Category Archives: Metabolism

Healthier Together Series: 7A. Nutrition – The importance of calories in

hessam-hojati-M4hazNIyTsk-unsplashWe’ve heard that weight is all about the calories we consume. In fact, someone recently shared with me that she felt betrayed. She had been successfully losing weight eating very low carb, and had not been counting or restricting calories. She had been feeling so happy about her progress and how easy it was and how she had so much more energy that she had now been regularly working out for over 2 years. However, she recently heard that eating very low carb or “keto” was effective for weight loss because it cuts calories. This whole time, she thought it was being low carb that worked, not the calorie restriction. She felt “tricked.” Have you heard this too?

Allow me to clarify. If you are eating carbohydrates and your waistline is enlarging or you are gaining excess weight or you have prediabetes or diabetes or PCOS or metabolic syndrome, you have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body produces excessive amounts of insulin for the same amount of carbohydrates you consume. So, if you eat carbs, your body dumps too much insulin into your blood stream.

High levels of insulin prevent your body from being able to access your back up fuel source – your fat cells. You will not be able to get fuel from your fat cells. This means that when you need fuel, you will need to provide fuel, to run your body, by eating or drinking it. You know the feeling- you will be hungry or get the munchies when your fuel in your blood stream starts dropping low. Again, you have to eat or drink calories the have the fuel to continue to run your body. If you don’t eat and your insulin level is high, you don’t have access to your back up fuel source, so your cells begin to panic. You get hungry, ravenous and feel your blood sugar dropping and feel very unwell. Eating or drinking carbs (including sugars) is the fastest way to “feel better” in this scenario.

Now, let’s go on the “common” diet of cutting calories or portion size. If you started out eating a standard American diet with lots of carbohydrates and then begin calorie restriction, or cutting calories or eating smaller portions, it usually means you cut back on the fats and eat mostly carbohydrates. Carbs spike insulin. This means you keep insulin pretty high and as a result, you starve those poor cells in your body. Your body doesn’t like starving, so it adapts and starts to cut back on its activities and slows your metabolism to “conserve” your limited energy. With this method of weight loss, weight loss is very difficult to maintain unless you continue to add more exercise and/or continue to cut calories. There’s a limit to how far you can go with this.

When someone pursues a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your body adapts to running on the ketones produced from burning your fat stores (it continues to make glucose too). Good news, ketones act as a natural appetite suppressant- so you don’t need to eat as much or as often. You just aren’t that hungry because with this method, your insulin levels stay lower. When insulin is lower, your body can burn fat for fuel when it needs fuel (burning fat for fuel instead of requiring eating for chronic re-fueling). Also, by eating a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your brain and gut can receive the signals that you are “full” when you eat fat and protein.

Ultimately, by keeping insulin levels in the naturally lower range, when you need fuel, you can easily burn fat for fuel, your appetite is decreased overall, and your brain and gut can receive signals and know when to stop eating. Voila! Less calories in, but it is because you don’t need or want them- NOT because you artificially put your body into a starving panic mode. VERY different reason for less calories in. VERY different body response to less calories in. Long term weight loss and weight loss maintenance is achievable. Pretty cool, right?

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 5A. Nutrition – How To Manage Your Hunger – 10 Things to Know

melissa-walker-horn-lo_udD1o_lk-unsplashHunger can be a natural physiologic signal from the body requesting more fluids or nutrients or it can be cravings (learned habitual behaviors) and pathologic symptoms of a mismanaged metabolism. We sometimes forget to check in and determine why we might be hungry.

NATURAL & HEALTHY HUNGER SIGNS:
1. Dehydration. In most cases, this can be managed by drinking water.

2. Need to replenish nutrient supply.  For most people, eating a variety of colors of vegetables and supplementing with protein, will meet all the body’s nutritional needs. Make a list of easy naturally nutrient rich snacks that you can have readily available – then you can make healthy choices when you are hungry and need to replenish.

HUNGER SIGNS TO BEWARE OF:
3. Insulin resistance. If your waist line has grown since after highschool and you are not pregnant, you are developing or have developed insulin resistance. As we age, we also naturally become more insulin resistant. This means that our body over-reacts to sugars and carbohydrates in the diet which leads to a roller coaster ride of high and low blood sugar levels which lead to fatigue, mental fog & “the munchies.” Solution: Drink water, Eat protein or leafy vegetables when hungry and avoid sweetened or carbohydrate heavy foods.

