Hunger – The Biggest Weight-Loss Obstacle?

hungry
Today marks the second consecutive day in a row in which I’ve immediately come across a doom and gloom weight-loss article. Perhaps this just a formula for writers to drive a home their main argument, but I think these articles have a way of beating down our resolve, causing a double hand throw in the air and a long look in the ‘goodies’ closet to once again celebrate defeat.
You can read the article in question here, but I’ll save you 1,000 words of reading by simply saying that the initial position of the article is that it’s purely hunger that is the true obstacle of weight-loss. Now, if you’re on a severely restrictive diet (which either means you’re in a life or death situation and under a Doctor’s direct care, or you’ve chosen a really, really poor diet) of course hunger will be a problem. However, while there are always obstacles to losing weight and even maintaining your target weight, I wouldn’t have placed ‘hunger’ in even the top 5. In fact, when I work with clients, I can’t tell you how many times I repeat “do not let yourself get hungry”. This may sound obvious, but the trick is to have a solid plan and stick to it. By doing so, you can basically eliminate hunger, or, at very least, as the article soundly suggested at one point, be easily able to cope with it if your next meal is right around the corner.

Here’s a sample of the article:

Is it possible to lose weight without hunger? Logic tells us it’s not. If dropping pounds were easy, we’d all be wearing the same size jeans we wore in high school.
The reason it’s not easy is that your body is trying to protect you. “It sucks to diet, unfortunately,” says Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., author of The Fat Loss Prescription. “Our bodies fight to regain that weight.”
Not everyone regains it, to be sure. In a Penn State study, about one in six adults who lost at least 10 percent of their maximum body weight were able to keep it off for a year or longer.
Average sustained weight loss in that group was 42 pounds. But that still leaves five out of six who regained some or all of it.
“Hunger becomes an issue whenever you try to lose weight,” Dr. Nadolsky says. “It’s difficult to continue to eat less when we have a physiological drive to eat more.”
When everything under the hood is running smoothly, hunger should reflect how much food you need to keep your body at its current size, give or take a pound or two.

Again, I recognize that the article might be using these supporting statements to set up the “8 ways to combat hunger” as mentioned in the title of the article, but I just don’t believe it’s as big an issue as it wants you to believe. Clients demonstrate a more difficult time with letting go of poor eating habits (read: cravings) than anything else, but those can easily be dealt with. If hunger is your biggest problem with your weight-loss program, it’s likely the program that is at fault, not you. Overly restrictive diets, or weight-loss programs with high intensity workouts without properly nutrition could be two big drivers.

The Case Against Low-Fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever

Gallon of Whole Milk

Low Fat vs. Full Fat Diary

The war on low fat vs. full fat dairy rages on!  For that matter, so does the long-standing debate around eating dairy at all! I think it’s just part of our culture and our human nature to endlessly bicker about the nuances of dieting while completely ignoring the problem from a macro level; but let’s save that for another post.  Let’s assume dairy IS part of your diet and that you truly want to know which is best for you.

Despite the fact that a recent article from Time magazine seems to posit that eating full fat dairy may actually be better for you, the body of the article, if read correctly, really says it’s up to you. Well, rather, it’s up to you based on your needs.

Read: The Case Against Low-Fat Milk Is Stronger Than Ever

Despite seemingly taking a side, though, the article isn’t about which is inherently healthier.  It’s rather about how studies demonstrate how people work dairy into their daily lives.

the body of data is beginning to reveal both that full-fat dairy has a place in a healthy diet, and also how focusing on one nutrient in the diet may backfire. When dietary guidelines began urging people to lower the amount of fat they ate, the idea was to reduce the amount of cholesterol and unhealthy fats in the body. But by focusing just on cutting out fat, experts didn’t count on the fact that people would compensate for the missing fat and start loading up on carbohydrates, which the body converts into sugar—and then body fat.

then

 people who had higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46% lower risk of getting diabetes during the study period than those with lower levels

Despite this good initial data, which started down the path that the full-fat versions were, in fact, inherently better, the remainder of the article supports the idea that those who eat low fat dairy generally eat less fat on a whole, replacing fats with higher carb, higher sugar foods.  Doing so will obviously translate to not only weight gain but higher risk for disease.

