A Difficult (But Necessary) Step for Losing Weight 40+

difficult-and-necessary-step-for-weight-loss-40+

This post is inspired from some recent experiences with clients and workshop participants. At first glance, these people looked very different. But they had one thing in common. While they had hired me/ came out to listen to me speak, they both completely refused to take in what I had to share. They hired me for my expertise, then subsequently refused to take it.

Did I take it personally? No. Human behaviour is fascinating. We’re always a little bit of two minds about change – there’s a part of us who wants to change. And, a part of us who doesn’t. In both of these cases, the part of them that didn’t want to change won.

Why am I sharing this with you? I mean, it doesn’t make much business sense to share my failures with you. I’m sharing it with you because there’s a lesson to be learned. A lesson that you can apply to any aspect of your health, but especially for those of us 40+ folks who are looking to have a healthy weight.

The first step to making any change in life is letting go of our past habits and beliefs.

Elsa from Frozen has it right – let it go! Even Oprah is talking about letting it go in her O Magazine this month.

Letting go of past habits, no matter how much evidence we have that they aren’t working for us, is difficult. This is especially true when you want to lose weight and you’ve been on diets in the past that haven’t worked. It’s amazing how often clients hire me because they’re at their heaviest ever, yet they’re still doing habits from past diets. Diets that obviously haven’t worked (at least long-term). Or, the diets worked when young, but they don’t work for us 40+ folks.

The most difficult step in losing weight in middle-age is letting go of past habits. Giving up things like:

  • Weighing yourself daily.
  • Counting calories.
  • Writing down every morsel that you eat.
  • Eating zero carbs.
  • Aiming for a magical number on the scale from your 20’s – pre-busy life, pre-kids, etc.
  • Denying yourself the pleasure of favourite foods.
  • Nutrition mis-information that you’ve accepted as fact.

You see, when people come to me they are hardly blank slates. What I’ve found is that once people let go of these past habits, weight loss follows. I’d call it magic if I wasn’t so science-based.

So I leave you with an important question: what do you need to let go of in order to achieve your happy weight?

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Should I Take a Multivitamin?

should-i-take-a-multivitamin

I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.

First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.

Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.

Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.

Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.

Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.

What if I’m not in those two groups?

Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.

Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.

Tackle your emotional eating this #NutritionMonth

emotional eating

Does a big slab of chocolate cake make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired. But there are better ways than emotional eating to deal with those feelings.

[Note: In the spirit of full transparency, this is my personal take on a blog post created by Dietitians of Canada in honour of Nutrition Month. This post hit close to home with my experience with clients I help with my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program, so I knew I had to share it with you].

I often work with clients who identify with this problem. Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into their three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Here’s an example of how it works.

Emotional Eating: Spot the Problem

Jamie works full-time while raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. He turns to food for comfort when he is stressed at work or frustrated at home. He wants to learn better eating habits.

Emotional Eating: Get the Facts

Jamie hears about me. He learns that craving food when he’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. We work together to spot the patterns in his behaviour and identify his triggers, such as:

  • Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (his weakness is bags of chips - especially at night)
  • Eating too much without realizing it
  • Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much

Jamie learns about mindful eating as a way to manage his emotional eating habits. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. So instead of eating a whole bag of chips when he’s stressed, he can learn to be more mindful of his choice – perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack.

Mindful eating can help him become more aware of the reason why he’s eating. It will teach him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he feels full. Jamie learns that with my help, he can become more aware of his emotional and physical responses to food. With practice, he can manage his stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when he’s making food choices.

Instead of turning to comfort food, he can learn to fight stress by doing something he enjoys, such as taking his dog for a walk, playing street hockey with his kids, reading a book or cooking.

Emotional Eating: Seek Support

Jamie finds lots of help from his dietitian - that's me. :)

Crave-Worthy Healthy Recipes

Crave chocolate when stressed? Check out these recipes for healthy chocolate treats: Chocolate mint whip and chocolate chia pudding.

Remove this Sentence to Keep Away Your Diet Self-Saboteur

keep away your diet self-saboteur

Okay, fair warning. It’s rant time. I’ve got something stuck in my craw again and I’m throwing off my sunshine & rainbows positivity hat and going deep.

There’s a sentence that I hear people say when they’re talking about food. People say it all the time. But just because people say it frequently, it doesn’t mean that it’s true.

So, what’s this phrase that has me all hot and bothered?

“I can’t have that.”

Unless you have a serious food allergy and will go in to analphyactic shock, you can eat a food. But you may choose not to eat it.

If you’re vegan, you choose not to eat animal products because of your ethics. If you are Jewish, you may choose to eat kosher because of your faith. If you have food sensitivities, you choose to avoid eating those foods because you are choosing to avoid the symptoms that they cause. If you are on a diet/cleanse/meal plan that doesn’t allow certain foods, you are choosing to follow that diet/cleanse/meal plan.

Why am I going on and on about something that just seems like minor semantics? Because the way we think about food, also called our relationship with food, can either help us be healthy or it can work against us. Changing “can’t” into “choose” is one path to creating a healthy relationship with food.

There are two reasons why saying “I can’t have that” works against you:

  1. We’re all rebels. Making something taboo, off limits, a ‘can’t-have’ naturally drives us towards it. There’s nothing to make you want to eat ice cream more than to say that you’ll never eat it again. Saying, “no thank you, I don’t choose to have ice cream today” doesn’t trigger your inner self-saboteur in the same way.
  2. Be active in your life. “I choose” is active language. It’s empowering – you’ve made a choice. It re-confirms a commitment that you’ve made. In contrast, “I can’t” is victim language. Something is being done to you. As an adult, you have the power to choose what you eat and when you eat it. Don’t give away your power. You can turn to experts to give you advice on what to eat, but the ultimate choice, responsibility, power, remains with you. Foster this power. Each time you say “I choose _______” you are reinforcing your power.

