Cutting through the Fat: Weight Loss/ Healthy Eating (Part 2)

So you’ve read Part 1 of our weight loss clinic series, and now you know so much more about calories; how many are in foods you eat, how many LESS you need to ingest to lose weight. Great! But now you need to come up with an actual game plan to enhance healthy eating.

Like I said before, I’m definitely not here to endorse a particular fad diet. But the end of the day, all diets have something in common: tips on what to eat LESS of, and MORE of. Many diet plans can be super-restrictive (for example, although I know people who’ve been successful on a Paleo diet, I’m very wary of a plan that endorses a lot of red meat, and eliminates healthy foods like legumes). For people that don’t want to be on a DIET, but want to know how to to eat HEALTHY (which should naturally help cut calories), these are 4 things you can do.

EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS: That is, non-processed 1 ingredient foods you can look at and tell what it is. Example: an Apple is a whole food. An apple pie is not. Old-fashioned rolled oats is a whole food, Quaker Oats Fruit and Cream oatmeal packets are not. Following this rule will naturally lead to eating more fruits and vegetables, and maybe then you’ll get your recommended 5 servings a day. Honestly, if you just follow this one rule, and eliminate processed foods from your diet, you’ve already won half the battle.

EAT LESS RED MEAT/ PROCESSED MEAT: As a lover of beef and bacon this pains me to say. But the more I read the data that processed meats are known carcinogens, and red meat probable carcinogens. , the more resolve I feel about cutting back. Note how I said “eat less” and not “stop eating”. Just because I know cutting out altogether is hard, since these types of meat are staples in many cultures. I don’t know if there is a safe minimum amount of meat, but I would personally aim for once or twice a month at most.  My personal goal is to totally eliminate red meat from my diet in 2018. Let’s see how it goes…

STOP DRINKING YOUR CALORIES: Seriously, the amount of hidden sugar in juices and sodas is incredible. And thanks to smart marketing, many people think that a glass of Snapple Ice tea is healthy compared to a Pepsi. What if I told you that Ice tea has as much sugar as a pack of Milk Chocolate M&Ms? If you’re serious about losing weight, juices and sodas have to go. Yes, even no-sugar added orange juice. Just eat the orange instead, and get the added benefit of fiber!

CUT DOWN ON REFINED CARBOHYDRATES AND SUGARS: Very few diet plans don’t include this recommendation, and there’s a simple reason. Refined carbs and sugars are the devil. I generally don’t like to vilify an entire group of foods, but the vast majority of unhealthy foods contain loads of sugar and refined carbs (i.e.processed so the whole grain is no longer intact). I’m talking white rice, white bread, white flour. When you remove the whole grain, you remove the beneficial fiber and other nutrients, so it’s basically empty calories with a high glycemic index. Hello, high blood sugar!! Hello, inflammation! (remember my article about this?) Hello, metabolic syndrome!

At the end of the day, we can argue all day long about what it means to have the healthiest diet. Certainly, I haven’t weighed in on the healthiness of poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, healthy vs unhealthy fats etc. These are all worth digging into later on for sure, but I truly believe that following those 4 tips alone is sufficient for losing weight, cutting down your risk of chronic medical diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipemia and a host of other benefits.

What do you think of the weight loss clinic so far? Any other topics you’d like to read about? Let me know, and tune in for part 3 (Reviewing your Food Diary, common Pitfalls!). Oh and don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page 🙂 

[small disclaimer: this post is about eating healthily, and includes weight loss tips for those that need to get to a healthy weight. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you have medical conditions or take medications] 

Kicking off the New Year Healthfully

There’s nothing like a New Year to encourage us to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the year behind us. Personally, my reflections usually start sometime after the fourth trip to the work break room, which is permanently stocked with the delicious crap I counsel my patients to avoid. I like asking my patients what their New Year’s resolutions are, just to see where their head is at. Typical responses are to : exercise more, stop smoking, get down to their ideal weight. Sometimes it’s as profoundly simple as ” I just want to feel better” .

