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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!

Getting Back in Shape After Fifty – A Complete Guide

Getting back into shape is an exciting time.  Just envisioning walking or running around with minimal fatigue or pain can be invigorating.  How many times have you thought to yourself, “if only I had the flexibility, strength, or mobility that I had ten years ago, everything would be so much better.”  Well guess what, you can!paddleboarding

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  This same wisdom applies to health and fitness.  Of course it’s optimal to always live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, but if that hasn’t been the case for the past month, year, or decade, you have the power to make a change.  Now is the time to make a change.

Understanding Willpower as a Finite Resource

On your fitness journey, it’s essential that you understand the difference between willpower and habit. It will make your life so much easier.

mountain top

Using Willpower to Get Back in Shape

There’s nothing quite like taking your pair of running shoes or workout gear on it’s first training session.  You’ve been reading health and fitness articles for weeks, perhaps you even made the painstaking decision to sign up for your first 5k as a motivator to get back in shape, and now you’re ready to go out on the first training session.

It’s an exciting time, no doubt.  Chances are you’ll remember those first few workouts in your newfound training program for weeks and months to come.  Maybe you’re not even preparing for an event, but are training so you can move around with youthful vigor and spend higher quality time with your loved ones. Envisioning living life without the day-to-day pains that have crept up over the years can provide you with the energy to make great progress with your fitness.

When just getting started, improving your fitness is exciting because it’s a new experience, and a change to the routine you’ve become accustomed to.  But then, a conflict gets in the way.

When Excuses Get in the Way

What about the times when it’s the busy time of year at work, you have a packed schedule, and the in-laws are in town?  You work long hours, come home exhausted, and still have to run errands, prepare dinner, and do the laundry.  Don’t forget about those favorite Netflix episodes you can’t miss either!

Well what happens when it’s the dead of winter, it’s freezing outside, it’s rained or snowed for weeks on end, and your mood is as grey and bleak as the weather?  Thinking about lacing up the running shoes and getting a workout in may not seem quite as exhilarating as it did during those first few sessions.  When we rely on willpower to achieve our fitness goals, we can tend to burn out, because we only have so much of it.  When conflicts come up, our fitness routine can be one of the first things to go out the window.

Think of your willpower like a tank of gas.  When you continually use it, the tank depletes and needs to be refilled.  Our willpower is a finite resource – throughout the day, all of the decisions we make slowly deplete the tank.  When it runs really low, you may experience what’s known as decision fatigue.  Have you ever told yourself you’d eat healthy, but then find yourself eating fast food after a long day at work because it seemed so convenient?  If so, you’ve experienced first hand the challenges of relying on your willpower to achieve your goals.

roadblock

The Power of Habit in Terms of Fitness

If our willpower is a finite resource, and we know that our schedule is busy, we’re short on time, and still want to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, then how to we go about getting back into shape?  The answer is simple: fitness needs to become a habit.

It’s essential that you make health and fitness a part of your every day routine.  It needs to become a habit if there’s any chance of you following through over an extended time frame.  Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  Think to yourself about one of the habits you have in your life that has a negative affect.  Drinking, smoking, or watching too much television, perhaps?  Now think of one that has a positive affect.  Is it walking, running, biking, or lifting weights?

Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  When fitness becomes a habit, it leads to better health, longer lives, and more energy.

How to Make Fitness a Habit

Starting small is the key.  You want to focus on the process rather than the outcome.  If we set small and sustainable goals, then fitness will become a habit after a few months of consistent effort.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

Mary went to the doctor for her annual check up. Her doctor told her that her cholesterol levels were elevated, and she needed to make a change.  Her doctor asks about her diet and exercise, and they have a frank discussion about her lifestyle.  Mary was honest and told her doctor that her schedule always seems so busy, and that she feels there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all her errands done as it is.

When she eats sometimes its an easy meal that requires little to no cooking. Mary’s doctor acknowledges how difficult it can be to fit everything you want done into a day, however he also recommended that she try to eat more balanced meals and exercise more regularly.

walking

Getting Started

How should Mary take her doctor’s recommendation into practice? She can make fitness a habit by starting with small, achievable and measurable goals.

Mary is early to bed and early to rise. She commits to going on a walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes, after her morning coffee, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The first couple days into her routine, she finds that it’s an adjustment, but loves the sense of accomplishment she feels after executing on her goals.

