Blog


HOLIDAY WEIGHT GAIN–It’s Not What You Think!

It’s holiday time! Yay! And I hope you are as excited as I am about the coming festivities. This month we celebrate Thanksgiving and I believe we all can find something to be thankful for—I know I can! But seems how Thinking Thin Lifestyle is about changing the way you think about food, exercise and how to live healthy I thought what better topic to talk about this month than… “The Feast of Feasts!”, Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m convinced Thanksgiving is the reason “stretchy pants” were invented in the first place. And why not? With words like, “Gobble, gobble, gobble,” “stuffing,” and “rolls” associated with the holiday meal what else would you wear right? In fact that is just what the makers of Stove Top Stuffing believes too. And for only $19.98 you too can own a pair of Stove Top Thanksgiving pants. Yup! You read that right! Look it up! They are selling a pair of dinner pants where the waistband stretches to two times its original size, allowing for plenty of room for turkey and mashed potatoes. Okay, I’m having a little fun here although it is true about Stove Top selling the pants. And, “No, I don’t think I’ll be buying a pair!”

If you are someone who struggles with your weight, I know this time can be a little tough for you. You might even feel anxious beforehand or fear you will feel guilty afterward. Therefore, I would like to suggest to you to feel neither.

Holidays are times for family and friends to come together and enjoy a wonderful meal and make great memories together. Therefore, I would say it’s not the best time to start any new rigid diet restrictions. Thanksgiving is a celebration. It’s one day. Why not enjoy it? There is just something about eating certain dishes that are created just for the occasion. Who really looks forward to pumpkin pie on August 4? No, you want it on Thanksgiving Day. After all, it’s tradition right? Well, I am going to propose a question to you. Is it really what you eat on that one day that is going to destroy your whole eating healthy plan? “The answer is, ‘no’”.

We Americans have many holidays we observe but traditionally the big dinners are usually assigned to Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s not really what you eat on any specific holiday that does all the damage but what you eat in between times that will do you in.

Think about it— there are only about 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. May I ask, what and how are you eating during the rest of the 335 days of the year? When January rolls around and your tight jeans force you to make a new years resolution to get your weight under control it probably isn’t so much what you ate for Thanksgiving and Christmas or the 30 some odd days in between, but more so, because of what you ate during the 335 other days. Ouch!

I’m not suggesting here that you throw all caution to the wind or that you mindlessly devour anything and everything that is offered to you through the holidays, but to put things into perspective. If we maintain a normal and healthy diet throughout the year, celebrating the actual holiday meals along with partaking in a couple of holiday offerings here and there should not be a cause to fret.

With that being said though I do think it important to address a couple of other points here. While studies show that the average person gains a little but not a lot of weight during the holiday season, people who are already overweight do tend to gain more. For the individuals who are overweight or obese, 14% of those gained five pounds or more. So for these individuals that fall into this category it might mean that they just be a little more aware of the extras they are consuming during the in-between times of the actual celebratory days meals.

From Thanksgiving on right through News Year’s Day there will be many, and I MEAN MANY, opportunities to sample, desire, and devour all kinds of delectables. Without even thinking about it, after a little nibble here and a little nibble there for the 30-odd days during this time, calories consumed can really add up leading to unwanted results. So if you tend to be someone who does struggle with your weight, save the splurges for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Anticipation can taste good too!

So, this Thanksgiving, put your bird in the oven, mash your potatoes, bake that pumpkin pie and enjoy your dinner. Afterwards, send the leftovers home with your family or friends. And if I can be of any assistance during the “in-between times” of the holidays to help you change the way you think about and use food please call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the "contact" tab and make an appointment. I look forward to your call!

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.

 

EXCUSES- You Might Just Have to Eat Them to Lose Weight!

 

It’s a good thing we have excuses isn’t it? And, OH! How we rely on them! I mean, really! Where would we be without them? The simple answer is…"without an excuse." That’s where we’d be. And that’s one thing we humans do not like — to be left without excuses. For some of us, we cling to our excuses like an old friend. Always keeping them close by our side, knowing we can rely on them if we get in a tight spot.