People also like asking doctors for tips on high-yield things they can do to be healthier, feel better and live longer. Read on for some evidence-based tips for a healthy 2018!

 

1. REDUCE INFLAMMATION IN YOUR BODY:

We are learning more and more that inflammation is being implicated in almost every major chronic disease. From the plaque that builds up in our arteries and cause cardiovascular disease, to chronic pain, to various cancers. This a major topic that surely deserves its own post, but for now check out these evidence-based links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150807092555.htm

So how do you reduce inflammation? Eat more anti-inflammatory foods, exercise, and rest.  

2.  TASTE THE RAINBOW

Make your plate more colorful… and I’m not talking about red velvet cupcakes! A simple way of ensuring you’re eating healthier is to enjoy a diverse range of colors in every meal. Green zucchinis, red apples, yellow squash, orange carrots…the color in fruits and veggies come from the awesome nutrients they provide. Nutrient deficiencies are rampant in the typical Western diet and can cause a range of ailments like fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps and memory problems. So if you want to feel more energetic in 2018, make your meals more nutritious!

3. GET OFF YOUR GLUTEUS MAXIMUS

We all know exercise is beneficial. Our bodies aren’t meant to sit at a desk or behind the wheel of a car all day long. When we do, we tend to feel more sluggish, tired and sad than if we are physically active. Exercise has a host of benefits including boosting mood, optimizing your cardiovascular health, increasing agility and balance, and can even stave off dementia. And remember, you don’t have to be at the gym. If you’re like me (I get incredibly bored running on a treadmill), then choose activities that don’t feel like exercise, like dancing, sports, swimming…anything that makes you move!

4. SHAKE IT OFF (the stress, that is)

Never in my life  would I imagine that someday  I’d quote Taylor Swift, but she’s got a point.  Our minds and bodies are connected, and psychological distress can manifest in our bodies. How many times have you developed a headache, stomach pains, or come down with a cold after a super stressful period? Its not in your mind; stress hormones like cortisol can wreak havoc on our bodies, and immune system. So if there is something in your life that is affecting your mental wellbeing, prioritize eliminating that stressor from your life in 2018. Your mind, and body will thank you for it. (More on this topic in a future post)

5. GO TO BED !!

Did you know that there is a 21% increase in heart attacks in the days following daylights savings time in spring when we lose an hour of sleep, and a 21% decrease in heart attacks when the clock falls back so we gain an hour? Chronic sleep deprivation is tied to cardiovascular disease, dementia, weight gain and every day we’re learning more.  So instead of pounding shots of espresso to stay awake, prioritize getting your Zzzz’s. Click here to see how many hours the National Sleep Foundation recommends. And importantly, try to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule even on weekends, so as not to disrupt your circadian rhythm.

Following these 5 simple tips will undoubtedly help your mind and body feel more awesome in 2018. How many of these practices are you currently following, and what are YOUR resolutions for 2018? Let me know!

5 Health Hacks To Avoid The Dreaded Holiday Bulge

Every new year, it’s the same.  Patients that I haven’t seen since the holidays come in for their first doctor visit of the year. Their blood pressure is 20 points higher, their sugars are out of whack, and they’ve packed on an extra 10 + pounds.  In the exam room, they can barely meet my eyes when they admit “ Doc, I really overdid it around the holidays !  I couldn’t resist all the [insert ridiculously unhealthy holiday food]!”

I call it the HOLIDAY EFFECT, and it sucks for both the patient and for me, because weight gain is associated with higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, higher blood sugars, arthritis …the list goes on and on.

I see the holiday effect in 60-70% of my patients, and that’s not an exaggeration. But sometimes, in comes the Miracle Patient who has managed not to overindulge, has kept their weight steady, or even more shockingly, has intentionally LOST WEIGHT over the holidays. For this patient (let’s call them Mr/ Ms Smith”, I  give a SLOW CLAP (I really do), and then ask “ Mr (s) Smith, how did you do it?!” Time, and time again I hear the same advice, and this is what I want to pass on to you today, just in time for the last Holiday feast!

