Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Natinal Nutrition Month: Healthy Drink Choices for Weight Loss Success

In honor of National Nutrition Month, yesterday we talked about ways to drop 15 pounds in a year by cutting empty calories out of our diet pretty painlessly.

You may be wondering what you should drink instead that won't be filled with those empty calories.

I've said it before, but the absolute best thing to drink is good, clean, pure water. It is truly the only liquid the human body needs (as opposed to what we want!) We can live quite a long time without turns out most of us could actually live for a couple of weeks without food--even though we sometimes feel like we are going to die without it after just a few hours. But water? Although there are reports of some people living through earthquakes and such and surviving for a week without water, most people will die after just 3 days without water.

I filter my water, which saves me money over buying bottled water and I don't use a lot of plastic bottles that way either. If you still can't drink enough water, add just a splash of 100% fruit juice to your glass of water. I start my day with lemon juice in water...I love the taste and find it refreshing and energizing. Keep in mind that all fruit juice (even 100% juice) contains sugars. Choosing 100% fruit juice ensures that there is no ADDED sugar, but fruit itself has natural sugar in the form of fructose. This is easier for your body to absorb, but if you want to lose weight successfully you want to be aware of all the sugars you are ingesting. Have most of the fruit you take in be in the form of you also get all the fiber (which helps you feel full) and other good stuff that fruits have to offer!

Tea is another good choice because it is mostly water. Your risk of having a heart attack may be reduced by as much as 11% if you drink 3 or more cups of tea every day. Green tea may be better for us than black, but the most important thing about drinking tea is to take it without sugar or milk, especially without milk. The beneficial element found in tea is called "catechins" (pronounced cat-ih-kins) and these are made less active when combined with the proteins found in milk.

And coffee (black) is not the evil thing that we had heard about in the past for most of us. In fact, a cup or two may also have some health benefits including reducing your chances of developing colon cancer, Parkinson's disease and type 2 diabetes.

If you are used to drinking soda, you may want to wean yourself away from it...especially if your drink choice has been loaded with caffeine. Otherwise you may suffer from withdrawal, including headaches, fatigue or the jitters. Replace one serving at a time with water to help flush out your system. Don't rely on diet drinks--they may not have calories but they have their own set of problems and can actually hinder successful weight loss!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

National Nutrition Month: Ahh Sugar, Sugar

March is National Nutrition Month and so it is a good time to revisit a nemesis those of us who are overweight or have struggled with our weight: sugar. Specifically, liquid sugar.

One of the easiest ways to lose weight permanently, naturally and safely is to reduce the amount of sugar we consume...and one of the easiest ways to do that is to forgo soft drinks.

I'm not in favor of saying you should "never" eat or drink something but sodas are best put on a list of items we extremely rarely ingest.

A single can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar!!! But sodas aren't the only culprit. We may think a high-energy drink or sports drink would be better for us...or iced tea, fruit juice or lemonade...but we'd most likely be wrong. Quick flip that can or bottle over and see what makes the list of ingredients. If it reads high fructose corn syrup, sugar, or other sugars and/or syrups it is pretty much the same--sugar that adds unneeded calories to our bodies.

While you are looking at that ingredient list, take a look at the number of servings in that can/bottle. You may be surprised to find that single can/bottle is actually more than a "single serving"...that is just one of the ways that manufacturers get away with misleading the consumer into thinking they are taking in fewer calories, less sugar/fat/etc.

When I was a kid we sometimes were traveling to countries where drinking the water was not safe and therefore we drank sodas. Fortunately, we don't have that problem much in the USA, and if your tap water is bad either temporarily or long-term, it is usually possible to get excellent water locally--a quick drive to the grocery store.

Still, in the USA, 47 gallons of soda per person was consumed in 2008. Some of us aren't doing our that means most people are probably drinking more than 50 gallons of the stuff a year. That would be about a gallon of soda a week per person! With sugar consumption like that it should be no surprise we are a nation of overweight people with attention problems!