I fully support their admonishment to avoid doing just this.  Removing necessary macronutrients like healthy fats (we’re looking at you Avacado) is not the right path to heathy weight-loss.

I personally use low fat and fat free dairy, but only due to the calorie content.  I do not shy away from healthy fats like nuts and olive oils, though.  However, for how little I eat dairy I can easily cut a few calories by using the fat free version of milk for my coffee or the occasional bowl of whole grain cereal.

So, to answer the original question, which is better is up to you. If you like the taste of full fat dairy and have your daily calorie target under control, then definitely have it. If you need to find easy ways to cut down on calories to stay within your goal, using the fat-free version is a simple way to help.  Do not, however, cast ‘fat’ on a whole as an evil and substitute healthy fats for processed junk.  This message is to those who specifically seek to continue to eat low fat and fat free versions of junk food to avoid changing habits.  Fats are a necessary macronutrient, you just need to avoid the unhealthy saturated fats and trans-fats found in processed garbage you find on the supermarket shelves.

 
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Depressing New Study Links Eating Carbs With An Increased Risk Of Cancer

carbs

I’m not a fan of using scare tactics, but I think this is a pretty important message.  According to an article by Sarah  Bruning,  posted on Woman’s Health website (read the article here) :

study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, people whose diets included a large percentage of high-glycemic foods (think: white bread, potatoes, refined/processed foods) saw their risk for lung cancer (the number one cancer killer of women) soar by 49 percent.

You may have heard about the low glycemic diet, and if not for yourself, then certainly as it relates to diabetics (though I would argue the benefits of following a diabetics diet), and hopefully you understand that this very important index is what separates the good carbs from the bad.

In fact, I’m a little upset that the title of the article simply said “Carbs” with no such delineation.  It’s important to make this distinction so that you know how to remove the dangerous ones from the truly good ones with tremendous health benefits.

Generally speaking, the good variety has fiber, which slows the digestion process and prevents blood sugar levels from spiking.   This avoids the body’s natural insulin response, which is why it’s important for diabetics.  Insulin also promotes fat storage, which is why it’s bad for anyone else (among other things, as this study proves).  Higher fiber carbohydrates include a wide variety of vegetables and whole grains.  However, please learn to read nutrition labels, the whole wheat bread you buy may just be a refined flour product, which doesn’t have the appropriate levels of fiber to consider it a ‘good carb’.

And the new link to cancer?  According to Sarah Bruning:

Higher levels of insulin can then spur an increase in proteins called insulin-growth factors, which have been linked to a greater likelihood of developing lung cancer.

A quick google search will get you a full list of foods with their index rating (higher is worse), but also be aware that the true measure of a food’s quality would be it’s glycemic load, not necessarily the index.  The difference?  The load considers the volume carb contained in the food, rather than just how quickly the carbohydrate metabolizes.  For example, watermelon has a high glycemic index, but a low glycemic load, simply because it’s over 90% water.  The sugar contained is so diluted that it will do little to spike your blood glucose level.

Click here for a quick lesson.

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5 Reasons You Need To Be Strength Training

dumbbells

For most of us (I may dare to say all of us), there is a vanity element to weight management.  Sure, we love the ancillary benefits like lower blood pressure, stress relief, and higher bone density, but honestly, a lot of it boils down to looking and feeling great.  That being the case, I’m always surprised to learn that most people identify ‘working out’ with steady state cardio.  People are quick to talk about going for a run or hitting the treadmill/elliptical, especially women.

Sadly, I think the biggest general objection to strength training is the fear of getting big muscles (again, especially woman). The truth is, though, it takes an extreme amount of dedication to diet and exercise to get in ‘body building ‘shape, far far far more than most of us would commit to without that being the end-goal.  Therefore, it’s impossible to do it ‘by accident’.

