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Cutting through the fat: Weight loss/ Healthy Eating (Part 1)

So I just stepped on the scale this morning, and didn’t like what I saw. Blame it on the holidays + my recent New Year’s vacation (darn you, daily brunch pomegranate mimosas!). Although I’m at a relatively healthy BMI (calculate yours HERE ), whenever I go above the weight that’s normal for me, it’s an indicator that I overdid it in the unhealthy eating department. So now I’m motivated to tune up my body and eat more healthily, as I’m sure many of us are. I bet there’s not one empty treadmill at the local gym right now! But as for going on “a diet”, it’s hard to know where to start.

Sooo many diets out there! (Intermittent fasting, CICO, HFLC, Atkins, Paleo, etc etc etc)…then of course there’s the miracle diet pill made from a leaf found on a tree that only grows in the Amazon), you get the idea! But look, I’m all about simplicity. Like I tell my patients, weight loss is simple, but hard.

SIMPLE because the concept is: take in less calories, your body will burn excess fat to give itself energy. Eat too many calories, you body stores the extra energy in the form of fat.

HARD because although this concept makes sense, we find it hard to lose weight for a myriad of reasons. Key issues I’ve identified from the people I treat are:

-Lack of awareness of calorie intake: humans are notorious for underestimating how many calories are in certain foods. Guess the number of calories in a McDonald’s Kale salad? It’s 730…. that’s about 3 packs of peanut M&Ms. See my point?
-etting fooled by marketing of “healthy foods”
-Over-reliance on exercise as a weight loss tool: How many times have I heard “I’m exercising 30 mins a day now and I’m not losing weight!!” Then I ask “have you changed what you’re eating? [crickets] As awesome as exercise is, it takes time to burn off that McDonald’s kale salad. In very general terms, probably about 2 hours doing most types of activities. Click HERE to see how many calories you would burn during various exercises

That being said, on my first visit with patients when discussing weight loss, I don’t dive right into weight loss tips. The first, most important part, is the Informational Gathering phase:

MAKE A REALISTIC GOAL: Losing 50 lbs in 3 months? Possible, but not likely without making drastic and likely unhealthy diet choices. I always emphasize; I don’t believe in dieting.  If there was an effective diet out there, everybody would be on it and we’d all look like Naomi Campbell or Jason Statham. I believe in lifestyle modifications that are sustainable. So realistically 1-2 lb a week is a safe goal.

KNOW YOUR DAILY CALORIE INTAKE LIMIT TO REACH YOUR GOAL: I love using this Calculator: input your data so you can calculate your personalized calorie goal.

START READING LABELS: Again, knowledge is power!! For any food you eat that has a label, you should know how many calories is in a serving, how many servings you’re eating, and I specifically like to see the amount of carbohydrates and fat in there. This practice starts building awareness.

KNOW YOUR FOOD’S CALORIC CONTENT: This one is tricky: I don’t like to overwhelm people with the concept of calorie counting because that can become obsessive, but I do think it’s important to ballpark that a banana is about 100 calories, 1 cup of white rice is about 200 calories etc. Because how else can we cut our caloric intake by 300 calories daily (the average amount it takes to lose a pound a week).  If  you’re into apps, I use MyNetDiary because you can type in your food item and see how many calories are in there, and then also use the app to….

START A FOOD DIARY: The goal of this is to increase awareness of exactly what’s going down your piehole (why does that word amuse me so much hehe). And somehow, it tends to make one more accountable; if you know you have to document that slice of cheesecake, maybe you think twice before indulging. It’s like psychological self-manipulation! Then, I like to review the food diary with patients on a regular basis and help identify patterns of poor choices, so we can make changes.

WEIGH YOURSELF FREQUENTLY: You wouldn’t believe how afraid people are of the scale. Many patients visit me monthly for their weight loss visits, and only get their weight checked at the clinic. Personally, I hop on the scale every morning at the same time (before breakfast), so I can see where I’m at and where I’m going; and if the scale is going in the wrong direction I’m more motivated to reign it in. However, if the thought of daily weigh ins are giving you palpitations,  I would then recommend at least once a week. Knowledge is power!

Once we’ve mastered Part 1, then we’re ready for Part 2, where we actually use the information to make a weight loss plan. Stay tuned!

 

[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!