If you drink just one soda a day at roughly 150 calories per soda, that is a total of 54,750 calories of pure sugar. And a pound is equal to about 3500 calories. That means by eliminating just that one soda from your diet every day you could theoretically lose 15.64 pounds in a year--without changing any other habit!

But if the fact that soda has no nutritional value and only serves to make us fat isn't enough, it also increases our risk for diabetes and heart disease. So focus on loving yourself enough to be healthy and reduce the amount of sugar you drink this month...and start a trend you can live with...and have weight loss success with!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fast Food Spoils Weight Loss Success

OK, you may have seen the movie Super Size man's quest to demonstrate how fast food restaurants contribute to obesity and overall poor health in this county.

Well, recently a study was done in Sweden that seems to confirm the findings. In this month-long study, thin young adults ate two of their daily meals at a fast-food restaurant.

At the end of the month, these Swedes weighed in at, on average, 12-15 pounds more than when they started!

Weight gain was not the only health issue, the subjects also became more insulin resistant. This could mean that they are heading towards diabetes.

Admittedly, the participants also reduced the amount of exercise they did for that month, so it is not just eating the fast-food that did it, but it certainly was a part of the equation. And don't think that ordering a salad is the solution--many of the fast-food salads have as much fat, calories and salt as a burger and fries.

Just imagine if these thin people gained 15 pounds in a month...if you have a fast-food habit, think what you could lose!

The best bet for weight loss success--limit, not eliminate--fast-food meals if you like them. Eating more fresh produce, fewer fried foods, and dropping the soda (regular or diet) habit will help you to achieve your health goals.

It isn't about putting fast-food off is about being aware of what we are eating and making conscious choices about what we put in our bodies. Reaching for foods that fuel our bodies in the best ways...allowing our brains to think and our muscles to be strong. Having a burger and fries once in a while isn't going to make you fat...but it appears eating this way on a regular basis can.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is Bariatric Surgery the Easy Answer to Weight Loss Success?

Bariatric surgery is a catch-all term. It includes any type of surgery that is conducted as a way to lose weight. Is surgery the way to lose weight successfully? Is it, as some derisive people claim, the "easy way out?"

Personally, I don't believe there is any magic "bullet" that will result in weight loss success...I don't think there is an "easy way out" and I don't think there is any one solution that is perfect for every body. We are all unique, we have different bodies, different lifestyles, different temperments and different health conditions.

And I've known a few people who have had weight loss surgery. I'd say it is anything but easy.

One type of surgery is "Lap Band"...which is done through an incision through the abdomen so it is less invasive than other surgeries. The concept is that people will have to eat less at a sitting because of the silicone band that is placed around part of the stomach. It is adjustable...and can be replaced if needed. This is a newer type of least here in the United States.

Supposedly more effective, but more invasive, is the Gastric Bypass surgery. There are actually many different types of Gastric Bypass, but in any case the surgeon physically changes the stomach and/or intestines, allowing for less room for food.

Weight loss from these surgeries can be quite dramatic. We've seen famous cases like Al Roker and Carnie Wilson...some with great results and others who seem to struggle.

The truth is, there are risks with any surgery...and bariatric surgery is no exception. There is a very real risk of complications, including death, from the surgery itself. Post-op complications include blood clots and the lovely condition called "dumping syndrome" which can be nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by food moving too quickly through the system.

The literature will tell you the only way to ultimately reach your ideal weight--and to have permanent weight loss, is to watch what you eat and exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic weight loss success requires permanent changes to your lifestyle.

Easy? Hardly. Short cut? Maybe, maybe not.

I know I considered surgery at one time in my life when I didn't think anything else would work. I felt like I had tried every diet and exercise plan out there without success. So I am not about to criticize anyone for deciding to go that route.

Is it necessary? Is it a good idea? The right choice? I can't say...that is completely up to the individual to decide. But I do know that it is not magic...the surgery alone will not solve the problem...especially not if you eat for emotional reasons!