4. Poor food choices earlier (ie. starting your day with sugar or processed carbs). Eating sugar will cause you to crave more sugar later in the day. Sugar can trigger the same area in the brain as heroin. It IS addictive. Solution: Avoiding it is the best way to manage being losing control. Make smart food choices. Start your day with protein instead of sugars or starchy processed carbohydrates. Choose whole foods.

5. Some medication and illicit substances (ie. marijuana). Some medications and illicit substances make people hungry and eat more, usually poor quality foods like most fast food. Solution: If your meds are making you want more broccoli, that’s great, but if it makes you get “the munchies” or you notice weight gain, have that important discussion with your doctor to see if you can find a way to manage it. Also, when you get “the munchies” or are hungry, drink water, eat veggies, nuts, or a cheese stick or have a light soup.

6. Boredom. Solution: Find something to do that is NOT related to food. Do something physical – take a walk, stretch, dance, move. Connect with family or a friend. Journal, garden, read, play solitaire, play a musical instrument, work on a hobby or create something artistic, etc.

7. Emotional unrest. Solution: If you are an emotional eater, it will be important to find new ways to soothe yourself. Consider finding a counsellor to help you process and learn better ways to cope. Find other healthy outlets – take a walk, spend time in nature, contact a friend or family member who nourishes you, spend time with you pet, listen to soothing music, learn meditation, go to a religious/spiritual place.

8. Habit (ie. before bedtime or while watching TV/movie). If you link certain activities or times of the day with eating/drinking, this is a habit and can be challenging. Solution: The best way to change that habit, it to create a NEW (more desirable) habit to replace the old, undesirable habit. For example, instead of having hot cocoa after being out in the cold or at bedtime, have some hot rooibos tea which is caffeine free and deliciously different. Instead of buttered popcorn with a movie at home, try berries or baby carrots. Keep healthy snack options easily available for “break time” at work- have salty, crunchy and “creamy” options available.

9. Seeing or thinking about food/drink you like. Having a variety of options to eat actually has been shown to increase the amount of food we eat. The larger the plate, the more options of different foods at any time, we eat more and sample more. Solution: Use a smaller plate. If you are sampling, think of the size of your stomach when not-too-full (the size of your fist), and look at the total volume of food you have on your (smaller) plate. STOP adding to your plate when it exceeds the size of your stomach. If you have more foods to sample, take less of each item so that you are not OVER-stuffing your stomach as it would not feel good anyways. Really, if you look at your plate and wonder how that would fit in your body, it’s too much. It’s ok to leave food on your plate. Note: Raw leafy greens shrink dramatically when chewed up, so you can be liberal with raw leafy greens!

10. Worry that later you won’t have time/opportunity to eat (ie. busy schedule). How many of you are “go-go-go” all day long and time for eating is a luxury? As a physician who may be running behind because of an earlier unexpected patient emergency, I hear you. Solution: Keep that stash of quick, healthy food/drink readily available, ALWAYS. Nuts, cheese stick, baby carrots and hummus, celery sticks and almond butter, whatever. Remember, IF you are unable to eat, as long as you are drinking, you are going to be fine for several hours. In fact, if you do not eat, but you maintain proper hydration, worse case, you will have to eat later than desired. However, your body starts to draw energy from your personal fat stores. Unless you are medically underweight, you should be ok to be burning extra fat on your body until you can eat later in the day.

Do you have other times you “hunger” triggers? How do you manage your hunger? What are some of your snacks you keep on hand?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Capsule Nutrition = Meal Prep

brooke-lark-jUPOXXRNdcA-unsplashI love the idea of capsule wardrobes. So I thought, why not capsule nutrition? How about the essentials same shopping list (change out seasonal fruit & veggies) & change up the meals? So easy! Also, make recipes/prep short or able to be done ahead of time when you have more time or motivation. Consider once weekly grocery shopping- so foods that don’t last as long, would be used earlier in the week after grocery shopping…AWESOME. That’s the dream. So, I came up with the capsule nutrition plan’s grocery list.

Capsule Nutrition: What you need – Create your own list of the basics to have on hand for healthier nutrition. Here’s my list: 

Produce for the week (Varies with season & preference):

  • Green leaves – 2+ cups per day per person. Eat the flimsier green leaves earlier in the week as the heartier leaves last longer.
    • Lettuces – various kinds, Romaine hearts last longer
    • Kale, Spinach, Swiss chard, Collard, turnip or mustard greens
    • Parsley, cilantro
    • Salad packs – check the expiration date
  • Avocados, lemons
  • Additional veggies that looks good to you – 2 cups per day per person. Consider: cucumber, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, etc. etc.
  • Fruit – approx. 1 handful per day. Berries are extra nutritious.

