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Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting

For many people over fifty, losing weight is one of the biggest changes he or she can make to positively influence health and longevity.

The center for Disease Control found that 70% of adults nowadays are overweight, or obese.  That’s more than two thirds of the population!  Heart disease is the biggest killer every year, killing more than half a million people.  Obesity is a direct cause of heart disease.  I don’t know about you, but that’s motivation enough for me to shed a few pounds!

Why has there been such an increase in weight in the population?  The answer lies in our food choices.

Eating Like Our Ancestors

hunter gatherer

For thousands and thousands of years, humans evolved as hunter gatherers.  We are typically a nomadic species, always on the move, with lots of exercise and mobility.  The hunters would go out into the wild and track down whatever game they could encounter.  Sometimes they would be on hunts for days at a time, subsisting on very little.  Nuts, berries, roots, seeds, etc.  Our bodies are physiologically wired to sharpen our senses when low on food.  When this happens, we’re better equipped to hunt down that rabbit, deer, bird, or wild game.  We’ve evolved to be able to not only survive, but thrive during periods of relatively low caloric intake.

When the hunters were fortunate enough to finally track down and kill a wild animal, they’d bring it back to the village and feast with everyone else.

Contrast that with our current eating and exercise pattern.

The Modern Day Eating Pattern

For breakfast, we eat bagels, cereals, pancakes, donuts, pastries, fruit and fruit juices.  Our whole lives we’re led to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

For lunch, we consume soups, sandwiches, burritos, leftovers, and salads.  Often times there’s also that afternoon snack to tide you over for supper.  Then comes that large meal at night full of meats, potatoes, breads, and the occasional serving of vegetables.  Many of us consume so much at dinner we feel slow and sluggish for hours afterwards.

Let’s not forget that bowl of ice cream, slice of cake, cookie, or brownie to enjoy while watching your favorite television shows.

Couple that with the time we spend sitting down at our desks while we’re working.  Then add the time spent on the computer, or in front of the tv.  We sit or lay down when we’re sleeping, eating, working, relaxing, and socializing.

Simply put, in this day and age, we’re eating too much, and moving too little.  This is why so much of our population is obese, and dying from obesity-related ailments like heart disease.

lazy

Let’s do Something About it

Enter: Intermittent Fasting (IF).  It’s a pattern of eating, rather than a particular diet.  A diet is all about restricting certain foods for a given amount of time.  It’s hard to stick to, because it’s often-times temporary, and prevents us from eating many of the foods we enjoy.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is all about changing the way we think about eating food.  At the core of it, it’s about behavior change.  In intermittent fasting, there are periods of time when you fast, and periods of time where you eat.  The most popular (and easiest) method of intermittent fasting uses a 16 hour window of fasting, and an 8 hour window of eating.

The great news is you’re already doing this to a certain extent.  Have you ever had a meal on a Friday night, slept in on Saturday, and then had a late brunch or lunch?  If so, you had a fasting period of about 16 hrs (8pm dinner, 12pm lunch the next day).

When we give our bodies time to fast, we’re able to spend energy on detoxing and burning fat, rather than simply digesting the foods we consume.  There are numerous health benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ) to following an intermittent fasting style of eating.

Weight Loss

This one is everyones favorite, and frankly it’s much needed for many people.  One of the most significant benefits of intermittent fasting is how easy this protocol makes weight loss.  A large portion of the weight loss often times tends to be body fat as well.  When we reduce our feeding window to 8 hours per day, it lessens the chance that we’ll consume more calories than we need.  There’s simply less time to mindlessly consume calories, so we tend to eat less when following an intermittent fasting protocol.

Improved Fat Burning

When we’re fasted, our body has time to repair itself.  When it needs energy, since we haven’t consumed food, it turns to body fat.  When our body is burning its fat for energy, we’re in a state called ketosis.  The longer we fast, the more our body is able to burn energy from our stored body fat.  Fasts of up to 36 hours have incredible benefits with very little risk of adverse consequences, but we can gain benefits from fasting for as short as 16 hours.

