Back in the seventies it used to be thought that low-fat dieting was the best way to lose bodyweight. Now we know that this is not necessarily the case. Fats can be healthy provided you eat more of the unsaturated variety and less of the saturated and trans fats (i.e., homogenated fats). Currently the trend is to go the low-carb route to weight loss. Is this the key to losing bodyweight and bodyfat?
Restricting your carb (i.e., sugar) intake is not magical in affecting weight loss. What really matters overall is your caloric intake relative to your activity level. In other words, burning more calories than you eat will cause weight loss. If you consume more calories than your burn as energy you will gain bodyweight in the form of bodyfat. So why all the attention to low-carb dieting? The truth is that there is no simple solution to losing weight (hence the existence of the multi-billion dollar diet industry). You should not think in absolute terms by categorizing fats or carbs or proteins as being the enemy in terms of losing bodyweight.
In order to eat a low-carb diet, you must eat more protein to compensate for the calorie differential. Both carbs and protein consist of four calories per gram but protein is much more satiating (appetite-suppressing) than carbs. Thus, eating more protein may lessen your overall caloric intake and therefore allow you to lose bodyweight. Protein requires more energy than carbs for digestion to occur. Thus, you actually burn more calories (without exercising) by simply eating more protein than you do eating carbs. But protein is also important as a macronutrient that is needed by your body to spare your muscles from being catabolized for energy. In addition, protein also helps to maintain your resting metabolic rate which may enhance fat burning. Not eating adequate carbs does not endanger the survival of your body because your liver can readily covert lactate and glycerol from fats as well as amino acids from protein into a carbohydrate source (i.e., glucose) of fuel when it needs it.
So it's not really about eating less carbs but rather eating more protein that may help you to lose bodyweight. Of course, excess protein that is not used for energy in the absence of carbs can be stored as bodyfat if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Thus, be sure to exercise regularly in conjunction with bumping up your protein intake to lose bodyweight and bodyfat the healthy way.
Sprinting is guaranteed to burn bodyfat, particularly when performed in the morning before eating breakfast. Sprinting is a superb fat-fighting exercise because it involves short bursts of energy, significantly elevating your metabolic rate. The recommended manner in which to perform sprints is in an interval fashion with progressive intensity levels as your body adapts to the training stimulus. Never jump right in to full-on sprints at maximum intensity (e.g., 100% HRR) until your body has adapted. Best to gradually work up to intensity levels which are at submaximal intensities (e.g., 70 to 90% HRR). Be sure to take it slow and work up to increased intensity levels. Besides intensity level, consider the frequency and duration of your sprints. Better to be conservative on these aspects as well. Twice per week at 30 to 45 minutes is adequate to achieve fat-burning results when sprinting. Only sprint on a cushioned surface such as a running track, artificial turf or grass--avoid pavement to spare your hip and knee joints. Lastly, be sure to wear a good pair of running shoes with a flat sole--minimus New Balance shoes are ideal.
It's drilled into our collective minds that eating less food is the best way to lose bodyweight. Makes sense. Eat less food and you'll lose weight. What can be wrong about this message? The problem is that eating less by following a diet plan may not be the best way to lose weight after all. The reason is that is that long-term compliance with sticking to stringent weight-loss diets is doomed to failure. Why? Because it makes eating foods seem like a guilty event rather than what eating food should really be about: pleasure.
The reality is that restraining your food intake may make you feel guilty about eating foods which inevitably encourages you to eat more food rather than less in order to provide comfort. Dieting is not the answer to losing weight. In fact, dieting may actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose it. Dieting tends to lead to unhealthy eating patterns which may cause binge eating.
So what is the better way to lose bodyweight? The answer is to listen to your body. It's that simple. Your body tells you when you should eat and how much. Purposely restraining food to the point where there is discomfort or intense hunger is no way to go about living your life. Ice cream and chips are not evil. Eating these foods in moderation while also eating foods such as fruits and vegetables is the key to healthy eating behaviors. The all-or-none attitude to eating has got to go! There is no need to severely restrict foods you may consider to be bad foods. This type of behavior inevitably leads to powerful urges to eat these foods in more amounts than we care to admit. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, and reduced self-esteem from eating these "forbidden" foods can lead to an unhealthy eating pattern. Instead, eat some of these foods but also eat plenty of protein, vegetables, fruits, and slow-digesting, high-fiber carbs.