With your newly opened eyes (and ears), read the two responses in the following scenario. Even better, read them aloud. Can you hear the difference? Can you feel the difference?

Scenario: Someone offers you a tray of cookies.

You respond: “No thank you. I’m choosing to eat less sugar.”

versus

“I’d love a cookie but I can’t have one.”

Keep away your diet self-saboteur – remove “I can’t” from your lexicon.

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Choose Food for What IS in It

choose food for what is in it

Choosing food for what isn’t in it has been the gateway to a whole lot of ridiculous food trends. I’m old enough to remember when everyone was talking about avoiding eating cholesterol. Like weeds, up sprung “cholesterol-free” labels on all sorts of foods in the grocery store. Highly processed foods like cookies, crackers, sugary breakfast cereals all had “cholesterol-free” emblazoned across them. People heard that cholesterol meant heart attacks so choosing low-cholesterol foods must be healthy choices. Right? Boy were people wrong. These foods were just as unhealthy as they were before they were marked with “cholesterol-free”. What’s worse, is that many people were happily scarfing down huge portions of these foods because they were cholesterol-free.

An example of this type of thinking/ behaviour: before, I might have had a couple of handfuls of potato chips but now I can eat an entire large bag because they’re cholesterol-free.

It sounds ridiculous when I break it down this way but it was happening. A lot. A particularly amusing label that I remember was bananas sporting “cholesterol-free” stickers. Why is this amusing? Because cholesterol is a fat made by some animals. That’s why it’s found in red meat…and us. Bananas, are a fruit (not an animal). They never did contain cholesterol. Bananas hadn’t changed. But here they were now labeled “cholesterol-free” and people were flocking to them.

I’m seeing this now with the gluten-free trend. “Gluten-free” is announced across all sorts of foods. Many of which never contained any gluten in the first place (thus, like bananas and cholesterol). These foods range from healthy choices to unhealthy choices. People are choosing them because “gluten-free” now equals “healthy” in many people’s minds. But the presence or absence of gluten has nothing to do with it. A chocolate cupcake isn’t a healthy choice suddenly because it’s gluten-free. It’s still a treat to be enjoyed once in a while – not by the dozen.

I’m not commenting on whether eating cholesterol was healthy or unhealthy. Nor whether people should eat or avoid gluten. That’s completely beside that point. What I want to draw your attention to is that when you choose foods for what isn’t in them, you leave yourself at risk for falling for these marketing traps.

Instead I want you to turn it completely upside down. Choose food for what IS in it. Your body needs to be nourished. You need to fuel it with good food and all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, energy and other nutrients that it needs. Make most of what you eat be foods close to the way that Mother Nature made them (i.e. minimally processed) where all the good stuff hasn’t been removed through processing. Sometimes enjoy foods that you eat solely for pleasure.

Respect food for what it can offer. Respect your body and feed it well. Yes, in a world where we’re almost constantly told to hate our bodies, this act of choosing to nourish yourself can feel like a small act of rebellion. And so, I say it again:

Choose food for what IS in it. You’re worth it.

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Truth or Myth: Eating at Night Makes you Fat

eating at night fat

One of the myths that seems to have real staying power is that eating after 7pm will make you fat. I can’t tell you how many times people “confess” their eating “sin” to me that while they try not to eat after 7pm, they just can’t stop. I have good news for you. There isn’t anything magical that happens at 7pm. We aren’t Cinderella – our metabolism doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 7pm. (Sorry, couldn't resist using the pumpkin analogy there - I'm writing this on Hallowe'en afterall).

Hey, I understand why this myth persists. People love to learn that there is a simple, all-powerful reason why they can’t seem to lose weight. That there’s some secret that slim people know.

What’s more, when the so-called “simple” secret is unattainable for most of us, it empowers the diet industry by feeding in to the dieting-shame-guilt cycle that most women are stuck in. I.e., it’s your fault that you can’t organize your life well enough to eat before 7pm. And, you’re too weak to have the willpower to not eat again afterwards.

I have good news. Eating at night doesn’t make you fat.

If it did, every single person in Spain would be obese. Their tradition is to eat late at night. Last month in Barcelona, Granada, and Gran Canaria, I was amazed to see families with young children (we’re talking toddlers and preschoolers) out eating at cafes at 11pm.

Now me saying that doesn’t give you free reign to sit on the couch for hours every night mindlessly scarfing down entire bags of popcorn, chips and candy. Because that habit will cause weight gain. But it’s not the time on the clock that’s the problem here. Mindlessly eating loads of junk food day after day isn’t a healthy habit no matter what time the clock says.

So, what’s the solution? The solution depends on the root cause of your night-time hunger. First, do a little self-assessment. Why might you be hungry at night? It’s likely not your lack of willpower. There are a number of reasons. Some include:

  • We humans digest food and naturally become hungry again in about 4 hours. So, if you eat dinner at 6pm and you go to bed at 11pm, you likely will be hungry around 9:30-10pm.
  • If you watch TV, all the food ads will stimulate you to want to eat.
  • If you have skipped meals, or made some common eating mistakes earlier in the day, you may be experiencing rebound low blood sugar (which causes cravings for high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, highly processed foods).
  • If your days are constant stress and you don’t have a lot of tools in your self-care toolbox, you may be craving comfort foods as a method of self-care.
  • If you live alone, you may be eating out of boredom and loneliness. (See note above re: comfort food and self-care).
  • Our bodies are amazing at learning patterns. You may have a learned association of eating at night even if you aren’t hungry.