We use excuses all the time for various situations. It’s something we learned how to do even as a child. One of those situations where we find it especially handy to reach into our bag of excuses is to justify why we can’t lose weight. And we all know there's no end to the excuses for not eating right and exercising. Listed below I want to go over just a few of them that are used quite frequently:

  • I have bad genes
  • Eating healthy is too expensive
  • I’m too busy
  • I’m too tired
  • I have a slow metabolism
  • I’ll start tomorrow

Let’s take a look at the word, excuse. We all pretty much know what it is. But just for kicks and giggles I decided to look the definition up. And where else would I go for this but my ole friend Google and here’s what I found:

  1. An attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify.
  2. Release (someone) from a duty or requirement.

Whelp, there it is, in black and white. We use an excuse to release us from the blame. In essence, we are stating, “It’s not my fault I can’t lose weight, there’s a reason!” Oh really? You don’t say? Well, let’s back the train up just a little shall we? Lets dig a little deeper into some of the excuses I listed above.

Bad GenesYes, you might carry an inherited predisposition toward (have and increased risk factor for) obesity. There are studies that have identified more than 90 genes associated with body fatness. The gene with the biggest effect is called FTO. This gene is suspected to increase the likelihood that a person with this gene will be obese by about 23 percent. However, that doesn’t mean you are off the hook and here’s why. Studies have also shown that individuals carrying this gene still respond to weight-loss treatments that use diet, physical activity, or medication. So the bottom line is, Genetics may influence weight, but it doesn’t dictate what you can do about it.
Healthy eating is too expensive - Let’s be real! It’s expensive to eat today period! BUT it’s more cost effective to choose your food wisely. Natural healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables can be the cheapest food around. Especially if you buy what is in season. You can usually get a 3lb. bag of apples for 3.99 anytime of the year. How does that compare to an 11oz. bag of potato chips or cookies for the same price? Eating artificially sweetened, overly sugary, over-processed and nutrient deficient foods will in the long run always be more expensive when it comes to your health. You can’t afford not to eat healthy!
Too busy - What? Come on. Let’s just cut to the chase. What you really mean to say is that you didn’t take the time to think ahead and plan, right? We are all busy. If you will be honest with yourself, you will have to admit that when you think something is important you somehow find the time to make it happen. So make healthy eating and exercise a priority in your life and you will find the time!
Too tired - Well, really, this is all the more reason to eat right and exercise! Our bodies rely on the energy and nutrients we get from food. A healthy diet of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fat from whole, unprocessed food over the course of any given day combined with exercise will go a long way in giving you the energy you need. So when planning your meals, ask yourself this question, “Will this food drain me or sustain me?” to help you make the right choices.
Slow metabolism - Sorry folks but contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain. (Shoot! I’ll bet you thought that was a good one huh?) Although our metabolism influences our body’s basic energy needs, it’s our caloric intake through food and beverages and our physical activity that ultimately determines how much we weigh. Even though some people seem to be able to lose weight more easily or quicker than others, everyone will lose weight when they burn up more calories than they take in.
I’ll start tomorrow - Remember that song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie? In the chorus she sings, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love ya tomorrow it’s only a day away.” The people that use this excuse could just as well be singing, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll diet tomorrow, it’s always a day away!” So, unless it’s 11:59 pm when you find yourself wanting to use this excuse, you need to be honest with yourself and just start TODAY!

You know I could go on and on to discuss all the excuses we make to justify ourselves regarding this subject. But I think you get the point. The fact is, the practice of making excuses can be the biggest barrier to successful long term weight loss and stability. Do you really want to lose weight once and for all to improve your health? Then the first order of business is to stop making excuses and just do it!

Granted, it might be easier said than done. But if you stop right there? — Well, you will have just used another excuse. So I am going to encourage you to adopt a “can-do” attitude to make healthy eating and exercise a priority. I believe you can do it! And if you need some help to get started, please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab to make an appointment. And let’s try to change those excuses of “why you can’t” into reasons of “why you CAN!”

 

 

 

Are You Addicted to Food? / Here’s How to Find Out!

In my last blog titled, “Cravings - Who Hasn’t, “ I mentioned that addiction could be one of the reasons behind the cravings. And because I was only able to briefly touch on the subject I wanted to dedicate this entire blog to address it more fully.

Typically when you hear the word, “addiction,” your thoughts go immediately to substances that are potentially harmful or illegal, such as, alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, or maybe a behavior like gambling. So it might seem strange that you could actually link addiction in the same sentence with food. However, in some cases it’s true. The brain and body can become dependent on a healthy substance like food.

Whereas an individual would have to purposely seek out a source as to where and how to purchase a street drug, food on the other hand is everywhere. We need food to survive, that’s just a fact. It's also used as a source of pleasure and a means of social interaction, holidays, and special events.

