Posts Tagged ‘cortisol’

Just say “no” to scary foods

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Do hamburgers piled high with bacon, cheese, and more bacon make you queasy?  Are you fundamentally opposed to fried Twinkies?  Does the thought of a donut, cake and frankfurter party platter give you the willies?  Yes? That’s good. That’s very, very good.

We all have our weak moments when a chocolate bar or a basket of French fries is the only thing that will complete us.  But it’s extremely important to temper that kind of scary eating.  We all know that consuming a ton of sugar and fried foods will make us gain an unconscionable amount of weight, thereby potentially creating health problems.

And we can also get quickly accustomed to eating high fat foods, which can make it even harder to get excited about carrots and hummus again.  Our advice?  Only give in to decadent foods on very special occasions.  That way, the food you cook at home, the food you keep in the fridge, and the food you naturally gravitate toward at the supermarket will undoubtedly be healthier and replete with nutrition.

Train your palate to enjoy lean cuts of meat by adding a dry rub, or a tangy marinade.  Encourage yourself to eat more vegetables and fruits by seeking out more creative ways of preparing them.  Splurge on a fancy olive oil and balsamic vinegar set for finishing dishes, or use lemon, lime and a pinch of sea salt to flavor veggies without overpowering them (or adding any extra fat).

With a little creativity and discipline, you can eschew most of the fatty, sugary foods out there.  Leave the really scary eating to the kids on Halloween.  If you’re lucky, they may save you a Butterfinger or Hershey bar.

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know when to say when

Monday, October 11th, 2010

For some, fall means crisp, clean air, beautiful walks through the foliage and a plentiful and delicious Autumn harvest.  But for many, fall instead represents the madness of back-to-school activities, shopping and carpooling, not to mention the crazy fiscal 4th quarter dash to make year-end company goals, all racing toward the hectic holidays and a spanking new year so we can do it all over again.

It’s enough to tire even superwomen out.

So what can you do to help keep calm and centered in the face of utter scheduling chaos?  Make a list.  It sounds simplistic, but it works.  Keep a small notebook in your purse and write tasks and appointments down as you think of them.  You’ll feel better and less stressed out as you cross them off your list.  And if you don’t get to everything, don’t worry. Tomorrow is another day.

Exercise your right to say “no”.  Sometimes in life, we just have to learn when to say when.  Taking on an extra project at work, throwing that dinner party for 12 of your closest friends, and volunteering to help paint sets for the school play may not all fit into your regular (and busy) schedule.  Pick and choose what is most important to you, and let go of the rest.  You will be amazed at how liberating it is not to feel overextended.

Say yes to “me” time.  Even if you can only carve out 2 hours a week to start, do it.  Make that manicure appointment.  Window shop with abandon.  Take that spin class and then a luxurious, candlelight bubble bath.  Go see a first-run movie in the theater, and buy your concession stand favorites.  In other words, quiet your mind and remind yourself that life can be fun, silly, and joyful.  You’ll feel a lot less stressed and better able to handle all of life’s responsibilities.

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Less is Plenty

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I tried something crazy last month.  At first, it was simply impetuous, but now I’ve continued to do it and have actually seen results.  I’m wearing things I had no hope of squeezing into before and feel better than I have in years.

I take my dinner plate, and I cut it in half.  Yep. That’s the secret.  I load up with all the food I think I want and then divide half of it into Tupperware to take to work the next day for lunch.  Not only does this save me roughly $50 a week in lunch costs, but I’ve also lost about 6 pounds with minimal effort.

I don’t feel deprived-I’m eating what everyone else eats for dinner.  But I’m eating less.  And I’ve discovered something fascinating.  Less is actually plenty.

I’m enjoying another unexpected result from this food experiment.  I have more energy.  I no longer experience that stuffed feeling of remorse as I push away from the dining room table, ready for a nap on the couch.  Because the better I feel and look, the less I want to gorge myself.  It’s a very simple concept.

In addition, I feel so good that I find I want to do more to enhance my health.  I am starting to actually look forward to going to the gym-albeit with trashy magazine in hand-and am dedicated to cutting down on the caffeine, alcohol and sugar in general.  My sleep patterns have improved, and frankly, so has my outlook on life.

Sound dramatic?  Maybe.  But it’s working.

Are you ready to find your catalyst for better health?  Try something unexpected and see what happens.  You may just find yourself $200 a month richer and a size or two smaller.

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Our Salad Days

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

The next time you cheerfully chop up avocados, tomatoes, crisp lettuce and anything else you’d put in your “healthy” salad, beware.  Even if you’re using olive oil and not ranch or blue cheese dressing, there are still calories that add up.  For example, a tablespoon of olive oil has about 120 calories.  Not so bad in and of itself, but stop to consider how many tablespoons you are using for a whole salad.  2? 3?