Understanding these common causes of out-of-control eating at night, you can see how these are some steps to take to turn things around:

  • Don’t sweat it if it’s after 7pm by the time you get home from work/ the kids’ extra-curricular activities and get a healthy dinner on the table. Drop the guilt over how you’ve “failed” because you can’t make it all happen before 7pm. There is no problem with eating your dinner after 7pm. Instead, offer yourself a huge “congratulations” for making it all happen!
  • If you eat earlier and there will be more than 4 hours between dinner and bedtime, plan a healthy snack. It’s a great opportunity for a serving of vegetables or fruit paired with some protein-rich foods. An apple and cheese is a favourite evening snack of mine. So is edamame with raw carrots.
  • Turn off the TV. Choose other activities to wind down at night.
  • Build up your self-care toolkit.

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Start Your Day by Setting an Intention

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In a podcast that I was listening to recently, the speaker suggested starting each day by setting an intention for the day. I’ve been doing it myself and LOVING it. The rest of the day, when I’m making choices about what I get up to, I think back on my intention and decide if my action would fit with that day’s intention or go against my intention.

This idea is amazingly simple and easy to do. When your alarm rings in the morning, before you get out of bed, before you check your phone, or check on your kids, or whatever else you do, take a moment to set an intention for the day. Complete this statement: My intention for today is _______________________.

Here’s why I’m recommending it to you. Most of our day is spent racing from activity to activity. Especially us women. We spend the entire day taking care of others. Being a mother, sister, friend, employee, boss, volunteer, etc. It’s incredibly valuable to have the very first thing you do in a day be something you do for you. You’re signalling to yourself that you’re putting ‘you’ on the agenda. The chronic stress that is our modern reality runs havoc on our hormones, leading to cravings and weight gain. Taking this brief moment is a powerful way to wait a beat before that stressful day starts.

To combat the chronic stress (and the impact on their hormones), I always ask clients who participate in my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You program, to integrate brief mindfulness practices into their day – a brief daily practice and evening practice. I’ll be adding a morning intention-setting practice to their action plans from now on so that they can get the benefits. Why not start your intention-setting practice tomorrow so that you can start experiencing the benefits?

Your Health is like a Bank Account

piggy bank

Today’s post is inspired by a conversation that I had with a client over the weekend. It’s a conversation that I have with most clients. We women tend to hold ourselves to a very high standard. There can be a good side of this; it helps us strive towards excellence. And, there can be a downside of this; being very hard on ourselves when we don’t live up to our expectations.

When applied to our relationship with food, I call it the dieting mentality. Going on a diet means that starting XX day, I’ll eat “perfectly” according to [insert name of plan]. I’ll never again eat sugar, highly processed foods, caffeine, [insert “bad” food]. Which sounds good. Except that life gets in the way. We get busy. We get stressed out. We get invited to a party. The holiday season arrives. Inevitably we eat the “bad” food. And, we slip back into our old habits. What follows? Our negative self-talk. We scold ourselves for misbehaving. We blame ourselves for not having the strength to stick to our new diet.

If this sounds familiar, I have some very, very good news for you. Being healthy doesn’t require us to eat “perfectly”. This dieting mentality has got it all wrong. Our bodies are amazing. They’re designed to be forgiving; to operate well even without the perfect fuel every day.

Here’s the analogy that I like to use to explain this phenomenon:

Our health is like a bank account. Every healthy meal and snack that we eat is like depositing money in a bank account. The more healthy choices you make, the more your bank balance increases.

There will also be days and weeks where you don’t make healthy choices – where you make withdrawals. If your typical eating habits are healthy, you have a big balance and it’s okay to take some withdrawals because your bank balance can take it. When life returns back to normal, you can start depositing money back into your account and build your bank balance back up again.

But, if your daily eating habits aren’t healthy, then your bank balance is near zero. When the crazy stressful times come, you don’t have much to draw from and soon you’ll be in overdraft. You’ll experience negative health consequences. You’ll be running on empty.

I hope that you can see how different this concept of healthy eating is versus the dieting mentality. The bank account mentality assumes that you’ll have times when you’ll eat unhealthy. Eating unhealthy isn’t “failure”; it’s a normal part of life. As such, there’s no need to be hard on yourself, to feel shame, to feel guilt. Instead, it’s an opportunity to be grateful – to recognize and congratulate yourself for building up your bank account to carry you through the stressful time. And, to be amazed at how resilient our bodies are.

Free yourself from the perfectionistic fear of food. Enjoy the journey of making deposits and withdrawals from your health bank account.

NGC*: Sleep

sleep

Today I’m coming to you with some news that I know you’ll like. Which is a treat for me because usually I’m the bearer of bad news – telling you to eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, etc. Today I’m not telling you to do less of something enjoyable. I’m telling you to do more of something enjoyable.

I want you to get more sleep.

The old advice in the weight loss world was no pain no gain. Get up earlier or stay up later so that you could hit the gym.

That old advice jut doesn’t hold up anymore. There is an ever-growing body of research that shows how important adequate sleep is for a healthy weight. Or, to be more accurate, the research is showing that chronic sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain.

