If you want to make a long lasting, sustainable change to your health, going on a diet is not the solution – they don’t work. The good news though is that diets can help bridge between where you are at now, and a healthier lifestyle. If this seems contradictory, let me explain briefly.
Most people “go on a diet” to accomplish a short term goal (usually to lose some weight – not a bad thing for most Americans, but more about that in another post). The problem comes in when you end the diet. If the goal was just to lose weight, you may or may not meet that goal – but after you stop the diet – what then? Most people either merge back into their old way of eating – or “reward” themselves with desserts and treats and find they end up weighing more than when they started their diet.
Losing weight is not a bad thing, but is it the right goal? I believe that is part of the problem – shooting for the wrong target. Consider weight gain as a symptom of the problem instead of the problem to be targeted.
Start by visualizing the healthy you – what does that look and feel like? Be really specific about how you visualize the healthy you, and remember -It’s not just about weight loss. Even though losing some weight would be good for most Americans, you need to visualize the version of you that you want to be – truly healthy and feeling good. Visualizing the healthy you is the first step to making the lifestyle changes that will help you get there.
Ask yourself what it would be like to get up every day, feeling good, and eager to do things to nourish and care for your body. Many people don’t even remember a day where they “felt really good” – but what if you could make some lifestyle changes that would have you getting up most every day feeling great?
You won’t make lasting changes until you line up your goals and priorities with a specific visualization of a healthy you. Once you do that, you’re ready to start looking at some specific steps to get there. The next few posts will look at a few of the diets that are out there that can help you move toward that goal. I will also give you some specific guidance on some other important lifestyle choices, and how to make these changes stick – so that they can become part of a healthy lifestyle.
GOOD It’s good news that Aspartame is being dropped by Pepsi. Aspartame has been considered by many to be toxic – do a web search yourself for aspartame toxicity or visit websites like SweetPoison.com which “provides a variety of aspartame information.” I highly encourage you to do some research yourself and if nothing else, be aware than there is a lot of controversy surrounding aspartame. I’m personally not interested in taking the risk of consuming it.
BETTER Ditch the diet soda habit.
As noted in previous posts here and elsewhere on the web, diet sodas seem to contribute to obesity and belly fat. There have been numerous studies that link consumption of diet soda to increased weight gain and abdominal fat. For example, a recent study released by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, there is a direct relation between increasing diet soda intake and escalating abdominal obesity. I recommend that you read the studies yourself, cut back on soda, and if you *have to* have a soda, skip the diet drinks and go for one sweetened with real sugar. By the way, as noted in this article in Self Magazine – weight gain is only one of the risks associated with diet soda – many other concerns and questions about diet soda have been raised as well.
Skip the soda altogether.
This is one of the simplest things you can do for yourself to increase your health. You face the choice of either artificial sweeteners and their unknown or unwelcome side effects, empty calories soda sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup or sugar sweetened soda.There are so many other healthier alternatives besides soda – besides, and many studies have indicated Americans don’t drink water, so thats the best alternative.
It’s good news for your health that Pepsi is ditching aspartame. Make it better news by ditching diet soda altogether and enjoying an occasional soda sweetened with real cane sugar. Make the best choice for your body by giving up soda altogether – you won’t miss the calories, and you certainly won’t miss some of the negative effects it can have on your health.
Spelt is very much like wheat with just a few important differences, as a matter of fact spelt IS an ancient form of wheat. For this reason it shares many attributes with wheat, and foods made with spelt are very similar (and taste similar) to those made with wheat.
Spelt enjoyed greater popularity as a grain for several centuries, but was replaced by wheat over the last century for a number of reasons. However, spelt has recently had a resurgence in popularity primarily because of some of it’s healthy attributes.
Spelt has a great taste – although the flavor has been described as a bit nuttier than wheat, spelt is actually very wheat-like in both it’s taste and texture. Spelt has also gained a reputation for being a healthy for grain since it is often raised without the same herbicide load as wheat. Much of the spelt grain and flour found in stores is actually organically raised, eliminating the concerns that go with herbicides, pesticides, and specifically glyphosate (the primary ingredient in Roundup).
You can now find a variety of spelt flours and spelt products (bread, crackers, rolls, etc) in many of the mainstream grocery stores, not just in specialty or health food stores. Nutritional content and calorie count are very similar to wheat.
