Monthly Archives: October 2017

SEASONAL EATING: Don’t Get Tricked By Treats!

Isn’t October supposed to be sweater weather? I thought so! This year seems to be a little wonky with the weather but, “Hey, I’m not going to complain!” As of this moment while I am writing this blog the sun has been shining brightly all week long. And, I haven't had the heart to put my shorts and sandals away just yet either. I figure I’m going to hold out until the very bitter end of this weather! In fact for months I’ve been playing this little mind game with myself where I purposely look the other way of anything even hinting at “seasonal” decorations when I’m out and about. Which, I gotta tell ya is rather hard to do when the “stuff” starts hitting the shelves before July 4! (It’s not really happening if I don’t see it right?)

Sooner or later I’ll pull my head out of the sand and come to grips that its fall. Then I’ll buy a bag of Halloween candy— a small consolation to pacify me for awhile. WEATHER UPDATE: Since starting this blog the weather has finally caught up with the calendar and fall is definitely here! Okay, back to my blog.

As I was saying before the weather update, I’m slowly accepting that the season has shifted and Halloween is right around the corner. With that I have been pondering what all that entails. So I thought for this blog what better topic to talk about than what lies ahead for the next two to three months for us—At least gastronomically speaking that is!

Since I was a child I have always considered Halloween to be the official “kick off” of the holiday season. I’m thinking it had something to do with the yearly tradition of a bulging pillowcase full of candy I had all to myself. Sounds probable! Anyway, Halloween always brought excitement and anticipation knowing that the next month brought Thanksgiving and then the big one -- CHRISTMAS!

I also remember as the fall season rolled around my mom would switch up the daily menus somewhat. And with the cooler weather came more opportunities to enjoy the goodies from the oven, YUM! Although when I think back I don’t remember an over abundance of offerings and the recipes didn’t vary much either.

But, times are different today. Whereas my mom might have been privy to some new dishes to try that she saw in a monthly magazine, today, we are constantly being exposed to ever more appetizing (and typically high calorie) images of food thanks to food shows, Pinterest, newsfeed pop ups, etc. And should I even mention how the coffee shops like Starbucks or Biggby tempt us to drive thru and pick up their latest seasonal drink on our daily commute? Here’s a fun fact for ya, a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 48 grams of sugar and that’s without the whipped cream! Now toss in a pumpkin muffin and a couple of candy bars throughout the day (that you bought for the trick or treaters, wink-wink) and the extra sugar and calories consumed by nightfall could be called downright spooky!

So, does that mean that we shouldn’t try new dishes or enjoy some fall goodies? NO WAY! But, we should keep in mind  just how easy it is to let those extra calories “creep” in. Especially if we don’t pick and choose wisely on which new recipes to try. Therefore, I thought it beneficial to share some tips that will hopefully help you to not “fall” in the fall:

Be mindful: Eating increases in the fall
We have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. Maybe it’s a biological thing—putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. Or, could it simply be because fatty, high-calorie foods are more readily available during these months? Whatever the case, starting the season with a mindful approach will keep you a step ahead.

Eat The Autumn Colors
Autumn is the season of warm, earthy colors like deep green, dark yellows and brilliant oranges. Nurture yourself by eating fresh seasonal foods. They are typically packed with great nutrients, such as fiber, protein, beta carotene and vitamin C.

Set Goals And Limits
Remember to be realistic. Moderation is the key! If goals are too restrictive or vague, it will be much harder to rise to the challenge. Establish clear nutrition and health goals (dessert two times a week, one cookie instead of two, a thirty minute walk five times a week, etc.)

Pay Attention To Your Wardrobe
When your favorite pair of jeans start to feel a little too snug you will have your first clue that your goals and limits need a little tweaking!

LAST WEATHER UPDATE: As I was putting the finishing touches to this blog I kid you not I looked out my window and it was spitting SNOW! Ya gotta love Michigan! Sheesh! I’m going to go get another candy bar!

Okay, all jesting aside, I really do want to encourage you to be mindful in the months ahead of making good decisions regarding the celebrations. By all means celebrate to your hearts content. But I hope that by being mindful at the beginning of the season you won’t end the season with regret.

If you would like some assistance in helping you navigate this tricky season of treats please call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab to set up an appointment. Let the celebrations begin!

CHRONIC STRESS & WEIGHT GAIN — Are They Related?