So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. We brag about being tired and wear being “busy” as a badge of honour. I believe this needs to stop.

Chronic sleep deprivation means getting less than 7-8 hours of good-quality sleep for at least a few days in a row. Note that there are a few important points in my last sentence. First: the amount of sleep, 7-8 hours. Second: that it takes only a few days in a row to be considered sleep deprived (not the weeks, months, years that I know many of you experience). Third: the quality of sleep is as important as the number of hours.

What affects quality of sleep? Two things that often are overlooked are alcohol and sleep apnea. Yes, it’s true that having a couple of drinks can help you fall asleep. But alcohol interferes with the natural brain patterns during sleep. The result is poor quality sleep. Want to wake up feeling refreshed? Skip the alcohol the night before.

Sleep apnea negatively impacts the quality of your sleep. Sleep apnea and weight have a vicious cycle. Being overweight increases sleep apnea and sleep apnea increases weight gain. I always look for any suspicion of sleep apnea when starting with a client because I know that if there is unaddressed sleep apnea, we can change the client’s eating all we want and we won’t see much change in weight.

How does inadequate (either not enough or poor quality) sleep cause weight gain? There are several ways that the research is finding:

  • Opportunity to Eat. When you are awake longer, you have more time to eat. This is especially impactful if you get the evening munchies. Staying up later means more opportunity to munch away.
  • Craving Pleasure. Sleep deprivation lowers the chemicals in our brain’s pleasure centre. Our brain sends us strong signals to raise these chemicals back up again. The foods that raise these chemicals? Highly processed high sugar, high fat, high salt foods – i.e. “junk food”.
  • Slower Metabolism. There is evidence that being sleep deprived slows down our metabolism. So even if we were eating the same amount of food as if we were well-slept, we’d still get weight gain.
  • Recently a study caught my eye. Now this involved only a small handful of people. So I’d call it preliminary – not enough evidence that I’d put a lot of trust in it yet. But it was interesting nevertheless. In this study they found that having only 4.5 hours of sleep for several nights in a row stimulated the same chemical pathway in the subjects’ brains as is stimulated when you smoke marijuana. Yes, being sleep deprived gave these study participants the munchies.

So what to do? Make getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a priority. What can you let go of to make this happen? Perhaps it’s turning off that evening Netflix. Maybe it’s hiring a house cleaner or gardener so you have fewer chores. And, if you routinely get 7 – 8 hours of sleep but you still wake up feeling exhausted, skip the daily glass (or two) of wine or ask your doctor for a referral for sleep apnea screening.

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

NGC: One Treat a Day

This is a powerful technique that I’ve used for a long time with clients who want to gain control of their cravings. I use it in my own life too. I learned about it so long ago that I can’t remember where I heard/ read it. I may have even changed the story in my memory over time, so apologies in advance if you’re a health professional who knows of the exact case and recognizes that I’ve inadvertently taken liberties with the story. Regardless of whether or not I’ve remembered the exact details, it’s such a powerful technique that I feel compelled to share it with you. So what’s this story? A woman couldn’t control herself around ice cream. Over her lifetime she would go for periods where she was “good” and didn’t eat any. She also had periods where she would devour whole tubs of ice cream, barely taking a breath between bites. She hated feeling so out of control with ice cream. She also wanted to lose the extra weight that she was carrying (that the ice cream was contributing to). You may be guessing that she was told never to eat ice cream again. Quite the contrary! The astonishing recommendation that she received was to enjoy a small amount of ice cream every day. You know what? It worked! She no longer felt out of control with ice cream. If she started to feel panicky and out-of-control with ice cream, she could reassure herself that she will be able to enjoy some more ice cream tomorrow. Knowing that she could eat it every day removed her drive to eat as much as possible at a sitting. There was no more panic about scarcity. And, she successfully lots weight.

Now some could argue that she could potentially weigh less if she didn’t eat ice cream every day. Perhaps. But from her past history she knew that any weight loss that she experienced from not eating ice cream would just come back (and more) when she reverted back to eating mass quantities of ice cream. Along with that weight would come the feelings of guilt, shame and defeat. Allowing the daily enjoyment of ice cream freed her from that unhealthy cycle.

I was inspired from this story and I make sure that I enjoy a treat every day.

I use this technique with clients who express a similar feeling of being controlled by their cravings. And for clients who truly want to get off the yo-yo dieting roller coaster.

There are two key aspects of this technique that I believe are vitally important:

  1. Reasonable Size: Choose a reasonable size for your treat. One measly bite likely won’t be enough to reassure yourself that you can enjoy your treat every day. You’ll still feel deprived. At the other extreme, enjoying a jumbo-sized treat each day won’t likely allow any weight loss. So what’s the “just-right” size you ask? I don’t have a firm answer for you. Because everyone is different with how much they need to eat to no longer feel the power of that scarcity. If my memory is correct, the woman in the story had a ½ cup of ice cream every day. I can tell you that I personally need more. You’ll have to do some experimenting with yourself to find your “just right” size.
  1. Enjoy your treat. Pleasure is the whole purpose that we eat these foods (it certainly isn’t for the nutrients). If you mindlessly shove it in your face then that food truly was a waste of calories. Pay attention to how your treat looks, smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. Enjoy the experience.

