seeing the results you are looking for!

*If you have diabetes or any other condition that may require more rigid eating times, please do discuss any changes to your current diet with your medical practitioner first!

1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180831130131.htm

The Comfort of a Fall Routine

I don’t know about you, but I’m in total denial that it’s Fall. Every year about this time I refuse to admit the leaves are changing color and a coolness exists in the morning air. I want summer to last forever (it’s a short season in Seattle, we savor every minute!). But that being said, I also crave routine, and summer is all about shirking routine and having fun. Getting back to a sense of normalcy, not only around my schedule but also around eating, is incredibly comforting.

Sometimes it is hard to get back into that routine. School supplies and new schedules are flying through the air and before you know it you are eating out or throwing together meals on the fly more often than you want. That workout plan you had planned for September gets postponed…indefinitely. Before that happens, let’s make a plan to get back into a healthy routine before the real craziness of holidays and all the rest hits.

Here are a few 6 quick tips to guide you in implementing a healthy Fall routine!

1. Meal Plan
This is number one because it is always number one. Plan your meals. I say this over and over to my clients. Weeks go easier if you have a plan for meals, dinners at the very least. Yank out a basic calendar (or download a meal planner from my website) and map out the week. Involve the family and get a repertoire of ideas on there. Bonus challenge: pick one new recipe each week to try. Have the family rate it and see if it should stay in the meal rotation.

Meal Plan

Want an online option? Check out GatheredTable.com for meal planning ideas and guidance.

2. Plan out specific grocery shopping days
Once your meal plan is in place, schedule days and times for doing the shopping. Most of my clients like to do their planning on Saturday and shop Sunday. Plan a mid-week run as well for little things that may have run out. By scheduling these days, you are less likely to buy impulse items and tend to stay more focused on the things you need.

Besides traditional stores, consider buying from online grocers like Amazon Fresh or Instacart with delivery from many local grocery stores, even organic ones. Once a month plan a trip to a warehouse retailer like Costco for things you like to keep in bulk.

By planning these shopping days out on your calendar you end up saving a lot of time and money.

3. Rethink your snack
Another area to reclaim and be intentional about is snacking. Americans are snackers, and while not a terrible thing (many countries don’t snack, just for reference), the mindless snacking is what derails many a diet plan. How to change this? There are a few options. First off, get unhealthy foods that you gravitate to out of the house. The snacks you do deem ok (maybe make a list of those healthy options even), decide what a healthy portion looks like for you. Then, pack that portion to work or have it already in a container at home so that when you go for it, you already know what and how much you are going to have. Planning out really is your best strategy to avoid continuous and unnecessary snacking. Doesn’t mean you will always stick to it (damn those well meaning colleagues bringing doughnuts!) but it certainly will trigger you to be more mindful and make an informed choice instead of a random one. Set yourself up for success!

Snacks

4. Swap out instead of cutting out
Time to cut out a few “additions” that crept in over the summer? Instead of stressing about how to do without those foods or beverages, think about a few swaps that might work instead. Got hooked on soda? Replace with no-sugar beverages like Zevia or La Croix. Became familiar with after dinner desserts? Find some tasty dark chocolate and have a few squares of that instead. By swapping out instead of cutting out, you may find a lot less stress and an easier time sticking to all of your goals as you roll into the Fall.

snack

5. Plan the fun
Lest you think there’s no time for fun with routine, it definitely doesn’t have to be that way! Plan out those fun events so you have things to look forward to. It really helps to maintain your mindset that all this work is not in vain. You will enjoy your leisure time all the more when you make time for fun but in a scheduled way. As they say, work hard and play hard. Put in the time and enjoy the benefits.

Some ideas? Plan a night out with friends. Make reservations at a coveted restaurant. Set aside some time to do some personal shopping. Plan a weekend getaway (I like this one best!). Schedule a massage or pedicure. Think about what de-stresses you and plan a couple of these throughout the Fall months.

relax

6. Make a realistic exercise plan
Yep, here we are, exercise. You knew we would get to this. It’s SO important to work movement into your daily life. It’s no surprise I’m going to say plan those darn workout days on the calendar. Figure out where it fits and pencil it in. Maybe it’s an AM walk on Monday, a Tuesday class after work, a Wednesday yoga class during the lunch hour, a Thursday bike ride with the kids, and a Friday fun day (aka rest day). Plan out the weekends as well when most have more time to exercise.