 

If I were to ask for advice on how to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight what tips do you think would come my way? How would you answer? I’m thinking the suggestions would go something like this:

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Eat good, healthy food
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Exercise
  • Make healthy choices when eating out
  • Learn portion size
  • Limit alcohol intake

Did I guess any of your suggestions? I’m going to assume so. In fact I’ve written those same tips in several of my blogs—because it IS good advice! But sometimes even though an individual is trying to live within these good guidelines they still struggle with their weight.

So, what could be the problem then you ask? Well, what if I told you the answer might be stress? Yup! Stress! Or maybe I should say chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels. Being stressed not only plays havoc with our emotions but can also have a dramatic effect on our body physically as well. Cortisol increases actually cause cravings for carbohydrates which can lead to consuming unnecessary calories. Another effect is the storage of excess calories, which most often shows up as fat in the abdominal area and thighs. (Isn’t that great?) NOT!

Let me explain somewhat on how this happens. Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response. However, cortisol is much more than just a hormone released during stress. This hormone affects many different functions of the body. It is a life sustaining adrenal hormone that is absolutely necessary to homeostasis. Homeostasis is a process that maintains the stability of the human body’s internal environment during changes in external conditions.

For example, if you were to fall into very cold water (a change in external environment), your heart would beat more rapidly than usual (a change in internal environment) and the rate of your breathing would increase above normal. This would be an automatic response to being exposed to the cold water. After you scrambled out of the water and your body warmed back up, your heart rate and breathing would return to normal.

Another example is if you suddenly found yourself in a dangerous situation. Your body would experience an adrenaline surge that would give rise to the extra energy you need to escape from the danger. This “fight or flight” response is your body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.

These examples I just gave would be considered a “good stress.” The kind of stress that motivates you to get something done or overcome an obstacle. You generally experience this kind of stress in short bouts. Once the threat is over your hormone levels go back to normal and you move on. Our ancestors more than likely dealt with that kind of stress mostly. It helped them to survive. The “fight” or “flight” reaction came in pretty handy when faced with the threat of being eaten by a lion, tiger or bear!

Now I don’t know about you but I haven’t run across any lions, tigers or bears…well, that is unless I was at the zoo. And I’m going to guess that neither have you. Most of the stresses we deal with today are more psychological than physical such as rush hour traffic, having an argument with our boss or spouse, living paycheck-to-paycheck, living a harried lifestyle, being stuck in a job we hate, etc. While these situations aren’t life threatening, our body reacts to them as a threat and activates the fight or flight system.

While it is a natural and vital response for our body to secrete cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event. Here in lies the problem—we live in a high-stress culture. Sometimes the stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal. Hence, our bodies being exposed to higher and more prolonged levels of circulating cortisol. Thereby setting our bodies up to hold onto those excess calories and leading to weight gain amongst other impairments.

Ideally, you want your levels to be neither consistently high or low, but rather fluctuate in a fairly rhythmic and balanced manner. You can actually learn to relax your body with a few stress management techniques. It’s also beneficial to make lifestyle changes to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. Therefore, I would like to offer some suggestions that might help you in aiding your body and mind to relax which will in turn help you to maintain healthy cortisol levels:

Change your external environment (your “reality”) - Evaluate your environment. Are you in a toxic, noisy or hostile environment? Sometimes this can’t be changed but if you are able and need to, DO IT! Whether it be physically or emotionally it is important to surround yourself with a healthy environment. This might mean moving, looking for a different job, getting out of hurtful relationships or any other action that helps to provide a safer environment.
Change the perceptions of your reality - Seek out techniques to help you view and respond to the events in your life in a healthy and constructive way. This includes your mental perspectives, attitudes, beliefs, and emotional reactions to situations in your life.
Physical exercise (you knew this was going to be in here right)? - When you exercise, you metabolize the excessive stress hormones which helps to restore your mind and body to a more calmer and relaxed state.
Give your brain a rest - Sometimes that toxic, noisy, and hostile environment can be located right between your ears—your brain! Do your thoughts race around like an endless, restless stream of incomplete thoughts, anxieties and negative self-talk? While we can’t exactly shut our brain off we can redirect the direction of where our mind wants to take us. This leads us to the next suggestion.
Relaxation - A good way to settle your brain down into a more quiet state of mind is to use relaxation techniques. Techniques such as yoga, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage, listening to calming music or learning to meditate.

Hopefully you can see that changing how your body responds to stress can make all the difference when you need to lose those extra pounds. I hope you have found this blog enlightening. If you would like some assistance in learning how to handle stress in a more healthy way I invite you to call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “contact” tab to set up an appointment.