Why I’m taking my diet back to the drawing board

Probably one of the most frustrating things for people is the confusion over dietary recommendations.   For example, first you’re told not to eat eggs, and then you’re given the green light to eat them (btw, still today, there are ongoing debates in science about this).  When we were told that eating fat would make us fat, guess what.  I stopped eating fat and gained weight, like everyone else!   Despite the confusion, we’re learning more and more everyday about nutrition, especially how individualized it can be.  And I’ve finally come to realize and accept that the right answer for you is not necessarily the right answer for me.

food test

This is why I recently began offering food sensitivity testing to my clients, so that they could quickly uncover foods to which their bodies are intolerant.  Unlike food allergies which are an IgE/histamine response that happens immediately, can often be severe, and identifies foods that must be avoided permanently, the food intolerance test measures a delayed, inflammatory reaction to each substance tested.  For many people, certain foods they’re eating may be inhibiting weight loss or causing other symptoms such as:

-          Abnormal cravings/bingeing

-          Migraines

-          Stomach pain/bloating

-          Heartburn

-          Diarrhea

-          Irritability and nervousness

-          Hyperactivity/ADD

-          Skin disorders

Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that my body had a severe reaction to carrots, oats, oregano, and goji berries.  I also had moderate reactions to stevia, turmeric, pumpkin, and red and green leaf lettuce!  And I had mild reactions to thirty-eight foods and medicinal herbs, many of which I eat all the time, including spinach, coconut, cacao, celery, ginger, sweet potato, and chlorella.  Needless to say, I was bummed out but I think my mother is more freaked out than I am.  When I told her I was removing all of these foods from my diet, her reaction was, “What are you going to eat??”

There’s actually well over one hundred foods that my body was OK with, including beets, avocados, lemons (yay!), quinoa and other gluten-free grains (I only reacted mildly to gluten and whey), meats and seafood, nuts/seeds and herbs/spices.  So now, I’m doing the experiment.  For me, I’m interested in finding out if it will alleviate my sciatica that flares up pretty frequently.  Does it mean that I have to avoid all of these foods forever?  No, but at least initially to heal whatever may be going on from them, and then there’s a way to introduce them back without a reaction.

If you’re frustrated about why you can’t lose weight, or suspect that something in your diet is initiating symptoms and you can’t put your finger on what it is, and you want more information about the test, contact me for a brief session and I can explain it in more detail.  Rather than spend weeks, months, or forever experimenting, you’ll have a good idea of where to begin in about one week.   I’m  also offering it with DNA testing to help you optimize your detoxification pathway.  Because with greater awareness, you can make better choices…

Are you ‘tuned in’ to opportunity?

Image courtesy of scottchan

Image courtesy of scottchan

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~Milton Berle

A couple of nights ago, I was on a breakthrough session with someone over the phone and we got on the topic of commuting to work. She explained that she’s in her car about two hours per day and she’s often frustrated when she’s stuck in traffic. I think we’ve all been there, especially if we don’t see it coming. But she’s made the drive often enough to know what to expect and so the negative feelings around it are probably showing up even when she’s not making the drive.

To ease the stress that can eventually contribute to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain (she would like to lose weight), and more, my suggestion for her was to use her two hour drive to listen to something inspirational that will lift her mood, or if there was a particular topic she was interested in, why not use the time to learn about it.

A few years ago when I was getting certified as a health coach, I was commuting from CT to Boston once per week. It was a three hour drive into the city (mostly because of rush hour traffic), and about two hours home. Of course, it did have its moments, especially if I was tired. But I realized it was the perfect opportunity to listen to my class lectures. And so I listened to the majority of my schoolwork while driving! And even today, because I’m often in the car, I’ve got plenty of backup to listen to.

The bigger message here is not necessarily about the health risks related to long commutes, but that the lens you look through can have a dramatic impact on your health. When you face a problem, is it from the point of view if its limitations and do you allow it to frustrate you, or can you see an opportunity?