Personally, I'm glad I didn't have the surgery when I thought about it. I wouldn't have been ready emotionally for it and I don't think I would have been a long-term success. And how frustrating would that be to go through the surgery only to gain weight back.

No matter what option you choose for your weight loss journey, be sure that you mindset is right. Work there first. Make sure you learn to express your emotions rather than eating through them. These skills will allow you to achieve your healthy, slender body...whether you do that by counting calories, by surgery, or by deciding to Refuse to Diet like me!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Spring Green Weight Loss Tip

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Although spring is not quite yet official, things are greening up and it is a great time to freshen up our plate with beautiful spring produce.

So you might be having Corned Beef and Cabbage tonight, but be on the lookout for greens in all sorts of shades this time of year.

When possible buy fresh organic produce that is locally grown. That is what is best for our bodies...and for the planet. It isn't always possible to eat locally grown foods, and depending on your climate that time may be a ways off still.

No matter where you are though there are probably some foods that are appearing on your grocer's shelves that you haven't seen in a while. Some of my favorites are asparagus...this is the time of year that it is young, tender and a real bargain for the meal budget...sugar snap peas and snow peas are all apt to be more plentiful this time of year.

One of the things I like best about buying locally grown produce is how fresh and crisp everything is...but especially how full of flavor. Foods that are trucked or flown in just can't be picked as ripe and still make it to the grocer and then our homes.

Enjoy the subtle flavors of spring...and taste the difference between vegetables that are picked when ripe and those that are picked early. Not only are spring vegetables delicious, they are nutritious, low in calories and high in fiber--and are perfect for eating raw. This makes them a great quick snack.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Exercise Tip for Weight Loss Success: Stretch It Out

When I say to stretch it out I'm not contradicting myself about not needing a long workout...I'm talking about stretching out your muscles.

One of the biggest mistakes people make, especially as we get older, is we think we can just exercise without stretching. This is a way a lot of injuries happen. And injuries can keep us for exercising at all...which definitely inhibits weight loss success...and besides, they don't feel good!

So warm up your body before you exercise, and also cool down when you are finished.

What makes a good warm up and cool down? That is going to vary depending on the level of activity you are going to be doing and they type. In other words, if you are going to swim for an hour, you need a different warm up then if you are going for a walk around the block.

For your stretch, focus on the muscles you will be using during the workout. In other words, if you are going for that walk around the block, stretch out your calves...probably not as critical that you stretch your arms and back. If you are doing a longer walk, or more of a power walk or hike then be sure to stretch your arms and back lightly as well...get your whole body loosened up because you will be moving all those muscles.

If you have a particular area that has been prone to injury in the past, spend a little extra time stretching it.

Once you have stretched, start your activity at a gentler pace for a bit and then pick it up. This is your warm up period. If you are just starting your fitness routine, you may only get through a warm up--for now! That's okay. Start where you are right now...keep at it, avoid injuries by stretching and you will be amazed in a couple months when you look back at the progress you have made.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Exercise Tip for Weight Loss Success: Mix It Up

While it is important to find exercise that you enjoy and that feels good for you, it is also important to mix it up.

You want to eat a variety of foods because you can't get all the nutrients your body needs from eating the same thing over and over...besides, eating the same thing every day would get boring.

Similarly, you want to move your body in different ways in order to achieve the best health. You don't have to become a body builder or be able to swim like Michael Phelps...but mixing it up will allow you to be the best all-around YOU possible.

If you like to walk, mix that up by putting on some tunes and dancing. I do it at home with the blinds drawn ;-) but it is pretty amazing how it works our bodies differently. Even though you think you are mostly using the same muscles--your legs--you will find that you are using some different ones, or stretching those muscles a little differently.

If your exercise routine is to ride the stationary bike, you might try a real bike. Not only does it feel different on your legs, you get a different sense of freedom on the road than in the gym.

If you find your workouts are really active, take a class in T'ai chi or one of the other martial arts...or check a DVD out of the library and follow along. Or try yoga...for some good stretching and a different experience.