BOTTOM LINE: Eating should be a pleasurable experience and not a source of guilt. We eat food to nourish our bodies and to feel good. Dietary restrictions can easily lead to unhealthy eating patterns. Stop thinking there are "good" and "bad" foods. Instead, think of foods as sustenance. Eat slowly. Abide by your appetite and listen to the hunger signals your body is teling you. Trust these hunger cues and STOP RESTRICTING CERTAIN FOODS. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to lose weight and question any diet that has rigid rules and promotes the restriction of particular foods. Stop feeling guilty and eat what you like!
As a personal trainer, I sometimes ask my clients if they are aware of how much they are eating without even getting into caloric intake necessarily. In most cases, they usually underestimate
the amount of food they eat. This is where some psychology may come into play. We' d like to think
we're eating less food than we really are--just like we'd like to think
we're taller than we really are or weigh less than we really weigh. The reason for this way of thinking is essentially due to wishful thinking.
In other words, we subconsciously wish
we were taller or lighter than we really are. And so this may be the case with being aware of how much food we actually eat. If you were to track your caloric intake by reading food nutrition labels and sum up your overall daily caloric intake, you'd probably be surprised about how many calories you're actually eating--most likely more than you'd care to admit.
The reality is that most people eat more food than they think
they're eating and then they wonder why they find it difficult to lose body weight when exercising. Could the crux of the problem be that they're eating more food than they realize? The insidious part about eating food is that we may eat because we're bored and are not listening
to our bodies for hunger signals.
How can we avoid overeating? Here are ways to avoid the overconsumption of food:
- Eat your food from smaller bowls and plates. Studies have indicated that we tend to eat more food when the food comes in deep bowls or large plates. This supports the theory that we tend to rely on visual cues (eating until our plate is empty) rather than internal cues (hunger) when eating.
- Drink your fluids from tall, narrow glasses. Studies have indicated that we tend to pour more volumes of liquid in short, wide glasses rather than tall, narrow glasses. It's as if the mind plays tricks in perceiving there is less liquid in short, wide glasses when in reality this is not the case.
- Limit the consumption of processed foods which contain high sugar and salt. These foods tend to increase appetite due to the increase in blood insulin levels.
- Keep unhealthy foods out of sight or out of your house. As they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."
- Avoid eating when watching TV. Mindlessly eating while watching TV is a recipe for overeating because we're not aware of how much we're eating due to the distraction of TV.
- Be aware of social influences in public gatherings. The pressure to eat more food in order to please hosts, for instance, should be countered with a polite, "No thank you, I'm fine"
- Be aware of tantalizing images of foods. The mere act of seeing tempting images of foods in advertisements may stimulate blood levels of ghrelin, the hormone released that stimulates appetite.
- Avoid eating when you're stressed, depressed, upset, angry, lonely, or even happy and excited.
- Eat s-l-o-w-l-y and chew your food well. By eating this way, you're more likely to allow the feeling of satiety to reach your brain (it takes about 20 minutes) before you overeat.
- Eat with your non-dominant hand or use chopsticks. This allows you to avoid eating mindlessly and encourages you to eat more slowly.
- Go for a brisk walk when you feel a snack craving. The mere act of walking may boost your mood and lessen your desire for certain cravings for decadent foods like chocolate or chips.
- Keep a food diary. By recording the foods you eat, you become more aware of how you're really eating--consider it a wakeup call. Just be sure to be honest with yourself and be consistent in tracking the foods you eat. You'll become more accountable for what and how much food you eat.
It is highly recommended that you should continue to exercise if you haven't been doing so already unless you are experiencing acute abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and/or vomiting. Exercise may help to reduce cholesterol and tryglyceride levels and lessen body weight. Dyslipidemia (i.e., high cholesterol levels) and obesity are contributing factors in causing gallstone formation.
