You’ve heard about coffee’s benefits. But have you heard them all? What about its fat-burning potential? Earl Williams, owner of Georgetown’s Definitions Personal Trainers’ Gym, interviews Katherine Tallmadge (me), about coffee, the scientific facts about its health and fitness benefits, and 9 tips for how you can make coffee work for you.
Earl: I developed Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) to help clients optimize fat burn and I’m always looking for other ways to complement this. What are the benefits of drinking coffee for those who exercise with the goal of fat loss?
Katherine: The caffeine in coffee enhances physical performance. “Caffeine may act directly on muscle to enhance its capacity to exercise,” according to “Essentials of Exercise Physiology,” by William D. McArdle and Frank L. Katch. It facilitates the use of fat as fuel for exercise, thus sparing the body’s limited glycogen reserves, according to McArdle and Katch. “Coffee can be a positive part of a sports diet if a person chooses to drink a cup of coffee before they work out,” said Nancy Clark, author of Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Coffee / caffeine also increases metabolism causing the body to burn more calories, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1).
Earl: Coffee drinkers commonly add sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk, syrups, etc. How do these additives affect the benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: Most of them add calories. So, keep in mind that one syrupy, high calorie drink (some as high as 500 calories — 1⁄4 of one day’s calorie needs) can make the difference between losing and not losing weight. That said, a Latte or Cappuccino are especially good to drink, not only because of the caffeine, but also because of the protein, carbohydrate, potassium and other nutrients contained in the milk.
Earl: Is there a window of time before, during, or after the workout that coffee should be consumed?
Katherine: “People have different sensitivities and reactions to caffeine,” said Clark. But, “peak concentration is within 30 and 120 minutes after ingestion to exert an influence on the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems,” according to McArdle and Katch.
Earl: Any guidance on the daily amount consumed?
Katherine: That would be personalized and depend on a person’s tolerance level of coffee/caffeine. But “drinking the amount of caffeine (330 mg*) in 2.5 cups of coffee one hour before exercising significantly extends endurance in intense aerobic exercise,” according to McArdle and Katch. Which means you can exercise longer before feeling its effects, thus increasing endurance.
Earl: Caffeine in coffee helps mobilize fat in tissues and the bloodstream making the fatty acids available as fuel for exercise—thus sparing and making accessible—muscle and liver glycogen for performance. What are fatty acids?
Katherine: Fat, called triglycerides, partly comes from food and ends up in the bloodstream. When you exercise regularly (every 24 hours), fat/triglycerides are sent into the muscles where it is burned as fuel. If you do not exercise often enough, the triglycerides stay in the bloodstream causing obesity, high bad (LDL) cholesterol and high blood triglycerides – all associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Earl: The fitness community once thought coffee was a diuretic and could not provide the hydration water could. Is this still the case?
Katherine: Coffee and tea are now considered good hydrators, according to the most recent scientific analysis and report by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board (2).
Earl: Under what circumstances should coffee be avoided?
Katherine: You should ask your doctor if you should avoid or limit coffee, especially if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Earl: What are some of the other health benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: The research is promising. Some recent studies suggest that coffee may be associated with a reduced incidence of all causes of death and cardiovascular disease (3), of Type 2 Diabetes (4), Parkinson’s Disease (5), Alzheimer’s (6), Multiple Sclerosis (7), liver cancer(8) – the second leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide – and perhaps other health conditions. Of course, though exciting, the research is just in its beginning stages. More controlled human clinical studies are needed to learn more specifics as to why and how coffee may or may not work to improve your health.
Earl: Any other thoughts about coffee?
Katherine: It is important that the exerciser test the effect of different levels of coffee/caffeine on their performance several times to determine the ideal amount and achieve the best level of performance before any major competition or long term bout of exercise.
(1) Normal caffeine consumption: influence on the thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postboxes human volunteers. AG Dulloo, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins and DS Miller. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1989:49:44-50;
(4) “Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women,” Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, An Pan, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu, Diabetologia, online April 24, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7
(5) Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease. G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674.
(8) World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project (CUP)
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The GOOD news: According to the author of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, “You are ten times more likely to change by making a New Year’s resolution.” The study showed that 50 percent of people who seized the New Year as an opportunity for change met their goals.
The BAD news: It’s not that simple. There are some basic steps you need to follow to turn a wish for change into reality. Here’s what the study shows will work:
7 Steps to Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick
1. Set Your Positive Long Term Goal. Have an exciting vision of yourself having achieved your goal. See yourself – how you look and feel – crossing a goal line, as professional athletes do; envision how great you’ll look in those upcoming wedding photos; see your doctor congratulating you for your success
2. Develop a Specific Action Plan for the Year. “In one year I will achieve a 50-pound weight loss.” Develop a sense of urgency about your goal by pondering the negative consequences of not making your goal, “How would it feel to be the same weight next year?”