When You Fall Off the Wagon, Get Back on Again

healthy habits

How great would it be if it was easy to start new healthy habits? Everyone would be perfectly healthy. I’d be out of a job. Some days I fantasize about working in a fabulous boutique. But my job in a boutique will stay a fantasy because the reality is that starting new habits takes effort. The funny thing is that the difficult stage isn’t the first few days. For the first few days, most of us are gung ho about our new habit. To use some of my 1980’s childhood slang “we’re totally psyched”. We’re taking action and everything is smooth sailing. Then one day we just don’t feel like getting out of bed to go for that morning yoga class. Or, the junk food in the convenience store calls out our name as we walk past after work. Pretty much all of us will fall off the wagon. My post this week is inspired by both my personal experience and a recent conversation with a client. Both of us fell off the wagon with our new healthy habits. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will have seen that I’m challenging myself to meditate every day for 1 year. I started August 23rd. And, as expected, it was smooth sailing for over a month. Then one day I came smack up against a wall. I didn’t want to stop what I was doing during the day and meditate (not that what I was up to that day was especially important). I fell off the wagon. I didn’t meditate. It would have been so easy to slip back into my old routine (i.e. not meditating). But I dug in, changed things up, and did an active meditation. Since then it’s been smooth sailing again. In other words, I got back on the wagon.

Pretty much all of us will fall off the wagon with our healthy habits. What’s important is getting back up on the wagon again. It’s so easy to let the negative self-talk take over when we fall off the wagon. Do thoughts like this sound familiar?

“Now you’ve done it. You’ve lost your 365 days challenge. It’s all over now. There’s no point doing anything today. What were you thinking in doing it anyways, there’s no way that you could achieve that. It was unrealistic. You’re not consistent enough at anything. There’s no point in trying new things.”

If we don’t make the effort to stop it, that voice can spin out of control, applying our “failure” to more and more aspects of our life.

Here’s what to tell that voice. Wellness doesn’t require perfection. The benefit of these habits is realized over time, when we do them more often than we don’t. I will enjoy reduced stress from meditating for 364 (or 363, 360, or 355) days instead of 365. You will reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes if you eat 7 servings of veggies and fruit most days. You will become stronger if you make 8 out of the 10 weeks of that strength training for women class.

I’m going to go even further. I have a suspicion that falling off the wagon is actually a good thing. When we get back on again, we show ourselves that we CAN recover. We believe in ourselves even more now because we are no longer afraid of falling off the wagon. We know that if we fall off, we can just get right back up on it. As my friend, executive and sports coach Vic Lindal says, it’s not IQ or EQ (emotional intelligence), that sets successful people apart. It’s AQ (adversity quotient) – how well you do in the face of adversity, that will determine your success in achieving your goals.

When you fall off the wagon (and you will), get back on again.

Nutrition Game Changer: Overnight Steel Cut Oats

overnight steel cut oats

Discovering overnight oats, particularly when made with steel cut oats, has literally changed my mornings. I was always a breakfast eater. Usually toast. Then by 10:30am I was always hungry again. Not just a general hunger, I craved baked goods – donuts, muffins, anything sweet and baked. When I tried overnight oats made with steel cut oats, I no longer craved baking mid-morning. In fact, I wasn’t hungry at all until noon. I’ve recommended overnight steel cut oats for many clients and all have had the same improvement in their mid-morning hunger and/or cravings.

I shared the recipe for overnight oats last year - you can get that simple, delicious recipe HERE.

The recipe works with both rolled oats and steel cut oats. Today I want to talk specifically about steel cut oats. They’re even less processed than rolled oats – think of them as not-yet-rolled. As such, we digest them even more slowly. The more slowly we digest foods, the longer it takes before we get hungry again. Also, slow digestion prevents a blood sugar spike. Blood sugar spikes result in a crash and then craving more sweets.

Steel cut oats take a lot more chewing than rolled oats. And, they’re higher in fibre. Specifically, the “bulk-forming” kind of fibre (I’ll let you imagine why). Expect significant changes when you go to the bathroom. Because this kind of fibre helps our bodies get rid of bile and toxins, it’s fantastically healthy from a heart health and diabetes point of view.

One word of caution: be sure that you drink lots of water when you try steel cut oats. Otherwise you risk constipation.

Click here to see more delicious, healthy recipes.

It's a Great Day to Start a New Healthy Habit

meditation photo_medmed

It may be Tuesday September 8th, but for me it’s the first day of a new year. It’s the day after Labour Day. For many kids it’s the first day of a new school year. And while it’s been 12 years since I was in school, I can’t shake the itch to start fresh at this time of year. Regardless of how long it’s been since you went back to school, this week is a fantastic time to start something new. I mean, any day is the first day of the rest of your life. Why not start a new healthy habit today?

If you’ve been connecting with me on Facebook or Instagram you’ve seen that 2 weeks ago I started a new daily meditation habit (that picture above is a shot from 1 of my meditation spots). I started meditating sporadically many years ago. Over the winter I increased the frequency to several times a week. I liked what it was adding to my life. So one random Sunday I decided to pick up my game and meditate daily. I’m aiming for 365 days. I admit that I’ve been tempted to skip days. But so far I’m proud to let you know that I’m 15 for 15.

What new habit will you start this week? Here are a few ideas to spark your inspiration:

  • Pack a lunch. Not only is this a healthier habit than eating out every day, but you’ll save money too.
  • Turn off the screens during meals. It’s a simple way to enjoy more pleasure from your food. And, by being more in-tune with your body, you’ll likely eat less (or should I say, over-eat less).
  • Buy a water bottle to stimulate yourself to drink more water.
  • Meal plan for the week.
  • Make a point of trying 1 new vegetable each week.