One's diet may or may not be a contributing factor to gallbladder problems leading to gallstones (i.e., excessive cholesterol and fat intake and low fiber intake) and the research seems to point the finger to hereditary causes being more of the culprit. Nevertheless, nutrition can be a contributing factor. The following foods are recommended:
Foods to avoid include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains (e.g., whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oats)
- Lean meat, poultry and fish
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lots of water
- Fried foods
- Highly-processed foods (e.g., doughnuts, pie, cookies)
- Whole-milk dairy products (e.g., cheese, ice cream, butter)
- Fatty red meat
Knee pain is usually the result of stiffness brought on by inactivity or immobilization of the knee joint. Many who suffer from osteoarthritis complain of joint stiffness and pain. Knee pain is especially felt when bending over or squatting. So what can one do to alleviate stiffness and the accompanying pain that results? Losing body weight will certainly help to reduce the load placed on the knee joints. Each pound of body weight lost subtracts four pounds of pressure on the knee joints. Performing joint movements will certainly help lessen joint stiffness. Exercise will help to lose body weight and increase joint mobility. As a result, exercise can also bring relief from pain. The key is to perform exercise on a consistent basis (i.e., at least 3 times per week). Since exercise initially tends to cause knee pain, most people would rather avoid it. But this is a mistake! Not being active will only exacerbate stiffness, pain and immobility.
So what exercises should you do to bring about relief from knee pain? Any low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, biking, walking, and water aerobics are ideal. Aim for 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Strength training is also highly recommended. Try Tai Chi, yoga and exercises like leg extensions and leg curls. Stretching every day is essential to reduce joint and muscle stiffness. Perform quad, hamstring and calf stretches daily. Be sure to hold each stretch up to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times. Refer to the exercise portion of this blog for how to perform certain stretches. Most importantly, listen to your body and know your limits! Never push through bad pain! Apply an ice pack to an aching joint for up to 15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Taking a nice hot bath may also relieve sore joints.
Research has shown there is evidence that refined or processed carbohydrates (characterized by large sugar content) seem to create a drug-like effect within the brain, thus causing addictive qualities mimicking alcohol addiction. In essence, food behaves like a drug in terms of how it affects the brain, psychologically as well as physiologically. This is not really news for most of us. We know certain foods have addictive qualities (think potato chips and ice cream). The human body loves fat, sugar and salt. Why? Because fat is a macronutrient which is a slow-burning, long-term source of energy for the body needed for survival when food is scarce. Because sugar is a macronutrient (carbs) which is a fast-burning, short-term source of energy needed by the body. Because salt consists of electrolytes (i.e., sodium and chloride) needed by the body for cellular pH balance.
Excessive sugar intake may be addicting physiologically as well as psychologically. To wit, sugar affects the dopamine receptors within the brain, making us feel good. Sodas are an excellent example of sugar addiction since they are a concentrated source of energy within many people's diets. Many become addicted to soda and need their daily fix or else experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and depression.
The caffeine within coffee, like sugar, has a drug-like effect within the brain which makes us feel good. We know that caffeine is a drug because it stimulates the dopamine receptors which mediate pleasure. (Now we know why people flock to Starbucks every day--it's to get their drug fix). If their is a down-regulation of dopamine within the brain, one will feel a need to get more
sugar and more
caffeine in order to satisfy the urge to obtain the same pleasure. Indeed, research has indicated that overweight and obese people seem to have this down-regulation of dopamine which lends itself to an increasing need for more sugar. Since sugar contains calories, it makes sense that a chronic sugar addiction may cause one to become overweight or obese.
If sugar, caffeine, fat, and salt have addictive-like effects on the brain, then does that mean all foods having these substances are inherently bad for the body? The answer is no. The natural sugar found within fruits is not nearly as concentrated as the sugar found within refined foods made in the lab (think high-fructose corn syrup). Fats and salts are added to chips to make them more tasty and addictive but potatoes are inherently not unhealthy.
Sugars, fats and salt are added to foods to make them more sweet, have more mouth feel (thicker texture), and more salty because the body and the brain loves these ingredients. It's simple: our brains are hard-wired to eat carb-rich, fat-laden foods because the body needs sugar and fat to survive. Regularly eating foods which have unnatural
concentrations of sugars, fats, and salts (as well as man-made chemicals) may indeed turn us into junkies. Yes, fast-food is addictive because it contains plenty of sugars, fats and salt to satisfy the palate. The regular consumption of fast food may indeed produce long-term neuroadaptations within the brain reward and stress pathways. Restricting fast-food and/or excessive sugar consumption may cause a withdrawal effect within the brain causing depression and anxiety.
If refined carbs behave like a drug within the brain, can psychological therapy resolve one's addiction to chips or ice cream, thus staving off bodyweight gain as a result of fat retention? Theoretically, this may be the case. But there are easier ways to lessen the addiction to chips and/or ice cream:
- Create new habits. Go for a walk when an urge for a candybar occurs. The exercise will lessen the immediate wanting for a quick sugar fix.
