Category Archives: Weight Loss

Weight Watchers Faces Reality: “Calorie Counting has Become Unhelpful”

FINALLY! It appears that the calorie counting method of weight loss is gasping its last shallow breaths. With such a weight loss icon as Weight Watchers – nearly 50 years old – changing their tune, the country will soon be looking at food in a newer, healthier way.

Click here to read more from the Time magazine article:

My thoughts – definitely an improvement, I’d like to learn more and I disagree that fruit should be free (yes if health is the objective, no if fat loss is). I think Jennifer Andrus’ comment about a calorie is a calorie is factually correct, but for purposes of health and fat loss, absurdly inappropriate to come from the mouth of a nutrition professional. Fat loss is far more complex than the units of heat we ingest (calories). Consuming sugar causes hormonal releases in the body that promote fat storage, while consuming protein does not. Yes, you can gain weight by consuming too many calories of any food, but to lose fat effectively, one must be discriminating in determining where one’s calories come from.

Timeless Advice: Chew Your Food

Chewing my food did not really come to my attention until I was doing some post-grad studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. How I managed to move through over a decade of studying and a university education without “getting” this concept is a mystery. It may simply be that, like drinking water, chewing is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health.

I first conducted my own chewing experiment after hearing Andrea Beaman share  the lesson she received from her macrobiotic teacher, Michio Kushi, who explained the importance of chewing each bite 100 times. Andrea related that such a task was difficult to do, but encouraged us to try chewing each mouthful 30-50 times to observe what happened.

What I initially noticed was how little I actually chewed. Try 6-10 times before swallowing! Large chunks of food were sliding down my esophagus, burdening my stomach and digestive system. When I stopped to chew, amazing things happened:

1) I grew bored, and quickly! Chewing is a tough task for those of us used to eating on the fly, multi-tasking, or otherwise handling multiple levels of information at once. The task of counting each chew was agonizingly dull at first. Then I began to notice other things…

2) The more I chewed, the more the flavors within foods changed: crackers and apples became much sweeter!

3) I came to understand the compulsion of swallowing – you literally cannot help it after a certain time…small amounts of food become liquid and the need to swallow arises from an area of the body unaffiliated with our conscious mind.

4) And most importantly: I became full on 50 – 75% less food. I realized how little mass my body actually needed to be satisfied, when given the chance to fully assimilate and absorb the nutrition it was receiving. I had the very personal experience of understanding how to work with the digestive process. (remember – it takes 20 minutes for our body to receive the hormonal signals to shut down appetite!)

Truthfully, I still have a hard time chewing 30 times. I still get distracted, bored, and my ego steps in and convinces me I have “more important things to do”. each time I do though, I find I get greater enjoyment and satisfaction from my meal, I lose weight, and I experience more moments of peace throughout the day. This week I’m making the commitment to chew at least one meal very, very thoroughly. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know what YOU notice!

Top Ten Calorie-Free Treats

Below are my list of top ten calorie free treats. These are suitable for any diet, whether you are a vegetarian, omnivore, lactose-intolerant, or even a gluten-free triathlete!

1) Massage

2) A walk in nature – the beach, a wooded trail, around a lake…

3) Good Conversation

4) Laughter

5) Spontaneous Dance Parties

6) Exercise

7) Spa treatments

8) A Good Book

9) Candle-lit, rose pedal, scented baths

10) Playing with dogs, cats, and/or kids

What are some of your favorite calorie-free treats?

The Importance of Mindfulness

I set this to post while I am away meditating. It seems appropriate, as meditation is an act of creating mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a key element in successfully maintaining weight loss, determining which foods work best for your body, and for staying healthy and balanced in all areas of life. With countless external cues creating an environment suited to overindulgence, vigorous attention to our body’s cues is perhaps the most effective tool for health available — and it costs nothing!

We can all agree that what we eat has a huge impact on our health and energy, but what is less commonly known is how what we eat affects our appetite, our moods, and our thoughts. With hectic, busy lifestyles, we are no longer aware of the impact that our food choices have on our level of functioning, and many have lost sight of what high level functioning feels like.

[Tweet “When we begin to pay attention, our entire world becomes possibility for change.”]