Even more sadly, we over look weight training which, as it turns out, is the best way to alter our current bodies.  Sure, steady state cardio can help lose fat, but strength training will help change overall body composition, giving us sexy lean muscle mass that not only looks healthy, but creates body symmetry.

I believe in strength training so much that if I had to choose between it and cardio as my sole means to work out, I would choose strength training without a second thought.

To prove this point, here are 5 great reasons you should be strength training, either as the basis for your routine or, at very least, as supplemental training.

  • Lean muscle is more expensive – The more muscle you add, the more calories your body burns, even at rest. (remember, adding muscle doesn’t mean adding size, it means replacing fat with high density muscles tissue that takes up less room but eats more calories.  So your body still shrinks in overall size, not swells)
  • Energy and Mood boosting – Strength training elevates endorphin levels, which make you feel happy. Strength training has shown to be a natural anti-depressant
  • Stronger Tendons, ligaments, and bones – it will help you stay fit and strong, especially as you age, when the body naturally loses muscularity and balance. It also improves posture and coordination.
  • Helps with disease prevention as we age – Studies have shown it can help type 2 diabetics with glucose control, can help with arthritis pain, and reduce the risk of bone fractures.
  • Okay, Fine, you’ll look amazing – Let’s not deny the number one motivation for working out. To look and feel great! Strength training can change your body, and for the better.  Stop thinking body building and start thinking fitness models.  And for those that will say oh they’re too skinny or too ripped, that’s a function of diet, it’s VERY hard to get that low in body fat.  Without a perfect diet you will simply look slim, fit, and healthy.  Far better than if you only did long sessions of steady state cardio, which will make you look thin and stringy (think: distance runners)

It’s time to stop associating weight/strength training with Arnold and his fellow body builders and start recognizing that the lean healthy bodies that you envy in magazines are built by fitness routines that regularly include strength training.

 
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5 Weight Loss Strategies That Don’t Work

diets

Let me know if this sounds familiar:  You come across a recent picture of yourself and think “oh my god, am I really that heavy?” and immediately panic and resolve to lose a few pounds.  I think by the time we’re past our 20’s we all go through this, and while some of us may even eek out a few pounds in the loss column, only a handful of us actually keep the weight off in the long run.

The reason this is so common, is that most of us choose to create our own weight-loss plan, which really isn’t a plan at all, but rather a culmination of strategies that we think work best for us, with only hearsay or pure mythology as a basis.

If you’re one to not consult professional advice, here are 5 common strategies that not only mislead you, but can actually be detrimental.