Now, all this being said, be careful not to overcommit. The quickest way to quit an exercise plan is to plan too much and feel an inability to meet your own expectations. Start slow, maybe two times a week, for example, and build from there.

Also, make sure to do activities you enjoy. If you hate the treadmill for example, do something else! If you don’t like it you won’t stick with it. If you find nothing pleasurable, and I recognize there are people that feel that way, start with walking at the very least and build from there.

Lastly, make a plan just to get there. Maybe you don’t feel like going, but commit to putting on that work out gear and at least getting to the gym. Or getting to the basement with your video or handheld weights. Or getting outside the front door with your walking shoes. Allow yourself to change your mind if you just aren’t feeling it, but commit to at least getting there. I think more times than not you will follow through and feel proud for doing it.

exercise

So there you go! Plan out that Fall and get it! I know you can do it, and even breeze through the holidays like no one’s business. It’s going to be your best, and healthiest, yet!

Eat This For Healthy Summer Skin

Warmer weather is finally upon us, and with that, it seems everyone is trying to look and feel their best while taking advantage of the outdoors. Weight management is certainly a huge part of that, with everyone trying to increase their exercise and improve their diet, but surprisingly skincare is another topic I hear come up all the time. We not only want to strut in those cute summer jeans but we also want our skin to glow while we’re doing it. Am I right?

Given all the creams and topical potions that abound to keep your skin at its best, many often overlook the power of nutrition in giving your skin true, lasting vitality. Nourishing our skin from the inside is just as important as protecting it on the outside.

Maybe it’s time to rethink that skin care routine and focus on food, not formulas. What you eat every day can make a big impact on how both you and your skin function.

What foods are best for that? Have a read through for some easy summer diet do’s and don’ts to keep you glowing all year long.

10 Foods for Youthful Skin

1. Berries

Berries are chocked full of antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants help us fight off free radical damage which is, unfortunately, an unavoidable consequence of the world we live in. Our food, our household products, other environmental chemicals and even stress can create free radicals which damage our cells. Antioxidants help knock these out and restore proper balance and function.

2. Cruciferous veggies

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy….they are all fantastic when it comes to your skin. They are high in vitamins A and C, which are important for our skin, and the phytochemicals in cruciferous can help reduce inflammation and promote estrogen balance, both which can be a huge boost to your epidermis.

3. Wild Salmon (and other Omega 3 fatty acids)

Healthy fats are key to healthy cells, and healthy cells equal healthy skin. Wild salmon is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, known for their powerful role in reducing inflammation. There are more Omega 3 sources besides salmon, however. Other animal sources include mackerel, sardines, tuna, and anchovies. Plant-based sources include chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seed, and walnuts.

4. Avocado

This tasty fruit is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants which helps keep skin supple and ward off the effects of aging. More reason for some guacamole when the weather heats up!

5. Nuts

Yet another fantastic fat source that is helpful for our cells and also contains a host of skin-protecting antioxidants. Additionally, they are high in fiber, which may not seem directly related to your skin, but anything that supports digestion and promotes regular elimination will help detox your skin and body as well.

6. Coconut oil

We are still on a fat kick here. As you can tell, getting good sources of healthy fats in your diet is key. A fat-free diet is not the way to healthy skin. Coconut oil is another of those powerhouse fats. It has potent anti-microbial properties to ward off bacteria throughout our body and can support our immune system. All of this, in turn, promotes healthier skin. Easy ways to use coconut oil would be with sautéing, using as a fat in baking, or mixed into smoothies. Personally, I like to use full-fat coconut milk in making chia seed pudding to get in a healthy dose.

7. Bone broth

Fluids are super important for keeping out cells well hydrated, so bone broth can certainly help with that, but it’s also a major source of collagen. Collagen, which tends to decrease with age, is what keeps our skin firm and elastic. A little bone broth can go a long way in increasing hydration and giving our skin the building blocks to repair and restore the collagen in our skin. Use as a warm evening beverage or mix into soups or other dishes that call for broth.

