Weight Loss

Losing Weight May Be As Simple As Going To Bed Earlier!

I like to sleep.  And not just any sleep but good, quality sleep! Getting a good nights sleep is as important to your health as eating, drinking and breathing. Not only is getting a good nights sleep important for keeping your body in optimal health, but did you know that if you're trying to lose weight, the amount of sleep you get may be just as important as your diet and exercise? Yup! But, I’ll talk more about that a little later on.

As I began to write about this topic, one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping came to my mind. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock who is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient. Now long story short, while this guy is “out for the count” lying in a hospital bed, Bullock's character actually falls in love with his brother. And at the end of the movie when (Bullock) is asked, when, had this happened, she simply answers, “It was while you were sleeping.”

Just like in the movie where a whole lot of action was taking place while the coma patient “was out,” the same can be said for us as well while we are “out” during sleep. I would say that most individuals go to bed at night because they are tired, and well…it’s just what we do at night, right? But I wonder if they realize all that is going on in their bodies while they lie sleeping? Most people tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But that is not so!

During sleep your brain is actually engaged in a number of activities necessary to life and even closely linked to quality of life. But what does sleep have to do with losing weight you might ask? Well, let me tell you. There are two hormones in your body that play a very important role in controlling your appetite and satiety (being full to satisfaction); ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is released in the stomach and signals your brain that you are hungry. Levels are high before you eat, which is when your stomach is empty, and low after you eat. Leptin is released from fat cells. It suppresses hunger and tells your brain when you are full.

When you do not get adequate sleep, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin, leaving you hungry and increasing your appetite even when your body doesn’t need food. Along with ghrelin and leptin, your body has a third hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that may also increase your appetite when you do not get adequate sleep and is associated with fat gain.

Isn’t it amazing how our bodies work? I don’t think most people would put lack of sleep and weight issues together—but it’s right there in black and white isn’t it? When we are tired, our bodies make less of the hormone leptin and more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. As a result, our sleepy brains urge us to find an energy pick-up in the form of calories. And I guess it’s a no brainer that if our appetite is increasing then we are going to go on the prowl for something to eat.

Willpower isn’t exactly high when you are sleepy either. If you are eating late at night, you are more likely to make poor food choices. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Obesity, night owls consume an average of 248 more calories per day than those who go to bed earlier.  So, not only does a lack of sleep mess with our hunger signals, but it’s a given that less time in bed simply gives us more hours of the day to eat.

Think about this. We all know that the first meal of the day is called breakfast. If you divide the word you will see it is made up of two parts, “break” and “fast.” To fast means to go without food. So “breakfast” means to break the fast you’ve been observing since you went to sleep the night before. If you are a night owl like I mentioned earlier and into midnight munching, and then you eat breakfast later that morning, I’d say your breakfast isn’t breaking much of a fast.

During the day, your body uses some of the calories you eat for fuel and the rest gets stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. At night while you sleep, your body converts that glycogen into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream to keep your blood-sugar level steady. Here’s the exciting part—once the stored glycogen is gone, your liver starts burning fat cells for energy. BUT, it takes a few hours to use up the day’s glycogen stores. If your “fast” isn’t long enough your body may never get a chance to burn any fat before you start reloading (eating) your glycogen stores again.

So, now that you’ve been armed with this knowledge, maybe it’s a good time to create and stick to a healthy bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Give yourself enough time in bed to get seven to nine hours of sleep. Being consistent each night and even on the weekends will help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

I hope this blog has been enlightening for you, especially if you have never made the connection between lack of sleep and possible weight issues. If you would like to discuss this further, please call me at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “contact” tab to schedule an appointment. I look forward to hearing from you!

4 TIPS ON MAKING WISE CHOICES FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Christmas is just over a couple of weeks away (at least it was when I started this blog). Now, when it gets posted is another matter. Anyway, there I sat wondering about what I should write about this month and various subjects came to mind. However, I gotta admit, I was struggling on landing on any certain subject. I mean, I know this site is called, Thinking Thin Lifestyle, but, “for crying out loud, it’s Christmas time!”

I coach people who are interested in weight loss and leading a more healthy and fulfilling life. But you know what? That doesn’t mean that I too can’t be tempted by the same Christmas cookies, various culinary offerings or busyness that go with the holidays as you are. I might have the knowledge of making wise choices but I still have to make myself choose those wise choices. And, I’ll admit, that sometimes can be hard. But in the long run, I know it pays off.

So, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season I thought I would give all of us a condensed refresher course on four tips to keep in mind. It’s not a bad idea either to write these tips on a card and put it somewhere in your house where you will see them on a regular basis. These tips are useful not only during the holidays but throughout the rest of the year as well.

  1. Eating - Eat a balanced diet. A diet that focuses on providing all the nutrients that your body needs. This includes macronutrients like protein, whole carbohydrates and fat along with micronutrients which include vitamins and minerals. In other words, steer clear of the Drive Thru signs. This can be challenging when you are “on the go” all the time. When you feel hurried and harried the temptation can be great to forsake your nutritional needs for convenience sake. NOT a good idea! Before you walk out your door in the morning, take a few minutes to plan out your meal schedule. AND, tuck a couple of healthy snacks in your bag to help curb those cravings.
  2. Exercising - Along with nutrients, the food we eat contain calories. And if we have more calories coming in than what is being expended the result will be weight gain. And with the convenience of online shopping today you can’t count on walking those calories off at the mall. Use the stairs, park farther out in a parking lot, force yourself to take a walk around the neighborhood, run around with your kids or grandkids, anything to keep moving!
  3. Sleeping - Especially around the busyness of the holidays it can be easy to become sleep deprived with all of the extra activities tugging at our time. Studies have found that poor sleep is associated with weight gain and a higher likelihood of obesity in both adults and children. Poor sleep can also increase appetite, likely due to its effect on hormones that signal hunger and fullness. When thinking about weight management one doesn't tend to point to quality sleep as a contributing factor. However, along with eating right and exercise, it does play an important part of weight maintenance. So much so, I believe I might just dedicate a whole blog to the subject in the near future.
  4. Stress control - Stress? During the holidays? Say it ain’t so! Okay, everybody take a nice deep breath. It’s going to be all right! You know, we all love the Christmas carol, Silent Night. But we also know that, “All is calm, all is bright” is not necessarily so during the holidays. People can get a little “testy” around this time, can’t they? You need to be aware that during stress because of increased levels of the hormone, cortisol, we are more tempted to reach for those “comfort foods” that are usually sugary or fatty leading to weight gain. So, in addition to implementing the three tips listed above, take some time to de-stress yourself. Separate yourself from all the clatter the holidays bring. Listen to calming music, watch a funny video -- laughter is a great way to release tension, or practice a progressive muscle relaxation technique such as can be found at this site. http://www.guidetopsychology.com/pmr.htm.

You know, holidays are going to happen as well as other chaotic and busy times in your life. We shouldn’t look at them as roadblocks on our road to a healthy lifestyle. Instead, we just need to learn how to navigate through them and not get sidetracked by what we think are obstacles in the road. And if we happen to hit a big pothole (succumb to temptation) along the way, no biggie. We get a “wheel alignment” and get right back to driving straight toward the goal of a healthy lifestyle.

I understand how this can be difficult for some individuals. They seem to find themselves hitting more potholes in the road than they want, making it hard to stay on track. Does this sound like you? If so, I would encourage you to call me at (616) 516-1570 or schedule an appointment by clicking on the “contact” button you see on the screen. I would love to work with you. To help you discover that with a little different focus and way of thinking you can achieve success and reach your goal of managing your weight and living a healthy lifestyle. And until we meet again, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

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!

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.

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!

 

Healthy Fats Have Calories Too!

 

healthy-fats-600x450Fat. Now there’s a word that can have a multitude of meanings. And, I’m probably not being grammatically correct in using it as a one word sentence but since I’m just blogging and not publishing a book I’m going with it okay? Now, the kind of fat I’m talking about today is dietary fat.

In ages past, I imagine the hardest part of anyones diet was knowing that if you wanted to eat you had to go out and actually catch it or grow your own food. And then trying to find a way to preserve what you had so it wouldn't go to waste. These days even though we have food conveniently surrounding us even down at the corner gas station (and I use the term food lightly here) I think the hardest part of eating today is knowing what to eat. It seems like one day something is okay and then the next day it’s not.

I have this picture in my head of a wheel like the one they use on the game show, “Wheel of Fortune.” Instead of money and prizes to be had when they spin the wheel this wheel has various foods, methods, diet plans, latest fads, etc. Every once and awhile the diet and nutrition industry spins it and wherever it lands, that becomes the latest and greatest new product, health advice or method that every magazine, social media, morning talk shows and food manufacturers tout until it has run its course and then the wheel gets another spin to start it all over again.