It’s important to note that spelt does contain gluten, but many people who have troubles when eating wheat do not have the same problems with spelt. This may be because of the way the spelt grain has remained largely unchanged for so long, or due to differences in farming practices. As noted previously, glyphosate (Roundup) is sometimes applied to wheat before harvest (though wheat treated this way is never labeled as such, and may be included in the flour or wheat based products you purchase). This is not the case with Spelt and may account for the differences in digestive problems or gut irritation. Find out more about spelt and consider trying some spelt products yourself. I personally bake all of my recipes that call for wheat flour with at least a partial blend of spelt flour.
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Wheat has come up in discussion recently in some conversations about diet, carbs, etc. Although I limit the amount of carbs in my diet, I have not eliminated wheat from my diet. BUT – I have done my best to limit myself to organically raised wheat.
I do this for several reasons, but the main reason I want to focus on now is glyphosate.
Glyphosate is the primary active ingredient found in the herbicide Roundup from Monsanto. You can do the research yourself and decide what you are willing to consume, but I made the choice to avoid foods raised with or deliberatly exposed to glyphosate – See more at: http://wp.me/p3m5tK-cI
Why mention glyphosate in a conversation about wheat? Because it is one of the chemicals sometimes applied to wheat before harvest. While there is not currently a “Roundup Ready” wheat on the market or approved for human consumption as of 2015, Roundup is used on wheat to get fields of wheat uniformly ready for harvest. It does this by killing the wheat plant and causing the kernels to be at the same stage of readiness for harvest.
Which non-organic wheat is treated this way? Might glyphosate residue be in your flour? Hard to know for sure, unless you using organic flour or products made from organic wheat. Organic wheat cannot be raised with or treated with glyphosate.
“Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro”. I’d prefer to play it safe and stick with organic foods – in this case organic wheat.
One last note – it’s interesting that some people find that their wheat sensitivity goes away when they use organic wheat. Have you had this experience or do you know someone who has? If so, I’d like to hear from you – use the form below to share your results.
Just a short post to point out the continued concerns with glyphosate- the primary chemical in the product Roundup.
Previous posts have pointed out some of the concerns about pesticide and herbicide residue in food and feedstock items.
Unfortunately, this has not changed – and recent articles and studies underscore this concern. A recent article on the website of the Independent – a British newspaper – contained the headline: “Scientists urge caution over experts’ claims pesticide is ‘probably’ carcinogenic”.
It goes on to reference a report from The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – a the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization. What stands out to me is the statement: ” The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is that the herbicide glyphosate is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Take the time to read the linked articles and studies for yourself.
In my mind, the information that there is a probable link to cancer from this substance and as referenced in the Lancet Journal of Oncology – “Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro”. Yikes!
I’d rather not ingest anything that damages might damage my dna or chromosomes, or is “probably carcinogenic”. If you’re concerned about herbicide residue in food, or this type of potential damage to your body, I’d urge you to do the same. Next up – how to avoid exposing yourself to glyphosate (think organic).
Questions? Comments? Use the form below – I’d love to hear from you!
A recent question comes from Dan: “I’ve been wondering – is iced tea alright? Is it ok to drink, or is it not healthy?
The answer is pretty straightforward, with a couple of qualifiers up front.
Avoid sweetened tea – it’s an extra source of sugar at best, artificial sweeteners (which should be avoided) at worst. If you *must* drink sweetened tea, go for a natural sweetener like sugar or stevia or xylitol – but you’re best off avoiding the sweeteners.
Go for brewed iced tea – better flavor and more flavonoids and corresponding health benefits
(see the linked USDA database for flavonoid content and compare for yourself)
With these in mind, have that glass of iced tea, have two or three. Make sure you include plenty of water as part of your healthy lifestyle, but don’t worry about having several glasses of tea as well.
You can also add a squeeze of lemon for an added healthy zing
In addition to flavonoids, tea is a source of a few important minerals including potassium and manganese.
So while its not, or even if it’s not – enjoy a big glass of guilt free iced tea – not only is it ok, it can help you replace other unhealthy elements of your diet and help you move toward a healthier diet and lifestyle.
This now brings us to the subject of ketogenic diets. Many people will immediately think of the Atkins diet, but there are many other diet plans besides Atkins that based on ketosis. One of my personal favorites is the Southbeach diet. I like the description as noted by USA Today in a recent article, it emphasizes “…avoiding carbs like pasta and potatoes and eating the right carbs” and helps you choose the “right kinds of fats” but doesn’t worry as much about limiting fats. I do think it’s important to point out that none of these diets will work well at producing lasting results if you don’t change your lifestyle. As previous posts have pointed out, diets don’t work. Only lifestyle changes will work to produce sustainable lifelong changes in health (and weight).