If the commuter gets frustrated on her way to work, how might that affect her performance on the job? If she’s in a bad mood when she gets home, how will it impact her relationship with her family? How might it impact her health? Or the likelihood that she’ll make healthy food choices rather than eat “unintentionally”. And then, what about her ability to lose weight?

Might listening to something uplifting get her to work in a more upbeat mood? Will she have more energy during the day or walk through the door with a bigger smile for her family? Will she hear a nugget of information that changes her life for the better? Would she learn something that if she shared it with someone, would ultimately help them?

I would say yes to all of the above, and more! Because the ripple effect is far more powerful than you realize. You can never fully predict the influence you’ll have on another person and sending ripples of positive energy are always better than the alternative. The key is that they begin from within and the way you choose to view whatever you’re facing makes all the difference – for everyone.

The single most important thing you can do for your health

Author Michael Pollan just published a new book entitled Cooked that was inspired by some burning questions he had, such as, “What’s one of the most important things we can do as a family to improve our health and well-being?”  Or, “What can we as individuals do to transform our food system?” [That is becoming ever more industrialized, is eliminating our self-sufficiency, and is having a strong, negative impact on our health].   His answer, as the title of his book suggests, is to get into the kitchen and cook.

This may sound like taking a step back today because many of us have created lifestyles that accommodate processed and pre-packaged foods and have replaced cooking time or food preparation with other activities.  Yet based on what we’re witnessing with our health, this has not necessarily been a step forward.

Even deeper than what this is doing to our health, Michael Pollan has this to say about living on processed food diets:

“This is a problem–for the health of our bodies, our families, our communities, and our land, but also for our sense of how our eating connects us to the world.  Our growing distance from any direct, physical engagement with the processes by which the raw stuff of nature gets transformed into a cooked meal is changing our understanding of what food is.  Indeed, the idea that food has any connection to nature or human work or imagination is hard to credit when it arrives in a neat package, fully formed.  Food becomes just another commodity, an abstraction.   And as soon as that happens, we become easy prey for corporations selling synthetic versions of the real thing–what I call edible foodlike substances.  We end up trying to nourish ourselves on images.”

What’s so interesting is that we have actually acquired palettes for less natural versions of food–in part because of their addictive nature.  To recover from these addictions while returning to the simplicity of real food would actually be a step forward in the right direction.   And so, in order to reverse this trend for our health but also the health of future generations, and the health or our planet, here are three simple steps:

Embrace cooking – Today, we so often see cooking as a chore or even a bother that is getting in the way of doing other things.  What if cooking became one of those ‘other things’ that was just as important as anything else?  Where in your schedule can you make the time for cooking?  Is it a few hours on the weekend?  Can you enlist help?  Then plan it in your schedule and think of ways to make it fun.

Cook with ‘raw’ materials - Sometimes we get busy and dinner means heating up a jar of pasta sauce and a box of pasta, but the more you can start with the really raw materials and create something, the more control you’ll have over what you’re putting into your body. Even if more basic cooking means sautéing some fresh vegetables and adding them to your pasta, it’s progress.

Visit your local farmers - This is the perfect time of year to visit a farm stand or farmer’s market and get to know your local farmers.  It’s not necessarily about eating organic. I’d rather eat local than buy something organic that‘s been grown thousands of miles away.  One farm I like to visit is not certified organic but uses organic practices and when necessary, uses integrated pest management.  And by not paying the high price of becoming certified, they pass the savings on to us.

Why it’s totally sensible to indulge…

ariel and salmonHere’s yet another reason make dieting a thing of the past:  our mind-body connection.  You probably already know that dieting leads to feelings of deprivation that can eventually lead to bingeing.  What you may not be aware of is that how you react psychologically to what you’re eating may have a direct impact on your physiology.

Seems simple doesn’t it?  We eat, we get full, and the motivation to eat stops.  However, it seems it’s a little more complicated than that.