Six weeks into her routine, Mary has now learned to love her weekly walks.  She finds that on days she goes walking, she has more energy throughout the day.  It’s a time that she’s able to exercise, and it’s also a time she’s able to reflect on all the great progress she’s made.  What’s better, is she’s actually met a few of her neighbors who are also up early each day, and she’s shared her goals with them.

Over time, Mary decides to add more days to her walking routine, and after 6 months, she finds herself walking almost every day.  It’s become something that she looks forward to each day, and it’s a habit that’s she’s grown to love.  Walking also inspires her to make healthier food choices, because she wants to fuel her body with proper nutrients that taste great and make her feel even better.

All of the great progress Mary made was the result of starting with a small and achievable goal, walking for thirty minutes two times per week.

Finding Your Why

In our hypothetical example, Mary wanted to get back into shape because her doctor discussed with her the risks of her high cholesterol and sedentary lifestyle.  Thinking about her family and loved ones, she knew that she owed it to herself and to them to make a change, to take a step in the right direction.

Think about the loved ones that you have in your life.  Your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends and colleagues.  Think about the activities that you loved participating in when you were younger and had vibrant health and energy.  Envision ten years from now, how you’ll look, feel, and act if you continue on the same trajectory that you’re currently on.  What is it that truly excites you?  What is it that motivates you?  What’s one of the driving forces in your life that you care about above all else?

As Simon Sinek explains in his groundbreaking Ted Talk, Start with Why, people make decisions based on their “why.”  They don’t just choose to get back in shape, they choose to live a better lifestyle because their health is suffering.  They make changes because they want to be around for their family for longer.  They make positive habits because they want to meet their great grandchildren.  Watch the 18 minute talk to develop a better understanding of why we make the decisions we do.  I promise you it’s time well spent.

The Pillars of Getting Back Into Shape

Instead of focusing on “getting back into shape,” it’s helpful to break fitness down into smaller sub categories so you can make progress on each of the different pillars.

pillars

Pillar Number One: Exercise

Exercise is the first pillar to focus on in your fitness journey.  The great news is exercise is a broad term that encompasses a whole range of activities.  It could be taking a walk around the neighborhood like our hypothetical Mary.  It could also be playing tennis, golfing, practicing yoga, or taking dance classes.

Make it Enjoyable

Whatever activity or exercise you choose, make it enjoyable!  It’s so much easier to stick to a routine and activity that you enjoy, rather than one you can’t stand.  Think about which activities you’ve practiced in your life that invigorate you.  Was there a sport you played, or an activity that you loved that stands out above all the rest?  How would it feel to have the energy and flexibility to participate again?  Whatever the activity is that you’ve loved, use it as a way to get back into shape.

Make it Consistent

Build your exercise or activity into your routine.  Whether it’s a daily practice, or just a few times a week, be as specific as possible with when you will do it.  That way, it’s not something that you rely purely on willpower to achieve.  When it’s in your schedule each day or each week, it’s much easier to stick to the process.  Over time, it will become something that you look forward to.  It’s time that you’re dedicating for yourself, so you can live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Get an Exercise Buddy

Everyone has days where they feel low energy, low motivation, or are just simply feeling under the weather.  Having a partner that holds you accountable on your journey can be an invaluable motivator.  On days that you just don’t feel like sticking the the process, a companion can help you get through that workout or activity.  Sometimes your buddy might not feel like sticking to their workout – then the tables are turned and you are able to serve as a motivator for them.

Evaluate Progress on your Goals

When you’re as specific as possible on the activities you use to get back into shape, it helps you track progress over a given time frame.  Keep a diary, journal, or log of the workouts you complete, that way weeks and months down the line, you can look back on the progress you’ve made.

Pillar Number Two: Diet

cutting board

Our bodies are comprised of the foods that we put into our body.  “We are what we eat,” sounds cliche, but has a lot of truth to it.  When we consume foods that are high in sugar and low in nutrients, it doesn’t give us the proper fuel we need, and our health suffers from it.  When we eat a diet full of vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean meats, our diet helps support our health and fitness goals.

Practice Portion Control

At the end of the day, weight gain and weight loss comes from the amount of calories we consume.  When we take in more calories than we burn each day, then our body stores the excess as body fat.  On the other hand, when we burn more energy than we consume, our body uses some of the fat stores to make up for the deficit, meaning we lose weight.  Weight can and weight loss all comes down to total caloric intake over time.