Enough for 2 meals daily, some combination of (Varies with availability & mood & season):

  • Fish (Fatty, wild) – 2 days of week
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)
  • Meats (beef –grassfed, lamb, pork, bison, etc.)

Dairy for 1+ week (if you are including dairy in your diet):

  • Cheeses – individually wrapped are easy for packing and for quick snack
  • Whipping cream – organic
  • Butter – organic
  • Greek yogurt – plain – enough for 1 week. Individual packed are easy for portion control & for packing
  • Eggs – pasture raised – 2 dozen. Older eggs are easier to peel (remember to boil with 1tsp baking soda or if steamed in an egg steamer!).

Keep stocked:

  • Salad dressing (No sugars or high fructose syrup. Avoid diet dressings)
  • Olive oil, coconut oil
  • Mustards, vinegars, capers
  • Seasonings: pick your favorites. Some of mine: Greek seasoning, garlic salt with parsley flakes, Malden sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, dried parsley flakes, soy sauce, thyme, ground ginger, cinnamon.
  • Nut butters – like almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter. Make sure they are without additional ingredients other than salt. This usually means the oil separates and you will have to stir it when you first open the bottle.
  • Various nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, etc.)
  • Old fashioned rolled oats
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Almond flour
  • Coffee
  • Tea – various

Frozen- keep stocked:

  • Veggies (chopped onions, peppers,  & greens such as spinach, green beans, peas, edamame, etc.)
  • 1 bag Berries
  • Ezekiel bread (if bread is part of diet)
  • Low carb tortilla

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 4A. Nutrition – Go To List

dan-gold-4_jhDO54BYg-unsplashREAL food. Here are some of my go-to REAL food ideas. A little planning & prep can go a long way.

Remember: Avoid foods and drinks that are artificially made “low fat” or “no fat.” If nature made it with fat, that’s how it’s best managed by your body. Avoid artificial sweeteners. If you are having something sweet, own up to it and only have a little. You can modify the list below to remove grains or dairy. 

Snacks to have on hand (**Always available, keeps longer):

In the Fridge:

  • Raw veggies – usually have 2-4 varieties in fridge for week:
    • carrot sticks
    • sugar snap peas
    • celery sticks
    • radishes (eat salted- yum)
    • cucumbers
    • peppers
    • romaine hearts
    • grape tomatoes
  • salad/baby spinach packs
  • hummus
  • Greek plain yogurt
  • Baby bell (or other individually wrapped) cheeses**
  • crumbled smoked blue cheese or feta cheese
  • blue cheese or other salad dressing**
  • boiled eggs (boil a dozen at beginning of week- remember boil older eggs & add 1 tsp baking soda to water helps make them easy-peel)
  • crispy oven baked nitrite/nitrate free bacon (line on cookie sheet & bake)
  • deli meats, (pasture raised IS better)
  • leftovers: roasted veggies or meats
  • Berries occasionally
  • dark chocolate covered cocoa dusted almonds** (Buy in bulk & stored in freezer)

NOT in the fridge (often in my desk drawers in office or pantry at home)

  • nuts** (various flavors ie. wasabi soy sauce almonds, smoked almonds, salted peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)
  • nut butters** (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) – great to add to other foods or when in a pinch, just scoop it out in a spoon and eat 1 spoonful- surprisingly satisfying.
  • beef jerky** (pasture raised is best)
  • tuna packs**
  • salmon packs** (great way to get wild salmon, instead of farm raised “Atlantic” salmon – which doesn’t have the higher omega 3’s of wild salmon)
  • olives**
  • pickles**
  • Kind bars** – there are many varieties…these are when I want something sweet

Rotating foods:

  1. Kale Salad: kale- 1 bunch (julienne or chopped fine, massage leaves with drizzled olive oil), juice of 1 lemon juice, sprinkling of pine nuts, grated Parmesan to taste
  2. “Everything” Mix: nut butter + flax seed + chia seeds + old fashioned rolled oats (optional) + few choc chips + coconut flakes (unsweetened) (which is combined & put together with some maple syrup & stored in fridge in balls or crumbled…then when I want it, mix it into plain Greek yogurt +/- berries). Recipe for a no-bake snack.
  3. Chopped Colorful Salad or Wedge salad – nitrite/nitrate free bacon, boiled eggs (as above) +/- avocado/blue cheese +/- grape tomatoes on salad pack (or quarter of iceberg lettuce or cut up hearts of romaine lettuce) with leftovers from dinner
  4. Tuna/egg/salmon salad on romaine lettuce leaf (use like taco shell) or on cucumber slices/boat (scoop out the seeds) or on salad pack. (If you like capers, add some to your egg salad – it is divine!)
  5. Nut butter on celery or apple slices or stirred into Greek yogurt
  6. Deli meat (as above) or tuna/egg/salmon/chicken salad wrapped in romaine with hummus or cheese +/- additional veggies like peppers slices or tomato or avocado (wrap in saran wrap like nori-maki to store in fridge if making ahead)
  7. Spinach with almost anything (can saute or eat fresh or put in microwave. Then, put dressing or soy sauce or vinegar w/olive oil or sprinkle with cheese & bacon or toss berries in it)
  8. Broccoli slaw – saute or add to almost any dish. It’s easy and an excellent source of vitamins and delicious.
  9. Eggs: fried/scrambled/boiled with tomato slices & avocado (+/- sprouted ezekiel bread-if occasionally eating whole grains, found in freezer section only) +/- salsa
  10. Homemade Trail Mix: mixed nuts with some dark chocolate chips/carob chips +/- unsweetened coconut flakes
  11. Cabbage – sauteed as “base” for other foods in place of pasta or rice
  12. Spaghetti squash -baked – to eat with spaghetti with meat sauce
  13. Cauliflower – as “mashed potatoes” or “rice” or baked with parmesan or roasted or raw, etc. etc.
  14. Meatloaf, prefer grass-fed ground beef or ground lamb – great as leftovers & easy to add to almost any other meals (if have extra time, would make it into meatballs)
  15. Green beans (blanched) & grape tomatoes halved (soy sauce, chopped garlic & sesame oil)
  16. Edamame – boil x 5 minutes & sprinkle with salt over pods. Good hot or cold.
  17. Eggplant slices – baked or fried with some olive oil & salt or grated Parmesan or other seasonings. Add some tomato or marinara sauce on it with a sprinkling of Parmesan or Asiago & baked- it is AMAZING.
  18. Mushrooms – stuffed. Or baked with soy sauce or cheese
  19. Cheese crisps (sliced or shredded cheese placed on parchment & baked or microwaved until melted & flattened out, then browned just a bit to make them crispy when cooled down)
  20. Stir fry veggies +/- protein
  21. Hummus with veggies
  22. Peppers stuffed with deli meats (see above), tuna salad or sliced with hummus or in stir fry or salads
  23. Leftover meats cut into strips (Always cook extra protein for dinner & cut up the leftovers. Strips are easy to grab as snack or put in romaine boat or toss in salad or stir fry or with cabbage stir fry)
  24. Coconut granola (I did not use both honey AND maple syrup, so it wasn’t too sweet)
  25. Golden Low Carb granola from the Low Carb Diet Doctor

Keep healthy food options easy and readily available and you will improve your nutrition and your health from inside…out. Please share some of your suggestions for easy healthy real food ideas.

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 3A. Nutrition — When you’re hungry…

josh-bean-i817tD8-Ly4-unsplashNutrition notes today:

How to stay in control and eat for nutrition and health and achieve a healthier weight.

Do you frequently have times when you make poor food choices because you were too busy or tired to prepare ahead or cook? It’s all about having a plan and easily available options for when you get hungry. Make a list and make it a habit to keep a few options on hand ALWAYS.

First, recognize that sometimes, it’s not hunger but boredom or loneliness or feeling bad in some way and needing to fill a void. A walk, connecting with nature, listening to music, meditating or journalling for 5-10 minutes may resolve the “hunger.”

If you are still hungry, drink water first. Add lemon or lime or cucumber slices and even mint leaves if you like. Thirst can present as hunger.

If still hungry, eat protein. If the thought of eating protein doesn’t sound appealing, reassess if you are hungry. Boiled eggs or some meat, chicken, turkey, canned fish, precooked shrimp can be easy to keep available. Make some extra chicken tonight and store it in the fridge in strips that can be eaten tomorrow as a snack dipped in dressing, on a salad, in soup or in a Romaine lettuce wrap (like a taco). Nuts and nut butters are also easy to have on hand.

If you eat some protein and are still hungry, eat non-starchy veggies- like celery, leafy greens, cucumbers, peppers, jicama, radishes, cauliflower, zucchini, etc. Crunchy seems to be more satisfying sometimes!

If you are needing something creamy, Greek yogurt, smoothie, hummus, or a nut butter works.

Want something cheesy? Have a cheese stick or small individually wrapped cheese or real cheese dip for your crunchy veggies.

Craving chocolate? Dark chocolate covered almonds dusted with cocoa works wonders. This is also good when you want something sweet and/or crunchy.