A couple of years ago, researchers at Yale University carried out a study in which they had subjects come in on two separate occasions, set one week apart, to drink and rate two drinks.   One of the drinks, called “Indulgence”, had 630 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 56 grams of sugar; and had a picture of a hot fudge sundae on the label.   The second drink was called a “Sensi-Shake”.  It had 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 20 grams of sugar; and the label said “Guilt-free Satisfaction.”   You can see the actual labels here.

What the subjects didn’t realize was that although the labels were very different, the shakes were actually both an identical 380-calorie shake.  For each test, they showed up in the morning after a night of fasting.  Then, they were shown the label of the shake they thought they were about to drink and then given ten minutes to drink the shake.  The subjects were then asked to rate the shake on taste as well as their levels of hunger at different intervals.

In addition, blood samples were taken before they began, after they read the labels, and then again after they drank the shake to measure levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin that rises when the stomach is empty to induce the sensation of hunger in the brain.  Ghrelin levels then drop when the stomach detects food and nutrients.

This is where it got interesting.  When the subjects thought they were drinking an indulgent shake, their ghrelin levels rose sharply in anticipation of the shake and then dropped significantly in response.  But when they thought they were being sensible, ghrelin remained relatively flat, suggesting that their satiety levels were at least in part, governed at the psychological level.   In their minds, they didn’t derive as much satisfaction from the drink, and their bodies metabolically followed suit.

This begs the question, if you treat each meal or eating experience as an indulgence, will you be more satisfied physiologically?  We don’t know for sure, yet, but I know that every time I’ve had an eating experience that engaged all of my senses–and in particular, my sense of sight through a beautiful presentation, I also felt more physically satisfied.  Experiencing that amount of pleasure from a meal can only be positive.

If you’ve ever had the opposite experience–“being good” with a ‘diet’ meal or a meal that simply wasn’t satisfying and felt deprived, then you can probably relate to being hungry thirty minutes later or being obsessed with food, making the temptation to eat again stronger.

The authors also brought up a good point that may be hurting those trying to be ‘good’ with their eating.  A package, for example that’s labeled, ‘low-fat’ may have you thinking you’re eating diet food – even, for example, if it’s high in sugar.  Continuously reaching for foods like these that potentially never satisfy (and are addictive and stimulate the appetite) may backfire when it comes to weight loss and lead to even bigger health problems down the road.

My takeaway from this?  Enjoy whatever it is you’re eating and as always, the best foods come without labels.

A Lighter, Brighter, More Energetic You

chivesSpring is finally here!  One of the signs for me was a large tuft of chives that poked its head out of the ground a few weeks ago and that I’ve been picking from ever since.

This is a natural time of the year to cleanse.  In fact, our bodies instinctively want to do this after a long, cold winter of eating heavy foods and reduced movement.  And like magic, nature provides some of the best foods around this time of year for us, like dandelion, which is a potent cleanser.

The other day I was telling a client of mine that I was gearing up to do a detox and she asked why I detox?  Well, as much as I’d like to think my diet is ‘perfect’, it’s not.  I had never taken part in a cleanse of any sort until a few years ago, and I liked the results so much that I decided that they would become part of my spring and fall.

You’re probably aware that your body is designed to continuously detox through your breath, your skin via your sweat, and your digestive system; however, today, we’re continuously bombarded by chemicals like:

  • chlorine and fluoride in our water,
  • fumes from car exhaust and power plants that often contain heavy metals,
  • xenoestrogens from plastics, cans, cash register receipts and our personal care products,
  • pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones from our food

And much, much more and we don’t even know the full impact that exposure to one or more of these can have on us over time.   There is, however, a growing body of evidence that many of these so-called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs are playing a role in the chronic diseases on the rise today, such as obesity, early onset diabetes, cancer, etc.

And if you’re interested in exactly what’s showing up in people’s bodies, the CDC puts out a report on human exposure to environmental chemicals and the EPA’s site allows you to search by state or zip code to see which chemicals have been released into the environment and by whom.