Share you’re new habit in a comment below. Articulating your commitment increases the likelihood that you’ll do it!

Is Your Cereal as Healthy as You Think?

is-your-cereal-as-healthy-as-you-think

Is your cereal as healthy as you think? Lots of cereals that are marketed as healthy don’t have a lot going for them. They’re marketed for what they don’t have in them, “low fat”, “low calorie”, etc. Many famous "healthy" cereals fall into this category. Many people are surprised to find out that their favourite cereal is actually contributing to their weight gain.

Instead of choosing a cereal for what it doesn’t have in it, I want you to choose your breakfast for what it does have in it. Choose to nourish your body instead of depriving it.

One of the most common things that I do when working with people is change their breakfast. You will likely benefit from changing your breakfast if you:

  • Find yourself hungry again by 10am (and looking longingly at those donuts and croissants).
  • Crave sugar mid-afternoon.

Choose a breakfast that naturally has lots of fibre so that it is slowly digested. Grains and pseudograins that are minimally processed have most of their fibre attached. Puffed cereals are digested quickly. Flakes are digested at a medium pace. Look for intact grains that take lots of chewing. Steel-cut oats are a fantastic example. So is making a cereal out of quinoa or buckwheat.

Ready to take your breakfast bowl up another notch? Or, not ready to switch cereals but want to reap the benefits of a healthier breakfast? Help your breakfast last longer by adding nuts and seeds (or their butters). Their protein and healthy fats will help you digest your breakfast even slower, keeping you full longer.

An example of a breakfast that has all this (and tastes delicious too) is overnight oats. Discovering overnight oats changed my mornings - I no longer crave muffins and pastries mid-morning.

Looking for more characteristics of a healthy breakfast, check out this article.

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Similar to a slushie but made with real fruit, granitas are super refreshing in the summer heat.

They’re easy to prepare. The only tricky thing is to plan ahead so that you’re home and you remember to break up the ice crystals every hour (I set the alarm on my phone to remind me).

Kids can help measure ingredients, push the buttons on the blender, and scrape the ice crystals.

The fruit flavor is strong in granitas. The recipes here are listed from the most mild to the strongest. If your little ones prefer mild flavours, stick to the melon granitas. The kiwi granita is so strong that it almost made my eyes water (which I enjoyed on a hot afternoon).

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Directions

The steps are the same for all the recipes:

  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and water.
  2. Bring sugar water to a boil until the sugar is well dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. In a blender, combine the fruit (removed from it’s peel and pits), fruit juice (or other liquid), and sugar water.
  5. Pour into a non-metal baking dish, such as a glass lasagna pan.
  6. Place in the freezer. Freeze for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the freezer and scrape thoroughly with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals.
  8. Return to the freezer for 1 hour. Again, remove from the freezer and break up the ice crystals with a fork. Repeat at least 2 more times.

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Recipes

Cantaloupe

Adapted from: http://www.whiskaffair.com/2013/03/cantaloupe-lemon-and-mint-granita.html

1                      cantaloupe

1/4 cup          sugar

¼ cup             water

4 TBSP            fresh lemon juice

Raspberry-Watermelon

Adapted from: http://whipperberry.com/2013/06/raspberry-watermelon-granita.html

5 cups             cubed, de-seeded watermelon

2.5 cups          raspberries

½ cup             sugar

½ cup             cran-raspberry juice cocktail

(Combine sugar and cran-raspberry juice cocktail in saucepan.)

Pineapple-Mango

Adapted from: http://www.muybuenocookbook.com/2013/03/pineapple-and-mango-granita-blendtec-giveaway/

Juice from 2 limes

1/3 cup          sugar

1                      pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

2                      mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced

(There’s no heating the sugar in this recipe. Simply combine all ingredients in a blender.)

Kiwi

Adapted from: http://dhaleb.com/2010/03/

5                    kiwis

½ cup           sugar

½ cup           water

1 cup              club soda

2 teaspoons   lime juice

See more delicious, healthy recipes here.

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

It’s not just kids who need snacks. We adults need them too. Today I'm sharing the perfect afternoon snack for us adults. Why? It takes approximately four hours to digest food and start getting hungry again. Planning a healthy snack between lunch and dinner can prevent that late afternoon hungry-angry feeling (commonly called ‘hangry’). ‘Hangry’ is created by low blood sugar. Your low blood sugar will also cause you to search out (i.e. crave) sugary, fatty, salty foods. It’s a natural reaction, not a lack of will power.

The secret to healthy eating is prevention. Prevent becoming ‘hangry’ (and heading straight to the convenience store for processed foods) by planning a healthy snack before you get to that point.

So what’s the perfect snack? In truth, there isn’t just one perfect snack – one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition. Here are the elements of three styles of snacks. One of which will likely be the perfect fit for you.

The Perfect Snack Option 1: Just Produce

This is best if you have a relatively short time between lunch and dinner. Or, if you are very sedentary and don’t need any more calories from a larger snack. A piece of fruit or some raw veggies may be just enough to tie you over for about an hour until dinner.

The Perfect Snack Option 2: Produce + Protein

This more substantial snack provides both some quicker energy from the fruit and veggies and some longer, slower burning energy to keep you going for a few hours. This is my personal mid-afternoon snack. Here are some fantastic combinations to use as inspiration:

  • Strawberries and edamame
  • Carrot sticks/ baby carrots and hummus
  • Apple slices spread with almond butter

The Perfect Snack Option 3: Produce + Protein + Whole Carbs

This option is so substantial that it’s practically a mini-meal. Most of us don’t need this much food at snack time. But if you’re very active and/or in your young 20’s, it might be a good fit for you. Some ideas for inspiration:

  • Smashed avocado on rye crackers with a handful of cashews
  • Natural peanut butter and banana sandwich made on sprouted grain bread.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Coconut Oil: Is It Healthy? Will It Make You Lose Weight?