If you always workout on your own, try something with a workout buddy. Sometimes have a friend to exercise with can be just the ticket. Maybe it is one person or a group...maybe a class...or even a personal trainer...just having someone else there sharing the experience and the health goal can be fun.

Be willing to experiment...will there be exercises that you don't enjoy? You bet! But you might just find something else that you do like. Be could be jumping rope or swinging a hula hoop. By mixing it up, you will use more muscles which will result in better fitness overall, and help reduce injuries. You'll also prevent boredom!

Make it a goal to try one new form of exercise this week--and let me know what you did!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exercise Tip for Weight Loss Success: Choose What's Right For You

Continuing on yesterday's theme of the best exercise for losing weight is the one you will do, it is important to try different types of exercise--and pick a couple things that you enjoy.

It doesn't really matter what your high school P.E. teacher told you was the best exercise. It doesn't matter what your siblings, spouse, or friends like to do. What matters is what feels good to YOU.

Some types of exercise are better for building our endurance...these are things that bring your heart rate up for a long period of time. This could be walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming, skating, dancing...even cleaning can fall into this category.

Other types of exercise are better for building up our muscles for strength. Weight training does not have to literally mean going to a gym and pumping iron. "Weight training" can be accomplished at home with little or no real exercise equipment. You can use your own body weight and things that you have around the house--like canned goods or bottles of water--instead of weights.

Gaining health doesn't have to take tons of time or money. Find something that you enjoy doing, and start small. Do what feels good for your body right now...realize as you drop weight and get in better shape your tastes might change!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Exercise Tip for Weight Loss Success: Start Small

The best exercise for weight loss is the one you will do.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is true. You will lose more weight doing 5 minutes of something you love to do then you will pledging to workout for an hour every day.

Start small.

I subscribe to the "one jumping jack theory" which is based on a fitness study done years ago. It actually tracked the results of two groups of people. The first group committed to doing a single jumping jack every day. The second group committed to a daily one hour work out.

Guess who lost more weight over the period of the study? Yep...those jumpers!

A lot of the people who made the big commitment just couldn't keep it. Hmmm...that sounds familiar...but that would be another blog entirely. So rather than doing a partial workout, they just didn't do any workout at all. Kind of the "go big or go home" mentality.

On the other hand, it was pretty easy to get in a jumping jack. You don't even have to put on any workout clothes if you don't want to. And after doing one, what's another one...and another...and how about a push up or two.

Interesting, isn't it?

So start small. Commit to something that you absolutely, positively can do. And then do it.

Once you have built that small activity into your life, you can bump it up just a little bit more.

Is this going to give you 6 pack abs overnight? Heck no! But it just might keep you off the weight loss roller coaster ride of up and down the same 10 or 20 pounds!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weight Loss Success, a Big Sweet Tooth, Depression and Cravings

I had to write more about the recent study I read that showed a link between a preference for sweet tastes and depression and/or alcoholism. (If you haven't read yesterday's post, then you might want to read that before you read this one.)

This study really struck a chord with me...I know that one of the reasons I packed on pounds was because I chose to eat rather than face and express my emotions. And I know I am not alone in that department.

I've also been learning about how important it is to keep our brain chemistry balanced in order to function at our best. By keeping our hormones balanced we are less apt to go into depression...and, is it ironic that we also suffer from fewer cravings?

One of the reasons we eat sugars...whether that is actually sugar in the form of sweets, ice creams, cookies, candy, or sugars in the form of simple carbohydrates like pasta, bread and the because they make us feel good. At least in the short-term. Generally when we grab that feel-good food we don't think about--or don't care--about the consequences...that we are going to have the sugar crash later. Some of us just keep eating the sugars so we never have to feel the crash.

I don't know if I reached for treats to soothe my feelings because from early on I recognized that it felt good...or if there was some genetic switch that got triggered that caused me to crave them more and more. Which came first? Did one cause the other?