We not only use food to comfort ourselves but we also use it as a way to nurture our loved ones. For example, I have many memories of my dear beloved grandma coming over to our house to drop off cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and an eight pack of Coca-cola whenever me or one of my sisters was sick. Of course this was also the same grandma who would let us have ice cream for breakfast because she said there was eggs in it, but I digress. The point I want to make here is that because we have to have food to survive we can’t just abstain from it like we could with any other substance or behavior that is addictive — that’s why it can be difficult to control.

When the need to consume food becomes compulsive and uncontrollable, that, is when you know that food has turned into a source of addiction. Even though the person might try to control the addictive behavior through dieting, they usually will fall back into overeating in response to emotions and stressful life events. However, when they take this course of action, the initial rush of pleasurable sensations or the release from emotional distress will quickly be followed by feelings of shame, guilt, and physical discomfort.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS                                                                

Food addiction can be recognizable by many signs and symptoms. The following are just some of the possible symptoms:

  • Obsessive food cravings, going out of the way to obtain and consume certain foods.
  • Continuing to eat even though you are no longer hungry.
  • Eating to the point of feeling ill.
  • Eating in secret, isolation.
  • Repeated attempts to stop overeating only to relapse into addictive behaviors.
  • Needing to consume more food in order to get the same sense of emotional release or comfort.
  • The behavior is having a negative impact on family, work, finances, or social life.

CAUSES OF FOOD ADDICTION

So how does one get to be addicted to food? Well, it’s likely the culmination of several factors that interact in the overall cause of this disorder. It may be the result of biological, psychological, or social reasons.
Emotions and stress - Responding to stress by eating, even when not hungry. Eating to enhance positive emotions and to reduce negative emotions. Often turning to high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods that have minimal nutritional value as a “reward” for an accomplishment or when something bad happens because the individual feels, “they deserve it.” Emotional eaters often crave “comfort foods or feel good foods” like ice cream, cookies, pizza, french fries and chocolate, etc.
Brain chemistry - Foods that are rich in fat and sugar can change the reward centers of the brain in a similar way as drugs and alcohol. In fact, in some studies it has been shown that sugar might actually have a stronger effect on the brain’s reward system than addictive drugs like cocaine. Eating these kinds of food prompt a part of the brain to make endorphins. These “feel good” chemicals can trigger binge eating. The foods also spark dopamine which motivates feeding behavior and the prefrontal cortex which influences decision making. In some people, the actions of these brain chemicals that regulate the reward systems can overcome hormonal signals and any conscious attempts to stop eating even though they are full. And the strong pull of wanting the high-calorie foods wins out over the knowledge that what they are eating is damaging to their health.
Genetics - According to the National Institutes of Health about 40% to 60% of addiction risk is attributable to genetics. However, a persons DNA is not their destiny. Lifestyle and environment can influence how a gene functions. That means that everything from the food we eat, our activity levels, stress levels, and the pollution we’re exposed to can change a gene’s expression. Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH a science and nutrition expert explains that poor choices, such as eating a lot of sugary snacks, for example, have the potential to “switch on” genes related to obesity and addiction in her book, The Hunger Fix. But she also states that efforts to improve your diet and environment can enhance the functioning of good genes and dampen the bad ones.
Trauma - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious potentially debilitating condition that may occur as a result of experiencing or witnessing events such as a natural disaster, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault such as rape or other life-threatening events. PTSD and eating disorders often co-occur. Individuals suffering from an eating disorder usually report a history of trauma. It is suggested that the engaging in the behaviors of an eating disorder may be a way of controlling or coping with the troubling emotions and experiences linked with PTSD.

At first glance, people may think of food addiction as relatively harmless compared to an addiction to alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. However, compulsive overeating can take a severe toll on physical and emotional health. Professional treatment is often required to break the cycle of addictive overeating and restore a healthy relationship to food. If you recognize that you are dealing with a food addiction, don’t ignore it, please call (616) 516-1570 to make an appointment. I would like to help you break that cycle and help you live a more healthy and fulfilling life!

Food Cravings? – Who hasn’t?

 

There I was going about my business one day and I started to get the “urge.” I pushed the thought to the back recesses of my mind and carried on with the business at hand. It worked for a little while and then, there it was again. This cycle repeated itself several times over the next couple of hours. Now, I don’t know how or when it happened but the next thing I knew I looked down at my desk and there was this pile of silver Hershey Kiss wrappers laying in a most accusatory fashion. I looked around for someone to blame — really hard! But, my door was shut and since no one had entered my office I eventually had to come to the conclusion that I, yes I, had caved to the crave.