If you HAVE to have fruit, a handful of berries are good.

Remember, most of us are chronically dehydrated- so drink water. When you eat, you are supposed to be nourishing your body with essential nutrients that are found in proteins and veggies. So if you are hungry, provide your body with those essential nutrients.

Make your list of “Go To” foods and have a couple of them available regularly. Then, when you are urgently needing some nutrients, you will be able to fill that need without resorting to the foods that don’t nourish you and that you will regret later.

 

Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 2D. Putting it all together — What it looks like now…

Today’s post is an example of putting it all together.

No matter the time of year, we should nourish our bodies. This 2nd cycle included much of the basics of nourishing ourselves. After a brutal winter, I am definitely needing to make sure my body & mind has what it needs to continue to function at its best. Spring is here & I get the feeling of fresh beginnings and new blossoms.

At this time of year, in addition to looking for a new haircut, outfit or makeup, I reassess my nourishing health behaviors and make sure to keep moving forward. In one of my favorite books, Joe X, the author, Avery Hunnicut, notes that we are never just maintaining. We are either moving forward or moving backwards. If you don’t move forward, you will move backwards by default. So, of course, I choose to move forwards every day.

At this time, I make sure I am continuing to stay hydrated ideally with water. During the winter, sometimes I get into habits of drinking other fluids too, so often in the Spring, I switch back to more water. I have a couple of water bottles that I LOVE — they are bright and colorful & girly and cheer me up when I see them, so I take a swig of my water. Sometimes, I will add lime or lemon or some mint leaves to the water – my favorite is a squirt of lime in my ice water.

So, I drink an entire large water bottle of iced lemon/lime water with my workout in the morning on waking. I’m wearing my heart rate monitor while I work out and I am logging my “data.” I keep track of my daily activity with a FitBit.

Although I feel active at work, I notice on the day I don’t do any planned work out, on Monday, I am lucky if I walk 4,000 steps at work! Yikes! I guess I am NOT so active at work. Now that I know, on Monday evenings, I will incorporate an evening walk with one of my boys, my dog or my husband. I also have great music I can listen to if I want to walk alone. My goal: to make sure I bump up that number closer to 10,000 steps!

On my workout days, I definitely hit the 10,000 steps. If I seem to be going way over, then I don’t feel so bad if on Monday (my day off from working out), I log fewer steps.

In addition, I note that my baseline (resting) heart rate is low (which is good when due to regular exercise). I also monitor how long it takes my heart rate to come back to baseline (my recovery time- remember shorter time to recovery means better fitness) & am very pleased it is still improving. I’m also excited because I am able to do so much more with the same effort. I’m continuing to move forward!

Finally, I have to check my sleep. I use the Sleep Cycle app on my iphone. I notice a pattern: 2 nights a week, I get only 5 hours of sleep. The rest of the week, I am getting enough sleep. I feel extra good about this because one of the reasons I continued working out regularly was so that I could function just as well on less sleep (which leaves me an extra hour a day to do what I want). I had learned that when people are fit, their sleep-time needs decrease. I needed to function on less hours of sleep in medical school, so I knew I had to maintain my fitness.

In addition, to make up my 5 hours of sleep debt in the week, I found I can make it up on most Friday nights if I am not on call & don’t have Saturday clinic. Also, I can add 30 minutes over several other days in the week depending on the week- I just have to schedule it. And, I realized that I will need to make a conscious effort to get in bed on time so I get adequate sleep. The boys, my sexy husband, the iphone, emails, internet, books & journals are easy to get lost in…Time flies & next thing I know, I am cutting into my sleep time! Note to self: set a pleasant alarm to remind me to put all that away & get in bed! If I can’t sleep, I will meditate quietly.

Summary of Cycle 2:
1. Assess daily water intake and find ways to increase water intake. Attractive water bottles help.
2. Assess baseline activity level (count your steps every day) & aim to increase it 10% every 2 weeks (NOT TOO FAST) until your average number of steps is at least 10,000 steps or more.
3. Learn your baseline heart rate by checking first thing in the morning & then learn how much time it takes your heart rate to return to that baseline after you have been active or exercising. As you get more fit, the baseline gets lower and your body return to the baseline faster after strenuous activity or exercise. That is fitness!
4. Figure out your average number of hours of sleep over 5 days & make sure you get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night on average. If you are sleeping less than 7.5 hours on average, then you need to make it up over several days and find a way to get adequate sleep in the future. Determine which nights you can make up your sleep on a regular basis…your “make up sleep debt” nights. These are often the days when you can sleep in as late as you need.

