Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Fat-Free' or 'Fat-to-Be'?

Ok, cheesey title, I know. But the sad part is, it's TRUE! I hear it from all of my clients when they come in for their first appointment. They want to make a good impression so they rave about how everything they eat is "fat free" but they struggle with sugar cravings and are hungry all day. This is usually the first big hurdle I tackle with clients; getting them to have a healthy relationship with FAT. Yes, delicious fat. The natural part of food (not processed trans fats) that makes it taste good, keeps you full for hours, gets rid of sugar cravings, helps to balance hormone levels, cholesterol levels, and even.......body fat levels! YEP, I said it. You need to EAT FAT to BURN FAT! TRUST ME!! I get some crazy looks from people when I tell them they need to eat more fat. But think about this; how many people do you know that are eating a low fat diet and are happy, full of energy, have glowing skin and hair, and are never hungry?! Um, not too many I'm sure (if any at all). I have yet to see a client gain fat by eating more fat. It's true. Now, that's not to say you can have lots of sugary desserts, it's to say ENJOY things in their natural state. If chicken has skin, eat it, if yogurt has fat, eat it and if an egg has a yolk...EAT IT. Stop being scared of food that's natural and good, just as it should be. Does it really make sense to eat a 100 calorie snack out of a factory box over snacking on a chicken leg and some avocado? I don't think so. Start enjoying your food and discover what it's like to be satisfied, devoid of cravings, and energized.

What's your favorite way to get your healthy fats in your day? I love love love avocado and coconut oil (not necessarily together)....and will put them on everything. Since living in Australia, I've been missing some really good guacamole, so let's just say that will be my first stop when arriving back in the US. Mmmm!

Cheers to FAT!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stress Less to Weigh Less!

Stress: We all have it, we all know it, and it will always be part of our lives. However, we can choose how we let stress enter our lives and affect our health by the choices we make and mindset we hold. If you're trying to lose weight, it is almost impossible not to stress over the foods you are eating. Rather than adding another element of stress to our already stressed lives (work, traffic, lack of sleep, school, finances, relationships, etc) it may greatly benefit your health to STOP STRESSING over what goes into your mouth or onto your plate, and begin to see food as more than a stressor and cause of your weight gain. In order to obtain the full health benefits from our food and effectively lose weight, we need to begin to see our food as nourishment and fuel for our bodies.

If you are someone that stresses over every little thing you place into your mouth, it's quite possible that even though what you're putting into your mouth may be inherently healthy, it may not provide you with all its health benefits simply due to the physical and mental state your body is in when (and even before) the food is consumed. Let me explain....

Effect of Stress while eating:
  • Increased blood sugar during, and hours after, the meal
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased insulin response due to the blood sugar rush
  • Increased fat storage into cells from insulin surge
  • Blood sent to muscles and away from digestive organs, decreasing digestive function and efficiency
  • Possible decrease in digestive juices
  • Less nutrient absorption
  • Decreased immune function (possible contribution to food sensitivities/allergies)
  • Increased cortisol, which inhibits leptin, the hormone responsible for controlling the appetite (in other words, this hormone response can actually increase your appetite)
  • High levels of cortisol can cause fat to be deposited deep in the abdomen, which not only increases your waist line, but also your risk for disease
Benefits of Decreasing Stress Before Eating:
  • Increased blood flow to digestive organs, enhancing digestive function
  • Greater nutrient extraction from foods consumed
  • Enhanced leptin response = decreased hunger
  • Decreased cortisol production
  • Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Possible decrease in bloating, IBS, and constipation
In order to decrease the potential negative effects of eating while stressed, I recommend the following:
  • As much as you can, avoid eating in a stressful environment or on the run (while driving, while standing, etc)
  • Begin to see food as nourishment for your body and soul, rather than seeing it as the enemy
  • Buy organic, natural foods that contain more energy, nutrients, and enzymes
  • Take 5 deep belly breaths before digging in to your snack or meal
  • Take a minute to be thankful for the food you are eating and the nourishment it will give you. When you respect what you put into your body, the benefits are far greater.
  • Give yourself a break; you can't be "perfect" all the time. Forgive yourself if you make a dietary 'slip' and keep charging forward.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A New Way to Read a Food Label

To avoid the confusion associated with trying to read and decipher all of the numbers on a food label, try this: don't do it! Seriously. We can find all of the valuable information related to how a food will effect our overall health by skipping over the calories, fat, and calories from fat sections and going immediately to the ingredient list. It won't take long to learn what belongs in a food, and what doesn't. Here are some clues:
-If you don't know what an ingredient is, it doesn't belong in your food
-Generally, if there are more than 5 ingredients, avoid it
-If there are added colorings, preservatives, and/or flavorings, put it back
-Avoid most things with Canola Oil, or other processed (and toxic) oils
-Avoid anything with added sugars
-Shop for things that don't need a label. SIMPLICITY is key! Our bodies are meant to eat things that come from the earth, not laboratories or factories.