Cravings — If you are alive, chances are pretty good that you have experienced them. People can crave all sorts of things such as attention, drugs, alcohol, etc. But in this blog I will be discussing food cravings.

I’ve never met a person who hasn’t had a food craving. And whether you have a sweet tooth or you tend to reach for a salty snack, I’m sure it has hit you at one point or another. And when you do succumb to your cravings, you probably feel guilty for having strayed from your otherwise healthy lifestyle habits.

Have you ever noticed how we can crave certain foods, even when we are not hungry? What’s up with that? Well, there is not just one answer that fits all people. So, below I will offer a few possibilities that are the most common reasons why we get food cravings along with some tips to help fight them:

SIMPLE CONDITIONING
One of the biggest psychological reasons people crave certain foods is because of conditioned responses to things such as certain activities, people or places that act as a trigger. Many of these can be from childhood where they learned through experience that certain foods made them feel better or made them feel emotionally satisfied. As an example, when you were young you were always offered something sweet after you had finished your chores or after losing a baseball game your family headed to the nearest ice cream parlor. If this practice became more of a daily occurrence instead of a once in a while one, it set up a pattern that you probably carried into adulthood where you find yourself rewarding yourself with the same kind of “treat” because you feel that you deserve it. Conditioned responses go hand in hand with emotional eating.

Tip: If you can figure out what triggers your craving, you will be better able to control the temptation. It’s actually a simple concept albeit a tough one to carry out. But it can be done. So to break the “habit” that has been established, the first thing to do is to identify when the food craving hits so you can see if there is a pattern. Second, take note of what specific foods you crave at those times. Think back on life experiences in which food was connected to a specific food. What emotions were connected to the food? (happy, sad, upset, anxious, fear) When you figure out the “why” behind your food cravings you can then start to actively fight them. Remember, tell yourself that your body does not need the food you are craving only that it has been conditioned to crave it, therefore, you can also condition the craving to stop!

ADDICTION
Have you considered that you might be addicted to the foods you crave? It’s entirely possible. Let me explain. While you can be addicted to any food, most of the time it’s going to be foods with a high sugar, fat or salt content. Eating these foods stimulate the reward center of your brain by producing endorphins in your body. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that are naturally manufactured in the brain. They are called the natural opiates of the body. Opiate drugs, such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium, are powerful painkillers derived from the poppy plant. These drugs alter pain perception, making it easier to tolerate, and elevate mood. Now isn’t it interesting that the human body produces its own opiates, called endorphins. So when we eat these kinds of foods and experience that, “feel good” feeling we want more—similar to the way drug users get addicted to narcotics. In fact, there are studies that show sugar can actually have a more intense feeling of reward than cocaine.

TIP: No real easy way to do this but if you are serious about wanting to break this habit, the first thing you need to do is “detox” your body by not eating the foods you are addicted to. That’s easier said than done because you will go through a withdrawal process. But if you can hang in there for about two weeks you can reset your hormones and break the food-addiction cycle. After the detox period, you can begin to introduce some of the foods back into your diet very slowly.

PHYSIOLOGICAL CRAVINGS
Some food cravings can be physiological or biochemical in origin, and could be caused by hormonal and chemical imbalances in your brain and nervous system. For example: Serotonin is involved with the regulation of mood and impulsive behaviors. Many studies have identified links between mood changes and low serotonin levels with food cravings. When serotonin levels drop or are deficient, you can develop cravings for carb-rich foods. Unstable blood sugar levels can be also be a physiological trigger. Whether from eating large amounts of carbohydrates, especially high-glycemic carbohydrates causing your levels to spike quickly then come crashing down or experiencing low blood sugar from not eating because of a too restrictive diet.

TIP: Keeping your blood sugar stable and eating high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of high-glycemic carbohydrates (cakes, cookies, processed foods, etc.) can help. Also, once again, exercise is good for you by increasing your serotonin levels and it might as well help to decrease your food cravings. Instead of totally cutting out certain foods (which can sometimes cause you to crave even more) try to substitute with a lower-glycemic food that is similar to what high-glycemic food you are craving.

So, as you can see, there really isn’t a “simple” answer as to why we experience food cravings. We are all different and each persons cravings can be caused by one factor or multiple reasons. But, if you can learn the basics of how your own body works, then you can make better food choices to control the cravings instead of the cravings controlling you. If you would like help in doing just that, please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or you can also click on the “contact” tab in the upper right hand side of the page. I look forward to your call!

