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When Things Get Itchy

You’ve got that New Year’s itch. “This year is going to be different.”drunkwaffles-300x300

As suspected, the most common new year’s resolution is to “lose weight.” According to Newsweek, there is a 12.1% hike in new gym memberships sold in January. “There are 54 million people in the U.S.—approximately 17 percent of the population—who are members of some type of gym or fitness center. A disproportionate number of them join shortly after the guilt of a gluttonous December sets in.”

Aisling Pigott, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, says many people allow themselves to binge over Christmas on the promise that they will fast in the new year. Unsurprisingly, this is not the best way to start, she says. “People need to think about moderation all the time. Weight loss involves adjusting lifestyle, diet and calorie intake, whilst overcoming the psychological barriers too.”

When that new year hits, so does the sinking feeling “I gotta do this now”. The idea of getting healthy can be overwhelming and is mostly psychological. The language we tend to use is “I’ll never be able to eat that again” … it becomes an all or nothing. Which just sets you up for failure.

It’s important to not see food as an enemy – but more of a method of fuel – a way to keep your body healthy and in optimal form. Rather than making eating a stressful experience, try to make it an enjoyable part of your day.

Make small adjustments – not trying to do everything at once. Looking for that quick-fix 10 pound unsustainable weight-loss is not realistic. Diet pills and shakes will not get you where you want to be. Remove yourself from the scale, stop over-thinking what you are ingesting and eliminate your fear of food.

Some tools to use:

  • Stop thinking about food 24/7 – make a list of healthy food choices you can pick from for each meal – takes out the guess work.
  • Know your trigger foods – what makes you feel awful after you eat it and only crave more? Remove those from your diet.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV – it sabotage. If you must – dish out one serving and don’t return for more.
  • Try to stop eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed…you will feel so much lighter in the morning.
  • Add a probiotic to your daily routine…it works miracles in balancing out your gut and building your immune system.
  • Drink water. Chug a glass first thing in the morning to start your day flushing out your system.
  • Try to eat a salad everyday. Easy on the toppings, less on the dressings.
  • Cut out the processed foods and eat more non-GMO and organic.
  • Cut sugar from your diet – this alone will create a huge difference in bloating and energy levels.
  • Add more exercise – if you are a beginner, start small and build up.

You have to make each small commitment realistic and achievable. Always remember – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

And on the weekend, have that burger, sans fries. Just keep your daily routine in check. And, Happy New Year.

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Nod To Mod

The summer is a time for relaxing, adventure and a bit of excess. Once again, the rhetoric of “after the summer, I will get back into gear” echoes from the mouths of many.low acid

Often, when you are in “excess mode” you think “what’s one more?” (dessert, drink, hamburger)…can it really hurt me? But when do you know enough is enough?

When your body starts talking to you…it’s time to listen.

Our bodies have a natural pH balance (the measure of acidity). In simplicity, it’s the way our body regulates the imbalance of things we ingest to keep our bodies in harmony. Your pH can be measured in your stomach acid, urine, saliva and your blood.

Generally, our normal body pH is 7.0. A pH below 7.0 is acidic.  Anything below a pH of seven is considered “acidic”, and anything above seven is “alkaline” or base. However, it is not the same in all parts of the body. Every body part has its own pH levels and its normal functioning depends upon maintaining normal pH.

Blood pH
The pH measurement of blood is found in the range of 7.36 to 7.42.

Urine pH
The pH level of urine may range from 4.5 to 5.0-6.0.

Stomach pH
Your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid therefore the pH of your stomach varies, from 1-2 up to 4-5. When you eat, the stomach releases proteases and hydrochloric acid to aid in digestion. The proteases break down proteins and work best in an acidic environment or low pH, so after a high-protein meal, your stomach pH may drop to as low as 1 or 2. Buffers quickly raise the pH back to 3 or 4. After the meal has been digested, your stomach pH returns to a resting level of about 4 or 5.

Sometimes, when we overindulge, we can cause our bodies to try to work harder to maintain the acidic balance in our stomach. An overly acidic stomach pH can occur from an acid forming diet (alcohol, processed foods, high fats, etc), emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients.  The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals.  If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate there can be a buildup of acids in the cells.

Acidic pH levels in your stomach can start to have an adverse affect on your body and cause things such as bloating, heartburn, irregular bowels, weak nails, etc. These are signs that you may not be feeding your body well.