  • Severe Calorie Restriction. I once over-heard a co-worker relay a new ‘diet’ that he created to a colleague.  The diet was based on the fact that his cousin, who had just been in a horrific car-crash and could only consume liquids, had lost “a whole bunch of weight”.  This new diet, proudly named “the once a day chew diet” was simply to only eat real food 1x a day (the chew), while only consuming beverages the rest of the day.  Mind you, these beverages were not specifically considered to provide nutrients and the requisite calories necessary to sustain bodily functions, but arbitrary drinks that he’d enjoy enough to mask the obvious lack of food.  Also, the 1 real meal was based on food preferences, not nutritional value.  That day he had only consumed a bialy.  As far as choices go, that was pretty poor.  This ends up just being a diet based on severe calorie restriction which creates havoc within the body.  It slows metabolism, it causes the body to break down lean muscle mass for calories, and, of course, robs the body of the nutrients it needs.  All of which is the exact opposite of what you want when trying to lose weight.  The correction to over-eating poor quality food isn’t eating less.  It’s eating better.
  • Low-Fat Diets. A few decades ago, low-fat diets were in fashion.  There are two reasons why I believe fat has a bad name, similar to today’s carbohydrate.  First, fat has more calories per gram than either protein or carbs (compare 9 to 4 of both the latter), which means fatty foods naturally carry more calories.  Secondly, there are bad quality fats that are detrimental to health, just like there are poor quality carbs with negative health benefits (including weight-gain).  For both of these reasons, fats get lumped into one category and labeled ‘bad’.  However, good quality fat is necessary for optimal health, and can provide satiety and curtail cravings.  Lastly, low-fat foods as marketed on our grocery shelves are often overly processed foods with added sugar to make them more palatable (this is not true for whole foods naturally low in fat).  A healthful diet contains 20-30% of calories from good quality, health promoting fats (monounsaturated oils, seeds, nuts, avocados, to name a few)
  • Not Eating after 6. While there are benefits to having fewer carbs after 6 (or even earlier), especially the refined variety, there isn’t proof that any such strategy in and of itself will promote weight loss.  This is especially true if your whole diet is predicated on this one rule alone.  You can’t undo an unhealthy diet, I don’t care what time you stop eating.
  • Only Exercising. More often than not, this actually works against us.  It becomes an excuse to eat more, and/or eat poor quality food as a reward.  It also causes us to grossly over estimate calories burned.  True weight management pairs the two together to create a calorie deficit and, if you’re smart and learned it’s necessary to strength train, promote muscle hypertrophy. Lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest. Of these two levers, diet is weighted more heavily.  Most put the ratio split at 80/20 in favor of diet.  Lastly, for emphasis on this last point, even a relatively good workout will only burn 300 calories or less.  Strategic changes in diet can easily remove more than that with little effort.
  • Food Group/Macronutrient elimination – Fad diets often remove entire food groups like dairy, or entire macronutrients like Fat (as noted in number 2 above) or Carbohydrate. These groups or macros aren’t the problem, it’s their existence in overly processed and refined foods that give them a bad name.  And, to completely contradict this trend, having a wide variety foods is the best way to reach optimal health as it will supply your body with the wide array of vitamins and minerals it needs.  To make the argument even better, it means more variety for you to eat, removing those nasty feelings of deprivation.  Forget removing dairy, or removing carbs for the sake of removing them. Instead remove the poor quality foods (processed prepackaged foods and junk foods) that are causing poor health and weight gain.  It’s time to start putting blame where it really belongs.

 
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Man To Survive On Potatoes For A Year!

potato

This real life Mark Watney is trying to survive for a year on nothing but potatoes, says an article by Jennie Jackson from “Quartz”. Read the full article here.

From Jackson:

“In an attempt to lose weight and improve his relationship with food, Andrew Taylor has decided to eat nothing but potatoes for a year. But is this approach likely to work, or will he run out of nutrients? And could he have chosen a better single food On which to live?”

The skinny: The article walks through the how and why and discusses the pros and cons of selecting the potato as the single food of choice.

What’s good: While the potato does offer a wide array of nutrients, the article eventually came to the same conclusion I had when I started reading; that your diet should consist of a wide variety of foods because of vast number of nutrients it needs to serve all of its functions. Obviously, then, no single food would cover everything, and only eating a variety of foods from all of the groups will help you achieve optimal health.

Conclusion: The idea behind the rather bizarre plan is novel. Removing processed foods, especially those riddled with saturated fat, sugar, and sodium can do wonders for improving health and removing unhealthy cravings, but rather than stick to one single food, load up on vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and lean proteins.

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Should You Give Up Dairy To Lose Weight?

dairy

This was the title of a recent article by Julie Stewart from fitness magazine.  She writes “Here’s a surprising statistic: One in 10 millennials are vegan, according to a report in Nutrition Business Journal. Call it a lifestyle or call it an elimination diet—either way, it’s picking up steam due in part to like backers like Beyoncé. (Who doesn’t want to be a little more like Queen Bey?!) And even Khloé Kardashian recently claimed that she lost 11 pounds just by cutting cheese and milk from her diet.”

Having backers like Beyonce, Khloe, and social media tends to send things viral:

“Social media has also spread the word about blogs and other media touting veganism. Many restaurants have added vegan options, and stores are stocking more plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg products, eliminating some of the roadblocks that used to make vegan diets hard to stick to, she says.

Ditching dairy for environmental or animal welfare reasons is totally a personal choice, but going vegan as a way to lose weight is a little more complicated. Just because it worked for Khloé doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll have the same effect on you.”