Breaking the Cycle of Weight Gain and Depression

People are always looking for ways to lose weight. And for some, they will try every pill, gimmick, drink, etc., trying to drop those unwanted pounds. Only to discover after much frustration that nothing they buy or try will work. And as their weight hangs on or even keeps going up depression sets in—or could it possibly be the other way around?

What comes first, weight gain and then depression? Or depression first and then weight gain? Unfortunately, the experts don't know. But one thing they all agree on is that weight problems and depression are both heavy burdens to bear and they often go hand in hand. While some people experience weight loss with depression, weight gain is much more common and can lead to serious health issues.

So the question is, why, are depression and weight issues so closely linked? Well, to put it simply, the part of the brain responsible for emotion also controls the appetite. And when this emotional part of the brain gets disturbed in someone who is depressed, their appetite gets disturbed as well.

EMOTIONS AND APPETITES 
Emotional eating is when you eat not because of physical hunger but rather emotional hunger. When a person eats in response to their emotions, they are trying to soothe themselves by the food as it changes the chemical balance in their brain. Some foods, especially foods with high sugar and/or fat content may make you feel better, but only temporarily. And because the person associates the “feel good” feeling with the food, they want to eat more which leads to weight gain which in turn makes them feel bad about themselves which then leads to more eating and the vicious cycle has begun. Breaking that cycle can be quite challenging.

Because depression and weight are so closely linked, it is important to tackle both problems in order to get the upper hand on the situation. It’s not so important to figure out which problem came first but rather which one should get the most attention initially. If someone is severely depressed and overweight, the depression should be the primary focus. However if someone is exhibiting an eating disorder such as bulimia, and their eating is out of control, that would become the primary focus.

So assuming the person is depressed, overweight and is looking for help, what do they need to do? It might be surprising but the same tactic to control weight applies if you have depression—Decrease calories and increase physical activity. Now we know that when a person is depressed, they probably find it harder to muster up the energy to just get out of bed in the morning let alone make wise choices on what they are going to eat. However, it is critical to find a way to do both despite the effects the depression is having on them. So below I will offer some tips on weight management that will also help with depression.

BE MORE ACTIVE
Get moving! Most people with depression and weight gain have over time reduced their amount of physical activity. The low energy that comes with depression can be debilitating. But exercise is so key to treating not only the weight but the depression as well. Look at it as something you can do for yourself. And by taking an active role in caring for yourself it makes you feel good which in itself can be therapeutic.

And keep in mind that every bit of physical activity helps. It doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and lift weights or run on a treadmill—unless that’s what you like. If you are struggling with low energy start out small. Set a goal to get out of bed in the morning and doing some stretches for a few minutes every day for a week, then add a walk and then other activities that bring you pleasure. By building on these small changes, overtime you will feel more in control, have a more positive outlook, and become more motivated to exercise.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES
Depression and food unfortunately results in unhealthy eating choices. People with low self-esteem often use food as a way to stuff their feelings of inadequacy and depression. So to turn this beast around examine the relationship between your depression symptoms and food. Consider the feelings you have about your weight and be mindful of how and when you use food. Food should be seen and used as a source of nutrition, not as an outlet for depression.

To help you start each day with the intention of eating healthy, I am going to give you a list of affirmations I found in an article by Self-Esteem Experts that I really like. Each day pick an affirmation from the list below or make up your own and repeat it to yourself throughout the day.

  • Today I choose to eat healthily because I love myself.
  • I eat for nutrition, not for boredom.
  • Today I replace sugary food with healthy choices.
  • I forgive myself for overeating. I will make healthier choices today.
  • I eat food that is good for me.
  • I make wise food choices.
  • I nourish myself with water, exercise and healthy food.

FEEL BETTER
Ahhh, that will be the reward!—To feel better. By taking charge of your life a step at a time and addressing the relationship between your weight and depression it will help to create a better body image. And as you decrease your weight by eating healthy you will also find that it will lead to higher self-esteem and a feeling of empowerment and content.

If you would like some help as you journey through this process of making the connection that by feeding your body you are also feeding your mind I encourage you to make an appointment with me at (616) 516-1570 or clicking on the “connect tab.” I look forward to helping you down the path of emotional and physical well-being.

Celebrating Easter with Spring Flavors in a Healthy Way!

IT IS FINALLY SPRING! I do not know how to express to you how happy (and relieved) I am that at long last, the calendar has finally rolled around to this time of year. But you know you've had “Cabin fever” pretty bad when you feel like hugging all the robins that come flying into your yard like long lost friends. Okay, it was bad, but maybe not that bad!