3. Break up your Goal into Bite-Size Pieces. It’s more gratifying to achieve your goals every day or every week. For instance, instead of thinking about your year’s goal, say, “I will lose 1 pound per week,” or “daily I will eat fruit and/or veggie snacks.” Again, ponder the consequences of your actions, “Should I roll back into bed instead of getting up to exercise? Do I want to feel good today – or do I want to feel crummy today?”
4. Reward yourself for your Successes. The latest research finds financial rewards can be very successful. But daily pats on the back are important, too.
5. Don’t Make a Backup Plan, as you are less likely to work toward your main goal and may more readily accept failure
6. Develop Genuine Confidence. It’s a potent predictor of who succeeds.
7. Expect Occasional Slips. Studies of successful weight losers show they experience similar stressors and slips as relapsers, they just react differently to them: They pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.
The battle of the bulge is won at the margins. Sweeping dietary overhauls are impractical and don’t work over time. Shrewd, small, concrete, positive changes which can be easily incorporated into your daily routine lead to success.
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Over the years, I’ve noticed that clients who added a certain item to their diet seemed more likely to lose weight. And this happened even when their calorie intake remained the same. What is this superfood? It’s nothing weird, it’s not a supplement, it’s cheap and found everywhere — And it’s a product that may go back to Neolithic times: yogurt.
For years, I’ve wondered why this versatile food worked so well, and now, new scientific research is backing my observations. It turns out that the bacterial organisms in the digestive tract — about 100 million of them (10 times the number of human cells), collectively called the microbiome — are akin to a fully functioning organ, and can have a positive or negative effect on human health.
At a National Institutes of Health conference entitled “The Human Microbiome: Implications for Nutrition and Clinical Practice,” held in March in Bethesda, Md., Cindy Davis of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, shared some findings. “The microbiome is influenced by several dietary components,” she said. One of which is yogurt.
Probiotics plus prebiotics
Why is this? Yogurt contains a class of bacteria called probiotics that “remain alive during processing and shelf life, survive digestion and then cause health benefits,” said Jo Ann Hattner, a registered dietitian, consultant at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-author of “Gut Insight.” She added that together with certain foods known as prebiotics, probiotics create a symbiotic relationship that profoundly benefit your microbiome and your health.
“Prebiotics are nondigestible, fermentable carbohydrates that stimulate and promote activity of beneficial gut bacteria,” Hattner co-wrote in a recent issue of San Francisco Medicine, a publication of the San Francisco Medical Society. “Prebiotics are the booster substance for probiotics. As the beneficial gut microbes increase in number, pathogenic bacteria — such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli — decrease.”"Ingesting prebiotics is a practical way of manipulating the microbiota, since they support and increase the beneficial bacteria population in the gut,” Hattner added. “Together, probiotics and prebiotics are an important duo. In addition, prebiotic fibers are components of the healthiest foods on the planet — natural plant foods.”
To achieve maximum benefit, you need both kinds of food: probiotics and prebiotics, and new research is finding the health benefits may be vast.
“These bacteria protect us by preventing infection and enhancing immunity, and that makes gastrointestinal health critical to overall health,” Hattner said.
More benefits of the microbiome
In addition, research is finding that a healthy microbiome may play a role in reducing inflammation, a risk factor involved in illnesses ranging from colds to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and cognitive decline.
These bacteria may also help burn body fat and reduce insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, according to a recent study published in the journal Nutrients. Interestingly, “Mother’s milk contains both pre[biotics] and probiotics,” said Hattner. So it transfers the health benefits to the baby. This may explain studies that show people who were not breastfed are more likely to be overweight.
Prebiotics are important because they nourish the probiotics, increasing their effectiveness — and prebiotics are in a host of foods.
Still, nutritionists are in the initial phases of human research, and there is much to be learned. In the meantime, the message is clear: Eat a plant-based diet and plenty of yogurt!
1. Eat probiotics like yogurt, kefir and soy yogurt
2. Eat prebiotics (from Hattner’s article) such as:
- fruits like apples, bananas, berries, raisins and kiwifruit
- greens, onions, garlic and leeks
- lentils, chickpeas and beans
- brown rice, corn, buckwheat, flaxseed, whole wheat, whole rye, barley
- green tea
3. Use artificial sweeteners with caution. (A preliminary study found that artificial sweeteners may effect the microbiome negatively, increasing body fat and insulin resistance.)