By noticing how the foods we eat affect our body, we empower ourselves to make different choices. One of the key things clients who work with VIBRANCE experience is a greater connection between food and body wellness, and a greater understanding of the language their unique body uses to communicate with them.
When we begin to make different choices based on how our body feels, we capitalize on the body’s ability to restore and heal itself and experience a greater sense of wellness and vitality.  [Tweet “When it comes to weight loss, mindfulness is mandatory for sustained success.”]

When I first started setting everything aside to enjoy my meal, I found it boring. Painfully so! I wanted to rush through my meal so I could get back to whatever seemed more pressing at the time.
Then I slowed down even more, focusing instead on the food that was in front of me — the gloss of the dressing on my spinach leaf, the sensation of biting into a crisp bite of apple or celery, the feel of different textures and tastes in my mouth as I chewed. I became aware I only chewed about 6 – 10 times before swallowing, so I tried to quadruple that and I found I needed to take smaller bites. Then I noticed I was full long before my plate was empty.

So I started putting less food on my plate…  You can see where this is going.

Multi-tasking is registered in the brain as stress; inducing a fight or flight response because the brain is divided between important duties.  The adrenaline kicks in to increase our attentiveness, but ultimately this has negative impact on our short term memory as well as our overall health and well-being.

When we multi-task while eating, we do not pick up on the very food cues that initiate digestion. The smell of food, even the thought of food starts our systems preparing for digestion and assimilation. Chewing begins the process of tearing down a meal and key enzymes located in saliva are responsible for digesting carbohydrate.  The sight of our meal cues the hormonal cascade that lets us know we are full 20 minutes after we begin eating.

[Tweet “When stressed or distracted, our digestive system takes the back seat.”] The body isn’t interested in extracting vitamins from an orange when it’s white-knuckling it through a stack of emails or preparation for a board meeting.  Consequently, digestion is impaired and stomach troubles, fat storage, and blood lipids increase while the ability to detoxify, extract vitamins and minerals, feel full and be satisfied decreases.

Simply sitting down, looking at your food, and paying attention to how it feels will make you feel more satisfied. Make it a habit and you’ll likely drop some weight, improve your digestion, and you may even find out you don’t actually like the convenience foods you’ve been eating all this time. (it’s happened before!)

Give it a try for one meal a day for the next 10 days and let me know what the effects are.  I’d love to hear back from you.

More information:

The Pitfalls of Multi-tasking

Why Being Mindful Matters

Experts Set Sugar Limits in an Effort to Combat Obesity

There is no arguing that the obesity epidemic in this country is caused by multiple factors. Among them is our increase in calories — mainly coming from refined sugars.
Candice Wong, a UCSF cardiovascular epidemiologist and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association says, “The average American caloric intake has increased by about 150 to 300 (daily) calories in the last 30 years…it’s coming from processed foods, half of it from sugared beverages.”

While lack of movement is also a strong contributing factor, our sugar intake is finally getting addressed in a powerful way. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently suggested that San Francisco become the first city in the United States to charge retailer suppliers of sugary beverages.
Also, for the first time ever (and at least a decade behind, in my opinion) the American Heart Association has taken a stand and called for a cap on added sugar consumption — with recommendations that most women limit their intake of added sugars to only 100 calories a day and that men take in only 150 calories a day. (Added sugars are those that aren’t naturally found in foods like fruits and plain dairy products.)
For a majority of women, that equates to less than one 12-ounce can of soda; men could have the soda plus a very small chocolate chip cookie.

The biggest single contributor to added sugars is high fructose corn syrup, which became a big hit with manufacturers in the 70’s.  Back then,  Americans consumed about 9 teaspoons a day of fructose, according to a 2008 study. By the mid-1990s, consumption nearly doubled to 14 teaspoons a day. Today, the average American guzzles about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, mostly as fructose, according to the National Cancer Institute. Tragically, the young consume the most – teenage boys average about 34 teaspoons of sugar every day (that is over 2/3 cup of added sugar).

What does this mean?