Hormonal Benefits

Intermittent fasting lowers insulin resistance.  This means that it will lower blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.  It also means that since your blood sugar is more stable throughout the day, you’ll experience less moodiness, cloudy thinking, irritability, and sugar crashes.  When fasting, our bodies also produce more human growth hormone, more testosterone, and they’re better able to repair injuries and muscle tissues.

Better Appetite Control

Once our bodies are accustomed to an intermittent fasting style of eating, we experience far fewer cravings throughout the day.  Since our insulin sensitivity is reduced, and our hormones are in check, our bodies aren’t signaling us to constantly eat.  We learn to listen to our bodies and eat when we’re hungry, and stop eating when we’re full.  Over time, it becomes easy to control the amounts of food you consume each day.

salad

Reduced Inflammation.

Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation throughout the body, because when our bodies aren’t digesting food, it can spend energy healing and repairing itself.  Inflammation is a contributor to many chronic illnesses and skin conditions, including alzheimers, arthritis, chrohn’s disease, exzema, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.   

How to Do it

The simplest method to abide by is a 16:8 protocol.  16 hours of fasting, and 8 hours of feeding.  It’s even easier if 8 of those hours are spent sleeping.  If that’s the case for you, skipping breakfast is a very simple way to start intermittent fasting.

Wake up in the morning, and don’t consume any calories until about 12 or 1 in the afternoon.  Coffee and tea are fine in the morning, as long as you don’t add any sugar.  A small splash of milk is ok, but avoiding it is ideal.  Coffee is particularly helpful in the morning because it suppresses hunger cravings.  If you start to get hungry, drink a few glasses of water, or even try sparkling water – it can be a big help in reducing hunger pangs.

When lunch time rolls around, break your fast with whatever food you want.  The ideal choice would be a salad or a meal filled with plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.

In the afternoon, if you want to have a snack, go for it!  A healthy option is a handful of mixed nuts, a serving of fruit or vegetables, or even another salad or small meal.

For dinner, eat whatever you’d usually eat.  Meat, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, soups, and stews.  Intermittent fasting is not about limiting your food choices, it’s all about limiting the window of time in the day where you’re consuming food.

ScheduleIf you want to have that dessert after dinner, go for it if you must.  Just make sure that you finish your last meal no more than 8 hours after you broke your fast.  You’ll probably find that you sleep better when you don’t eat right before going to bed.

The next morning, do it all over again.

Getting Started

The first few days, it may be tough to adjust to this style of eating.  After years and years of eating breakfast first thing in the morning, your body becomes accustomed to it.  When you get started on intermittent fasting, it’s helpful to keep your schedule busy the first few days.  That way you’re not sitting around idly thinking about when you can eat food.

After a few days or a week of intermittent fasting, you’ll notice that you’re no longer hungry first thing in the morning.  Most practitioners actually experience more energy and focus in the morning when they’re in a fasted state.  Your sugar cravings will be gone, you won’t be worried about what to eat for breakfast, and you’ll have more time to accomplish the things you want to get done first thing in the morning.

The Takeaway

If you know you need to lose a few pounds, want to experience less cravings, and want to feel all around healthier, give an intermittent fasting style of eating a try.  Nothing will change if you keep sticking to the same routine over and over, so only you can be the one to make a change to improve your health.  If after a month, you realize this approach isn’t for you, that’s ok.  Just recognize that you have the power to make a change in your health.  Nobody is as invested in your health and longevity as you are, so take things into your own hands!

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Fitness

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with a lovely, long fall harvest season with our temperate climate. Many veggies are readily available locally and organic and it is a great opportunity to stock up, try new recipes, and enjoy the bounty.

Here are some fantastic fall recipes that are friendly to your fitness regimen, as well!

