Samantha and I are in privileged company this week – we’re looking forward to a guest post from Louis Ignarro Ph.D, Nobel Laureate*, consultant to Herbalife and member of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute Nutrition Advisory Board, in which he’ll describe the impact of a healthy, active lifestyle on heart health. A healthy diet is, as Dr. Ignarro says, “as good for your heart as it is for your taste buds.”
I couldn’t have said it better. But what I often run into with my patients is that it’s one thing to know what to eat – and why (okay, that’s two things…) – but they often get hung up figuring out how to incorporate more healthy foods into their diet. So let’s take a good look at the key “whats”, “whys” and – more importantly – the “how tos” of a heart healthy diet.
An occasional indulgence isn’t really cheating – especially if you’ve planned for it.
Cheating – on your taxes, on a test, on your partner – is just plain wrong. And chances are, even if you were to consider cheating, you probably wouldn’t ask for permission from your accountant or your teacher…or your mate. So why are people always asking me if it’s “okay to cheat” on their diet? Does it feel “good” to be “bad”? Do they want to place the blame on my shoulders if their cheating doesn’t lead to weight loss? Or are they simply saying, “I just can’t be this strict with myself every single day – I need a break!”
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Want to change your diet behavior? Break through these diet barriers first! Getting out of your usual comfortable routine is hard and the first step is figuring out why you’re resisting change in the first place.
When my son turned 5 years old, we had an “inside-out, upside down, backwards” birthday party for him. We handed his friends their goodie bags and waved goodbye as soon as they arrived at the house, and we ate cake and ice cream before the pizza. The parents had a lot of laughs, but the kids were totally bewildered – in no small part, I’m sure, because we were also wearing our underwear over our clothes. So why am I telling you this? Because sometimes when I’m talking to clients about the lifestyle changes they need to work on, I see that same bewilderment – as if I’m suddenly turning their world inside-out, upside down and backwards. Why is change so hard for some people?
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I am always talking about squeezing in a quick workout because it’s amazing how effective a short bout of strength or cardiovascular exercise can be.
My top three reasons for making time for a 10 minute workout:
1. When I feel stressed, a 10 minute workout gives me an instant boost of energy and helps me refocus.
2. Like everyone, I’m often rushing and I find a 10 minute workout is enough exercise to help me not feel guilty about missing my regular routine.
3. 10 minute workouts can deliver surprisingly effective results, quickly.
It’s always better to do some exercise instead of no exercise. When you’re feeling busy and stressed, promise yourself that you’ll manage at least 10 minutes even if you can’t find time for a longer workout session.
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What happens if one person needs to diet and the other one doesn’t? This week, I’ll look at how couples can support each other throughout a lifestyle change.
Do you remember the old nursery rhyme about Jack Sprat who ate no fat, while his wife “could eat no lean”? As the tale goes, things with Jack and his wife worked out pretty nicely – he ate his foods, she ate hers – and between them, they “licked the platter clean”. But what happens in real life? How do couples work it out when one person needs to lose weight and the other one doesn’t?
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People have different reasons for wanting to shape up – finding out what motivates you can help you stay on track.
There’s no doubt about it – change is hard. I frequently tell my clients that my job is much easier than theirs – my role is to advise them on how to eat better, while they’ve got the more difficult task of having to actually do it. But my job doesn’t stop at simply handing out advice – I also try to help people find what it is that will motivate them to make changes. And the reasons are all over the map. For some, just the goal of getting healthier is all it takes to kick start the process. On the other hand, that probably won’t motivate the ones who tell me (and I’ve heard this more times than I can count), “I’m perfectly healthy, I’m just fat.” Read more »
I’ll never forget a patient I had many years ago. I was taking a diet history from her, and asked her what she usually ate in the morning. “Oh, just some tea, and bread with jam”. For lunch? “Another cup of tea, and bread with jam.” Same for her afternoon snack. And the same for dinner, too – except she’d add a piece of grilled chicken. She knew how to cook, and she told me that finances weren’t an issue. So why such a limited diet? “Well,” she said, “I just really like bread with jam.” Read more »
Last week, I had a conversation that I’ve probably had hundreds of times in my career. A new client came in for weight loss counseling and, as I was taking his diet history, I asked my usual first question – “when do you first start eating, and what do you typically eat and drink in a day?” Like most people, he assumed that I was asking about a weekday, so he had little trouble providing a quick rundown of his usual meals and snacks on a typical Monday through Friday. But when I asked, “do you eat differently on the weekends?” he responded with a groan.
“I try to be good during the week, but by Friday night, I just want to let go. I spend most of my weekend on the couch, and I hate getting on the scale on Monday morning.”