High fructose corn syrup is extremely unhealthy, disrupting metabolism and cellular communication in a way that is believed to be linked to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes. In a study of more than 6,000 people (the Framingham Heart Study), people who drank at least one soft drink daily had a higher risk for developing metabolic syndrome compared with people who did not often have a soft drink. The Nurse’s health study supports the negative effects of soda, demonstrating soda drinkers to average ten pounds heavier and be twice as likely  to develop diabetes over an 8 year time span.

Think diet soda is a better option? Think again. Diet soda drinkers tend to weigh more than regular soda drinkers, according to a study conducted at Perdue.

Unfortunately, even eschewing sodas doesn’t mean you’ll effortlessly keep sugars at bay.  Manufacturers cleverly slip sweeteners into all sorts of products you wouldn’t think of — crackers, spaghetti sauce, chips, sauces on frozen or packaged entrees, and almost anything they can get away with. The sweet taste is one that has a powerfully alluring effect on human beings, and food manufacturers make the most of this fact.  It truly is a case of “Buyer Beware” out there; label reading is an essential skill in navigating a grocery store these days.

Meanwhile, Mayor Newsom and others are looking at making it harder for us to get our hands on sugar. While suggested limits and taxes may be helpful, a nation addicted to sugar won’t be so easily dissuaded.

If obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome or other blood sugar diseases run in your family, it is important to begin to get savvy about your food labels to prevent a similar future. Make it a priority to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your home, and be mindful that common dishes such as the pancakes and sweet and sour chicken you order will likely contain added sugars as well.  Become a sleuth at detecting hidden sugars and keep your intake of sweets down whenever possible.

Sources: Seattle P.I. October 12, 2009 (click the source for a list of the amount of calories from sugar in several food items)

VIBRANCE Recommends: Nutriiveda Weight Management Shake

I like to try new things.  A lot.
I’m a dabbler. If it holds up to my quality standards and seems like something my clients might benefit from, I’ll give it a try.

Right now I am playing with a lot of new products, which I will be talking about here in the coming months, but I wanted to share this one first.

NutriiVeda is a weight management shake that is based on Ayurvedic herbs and modern nutrition. At first I thought it probably wouldn’t be that much different than anything else. My experience had been that protein powders generally feel the same in your body (unless one has a food sensitivity) and it is really a matter of taste preference and quality assurance.

In this case, it’s a little different.

While the basis of NutriiVeda is whey protein (which research shows to be most beneficial to retaining muscle and providing highly absorbed amino acids), the most notable difference is the addition of seven plant botanicals which very effectively curb cravings and appetite.

I tried it. I can vouch for it.
I currently exercise between 7 and 10 hours a week, which means that I get hungry often. I eat about every 2-3 hours, be it a handful or trail mix or an all out meal. When I received my first jar of NutriiVeda and mixed it as directed (just the powder and unsweetened almond milk) I found that no thought of food crossed my mind until nearly 4 hours later.

People, this is unheard of.

That got me pretty excited. It exceeded my expectations, which is hard to do!
Not only this, but being sensitive to dairy I was a little wary of a whey based shake, even if it is listed as casein and lactose free. My digestive system handled it quite well and I have found it to be a tasty, quick snack during busy work hours that allows me to focus more on work and less on snack. I find my blood sugar stays balanced, I stay focused and am actually as productive as I am on caffeine, without the nasty side effects.

NutriiVeda also comes with a 12 week weight loss program that introduces the follower to the concepts of Ayurveda and eating for one’s dosha to find balance in the body (which is designed to facilitate weight loss).  What I love most about the program is it’s incorporation into MINDFULNESS as an essential component; journaling and meditation are key elements to this program. Beginning in January, VIBRANCE will be offering the 12 week program in a group format and include other concepts of healthy living and more detailed information on Ayurvedic eating.

I am considering keeping a supply of it on hand for clients to try.  In the meantime,  if you are interested in trying it out contact me and I can assist you in getting started. The product is currently available through distributors only (unless you live near the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA) so it is pretty hard to stumble upon unless you know someone (and you do!)

For more information on the product and to check out the NutriiVeda Diet Program, click here. Want to try it yourself? Click  “join” on the top right corner to give it a try!

