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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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Leave It To Your Body

65017_311600488944738_362041646_nI recently read an eye-opening article about how our bodies react when dealing with an injury. The human body is fascinating – I think sometimes we forget the intricacies and natural healing properties within us.

More and more avid exercisers are getting injured – the most common being the knee or back. Much of this stems from the wrong form during a movement or is the result of too much repetitious pounding from explosive movements. Whatever the cause, if you are someone who works out religiously every week, an injury can be extremely challenging mentally and physically.

Naturally, once you get injured immediate questions come into your head:

  • Can I continue to eat normally without exercising?
  • Will I gain weight?
  • Should I be taking supplements?
  • Is there quicker way to heal?

Here’s what I learned:

  • Maintain a healthy intake. Rather than waiting to shape up your diet after an injury – strive to maintain a high-quality food intake every day to bank up on vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair if you were to get injured (or during daily muscle repairs after micro tears when training). You will heal quicker by replenishing your body with nutrient-rich foods).
  • Good nutrition enhances recovery. To enhance healing, maintain a healthy combination of food groups – proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits. Proteins are critical during healing. They digest into amino acids needed to repair damaged muscles. Ensure you incorporate 20-30 grams of protein at each meal or snack. And eliminate processed foods.
  • You need to eat when injured. Many athletes decide they are going to starve themselves to cut back on the calories they are no longer burning off at the gym. In actuality, our bodies need fuel to repair. You just have to eat mindfully. You might have to cut back on your servings if you are no longer torching a lot of calories when working out. Eat enough to fuel your body at your current activity level.
  • Our organs burn the majority of calories in our body – not our muscles (although they do a nice job too). “Organs are metabolically active and require a lot of fuel”, says Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. “About 2/3 of the calories consumed by the average active person support the resting metabolic rate” (energy needed just to exist).
  • Surgery or trauma requires an additional 10-20% more calories for your body to function. Your body responds naturally to hunger cues. So, eat when hungry and stop when your stomach is full.
  • Muscle does not turn into fat. Muscle atrophies. Our bodies have muscle memory – once we go back to our normal routine, the muscle rebuilds quickly.
  • Our bodies also have a “genetic” weight. If we are underweight, our body will try to adjust to the intended size and natural physique.

If you are injured, don’t panic. Your body has your back, literally. You will recover, and in most cases, often stronger than before your injury.

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Fill’er Up

Ever wonder why a fast food burger is so cheap when it claims to be “real meat”? Or why you may always feel so sick when you eat certain foods?  And what exactly is soy lecithin or cellulose gum?

The World Of Fillers
The food industry has seemed to perfect an efficient way to produce high quantities of food at a very low cost. They have developed food fillers – additives in processed foods that healthy_unhealthyoffer dietary fiber or some other non-nutritive purpose to help bulk up the weight of food with less expensive ingredients. This is often the case in the meat processing industry with products like hamburgers and sausages and is also found in packaged goods. In many cases, it does not involve the interest in the health of the consumer.

There has been a growth in curiosity about food fillers since the wide-spread McDonald’s pink goo debacle (more info here: http://huff.to/1asIo8a). All of the rumors and hype around the content of McDonald’s food by consumers forced McDonald’s to create a rebuttal and openly expose their food preparation process (not sure the final product is much more appealing than the pink goo 😉

There are generally two types of fillers:

Non-meat fillers
These fillers are often made up of starchy, high carbohydrate binders that have low nutritional value and include fiber additives like wheat, corn, flour, cottonseed and cellulose fibers from bamboo and other plants. They tend to include maltodextrine, a processed food additive made from starch and can include soy proteins.

Meat Fillers
You’re gonna love this one. Many types of filler in the meat industry are composed of MDM – mechanically deboned meat – or, in other words, pieces of the left-over animal carcasses that are not typically ingested. You will mostly find these fillers in poultry meat (mostly poultry in shapes or solids like chicken nuggets and deli meat – not fresh, whole chicken breasts in the package).

These fillers are used to extend the meat further (ie. hamburgers) and typically contain more protein. Ingredients usually include soy proteins, yeast, plants, etc. You might find a little cereal, a little blood, some internal organs ….no, I’m not making this up. Think SPAM. Didn’t you always wonder what was in that little can?

So What Do We Look Out For?
Our Americanized food often contains these fillers and hides them in the ingredient lists of packaged food with names we don’t recognize or comprehend (I am often perplexed myself!). What to look out for:

  • Typically, if you can’t pronounce or recognize the name of any ingredient in an ingredient list on a package, you should try not to consume it. Mystery ingredients are often fillers.
  • Foods formed in shapes (nuggets, dinosaurs, sticks) are often the culprit of fillers.
  • High-fructose corn syrup = not good. It can turn a normally healthy food into a not so healthy food and is often accompanied by other cheap and processed ingredients.
  • Artificial colors or flavors – not so much. These are “non-food” ingredients.
  • Soft drinks, including juice, soda, diet soda, etc…do not offer much nutritional value and are often comprised of just sugar and artificial ingredients. Even 100% juice removes the beneficial fiber.

It goes back to the same premise – Try to eat organic, whole foods and avoid processed and fast food when possible.

Healthcare Management Degree Guide recently completed a comprehensive research graphic called “Food Isn’t Food Anymore: The Frightening World of Fillers”. It’s a helpful resource in identifying what to look out for in food labels. It’s worth looking at the easy to read graphs: http://www.healthcare-management-degree.net/food-fillers/

How do you keep a tab on what ingredients to look for when shopping? Hint: I added a “Food Notes” onto my phone so when I food shop, rather than spin my brain on remembering what to look for and what to avoid, I reference my list and continue to add to it as I learn.

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