I can attest first hand to this scenario. After a summer diet high in excess food, alcohol and advil (to counteract the two prior items), I started to feel very sick with severe stomach aches and heartburn. After an endoscopy, it was determined I gave myself an ulcer. Go figure. The girl who is known for living and breathing good health. I fell into the trap of excess…assuming a little “more” couldn’t hurt me since I was so conscientious in every other aspect of my diet/life.

Once again, a nod to my father and the premise he has always preached…”Everything in moderation.” Even if you over-index in one or two aspects of your diet, it can have detrimental affects on your well-being. In my case, too many summer cocktails and too many Advil to counteract the morning after. Ok, and maybe a little excess stress stirred into the mix. Your body is a miraculous mechanism that will give incredible insight to any imbalances. It’s important to listen to the message.

It’s ok to indulge but know when enough is too much.

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Sick Of It

athlete-fatigueDo you work out, eat well and take care of yourself yet often find you are sick or tired all the time?

Despite taking such good care of your body, if you are an avid exerciser and fitness enthusiast you can actually break down your immune system with overtraining. Many factors associated with overtraining compromise an athlete’s immune system. In fact, upper respiratory infections are actually very common in athletes.

This was a big topic during the training for my Nutrition Certification I just completed this past week. Let’s break it down.

What Happens?
When you exercise, there is an increase in stress hormones which leads to high inflammatory markers (bi-products of chronic stress). There is also a decrease in innate and acquired immunity.

Interesting Fact: 90 minutes after strenuous activity, your immunity is the lowest and you are more apt to get sick! It’s important to refrain from putting your hands near your mouth or eyes (the most susceptible areas of the body) post exercise & wash your hands immediately.

How Do I Keep The Sickness and Fatigue Away?

Protein
Protein is a key component to building immunity. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts. Your daily protein intake should be between 0.8-1.8 grams per 2.2 lbs. The high or low range depends on your activity level. An average adult needs about 0.8 – 1.2 g/2.2 lbs. where a strength athlete needs between 1.4-1.8 g/2.2 lbs.

Example: For a 150 pound active woman: divide 150 by 2.2lbs and multiply that number by about 1.2 grams of protein. Total = 82 grams of protein per day.

Vitamins and Minerals
There are several vitamins and minerals that work as anti-oxidants and help keep your immunity strong including Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, C and Folic Acid. Zinc and Iron are also important, but they should be ingested in moderation as too much can actually have the opposite effect and lower immunity. Most of these vitamins/minerals can be ingested in the food you eat: green leafy veggies, beans, eggs, dairy, lean meats, fruits and whole grains.

Ingest Carbs
Eating carbs post-exercise is said to help build your immune system and reduce stress hormones. We are not talking about eating a box of crackers or bag of pretzels – try to keep to “real” foods such as fruits, veggies and healthy grains.

Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is critical to helping your body function. Dehydration can be the main reason for fatigue. When you exercise, especially in hotter weather, it’s important to rehydrate 125-150% of fluid loss during exercise. Thirst is regulated in the brain. You are already very dehydrated when you even begin to feel thirsty.  You have to stay ahead of it.

Probiotics
I have professed my belief in probiotics for years – studies suggest probiotic and prebiotic ingestion in athletes reduces sick days.

Polyphenols
Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is emerging. They are said to be great stress inhibitors and promote immunity. These can be found in foods like kale, hot peppers, onion, apples, etc. Here is a list of 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols.

Sleep
As I preach to my clients all the time, adequate rest is crucial for an athlete’s recovery and keeps stress hormones low and repairs mental and physical function. Consistent sleep patterns and getting enough sleep to repair your body is crucial in keeping your immunity & performance levels high and stress hormones low.

Stress
And of course, keeping regular stress at bay is a big component. The more stressed you are, the lower your immunity levels and higher your fatigue. Your body may even start to hold onto some fat. The unfortunate result is when we are chronically stressed by life crises and work-life demands, we are prone to getting an extra layer of “visceral fat” deep in our bellies.

Nutrition is a big component of your day to day. It dictates everything – how your body responds to stress, your energy level and a strong immune system. Getting enough anti-oxidants, keeping stress levels in control and being able to replenish & repair your body are key to optimizing your health and energy levels.

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