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We make more than 250 decisions about food every single day. Every time you open the refrigerator, watch a TV commercial, eye a billboard, or observe a friend or co-worker eating – in every instance, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re making a decision to eat or not to eat. But what sways us to choose or not to choose? Is it taste or hunger? Cost or convenience? How or where we were raised? With so many factors that influence our food choices, it’s a wonder that we ever eat consistently at all.
For most of us, by the time we’ve reached adulthood, we’ve established a pretty basic inventory of foods that we eat day in and day out. Sure, you might arrange them differently into a variety of meals and snacks, or mix it up occasionally at a restaurant – but I’ll bet if I asked you what you typically eat, you could probably give me a fairly good picture of your usual diet.
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The occasional stressful event – like a car that won’t start, or a refrigerator on the blink – is a part of life. And when stuff like this happens, we do get stressed a little bit – it’s the body’s way of helping us to focus so we can tackle the problem. Getting stressed out occasionally is one thing, but when stress becomes chronic – when we face, for instance, unrelenting work demands or constantly worry about our finances – it can really take a toll on the body.
The body’s natural response to stress leads us to feel a little more ‘on’ and alert. We evolved this ‘fight or flight response’ as a way to defend ourselves against a sudden danger or threat. But when this stress response is turned on all the time, it can tax the body’s immune system, making it more difficult for us to ward off disease. And since a healthy immune system depends on a nutrient-rich diet, being well-nourished is one of the best defenses against illness, particularly during times of ongoing stress.
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I was teaching a class, and a student dismissed the health benefits of fruit because, as she put it, “it’s full of sugar”. You won’t be surprised to hear this wasn’t the first time I’d heard this ‘sugar in fruit = bad’ idea.
This thought that fruit is somehow a bad thing to eat came into full swing with the low carb diet craze a few years ago. But the myth persists. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear someone tell me that they avoid fruit because it’s “all sugar” or “loaded with carbs”. So, I’m here to set the record straight and come to the defense of some of the world’s healthiest foods – fresh, whole fruits.
Now that we’re a month into the New Year, it’s a good time to assess how those New Year’s resolutions are going. Are your old eating habits sneaking back up on you? Maybe you tried to take on too many changes at once, or you set unrealistic goals or the scale isn’t moving as quickly as you’d like. Maybe a shift in focus is in order. Rather than trying to tackle everything at once, think about a few small changes that you’re confident you can make right away, even today. That way, you’ll build on each small success – and rebuild a healthier diet step by step.
A few small changes over the course of the day really can make a huge difference in the overall quality of your diet. Think about your typical diet – the foods you eat day in and day out – and target just one change. Just ditching soda in favor of water at one meal, for example, can cut at least 150 calories and about 10 teaspoons of sugar out of your day.
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Every once in a while, I’ll do a ‘two for one special’ counseling session – usually it’s a couple who have decided to make a joint effort to lose weight and get in shape. For the most part, it’s a great idea – after all, it’s so much easier to eat right and exercise regularly when your partner vows to do the same. But men and women are wired a bit differently– and couples may be surprised to find that they don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to tackling weight loss.
Recently, Herbalife conducted a nationwide survey* of 1000 men and women to find out what motivates them to shed excess flab. And the gender gap was clearly evident. For women, it was all about appearance – nearly 40% said that when they “don’t like the way I look”, it’s time to get serious. But for men, “not feeling healthy” ranked much higher in driving them to take action.
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Generally, this isn’t the time of year that most people are watching their weight – because if they were, they’d probably be watching it go up. But you’d be surprised. It’s not unusual for people to call me in a panic mid-December – realizing they’ve got a big New Year’s eve event coming up – and wondering what they can realistically accomplish in a couple of weeks. Of course, this comes up at other times of the year, too. An upcoming wedding, a cruise or a graduation – all can spark the question: How much can I lose in a couple of weeks?
Let me start by saying that there’s no simple answer that applies to everyone. For one thing, a lot depends on a person’s starting weight. The larger a person is, the more calories it takes for them to maintain their weight. So heavier people can cut their usual calorie intake back quite a bit, and will usually lose more weight in two weeks than a smaller person will.
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When we hear that an individual is malnourished, most of us would picture someone who’s starving – a wisp of a person who appears to be simply wasting away. Certainly, people who lack adequate nutrients and calories are malnourished, but malnutrition can exist even when calories are plentiful – it just requires too much food with little nutritional value. So here’s a new word for your vocabulary: “malnubesity”. A merger of malnutrition and obesity sounds like a conflict in terms, but, in fact, malnubesity is real – many of us are overfat and undernourished.
How did we get here? We need to look at our evolutionary history for an explanation. Our prehistoric ancestors needed to eat a lot of food in order to meet their calorie needs. For one thing, they were extremely active – burning thousands of calories a day in their constant quest for food. And, their plant-rich diet didn’t have abundant sources of concentrated calories – think added fats and sugars – like we do today.
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