What’s becoming increasingly apparent is that some of us are better at eliminating toxicity from the body than others.  And, if you diet is particularly burdensome on your body, it becomes much more difficult to keep up with the detox process.   Even with a healthy diet, we sometimes just need a nudge.  I remember a couple of years ago, I had a pesky rash on my left elbow for weeks that would not go away.   About seven days into my detox though, it had disappeared without a trace.  That surprised even me and my results have always been positive.

So, to give my body a rest and to clear some space to allow it to get rid of any gunk that may have built up over the long winter, and to transition into a lighter eating pattern for the spring and summer, I do a cleanse.

How might you know that a detox/cleanse is a good idea for you?  Your body will leave clues.  There’s a long list of signs that I will often go over with my clients and here are some of the most common that can be alleviated:

  • digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation
  • itchy or ringing ears
  • mood swings
  • fatigue or sluggishness
  • itchy or watery eyes or dark circles
  • headaches or insomnia
  • stuffy nose or chest congestion
  • poor memory or concentration
  • chronic coughing or canker sores
  • skin breakouts
  • joint aches or stiffness
  • water retention
  • weight gain or loss or trouble losing or gaining weight
  • bingeing or cravings

TCU14head

I have several clients gearing up for detoxes and I’m about to begin my 14-day program.   This program includes a medical food and a supplement that both provide additional liver support so that when toxicity is released, the liver has enough resources to safely neutralize and ship it out for elimination.   The last thing you want is for your body to dislodge the toxins hiding out in your fat cells, only to circulate them around and do damage in your body, and then store them somewhere else.  I also offer a 21-day ‘food only’ detox designed to be gentler than the 14-day program.

If you’re ready to feel lighter, brighter, and more energetic, check it out my programs here.  You can also read about what some of my clients have to say about their detox experiences.  And if you order a program by April 15th, you’ll get a reduced rate of $100 off!.  So if you’ve been thinking about it, now’s the time.  You can order the program now and begin when you’re ready. Simply contact me here and we’ll get you set up!

Starting the day w/good intentions and ending it w/a pint of Haagen Dazs

ID-10095333

Courtesy of -Marcus-

Does this sound familiar?  You wake up in the morning ready for a day of healthy eating.  You eat a small bowl of cereal or a slice of toast for breakfast, or grab a banana and head off to work.  Lunch rolls around and you sip on a cup of soup or eat a vegetable salad – and all is well.   By 3 or 4 o’clock, though, you’re suddenly craving chocolate, you stop to pick up a pizza on your way home from work, you graze while you’re cooking dinner, or after dinner, you polish off a pint of ice cream.

If any of these situations sound like you, you’re not alone.  So many people I talk with begin their day with good intentions and end it forgetting all about them – over and over again.  Although there are many factors that can play into this scenario, one has to do with our bodies’ natural cycle of brain chemicals like serotonin that’s functions in appetite control, depression and anxiety relief, pain tolerance, and sleep.

For example, in the morning, levels of your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter serotonin are high and as the day progresses, they begin to dip.  And so by the afternoon, if you’ve depleted your supply without replenishing it, your cravings will begin – for foods like ice cream and chocolate, or a bowl of cereal with milk, or a gooey cheese pizza.   Why?  Because dairy (and cacao) is a good source of protein, and specifically tryptophan, the building block of serotonin.

As you’re probably well aware by now, though, concentrating these heavy, fatty foods later in the day will not only pack on the pounds, it will disrupt your sleep, impact your digestion, and ultimately lead to more serious health issues.   And if you’re like many people who have inherited less serotonin-making capabilities, then you’re much more sensitive to a diet that hinders its production.