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 1 D. Putting It All Together — Midwest Winter

In this section, I am hoping to integrate people’s experiences and wisdom and/or offer examples of how we apply what we have learned. Please be sure to share your experiences and wisdom. This is how we can help each other and become healthier together.
*Disclaimer: Apps or links are listed as examples & do not necessarily represent the BEST ones or the only options. They are included to help you get started on your search for the right resources for you. So please share what you are using too.

Here is an example of putting it all together:

Scenario: Midwest. Winter. Cold. Darker earlier, longer. Work is busy. Traffic is terrible in bad weather- longer and more frustrating commutes. Not going outside much. Limited exposure to nature. See fewer people socially. Sleep is messed up. Craving and eating comfort foods that increase blood sugar and therefore insulin. Gaining weight. Getting more tired. Being less active. Feeling bad about not exercising, eating poorly and weight gain. Feeling progressively more down…sound familiar?

Thank goodness for Spring! However, what about all those months before Spring arrives?

Winter happens EVERY year. Plan for it. Let your healthy habits continue to help you. Many people schedule a break to warmer climates during winter or early spring (maybe too expensive for some of us), or they embrace it and find a physical activity that they can do in the midst of nature’s healing effects. Mental planning helps. Journal or keep a log of your observations. Here’s a plan:

1. Limit your new transitions that use up your activation energy and brain energy. You have lower reserves in the winter. Keep the things, people, activities that rejuvenate you and give you energy, maybe even increase the duration of exposure to them. Note: not adding more, just make it longer. It might mean eliminating some of the energy drains.

2. Maintain your healthy eating habits. In particular, keep the amount of white starchy carbs and sugars lower. This will keep your energy and mood up and also your weight stable! Stay hydrated- UNSWEETENED clear nonalcoholic beverages are best, like water or unsweetened tea.

3. Always continue your regular daily physical activity, especially in the winter. This is not the time to change it up or take a break. Start your day with a boost of activity- as little as 7 minutes will help you! It will save you from the winter blues and regulate your sleep and eating and your weight. When you are away from home or when there is a time crunch, try the 7 minute workout which you can find online. A sample iphone app: The 7 Minute Workout “Seven” with High Intensity Interval Training. There are MANY online videos that also show how to do the complete body workout.

4. Practice your self hypnosis to allow you to develop control of your mind so you can relax or sleep when you need to. When you are particularly stressed or if you have insomnia, it is nice to have your brain help you. Given the nights are longer, maybe you can use some of the extra darkness to practice relaxing the mind. 2 sample apps on the iphone: *Hypnopack. Has 5, 15, 20 & 27 minute programs and also can be used for other behavior change helpful for public speaking, anxiety release, studying & memory, etc. *Create Inner Peace & Calm with Glenn Harrold is another iphone app that many find helpful, has some free & some components you can choose but have to pay for.

5. Reach out and connect with nature and the people who energize you. This might mean taking a walk or snowshoeing in nature on a winter morning with a friend.

Bottom line: you can learn from previous experiences, what your patterns are and maximize the joy you get out of your life with a little planning. Taking care of yourself is a choice and it helps make the world a better place. And you deserve it!

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 1 B. Physical Activity — Workout bonus

lindsay-henwood-7_kRuX1hSXM-unsplashToday’s Physical Activity Notes:

First: I will often use the terms physical activity and workout interchangeably. When I use the terms “working out” & “workout,” I specifically refer to intentional physical activity that is planned for the purpose of being exercise. Working out is deliberately moving for health, fitness –> exercising. Physical activity is anything we do that moves our body and includes working out, exercising as well as other activities we do daily.

Good news: since we wake up in fat burning mode, whatever physical activity we do in the morning prior to eating or drinking calories, accelerates our fat burning and also uses up our muscles’ stores of glycogen (energy stored in muscles). This means that you get to drink or eat a bit more freely after being physically active in the morning. In fact, if you workout vigorously in the morning (if you used up all the glycogen in your muscles), you can add some carbs/sugars to your meal within approximately 30-60 minutes & your body will put those extra sugars into your muscles and NOT into fat cells. HOW COOL IS THAT?

Remember, if you eat foods that spike your blood sugar (foods like carbohydrates including sugars), your insulin will spike and your body will store most of that extra blood sugar into your fat cells! So, your FAT stores will GROW BIGGER…and they will likely settle around your middle. NOT your goal. So, that means if you want to eat/drink that higher carbohydrate food or drink & you don’t want to grow your fat, WORK OUT first! You get the biggest bang for your buck if you are physically active first thing in the morning before you eat or drink any calories (drinking water is good).