Listen to your body each time you eat.  What’s key is eating until you are satisfied, not until you absolutely can’t consume another bite.  If you feel so full after a meal that you need to lay down or take a nap before doing anything else, you’ve eaten too much.

Adequately Hydrate

Many of us are chronically dehydrated.  Water comprises about 60% of our body, and is critical to vibrant health and energy.  An easy method to follow is the rule of 8.  We need about 8, 8oz glasses of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration.  It amounts to about half of a gallon.  Whether you have a large water bottle you keep with you, or you keep track of how many glasses you drink, make sure your body has the proper amount of water that it needs.

When you’re hydrated, you’re body is more effective at digesting food, leveling your blood pressure, detoxifying your body, and fighting disease and infection.

Limit Sugars and Processed Foods

Sugars and processed foods should not take up a large amount of your daily calorie intake.  Consuming too much causes spikes in blood sugar which can lead to diabetes, weight gain, irritability, inflammation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more.  Cutting sugar out of your diet is one of the single biggest positive changes you can make to better support your health over the long term.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

An easy change to make for a better diet is to not drink any of your calories.  Cut out the juices, sodas, and sugary drinks.  One can of Coca Cola has 140 calories, and 39 grams of sugar.  That’s the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes.  The soda may taste great in the short term, but it’s wreaking havoc on your overall health.

Instead of drinking sodas and sugary drinks, replace them with water, tea, and coffee.  They’ll help you hydrate your body better, and will add no calories to your daily intake.

Pillar Number Three: Sleep

Sleep is the third pillar to pay attention to on your journey to better health and fitness.  Adequate sleep is essential to our health because it’s the time when our body is able to rebuild, repair, and detox.  It may seem like it’s almost glorified these days to sacrifice sleep for productivity, but burning the candle at both ends is something that will do more harm than good in the long run.

koala

Set a Schedule

Go to sleep at the same time each evening, and wake up at the same time in the morning.  Yes, even on the weekends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that’s especially true with our sleep cycles.  when we have consistency in our routine, it allows our circadian rhythm to function properly.  Our bodies perform best when they have a set schedule.

Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

When we stare at our screens before going to sleep, it messes with your circadian rhythm.  Screens emit what’s known as blue-spectrum light – the same light that’s emitted during the day.  Our brains can’t tell the difference between the light the sun provides, and the light that our screens emit.  When we use our electronic devices immediately before going to sleep, it sends our brains mixed signals because our brain processes the light and tells our body it’s daylight outside.  Do your best to limit the use of electronics within one hour of going to sleep.

Supplement for Better Sleep

On average, more than half of us are deficient in magnesium, a micronutrient that’s fights insomnia, helps our bodies relax, and cuts down on cortisol, the “stress” hormone.  Take a serving of it prior to bed to help your body relax and get ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep cycle.  A great product to start with is Natural Calm – find it on Amazon, or at a local health foods store.  If that isn’t doing the trick, supplement with melatonin as well.  It’s a hormone that’s secreted by our pineal gland, and helps regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles.  Staring at screens too much, especially at night, is one way that our melatonin levels get out of whack.

Get Started Today

Your health and fitness is completely in your control.  Sometimes it may not feel like it, sometimes it may feel like our body is craving sugar, wants to lay down, and do nothing.  These are purely signals that your body sends, but you are the one that acts on the signals.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your health as you are.  Not your doctor, your spouse, or your loved ones.  It’s your health, and your body, and your life.  Even if you’ve spent years or decades with the wrong habits, it’s never to late to make a change.

Getting back in shape is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health.  You’ll live longer.  You’ll be happier.  Moving around will be easier.  You’ll be able to spend quality time with loved ones, and will get more satisfaction out of the time you have on this planet.

It’s not always going to be easy.  There will be days when you just don’t feel like sticking to the routine.  There will be meals that are full of sugar that just seem too resistible to pass up.  Some days you may not even want to get up from the TV.  That’s ok.  It happens to everyone.  What’s most important is making slow and consistent progress, and taking steps in the right direction.

If you miss a workout, or have a cheat meal, it’s not the end of the world.  Just don’t let it derail you from your progress over the long term.  Even when it doesn’t feel like it, it’s all within your control.

Understanding “Good Fats” vs “Bad Fats” in Your Diet

For many years, now the accepted school of thought is that fat in our diet is bad, lean is good. More and more studies in recent times are providing evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, is the root of an unhealthy diet. Fat is a necessary part of a normal, balanced healthy diet. Hold on to those two words: “Balanced and healthy”. Rather than avoid fats altogether or blindly consume low fat options in our diet, it is important to understand the various forms of fat and how our bodies metabolize them.