Nothing says fall faster than soups. This simple, yet hearty Autumn Chicken Stew features some of fall’s top offerings: carrots, apples and parsnips. This one is easy to prep the ingredients the night before so that it is all ready to put together the following evening ready for dinner. In addition to its high vitamin A count, this soup is low calorie, low in cholesterol, and appropriate for diabetics. Serve with cheese sandwiches on the side for a full meal.

One of the healthiest squash you can try is pumpkin. It is action packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and lots of antioxidants. So start those brisk fall mornings off right with Spiced Pumpkin Maple Baked Oatmeal, it is high fiber, gluten free, good for your cholesterol, easy on the budget, preps really well the night before, allowing you to spoil your family and yourself with the yummy scents and flavors of spices and pumpkin with a hearty, warm morning meal.

This oh-so-easy-to make Roasted Fall Vegetables recipe takes full advantage of the abundance of organic squash and root vegetables available. The red potatoes are a great source of iron and vitamin C. Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, the butternut squash makes this a winning side dish to any entrée.

The abundance of apples each fall is a great opportunity for cooks everywhere. Put your fall apples to good use with this Apple Sangria recipe for your fall gatherings. Lower sugar content in white wine keeps this one a bit more in the “healthy” category than most drink recipes. Everything in moderation, right? 😉

 

In the comments section below, share some of your favorite fall recipes and how they are helping you in your healthy and fit lifestyle.

Why Most Diets Fail

While many things unite us as Americans, one factor is not to be proud of… Americans are struggling in increasing numbers with body weight.  We are not just talking obesity, but just plain old being overweight. The statistics do not look good for us:

  • According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 35.7% of American adults (aged 20 and older) are obese (BMI 30 and above) — up from about 23% in the early 1990s.
  • Two thirds of Americans claim they are on a diet, yet less than 20% achieve not only successful weight loss, but also fail to maintain the loss
  • Over the last 50 years, Americans went from 24.3% of the population classified as overweight, to over 35% currently.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes an excellent article in The New Yorker examining the why’s of how we all got here and how we have changed culturally, as a result of all this weight gain.  One subject that sells more books, supplements, and nutrition programs than probably all others combined is our collective desire to lose weight. We can look at all the reasons we are gaining weight, and Kolbert’ s article does a good job of that. But for our purposes here, we are going to understand why we tend to fail to keep the weight off.

In a very simplistic nutshell, we gain weight when we consume more calories than what our bodies’ burn off.  There are many contributing factors that make that process more of a challenge for some than others such as thyroid issues, genetic predisposition, and life style factors.

In order to be successful at weight loss, it is critical to pinpoint your pitfalls and be determined in your strategies for a successful approach. Examining our lifestyle habits and how those detract from a successful weight loss program is important to success. When we understand how metabolism works then we can make choices to improve that. Let’s examine some of the top reasons why most diets fail:

  • Looking at a diet as a temporary short term solution to a weight issue.  Those who succeed at weight loss do so with a lifestyle approach for long term health.  It is key to make dietary changes to support good health long after the weight is off
  • An inaccurate view on activity and calories burned: In order to lose 1 lb. per week, cut your calories by 500/day. Achieving that by exercise alone or diet alone is not only unrealistic, but defeating and can be dangerous. Increase both your moderate and vigorous types of exercise, track steps with a pedometer to help you take more of them, and also reduce your calories consumed.
  • Adopting too drastic or strict of a diet that triggers headaches, mood swings, irritability and brain fog.  Feeling cruddy is an indicator of a poor diet rather than a healthy one which is going to yield a lifestyle change.
  • A diet that actually lowers your metabolism: Drastically cutting back on calories and also teaching yourself to “go hungry” slows your metabolism down and throws your body into fat storage mode. Light snacking or smaller, healthy meals every two hours is a more successful approach.
  • Simplifying a diet approach to just “consume less calories”: Caloric consumption is the place to start, but failing to understand how sugars and fats impact weight gain, understand complex vs simple carbs, and not boosting your metabolism and you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Emotional eating: this is a very complex topic, but check out this article to gain an understanding of how we subscribe emotional cues to foods can be the most powerful factor in attaining weight loss success.
  • Getting inadequate sleep: People with fewer than six hours of sleep at night increase the body’s production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which leads to weight gain.