Remember, the “physical activity” can be:

1. Low intensity movement for a longer duration – like walking for 30-40 minutes or an activity that is at a perceived exertion level of 5-7 or heart rate approximately 60% (+/-10%) of your personal maximum heart rate. *see previous blog about perceived exertion and heart rates for more info.

2. Spurts of higher intensity activity for a shorter duration (even 4 minutes counts!). This might mean boosting your perceived exertion closer to 8-10 or 80-90% of your maximum heart rate for very short spurts, no longer than 30-60 seconds, interspersed with 2-5 minutes of lower intensity such as level 5-6. Basically, you go hard for 30 seconds then easy for 2 minutes, & repeat a few times. I like 4 cycles. — Another option, look up the 7 minute workout online.

The key is to deplete or significantly lower your body’s storage of glycogen with exercise and voila! You now have created an empty space (your muscles and liver) where your body will put the extra sugars in your blood (from the carbs &/or sugars you have consumed) & it is NOT going into your fat cells for storage. It is getting burned up in your muscles immediately. If you have eaten protein & fat but still low carb for breakfast, you will just continue to be burning fat.

Bottom line: If you are craving berries or a sweetened cup of coffee or Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel toast with your breakfast, & you don’t want to worry about it increasing your weight, work out first thing in the morning! It’s a workout bonus!

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 1 A. Nutrition — Make one change…

hisu-lee-bQLCyj-9-tk-unsplashThis week’s nutrition notes:

In an earlier a post, I mentioned how our body starts out in our personal best metabolic state…basically after >6 hours of sleep, not eating or drinking anything, our body is burning fat for energy (which is possible because our insulin levels are lower). We like that. Most of us have enough fat on our body that we can spare to burn some for fuel. Our body’s insulin levels dropped down while we were sleeping & we wake up in a fat burning mode. Use this to your advantage.

This week, make sure your first meal of the day has protein. You can add leafy veggies too. You can add fat too. So breakfast might include organic free range eggs, nitrite free bacon, left over meats/chicken/fish from night before, avocado, butter, spinach, hard cheese, etc. ***The key is to avoid the starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, pancakes, waffles, crepes, anything made with wheat flour, etc.) and sugars.

If you eat protein & fat for breakfast, your blood sugars stay stable, you DON’T have an insulin surge, so your body can continue in a fat burning mode from overnight & you continue to nourish your body with nutrients. Also, you may notice that your hunger levels are better later in the day and you have more energy the rest of the day.

So, look for low carbohydrate breakfasts with natural proteins, fat with or without leafy veggies and water, tea, or coffee (with cream if you like, but hold the sweetener). Make your breakfast work for you.

Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

Insulin. Letting your metabolism work for you.

rodrigo-ardilha-TYtbqZdYtc8-unsplashWant to learn to be a fat burner? What if I told you that your metabolism starts off in its most ideal state when you first wake up after at least 6 hours of sleep? What if I told you that you could keep your metabolism humming along throughout most of the day, and that it could burn the excess unhealthy fat off your body? What if I told you that you would also have more energy and your mood would be improved along the way? Would you be interested? Well, I’m going explain…

One of your body’s fuel sources is glucose. Glucose is the sugar in your blood that is like gas in a car.  (I will use the word “sugar” instead of “glucose” for the rest of this post, but I’m talking about glucose.)

Your body needs the right amount of fuel to work well, and if it has too little, you can die and if you have too much, you can also die. Actually, before death, if you have too much sugar, it acts like a slow poison…everywhere in your body. It attacks your brain, blood vessels, your eyes, your nerves, your kidneys, your heart, your immune system, your skin, EVERY part of your body.

This is the case with diabetes, where there is too much sugar in the blood most, if not all of the time, and it is damaging the body. You can imagine, if sugar is so powerful in your body, and too much of it is poisonous, your body will have created something VERY powerful, as a defense, to manage that extra sugar…It has. It’s called INSULIN. Insulin brings down the blood sugar.

How does insulin work? Well, it is created by your pancreas and gets pumped out when your body senses it has TOO MUCH sugar in the blood. Insulin is released proportionally to the level if sugar in the blood*. The more sugar in the blood, the more insulin is released. Insulin lowers your blood sugar.

*Side note: The older you get, or the higher you regularly push your blood sugars, the exponentially more insulin will get pumped out relative to the amount of sugar in your blood. In other words, the pancreas gets a little over-reactive & will go overboard and pump out LOTS of insulin. We will come back to this.