What I do know is that relying on foods to help me get "high" did not help me in the long run. Not only did I not learn how to deal with my emotions, I also got fat...and on top of THAT, I had the privilege of feeling bad about myself because I thought I had no willpower...that I was weak.

I do not believe that this study indicates that some kids are destined to become fat, or alcoholic, or depressed. I believe that we have so much more power over our lives than that. Does it mean that we might have some challenges that other people don't face. Sure...but that does not to limit us, nor does it have to identify us.

Perhaps we can use a preference for sweets as a flag...if I want something sweet, is it possible that I have waited too long to eat healthy foods and therefore my brain is simply sending out a signal that it needs sugar? If I prefer to eat something sweet when I am sad, this could be an indication that I need to get more serotonin, or dopamine or endorphins...the "feel good" chemicals our bodies love and what are other ways to get those chemicals? Exercise is one way.

We can't just stop eating...we have to eat in order to live...but we don't have to live to eat....on the other hand we don't have to constantly deprive ourselves to be thin--cuz that is no life!

If we have a mindset that we are predestined to be fat, or that we always crave sugar, or that we have a problem with food...or whatever message we have gotten about food and our long as we have that mindset, we will have a real challenge to losing weight.

So don't beat yourself up for liking sweets...don't chastise yourself if you have a dessert (and Heaven forbid, you actually enjoy it!)...instead, shift your mindset. Learn to think like a naturally thin person. Start to believe that you can eat and be healthy. Know that you can be aware of what you eat and when you eat...and that you can consciously make a decision about whether you want to make that choice today, this minute.

Dieting is hard because it only addresses the food...the calories in and out. Changing our eating habits is more about our mindset than the actual food. And changing those eating habits is much easier to do when we change our thinking first!

Decide that you CAN eat healthily...and that you deserve health. Know that you FEEL so much better when you fuel your body with healthy foods...foods that nourish you. Come from that perspective and you will find a big reduction in your sugar cravings and a big reduction in your waistline, too!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Having a Big Sweet Tooth is a Big Weight Loss Challenge

Having a big sweet tooth is a big weight loss challenge. We know that eating sweets isn't in our best interests...but they taste soooo good. We are constantly being bombarded with the message that we have to not eat sweets if we are going to lose weight successfully. So why is it that everything that tastes good seems to be bad for us?

What a lot of people don't realize is that it is completely natural for human beings to like things that taste sweet. This is something that is part of our evolutionary makeup.

You see, one of the ways people used to know if it was safe to eat foods was by taste. Things that taste sweet were generally safe to eat. It seems our bodies had a built in defense mechanism against toxic foods--that tasted bad.

We don't need to rely on taste buds for our safety in that way any more--thank goodness. And it seems that some of us prefer sweets more than others. I wondered why that might be. After all, not everyone is a chocoholic.

A study done recently by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia links a preference for sweetness with depression and alcoholism. The study is not suggesting that because a child likes sweets they will become depressed or an alcoholic as an adult. It just showed a correlation between children who exhibit symptoms of depression and/or have an alcoholic family member and a preference for very sweet tastes.

Nothing was conclusive and raised many questions in my mind. For example, is the preference for sweet tastes something we have from birth? And if it is, is it because of the "food" we got during the gestation process? Is the preference for sweet tastes due to hormonal imbalances? Do we put our bodies into a hormonal imbalance if we eat more sweets, or do we eat more sweets because of an existing imbalance.

Interesting food for thought...none of it is to say that we are victims here. We do have control, we make the choices...but what if learning the causes for these preferences helped us to feel like we were "okay"...or if it helped parents with their kids so we had fewer obese/depressed/alcoholic children and future adults out there?

Can we have a little sweetness in our lives...without feeling destined to be fat for the rest of our lives? And can we enjoy a sweet tastes without becoming depressed? After all, a "little spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"...

Maybe it just depends on the size of the spoon! (Save the shovel for yard work!)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Losing Weight Successfully Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

Losing weight successfully is not something to be taken is something to be taken seriously, but you should have some fun, too!

But it is a challenge...and for many people getting support is an important part of the weight loss success equation.