Identify the “diet fails” that tend to get in the way of your weight loss success, implement strategies to counter act those, and you are on your way to success…and a fitter, healthier YOU!

Carbs, Schmarbs, What’s a Person to DO??

Understanding carbohydrates and glycemic index can seem like a boring journey in to science and nutrition that few of us have time to take. However, a basic understanding of how our bodies process and metabolize these macronutrients can make a huge difference in our understanding and motivation of nutritional choices.

It is not enough to just “Avoid Carbs”. What are the different types of carbs and how do they affect the body?

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Simple Carbohydrates are classified as simple sugars whose chemical structure has only one or two sugars. Examples of these are processed table sugar, products with white flour, honey, milk, yogurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cake, jam, biscuits, molasses, soda and packaged cereals. Some of these foods such as fruit may still be good for you for the fiber and other nutrients they contain.

Complex Carbohydrates are those with a chemical structure made up of three or more sugars. These types of sugars are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They take longer to digest and don’t elevate blood sugar levels as quickly as simple carbs do; thereby leaving you satisfied longer and less likely to overeat.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Diets with complex carbs over simple carbs are less likely to experience blood sugar surge and crashes which contribute to cell damage. This article is filled with nutritional-speak, but I urge you to read through it and glean what you can about the subject.

Typically, complex carbs are found in whole grain breads & cereals, vegetables, and many legumes.  Nutritional values in complex carbs tend to be much higher than those in simple carbs.

What is Glycemic Index and how does it affect your health as you make certain food and nutritional choices in your lifestyle of good fitness? This article on the American Diabetes Association site does a good job of explaining the Glycemic Index and provides short lists of examples of foods that have high, medium and low GI ratings (under 55).

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In a nutshell the GI ranks carbohydrates in relationship to the immediate effect they have on blood sugar levels. Don’t assume this information is only important to those with diabetes. When carbs have a high GI (over 70 on the GI scale) and convert to sugar in your blood stream quickly, they are metabolized fast and leave you hungrier more quickly than low glycemic foods. Even for people with no issues with diabetes, this cycle plays a significant role in healthy eating and weight management.

Simply counting carbs without an understanding of “good” versus “bad” carbs can leave holes in your nutritional plan. Learn to choose low GI foods for more success in your fit lifestyle.

Michelle Boyd’s Story of Overcoming Obesity

2013 is the year I lost 92 lbs. on a rigid low calorie diet and Omnitrition supplements. 2014 is the year I decided to get physical.

BEFORE

BEFORE

I’ve been a morbidly obese woman my entire adult life. I did not do any exercise except for swimming. I had long been in denial of my poor physical health. My idea of exercise was to park in the second row at Walmart. I had severe knee problems and difficulty going up and down stairs. In addition to suffering from Fibromyalgia, arthritis, and daily migraines; my most debilitating “illness” was my negative self image about the obesity. I saw someone who would never be loved or accepted. I never looked in full length mirrors, hated shopping because I had to buy huge clothes to fit my bust and thighs, leading me to special Plus-Sized shops. I even gave up wearing makeup. My self-hatred festered over and over as negative experiences replayed in my mind and self-hate verbiage constantly played.

In 2013, an opportunity to care for a terminally ill friend changed my life. Prior to her death, we shared a special moment in my truck as we took in the view of the beach. She was wheelchair-bound and commented that she really missed walking, hiking, and camping. That year, I lost 92 lbs. on the Omnitrition nutrition plan and went from a size 28 (XXXL) to size 12/14.

Even though my measurements completely changed, I still saw myself the way I used to be. Something needed to change.