8. Fermented foods

We know that fermented foods, or foods rich in natural probiotics, are good for our gut. A healthy intestinal tract equals good digestion and good digestion shows on our skin. When we are absorbing our nutrients properly and eliminating toxins on a regular basis, it will produce noticeable results on the outside as well as the inside. Eat fermented foods daily to balance your gut bacteria and keep that digestive process running smoothly. Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, water kefir, kombucha, tempeh, pickled veggies, and miso.

While some dairy products are fermented as well, best to keep those to a minimum as dairy is often implicated in inflammation and skin issues.

9. Cilantro

I know many have a love/hate relationship with this herb, but if you are a cilantro lover out there, more reason to use it early and often! Cilantro contains chlorophyll, which has powerful detoxifying properties in the body. Cilantro also supports liver detoxification, which may help reduce or prevent acne by helping rid your liver of toxins more quickly and efficiently. Sprinkle cilantro on anything and everything. Even add to smoothies or pressed homemade juices.

10. Leafy greens

I can’t say enough good things about leafy green vegetables. Kale, spinach, chard, romaine….they are all great sources of iron, calcium, B vitamins and fiber. More importantly for your skin, they are a good boost to your liver for detoxifying the body. As we’ve said before, detoxing from the inside will show outside in your skin, so eat up a variety of greens daily to get that summer glow.

Easing Menopause with Diet

Oh menopause. The “change,” as they say. This season of life is so often regarded as a very challenging time for women, one filled with hormonal upheaval, mood changes, temperature dysregulation, and undesired fluctuations in weight. Basically, it sucks. But does it have to?

Numerous books and websites have sought to offer solutions to the maladies of menopause, including ideas such as herbal treatments, essentials oils, stress reduction techniques, exercise plans, and of course hormone therapies. All of these can offer help in various ways and certainly ease the symptoms. The one area that can have the biggest impact, particularly in not only easing symptoms but also in delaying menopause, is diet. What you put in your mouth every single day really matters, and it matters not only during menopause but years before you even go through the “change.”

So which foods are best? The advice is to eat a well-rounded diet, one that is chocked full of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. This will ensure you are getting adequate amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium and trace minerals, all of which can ease menopausal discomfort and keep your bones healthy. Omega 3 fatty acids can be another beneficial addition.

Here is a quick “eat this, not that” guide to get you going on a hormone-healthy diet plan!

EAT THIS

Vitamin A:
Carrots, red peppers, kale, winter squash, sweet potato (these tubers have estrogen-like effects when eaten), watermelon

B Vitamins:
Fruits, veggies, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy

Calcium:
Dairy products, plant milks, leafy greens, beans, nuts, tofu, broccoli

*Calcium absorption tends to decrease as we age. Be sure to get a wide range of calcium-containing foods in your diet. Don’t forget that in order to get calcium where you want it (in your bones!) it needs its cofactors friends for optimal usage. These nutrient buddies include Magnesium, Vitamin D, Boron, and Vitamin K.

Vitamin E:
Nuts & seeds (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds), spinach, avocado, butternut squash, mango, sweet potato, tomato

*This vitamin is critical as it stimulates the production of estrogen.

Vitamin C:
Oranges, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, pineapple, parsley, grapefruit, mango

Vitamin D:
Sunlight, fortified foods, sardines, salmon

*It is notoriously hard to get adequate amounts of this nutrient from food and sunlight, especially here in the northwest. In this rare case, a supplement is highly recommended.

Magnesium:
Nuts, whole grains, spinach, pumpkin seeds, figs, avocado, banana, chocolate

Vitamin K:
Dark leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, prunes, cucumbers, spring onions

Boron:
Beans, berries, sweet potatoes, figs, prunes, plums, avocado, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, nuts

*This trace mineral not only helps calcium get into the bones, but research has also shown it can help balance hormone levels and ease menopausal symptoms.

Manganese:
Whole grains, beans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, oats

Omega 3 fatty acids:
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, mussels, flax seed, chia seeds, hemp hearts, walnuts

NOT THAT

Here are some specific things to avoid for optimal hormonal support. I’m sure these will come as no surprise!