Understand that when food manufacturers provide low-fat versions of peanut butter, salad dressing, etc., they are usually adding sugars, additives, and salt to make them taste better. Don’t trade less fat for more sugar and processed ingredients. For example, margarine contains lower calories than butter but is high in trans fat. Margarine is manufactured using hexane, hydrogen gas, emulsifiers, bleach, and synthetic vitamins and colors. Call me crazy, but a bit of butter seems healthier on my toast than lower calorie margarine.

The healthy fats include omega 3 and omega 6 which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood and combat the bad LDL. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol deposits in the artery walls as early as childhood and adolescence. White blood cells increase to protect the blood vessels and convert the LDL to a toxic, oxidized form of cholesterol. Soon a low level inflammation is occurring in the artery wall, creating plaque.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats not only help lower your bad cholesterol levels, but also tend to be high in vitamin E, which is deficient in most people’s diets and essential for your bodies’ development of cells and healthy skin

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, tea seed oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashew, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grain wheat
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Cereal grains and pasta
  • vegetables and vegetable products
  • Fruits and whole fruit juices (non-pasteurized is best)
  • Nuts and seed products
  • Legumes
  • Finfish and shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Dairy and eggs

While these good fats contain more calories, they also help you to feel more satisfied, less likely to continue to consume more low fat options higher in sugar. But don’t load up on peanut butter and real butter; just use them in moderation.

Saturated fats comprise of more than two dozen different kinds and they are not all the same, nor should we approach them all the same. Until recently, the school of thought was to avoid all saturated fats.   But many sources of saturated fats are also really good for you in many other ways.

A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was not enough proof linking saturated fat alone to either heart disease or stroke. People had been replacing animal fats for vegetable oils and refined carbs, which caused triglycerides to go up and good HDL cholesterol to go down. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people on a lower-carb diet shed more weight faster than those on a low fat diet; even the low-carb group was consuming more fats. Likely because fewer carbs release less insulin, control hunger and reduce storage of fat. All of this helps to keep cholesterol at healthier levels.

So the question is not which saturated fats are acceptable and which aren’t but keep your entire fat consumption to no higher than 20-25% of your daily intake. Avoid saturated fats that are highly refined due to the additives, sugars, and chemicals involved in the process. If you have to choose between “low cal-low fat” trans fats such as margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening, or natural, saturated fats (in moderation, of course) then choose saturated fats. Keep your saturated fats as low as possible, but choose from sources of “good” saturated fats such as:

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Peanuts and other nuts
  • Regular 100% peanut butter instead of “low-fat” options
  • Wild Salmon instead of farmed
  • Butter instead of margarine
  • Organic, grass fed meats instead of grain and hormone fed (also avoid meats that are cured, processed with nitrates and other preservatives).

Understanding the wide variety of saturated fats and how they are metabolized is a detailed subject that we encourage you to explore before you just blindly toss all saturated fats out of your diet. The key is moderation and balance in all things. Know your fats and you will make better, healthier choices for your life. Please share with us your experiences with changing fats in your diet and what has worked for you.

 

Featured photo credit Flickr user Jaanus Silla.

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.

A Balanced Nutritional Approach that Supports Your Exercise Plan

You are staying faithful to your commitment to an active and healthy life in your fifties and beyond. It takes work and discipline, but too often, it is more fun to choose an activity and pay less attention to the foods you are consuming since you have “earned it”.

Studies have shown that what we eat and how much of it will have a more direct effect to weight loss than exercise alone.  Human nature tends to give more thought and energy to one healthy habit over another.  We are not suggesting that people should diet only and forget your workouts or exercise plan.  Just make sure you don’t buy into thinking that one is more important than the other.

What should your balanced nutritional approach include for food choices when you are exercising and staying faithful to your fitness plan? There is no one particular diet for workouts, but when you remember the Pilates approach to mind and body balance, that will help you choose the foods that result in feeling better and more balanced. Strike balance with the major food groups and learn to listen to your body, it will make it clear what it needs.

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Have you been counting calories and restricting yourself? Instead, look around at all the healthy choices available to you. Nutritionist Lily Nichols, has written an information-packed post discussing the negative calorie track and how to get off of it with 11 tips to a healthier approach to food and nutrition. It is about finding balance nutritionally when you listen to your body and pay attention to the flavors of the foods you eat. Take time to educate yourself on healthier choices and also allow for indulgence in your favorite delights so you are not in depriving yourself all the time.