In January 2014, our conversation kept playing over and over. I decided it was ridiculous that I wasn’t doing anything physical or healthy. So I challenged myself one day at Redondo Boardwalk. I learned that it was approximately 1/2 mile long. My first walk took over 40 minutes on a casual walk. The next day I decided to try 2 miles, which took over an hour. Two days later I increased it to 3 miles.

After a couple months of walking 3 miles 2-3 times per week, I noticed 3 miles did not make any difference in my body. So I pushed it up to 5 miles, 4-5 times per week. I really pushed that last mile and my legs were really sore. . After a couple months, I decided to try to jog 1 mile very slowly, to protect my knees. Success! Now I jog with my knee braces to provide extra strength.

Michelle Boyd after

AFTER

I’ve strengthened my knees up to 3 miles jogging and 2 miles walking. My walking stance is short so it takes more steps to complete a mile. But I am determined now to get my 5 miles in each day. I’ve had issues with blisters and sore feet, which have impacted my consistency, but good footwear is now making the difference.

I can walk 5-7 miles without pain. I can walk upstairs like a normal person. It is not a speedy process, but when I do it, I feel better about me. When my knees hurt, I wear the braces and I still try.

The most astounding change occurred last week when I registered for my first 5K for brain tumor research in July in Portland OR. 5K is just a little over 3 miles and I know I can do it!

I am not giving up and I refuse to listen to 35 years of self-hate tapes. I look forward to walking to clear my head, making positive affirmations, and changing my mindset. I never would’ve believed this was possible. If I can do this, so can you!

Congrats, Michelle! And thank you for sharing your story with the Fit After Fifty community!

Getting Fit: Why Cholesterol Matters

By Leslie Vandever

Ever noticed how extra pounds stick like super-glue once you pass a “certain age?”

Seems just a couple of months ago you weighed just a teensy bit more than you did when you were a young adult. Back then, if you needed to drop a few pounds, you just ate a little less for a couple of weeks. But now, every time you step on the scale, the number is always rising.

Foods high in cholesterol, photo labeled for commercial reuse.

Foods high in cholesterol, photo labeled for commercial reuse.

The fact is, fitness slipped out the back door a long time ago. You knew it was going, but you were busy. You still are. Your job is demanding. When you’re not at work, there are a million other things to do. The house needs cleaned, the laundry is piling up, the lawn needs mowed, and you’ve got to get to the grocery store. You’ve been scraping the bottom of the mayo jar to make sandwiches for work. If you’re retired, the days are just as busy with volunteer activities, the needs of your family, travelling, and just plain life. Who has time to think about fitness, let alone do something about it?

Well, erm, you do. You can make the time.

Here’s the hard truth: there’s an obesity epidemic in the U.S. About a third of all American adults today are overweight or obese. If you’re one of them, you’re a perfect candidate for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Any or all of them could keep you from participating in your own future.

If the extra baggage on your booty isn’t enough for you, consider what those delicious, easy-to-eat French fries are doing to your insides: they’re plastering layers of sticky plaque along the walls of your arteries—the very arteries that feed into and out of your heart.

The culprit is cholesterol. By itself and in the right quantities, it’s a good thing. Cholesterol is actually a vital type of lipid (fat) molecule, and the body absolutely must have it in order to construct cell membranes.

In fact, your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, all by itself. But cholesterol is also in many of the foods—particularly fast foods and processed foods—that we eat. And too much cholesterol is dangerous. Really dangerous.

There are two main types of cholesterol to pay attention to:

  • LDL (low density lipoprotein) is a type of protein that binds with the cholesterol molecule and carries it to tissues throughout the body, including the arteries. Over time, it can narrow and harden the artery, a condition called atherosclerosis. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is called the “bad” cholesterol. There is more LDL cholesterol than any other kind in the body.
  • HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the “good” cholesterol. It snatches excess cholesterol away from the tissues and delivers it to the liver, which removes it from the body. The lower the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, the higher your risk of heart disease.