If you suspect this is you, then here are some dietary/lifestyle habits that may help maintain your serotonin levels:

Eat regular meals that include protein.   If you’re skipping breakfast or lunch, or going light on them, you’re probably not getting enough protein during the day.  In addition, in most protein sources, tryptophan is low compared to other amino acids and in plant proteins, it’s levels can be up to ten times lower per serving than in animal proteins.

Even with animal proteins, wild game and animals that are raised on their natural food sources (like grass-fed beef) are higher in tryptophan than animals raised on corn so making the shift to cleaner sources of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy can help.  Some of the plant sources of tryptophan include legumes like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, bananas, winter squashes and sweet potato.  This page provides a list of a variety of tryptophan sources.

Include healthy fats in your meals.  Fat helps tryptophan become available to the brain so it’s important to include it at every meal.  Foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil are all sources of healthy fats to include regularly.  In one study, researchers found that decreasing fat in people’s diets correlated with increases in low serotonin symptoms like anger and hostility.

Cut back on caffeine and artificial sweeteners.  If you’re beginning your day with a cup of coffee, you’re working against your serotonin stores early since as a stimulant, caffeine works in exactly the opposite way of serotonin’s calming capabilities.  In addition, according to Julia Ross in The Mood Cure, the artificial sweetener aspartame can also have an overstimulating effect because one of it’s components, the amino acid phenylalanine converts to the stimulants tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline.  And it’s second component, the amino acid aspartic acid is also highly excitatory.

Eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates that are naturally low in tryptophan and wreak havoc on your blood sugar and insulin levels that also promotes stress in the body and interferes with your good mood!

Get regular exercise because it increases oxygen in the body, which is important for serotonin production in the brain.  It also helps divert amino acids necessary for muscle building and repair to the muscles, freeing up some of the competition from tryptophan for crossing the blood brain barrier (remember, its supply is already low compared to other amino acids in dietary protein).  In fact, regular exercise helps to balance all brain chemicals naturally.  The important point here is ‘regular’ exercise because like everything else, it’s benefits are temporary.

If after trying these strategies, you still suspect your serotonin levels are still low, there are additional supplements that can be taken, even temporarily to help raise them. Contact me for more information and we can determine if you’re a candidate for them.

Why You May Never Arrive at Your Destination and Why That’s a Good Thing

ID-100132826“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions.  It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~Tony Robbins

One day many years ago, I was leaving my place of work to go home for lunch and I saw a woman running down the street.  From my best guess, she was in her late forties and had accumulated excess weight in her abdominal area­, which we all know by now is dangerous.  She was running at a slow pace and appeared to be struggling with her breath.  Except for what I saw, I knew nothing else about her.

Over the course of several months, I would continue to see her pounding the pavement on my way home for lunch and what I began to witness was astounding.  Gradually, her step got lighter and quicker and I could see that she was breathing easier.  She also lost a considerable amount of belly fat, her face got thinner and she had a glow to her skin that wasn’t there before.  And the look of struggle was eventually replaced with a look of pure joy.   It didn’t take a genius to see that this woman was transforming her health.

Fast forward two decades.  I’ve been working out at the same gym almost daily for a little over a year.  When I first started going, I noticed a woman who came in regularly too and each time I ran into her, she was focused on her workout.  The last few times I’ve been, it dawned on me that this woman had lost a significant amount of weight.  Her hips, thighs, and arms had shrunk and she now had a waist.  She’s also more energetic, her complexion is pink, and she smiles a lot.  I also spoke with her the other day and she said that after years of putting herself last and feeling the effects of that, she put her foot down and decided that her own self-care was a priority. Yay for her!!

Yes, both of these women have lost weight.  AND their improved health is showing up as increased energy, healthier skin, and better moods.  Both women are examples of what you can accomplish when you make the commitment.  It’s like anything else, right?  If you commit the time and effort to furthering your education, working on your relationships, spending quality time with your kids, packing your own lunch, or maintaining your home, it will eventually pay off.  Often times in ways that you don’t anticipate.   For both of these women, their commitment, consistency, and determination was paying off.  Not overnight, but over time. 