Coconut oil healthy weight loss

Once a year, UBC students who are training to become dietitians do a project where they write short articles for dietitians. This article was written by Nicki Kontogiannis and Frankie Reinbolt. Now, what to ask them to write about? That was easy. I think that you’d have to be living under a rock to not have noticed the explosion of coconut oil in grocery stores and on menus. Coconut oil is being marketed as a healthy fat, that it causes weight loss, and all sorts of other benefits. So, I asked them to look into the scientific research to find out if it’s really a healthy choice. Here’s what they found out.

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a highly concentrated form of saturated fat. It comes in two forms – unrefined and refined:

  • Unrefined coconut oil, also called ‘virgin coconut oil’, has a sweet, light coconut flavour and is great for baking or lightly sautéing.
  • Refined coconut is more processed, tasteless and is better for cooking at higher temperatures.

Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Unhealthy?

Potential Benefits:

  • Raises HDL (good) Cholesterol: Coconut oil has been associated with high HDL cholesterol levels. It also does not increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels to the same extent as other saturated fat sources, such as butter.
  • Good for Cooking: Coconut oil has a higher smoking point making it suitable for frying as it can withstand high heat. It also works particularly well in baked goods as it has a “nutty” flavour.

Potential Concerns:

  • RaisesLDL (bad) Cholesterol and Total Cholesterol (TC): As mentioned above, coconut oil does not raise LDL and TC levels to the same extent as butter; however, it still increases both to a greater extent than vegetable oils, and a rise in overall cholesterol levels in the blood can be linked to cardiovascular disease.
  • High in Saturated Fat: Coconut oil is 86% saturated fat. The scientific community is learning more about saturated fat’s effect on our bodies, and that not all saturated fats (e.g. butter vs coconut oil) may have the same effect on us. Not enough has been learned yet to clearly say whether the saturated fat in coconut oil is healthy or harmful for our health.
  • Significant Source of Calories: Like all fats, coconut oil is a concentrated source of energy (calories).

Coconut Oil Frequently Asked Questions:

Can coconut oil burn fat?

  • The studies that have been done so far on weight loss should be viewed through a critical lens. These studies had small sample sizes, short study periods and subjects were also exercising and eating healthier. Thus coconut oil may not have been the determining factor for weight loss.

Can it prevent cancer and boost immune function?

  • There is no scientific evidence to prove this.

The Bottom Line:

  • Nicki & Frankie: It is important to remember that regardless of the type of fat, all fats contain 9 kcal/gram and too many calories in any form can lead to increased weight gain. Coconut oil should be enjoyed in moderation.
  • Kristen: I’m not jumping on the coconut oil bandwagon until we learn more about how different saturated fats affect our heart health. And, I’ll want to see much more research before I believe that coconut oil causes weight loss. I use it occasionally in baking – it’s great when you don’t know if there may be vegan people you’re baking for. Otherwise, I stick to olive oil for most of my cooking. I like to support local farmers, and I love the taste, so I continue to use butter on the occasion that I want a solid fat. I put milk in my coffee.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

References

Eat Right Ontario. (2015). Coconut Oil. Retrieved from https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Fat/I-ve-heard-that-coconut-oil-is-the-best-oil-to-use.aspx#.VVfIx6aGtUQ

Machowsky, J. (2011). Coconut Oil: The Great Debate. Retrieved from http://www.nutrition411.com/content/coconut-oil-great-debate

McGee, H. (2004). On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York, NY: Harold Scribner.

Marina, A.A., Che Man, Y.B., Amin, I. (2009). Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20(10), 481-487. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2009.06.003

Davis, B., Vesanto, M.(2014). Becoming Vegan. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co.

An Object at Rest Stays at Rest

An Object at Rest Stays at Rest

Two recent experiences really brought home an important life lesson for me. There’s a physics law (I can’t remember which one) that recognizes that an object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion.

As applied to life, what this means is that when we stop doing an activity, the natural state is to continue to have it missing from our lives. It takes considerable effort to start up again. But once we do make that effort, it’s natural to keep doing the new activity.

Let me illustrate with these two recent lessons:

  1. A friend of mine was fairly active in his childhood and teens. Growing up, soccer, mountain biking, and skiing were regular parts of his life. Living in Kitsilano in his mid-20s, his summers involved beach volleyball and winter weekends were spent skiing at Whistler. But then he moved away to where physical activity wasn’t a part of the norm. He changed jobs to be a part of an ambitious tech start-up company (read: crazy work hours) and had his first child. Suddenly it’s been a decade since his active life. After two years of hearing him complain about his belly, he bought a mountain bike and found a group fellow out-of-shape 40 year old fathers to meet up with to go biking. I can tell that he not only is having fun being on a bike again but that he feels proud of himself for being active.
  2. I too recently got back on my bike. For me it was 2 years that it collected dust. As opposed to my friend, I’m not a mountain biker. I have a clunky old bike that I enjoy riding around the city in the summers. Each spring, for the last 15 years, I take my bike in for a tune up and then ride it as my primary mode of transport until the rains start up again in the fall. It’s one way to include non-exercise activity in my life. Except for last year. Last spring I was focused on growing my practice and travelling between Vancouver, Victoria and Portland. My bike was in my parents’ garage from my complicated move the previous fall. And having returned to Victoria after living in Vancouver for 14 years, I didn’t have a bike mechanic. As I type these reasons out I can see how flimsy they are as excuses to not make biking happen. But they did stop me. However, this year I was determined to not spend another summer without a bike. I made it happen and yesterday I enjoyed my first bike ride in 2 years. I enjoyed the Victoria Day parade and a short bike ride with a friend. I don’t want to admit how sore I am from that short ride. But I truly enjoyed myself and am proud of myself for getting biking back in my life again. I know that now that I’ve gotten in motion again, I’ll stay in motion.