Here is guide for some great options that support your commitment to a fit and healthy lifestyle and nutritional balance.

  • Oatmeal: Start your day with this power-packed slow release gold mine and you will burn more fat since slow release carbohydrates don’t spike your blood sugar
  • Almonds: A 2-ounce serving of almonds requires chewing and leaves you feeling satisfied. Chewing more causes a greater fat release from the almonds, triggering the hormones that curb hunger.
  • Apples: With only 95 calories, this gem is packed with fiber and phytonutrients to regulate your blood sugar as well as having a positive impact on digestive bacteria.
  • Soup: People who start a meal with vegetable soup tend to keep the rest of the meal in balance in regards to caloric intake, nutrients, and fiber.
  • Mushrooms: These guys served as an entrée leave you feeling just as satisfied as if you had beef, but are packed with important nutrients such as niacin, selenium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and potassium.
  • Hot Chile Peppers: consuming one of these 30 minutes before a meal leaves people less hungry and cutting down on unnecessary intake.
  • Eggs: not only high in protein, but eggs leave you feeling fuller longer and support muscle gain

You certainly will not maintain balance if you run out of energy in mid-workout, so plan to have a small meal or snack of complex carbohydrates and lean protein. There are also some great recipes out there for healthy pre-workout protein shakes. It is best to begin your workout with glycogen-rich muscle and a stable blood sugar. Make sure to start with filtered water for your liquid:

  • 1-2 Tablespoons of omega-3 sport oil such as chia, flax, or fish
  • 1-2 servings of whey, hemps or soy protein isolate
  • ½ to 1 cup of low glycemic, organic fresh fruit

At the end of the day, opt for approach that emphasizes the great choices you have for flavorful and healthy options instead of one that focuses on restrictions. This results in a balanced approach supporting your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Please share with us tips and tricks that you have adopted to improve your nutritional approach.

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!

5 Delicious, High-Protein Summer Salad Recipes

Long summer days are meant for getting out and taking advantage of all the active options to play while the weather is great!  That can mean that meal planning and prep can get pushed to the back burner since who wants to spend these great days in the grocery store line or working in the kitchen when you could be out playing?  Well here are some great summer salads that are easy to prep ahead of time and have ready to go when you get home from that after work kayak, cycle adventure, or gym class.

  • This main dish salad has less than 13 grams of fiber and nearly 17 grams of protein. The Black Bean and Mango Salad will help you make your dietary goals, replenish needed fluids, and give your body important post workout fuel.
  • arugula-chicken-avacado_300The Arugula Chicken Salad is a fabulous source of phytochemicals to help battle a variety of cancer causing components, as well as filled with vitamins A, C, and K. The radishes, avocado and lime top it off for a refreshing and yummy evening dinner salad.
  • Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad With power packed ingredients such as quinoa which is good for, cucumbers which are packed with B vitamins, and antioxidant fighting tomatoes, you can’t go wrong with this one. The hardest you have to work in prep is boiling water, so your kitchen is kept cool and so are you!
  • Ok, so maybe there are other salads that are “healthier”, but we had to include The Summer Fruit with Wine and Mint if simply for the fruit that is wine infused for 2 HOURS!!!! A nice reward for all the hard work you have been doing in your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. And in reality, there is not a “bad for you” ingredient in here!

So, with a teensy weensy bit of advanced planning, you can enjoy the hot summer evenings with yummy and good for you fresh salads to compliment all the other great choices you are making for yourself.  Bon Appetite!

A Perspective on Spinning from Live Love Flow

By Jaime Scates Schmitz from LiveLoveFlowYoga.com

OK, now it’s time for honesty. I do not love spinning the way I love yoga. But I see it as a necessary evil. Before Live Love Flow, I operated a yoga studio for 3.5 years that offered just yoga (Mountain Flow Yoga in Madrona). Yoga all by itself was never quite enough for me. I had a spin bike at home, which I used often and I ran to keep the cardio conditioning up. As mountain biking is the second greatest love of my life, just behind yoga, the addition of a spin studio seemed logical. If I lived somewhere that riding 3-5 days a week up big hills on the dirt was a possibility, you might not find me in the spin studio. But since I have to hoof it up to the mountains with my bike packed away in the car, that’s just too many hours out of the day. So you’ll find me in the spin studio a lot! And don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the music, I LOVE the energy, I appreciate the intensity and therefore the efficiency. And well, it does make me feel AMAZING!