So really, stop fretting over the numbers on a label. And, if you must read the label, key into these few numbers:
-Sugars (lower is better)
-Fiber (higher is generally better)
-Protein (higher is better)

You'll drive yourself mad trying to keep track of numbers all day. Instead, begin to focus on the QUALITY of the food you're eating. Eat organic, fresh, whole foods. It's hard to overdose on the things that nourish our bodies and souls.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Deconstructing Cravings

Is a craving good, or bad? Can a craving really tell you what your body needs? I've seen many articles attempting to address this exact question, and I always feel like they leave much to be desired. There is much more to a craving than many of you may know.

As with anything, there is no clear cut or easy answer for this one. But what I can tell you is this: as nice as it would be to think that a craving can tell you exactly what your body is deficient in, is exactly that; a nice thought. Unfortunately, most all of us are living in an environment that has made it difficult to decipher true cravings vs. false cravings. We've learned to tune out our own body's intuition by attempting to follow the guidelines of the Government's Food Guide Pyramid, or the latest trend in nutrition. All the while, leaving out what's most important; individuality! I will repeat this over and over again, each of us are as unique as our fingerprints, inside and out. We can't each do what our neighbor down the road is doing and expect to have the same results. We need to wipe the slate clean, and start afresh, with a new perspective and new awareness for who we are and what our body needs.
So, let's talk more about cravings. A true craving would be something similar to thirst. A false craving would be something similar to only being able to think about ice cream (we've all been there).

A true craving is something which is controlled. For example, if you feel like your body needs something more salty, you add a pinch or two more of Himalayan sea salt to your meal, and the craving goes away, that's an indication of a true craving. You listen to your body's signals, you respond in a controlled way, the craving goes away, and you feel more centered and alert.
A false craving involves less control and virtually no will-power. A false craving would be wanting a piece of cake (or any food) so bad that you can't concentrate, you will do anything, even cancel appointments, to get it. And once you do succumb to the craving, you scarf it down as fast a humanly possible, and you feel like you have no control and could easily eat copious amounts. After the indulgence is through, you feel fatigued, bloated, foggy headed, and irritable. False cravings are usually related to food sensitivities, or feeding of a bodily weakness. In this instance, a craving is definitely not something we want to give into, but usually do, due to the overwhelming power false cravings have over us. See the difference? We must be clear on what type of craving we're talking about in order for it to be deciphered.

An important contributor to these true or false cravings is the gut-mind connection. Many diets revolve around will-power and not giving in to cravings. This so-called "will-power" is highly related to the gut-mind connection and most of the time, has quite less to do with the mind itself. Rather than focusing on "will-power", we need to be focusing on what is causing the craving. There are more nerve cells in your digestive system than anywhere else in your body. This gut-mind connection must be working optimally, and your hormones and digestive system must be in balance in order to know what true will-power feels like; rather than having it be a battle of fending off cravings. At the point when the body is in true metabolic balance, cravings are no longer a struggling battle. You simply won't desire things that are inherently bad for you, and you won't have to struggle to make good choices over "bad" choices. And when you do have a desire for ice cream, you are able to have a few spoonfuls, feel satisfied, and continue on. This is the power of the gut-mind link. If it is not working properly, you will struggle with cravings.
Hormones, digestive function, bacterial levels, etc. are all prime players in the craving game. In order to rid yourself of cravings permanently, you need to assure all of these pieces are in place. Otherwise, you'll be fighting an uphill battle with no likely end in sight.

It is only once you have rebalanced your gut function and body chemistry that you will be able to experience a true craving. And when you do, you will be amazed at the difference, and proud of your body for being so in-tune with its needs. This true craving will appear as a subtle hint, or a gentle nudge; not so much of an uncontrolable pull, and really, not even a craving at all.
So take note of what your body is telling you, and how you are responding. A craving is not just a craving. Every signal your body gives you is an important one.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Love.