  • Sugar and other refined carbohydrates
  • Fast Food
  • Factory farmed animal meats
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Hopefully you have identified some foods you can start including regularly in your diet that you may not already be eating. On the flip side I think we all can all identify foods we should remove from our normal routine! Also, do note that many of the healthy foods are cross-listed, meaning that they have a host of important nutrients in them. Non-processed foods are a powerhouse of nutrition and may just be the extra boost you need to delay or alleviate those pesky hormone-related symptoms.

Zero Calorie Sweeteners: No Bueno Say the Experts

Once again non-nutritive or “artificial” sweeteners are making the news. New evidence shows that there are negative biochemical changes in the body in response to these low-cal sugar replacers.1

We already know that sugar has detrimental effects on our blood sugar, insulin, and waistline. It is common knowledge nowadays that sweets consumption should be lowered and kept to a minimum. In came, subsequently, those nifty no-calorie sweeteners that promised a similar flavor without all the unhealthy side effects. While initially regarded as safe and approved by the FDA, for some time now research has hinted they are not as benign as touted Now we have even more evidence that they are doing more harm than good.

In this new study, researchers took several groups of rats and either fed them diets high in glucose, fructose, or artificial sweeteners (aspartame or acesulfame potassium). Acesulfame is sold in stores at Sunnett or Sweet One, and aspartame is sold as Equal or NutraSweet. Both are currently approved artificial sweeteners by the FDA.

Within three weeks the researchers found discernable differences between the groups per blood samples collected. They noted that the artificial sweeteners appeared to change the way their bodies processed fat and energy overall. They also noticed that the acesulfame potassium accumulated in the blood and had a negative impact on the cells lining the blood vessels.

Bottom line? Don’t think that switching to artificial sweeteners is the answer. For one, how many thin people do you see walking around drinking diet sodas all day? They don’t seem to work. This study helps us understand why. Also, continuing to drink sweet beverages hinders one’s ability to acclimate to lesser sweetened beverages and foods. It keeps the sweet desire active, per say, and doesn’t solve the problem of cravings. In fact, it can make things worse by initiating an insulin response but, with no actual sugar entering the body, you end up with lower blood sugar and a “crash,” so to speak. The craving cycle continues.

The article ends by trying to answer the question, which is better? Sugar or artificial sweeteners? How about neither? My advice is to ditch sweet-tasting beverages altogether and switch to good ol’ water, the way nature intended.

But you hate water you say? If that’s you, think about some simple flavorings such as lemon, lime or other fruits soaked in your H20. Maybe dilute a favorite beverage half and half and keep increasing the water until you desire the sweet taste less and less. Drink club soda and lime if fizzy is your thing. There are ways to make better choices to keep these harmful chemicals out of your bodies for good.

In the end, if weight loss, blood sugar control, and heart health are your goals, artificial sweeteners have to go. Period.

If this seems unthinkable to you (and I realize for many it is!) come talk to me! I know we can develop a plan to get you enjoying less sugar and more healthy foods and fluids. And, summer being right around the corner, NOW is the time to do it!

1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423085440.htm

Exercise: Is it really less important than diet for weight loss?

exercise, diet, and weight lossI have been hearing for some time now that when it comes to weight loss, exercise is not king. Diet is paramount. I mean, the NY Times said it, so it must be true.1 To be fair, they cited many reputable studies in their report that seem to indicate exercise only goes so far in weight management. The amount you can burn in a single exercise session is easily erased by something as innocent as a second helping of dinner or a favorite sweet treat. Also for many, hunger increases after exercise and leads to overconsumption, thereby erasing or even worsening the calorie deficit they were striving for. I get it. I can see how exercise may not be the key piece in the giant puzzle of weight loss.

That being said, I have always had a nagging suspicion that exercise is more important than we think. We already know it helps for a host of issues other than weight loss, including mood/depression, cardiovascular health/blood pressure, blood glucose regulation, hormone balance, improved immune function, etc. People who exercise, on the whole, are healthier. Period. But I still had this feeling that given the right duration and intensity level, exercise has a key role in weight management.

Then this study popped up online2, giving us new insight into what might be going on with our metabolism when we exercise.