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Spinning is an amazing way for people who are getting older to start or complement a fitness routine:

  1. When you’re inside on a stationary bike, you’re not going to fall or get hit by a car. There’s very minimal risk of needing a hip replacement from falling!
  2. When the bike is ridden in the ergonomically correct way, there’s zero impact on the joints and it keeps them lubricated by using them.
  3. Spinning increases serotonin and endorphins so we feel amazing.
  4. The ticker needs that cardio conditioning.
  5. One of the leading contributors to aging is the decrease in production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone). Don’t get a shot; you can become dependent and stop making your own naturally. But DO high intensity interval training – we do a ton in spinning. ”High intensity burst training in which one’s heart rate bursts above their anaerobic threshold (best established by VO2 max testing) for 30 second intervals five or more times in a workout. This engages super-fast twitch muscle fibers, which release HGH naturally.”
  6. You can really go at your own pace. The teacher will set a cadence and a gear; if it’s too hard, scale back. No one’s pressuring you; it’s your ride!

So my number one goal in life is not to be super fit, super fast or super awesome on the bike. It’s to be super conscious, super awake, super alive, FREE and vibrant. I’ve wrapped my brain around how spinning supports this for me.

As we’re riding, the mind puts up a lot of resistance: it’s really HARD in the class, so the noisy mind loves to complain, to pull us onto the path of least resistance, to bitch and moan. I see spinning as an amazing opportunity to “shush” that part of my mind. If I can cultivate equanimity to that suffering and silence the mental bulls*#t to face the challenge, I win!

Spinning also teaches an amazing lesson about transcending/transmuting our drama and our trauma. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I don’t want to minimize how hard we work in there; it’s kind of nuts! However, the minute we walk out of the room we feel AMAZING and we put the story of the ride and all of the suffering it evoked into the past where it belongs. We don’t relive the ride over and over and over again the way we do everything else that hurts, i.e. heart-ache, legal battles, neglect, addiction, being “wronged” by another, failure, embarrassment, suffering etc. Nope, we hop off the bike an we pop that ride into the past.

Now THAT’s a powerful lesson in movin’ right on through, moving higher and increasing consciousness.

I do think that anyone who’s using just the spin side of the studio is missing the whole point of Live Love Flow, but heck, they’re welcome and maybe the energy that’s being created in that amazing space, sincerely dedicated to evolving consciousness will seep into their field and we’ll find them in the yoga studio.

Namaste!

Choose Your Supplements Wisely

We all know that the number one way to keep and improve your brain functions is to stay active.  However, various nutrients and supplements have been linked with healthy brain function and are important to consider as we start to age.

Americans spend over $14 billion on supplements each year, so it is important to make sure your supplement $’s truly providing benefit to you and worth that additional expense.

First of all, it is important to understand that supplements containing botanical ingredients are known to be very effective when taken in the correct dosage and are at the claimed and beneficial potency level.  The FDA does not regulate these.  This is not to say that FDA approval or lack thereof is a guarantee.  By nature, it is not possible to fully regulate botanical extracts since it is not an exact science.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

That leaves it up to you as the consumer to do your research on the companies’ selling your supplements.  Also make sure you understand proper efficacy and potency, and shelf life of certain supplements.  It does take a little more time, but it is time well spent when you better understand what to look for and what to avoid when spending your supplement $’s.

Also be aware that while many supplements are a great answer for various health issues and concerns, they can interact negatively with other medications.  Don’t be fooled into thinking they are harmless just because they are over the counter and/or natural.  Talk with your doctor or other health professional to be sure there will be no negative interactions or side effects.

So which supplements are important to consider for brain function: Here are a few to look at to start with:

  • St. John’s Wort for healthy moods.
  • Melatonin for healthy sleep cycles, immune support, combating inflammation and more!
  • Omega 3’s for heart health, vision, nerve cells, and depression.
  • Probiotics for digestion, metabolism cholesterol and menopause management. Read on for more!
  • Vitamins A and C for healthy vision, immune support and more.
  • CoQ10 for vision, heart health, cellular energy, blood pressure and more.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health

Bottom line is to keep your natural diet high in all of the above, but backing it up with high quality supplements targeting the elements noted will benefit you greatly in this adventure we are all in as we experience the second 50 of life.