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you just can't get things right? Are you harder on yourself than you would be towards others? If you're like most people, you spend far too much time thinking about what's wrong with yourself and the environment around you, and very little time thinking about the things you do like. It can do wonders for the mind and for the health when we focus on the good things in our life; the things we love. If you find yourself struggling to be satisfied with where you are at in your life, or in your journey towards healthy and inspired living, try this exercise, I guarantee it will spin your thoughts right around:

With a friend or family member, take turns saying "I love...." You can say whatever pops into your head at that moment. For example, "I love the Mountains during Summertime." Repeat this as many times as you like until you've said all you want to say, and you feel peace and calm settle in. When we take time to really acknowledge the things that we have in our lives and the things that make us who we are, the world seems to be a much better place, and suddenly our tasks and goals don't seem so insurmountable, while fretting about something as trivial as a "Calorie" appears quite insignificant. If you want to make this a more personal exercise, simply spend a few minutes in the morning or before bed writing out the things that you love.

Try it! When we release stress and worry from our lives, we bring in opportunity for health and well-being.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Journey

Fitness. Nutrition. No two words make me happier. They are my passion and my heart. I've taken every step I can to make them a part of my life, and a part of others'. I was a dancer, a marathon runner, a yoga and Pilates practitioner, a weight lifter, a spinner, and a super healthy eater. I was happy and healthy. Three years ago, I was finishing up two Master's degrees and had pushed my body and my energy to the max. I was a super strong spirit, and respected my body and health, however, something still went wrong. I gained 15 pounds on my petite frame, my face and body became puffy, my thoughts became foggy, and I was tired. No more late nights studying, no more ensuring I was 100% prepared for my exams, presentations, and work, and a month before I was preparing to run my 4th marathon, I developed asthma. It was at this point my body and spirit started breaking down; the two things I thought were my strongest allies. Over the following months my mood changed, I was anxious, unhappy, and indecisive. I became unsocial and isolated myself from friends and colleagues. I would have to nap during the day, I couldn't speak clearly or articulate my thoughts, and I developed the most horrible muscular pain that I had to stop exercising. Over the course of 2 years, I had developed food sensitivities to almost everything except for meat and vegetables, I felt like I had a swarm of bees flying around in my head at all times, I was always nervous, and I lost all energy and passion that I had ever had.

After Autoimmune Disease, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and about 6 six additional diagnoses, I still wasn't feeling relief and hadn't received the answers I was looking for. I was frustrated that I couldn't fix myself, if anyone could, it should be me. So, here's where it all began. I studied, and studied, and did certification after certification in holistic nutrition and functional medicine, and was able to provide myself with some relief. I began to unravel the pieces and find answers to WHY this was all happening. I wasn't interested in the name of what I had, or the diagnosis. That wasn't what was going to get me better. I had to find the root cause; I wanted to know why I had certain symptoms and diseases, because that's how I was going to get better.

Through this journey I have come to know the body better than I ever thought possible. And I am not so naive to think that something as "simple" as an equation can tell us how much we should be eating and how hard we should be exercising. The body is much too smart and complex for this. And it is even more important to realize just how different each of us are. What may be causing symptoms for me, may not be what's causing symptoms for you, and what works for me may not be what works for you.

If you stop at the symptoms without searching for the cause, you will never reach your true potential. Dig deeper, and stop counting calories! It's the road to feeling and looking your best, I promise!

No More Counting Calories.....REALLY!

As a health professional and nutritionist, clients come to me wanting numbers, amounts, weights, and exact measurements. They want some fancy formula to identify exactly how much they need to eat in a day, a week, a month, and a year, in order to lose a very precise amount of weight in a very specified amount of time. They want to know exactly how much time they should spend on each type of cardio machine, at what intensity, where their heart rate should be, and how many calories they should be burning. They want to know that "calories in = calories out".

If only that's how "simple" it were. Having completed a Master's degree in Nutritional Sciences and Exercise Physiology, I am all too familiar with the scientific equations used to devise exact exercise prescriptions and diet plans. The trouble is, we're not laboratory-operated beings. What happens in a laboratory may not be what's happening in our bodies. We are far too complex of beings for that to be the case. You, not the laboratory or fancy scientific equations, are the best scientist for determining what your body needs, when it needs it, and how much it needs. This is a fact, and it is exactly why I started this blog; to show you how to discover what your body needs. Your body's signals are more precise than any laboratory experiment; the key is learning to listen to the cues of what your body is telling you.

By tuning-out media and advertisements, and tuning-IN to your body, you will never need to count a single calorie ever again. Through this blog, I will teach you how.

I'd love to hear about your experience with counting calories, negative or positive. Post comments and questions below! Let's chat about it!! :)