Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eating While Under the Influence

No doubt you’re heard of driving while ‘under the influence’.  Well, as dangerous as this can be, because it implies that you’re driving while physically and mentally impaired, I would like to suggest that eating while under the influence is equally as detrimental.  However, the influence I refer to here has nothing to do with alcohol or drugs, but involves mental or emotional states that often require our attention and awareness, not food.  

Bestselling author Geneen Roth says “anytime we eat when we’re not hungry or continue to eat when we’re full, the food we’re putting into our mouth has no connection to the body.”  When we eat in response to situations other than hunger, we’re actually trying to feed an emotional hunger that will not be satisfied with a full belly, but if done habitually, could negatively impact our health.  

What are some of the situations I’m talking about?  Here are a few and how they usually play out:

Eating after a long day - You’re sitting in front of the television to numb out, inserting one potato chip after another or spoonful after spoonful of ice cream into your mouth.  You barely see what’s going in or taste what’s going down and you usually stop when your favorite show is over, or the container or bag is empty.

Not only are you not paying attention to what you’re eating when you eat while mesmerized on something else, like the TV or computer, you’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods that can pack on the pounds.  How often do we make ourselves a nice tossed salad and sit down to watch a movie? In addition, a long-term study that tracked over seventeen thousand Canadians ages 18-90 found a positive correlation between regular length of sitting time and mortality due to cardiovascular disease and cancers.  Combine extended bouts of sitting with eating unhealthy foods and you can understand how the risk for disease can increase.

Eating in response to stress, boredom, or sadness - The healthiest and most effective way to deal with our emotions is to bring them up to the surface and feel them.  Yet, many of us have are uncomfortable either expressing our emotions, or spending time with them so we’ll find ways to divert them.  Eating in response to our emotions enables us to suppress them - we stuff them further down as we fill ourselves with food.  I understand this all too well because I’ve been there many times.  The obvious consequences are that we don’t heal from the emotional trauma and we add potential physical stress to the body with excess food.   As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.”  When we experience our emotions head on rather than numbing or packing them away, we’ll emerge stronger and wiser.

Eating for hunger, but not paying attention - Okay, this one involves hunger and I am absolutely guilty of doing this.  Many days after my yoga class, I will eat an apple or drink a smoothie on the drive home.  Am I paying attention to the apple?  Not completely because I have to focus on driving, which means I’m missing out on the juiciness, sweetness, crispness, beauty, and smell of the apple.   Even though I may be hungry, I’m not receiving the full benefit from the food I’m eating and I may later forget that I even ate it.

If you frequently eat your meals while surfing the net or reading the newspaper, you may also lose track of what you’ve eaten and miss out on the enjoyment. What’s interesting is that when I’m home and I cut up an apple into wedges and eat it that way, I often don’t even need to eat the entire apple.   The few pieces that I do eat are enough.   To me, this says that when you’re more in tune with what you’re eating, you instinctively know when enough is enough.

If you treat eating as an event in and of itself, eat when hungry, eat slowly, and follow the cues of your body, you’re less likely to use food as something other than the pleasure and nourishment it’s meant to be.

Image courtesy of Ambro

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pick Your Poison

It’s become apparent to me based on the talks I’ve given and clients that I’ve coached that people are fascinated with the topic of sugar.  Even if the talk isn’t focused on sugar, it’s the subject on which we invariably spend the most time.  They want to know which sweeteners are the safest and healthiest to use. Why?  Because in general, we’re addicted to sugar and the thought of life without it doesn’t seem possible. 

Not that this seems unreasonable.  Consider the fact that we have sweet receptors on our tongues in the first place.  They must be there to serve a purpose.  Yet, since the 1800’s, our consumption of sweet foods and beverages has skyrocketed from 10-20 pounds of sugar per year per person to approximately 152 pounds.   With the epidemics of obesity and diabetes we’re experiencing now, and with the understanding of what sugar can do to the body, it’s clear that we’re eating too much for our own good. 

Of course, we often turn to sugar because it is an antidote when we are stressed out or wired.  It is an expansive drug that temporarily relieves the contraction we experience as a result of our fast-paced, overly scheduled lives.  But the more we rely on it, the more we rely on it.