5. Breastfeed your baby.
6. Don’t count on probiotic pills or supplements to improve your microbiome, as there isn’t one that has passed the tests needed for a health claim. (This was also a point made by scientists at the NIH conference.)
The importance of your digestive system’s microbiome should not be underestimated. It affects every organ in the body, bringing about sickness or health. Many experts believe this research is bringing about a revolution in health care.
Interestingly, the recommendations registered dietitians and nutritionists have been making for decades is being proven correct: “Eat a plant-based diet!” Just be sure to include fermented foods, such as yogurt!
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Katherine’s 5 Tips are at the end of the article…
For years, my clients have asked me, “Is it better to eat ‘sugar-free’ yogurt? Or, yogurt with fruit on the bottom with all that sugar? What about sugar in my coffee? Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soft drinks?” My answer has alway been, to my clients’ surprise, “A little sugar won’t hurt. Eat the yogurt you enjoy the most, even if there’s a little jam at the bottom! And a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee shouldn’t do any harm.” New scientific research may prove my moderate approach has been right all along.
Artificially sweetened beverages and foods are seen as guilt-free pleasures, because they are lower in calories – or even zero calories – compared to other similar foods. You may think of them as a great choice when you’re trying to lose weight or trying to keep blood sugar in check. But some surprising new research suggests that artificial sweeteners might actually do the opposite, “by changing the microbes living in our intestines ,” according to experts at The National Institutes of Health.*
To explore the impact of various kinds of sweeteners on the zillions of microbes living in the human intestine (referred to as the gut microbiome), an Israeli research team first turned to mice. One group of mice was given water that contained one of two natural sugars: glucose or sucrose; the other group received water that contained one of three artificial sweeteners: saccharin (the main ingredient in Sweet’N Low®), sucralose (Splenda®), or aspartame (Equal®, Nutrasweet®). Both groups ate a diet of normal mouse chow.
To their surprise, the researchers discovered that many animals in the artificial sweetener groups—especially those that drank saccharin-sweetened water—developed a condition called glucose intolerance, which is characterized by high blood glucose levels and is an early warning sign of increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the animals that drank sugar water remained healthy.
The result was puzzling. These mice weren’t consuming natural sugars, so what was raising their blood glucose levels? The researchers had a hunch that the answer might lie in the gut microbiome—since those microbes play a vital role in digestion. Their suspicions were borne out. When they used DNA sequencing to analyze the artificial sweetener group’s gut microbiome, they found a distinctly different collection of microbes than in the animals drinking sugar water.
The next step was to distinguish whether these changes in the microbiome resulted from high blood glucose, or caused it. When the researchers used antibiotics to wipe out the artificial sweetener group’s gut microbes, their blood glucose levels returned to normal—evidence that the gut microbes were actively causing glucose intolerance. Additional proof came from experiments in which the researchers transplanted microbes from both groups of mice into the intestines of a mouse strain that had been raised in a sterile environment from birth. The germ-free mice that received microbes from the artificial sweetener group developed glucose intolerance; those getting microbes from the sugar group did not.
But what about humans?
The research team examined clinical data from 400 people taking part in an ongoing nutrition study. That analysis showed that, compared to people who didn’t use artificial sweeteners, long-term users of artificial sweeteners tended to have higher blood glucose levels and other parameters often associated with metabolic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver.
Next, the researchers asked seven healthy human volunteers, who had never previously consumed foods or beverages containing artificial sweeteners, to consume the daily maximum dose of saccharin allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for six consecutive days. Of the seven volunteers, four developed glucose intolerance, while three maintained normal blood glucose regulation. The researchers then took intestinal microbes from human volunteers and transplanted them into germ-free mice. Microbes from humans with glucose intolerance also triggered glucose intolerance in the mice, while microbes from humans with normal blood glucose had no effect.
Previous studies have associated changes in the gut microbiome with obesity and diabetes in humans [2, 3, 4]. But the latest findings, which still must be confirmed in larger studies and by other groups, advance our knowledge one step further by suggesting that artificial sweeteners may be one of what’s likely to be an array of factors with the power to shape such changes. Who knows what the next piece of that fascinating puzzle might be?
Katherine’s 5 Tips
- Use artificial sweeteners with caution,
- Just a spoonful of sugar/jam/honey can’t hurt – maximum 10% of your calorie needs – for example, if you need 1,500 calories per day, enjoy 150 calories worth of sweets per day,
- As usual, moderation is key. If you have trouble eating too many sweets, find out why and click for strategies,
- Eat plenty of yogurt, which contains natural probiotics, to populate your gastrointestinal tract with healthy microbes (they may help reduce body fat and insulin resistance),
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods, considered “prebiotics,” which increase the effectiveness of the probiotics, helping your gastrointestinal tract stay healthy,
- If you have an interest in learning more about sugar substitutes, take a look at the Center for Science and Public Interest’s “Sweet Nothings: Safe or Scary… The Inside Scoop on Sugar Substitutes.”
 Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, Zilberman-Schapira G, Thaiss CA, Maza O, Israeli D, Zmora N, Gilad S, Weinberger A, Kuperman Y, Harmelin A, Kolodkin-Gal I, Shapiro H, Halpern Z, Segal E, Elinav E. Nature. 2014 Sep 17.
 Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI. Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1022-3.
 A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Qin J, Li Y, Cai Z, Li S, Zhu J, Zhang F, Liang S, Zhang W, Guan Y, Shen D, Peng Y, Zhang D, Jie Z, Wu W, Qin Y, Xue W, Li J, Han L, Lu D, Wu P, Dai Y, Sun X, Li Z, Tang A, Zhong S, Li X, Chen W, Xu R, Wang M, Feng Q, Gong M, Yu J, Zhang Y, Zhang M, Hansen T, Sanchez G, Raes J, Falony G, Okuda S, Almeida M, LeChatelier E, Renault P, Pons N, Batto JM, Zhang Z, Chen H, Yang R, Zheng W, Li S, Yang H, Wang J, Ehrlich SD, Nielsen R, Pedersen O, Kristiansen K, Wang J. Nature. 2012 Oct 4;490(7418):55-60.
 Gut metagenome in European women with normal, impaired and diabetic glucose control.Karlsson FH, Tremaroli V, Nookaew I, Bergström G, Behre CJ, Fagerberg B, Nielsen J, Bäckhed F. Nature. 2013 Jun 6;498(7452):99-103.
*The article above is from the National Institutes of Health
Photo by www.sugar.org
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A new study confirmed what I’ve suspected for the twenty (or more) years I’ve been a diet counselor. Eating hearty meals earlier in the day instead of in the evening leads to weight loss and better health, even when the same foods and same calories are eaten.
A recent study published in the scientific journal, “Diabetologia,” found people with Type 2 Diabetes eating a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with those eating six small meals with the same calories – lost more body fat, liver fat, and improved insulin sensitivity.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be eating dinner, as scientists often exaggerate conditions to get measurable results in their studies. But you can likely use the study’s conclusions to make positive changes for your health and weight, as did my client, Mark Indre.
“I lost more than 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years,” said Mark Indre.
Some points to consider…
Does this sound familiar? You get home from work, stressed and ravenous. You head straight for the kitchen, grab a bowl of nuts or a plate of cheese and crackers. You nibble as you’re preparing dinner. After dinner, you settle on the couch, most likely in front of the television, and zone out with some favorite snacks, such as popcorn, chips, nuts, ice cream, peanut butter or sweets—whatever is tasty and easy to grab.
Welcome to the typical American evening! For many people, it’s an endless graze that doesn’t stop until they go to bed.
Evening overeating is an issue that contributes to many peoples’ weight problems. I’ve been surprised at just how many people struggle with this. I used to myself. Even disciplined people who carefully watch their intake during the day break down at night. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard these refrains: “I’m fine during the day, my problem’s at night,” or “If I could control my eating at night, my weight problem would probably disappear…. ”
This is important because more and more research is confirming the importance of eating lighter at night and heavier during the day – for health, not just weight. A recent study published in “Diabetologia” found people who at a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with people with type 2 diabetes who ate 6 small meals – lost body fat and improved insulin sensitivity. This occurred while eating the same calories, just distributed differently.
It’s become clear to me that evening overeating is not just an isolated problem but the convergence of a host of lifestyle issues—stress, exhaustion, loneliness, disorganized eating and hunger.
In today’s fast-paced world, many people are constantly hopping from meeting to meeting or from chore to chore during the day and don’t have time to sit down and eat a decent meal. So we become ravenous. In the evening, there’s more time for eating, so we not only eat larger meals, but continuous ones. Those who are tired or stressed find that food is an easy way to reward themselves at the end of the day. Food can provide a little companionship for the lonely or depressed. Researchers who have identified “night eating syndrome,” the most severe form of evening overeating that affects about five percent of obese people seeking treatment, say it is stress-related.
“We believe it’s a stress disorder which causes people to eat more than one-third of their calories after the evening meal,” says obesity researcher Albert J. Stunkard, who has studied nighttime overeaters since the 1950s and recently co-authored “Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle” (New Harbinger Publications, 2004).
Evening overeating is an important problem to solve because Americans who eat most of their daily intake of food at night eat more overall calories, according to a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition. And that makes them more susceptible to weight problems.