And as much as we LOVE beautiful, creamy avocados, it’s important to think about how caloric they are too.  A medium sized avocado can contain up to 300 calories.  This velvety fruit is a favorite and is considered a “good” fat, full of antioxidants, but again, if you’re trying to cut back on the calories, avocados aren’t going to help you.  Substituting a cucumber, or a few toasted walnuts, shelled edamame, or flavorful herbs like tarragon or basil can liven up any salad without busting the calorie bank.

Or if you must have your avocado and eat it too, add less olive oil, and cut the avocado in half, which not only helps your waistline, but also your pocketbook.

It’s a really wonderful thing to commit to eating more vegetables and consuming fats that are mono-saturated, but remember if you decide to “just eat a salad” for dinner, you might be consuming many more calories than you intended.

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summertime can feel like a “big” deal

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

The birds are singing and the sun is shining brightly.  So why are you feeling down again?  Is it because you can’t squeeze yourself into your bathing suit, no matter how much sun tan oil you slather on?  Or is it that your summer shorts make you feel like a stuffed sausage?

Yep. We’ve been there.

When the hot weather hits and the layers of winter clothes come off, there’s no place to hide.  It’s frustrating we can’t shrug off the extra winter pounds as easily as our heavy overcoats.

However, the great news about summertime is that it stays warmer and lighter in the evenings.  Even if you’re working like the dog days of summer, there’s still enough daylight to take a walk after work, or depending where you live, swim or even hike.

And if you live somewhere really warm, chances are your appetite may be affected.  You may crave things like cold salads for dinner, and choose to eat lighter based upon what your body tells you and not just predilections for certain foods.  You’ll undoubtedly drink more water and other liquids too, which can help fill you up and facilitate weight loss (as long as they’re not too sugary).

Keeping your immune system strong is key.  By eating as healthy as possible, getting plenty of sleep and taking quality supplements, you are providing your body with the fuel it needs to hike, bike, swim and workout.  Beware of insidious summer colds-nothing is more miserable than lying in bed on a beautiful, sunny day.  Strive to stay healthy and active and you’ll be surprised how quickly those shorts and bathing suits magically become the right size for you again.

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quick-change artist

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Ever heard that expression, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”?  I want to tweak that slightly: “the more things stay the same, the less chance they will EVER change.”

The cold, hard fact is this: If we want to change our less-than-stellar health habits, the time is now.  We all have to actually make some sort of concerted effort to do things differently in order to expect different results.

This idea is elementary, I know, but it’s amazing how many of us (myself included) don’t practice what we preach.  Here’s an example:

Last year I noticed that my favorite jeans were becoming harder and harder to button.  I blamed the dryer and the hot water I accidently washed them in one time (months before). Because I didn’t own a scale, I was in relative denial about my gradual weight gain.  I continued to eat my-ahem-nightly bowl of ice cream.  I didn’t have a lot of energy, which lead to me skipping the gym most days.  The less I exercised, the more lethargic I felt and the more I ate (to keep my energy up).  This became a classic vicious cycle.

One day I could no longer deny it and my favorite jeans were banished to the back of my closet, along with the other clothes I couldn’t squeeze into anymore.  That day was my breaking point, my “moment of clarity” if you will.  I forced myself to the gym that afternoon, and most evenings after work.  I stopped eating my beloved ice cream (except on weekends), and tried my best to get enough sleep so I didn’t need to rely on food to enhance my energy.

Everyone has their breaking point, their moment of clarity.  Find yours and then act upon it.  It may take a little while to see some results, but you absolutely will.  Changing your bad habits can ultimately change the course of your health-and life-for the better.  Good luck!

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The Kind of Treat you Don’t Eat

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Are you feeling deprived?  Working hard, running around all day long, trying to exercise and take care of yourself (and everyone else) to the point of absolute exhaustion?  And when you finally have a moment’s peace, you decide that you deserve a treat-something chocolately and gooey no doubt-because you’ve worked so hard and sacrificed for so long.

Maybe that’s not such a good idea.

If you truly are trying to live a healthy and active life, rewarding yourself (and your family) with sweet, fatty, and sugary treats is good for no one.  Aside from the obvious glut of fat and sugar, you are setting a dangerous precedent: food equals reward.

Some people choose food as a reward because it’s cheap.  But I would argue that’s not entirely true.  Healthcare costs are rising, and what about the new wardrobe you’d have to buy after you gain ten pounds from consuming all of the treats you “deserve”?

There is a better way.

Reward yourself and loved ones with a new CD or DVD, a beautiful candle, tickets to a sports event or concert, a pound of gourmet coffee, or even with a massage or pedicure.  Especially if you have kids (or grandkids), this will establish that rewards don’t have to be sugar/fat/food related.

And hey. You could even buy yourself or a loved one some favorite nutritional supplements and give the ultimate reward: Good health!

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The simple life

Monday, April 12th, 2010

If you’re anything like me, your day may go like this:  Get up early (acute torture for we non-morning persons), check email, make coffee/breakfast/lunch/kid’s breakfasts etc. Jump in your car with seconds to spare, fight your way through ungodly traffic to get to work, school, or both, squeeze in errands in between meetings, stay late, commute home, try to get to the gym for 40 minutes, come back home, cook dinner, clean up the dishes, throw a load of laundry haphazardly into the machine, and read to the kids and/or pass out in front of the TV.  Get up the next day and start the whole chaotic process again.