 

FIVE  HEALTH HACKS  TO OFFSET THE HOLIDAY EFFECT:

1. CHANGE YOUR PLATE REAL ESTATE

Mr(s) Smith came to the buffet line with a game plan, and you should too! Before reaching for the serving spoon, scope out all the options. Then make your way over to the salad and vegetable portions and make sure half your plate is filled with that (and no, apple pie is not considered a fruit *side eye * )  What you want to do with the other half of your plate is up to you, but now you’re forced to have smaller portions of less healthy stuff. Win!

2. MAKE A VOW TO SKIP THAT SECOND PLATE

Mr(s) Smith didn’t totally skip holiday dinner or dessert. Let’s be real, and not sabotage ourselves with unrealistic goals. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity for spending time with loved ones, and special seasonal treats which help make this time of year special and enjoyable. The thought of skipping it altogether is sad.

So instead, practice PORTION control. Don’t use Christmas dinner as an excuse to pig out completely. Taste a bit of everything on the buffet if you like, but try not to pile the plate too high (which defeats the purpose of portion control), and then resist the urge to reach for seconds. Bonus points if you eat slowly, because after 20 -30 mins your brain will let your body realize that actually, you’re not hungry anymore and actually, you DON’T need that extra dinner roll!

3. DON’T PLAY WITH FIRE 

We can sabotage ourselves way before the holiday party. Just walk into the grocery store this time of year, and you’ll be immediately assailed with delicious pumpkin pies at “BUY ONE GET ONE HALF OFF!!”.  Mr(s) Smith probably bee-lined to the pie shelf, threw a box in the grocery cart, looked down and then….put it back on the shelf. Walked away.  Mr(s) Smith is the epitome of self-control.

When people moan about how they hate themselves  for how much butter pecan ice cream they scarfed down at 2 am the night before, I like to ask the simple question “if you don’t want to eat it, why is it in your freezer?”. The point is, let’s not set ourselves up for failure, and then act surprised when we fail.

4. WALK IT OFF

The thought of exercise- especially in colder climates when an evening stroll around the neighborhood requires 5 layers of clothing, or after you fall into a food coma- isn’t very appealing. But the walk doesn’t have to be outside. Commit to at least 20 minutes of physical activity on most days, it can be as simple as walking in place while watching Jeopardy in the evening. Exercise is proven to help keep weight off , and help offset the holiday blues if you’re prone to it.

Just a caveat: A 30 minute walk, on average, burns only 150-200 calories (depending on weight, speed of walking of course).  One cup of eggnog is about 350 calories.  Here is a list of calories in common foods. See my point? If you eat crap, don’t expect that 30 minute walk to help you lose weight. But at least it may help offset the extra poundage you might have gained otherwise. And of course, exercise has a host of benefits that has nothing to do with weight loss (click here) 

5. IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED….

OK, you had the best intentions. You were doing amazingly well. Then, Aunt Shirley rolled in to the party with your FAVORITE macaroni pie, and you were powerless in the face of that 4 cheese crust.  Three plates later and you’re overwhelmed with a wave of guilt, and start searching for the towel so you can just throw it in until January 1.  DON’T DO IT!

So you had a bad day, my friend. Tomorrow is a new day. If you eat right 90% of the time, then overall you’re doing GREAT!  Mr (s) Smith doesn’t  beat themselves up too hard, they just commit to doing better the next day. And they DEFINITELY wouldn’t take any of that macaroni pie home; they know that thing is kryptonite!

So now that you’re armed with Mr(s) Smith’s secrets for success, I wish you a Merry rest of the Holiday Season! And tune in for an upcoming blog in a few weeks where we’ll review a post-holiday detox plan.

Cheers to healthful happiness !

Dr K.