“The late-night period was when the highest-density foods were eaten. Eating a high proportion of daily intake in the late evening, compared to earlier in the day, was associated with higher overall intake,” researcher John M. de Castro concluded in the study, which analyzed food diaries of about 900 men and women.
De Castro, professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso, also found that evening eating was less satisfying for people, which may help explain why they eat more.
“In the evening, you get lower satiety. People tend to eat very large meals but then eat again shortly afterward,” said de Castro.
For those who succumb to nighttime overeating, I recommend you attack this problem by assessing why this may be happening to you and then devising specific personalized strategies for eating lighter at night. Some points to consider:
Breakfast: De Castro’s study found that a “high proportional intake in the morning is associated with low overall daily intake.” This finding confirms my experience of 25+ years: Eating a bigger breakfast is the single most effective way of curbing evening overeating. Other studies have confirmed the importance of breakfast for maintaining weight loss.
I advise my clients to eat one-third of their daily calories in the morning. For most people, that’s at least 600 calories, much more than they’re used to consuming.
While solving other issues such as end-of-day stress, exhaustion and emotional issues are important, too, I’ve found that nothing works unless morning eating is beefed up first. Eating more in the morning is a scary proposition for many people who fear that they’ll continue their evening overeating on top of the bigger breakfast. But my clients who bite the bullet and give it a try are amazed to find that it reduces cravings and gives them a sense of control, so that it is easier to eat more moderately later in the day.
Interestingly, de Castro found that people are more sated with the food they eat in the morning. “If they eat a large breakfast, they’ll wait a long time before eating again. They get a lot of bang for the buck,” says de Castro.
Organized eating: Researchers have found that most people with the more severe “night-eating syndrome” don’t have regular meal and snack times. I have also found this is true for evening overeaters. Most overeating is due simply to undereating throughout the day and poor planning. I hear so many people say “I have no will power,” or “I hate myself because I have no discipline.” But they somehow regain their “discipline” and “will power” by simply planning and eating regular daytime meals and snacks.
That’s why I advocate cooking in large batches and regular grocery shopping so that you have healthy and delicious foods at your fingertips when you get home from work in the evenings.
Trigger foods: Many people who overeat in the evenings have “trigger” foods, specific foods they crave and are more likely to overeat, such as chips, chocolate or peanut butter. The experts find the avoidance of trigger foods can reduce evening overeating.
Assessing hunger: Your body lets you know what it needs. One key to lasting weight management is being in touch with your body and its signals. In the evening, before eating, get rid of distractions, take a few deep breaths and stop to think if you’re physically hungry. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, or if you’re not sure, you shouldn’t eat.
Stress management: Many people overeat in the evenings as a way to cope with the stress and exhaustion they may feel or to reward themselves at the end of a hard day. But this is a self-defeating response to stress or rewards. When you come home, never head straight for the kitchen. Instead, hop in the shower or tub to decompress, take a walk or stretch. Once relaxed, then decide what you’d like for dinner. Better yet, hopefully you’ve already planned your dinner.
Of course, these actions are only possible if you’ve fed yourself properly during the day and you’re not ravenous.
Reducing behavioral associations: Like Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s famous dogs, we can train ourselves to salivate and crave food in connection with just about any activity. Playing cards, eat. Watching a movie, eat. Going to the mall, eat. Talking on the phone, eat. Reading in bed, eat. Watching TV, eat. The experts recommend you eat only when seated at your dining or kitchen table, without distractions, so that you don’t develop an association between eating and any activity, place or person. The only stimulus for eating should be hunger. Distractions tend to reduce inhibitions to overeating.
When to eat: There is no hard-and-fast rule governing the timing of your last meal in the evening. I recommend that evening calories don’t exceed lunch or breakfast calories and that you eat at least two-thirds of your day’s calories before dinner. It’s important to go to bed feeling light, not full. This way, you awake hungry for a big breakfast.
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Have you noticed your weight creeping up this winter? Are you experiencing more cravings than usual, especially for heartier, more fattening foods? Well, take heart. You’re not the only one experiencing “blizzard bloat,” the creeping up of body fat hitting a large number of people during the winter months.
In the animal kingdom, fattening up in winter is critical for survival. Animals overeat to store enough excess fat to survive until spring. The human animal has a similar natural instinct, probably leftover from the days when food was scarce in winter and shivering in the cold caused us to burn our fat stores too quickly, leaving us too thin to survive (aaaah, those were the days!). But now, with temperature control, improved agricultural techniques and a cupcake shop on every corner, that leftover but highly frivolous instinct just causes trouble. Because of modern conveniences, we humans fatten up following the old instincts when we no longer need to!