This strikes me as no way to live.

So last week I took one day and experimented; I only did the things I absolutely HAD to do.  I did get up, made coffee and went to work, fighting the commute and arriving (basically) on time.  But I forced myself to eat a sandwich somewhere other than my desk, and eschewed all non-essential errands.  I found that I had time to take a walk in a nearby park, allowing myself to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, if only for my lunch hour.  When I got back to my desk, instead of feeling harried and frenzied, I felt centered and somewhat relaxed.  I continued with this idea throughout the day.  I drove home, changed into casual clothes and took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood.  I did not go to the gym.  With that extra hour, I spent some quality time with my pooch and actually had a chance to talk to a couple of neighbors who were also out and about.  When the rest of the family came home, we all cooked together and turned our collective noses up at the laundry piling high in the utility room.  It felt great.

The point is this: give yourself permission to kick around the dust bunnies.  It’s very noble to try to do it all day after day after day, but it doesn’t make for a particularly happy or enriched life.  So let yourself have a day or two off from the gym, the cooking, the laundry, and anything else non-essential.  You will feel more relaxed, centered and ultimately more productive.  And if all else fails, send the laundry out once a month.  Let someone else do your dirty work.  After all, you have a life!

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Older, Wiser…but not larger

Monday, April 5th, 2010

omega-gel omega-3 fatty acid

As we grow older, it can become increasingly more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  Our metabolism is slower, and we tend to lose muscle mass, if not motivation.  But recent research has shown that something as simple as taking quality vitamins and supplements can help battle obesity.

In two studies, one a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 45 obese non-consumers of supplements participating in a 15-week weight-reducing program, and the second a cross-sectional study involving consumers and non-consumers of vitamin and/or dietary supplements, results indicate that use of dietary and/or vitamin supplements may be associated with lower body weight and reduced appetite. In the cross-sectional study, male consumers of vitamins and/or minerals had lower body weight, fat mass, body mass index, and a tendency for greater resting energy expenditure, compared to men in the placebo group. The results were similar in women, although statistical significance was not reached. In the placebo-controlled study, the participants received an energy-restricted diet along with a placebo (placebo group) or multivitamin and mineral supplement (active group) for 15 weeks. Fasting and postprandial appetite ratings were significantly reduced among women in the active group, compared with the placebo group. Thus, the results of this study suggest that intake of vitamins and/or dietary supplements may play a role in weight reduction and inhibition of appetite.

If we can encourage each other to commit to healthier lifestyle choices like exercising regularly, eating properly, and taking healthy supplements, we can fight back against the hands of time and the extra pounds that can accumulate too!

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Reference: http://www.vitasearch.com/get-clp-summary/36960, “Multivitamin and dietary supplements, body weight and appetite: results from a cross-sectional and a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study,” Major GC, Tremblay A, et al, Br J Nutr, 2007 Nov 1; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Division of Kinesiology, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, G1K 7P4, Canada).

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Veggie Might!

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

womanwithsalad

Do you love cruciferous vegetables?  Are you only truly satisfied when you have a heaping plate of broccoli or bok choy in front of you?  Do you dream of a field full of cauliflower?  Apparently you’re not alone.  It seems that vegetarians may have a leg up on the rest of us as far as overall health.

A recent study conducted on adolescents suggests that those who ate a vegetarian diet were far more likely than non-vegetarians to meet the Healthy People 2010 dietary objectives. They tended to eat less overall fat and saturated fats and, not surprisingly, consumed far more servings of vegetables and fruits compared with their carnivorous counterparts.  The adolescent vegetarians were also less likely to eat fast foods and to indulge in sodas and fruit drinks.

So what does this mean for the rest of us?  Even if you aren’t a vegetarian (or a teenager), you can still adopt some of these healthy habits.  Aim for 3 to 4 servings of vegetables a day.  It’s not as hard as it sounds.  Have a side salad with that sandwich at lunch, and at dinnertime, fill your plate three-quarters full with a variety of veggies, i.e. carrots, salad, squash, peas, asparagus, green beans, or whatever strikes your fancy.  Fill the other quarter of the plate with your protein source.  You will be surprised at how easy it is to embrace good eating patterns as long as you stick to a variety.  Aside from the health benefits, you should also discover a smaller waistline.

Grab a fistful of radishes and that sauté pan.  You are on your way to a healthier you.  And who knows? You might end up liking veggies as much as chocolate.  Okay-maybe almost as much!

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Reference: http://www.vitasearch.com/get-clp-summary/30680, “Adolescent Vegetarians: How Well Do Their Dietary Patterns Meet the Healthy People 2010 Objectives?” Perry CL, McGuire MT, et al, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, May 2002;156:431-437.

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