Losing Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

People often believe that weight loss is going to be a effortless bonus to living a more cruelty-free, planet-conscious lifestyle.

For some, this is definitely the case. When I became a vegetarian at 13, I dropped about 10 pounds without any effort on my part. I did gain it back, but I was still a growing child. Whenever the diet is restricted in any way, the odds for increased weight loss tend to occur.

Others find it harder to lose weight on a vegetarian diet, or have difficulty feeling full, satisfied, and energetic.  The differences between individual metabolisms and genetics mean that each person needs a different dietary lifestyle to have the health, energy and body they desire. For some people, a vegetarian diet is not suited as a life-long choice and a transition back into a omnivorous lifestyle needs to be done with attention paid to physical health, ethical beliefs, and any emotional implications of such a transition (especially if vegetarianism is due to ethical or religious convictions).

If you are a vegetarian and find it difficult to lose weight, here are some tips that work and take YOUR needs into account:

  1. Vary Your Protein Sources: Protein plays an important role in satiety and retaining muscle mass on a low calorie diet. As a vegetarian, it is easy to rely on soy deli slices, soy cheese, soy protein, and other forms of highly refined soy to keep your protein needs up. The problem with this is that soy is very difficult to digest, 90% of it is genetically engineered, and the rates of soy intolerance (especially among vegetarians) is rapidly rising. Mix it up by including hemp or rice protein, quorn, eggs and dairy (if tolerated) and whole beans (canned or boiled) to stay satisfied. A benefit to the beans is the fiber which, as you’ll see below, is also an asset for weight loss.
  2. Up the Fiber: This post details the benefits and recommendations in using fiber for weight loss. Adding vegetables to every meal, psyllium husk or ground flax to your morning smoothie, and consuming whole and sprouted grains will keep you satisfied for much longer. If you consume bread, Ezekiel 4:9 ensures you receive maximum fiber and nutrition in every slice – naturally!
  3. Practice Mindfulness: regardless of what is on your plate, knowing how hungry you are and when you actually feel satisfied is the biggest secret to sustained weight loss. This alone prevents overeating, mindless nibbling, and being lured into unnecessary snacks and extra portions due to cues in our environment. In addition to food education, much of the work with weight loss clients is learning tools to increase mindfulness and identify sources of food cravings.
  4. Get support: I cannot say it enough — supportive atmospheres increase your likelihood of success, regardless of the endeavor you are undertaking! Join a group, hire a trainer or nutrition professional, team up with a coworker, enlist your family members, but do what you need to to have the camaraderie and support to make your goal a reality!

These tips apply to anyone, regardless of dietary choices. Losing weight needn’t require hours of counting points or calories, nor does it mean limiting yourself to canned shakes or dehydrated, freeze-died diet meals. Instead of further disconnecting from your food, re-connecting to your meal and to yourself is how sustained weight loss can be assured.  If you are struggling to lose weight and need additional support, check out my services to see if a package can work for you, or contact me to create a more customized option to suit you, no matter where you live!

How Sweet It Isn't: The truth about artificial sweeteners

A side effect of being a calorie-phobic society is the creation of zero calorie non-foods to give us what we crave (sweets) without adding to our caloric load. Since the cyclamates of the 50’s (banned in ’69 in the US due to connections with cancer) the food manufacturing industry has been turning out one artificial sweetener after another, often with deliterious effects. Each new version is reported to have no known side effects…partially because testing has been skewed (if the industry sponsors the study, do you think they’ll publish unfavorable results?) and partially because a 12 week study cannot determine long-term effects.

Let’s look at the list….

Cyclamates – listed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the FDA in the 50’s, then pulled in ’69 due to links of bladder and testicular cancer in lab animals.

Saccharin: actually the oldest artificial sweetener, it rose to popularity after the Cyclamate ban. Some studies also link it to cancer; while others claim it is safe. It is derived from coal tar, which is (insert sarcasm here) known to be a wonderful benefit to the human diet. It is still permitted to be sold in the USA, although it must carry a warning label demonstrating its link to cancers in lab animals. It is stored in pink packets.