It’s a great argument for getting fit, isn’t it? Just by cutting high fat, high cholesterol foods out of your diet and opting for fresh, high-protein foods like lean meat and fish, eating low-carbohydrate foods like wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice, and plenty of high-fiber, nutritious vegetables and fruit, you’ll lower your LDLs and raise your HDLs to healthy levels. You’re already halfway to getting fit, at age 50 and beyond.

Now add just 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, three or four days a week and you’ll make it all the way. Stick to it and you’ll be so fit and healthy that you just may get to see the future—and those cool flying cars like the Jetsons had, too.

 

Article provided by Healthline.com.

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. She also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog, under the pen-name “Wren.” In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.

References:

Adult Obesity Facts. (2013, Aug. 16) Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on January 13, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

What Is Cholesterol? (2012, Sept. 19) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved on January 13, 2014 from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/

Controversial Food Pyramid

no_food_pyramidWe’ve all heard of the “Food Pyramid” and seen various iterations of it. As a baby boomer, you probably even remember before it was a pyramid. (In fact, the “Food Pyramid” didn’t even exist until 1992!) Over the years, there have been numerous objections to every version of the USDA’s dietary suggestions—dating all the way back to the 1920’s. Arguments against the food pyramid have been posed regarding the influence of various food industries, bad science, and just a general misunderstanding & lack of clarity in the use of the pyramid.

The food pyramid, as most of us understand it, has a big base of grains, topped by a split of fruits & vegetables, which is topped by dairy & meats, then with fats, oils & sweets at the very top. Most nutritionists are quick to point out that lumping fats, oils & sugars all together doesn’t work—there are essential fats, oils & sugars. Read more

Resolving to Take Personal Accountability for our Health

Around this time of year, I reflect on the important relationships in my life that I’m blessed to have —with my family, friends, colleagues…and the one I have with myself. It’s a great time for recalibrating my thoughts on how I can improve myself so that I can be better in all my relationships. A big part of this involves my own health. I feel strongly about being personally accountable for my own health, not just for myself, but so I can enjoy life with those I care about the most.

Roosevelt kick in the pants quoteRecently, I was talking to a friend who was visiting from Zurich, Switzerland. Statistically, about 8% of the Swiss population is obese. In the US, we’re looking at about 34% of our population being obese. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised by what I asked him,

“What is the one thing to do to help solve the obesity & financial crisis of the US?”

His response…

“Personal accountability.”

It was an awakening & sobering response.  Read more

How Your Body Responds to Sugar (& Why You’ll Want to Avoid Sugar This Holiday Season)

Sweets and treats are upon us with Thanksgiving just around the corner.  Let’s take a refresher on the threats to our health from sugar and ways to stay motivated to avoid it …

keep-calm-and-avoid-sugarHere are several reasons from Fit After Fifty to avoid sugar through Thanksgiving and the holidays:

  • Ÿ  Sugar = wrinkles!  A high sugar diet damages collagen and causes wrinkles
  • Ÿ  Sugar = fat!  Sugar in your system causes increased fatty acids which your body stores in fat cells.
  • Ÿ  Sugar = MORE fat! Excessive sugar causes your body to stop producing insulin which increases your appetite and the production of cortisol. This cycle leads to more fat storage.
  • Ÿ  Sugar = poor heart health, stressed kidneys, and diabetes.
  • Ÿ  Sugar = nasty teeth! Sugar increases oral bacteria which erodes enamel.
  • Ÿ  Sugar = depression!  Increased insulin levels lead to depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
  • Ÿ  Sugar can increase the growth of malignant cancer cells (click here for more information).

So how can you stay motivated to avoid sugar? Read more

writing

Put Your Fitness Goals In Writing

fitness goals in writing

I am the worst when it comes to writing things down. My office at Fit After Fifty is awash in papers, from receipts to unread magazines to paper scraps with phone numbers and no name. It is a wonder I get anything done.

Unsurprisingly, I have not committed to any of my fitness goals in writing. Read more