Anyway, with Spring now here the official first holiday that will kick off the season will be Easter. And in fact it is only a couple of weeks of way, (STAY AWAY FROM THE PEEPS!) It’s a time where the temperatures start to warm up and we start switching out the winter wardrobe for more appropriate “Spring” type apparel. However, it’s not just the wardrobe we think about switching out—but also our menus we’ve been relying on to get us through the winter. Somehow that big pot of chili that sounded so good in November does not entice me at all come April. Ugh! I’m so over that! How about you?

So in honor of the first holiday of the season I am going to take a little break from my normal type of blog and I am going to share some recipes that I think sound good for Easter dinner. After all, holidays are for celebrating and I plan on doing just that. However, anyone who regularly reads my blogs knows that I don’t think it wise to throw all self control out the window and overindulge either.

Now, in my household Easter dinner wouldn’t be Easter if it didn’t involve a ham so I will share my favorite recipe that I found somewhere on the internet years ago that I like to use. Also, I will share a tasty and healthier version of Deviled eggs to help you use up those extra colored Easter eggs you might have left over from breakfast.

AWESOME BAKED HAM
Ingredients

  • 15 lbs whole bone-in ham
  • 1 lb brown sugar (approx. 2 1/4 cp)
  • 1/2 cp yellow mustard
  • aluminum foil

Directions

  1. In a medium size bowl mix yellow mustard and brown sugar until it is a thick paste.
  2. Take all wrappers off of ham and trim away excess fat.
  3. Line baking pan with Aluminum foil for easier cleanup.
  4. Connect 3 large pieces of foil together securely along the long edge of each piece to make one very large sheet.
  5. Place ham on large sheet of foil and spread brown sugar/mustard paste on top. (Yes, it will seem like a lot of mixture.)
  6. Bring sides of foil up around ham and fold edges down and seal securely.
  7. Place ham in baking pan.
  8. Bake at 350° for 4 hours.
  9. Let ham set for about 1 hr. then carve. (DO NOT OPEN FOIL UNTIL AFTER 1 HR.)
  10. Enjoy one of the best tasting hams you have ever had.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS
Ingredients

  • 1 bunch thin asparagus spears, washed and trimmed.
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil. (or less according to diet)
  • sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place asparagus on baking sheet with sides
  3. Drizzle olive oil and toss to coat.
  4. Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake 15 min. or until tender.

* This is a basic recipe. However, you can play around with it and add other seasonings such as pepper, garlic, Parmesan cheese, etc. I only use olive oil and salt because that’s the way my family likes it and we bake it longer also because we like the heads of the asparagus to be crispy.

DEVILED AVOCADO EGGS
Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs (peeled)
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 tsp. fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. minced red onion
  • 3 tsp. lime juice
  • pinch of salt/pepper
  • paprika

Directions

  1. Halve the eggs length-wise, remove the yolks and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mash the avocado and 3 whole egg yolks with a fork until desired consistency.
  3. Mix in lime juice, red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper according to taste and mix well.
  4. Spoon or pipe the mixture into the egg white halves.
  5. Sprinkle with dash of paprika for color.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*This also is a basic recipe so if you like to spice it up go ahead. Try adding some garlic, cumin, or even jalapeño.

SPRING STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING
Ingredients for salad

  • 1 bunch of spinach, rinsed, drained, chopped
  • 10 large strawberries, sliced
  • toasted pecans
  • red onion, slivered (amount depends on taste)
    Dressing (You will not use all of the dressing, remainder lasts 2 weeks in fridge)
  • 1/2 cp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 cp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions
In a large bowl, mix salad ingredients. For the dressing: In a blender, place all dressing ingredients except the poppy seeds and blend until smooth and thick. Stir in the poppy seeds. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad.

*Just a friendly reminder to go easy on the dressing or it will quickly turn into a not so healthy salad.

And now, I am going to share a dessert that I have had for years that I believe was originally shared by somebody in Weight Watchers and is usually a big hit whenever I make it. I hope you will enjoy it too.

BANANA SPLIT CAKE
Ingredients

  • 16 graham cracker squares, finely crushed
  • 1 large (6-oz) pkg. sugar-free vanilla flavored instant pudding mix
  • 2 3/4 cps. milk
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • 1 (8-oz) carton “lite” whipped frozen topping, thawed
  • 2 cps. sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 (8-oz) cans crushed pineapple
  • 4 oz. flaked coconut

Directions

  1. Spread cracker crumbs evenly in a 13 x 9 inch pan.
  2. In medium bowl, mix pudding with milk approx. 2 min.
  3. Pour mixed pudding over crumbs.
  4. Layer sliced bananas over pudding.
  5. Cover with whipped topping.
  6. Add layer of strawberries, then pineapple. Sprinkle with coconut.
  7. Refrigerate until serving time. (Tastes better when allowed to chill at least a couple of hours.)