Aside from the obvious rebuttal that dairy does have its benefits by being good sources of Vitamin D (something too many of us are showing deficiency) and calcium, if your diet is already a mess, simply removing dairy isn’t going to do much good.  This is true for any one type of food you may read to eliminate (or add, as is the case with the recent study showing protein consumption will aide in fat-loss).  PS, this is certainly not a knock against veganism, this is more of a warning to those with a traditional diet to be careful about removing categories of food without understand the role it plays in your diet and, more importantly, to be more aware of what else you’re eating.

The best approach for weight-loss is to be sensible.  Eat a wide variety of food to ensure you’re getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals.  Cut back on processed foods and added sugars, get your exercise, and watch your calories.

This is what it’s meant to live mindfully, and you can check out our full Mindful Living program here.

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3 Little Things You Can Do To Immediately Benefit Your Health

change

If the idea of becoming healthier has been nagging you, but you just can’t bring yourself to adopt a full program, here are three little ways to make effective changes immediately:

  1. Learn to read food labels – A lot of information can be gained by glancing at food labels, in the matter of 5 seconds you can become more mindful of what you’re eating
    1. Calorie Count – Be aware of serving size, too often it doesn’t fall inline with how much of the food you’ll actually eat in a sitting
    2. Carb and Protein grams – Just by having daily targets for Protein and Carbs can make an impact on your food choices. I generally keep carbs at about 40-50% of total calories
    3. Ingredients – 2 big things to notice are the number of ingredients (be especially mindful of the ones you can’t pronounce) and the first few ingredients. If sugar or white flour are high on the list it’s likely a poor quality food
    4. Sugar count – I keep ‘added’ sugar to 37 grams per day or less. Fruit is not counted toward this total
    5. Fat content – aside from fat having more than double the calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate, you want to limit saturated fat and remove trans-fats
  2. Slow Down! – Even if you choose to indulge in your favorite comfort food, be more mindful of how fast you’re eating and slow down!  Not only will you enjoy it more, but the longer it takes you to eat the more likely it will be that your brain will get the signal from your stomach that you’re full.  You’ll naturally eat less
  3. Exercise, but start small – This one is obvious, but a huge objection for must of us.  The good news is that you don’t have to go crazy to reap the benefits.  Start off really small until it becomes a habit.  20 minute workouts just 3 times a week is enough to get started.  YouTube has an insane number of free workouts that will  keep boredom at bay, and working along with a video will push you further than working out on your own.  Look for Tabata, AMRAP, and EMOM workouts which get the most out of the short duration workouts.  Once you start seeing benefits you’ll likely want to ratchet up the duration and frequency.  They key is to start small until it takes root so that you burn out.

These easy steps can make you more mindful of your weight management habits and can help promote change. Being Mindful is a great way to make decisions automatic without deprivation.  So much so that we wrote a program called Mindful Living, check it out.

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Building Your Own Meal Plan: The Right Macro-nutrient Ratio For Fat-loss

ratio

If you haven’t heard of macro-nutrient ratios, or even macro-nutrients, this may sound like a super advanced principle, but you’ll quickly realize it’s not only simple, but understanding it can help you build your own meal plan more effectively.

Macro-nutrients, as most commonly used in nutrition-speak, refer to the components of our diets that we need in large quantities.  Specifically Carbohydrate, Protein, and fat. Macro-nutrient ratios, then, are the percentages of each that we consume in a given time frame, usually per day.

Just as it’s true that no person reacts the same to a predefined diet, I will caution that not every person will respond according to generally accepted macro-nutrient rules, but, as much as we can provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ the following should work for most of us.

