Why Are We So Fat?

You’ve heard the statistics – over a third of American adults are obese, and 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. Since 1980 the number of obese adults and children has almost tripled.

So why are we so fat?

In this recent article in Newsweek Gary Taubes argues that there are several reasons the campaign to stop obesity in the country continues to fail.  According to the author:

The conventional wisdom these days—promoted by government, obesity researchers, physicians, and probably your personal trainer as well—is that we get fat because we have too much to eat and not enough reasons to be physically active. The problem is, the solutions this multilevel campaign promotes are the same ones that have been used to fight obesity for a century—and they just haven’t worked.

The author suggests and alternative theory, largely ignored by medical experts, that implicates specific foods—refined sugars and grains—because of their effect on the hormone insulin. According to this theory not all calories are created equal. Our problem is not only controlling our impulses, but also rewriting our beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet.

So what is a “healthy diet”? In this article Mark Hyman M.D. outlines what he calls the last diet you will ever need. He suggests we “unjunk” our diets:

Simply choose foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (olive oil, fish oil, avocado and coconut oil), small amounts of whole grains and beans and lean animal protein including small wild fish, grass fed meat, and farm eggs.

This author argues that if we eat only real food the need for counting calories, points, fat grams etc… all becomes unnecessary because our body is receiving adequate nutrition and we will stop eating once we have had enough.

Sounds pretty simple right? Of course simple is not always easy.

What happens when you are stuck in a meeting and haven’t had anything to eat since your morning coffee? Or you get home from work late, you are tired and your family is screaming for fast food? With a little pre-planning dietary disasters like these can be averted.

I advise my clients to set aside one day a week for meal prep. Make a list and shop the perimeter of the grocery store, starting in produce. Load up on fresh (or frozen) fruits and veggies, meats, eggs and dairy (local, organic, grass fed if possible). When you get home, chop and store (freeze if you need to) your prepped meat and veg. You are much more likely to snack on veggies if they are washed, chopped and sitting on the first shelf of the fridge.

Got a kid who will only eat mac and cheese? Great – make that part of a meal that also includes a big salad or steamed veggies, some protein and fruit. Your picky eater is much more likely to try new foods if he sees everyone else at the table leading by example.

What about the “I don’t have time for breakfast” argument? Could you boil a few eggs (on your meal prep day – see above), peel them and have them ready to go in the morning? Or put together some berries, yogurt and nuts the night before so you can throw your breakfast in your bag on the way out the door. Not into dairy? How’s this for an idea – salad for breakfast? In one container mix leftover protein, or nuts, dried fruit, lentils, leftover steamed veggies and green leafies. In a separate container make a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. When you are ready to eat mix your salad and dressing and enjoy! You have “front loaded” your day with foods that have a high water content, are energy dense, and rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein.

What dietary changes could you make to “unjunk” your diet?

 

The June Five

Who wants sexy summer legs? Shorts weather is just around the corner and these moves are designed to get your gams in shape. Try for one minute of each of these moves a few days this week.

On Friday my courthouse Pilates class got to try out this month’s five and Cindy and Dan were coerced volunteered to model a few of these for me. Check them out doing the Reverse Warrior and Calf Raises below.

 

1) Goddess Pose (Wide Leg Squat):

  • Stand with feet apart, inhale and arms extended overhead.
  • Exhale and bend your knees to sit into a squat as you draw your elbows in and down.
  • Make sure your knees stay right over your ankles.
  • Builds leg and arm strength, hip flexibility.

2) Reverse Warrior:

  • Stand in a lunge (Warrior II) with right foot front, left foot at a 45º angle, hips face the side wall.
  • Stretch your right arm up towards the ceiling, rest left hand on your back leg.
  • Strengthens legs, stretches shoulders and hips.

3) Step Ups:

 

  • Stand in front of a low step or bench.
  • Step right foot up onto the bench, then step back down.  If you have healthy knees try jumping up and back down.  One minute, moving at a pace that feels challenging.
  • Strengthens legs, improves balance.

4) Calf Raises:

  • Stand with feet together.
  • Lift both heels, then slowly lower.  Ten standing on both feet, then lift one foot – ten on each leg.
  • Strengthens calves and ankles, improves balance.

5) Chair Pose:

  • Stand with feet together.
  • Inhale and stretch your arms up towards the ceiling.
  • Exhale and bend your knees as if to sit on a chair behind you.  Hold for one minute.
  • Strengthens legs and back and stretches shoulders.

Can Loosing Sleep Make You Fat?

Raise your hand if you got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night.  I thought so.  If you are typically logging 6 or so hours of sleep each night you are not alone. Between 1960 and 2010, the average night’s sleep for adults in the United States dropped to six and a half hours from more than eight. According to this N.Y. Times article the benefits of a good nights sleep include improved concentration, productivity, mood, immune function and less sensitivity to pain.

Here’s the bad news – loosing sleep can make you fat.

As the average hours American sleep each night has declined our average weight has increased. A 16 year long  Harvard sleep study showed women who slept for 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain and 15% more likely to become obese compared with women who slept 7 hours.

Several factors can affect your shuteye, from medications, your exercise and activity level during the day, stress, diet,  alcohol consumption and the amount of sunlight you receive. What can you do?  Here are some great recommendations for getting a more restful nights sleep.  They include establishing a regular sleep schedule and getting plenty of exercise. If you have trouble turning of your thoughts, to do list etc.. keep a journal and pen by your bed make a quick note about it and let it go.  If you drink coffee have a cup in the morning then cut yourself off.  Love your glass of wine in the evening?  Have one glass with dinner then stop drinking at least an hour before bedtime.

Did you know massage can help you sleep?  I receive (and suggest to my clients) at lease one massage per month.  If you are in need of a more structured movement + massage program call me today and together we will craft a customized exercise, stretching and self care program that will leave you looking and feeling your best!

Ten Tips for Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

I just came across this Huffington Post article on ten tips for staying healthy over the holidays.  Great suggestions!

The author suggests setting realistic goals – say two workouts per week, keeping a food and workout journal to track your success and hold yourself accountable, enlisting a workout buddy, limiting your alcohol consumption, and finding healthy stress management techniques.   What are you doing to stay active and stress free over the holidays?

Looking for some new moves?  Check out this month’s “Fluid Five”.

Five D’s to Avoid Mindless Eating

Do you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry? In this article, “Six Ways to Avoid Mindless Eating,” author Amanda Chan quotes registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. To avoid mindless snacking, Gans suggests the Five D’s: delay, determine, distract, distance, and decide. Wait before you grab that bag of chips. Decide if you are in fact hungry. If not, distract yourself with something else (go for a walk?) or distance yourself from the tempting snack. As you start your day, think about and prepare your snacks and meals so you don’t find yourself starving and at the vending machine or fast-food window.