Well, there you have it — An Easter dinner full of “Spring” flavor. And while it’s not all totally low-cal, there is an abundance of nutritious and healthy food for the choosing. By keeping in mind portion control and being wise with your other meals throughout the day you will be just fine enjoying these dishes. And, even more so if you incorporate a nice brisk walk into the days activities. So with that being said, I wish you a “Happy Spring and a Happy Easter!”

ON YOUR WAY TO HAPPY AND HEALTHY!

 

There’s a well known drugstore whose advising slogan is that you can find their stores at the corner of “happy and healthy.” I know it is implying that they have what it takes to help you to be just that—happy and healthy. I get it — it’s a catchy slogan. The store fills much needed prescriptions, vitamins and other health related aids. And I even frequent their stores quite often. However, we all know that we need more than the corner drugstore to make us truly happy and healthy.

I know, I know, it might seem like I’m making too much out of it but just bear with me a minute. I want to ask you a question. Who or what really has what it takes to accomplish what the drugstore is advertising? What’s your guess?

I’ll tell you where I found the answer just in case you are wondering on where to look. In fact it’s super easy for anyone to find the answer. All I had to do and what everyone else needs to do is look in a mirror. Yep! That’s all there is to it. It’s me, it’s you. Okay, I hope I didn’t just pop someones bubble right there but it’s true!

Now let’s go back to the drugstore for a minute. I’m glad we have them because they are much needed. But let me point out something to you. To get a prescription, bandaids, cold medicine, vitamins or what ever else might be needed from there, you have to go to the store to either pick up a prescription or buy what you need right? Now if you wander around in the store a little it won’t take you very long before you come across some items that might be on the temporary “happy” list but are definitely not on the “heathy list”

And don’t even get me started on the after holiday candy sales! Ugh! I say, “Will power don’t desert me now!” It really should be against the law to sell chocolate at 50 or 75% off. Isn’t it ironic we can go into a store, buy a weight reducing product and then get tripped up on the way out by those “great” deals we just can’t pass up. Go figure!

But getting back to the point. Sure the drugstore is filled with good and healthy items for us to use and that’s great. But you can also pick up not so healthy items. So you see in the end the responsibility lies with us.

Now! Even though I pointed out that the ball falls in our lap, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use some help along the way. Nor did I say that it’s a cakewalk either. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have use the word “cake” in my statement. Sorry about that!

Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice. It’s not a “one and done” kind of choice either. It’s an ongoing commitment we have to make to ourselves and for ourselves. A commitment that involves maintaining healthy eating habits and engaging in regular exercise. So let’s break those two commitments down into practical daily living.

HEALTHY EATING

  • I think we tend to forget a very simple fact. And that is that food is fuel for the body. I’ve said this before but it’s good to repeat it. “We don’t put junk fuel into our vehicles so why do we put junk fuel into our bodies and then expect our bodies to run efficiently?” Not going to happen!
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products. These foods contain the most vitamins and minerals that will provide you with quality energy for the least amount of calories.
  • Limit processed and prepared food such as take-out, fast food and convenience foods which usually contain high amounts of calories, sodium, added sugars and fat. Ironically these types of food contribute to health related problems which could eventually require a trip to the drugstore I mentioned earlier to fill a prescription.
  • Learn and practice eating what the appropriate portion size is for the various foods you eat. In the long run it’s not always the best deal at a restaurant when they give you enormous portions for the price paid. It might be cheap food but it is an expensive price to pay if it leads to bad health.
  • Make note of when and why you eat. Are you truly hungry? Do you eat when you are bored or stressed? Or perhaps you are happy or sad? Practice mindful eating which is paying attention to your hunger cues and your level of fullness.

ACTIVE LIVING

Contrary to some peoples opinion, the word “exercise” is not a dirty word. Rather it is a “healthy” word. Physical activity is an important factor in healthy living. I’m not saying you have to run a 5k but most everyone can walk around the block. Whether it be by aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening (very important to the over age 40 crowd) or any other activity that gets your body moving regularly, staying active helps with the following:

  • Weight control
  • Minimizes stress level
  • Maximizes energy level
  • Improves sleep
  • Enhances mood
  • Reduces risk for chronic disease
  • Strengthens bones and muscles to prevent injury

So if you desire to lead a happier, healthier life, making the necessary choices are up to you. If you can wake up every morning and incorporate eating healthy and staying active into your daily routine it won’t be long before it becomes a good habit. And then, you will realize that you've arrived at the corner of happy and healthy.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS – BEAT THE STATISTIC’S!