Over the years dietary fats have been added to that wheel. Those of you who are old enough will remember your grandmothers using lard, saved bacon grease, and butter. It’s what they had and I don’t think they gave it a second thought if it was “healthy” or not to use it. Then the powers that be determined that those products were a no-no and came up with the inventions of products like oleo (margarine), Crisco, Spry and numerous oils through unnatural means.

Well, lo and behold somebody has spun the wheel again and now we are starting to see a swing back to some of the old fats that our ancestors used as being more healthy. Go figure! Honestly, it makes my head hurt! On a side note, I did run across an interesting fact about how Crisco came about. Supposedly, it’s because the Procter's (Procter & Gamble) were looking for an easy way to store soap fat. YUP! And now people cook with it.

One might think that all of our weight problems could be solved if we just eliminated fat from our diet right? Wrong! It’s really not that simple. In all reality, we actually need fats, (to which we all sigh a happy sigh of relief). In fact, we can’t live without them because they are an important part of a heathy diet. Fat is a nutrient that our bodies need in order to function. If you were to restrict fat too much you could encounter serious health consequences and even mental health deficits like depression and vitamin deficiencies could occur. But that doesn’t mean you should make it one of your main food groups either.

You’ve heard it said that all calories are not created equal right? We know that 1500 calories of wholesome food will affect our bodies differently than 1500 calories of processed and junk food. This is true on a large scale. But gram for gram, carbohydrates, fats, and protein all have different caloric values.

Carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram which means that 100 grams of protein, carbohydrates, or a combination of the two will equal 400 calories. But fat has 9 calories per gram which is more than double the carb or protein measurements!

EXAMPLES:

A 1-ounce serving of walnuts which is about 1/4 cup contains 185 calories and 18.5 grams of fat.
A medium avocado has 232 calories and 20.5 grams of fat.
One tablespoon of olive or coconut oil has roughly 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.
One tablespoon of butter has 102 calories and 11.5 grams of fat.
Two tablespoons of almond or peanut butter has 190 calories and 16 grams of fat.

A tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, a handful of nuts (or two), etc., you can see how you might be eating a high fat diet and not even know it. And even if your portions are small, chances are by the end of the day you could be eating more calories than you think.

Finding the balance — Oh, how that little statement applies to so many areas of life. And so it seems we can also apply it to dietary fats too. So, what do we know? We know there are several types of fats — some good (healthy) and some bad (unhealthy). We also know that we should try to eat mostly the good and try to stay away from the bad. One thing they have in common however is that they both contain calories. Just remember that your fat consumption should be proportional to your weight. If you are trying to change your body or become healthier, it should be proportional to your goals. You will want to look at how many calories you need to consume daily to lose weight, maintain, or gain weight (yes, there are those people out there) to reach those goals.

So in wrapping up this blog, I want to say that I can’t tell you which fats to use or not use. You will have to do your own research on that. But the message I really wanted to get across is that no matter what kind of fat you do use, just be conscious of the calories they contain. It’s so easy to think just because something is healthy and good for us that it doesn’t matter how much of it we eat — But it does! Calories matter as far as weight goes. Or should I say as far as weight comes and goes?

EVERYTHING we put in our mouth has a calorie. And sometimes those calories sneak into our diet without us even thinking about them. They say that knowledge is power so knowing where our calories are coming from puts us in the drivers seat of being in control of our diet which is a good thing!

If you struggle with eating a healthy diet and feel like you just don’t know where to start, I would love to help you get on the right track. There is no better time than right now to get started! Please call me at (616) 516-1570 to schedule an appointment or click on the blue “Contact” tab on the upper right portion of the page and “Let’s Talk!”

Is Menopausal Weight Gain a Trick?

life tricks 2

 

I have come to the conclusion that life likes to play little “tricks” on us. How so you ask? Well, it starts out when we are little. We want something such as candy, ice cream, etc., when we are young and our parents say, “No, it’s not good for you!” Now, our little minds really can’t understand that and so we say to ourselves, “When I grow up I am going to buy all the candy I want” or “When I grow up nobody is going to tell me how much ice cream I can eat.” Do any of those statements sound familiar?

Then we get a little older and one day we’re given some money from Grandma or some chore done around the house and when somebody finally takes us to the store we sadly find out that we don’t have quite enough money to purchase all the candy we want. However, in all of our 7 year old wisdom we know that when we grow up and get a job, THEN we’ll have enough money to get that candy.