Researchers from Karolinska Institute in Sweden found mechanisms in mice by which exercise counteracted fat storage and decreased inflammation. A compound called kynurenic acid, induced via exercise, was the key.

To understand the big picture, backtrack with me real quick. Preceding this study, in 2014, this same group originally published that kynurenic acid in the brain, produced via exercise, supported improved brain function. Exercise produces a sound mind, they declared.

Building on that, they conducted this recent study where they introduced kynurenic acid orally in mice with the goal to reach all the tissues, not just the brain. These mice, while eating a high-fat diet that promoted obesity and elevated blood glucose, stopped gaining weight and in turn converted more of their white fat to brown fat, which is the type that is more metabolically active. They also had improved blood glucose control despite no change in diet.

The theory is that the kynurenic acid in the fat cells promoted this conversion from white to brown fat, while kynurenic acid in the immune cells enhanced anti-inflammatory properties.

These two factors, the increase in metabolically active fat and decreased inflammation, both assist the body’s ability to burn fat as energy and prevent excessive fat storage.

Sounds promising! Lace up those shoes! But then this begs the question, what type of exercise should we be doing to get this benefit?!? What is the magic formula? Running? Light walking? Pilates? HIIT cardio? Cross Fit? Yoga?

Unfortunately, this study does not lay that out as the kynurenic acid was administered orally rather than induced directly via exercise. A little digging, however, and another paper provided exactly that information: endurance exercise.3

Ah, I knew it! I had a suspicion that the time and intensity of exercise mattered. Quick and dirty workouts have their place, but nothing takes the place of a good ol’ get-your-heart-rate-up-for-a sustained-period-of-time-type workout.

What this study showed was that subjects undergoing sustained cardio, in these cases an hour or longer, produced high levels of kynurenic acid in their muscle tissue within an hour after exercise. Subjects doing exercise that involved shorter bursts of intense energy did not see these benefits.

So there you go. Cardio for the win, right? Well yes, mostly I suppose. I think the key takeaway is to remember cardio is important and has an important role in weight management, but don’t let that cause you to overlook the roles of muscle conditioning, toning and even plyometric-type activities to overall strength and health. Varying up your routine to prevent injury and strengthen your body overall is so important as well!

If you are now thinking about what kind of exercise is safe for you, let me put out a quick disclaimer here. I am no exercise physiologist. I work with food to help people lose weight, however, exercise is such a key piece of that puzzle. Also, I have been an avid exerciser since my early 20’s so I tend to talk about it frequently with my clients. That being said, if you need specific advice as to what is safe and appropriate for you to be doing, please consult with your doctor, a physical therapist, or even a certified trainer to develop a plan. My role is to educate that exercise is important. For tailored guidance, particularly if you have injuries or other limitation, see a professional!*

If you feel ok starting up something on your own, let me put out a quick plug for one of my favorite online workout websites, Fitness Blender.com. For approachable, achievable and FUN workouts, this site is the best. Run by a local Seattle couple, they have FREE online workouts for any fitness level and any length of time you happen to have available. I’ll be honest. We don’t always have time for sustained cardio, do we? These workouts can easily fit in your day, whether you have 15 minutes to spare or an hour.

The truth is, though, if you are really serious about shedding that weight for good, regular exercise needs to be a part of your routine.
So yes, do lace up those shoes and get moving because the evidence is clear: exercise, and specifically cardio, supports fat reduction. Of course, you have to watch your diet, too. =)

1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180206140630.htm
2. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/upshot/to-lose-weight-eating-less-is-far-more-important-than-exercising-more.html
3. https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpcell.00053.2016

*Always check with your doctor before starting any new type of exercise program. Should you choose to try something new, always start slow and always be aware of proper form. If in doubt, consult a trainer or teacher to master the fundamentals before increasing intensity. Basically, start low and slow to avoid injury!

Keeping those New Year’s Resolutions Going from January and Beyond…

Ok friends, it’s done and gone! If you were on a “diet” or had other resolutions you were working on in January…..you made it! The first month of 2018 is over. How did you do?

Maybe you have already achieved your stated goal (no alcohol for a month, for example) or maybe you are still working on it (such as weight loss), but either way, the long-term goal is to continue these new healthy habits in some form and sustain that progress through the year.