My answer to those who ask which sugars are the best to eat is usually, “pick your poison”, because if you regularly consume any type of sugar, it will have a negative impact on the body.  However, since the interest is still there, here’s the list with regard to healthier options I usually give to my audiences.   My bottom line, however, is to reduce overall consumption.  The less of it you eat, the less you’ll crave it.

Coconut sugar - As a granulated sugar, it’s popularity is on the rise as a low glycemic sweetener (it’s GI score is 35 and it is evidently low in fructose) that is produced from the nectar of the cut flower buds of coconuts trees.  It is a good source of minerals and B vitamins and has a more complex flavor than brown sugar. It can be used one to one in cooking and baking.

Sucanat - This sweetener is a minimally processed version of cane sugar in the form of grains rather than the crystals of processed white cane sugar.   It has a strong, brown sugar taste.  It is also rich in minerals and can be used in place of white or brown sugar in cooking and baking.

Honey - Raw honey is a natural source of anti-oxidants and has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.  It is similar to sugar in that it contains both glucose and fructose and actually has 22 calories per teaspoon versus 16 for sugar.  To reap its benefits, it should only be eaten raw; therefore, it’s not ideal for cooking or baking. 

Real Maple Syrup - This sweetener is produced by boiling down the sap of Maple trees from a slightly cloudy, almost clear liquid to an amber syrup.  If you’d like to see a demo, please watch here.   Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc and researchers at The University of Rhode Island have identified 34 beneficial compounds, many of which possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  

Blackstrap Molasses - The product of the third boiling down of sugar syrup to produce sugar, black strap molasses is high in minerals including manganese, copper, iron and calcium.  It has a strong, distinctive flavor and is often used in baked beans and baked goods.

Brown Rice Syrup - Sprouted barley enzymes are used to break down brown rice’s carbohydrates to produce a sweet, syrupy product that is a good source of B vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron.  It’s low in glucose with the remaining carbohydrates coming from maltose and soluble, slow-release complex carbohydrates.  It can be used for cooking and baking. 

Stevia - A non-calorie, non-glycemic sweetener, Stevia is actually an herb whose leaves are 300 times more sweet than sugar.  Now widely available in the U.S., it can be purchased as a white powder or liquid drops.   The purest form is found as a green powder produced from the dried, ground, green leaves.  Look for this form in natural food stores or herbal shops.

Lakanto - Produced from non-GMO erythritol and the extract of a fruit called luo han guo, this is a zero calorie sweetener that has been used in Japan for over a decade.  Unlike other non-caloric, artificial sweeteners, it has so far been shown to be safe.  It is produced in granules, has a mild taste, and can be used one to one in replace of sugar.  It can be purchased online.

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith

Linda DiBella is a nutrition and lifestyle mentor who helps clients gradually change their diet and lifestyle habits so they can lose weight, eliminate their dependency on stimulants, have more energy, and improve their moods. She works with clients in person, over the phone, or Skype. For more information, visit her website at http://www.getreal4health.com or email her at getreal4health@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

Dairy - including milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., is a hot topic of debate and I’ve heard and read the very passionate views on both sides.  For those of you who have been consuming dairy on a regular basis all your life, the thought of giving it up may seem impossible, understandably.  My views and level of consumption have certainly changed over the last several years but they’ve been slow to come.  And although I’ve greatly reduced the amount of dairy in my diet, I still haven’t completely eliminated it.

We grew up having milk in glass bottles delivered to the house and left in the insulated, metal box we left outside the door.  Milk went into our cereal but interestingly, I never really cared for the taste of it, or even cheese (but loved ice cream!).   In fact, it wasn’t until I got older that I began to willingly consume milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt for the calcium and because I had finally acquired a taste for it.  It actually became a staple because I thought I was “doing the body good”.   That is not to say that I believe I’ve caused irreparable harm by consuming dairy, but what I’ve learned has prompted me to slowly reduce it to minimal amounts.

If you’re unaware of what all the debate is about, here are some the main points for you to consider:

Organic versus non-organic - Today, most non-organic milk is produced on a high scale from cows that are fed pesticide-containing grains (potentially grown from GMO seeds) and given growth hormones and antibiotics.  Organic milk, however, is required to be free of synthetic hormones, antibiotics GMOs, and pesticides.

Pasteurization - Heating the milk to kill potential pathogens also destroys the milk proteins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that could otherwise help the gut digest the milk.  Raw milk, on the other hand, retains its full spectrum of benefits.  In fact, some people who are intolerant of pasteurized milk can comfortably consume raw milk; however, it’s not easy to come by and in the United States, it’s regulated on a state-by-state basis.