What is it that you want to include in your life? Do you want to be more active (like my friend and I)? Do you want to eat healthier? Do you want to be more mindful? Starting a new behaviour is the most difficult step. Once you’ve started, it quickly becomes a habit. Some theories indicate that it takes 40 days for a new action to become a habit. What I know is that we’re no different than the rest of nature:

An object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion.

Life passes by quickly. Don’t stay stuck in wishing you were living a different life. Make the effort (perhaps with help) to get in motion.

Sitting Is The New Smoking

As you know the focus of my messages to you is food and nutrition. But on occasion I will stray into other topics that relate to having a healthy body and healthy weight. Because of course nutrition doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We humans are complex beings and the context, a.k.a. our lifestyle, is important. Today is one of those days where I’m straying into a non-nutrition topic. If you’re trying to lose weight/ aiming for weight loss (or not gain any more weight) it’s going to be of interest to you. There’s a new saying in the public health world:

Sitting is the new smoking

What this phrase is getting at is that there’s growing evidence that those 30-60 minutes of exercise a day aren’t enough to counteract all the sedentary, sitting time that we now have in our lives. There’s also studies that show that slim people fidget more than overweight people, thus burning more calories every day.

The problem is that we’ve introduced so many conveniences in our lives that there’s very little we have to do physically any more. That hour in the gym isn’t making up for it.

The good news is that it doesn’t take any expensive gym memberships to turn this around. But, it does take effort. And, in our high-stress, busy lives it seems counterintuitive to make things less convenient.

Before we talk about making changes, it’s worth taking a look at our lives to see just how sedentary we are. Tomorrow, keep a log of what you do all day. Note if you’re standing, sitting, etc. Add up all the sitting hours in your day. How many of your waking hours did that make up? It’s likely pretty scary.

Okay. Now that you’ve seen just how much time you spend sitting, here’s some ideas for adding more non-sitting time in your day:

  • Park at the far corner of the lot – not the closest spot.
  • Take public transit instead of driving. Maybe even get off the bus a stop or two early.
  • Walk to do your errands instead of taking the car.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. I’ve lived for many years on the 4th I can’t tell you how many people take the elevator. It especially makes me laugh when I see that they’re taking the elevator to go to the gym. Work or live on a high-up floor? Take the elevator up and the stairs down.
  • Prepare dinner yourself (instead of take-out or pre-prepared meals)
  • Wash your dishes by hand instead of running the dishwasher.
  • Play with your kids. Go to the park. Or play hide and seek. Or have a dance party in the house.
  • Walk your dog (don’t just watch your dog run).
  • Grow a vegetable garden. Even if it’s just pots on your patio.
  • Set an alarm at work and get up from your desk at least once an hour.
  • If you have a say in your office’s layout, move the printer and copy machine away from your desk and into an adjacent room (or on the far side of the room).
  • Get a standing desk. Or, MacGyver one. I work using a laptop. It’s the perfect height when I place my shredder on my desk and my laptop on top of my shredder (it’s unplugged of course – safety first). Voila – standing desk!
  • Meet friends for a walk instead of coffee (or walk and chat while drinking your coffee).

With a little creativity, the ideas are endless. How have you found ways to not sit? I’d love to have you share them in the comments below.

One Simple Step for Better Nutrition, Digestion, and Enjoyment of Your Food

better-nutrition-digestion

Do you want to get more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food that you eat? Want to reduce bloating and poor digestion? Want to experience more enjoyment from your food? How about feeling more full from eating less food? What if there was one really easy way for better nutrition and digestion?

Well then I’ve got good news for you.

There is one easy way:

Chew your food.

Yes, chew your food.

Okay, I’m being a bit sensationalistic. But I have good reason to be. It seems too obvious. And, too good to be true. But it really isn’t. And yet so many of us don’t do a good job of this.

We wolf down our food without really bothering to chew it.

We mindlessly eat while working at our computers, or scrolling through our iPhones, or while zoning out and watching TV.

Chewing is the first step of digestion. In chewing you break down food into smaller pieces so that your digestive enzymes can have lots of surface area to work on to digest the food, and then absorb it. There’s also digestive enzymes in your saliva that starts breaking food down.

With less chewing there’s less surface area for your enzymes to work on. Which leads to less vitamins, minerals and other nutrients being freed to be absorbed by your body.

With less chewing there’s more undigested food moving through your intestines. The result is that your gut bacteria has more food to ferment, creating gas.

Because we don’t take the time to chew your food, we eat more food before our bodies can register the sensation of being satisfied. As a result we over-eat.

Because we don’t take the time to chew our food we eat an entire bag of potato chips, or an entire tub of ice cream without even noticing. Our “treat” provided us with almost no pleasure.

I encourage you to actually take the time to chew your food. It’s so simple and the benefits are huge.