I know many don’t however. You know how I know? The parking lot at the gym grows suspiciously sparse all throughout February as people slowly lose motivation. Thanks for the parking spot though! And my calendar starts to book up in March, April, and May when well-intentioned resolutions don’t work out and people realize the summer months are closing in.

Don’t waste all that progress you made in January! Lifestyle change that produces lifelong benefits doesn’t just happen in a month. Sure, it helps reset your mind frame and sets new patterns in motion, but the work has to continue over the next months and even years. Here are a few tips to renew that motivation and hopefully help you avoid starting all over from square one again next January.

1. Asses and learn
Assess what you learned over the last month, and jot down what you learned from it. Likely you found out something about yourself that may be useful in planning for the following months. Maybe it was taking on too many changes at once. Maybe it was learning how to process new and unexpected emotions that resulted from changes in diet, exercising or thinking. Or maybe you saw that your lab markers really do respond favorably from healthier habits. Whatever it is, jot it down so that you remember this going into the next month.

2. Never beat yourself up
Do not let perceived failure derail your efforts. So many people let a day or two of backsliding take their entire set of goals off course. The ol’ mantra is “well, I already screwed up, so I might as well go all out.” Avoid this thinking! We all mess up, and that is unavoidable. Learning how to deal with perceived failure and pick yourself back up again is an incredible skill. It’s not easy, but refocus yourself and get right back up. Every day is a new day, thankfully, and a new chance to start over. Every time you do so, you are that much closer to where you want your mind, body and health to be.

3. Visualize
Every once in awhile, take some time to visualize what you see yourself doing, eating or being in January of next year. That time will come quicker than you think, and obviously you don’t want to end up in the same place repeating the same goals once again. Put a motivating picture up if that helps. Have a reminder set on your phone with encouraging words. Remind yourself in regular intervals of where you intend to be which should greatly increase your motivation to up in the daily work to get there.

4. Exercise
This may already be part of your goals, or lifestyle, so if it is, go ahead and ignore! But if not, I include this here because moving your body incredibly supports our mind. If our mind is functioning better, we are in the best state to do what is right for your health. Over and over studies show that exercise improves mood through the release of endorphins, reduces feelings of anxiety and depression and increases energy. These are all things we need to stay on track with new health goals. If our mind is in the wrong place, we face an uphill battle. Now I realize incorporating exercise can be a whole thing in an of itself, but think of it as a mind activity instead and make it something enjoyable. It could be a brisk walk, a Zumba class, or dancing in the living room with your kids. The goal is just to move. Daily.

5. Journal
Writing about your progress weekly can be incredibly helpful as you move towards a new way of living. My most successful clients are typically those that keep a running log of how they are doing week to week so they can not only track progress but pinpoint areas that need some fine-tuning. Often it’s only when we see our week in writing that we can objectively evaluate and make helpful changes that get us closer to our goals. You don’t need to write every day, but at least weekly is useful. You might want to track things like daily food and beverage choices, exercise, feelings/mood, digestive symptoms, etc. Whatever you are trying to change, start tracking it so you can visibly see that progress over time. It can be extremely motivating to keep the momentum going, or it can provide a checkpoint to make changes if things just aren’t progressing as anticipated.

Hopefully, these quick tips give you a few ideas to continue your New Year’s resolutions into February and far beyond. You have already put in a good 30 days of work…..don’t stop now!

Can Diet Calm an Anxious Mind?

foods to calm your nervesAnxiety. It’s a common ailment. When my clients list their medical history, anxiety is often on the list. It seems to be more prevalent than ever. Maybe we are now recognizing and diagnosing it more often, but it is not uncommon for a person of any age, even children, to report various levels of anxiety.

What is anxiety? Many confuse it with stress, but it’s actually more than that. Whereas stress is the body’s physical response in the moment to a situation, anxiety differs in that the physical response continues far after the situation is over. It is almost as if there is no switch to turn “off.” These physical responses can include increased blood pressure, excessive trembling or sweating, chest pains, insomnia, headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle tension, constipation and/or diarrhea, indigestion, and even rashes or what feels like allergic reactions. The physical manifestations clearly can be many and may cause harm to one’s body over the long term.