Nutritional Value - Milk from grain-fed cows is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are typically high in today’s diet.  It is also fortified with vitamin D2 rather than D3, which the body does not assimilate as well.  Milk from grass-fed cows has a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Calcium and bone density - Interesting here is that despite the fact that dairy is naturally high in calcium,countries that consume high levels experience higher rates of osteoporosis than countries that consume little or no dairy.  Is this because of what they are consuming or what they are not consuming?  For example, do people who typically consume more dairy products eat less calcium-containing seeds and vegetables than those who avoid dairy?  Many also believe that the calcium from plants like green leafy vegetables is more easily absorbed than calcium from dairy. And finally, there is some question as to just how much calcium we need on a daily basis and that our levels of additional nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorous, silica, vitamin D and K are additional, important factors to consider along with exercise for healthy bones.

Cancer - there is also the belief, backed up by lots of research that dairy in the diet can feed cancer due to the presence of a number of growth factors that can promote the growth of cancer cells.  However, there are also studies to show that some fats in the same milk can inhibit certain cancers, suggesting that drinking skim or low fat milk can actually promote certain forms of the disease, like prostate cancer, more readily than full-fat dairy.

Lactose and casein intolerance - While people of Northern European decent are generally better able to tolerate dairy due to a genetic mutation (~ 75% of the population), a high percentage of black, Asian, and Native Americans cannot digest lactose.  In addition, the strain of cow from which the milk is produced can play a role in how well the milk is tolerated.

In general, most mass-produced milk comes from cows whose milk has an A1 form of beta-casein that, when digested, releases a protein fragment called BCM7, which is believed to cause most of the intestinal distress and joint pain experienced by some people who consume dairy.  If you get your milk from a local farmer, ask them if they raise A1 or A2 cows - milk from A2 animals doesn’t cause this problem.  Goat’s milk is similar to A2 milk so it may be better tolerated too.

There are also ethical and environmental issues as well with regard to how cattle are raised and the strain they place on land, water supply, and air quality that I won’t delve into here.

If you are someone who can tolerate dairy and have no intentions of eliminating it from your diet, I would like to offer some tips for consuming it in a more healthful manner:

  • Rather than get you cheese fix from the pizza delivery guy, add some feta or goat cheese to your salad or wrap.
  • If you have your daily “fruit-on-the-bottom” yogurt, mix some unsweetened Greek yogurt with a bit of honey or real maple syrup and some walnuts or almonds and fresh or frozen berries.  Make it chocolate by stirring in some unsweetened cocoa powder.
  •  If you’re adding milk to your morning oatmeal or cold cereal, opt for organic (or if you’re adventurous, try raw) whenever possible, even better if you have access to a local farm.  Or switch it up occasionally with almond or hemp milk. 
  • Serve raw cheeses with your crackers, grapes and vegetables at your holiday party

If you suspect that dairy may be the root of some of your health issues, eliminate it for at least two weeks and then slowly introduce it back into your diet and closely monitor how you feel.  Ultimately it’s your own body that should be the last authority on what you eat.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images 

Linda DiBella is a nutrition and lifestyle mentor who helps clients gradually change their diet and lifestyle habits so they can lose weight, eliminate their dependency on stimulants, have more energy, and improve their moods. She works with clients in person, over the phone, or Skype. For more information, visit her website at http://www.getreal4health.com or email her at getreal4health@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Inconvenience of Conveniences

Isn’t it Ironic?  With all the modern day technology and conveniences available to us today, designed to make our lives better, we’re getting heavier and sicker.  It seems what we’re saving in time we’re paying for with our health in the form of excess weight and the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer.  It’s hasn’t been the best tradeoff. 

I have days where I’m sitting at my computer for many hours and I begin to feel sluggish and grouchy.  It’s not surprising since too much sitting can lead to muscle atrophy, a sore back, slow circulation and less oxygen to the brain, and a depressed immune system.  My body actually craves movement on those days and I will even work standing up.  My dad keeps saying that we should go back to the horse and buggy.  While I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon for so many reasons, in some ways, it’s exactly what we need to do.  