So, when there is lots of sugar in the blood, there is lots of insulin that is dumped into the blood. When high amounts of insulin are circulating in your body, your body listens. Insulin is ALL POWERFUL. It is trying to prevent high levels of blood sugar from poisoning the cells. So, insulin is the Boss. It is your body’s defense. It is all about survival. It is trying to prevent the cells from being poisoned.

To clarify, when insulin levels are high, the cells stop listening to other signaling chemicals in the body. High levels of insulin act like a fire alarm. It tell the cells in the body, “We are about to be poisoned!!! The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is to LOWER THE SUGARS in the blood!” So, how does it do that?

First, insulin causes your cells to shut off their use of other fuel sources (such as fat) and tells all of your cells that it can ONLY burn the SUGAR in the blood for fuel. This allows the extra blood sugar to be used up so the blood sugar goes down to normal healthy (non-poisonous) levels. This is good. This works very well if we don’t overload the system…

However, if there is way way too much (glucose) sugar in the blood and you are not more active, it cannot burn off enough of it, fast enough. It doesn’t need that much fuel. It cannot bring the sugars down to a “good” or “safe” level fast enough or it may not be able to bring it down much at all (type 2 diabetes). To protect itself from being poisoned, the body responds with extra insulin* and it has another back up option.

The back up? Insulin forces the body to store all if the unused sugars as glycogen (in the muscles and liver) and FAT in your body. If you have not used up the glycogen in the liver and muscles (which can be done by fasting or with physical activity or exercise), they are likely already full. So the back-up storage space is our fat cells. So, insulin causes fat cells to grow and multiply to protect us from very high poisonous sugar levels!

Key point: High insulin levels = Fat burning is shut off & you are now growing. If you have stopped getting taller, there is only one other way to grow…you will be growing your fat cells and your body cannot access the fat on your body for fuel. It can only burn sugar in the blood.

As mentioned earlier, as we age, or if the body has high blood sugars often, huge amounts of insulin keep being produced by an increasingly over-reactive pancreas. With time, the cells start ignoring the insulin- they become INSULIN RESISTANT. The pancreas then starts over-reacting even more, and responds by pumping out even more insulin. The cells become even more insulin resistant, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Signs that your body is developing insulin resistance include the development of more skin tags or discoloration around the neck, and even more consistent, is an enlarging waistline. As your waistline grows, you are becoming even more insulin resistant and you will start gaining fat weight faster and faster (unless you make some changes).

With high insulin levels, fat burning has been turned off. So, you cannot easily burn the fat off your body. In fact, this extra insulin often leads to further hunger, as your body is storing the fuel and at the same time, shutting off access to the stored fuel (the fat cells). When you are running on empty, your body craves more sugar, for immediate fuel, because you are running out of sugar. All because of an over-production of insulin from your previous cycle. This is the insulin resistance roller coaster that gets steeper and faster over time.

Good news: You can get off the insulin roller coaster and even avoid it all together. If you don’t get on the insulin roller coaster, you will be able a fat burning machine and have steady energy. Here’s what you need to know:

When you wake up first thing in the morning, if you haven’t eaten overnight, your body starts off in a fat burning mode. Since you didn’t eat foods that cause blood sugars to go up, your insulin levels got low, so your body switched from sugar burning to fat burning for fuel! You start off as a fat burning machine. If you think about what you eat in the morning and keep your sugars low, you can keep your body in the fat burning mode! You can have a fresh start every day.

If you start your day with foods that cause blood sugars to jump (like starchy carbohydrates and sugar), remember you will dump lots of insulin in the blood, which will turn off your fat burning & you may grow and start on your insulin roller coaster for the day. If you choose to avoid those starchy carbs and sugar, you avoid getting on the insulin roller coaster and you can stay in your fat burning mode!

In short: When insulin levels are high, insulin acts like a growth hormone. And if you are done growing taller, there is only one other way to grow…so anything you can do to keep your blood sugar levels stable and in the healthy and safe range, the better off your whole body will be and the more likely you can maintain a healthy weight and body.

Every day, you get a fresh start when your body is burning fat for fuel. So the key is to learn which foods and how much of those foods cause your blood sugars to spike and to limit those. Then, your body can continue to burn fat and your waistline will shrink. In addition, if you can eliminate those insulin spikes, you will find your mind is clearer, your mood improves, and you have more energy. You may find you even WANT to be more physically active than before! It is a win-win for you!

Isn’t the body amazing? Next time, we will review how to reverse the aging process with regards to metabolism…

 

 

Photo by Rodrigo Ardilha on Unsplash