- Keep a food journal. Just the act of writing down the foods that you eat will provide a wake-up call to eat healthier foods.
- Reward yourself. Choose a small goal and then reward yourself when you accomplish the goal. Healthy rewards (e.g., a movie, bath, bike ride) make for healthy habits.
A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that soda intake may increase the risk of obesity. The reason is attributed to the sugar within soda. Many people take in way too much sugar on a daily basis. Sugar is a carbohydrate which is readily digested but contains 4 kcals per gram. Drinking soda regularly means lots of sugar and therefore lots of calories being taken into the body and stored as bodyfat. Those having a genetic predisposition to obesity are at higher risk when drinking soda and sweetened fruit juices.
Of course lack of exercise is also a primary risk factor for gaining body weight. Combine sedentary behavior with excessive soda drinking and you have a guaranteed risk of gaining unhealthy body weight in the form of increased bodyfat.
So what's the solution? First of all, begin drinking more water and lessen the intake of sweetened beverages. A gradual approach is recommended rather than cutting back cold-turkey. In addition, make an effort to become more physically active throughout the day. Less sugar intake and more exercise is a recipe for losing bodyfat and body weight.
What I've found with the majority of my clients is that they're not getting enough sleep. It becomes very apparent when, for instance, a client feels sluggish and yawns during the exercise session (!). Not giving your body and mind the needed recovery time via sleep is a recipe for disaster in terms of losing body weight. In fact, I would go so far to say that the time working out in the gym is virtually wasted if there is a lack of sleep. In essence, sleep is what the body and mind need to recover from the day's events and to feel refreshed and more energized upon waking up.
Getting adequate sleep (e.g., 7 to 8 hours) is just as important as nutrition and exercise in staying healthy and fit. There is a growing body of research that indicates that lack of sleep is a contributing factor for the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our country. Hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and cortisol are affected by sleep quality and quantity. Not surprisingly, all of these hormones are also involved in governing appetite. Thus, there is a correlation between lack of sleep and increased appetite. In other words, inadequate sleep makes you feel more hungry, especially for high-fat, high-calorie foods during the evening.
What can you do to increase the amount of sleep you're getting? Start by watching less television at night and restrict the amount of time spent on the computer.
Need more reasons to get more sleep at night? Here's eight benefits of getting more shut-eye:
- Better health (i.e., lessens the risk of heart disease, hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity)
- Better sex life (i.e., increases energy and testosterone levels)
- Less pain (i.e., may increase pain threshold)
- Lower risk of injury (i.e., lessens the risk of auto accidents)
- Better mood (i.e., less likely to be cranky or uptight)
- Clearer thinking (i.e., improves cognition, attention and decision-making skills)
- Better memory (i.e., increases the brain's ability to store memories)
- Stronger immunity (i.e., lack of sleep may make you more susceptible to getting sick)
The answer is to eat more low-density caloric foods. Generally, you should eat more foods which contain lots of water and/or fiber. Eating this way will inevitably cause body weight loss. The following are examples of foods to eat as well as foods to limit your consumption:
| |EAT MORE OF THESE FOODS:
(less calorically-dense)FRUITS/VEGGIES: (contain lots of water)
WHOLE GRAINS & LEGUMES: (contain more fiber)
- Salad greens
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Green Peas
- Sweet potatoes
DAIRY: (less calorically dense)
- Whole-wheat bread
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Steel-cut oatmeal
- Bran flakes
- Brown rice
- Shredded wheat
- Wheat germ
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
LEAN MEATS/SEAFOOD: (less calorically dense)
- Lowfat cottage cheese
- Lowfat Greek yogurt
- Lowfat milk
- Turkey breast
- Chicken breast
| |EAT LESS OF THESE FOODS:
(more calorically-dense)REFINED GRAINS: (contain less fiber)
DAIRY: (more calorically dense)
- Corn tortillas
- White bread
- White rice
- Egg noodles
- White pasta
FATTY MEATS: (more calorically dense)
- Mozzarella cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Cream cheese
CONDIMENTS: (more calorically dense)
- Sirloin steak
- Deli meats
- Breaded or fried meats
- Processed beef patties
BAKED GOODS: (more calorically dense)
- Creamy dressings
SNACK ITEMS: (more calorically dense)
- Trail mix
- Potato chips
- Granola bars