Not that I would want to turn back time to those days, but I do believe that slowing down as well as getting back to using our bodies more vigorously on a regular basis are two practices that would greatly enhance our overall health.  Because this is probably the most exciting time to be alive in history, imagine how much better conditions would be if everyone were healthy and vibrant.  Today, more than ever, we really do know how to make that happen.  However, it’s not about a magic bullet that will instantly fix everything.  Like anything else worth having, it takes work.  

You may be thinking, I can’t get to the gym and I don’t have time for a workout.  So how can you incorporate more movement and muscle work into a somewhat sedentary day?  Here are some ideas:   

Park further away from the building  - We often rush to find great parking spots, but think of parking further away from the office of grocery store as an opportunity to get some exercise.  In fact, I’m always thankful that I can walk the distance so I welcome the walk and make it deliberate by standing tall and moving with energy in my step.  This is a good opportunity to focus on breathing deep as well. 

Take the stairs - I was at a hotel not too long ago where several hundred of us were using the elevators at the same time throughout the day.  On top of it, they were slow, so a few times, I climbed the 21 flights of stairs to my room.  Not only did I save time, I felt great when I got to the top.  Maybe 21 flights is extreme for some people, but even one or two flights will give the legs a workout.  Here’s a tool for finding out how many calories you can burn climbing stairs based on your weight, height, and age. 

Chop and grate veggies by hand - One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to chop vegetables.  Maybe that sounds strange, but it’s actually fun for me.  And hand grating vegetables like beets, carrots, jicama, and zucchini for recipes is a quick but effective workout for the arms and shoulders.  Balance your workout by switching hands halfway through your veggies. 

Get up from your desk every hour - If you’re working a desk job, you’ve probably experienced fatigue and brain fog that can come from sitting all day.  At least once per hour, stand up and go for a quick walk for some water or to use the rest room.  So some simple stretching and do some shoulder rolls to reset your posture and increase the flow of blood to the brain.  If you can, work standing up for some time too.  When I do, I'll even work my lower legs by alternating between standing on my toes then leaning on my heals and lifting my toes off the ground.  This is also a good time to give your quadriceps a stretch by bending one leg at a time at the knee and grabbing your foot from behind.  

Work your muscles while watching television - If you’re in the habit of sitting in front of the TV at night, why not combine it witha workout?  Because we lose muscle mass as we get older, it’s important to incorporate resistance work into our days to maintain it.  Keeping a high percentage of muscle also allows you to burn more calories at rest and it encourages fat loss.  Pick up some hand weights and do bicep curls and shoulder presses while sitting in a stable upright position, or stand and work your legs with lunges and squats.  The added weight will increase the resistance.  Here are some tips on how to choose and use weights properly to avoid injury.  

If you’re in the habit of sitting long hours, consider any opportunity to get up and move as a chance to work your body.  Come up with you own methods for moving and working your muscles even if you can't carve out time to hit the gym.  The more you do, the better you’ll feel.  

Image courtesy of digitalart

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Skinny on Fats in the Diet

After talking about body composition last week and how a high percentage of body fat can poorly influence overall health, I decided it was important to clarify the role of fat in the diet.  If you’ve been confused about what type and how much fat to include in your diet, you’re not alone.  Yet one thing is certain:  after many years of being told to avoid fat because it will make you fat, we now realize that fat is absolutely necessary as part of a healthy diet, and if eaten sensibly, will help to keep you lean and looking and feeling good. 

In general, our diets should include approximately 20 – 35% calories from fat.  So for example, in a 2,000 calorie/day diet, this would amount to 400 – 700 calories.  At 9 calories per gram, this converts to 44 – 78 grams of fat per day.   If that sounds like a lot to you, consider why fat is so important in the diet: 

  • It’s a source of concentrated energy
  • It is a major structural component of cell membranes
  • It’s a source of insulation
  • It’s necessary for healthy skin and nails
  • It slows down digestion
  • It’s needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients
  • It keeps our vision strong
  • It’s involved in cell signaling
  • It’s a major component of the central nervous system and necessary for proper brain function

As you can see, fat wears many hats in the body and it’s important to include it in some form at every meal.  But what kinds of fats should I be eating, you may ask?  In general, we need a combination of saturated fats, unsaturated (mono- and poly-) fats, and essential fatty acids in the diet.  