If you agree with the expression, it’s the journey, not the destination, then you get that the transformation that happens along the way is what gets you there.  Where it really gets interesting, though, is that you may never actually arrive ‘there’, because as you change and grow, so does the destination.

My most successful clients are the ones that make a commitment to themselves and are consistent with their actions.  That doesn’t mean that they never splurge at a birthday party or holiday, or that they never miss a workout.  It just means that their new normal is healthier and they are much quicker to get back on track and move forward than they were in the past.  And this is in part because they’ve adopted new habits.

I was talking with one of my clients recently and she agreed that with everything she’s learned, she can’t really go back because she’s inherently changed.  She’s equipped with information that has changed the way she see things and she’s tried and experienced new things that have expanded her toolbox and her habits towards better health and she now knows what it’s like to feel good!

Not long ago, I saw the same female runner again – running of course.  Still looking amazing and still on her journey, and once again inspiring me…

If you’re motivated and ready to make a commitment to yourself but unsure where to begin, I’d love to help.

A Weight Loss Strategy You May Not be Aware of

top of montserrat“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.” ~Nilofer Merchant,  TED2013

There are many aspects of our lifestyles today that could be compared to smoking, like a diet high in processed and fast foods, and the fast-paced, stress-filled schedules we create for ourselves.  And there is also one habit that we’ve settled into that we don’t often think about as harmful and that is long periods of sitting.

For many of us, sitting comes with the job.  You may spend your days in front of a computer or in a vehicle.  And if you’re at all concerned about your health, you probably think more about how to change your diet or fit in more exercise.   As important as exercise is, it’s often not enough to offset the many hours you may spend in a chair.

As much as I make efforts to get out of my seat more during the day, this topic really came to the forefront for me last week when I was on vacation in Barcelona.  I knew that I wouldn’t be working out at the gym and so I initially thought about how I would incorporate exercise in everyday.  What I quickly realized was that it wasn’t that difficult at all.  Here are three ‘activities’ that I believe made it possible for me to maintain my weight while sampling the local, traditional foods, like paella, bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil, egg frittatas, Catalan crème, and lots more. I’m not suggesting that you adopt strategies so that you can eat with abandon on a regular basis, but rather as a means for you to get to an ideal weight or keep the weight from creeping up over time.

1.  Walking - Sounds so obvious, but it became very clear to me how little I walk!   And even with a daily workout, it’s not enough if you’re sitting for the rest of the day.  But in Barcelona, we walked everywhere.  Even if we chose to use the subway, there was plenty of walking through the system to get to and from the trains.  I actually went through a bit of a withdrawal when I got home.  Moving outdoors in the wide-open spaces was energizing and relaxing at the same time.  Think about where you can incorporate more walking into your daily routine.

2.  Stair climbing - We were staying on the top floor of an apartment building which meant climbing seven flights of stairs (if I chose to) to get there.  So I climbed them two to three times per day for the entire week.  Although it doesn’t sound like a lot, I was surprisingly winded when I got to the top, so it was well worth the effort.  I also chose the stairs in the subway system and the airport, which was also often faster than taking the escalator.  Not that I was in a hurry ; )

3.  Spending time in the cold - The temperature for most of the week was a ‘balmy’ 50-60 degrees F (when compared to CT), yet it was still cold enough to feel a chill after several hours.  It was also cooler at higher elevations, like at Montserrat, a mountaintop monastery (pictured above).  You may not often think about it, but if your body has to work harder to generate heat, you’ll burn more calories.  This article posted recently about using the cold for weight loss supports the idea through your body’s use of brown adipose tissue, or BAT, to stimulate your metabolism.  Although I don’t think it’s necessary to submerge yourself in an ice bath, but if you ski or ice skate, then you are probably already reaping the benefits.   If not, begin with spending more time walking outdoors in the cool weather or keeping your house at a cooler temperature.  It’s also a great way to save on your heating bill ; )