The most common goal for folks new to Meal Planning is fat-loss, which is why it landed in the title of this post.  And, you won’t be surprised to learn that of the 3 common ratios, this is the one with the lowest carbohydrate percentage, and the highest protein intake. The ratio is:

Carbohydrate: 10-30% (I’d be careful about going under 15-20% myself, but these are generally accepted amounts)

Protein: 40-50%

Fat: 30-40% (Please understand that the bulk of these fats should be of the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats and omega 3’s.  Saturated fat should be kept under 15 grams per day, and trans-fats should be avoided altogether)

So, what does this mean for your meal plan, how can you tell what the ratios are based on what you eat?

Well, it requires math, but it’s very simple.  You start by knowing how many grams of each macro nutrient you’ve eaten in a day. Then, multiple the grams of Protein and Carbohydrate by 4, and Fat by 9.  This will give you the total calories for the day.  Then simply divide the calories of each macro-nutrient by the total.

So, for example, if you had 1,800 total calories yesterday from 90 grams of Carbs, 225 grams of Protein,

and 60 grams of fat, your total calories per macro would be:

Carbs 90 x 4 = 360

Protein 225 X 4 = 900

Fat 60 x 9 = 540

And your ratios would be:

Carbs = 20% (360/1,800)

Protein = 50% (900/1,800)

Fat = 30% (540/1,800)

This would be a very typical ratio for Fat-loss.  If this is your goal, design your meals to mirror these same ratios, but start first with your total calorie target and work backwards.  And remember, you calorie target should be set 500 calories below your maintenance needs as to create a calorie deficit.

Creating these types of meal plans is something we can help you with, both with our online coaching and our 30 day reset, which focus on the fat-loss ratio.

To recap, here are the suggested ratios by the three primary goals (C/P/F):

Fat-loss: 10-30%/40-50%/30-40%

Maintenance: 30-50%/25-35%/25-35%

Bodybuilding/muscle gain: 40-60%/25-35%/15-25%

Want to make this super easy? Download an app like Lose it! and it will do the work for you. You can see your ratios at a glance each day and adjust as appropriate.

 
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5 Sugary Things You Need To Avoid

soda

I recently did a post talking about all the conflicting information available with regard to Nutrition and Exercise. While there will continue to be controversy over extremes (anything from Paleo to Low-Fat dieting), one of the few universal things we all agree on is our need to significantly cut down on added Sugars.

Ellie Krieger of the Washington Post writes “Beyond adding empty calories and spiking blood glucose, which can contribute to weight gain and the myriad health issues linked with that, eating sugar dramatically increases your risk of dying from a heart attack. A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 found that people who ate close to 20 percent of their daily calories from added sugar had a whopping 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate half as much. (For clarity, I am talking about added, refined sugar here — the concentrated sweetener put into foods, as opposed to the sugars inherent in whole fruits and dairy. Because those foods are naturally “packaged” with water, fiber and other nutrients, they do not have the same negative effect on your health. In fact, most of us should be eating more of them.)”

Here are the 5 no-no’s for anyone concerned about their added sugar in-take (and that needs to be ALL of you)

  1. Soda – There’s absolutely nothing good coming from Soda, even the diet version. If you need the fizz, switch to seltzer and if you absolutely need something to cut the taste, add a very small amount of fruit juice.  This will make it taste more like soda with only a fraction of the sugar.
  2. Sugar Cereals – I know it’s a quick way to get your breakfast in the morning, and I salute the effort, but check your labels.  Even cereals you think are good for you are still loaded with sugar.  Find cereals made from only whole grains and ones that include that as the ONLY ingredient.  If not, skip it.  To sweeten the taste, add fruit.
  3. Candy – This should not be apart of your daily routine as an adult.  If you’re someone who thinks they need chocolate or the like to get through the day, recognize that you have unwittingly created a bad habit and it needs to be broken.  Remove it from your routine for 30 days and you’ll be shocked how you will no longer crave it.
  4. Sports drinks – Unless you’re a pro athlete please give me a break.  Stop this now.  You want energy? Grab a handful of almonds.
  5. Coffee – This is another habitual drink.  Remove it from your coffee for 30 days. I bet on day 31 you’d find your old coffee too sweet and undrinkable.  Do not drink sugar, it’s pointless.

Read Ellie Krieger’s full article here.

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