Although we’ve been led to believe that saturated fats lead to elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease, in his extensive study of primitive cultures, Weston Price found that saturated fat was an integral component of a number of diets supporting excellent health, development, and vitality.  This includes the addition of animal fats in the forms of butter, eggs, full fat dairy products, and the fats from animal tissue.  However, with our relatively sedentary lifestyles today, I recommend that they be eaten in small amounts.    

Still, many others believe that only unsaturated fats should be consumed.  However, high consumption of polyunsaturated fats, which are more unstable than saturated fats, in the forms of commercially available oils, such as corn, safflower, and soybean can lead to inflammation in the body that underlies diabetes, heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders, and premature aging.   Therefore, these fats should be used sparingly too. Hydrogenated, or trans fats, often found in processed and packaged foods are another source of unhealthy fat that can promote inflammation. 

To make fat part of a healthy diet, consume foods that already contain healthy fats since they are naturally protected in their whole state.  These include nuts, grains, legumes, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables, and clean sources of meat.  Butter, ghee, grapeseed, and coconut oils have high smoking points so they are great for sautéing.   The benefits of extra virgin olive oil are preserved when used at low heat.  A high quality olive oil works well for drizzling on foods, in dressings and as a dip for breads. Nut and seed oils are also best used unheated as a condiment on vegetables and grains.   Here are fats to include by category:

Saturated Fats:
  • high quality or organic dairy products such as fermented yogurt, kefir, or raw cheeses, organic butter
  • eggs from pasture-raised chickens than were fed organic feed (antibiotic- and hormone-free)
  • grass-fed, wild, organic meats and poultry raised without hormones, antibiotics, or grains produced with pesticides
  • unrefined coconut oil
 Monounsaturated/polyunsaturated fats:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • high quality canola oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds and their oils
 Essential Fatty Acids:
  • ALA (omega-3) - flax, walnuts, hemp, tofu
  • LA (omega-6) - sunflower, pine nuts, pecans, brazil nuts, sesame oil
  • EPA/DHA  (long-chain omega-3) - herring salmon, black cod, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, halibut, herring, small amount in poultry and egg yolks, algae
 Image courtesy of m_bartosch 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does This Diet Make Me Look Fat?

Today in the United States, ~35% of the adult population is considered obese and this number is expected to reach 50% by 2030.  This is a sobering statistic.  Even more worrisome is the rising rate of obesity among children and the potential for early onset of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  In the health survey I sent out a couple of months ago, 100% of the people who responded said they wanted to lose weight.   As much as total body weight is an important factor that determines overall health, the number staring back at you on the scale only reveals a small part of the picture.

To understand what’s not found in this number, let’s consider two people of similar body frame and weight who have lost a similar number of pounds. Suzie lost most of her weight in the form of fat and now has a body composition of 22% fat and 78% non-fat mass (muscle, bones, etc.).  Sarah, on the other hand, lost most of her weight as muscle and has a body composition of 35% body fat and 65% non-fat mass.  Both of them may look similar in size, but their bodies are functioning very differently biochemically.

The diet Suzie followed allows for a slow release of sugar into the blood stream and the pancreas to release insulin in a slow but steady manner.  Her cells are highly sensitive to insulin, which allows them to take up sugar easily.  Her cells are also efficiently producing energy and she maintains healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as hormone balance, which further supports healthy cell function.  She is energetic, well rested, can think clearly, and has good mood balance. 

Sarah’s diet causes her pancreas to rapidly release excess and unhealthy amounts of insulin.  Her excess body fat is likely in the form of visceral adipose tissue, or VAT, which accumulates around the organs and acts as an endocrine organ itself, dumping excess hormones and inflammatory molecules into the blood, leading to hormone imbalances and inflammation throughout the body.   The inflammatory signals weaken the insulin receptors on her cells, making it difficult for her cells to take up the sugar in her blood, so energy production is poor.  Excess sugar in her system increases triglyceride levels, and Sarah’s body composition raises her risk of high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2-diabetes.  Although Sarah is thin, she is metabolically fat and may also be suffering from low energy, depression, digestive problems, unexplained aches and pains, skin problems, hormone-related disorders, and more.

HOW you lose weight is just as important as how much weight you lose.   A healthy balanced diet along with supplementation, exercise and stress reduction versus fasting or crash dieting combined with unhealthy food choices, stimulants, and a sedentary lifestyle make all the difference in how you feel, and look, as you lose weight.   At the conference I attended last week, I met a woman who had lost sixty-five pounds on one of the popular already-prepared-foods diets, but when her body composition was analyzed, she discovered that she had an unusually high percentage of body fat!  The information immediately gave her the incentive to change her diet and lifestyle to improve her body composition.