Though these old instincts are plausible as a cause of winter weight gain, there are more complex—and controllable—causes too. The most important probably involve decreases in both sunlight and physical activity. Together, they can contribute to enough of a calorie imbalance to cause weight gain. Here’s how.
- Sunlight. Some people are particularly susceptible to light deprivation, caused by the decrease in daylight hours during the winter. This affects the neurochemical serotonin, responsible for your mood and appetite, prompting increased food cravings and weight gain.
- Physical Activity. When it’s cold outside, we’re less physically active and cut back on subtle calorie-burning activities such as short walks and light outdoor chores. These caloric expenditures may only add up to about 100 calories per day, but this translates into a 3-4 pound weight gain (or more) during the winter months.
What to do to both improve your mood and curb your cravings?
- Increase exposure to sunlight. Bundle up and go outside to reverse the symptoms of light deprivation. You’ll feel refreshed and less bored, and your appetite may be more controllable. The amount of needed daylight varies for each individual. In general, the more the better. One hour daily in the morning, ideally at sunrise, is most helpful. If you’re not an early bird, several hours on the weekends may help make up for a lack of sun during the week. Some people may benefit from getting daily “light therapy” which would be prescribed by your doctor. Some popular products are from “sunbox.”
- Up your activity level, even just a little. During just one exercise bout, your brain releases feel-good chemicals, called endorphins into your body. These chemicals reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and elevate your mood. If you’re regularly active, these benefits multiply. A brisk 30-minute walk just three times a week relieves major depression just as effectively as an antidepressant in most adults, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Wear a pedometer to keep track of your activity level and to motivate you to get more (I recommend the latest “Omron” models).
- Increase your intake of a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. These low-cal but filling carbohydrates increase serotonin production, helping to regulate mood and appetite. They also help you feel more satisfied for fewer calories, and research shows adding them to a meal could save at least 100 calories (translating to 4 – 5 pounds during the colder months)…some tips:
- To lower the calories and increase the portion size of a favorite recipe, pump up the volume by adding vegetables as often as you can. This way, you can eat your usual portion for fewer calories.
- Choose fresh fruits over dried fruits or juices. For 100 calories, you could eat 1/4 cup of raisins or two cups of grapes. (You’re more likely to fill up on the grapes.)
- Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of broth-based vegetable soup or a big vegetable salad with low-calorie dressing.
- Turn main courses into soups or salads by adding broth or vegetables.
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Do you need Gluten Free? 29% of Americans are trying to avoid gluten… Gluten free food has grown to a $4 billion industry
See me explain how a gluten-free diet may do more harm than good by clicking above or on ABC-7
This article appeared in The Huffington Post
Hear me – and three other experts – discuss “The Gluten-Free Craze” on National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show.
It’s all the rage right now; in fact, you may be thinking of going on a gluten-free diet. Before you do, here are some things to think about:
First, you are likely to miss out on critical nutrients and health benefits only gained with gluten-containing whole grains (see below for the list). Most of those studies you’ve heard about proving the benefits of whole grains have used gluten-containing wheat, America’s (and the Mediterranean Diet’s) staple grain.
Second, a gluten-free diet is a therapeutic diet for those with debilitating celiac disease, a serious auto-immune disorder which virtually destroys the intestinal tract. But celiac only affects about 1% of the population.
Third, the danger of self-diagnosing and taking gluten out of your diet prematurely is that you will would never be able to get an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms. An intestinal biopsy is the only way to detect celiac definitively.
People try a gluten-free diet because they are overweight, feel tired, bloated, and/or depressed, and find reducing gluten correlates with feeling better or losing weight. But that is more likely because they’ve cut out excess calories found in many flour-based snack foods and sweets. They mistakenly attribute feeling better to taking out gluten.
Fourth, gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient, low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, B12, phosphorus, and zinc. That’s because so many “gluten-free” products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories, but very few vitamins and minerals.
The new $4 billion gluten-free industry is taking advantage of Americans’ desperation to feel better and lose weight. There has been an explosion of gluten-free junk foods, which has fueled this trend, and I hope you don’t become a victim.