There are *many* diets out there that base themselves on some of these same principles, even if they don’t label themselves as ketogenic – they work because of the metabolic effects that come about when you restrict carbs and when your diet includes higher levels of (healthy) fats. In future posts we’ll look at some of the differences in these diets and dive a little deeper into more specifics on metabolism and the factors that some of the hormones related to digestion play in all this.
To understand what ketosis is, it’s helpful to do a quick review of how our bodies are fueled.
While it’s true that we are fueled by the food we eat – it’s what kind of food and what happens to it that makes the difference as to what fuel your body primarily utilizes for energy. It’s not just in the stomach (or small intestine) that all of this takes place – that’s why the last few posts have looked at the liver
So when your food is broken down, you end up with two fuels for our body – sugar or fat; all food ends up being processed and fuels our cells with either sugar or fat. The aspect of the liver’s function I want to focus on here relates to the processing of fats – specifically the process known as ketosis.
On a typical western diet, you end up taking in enough starches and sugars that your body primarily ends up being fueled with sugar. (Remember that all food ends up being broken down into sugars and fats). Your body has a natural tendency to utilize sugar first, and as long as there is an adequate supply (there’s too much in the typical western diet!), your body will use sugar as fuel.
When a person limits their intake of carbohydrates (sugars, starches and foods with higher sugar and/or starch levels) below a certain threshold, their body will go through a process to switch over to using fats for fuels. This process is called lypolysis. Many fats are just “too big” to be used, and so have to be broken down in a process called that breaks them apart into smaller chunks that can be utilized by the body for fuel – ketones (technically called ketone bodies) are produced as a result.
These ketones are able to be burned as fuel by both muscles and brain – and this is ketosis. A ketogenic diet is simply a diet where carbohydrate intake is limited in order to promote the production of ketones and the burning of fat as your primary source of energy.
You bet there is! That’s why we’ve been looking at liver function, and how to support and maintain a healthy liver in the last two blog postings. As stated previously – without your liver you cannot live, and without a healthy liver, you cannot be healthy. I’ll add to that by stating that an unhealthy diet will result in an unhealthy liver – making it all the more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
One of the major aspects of nutrition and diet that is important is the amount of fat in your diet. Whether it is a greater portion or a lesser portion – either way it’s important to be able to efficiently process fats in order to get the proper nutrition, energy and vitamins that fats contain, and just to properly process the fats in one’s diet. An unhealthy liver can also play a part in a number of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Fatty liver disease and gallstones are two of the examples of results of complications from unhealthy conditions which then ripple through to other effects on your health.
This post is really about the second best way to help your liver.
As mentioned previously – your liver is one of your major organs – it is impossible for you to have excellent health if you don’t have a healthy liver. As mentioned previously, your liver performs an array of functions that are crucial to your overall health and the proper functioning of your body; not the least of which is removing toxins from your body. And if you have any hope of properly metabolizing fats (and the associated fat vitamins) as well as other nutrients – you need to have a healthy liver.
So what is the best way to protect your liver? The simple answer is avoid toxins. The not-so-simple part of that is thinking about the air, food, water, and other things you consume and that you come in contact with that add to your toxin load. There are many substances people are now exposed to on a daily basis that our bodies were never exposed to in the past and that put a heavy toll on your body – and on the liver itself. We’ll look at ways to avoid toxins in future posts – but given this, what can you do to help your liver?
There are a number of foods that can assist in healthy liver function – in an upcoming post I’ll detail a few of those. However there is an herbal supplement you can take that will help with healthy liver function and can help detoxify or rebuild your liver: milk thistle. I recommend the her Milk Thistle as a part of a healthy lifestyle to keep your liver in good shape and help it deal with the daily load of toxins it deals with for you.
There are three reasons you should add Milk Thistle to your daily supplement regimen:
Milk Thistle has a long reputation as a liver aid For thousand of years people have used Milk Thistle to revitalize the liver, to aid in it’s detoxification, and to help with the flow of bile (crucial to the proper utilization of fats and fat based vitamins). It has had and continues to have this reputation because it does work.
Milk Thistle contains the substance Silymarin -a highly active antioxidant that contains silibinins and other related compounds. This potent substance is known to have a very positive effect on the liver, on toxicity in the body in general, and a strong antioxidant in it’s own right.
Milk Thistle has a growing reputation as having positive effects on a number of other health issues including high cholesterol, dermatitis, and a protective effect against a number of cancers.
I personally recommend Milk Thistle extract available from Life Extension. This formulation is high quality and has a good reputation. In addition, I hold Life Extension in high regard for their research into healthful living and ways to increase/maintain good health.
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