Well, you know how that works out. By the time we get that job in our teens we aren’t thinking about the candy anymore. We have moved on to important things like clothes and movies. (wink-wink). And so goes the “wants” and “means” as they evolve over time going through many phases.

So I was just thinking one day on how as kids we want something and an adult tells us we can’t or shouldn’t have it and we have no choice but to accept it either willingly or kicking and screaming at the check out . And then fast forward to the day when we find ourselves being the adult and having to tell ourselves, “No, you can’t have that, it’s not good for you” even though we have the freedom and the means to buy it for ourselves. This being one of the many little tricks that I was talking about.

Wow! I said all of that to say this. I am now considered a “mid lifer.” That is someone of middle age for those of you that don’t know (yet) but hold on you will eventually. And with that middle age comes something called menopause for us women.

Now when we are let’s say in our mid to late 30’s we might be thinking, “Come on menopause!” It’s time to move on from “certain issues” in our lives and we think menopause will solve some of those. But au contraire, anyone who has truly reached menopause knows that in fact your so called “certain issues” have just been traded for “other issues.” Hence this being another little (or big) trick depending on what’s going on and how your body has reacted to the “change of life.”

But for the sake of this blog I’m just going to talk about one of the new issues that seems to pop up, (or should I say pop out) and that is weight gain. Even though we know we haven't changed our eating habits we wonder in frustration what in the world is going on when we try to fasten our favorite jeans.

Menopausal weight gain has been reported to be one of the most frustrating symptoms of menopause. Have you noticed a change in the size and shape around your abdomen? Maybe a bulge above your waistband that you didn’t have before? Some people refer to it as the “Middle age spread.” This is usually caused by a change in your hormones.

Even if you have never had a weight problem in the past, you might find it harder now to manage your weight when you find yourself approaching menopause. Many women gain around 10-15 pounds during the perimenopause to the actual menopause period at a rate of around 1 pound per year on average. And you will probably notice that your weight is not distributing itself the same as it used to be. And while some women might not see an actual weight difference on the scales the proportion of body fat has increased. Can we all just say, Yippee, Yippee Yay?

Now remember when I said that the weight gain could be attributed to hormones? Well, that is just partially true. Our hormones do play an integral part in influencing menopause and weight gain in relation to our appetite, metabolism and fat storage. However, there are other factors as well.

Age and lifestyle are the main culprits. Aging is associated with slowing of the metabolism. In fact most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade. And because metabolism slows as women approach menopause, they need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. Our lean body mass also decreases with age while body fat accumulates throughout adulthood. Another Yippee Yay right there right? Also, women generally become less physically active as they go through their 40’s and the years beyond. So it’s really not hard to see that because we are less active our weight and fat mass increases and with decreased activity our muscle mass decreases.

So, what are us “mid lifers” to do? Do we have to accept that it is inevitable we are going to gain weight? Not necessarily. Although there’s no magic formula to avoid weight gain as we age, the strategies below can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:

  • Be proactive. Get ahead of the game. Knowing that weight gain is in the cards don’t wait for the weight to add up before switching to a healthier lifestyle. One interesting fact is that menopausal women who manage to retain their “youthful figure” are usually those who have always been active and continue to do so. They might notice a change in the distribution of their weight but overall they look trim, fit and healthy.
  • Increase your physical activity. Find an activity that you enjoy (think aerobic) such as jogging, dancing, cycling or good old fashion walking, and do it on a regular basis for at least 45 to 60 minutes four to five days a week thus boosting your metabolism which aids in burning fat.
  • Do strength training. Exercises such as weight lifting can boost your metabolism as well as increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. Use resistance bands or use your own body as resistance and do push-ups, squats, or lunges. Even heavy gardening such as digging or hoeing weeds can be classified as strength training. Building muscle mass is also more likely to protect against future weight gain.
  • Watch your diet. You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Take a good look at your diet and see what you can do to improve it. I’m sure you can find some refined carbohydrates hiding in there somewhere that can be cut out. It doesn’t hurt to look at portion sizes either, remember, women need about 200 fewer calories a day just to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. But don’t forget to keep up with the daily calcium requirements if you are simultaneously trying to lose weight though as women are at an increased risk of bone density loss at this age.