But I have great news… many clients have thought they might need a gluten-free diet, but when we worked together at improving their nutrition and life balance, symptoms vanished! Perhaps that could be you? If you take the following steps and find you do need a gluten-free diet, it can fill all your nutritional requirements, but only if done CAREFULLY…
Do You Need A Gluten-Free Diet? A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Have a complete check-up with your family physician,
2. Consult with appropriate specialists, such as an allergist for wheat allergy and a gastroenterologist for celiac or another GI disease, A. If you have a wheat allergy, you must avoid wheat, but you do not have to avoid gluten from other grains, B. If you have celiac disease, you must avoid gluten – even the tiniest amounts (you must be eating gluten for the diagnosis to be made),
3. If you do not have a wheat allergy or celiac, visit a registered dietitian to verify that you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrient-dense, naturally fiber-rich foods and adequate physical activity. A healthy diet and lifestyle reduces negative gastrointestinal symptoms, inflammation, boosts the immune system, improves brain function, reduces depression, and anxiety. If you are overweight, lose weight, as body fat can be toxic and produces hormones and pro-inflammatory chemicals which regulate metabolism, the immune system, inflammation, and the progression of artery hardening, so that when you have less body fat, you get many biological benefits, and feel better,
4. If symptoms persist, though in most cases they do not, you may be one of the rare people who are “gluten sensitive.” To confirm the diagnosis, and if a gluten-free diet is absolutely necessary for you – even though a gastroenterologist has verified you do not have celiac disease - visit your gastroenterologist, or the University of Maryland’s “Center for Celiac Research,” where they specialize in, among other things, detecting “gluten sensitivity,” which may be a newly identified disorder.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein in wheat and some other grains, such as rye and barley. A gluten experiment in Food Science at the University of Maryland left a lasting impression on me about the function and importance of gluten. I kneaded bread dough under flowing water. As I kneaded the dough, the starch slowly washed away. What remained was a rubbery mass – the gluten – the protein in wheat which gives bread its structure.
Barley, Bulgur, Cereal Binding, Couscous, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Filler, Farro, Graham Flour, Kamut, Malt, Malt Extract, Malt Flavoring, Malt Syrup, Oats which are not labeled “Gluten-Free” because they have been contaminated by gluten in the field or in the processing plant, Rye, Semolina, Spelt, Triticale, Wheat, Wheat Bran, Wheat Germ, Wheat Starch, and others…
Naturally Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Eat these instead of buying processed “gluten free” foods.* Brown Rice, Whole Corn, Gluten-Free Oats, Millet, Teff, Sorghum, Wild Rice, Buckwheat, Amaranth, and Quinoa.*
WA is an adverse immunologic reaction to wheat proteins, a classic food allergy affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract.**
CD is an immune-mediated enteropathy (intestinal disease) triggered by the ingestion of gluten in susceptible individuals. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual and characterized by a time lag of months or years after gluten introduction.**
When both allergic (WA) and autoimmune mechanisms (CD) have been ruled out (diagnosis by exclusion criteria), individuals who experience distress when ingesting gluten may be considered as having GS, though there is no definitive test for this diagnosis and it has not yet been proven by science that it exhists.* *
** “Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification,” BMC Medicine 2012, 10:13 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-13; Sapone, Bai, Ciacci, Dolinsek, Green, Hadjivassiliou, Kaukinen, Rostami, Sander, Schumann, Ullrich, Villalta, Volta, Catassi, Fasano.
It is critical that you are examined by a gastroenterologist before switching to a Gluten-Free diet. Why? Once you eliminate gluten, it is virtually impossible to diagnose celiac, and the diagnosis of celiac, an extremely serious auto-immune disorder, should be your primary concern.
My Favorite Gluten-Free Guides
“Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide” by Shelley Case, R.D.*
“Easy Gluten-Free” by Tricia Thompson, M.S., R.D. and Marlisa Brown, M.S., R.D.*
“Gluten-Free, Hassle Free” by Marlisa Brown, R.D., C.D.E.*
Anyone giving gluten-free dietary advice should be a registered dietitian, and have the “R.D.” after their name.
Don’t forget, Diet Simple is filled with recipes, including some marked “Gluten-Free!”
Hear me – and three other experts – discuss “The Gluten-Free Craze” on National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show”…
See me explain how a gluten-free diet may do more harm than good by clicking above or on ABC-7
This article appeared in The Huffington Post
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Are you a weather weenie? STOP! That may cause you to gain weight – and feel depressed for lack of sunshine – every winter. Too bad because you don’t have to. With the right clothing (and attitude) you can go outside and play in below freezing temperatures and feel as snug-as-a-bug-in-a -rug. Of course, as a Swede, I learned these tricks of the north long ago. My secret? If the weather is in the twenties or above, well-chosen layers, layers and more layers. Here’s what I mean:
Top and Bottom Layer 1: Tank top and leggings. These are from The Four Seasons Health Club, where I hold lectures and consult.
Top Layer 2: Add a short-sleeved t-shirt. This cotton t-shirt is from the Four Seasons Health Club.
Top Layer 3: Cotton turtleneck from The Gap.