Stay tuned, because after the holidays, I will be launching a three-week program designed to help you make changes to diet and lifestyle that your body, mind, and spirit will love!  

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Food and Lifestyle are Information for Your Genes

For most of us, when we think of the health and nutritional qualities of food, we think of calories, vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  Science, however, is demonstrating that food and even lifestyle, are offering far more information to our bodies than energy and nutrients.

Plant genetic material can regulate mammalian genes. For example, a recent study conducted in mice showed that when the animals were fed rice, a small, very specific piece of genetic material called a miRNA found in rice actually prevented the expression of an LDL receptor that works to lower LDL in the liver.  This made LDL levels go up.  Both plants and animals have miRNAs that regulate their own genes, but this study demonstrated that they work across species.   In fact, the researchers originally found the rice RNAs in both human and mouse blood samples.

What does this mean?  Although much more research needs to be conducted to understand which miRNAs from which types of foods can regulate mammalian gene expression, it suggests that the food we eat is affecting our health from multiple levels and vantage points.  I’ve said before that we haven’t even begun to understand all the benefits of eating whole foods and this supports that idea. 

But gene regulation doesn’t only involve food:

Dieting-induced stress affects future eating and can induce binge eating.  In support of stress as a contributing factor to the negative effects of yo-yo dieting (also known as diet cycling), another study in mice measured the stress response in mice that had previously been fed a restricted diet.   Compared to mice fed normal mouse chow, the calorically restricted mice had increased basal levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, exhibited a higher rise in response to stress, and took longer to recover from the stress tests. 

In addition, the diet deprived mice displayed epigenetic changes (i.e., changes in their DNA) for genes involved in regulating stress that were not reversed even when they were allowed to eat a high fat diet.   And during a 10-day period where they were exposed to stress, the dieters consumed a significantly greater amount of high fat food compared to the mice that were allowed to eat normally.

Imagine, after dieting for several weeks, coming home from a stressful day at work and eating too much of a heavy cheese pizza or devouring a pint of Haagen Dazs.  If you’ve been feeling deprived, this study suggests that you’re more likely to do that on a regular basis and that you’ll be more sensitive to stress overall.

Another study that examined yo-yo dieting in mice also showed that mice who alternated between high fat and low fat diets throughout their lives ate 20% more when given the low fat food than the control mice that were always fed the normal, low fat diet. 

This suggests that chronic dieters consistently eat more even when not put under stress.

Remember, ultimately, diets don’t work, not because you’re a failure and you have no willpower.   Any feeling of deprivation will ultimately backfire, which is why, for losing weight, the best alternative is to slowly make changes to your eating habits and lifestyle that provide pleasure and feel right.

And as much as you can, base your eating plan on whole, intact foods rather than processed foods with lots of additives, since the real gold from the food-based ingredients has likely been removed. 

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Productivity Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing

by Ciara Conlon

The word productivity on the outset may appear like a word reserved for the business community, but the reality is that productivity can be a benefit to each and every one of us. We all need to get things done and if we can organise ourselves in such a way that we get what we need to get done efficiently, quickly and with the least stress possible it can improve our quality of life, our health and our wellbeing.


Modern life is full of responsibilities, demands, hassles and frustrations. If you find yourself regularly feeling overwhelmed or with too much to do, you are likely to suffer from stress. Stress can make you feel angry, irritable, or withdrawn, different people respond in different ways. Long term exposure to stress can be very serious and people can suffer from reduced immune function, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stokes and many more.

It is important to learn how to manage and control your stress. Learning how to organize yourself better can help you to take control of your life and get things done. Here are some of the things that I do when my life is demanding:

1.     Clear the Clutter

Decluttering involves clearing your life and your space of all the unnecessary items in your life. It helps to clear the mind and make way for greater things to come. Organizational Expert Barbara Hemphill describes clutter as postponed decisions. A clean environment allows you to feel more in control, fosters creativity and greater focus to name but a few of the benefits.

2.     Reassess Goals

When you have too much to do it is easy to get confused about what is highest priority. Redefining your goals will help you with this. Whether you work for yourself, for an organisation or simply need to organise your home life. Having goals or knowing the goals of your organisation will help you to decide what you should be working on. A question I often ask myself when I get side-tracked by different ideas and projects is the following: “What one thing if completed this week/month/year will make me the happiest?” This helps me to decide what I need to work on next to make this happen.