The levels of anxiety can be varied as well. I am not a psychiatrist so I won’t get too far into this, but it can range from general anxiety all the way to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

The first step to take if you feel you have anxiety is to talk with a mental health professional. That way you can find out where you are on the spectrum and hopefully even find out where the anxiety is stemming from.

Second, which is where I come in, is supporting your body through this process with proper diet. Studies have shown that specific foods can play a huge part in reducing overall anxiety and improving the body’s ability to cope and recover.

While a healthy, balanced diet is what we typically recommend, let’s break it down into specific foods you can choose to support your brain and mental health.

Foods to Calm Your Nerves

1. Foods high in B Vitamins: Many of the B vitamins are known to help with anxiety and mood. Some great choices include:

  • Green leafy vegetables (at least one large handful of raw greens daily is ideal!) Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens
  • Avocado
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts
  • Beets
  • Bananas

2. Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids: The Omega 3’s (DHA and EPA) we know are very beneficial for the brain and may do wonders for your mood. These are foods such as….

  • Seafood including wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies
  • Plant sources with pre-cursors to DHA and EPA include flax seed, hemp hearts, chia seeds, walnuts
  • High-quality fish oil supplement

3. Fermented foods: Numerous studies have shown that our gut microbes talk to our brain. Crazy, isn’t it? Supporting a healthy gut environment, therefore, is an important consideration for our mental health. Fermented foods include:

  • Cultured dairy products, such as high-quality yogurt (few ingredients, low sugar), kefir, buttermilk, cultured butter
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles and other pickled veggies
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Natto

4. Foods high in antioxidants: Inflammation can definitely put stress on our brains. Fight inflammation with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory foods. Antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, can also help increase the body’s production of dopamine.

  • Anthocyanins: blueberries, cherries, grapes, blackberries, pomegranates, red cabbage, purple asparagus
  • Vitamin C foods: Oranges, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, mango
  • Others: goji berries, dark chocolate, herbs and spices (especially turmeric)!

5. Hydrate!: While not a food, keeping up good fluid intake is so important! Dehydration increases stress on the body which can only exacerbate anxiety. While straight up water is a great choice, teas can also have a very calming effect on the body. Aim for 8 cups per day and even more if sweating excessively.

Foods That May Stress an Already Anxious Mind

While eating more of certain foods can be helpful, we also need to cut out those foods that are increasing stress on your body. These are likely nothing new to you, but they are good reminders!

1. Caffeine

Not everyone reacts adversely to caffeine, but if you are one of those who do, caffeine can definitely raise your anxiety level. Try cutting it out for awhile to see how you respond. On a personal note, someone in my own family did this recently and it did wonders for their mood and overall stress level!

2. Sugar

No surprise here, but sugar increases inflammation, raises blood sugar, and overall is harmful for your brain. Dial it back and choose naturally sweetened foods like fruit instead.

3. Gluten

For some, gluten can be very inflammatory and therefore impact your mood and well-being. Try taking a gluten vacation for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

4. Processed foods, especially fast food

Another no-brainer, but fast food and other highly processed foods are very low in actual nutrition and high in refined carbs, sugars and additives. Ditch the drive-through and seek out healthier alternatives.

5. Artificial sweeteners

A component of many processed foods, I single these out because they may be harmful to our guts and therefore impact brain health. Some of my clients have even reported headaches and other reactions from these sweet additives. Go for the natural sugar if forced to choose but in very small amounts.

6. Avoid any foods you are allergic or sensitive to

Some of you, knowingly or unknowingly, may be suffering from food sensitivity reactions. These reactions cause inflammation which can exacerbate stress and anxiety. If you aren’t sure which foods are causing you problems, an elimination diet can be a good first step. Seek guidance from an RD like myself to help tailor such a plan or dig deeper if the offending foods are elusive. For difficult cases, I like using MRT food sensitivity by Oxford Biomedical for decisive answers (www.nowleap.com).

 
Hopefully, this gives you a few specific food ideas to get started! Again I will reiterate that if you are struggling with anxiety, seek professional help. Don’t do this on your own. Along with expert advice, change up your diet to give your brain the support it needs!