Top Layer 4: A thick, warm hoodie from Athleta, Georgetown.
Bottom Layer 2 atop the leggings: Insulated leggings for men and women from Sportobin.com. These leggings are so soft and warm, you can stop here to protect your bottom half, no matter how cold.
In single digit weather, Top Layer 4: I wear a ski jacket atop the turtleneck and stop there! But in the twenties or above, if you are active walking or exercising, the layers are best, and the ski jacket will make you feel too hot, believe it or not.
Top Layer 5: Cashmere headband from Betsy Fisher, to cover my ears, and a wool scarf and mittens from The Gap. The addition of the Swedish hand-knit wool sweater is for when the weather is in the twenties and low thirties.
Essential: The right shoes for snow, ice and rain: Mephisto insulated, water-proof walking boots from Comfort One Shoe Store, Georgetown. Now I’m ready for my daily 3-mile walk from Georgetown to the Memorial Bridge and back. Gotta keep that body fat down!
Final Layer: A soft, warm robe in front of a roaring fire. This one from the Four Seasons Health Club. Ahhhhhhhh…
Baby, it’s cold outside! But with the right clothing you can go outside and enjoy!
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Want thinner thighs by applying an almond-scented cream? How about eating all you want, yet losing weight by adding a powder to your food? Safe pills which cause weight loss?
Sounds good to me, too! But…
The weight loss industry is exploding with consumers spending $66 billion on weight loss products. Taking advantage of America’s obesity epidemic with false promises and lose-weight-quick schemes, supplement companies are raking in the dollars. I mean, who doesn’t want to lose weight with no effort? Watch my CNN interview on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer for the whole story…
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Living at a spa to lose 3 pounds in a week impractical? Okay, create a “Home Health Spa” by doing the following:
1. Minesweep for Calorie Bombs – Banish any “risky,” fattening or unhealthy foods from the house,
2. Control Your Environment - Stock your home (and office) with delicious, healthy foods, such as the batch recipes from Diet Simple, and Diet Simple Farm to Table, and piles of clean, chopped, ready-to-grab fruit and veggie dishes and snacks, with delicious dips
3. Hit the Ground Running - Start Every Day with Physical Activity. Don’t even think about it! Before checking email, taking phone calls, or applying make-up (I know – I’m horrible!), get out the door for a walk, jump on your home treadmill, go to bootcamp or to the gym. Diet Simple gives you creative ways to increase your physical activity or email Katherine if you need personalized coaching.
4. Eat Breakfast Every Morning – Preferably at home, so you’re not tempted by the bagel-the-size-of-your-head at the office. Skimping on breakfast usually backfires and causes over-eating later. Diet Simple is filled with enticing breakfast ideas … or email Katherine to help you discover that perfect breakfast which will help you control your appetite every day.
5. Eat Light at Night – Soup is ideal for feeling satisfied with fewer calories so you don’t go to bed feeling too full. Wake up hungry for a good breakfast in the morning, Diet Simple and Diet Simple Farm to Table are filled with delicious soup ideas…
6. Eat plenty of yogurt - a Harvard study found people who ate yogurt regularly had lower body weights. A more recent study showed when the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract improves – which is caused by the probiotics in yogurt – it may help you lose weight. I actually have clients who lose weight more quickly and effectively when they include daily yogurt in their diet,
7. Sleep at least 7 to 8 Hours – Sleep disturbances are correlated with weight problems,
8. It Takes A Village - Spend your time with like-minded people and avoid people who will sabotage your goals. This is an important feature of being at a spa which makes it so easy. If your spouse or friends are not on board, it will be difficult to stick with any plan. In Diet Simple, Katherine gives you ideas for handling the people in your life. Or, email Katherine for Personalized Coaching.
The Battle of the Bulge is Won at the Margins. Sweeping Dietary Overhauls are Impractical and Don’t Work Over Time!
Katherine’s Detox Diet to Lose Weight Fast
1. Eat your large, balanced – delicious – breakfast you’ll enjoy (examples in Diet Simple) comprising at least 1/3 of your day’s calories
3. At Lunch and Dinner, eat only lean proteins, fruits and veggies (Yogurt, fruits and veggies are UNLIMITED) until you lose your desired weight!
4. You must build up to at least 12,000 steps per day average, or email Katherine to find creative ways to burn those calories!
This may not be considered a genuine “detoxifying cleanse” but that’s good! It contains real food you can actually chew…Delicious, satisfying, loaded with nutrients and naturally fiber-rich, for natural “cleansing!”
Email Katherine for Your Personalized Detox Diet Plan. Custom-Designing Your Diet Makes Everything Easier and More Enjoyable!