3.     Organize and Schedule Work

“If you fail to plan you plan to fail” Remember these words of Peter Drucker, what gets scheduled gets done. If you don’t already do it, get yourself a diary or use an online calendar such as Google Calendar. By scheduling your work and planning your tasks you will feel more in control of your life and your work and you are much more likely to get things done.

4.     Exercise and Healthy Eating

When Richard Branson was asked at an interview what his number one productivity tip was he replied “Workout”. Regular exercise improves the mood by stimulating brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. Exercise can also decrease stress hormones like cortisol.

To learn how healthy eating can help you be more productive check out this article by Linda How Productive is your Diet

Taking on board these tips will help you to take control of your life, and stay healthy and stress free.

Good Luck!

Ciara Conlon is a personal productivity coach and author. You can read more from Ciara at her blog Productivity and Positivity (Getting things done with a smile) or sign up for her free eBook Clear the Clutter Find your Life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Toxic Are You?

Unfortunately, the question these days is not, “Are you toxic?”,  but “How toxic are you?”  Today, there are ~75,000 chemicals that we are potentially exposed to on a daily basis.  Most of these were not around thirty years ago.  They can be found in our air, water, food, soil, cleaning products, personal care products, clothing, furniture, building materials, cooking materials, cell phones, computers, and the list goes on and on.

The majority of us have toxins that have built up in our bodies since the moment we were conceived.  Whatever toxins your parents were exposed to likely went into the sperm and egg that initiated your development and this continued in the womb with the toxins your mom took into her body.   Both my parents smoked and my mom smoked when she was pregnant for me, so from the very beginning, I was exposed to the chemicals found in cigarettes. 

In fact, in 2005, the Environmental Working Group conducted a study on 10 randomly collected umbilical cord blood samples and found a total of 287 chemicals.  One hundred and eighty of these are known to cause cancer in humans and animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth or developmental defects in animals. 

In addition, in 2009, the Centers for Disease Control published it’s Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals in which it tested 212 compounds and found them all in the blood and urine samples of most of the participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 

What did they find?  Here is a short list of the most prevalent compounds:

Mercury - in seafood, pollutant from coal power plants, industrial processes.  Causes brain development and functional problems.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers - flame retardants in furniture, computers, TVs.  They accumulate in the food chain and fat tissue and can cause damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys, as well as sexual dysfunction, thyroid problems, and brain disorders.

Bisphenol A (BPA) - this compound has been widely talked about lately and is found in polycarbonate-type plastics, like water bottles, the linings of food cans, some cash register receipts, plastic dinnerware, and even toys.  It has weak estrogenic activity and influences reproductive development.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - think of Teflon on non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, food packaging and even some light bulbs.  It can lead to liver and immune system dysfunction as well as infertility and reproductive issues.

Acrylamide - produced by deep-frying and charring starchy foods as well as from smoking.   It is also carcinogenic.

What’s interesting about this list is that although some of these compounds have nothing to do with food, they still wind up in our food chain, suggesting that one of the main ways we’re exposed to them is through our diets.  I didn’t even mention pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, artificial colors, etc. 

We are literally bombarded by chemicals on a daily basis, and at some point our livers can’t work fast enough or well enough to neutralize and clear them. 

What are some of the symptoms that indicate your body burden may be off the charts?

General aches and pains
Brain fog, memory problems
Problems with balance or tremors
Ringing in the ears
Vision problems
Difficulty losing weight
A depressed immune system
Digestive issues
Skin problems
Lifestyle diseases such as type II diabetes or cardiovascular disease

This is why it is so important to eat the cleanest diet possible if you want to stay healthy, energetic, and in a positive state of mind.  This means, buying organic whenever possible, especially the foods from the Dirty Dozen list, eating a whole foods diet that minimizes added chemicals, and drinking clean, filtered water. 

And for those of you that feel you may need help clearing your bodies of excess toxins, I offer a 10 or 28 day detox through Metagenics that will help you to cleanse without going on a strict fast.  In fact, if you want to eliminate toxins from your body, fasting is not recommended at all because you will not be supplying your body with the correct nutrition it needs to clear the bad stuff.   If you want to know if a detox is right for you, contact me.