Aspartame: aka Nutrasweet, often sold in the blue packets. Aspartame is made by combining 2 amino acids together using methanol. At temperatures of 86 degrees, the compound breaks down (which is why nutrasweet is not suitable for baking). The end effect is methanol floating in the system. Methanol is a precursor to formaldyhyde and formic acid (the toxin in fire ants). None of these products are ideal for conserving healthy living tissue.

The side effects of nutrasweet are common and widespread. In my practice I have seen it linked to headaches and blurred vision. A client who worked for a neurologist told me her boss had it banned from his office. Aspartame breaks down in the body and stays in fatty tissue, favoring storage in the eyes and brain. Most side effects are related to these areas of the body. No other compound approved by the FDA has received more complaints than Nutrasweet.  Dr. Mark Hyman notes that of the 166 safety studies conducted on aspartame, 74 were partially funded by interested industry parties and 92 were independently funded. 100% of industry sponsored studies concluded aspartame was safe, 92% of independent studies link aspartame to potentially cause adverse side effects.

Splenda (sucralose): The newest to join the market, Splenda is made from replacing some of the hydrogen atoms in the sugar molecule with chlorine. Initially it was determined to be unrecognizable by the body and not broken down. Newer research shows the body is able to partially break down and absorb sucralose. Given the track record of our food industry and artificial sweeteners, I’m not jumping on the Splenda bandwagon, and I reccommend my clients stay away as well. It’s too early to tell what the side effects will be, but I’m pretty certain they will begin showing up in 5 years or so. Some early studies are showing alterations in gut flora (in rats) and potential to trigger migraines in certain individuals.

The Bottom Line:

All artificial sweeteners are made form compounds that are NOT recognized as nourishment by the human body and most have pretty significant potential side effects. Studies published in the International Journal of Obesity and Behavioral Neuroscience indicate that consumption of artificial sweeteners may lead to increased caloric intake and weight gain – the exact opposite of what they are advertised to do! Certainly we can look around us and see the introduction of calorie-free sweeteners has not reduced our weight as a nation.  We are definitely more overweight than we were in the 70’s and 80’s and have more cancer, diabetes and heart disease as well. The evidence clearly indicates that artificial sweeteners are not the answer to our health issues.

A Visual: Obesity Rates 1985-2008

Obesity Rates (by % of population) Increase from 1989 to 2008

Celebrate Summer – Without Gaining Weight!

There’s always a big push to lose weight for the summer, and then we engage in all sorts of activities which encourage weight to come back on — heavy BBQ’s, travel to new and exciting places, summer parties and celebrations all centered around lots and lots of food.

The unscheduled nature of summer interferes with routines which keep weight more easily managed, and often people notice a couple of extra pounds in preparation for the winter months.

Given that we don’t opt to hibernate, this extra weight isn’t necessary! Here are some of my top tips to avoid gaining weight when traveling and enjoying summer festivities:

1) Grill It! Use your grill for good, not evil. Instead of ribs and hot dogs, grill a variety of vegetables, chicken kabobs and use a cedar plank to grill fresh fish. Use exotic spice blends for flavor and BBQ sauce on the side to dip your chicken in if you are sensitive to sugars.

2) Bring a healthy dish to potlucks so you can ensure a healthy option is available. Others will appreciate it as well!

3) Crowd out caloric drinks with water: Summer slushies, cocktails, and blended coffee drinks can have as many calories as your main meal. Keep caloric drinks to a minimum, and when you do have one, have a tall glass of water (with lime for flavor) before and after you have your high-calorie beverage.

4) Plan you vacations to include healthy options and physical activity: If it’s very hot, exercise in the morning or evening – stroll the beach at sunset, play in water parks with the kids, hike in the shaded woods. Pack picnic lunches, utilize grocery stores for healthy snack options, and plan ahead whenever possible. I often research restaurants in locations I am visiting to get an idea of options available to me. For road trips, this post may be useful to you.

5) Keep tabs on yourself! Don’t turn a blind eye. If you are prone to overdoing it on vacation or during the summer, keep tabs on your size with a specific pair of pants or measuring tape. Some clients find it helpful to keep a food log in high-risk situations to keep them honest and accountable. Do what you need to without sacrificing the joys of the summer months!