A recent study by Amy Gorin, assistant professor of psychology at University of Connecticut found that it is more than just cutting calories and exercising more. The success equation includes making small changes that support your health goals.

One of the changes in Gorin's study included eating meals on smaller plates. We've talked about that before--how our plates today are so much larger than "in the olden days" fact our current plates won't even fit in antique cupboards!

Another change is watching less television. Why? Because, well, 1. it is don't burn many calories parked in front of the tube, and 2. we frequently eat when we watch television.

A third change is to enlist help and support from friends and family. This can work, but you have to be clear what kind of support you want. Don't leave it up to your friends or family members to guess what kind of help you are looking for. And certainly do not expect them to know what you need. You have to figure out what you want and then be willing to ask for it.

In some cases, the best support may be for them to just leave you alone. Our loved ones usually have our best interests at heart, but that doesn't mean that we want them watching every morsel we eat.

If announcing to the world (or even just your family) that you want to drop a few pounds is stressful for you, then that might just not be the right answer for you. It is my experience that until I was ready to make changes in my life, and doing what is right for my health--for ME, not for anyone else, then it didn't really matter who I told my goals to...or how many people I told. The only thing it did was force my eating to go underground. Ice cream eaten in secret is still ice cream eaten.

So get support--that's great--be willing to ask for it, and for exactly what you want. Do you want someone to help remind you that the food at the party is loaded with calories? Or do you want someone to walk with you? Or, do you want someone you can call when you have a craving? Or, do you want all those things? It is possible to enlist the help of a variety of people and have them each help you in a unique way.

I love having someone I can walk with...someone who will help me to remember to get away from my desk, enjoy some fresh air. Otherwise I could work all day and night. I also like having someone who encourages me to express my feelings so I don't feel the need to push them down with food. But I definitely don't want to feel like someone is watching every bite of food I eat, and I don't want someone who is going to count calories/carbs or fat grams. I want people around me who are positive, who help me keep a positive mindset...but who allow me to be me and don't expect me to be "perfect" or deprive myself and never have desserts!

What kind of support do you want? Let me know what kind of help you appreciate and what "help" you'd rather not be offered.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eat for Optimum Brain Function and Weight Loss Success

When we are trying to lose weight we often count calories...not something that I do any more, and I don't suggest it as part of my Refuse To Diet program...but it is still a very common thing for folks to do.

One of the reasons I don't suggest you count calories is because losing weight is not simply a math equation! If it were, then we would definitely be able to count our calories and know we are going to lose weight.

Another reason to not focus on calories alone is because it is important that we have good food in order to function our best. If we only look at the calories, there is no guarantee we will be getting good nutrition for the calories. It can be really tempting to eat some of the pre-packaged "100 calorie" snacks...which are basically empty calories...or to eat "diet" foods which may actually be high in sugar or high in fat (depending on how they are defining "diet") or may have artificial sweeteners which can increase our carbohydrate cravings.

Not eating enough can create low energy, brain fog and actually hinder our weight loss success...not only because we don't feel good, but also because we will more than likely break our diet. In fact, it can lead to a big binge!

In order to lose weight and operate at peak efficiency it is important that we have eat enough calories. Eating enough calories keeps our bodies and brains fueled so we are less apt to go on binges, have big crashes later in the day, or suffer from the brain fog that dieters face.

Eating the CORRECT foods is also important...not just the calories.

Contrary to what a lot of dieters think, it is important to eat fat in order to lose fat. It seems illogical, but it is important to help us feel satisfied, full, get our brains and organs the fats they need...and to help our skin looking and feeling good.

Make sure you eat enough healthy fat...things like avocados, olive oil, walnuts and fish. Limit the saturated animal fats and avoid trans-fats--those hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils which are in so many packaged foods because they extend shelf life, but add absolutely no nutritional value for us. There is evidence that not only do they not provide nutritional value, they can actually be detrimental to our health.

So while I'm not big on putting foods on a "bad" list, trans fats are on the top of it!