Healthy Blood Equals Healthy Bod! How Managing Your Blood Sugars can Lead to a Healthier, Happier You!

It’s 3 p.m. on a weekday afternoon… what are you doing?

A)   Looking for the nearest coffee shop to get that extra boost of caffeine to help you make it through the rest of the work day.

B)   Grabbing a handful of sweet treats out of the office candy jar because your sweet tooth is screaming at you.

C)   Switching back and forth between Facebook, CNN, and your current work task because you just cannot focus.

D)   Struggling to keep your eyes open, telling yourself that you’ll let your “eyes rest” for 5 minutes before getting back to work.

E)   All of the above.

F)    None of the above.

We’ve all encountered the dreaded afternoon energy crash at one point or another in our lives. However, there is a way to overcome the afternoon slump! By choosing balanced meals that contain protein, carbohydrates, and fats (yes, I said fats!), you can balance your blood sugars, manage your cravings, and make it through the afternoon slump without needing an extra dose of caffeine or sugar!

Photo credit: UltimateGymNT.com.

Photo credit: UltimateGymNT.com.

Blood sugars & energy levels 

One of the reasons as to why we experience fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sugar cravings, and mood swings is that our blood sugars are out of whack. When we consume a diet that is low in fat, high in refined carbohydrates, and variable in protein (i.e. the “Standard American Diet”), our blood sugars spike, then rapidly drop, causing the aforementioned symptoms. How exactly does this happen?

When we ingest and metabolize carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose. Glucose is then released into our blood stream to provide fuel for our cells, muscles, brain, and tissues. When we eat a meal or snack that contains a lot of refined carbohydrates with little to no fat and/or protein, the carbohydrates are rapidly digested in our system, causing a surge in blood sugar. Since chronically elevated blood sugars can be detrimental to our body, it tries to lower our blood glucose and return it to the normal range (a state called “homeostasis”) as quickly as possible. This rapid shift in blood sugar levels (from very high to very low), can leave you feeling fatigued. Thus, you end up reaching for the nearest sugar-laden treat in an attempt to reenergize yourself and bring your blood sugars back up to normal levels.

Tips for managing your blood sugars

Never fear – there are ways to prevent our blood sugars from taking a ride on a not-so-fun roller coaster ride! Consuming fat and protein along with carbohydrates can help you balance out your blood sugars.

When fat and protein are consumed in conjunction with carbohydrates, they slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and the release of glucose into your blood. As a result, your blood sugars gradually increase – rather than spiking – immediately after consuming a meal. Think of it this way: a meal consisting of carbohydrates without protein or fat is like having a car with no brakes – it’s wild, irresponsible, and can ultimately cause damage. However, a balanced meal that contains carbohydrates, protein, and fat is much safer; protein and fat act as a “brake,” slowing down the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Here are some additional tips to ensure that your blood sugars are well balanced and that you keep the afternoon sugar & caffeine monster at bay!

  • Always consume balanced meals and snacks that contain a mix of carbohydrate, protein, and/or fat. Never consume a meal or snack that solely consists of carbohydrate! Not only will fat and protein help control your blood sugars, but fat and protein will also make the meal or snack more satiating. Below are some common “no brake” meals and snacks, with options as to how to make them well balanced.

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  • Don’t skip meals (including breakfast). Start off the day on the right foot by having a balanced breakfast that contains a healthy dose of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Studies have shown a positive association between eating breakfast and increased productivity at work. Furthermore, eating breakfast has been shown to help people successfully lose weight and achieve a healthy weight. Between meals, listen to your body and snack if you are hungry! Skipping meals and foregoing snacks can lead to bingeing and overeating the next time you eat.
  • Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. As little as one night of sleep deprivation can cause unfavorable alterations in some of the hormones (i.e., leptin, insulin, and ghrelin) that are associated with regulating our appetite. Furthermore, when we’re tired from a lack of sleep, we’re more likely to choose the not-so-healthy sugar-laden snacks – rather than the well-balanced snacks listed above – in an attempt to quickly boost our energy levels.
  •  Limit highly processed and sugar-laden foods. Highly processed foods are not only high in refined carbohydrates, but they also typically high in added sugar as well. Thus, they will cause your blood sugar to spike pretty rapidly. Therefore, they are not the best choice when trying to manage your blood sugars.

Let’s hear it! What are your favorite balanced meal and snack ideas? What tips do you have for staving off the afternoon energy slump?