 

 

A very belated Happy New Year to everyone! Yeah, I know, I’m rather late. I’m going to blame it on a very busy last couple of months for me, okay? Come to think of it though, the time from mid November through the first part of January always seems to fly by in a blink of an eye for me every year. So I guess this past year was no different. It’s probably the same with everyone else too. During that time of the year there is always so much to do and I might as well add right here, so much to eat. And then, all of a sudden, your spinning world comes to a halt and you find yourself in January standing in front of your closet looking for your “after holiday” clothes.

Ugh! So you stand there and berate yourself because you realize that, “Once again” you didn’t take care of yourself (health-wise) like you promised yourself you would do. Or maybe it’s the bathing suits that are now hanging in the stores that has abruptly brought it to your attention. That’s where the New Year’s resolutions come into play — not that that’s a bad thing. But if they are made more so of a knee jerk reaction because of a momentary sense of regret then you will probably find yourself in the percentage of people that don’t stick to them throughout the year. I know I’ve talked about this before but it bears going over again.

Even if those resolutions are made with good intentions, let’s be honest. Research shows that it doesn’t take long before they are gone by the wayside. Let me share with you a couple of statistics from the Statistic Brain Research Institute.

  • According to research done in 2016, the number one resolution made in the new year was………you guessed it, to lose weight and or to eat more healthy.
  • 72.6% maintained the resolutions through the first week. By 6 months that percentage had gone down to 44.8%.
  • People over the age of 50 were less likely to achieve their goals than people in their twenties.
  • Only 9.2% felt they were successful in achieving their resolution.

Now the reason I show you these statistics is in no way to give you an excuse for NOT making a health related goal for the new year. Rather it is to acknowledge that it’s obviously not easy or else the percentages would be higher. Right? And also to encourage you that if you did make a resolution to lose weight to push through so you can be counted amongst those that do make it! Those people are out there and you can be one too!

So what do we take away from this? Yes, people make resolutions and sometimes are not successful. Okay! So what? I’m going to say that at least for a little while they had a goal. They tried! Maybe this year will be the year that they stick with it. Maybe you will be one of those in the 9.2%. One thing is for sure though, you 100% of the time won’t reach your goal if you never make one in the first place. So let’s give the people in this research props for at least attempting to complete their goal.

And besides, you know what these statistics really show don’t you? It shows that a large percentage of people gave up and quit. That’s what we DON’T want to do! Think about all the achievements you have in your life. Aren’t you the most proud of the ones that took some struggle to bring about the results that you wanted?

Really, to be successful at this “getting healthier” thing, you have to retrain your brain into a new
way of thinking — to create and carry out good habits. And let’s face it, just like an unruly kid, your mind doesn’t always want to mind either. When we feel like we might be deprived of something, sometimes we turn into that little kid at the grocery checkout throwing a fit because he can’t have what he or she wants! You know what I mean?

We also live in a microwave society where we expect everything to happen fast in mere minutes. But there’s nothing fast about weight loss. You’ve heard the old saying, “A pot watched never boils.” Theoretically, we know it’s going to boil, but when you stand over the pot and wait, it seems like it takes forever. So don’t get discouraged and give up when you don’t see immediate results. Resist the tendency to slip back into your old habits. Stay the course!

And just a note on slipping back into old habits. From one of the statistics above we see that it’s even harder to lose weight the older you get. Maybe it's because it’s just easier to follow your old habits having  done them for so long you don’t have to think about it. But I also know for us women in the pre/menopausal years it can be quite challenging to lose weight. Our bodies do not respond in our 50’s like they did when we were in our 20’s. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.You just might have to go about it in a different and more determined way.

So, let’s wrap this up. We are now in the latter part of January. And even if you made some resolutions and you haven’t followed through with them, it doesn’t matter. You can start over. In fact, today is a good day to start, don’t you think? Start out by making a daily goal, then a weekly goal, a monthly goal and so on. Don’t let the time frame of a whole year intimidate you. And if and when you blow it, don’t let it be an excuse to totally give up. Forgive yourself, square your shoulders and get right back on the path that you need to be on to reach your goal. Do it for yourself, you're worth it!