Whew! that was a lot of information. Hopefully you are not dealing with menopausal brain fog and you got all of that. Okay, a little humor there! Well, that’s it. I guess we have more control over weight gain than we would like to admit. We can’t just blame it on menopause. We have some responsibility too.

So if you are nearing or in the “change of life” time frame and would like some coaching to help you put these strategies into motion to ward off menopausal weight gain, please call me at (616) 516-1570 and together let’s just see if we can’t play some tricks of our own on menopause.

Get Moving on Diet and Exercise!

 

get movingPeople, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the squirrels are having fun playing, “Tag - You’re It!”  (At least I think that is what they are doing.) So why then are you inside sitting on the couch? Watching T.V? Come on — our spring and summer season is so short for us Michiganians you need to seize the season and take full advantage of it.

I know, it’s easy to get in a rut though isn’t it? You work all day, come home and just want to veg on the couch. But if you find that you are sedentary for most of the day and you know you should be exercising I am here to encourage you to get up and out and get moving. That’s right, get moving! If you are someone who hates to exercise, now, is the perfect time to at least be more active. Try to change it up and enjoy new outdoor activities. There is SO much to do out there. Besides, if you work inside all day wouldn’t it be more fun to go for a walk outside than back inside on a treadmill?

Think about where Michigan is located. You know, Michigan is surrounded by the five Great Lakes and for us who live in West Michigan we are only minutes away from the beautiful Lake Michigan shore. If you don’t like to swim, go for a walk along the waters edge. Or, go to the park and play Frisbee Golf or take up gardening. Just find something you enjoy outside and then—well, enjoy it!

Remember, changing your exercise routine is good for your body and increases the calories you burn. Because your body and muscles are working harder it challenges your muscles and increases your metabolism.

Now with that being said, I must bring to your attention though that if you are looking to lose weight you can’t do it with exercise alone. You still have to be mindful of what you eat. There’s a reason that the phrase “diet and exercise” seem to always go together. While many people might try to do one without the other it is just simple math that if you are not burning off more than what you consume you will not lose weight. And that is especially true if you need to lose more than just a pound or two. You might be best friends with your treadmill but if you eat more calories than you walk off, basically what you end up doing is just taking your extra pounds you carry for a daily walk.

Now don’t get me wrong. Exercising does help you increase the calories your body is burning, but, It’s often not nearly enough compared to the calories you’re consuming. So if you are willing to cut back on food and exercise you will see a much better result faster. And just to be clear, I’m not necessarily saying to eat less food but to be mindful of what kind of food you are consuming. However, if you know that you do overeat then it’s a given that you need to eat less.

Studies looking at different weight loss methods such as diet-only, exercise-only, and a combination of both have concluded that programs based on physical activity alone are less effective than combined BWMPs (behavioral weight management programs) in both the short and long term.

Maybe there are behaviors that you have regarding eating that you don’t even realize you have. For some, it started in childhood whether it was being told to always finish your plate even if you were full or were punished or rewarded by food. For others, food has become a way of dealing with stress or a way of comforting themselves in bad times.

If you can accept that your habits or behaviors have contributed to your weight gain, then you can realize that it is more than just a matter of reducing calories to lose weight. To make a permanent change you must change those behaviors that caused the problem in the first place.

That is where Behavior Modification Therapy which has been shown to be very successful can be helpful to reduce or eliminate behaviors and habits that are destructive, unhealthy, or undesirable and learning more appropriate behaviors. Just because there is a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” doesn’t mean that it is true. And just because you might have learned a defective approach to diet and exercise somewhere along the way does not mean that you can’t unlearn those behaviors and replace them with a new and healthy way of thinking.

So, enjoy your summer and all of your new outdoor activities. And if you decide to be more active by traveling our beautiful state and hiking, walking, swimming or whatever, just be mindful of the goodies you might find along the way. You know, like Coney dogs, ice cream at Captain Sundae’s, Mackinac Island fudge (no, I did not just say that. Okay, just a little piece!) Who knows, by the time the cold and snowy weather comes back around you just might be in better shape to go cross county skiing or tobogganing with the kids… OKAY! Maybe I shouldn’t have brought that up now? Summer people, yes, let’s focus on summer!

Weight management involves adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a knowledge of nutrition and exercise, a positive attitude and the right kind of motivation. If you would like to explore the idea of Behavior Modification Therapy and how it could help you with your eating and exercise habits please give me a call at (616) 516-1570 or click on the “Contact” tab at the upper righthand corner of your screen. I look forward to meeting with you!