In the meantime, understand that keeping your diet clean is one of the best ways to ensure that your body can safely handle eliminating unwanted chemicals without getting overwhelmed.   If you’re kind to your body, it will be kind right back to you…

Linda DiBella is a nutrition and lifestyle mentor who helps clients gradually change their diet and lifestyle habits so they can lose weight, eliminate their dependency on stimulants, have more energy, and improve their moods. She works with clients in person, over the phone, or Skype. For more information, visit her website at http://www.getreal4health.com or email her at getreal4health@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of digitalart

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Halo Effect

Beware of the Halo Effect.  This is a term that I came across by health expert JJ Virgin when she was talking about health food stores.  In this article, it refers to several situations centered on food that can sabotage your healthy eating habits.   For example:

If it’s sold at a health food store, it must be good me.  Well, I’ve been to a number of natural foods stores that have entire aisles devoted to crunchy snack foods like potato or corn chips, pretzels, and crackers.  Are they any better for you than what you would find at your local grocery store?  Maybe, and if so, only slightly.    

Why?  Because they’re still snack foods that tend to be made with starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, or flours made from ground grains, added sugar and salt.  And for the most part, that’s it.   The nutrient value is low, but the tendency to overdo it on them is high.  You know the old saying for Lay’s Potato Chips: ‘You can’t eat just one…’

What’s healthier about them?  They are sometimes made with organic corn or potatoes, and slightly healthier oils like sunflower.   Crackers may be made with organic, whole grain flours and use alternative sweeteners to high fructose corn syrup.   The key with any of these snack foods is to eat them occasionally and in small quantities.

Because it’s good for me, I can eat as much of it as I want.  Overdoing anything, even water, can have detrimental affects.  But let’s look at a food like organic almond butter.  Yes, it’s made with organic almonds with no added unhealthy fats or sugar.  But just two tablespoons can have 190 calories and 16 grams of fat.  If you’re putting a thick layer onto your toast or regularly eating it out of the jar with a spoon, you will easily pack on the pounds. 

As much as I don’t agree with the concept ‘a calorie is a calorie’, calories do exist and they do count.  Even an apple has calories and they can add up when you don’t pay attention to portion size.  No matter what you’re eating, more will mean more calories and not necessarily more benefits.  

Because it’s got healthy ingredients in it, it’s all good.  I think of this concept as the ‘Good by Association’ factor.  The other day, I was at Starbuck’s having a Tazo Vanilla Rooibos tea and I picked up one of their ‘Nutrition by the Cup’ brochures.  It lists nutrition data for their beverages.  They have four Tazo latte drinks listed.  A tall Tazo Green Tea Latte with 2% milk has 260 calories versus their Full-Leaf and Full-Leaf Red Tea Lattes that both have 150 calories.  What’s the difference?  The Green Tea version has an additional two grams of fat and sixteen grams of sugar. 

Would you suspect the huge difference when choosing between the three?  I sure wouldn’t.  And if I didn’t know, I would probably go with the green tea drink, thinking it was healthier.   Their Chai Latte fell between the two groups.  And by the way, my vanilla rooibos tea, which I enjoy without anything added, has zero calories.  

The bottom line is that you must be a diligent food detective when choosing your meals, snacks, and beverages.  A restaurant salad may be perfectly healthy until the heavy dressing full of sugar is added and a fruit smoothie advertised as ‘made with real fruit’ may have unhealthy and maybe even unnecessary ingredients lurking in the cup. 

To me, being picky about the contents is even more important than worrying about the calories, because when you choose the right foods, the calories will naturally take care of themselves.   Of course, this leads to the misguided concept that more is better.  When it comes to food, more is simply more. 

Our bodies only need and can only handle a predetermined amount of fuel and nutrients at any given time, depending on our genetics, our metabolism, and our level of activity.  These values are unique for each of us and it takes trial and error to figure this out.  Giving it more than it requires, no matter how good it may be, will only lead to storage, i.e., added fat.  And nobody wants that…

Photo courtesy of digitalart

Linda DiBella, Ph.D., is a Holistic Health Coach who helps her clients to make diet and lifestyle changes that help them lose weight, increase their energy, eliminate their cravings for unhealthy foods, sleep better, and reverse disease naturally.  Get her free report, "Have you got the guts? Why gut health is so important to overall health".