Diets still don’t work, but ….

Diets still don’t work.

 

If you want to make a long lasting, sustainable change to your health, going on a diet is not the solution – they don’t workyoung woman weighs herself.  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 healthy, active lifestylepeople 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 news about diet soda

 

Glass of cola with ice Some good news about diet soda; Pepsi has announced that starting this week, they are releasing a reformulated Diet Pepsi (in the US) that doesn’t contain Aspartame.   The logo and the color of the can are the same, but  “NOW ASPARTAME FREE” is noted in small capital letters across the top of the can.

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.

BEST
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.

Bottom Line
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.

 

Sensitive to Wheat? Maybe you should try Spelt!

Spelt is a grain you should know about.

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 and wheat

Heap of ripe grain feed of wheat as a texture

Wheat berries

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 grain

Spelt berries

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.

 

Questions or comments – use the form below – I’d love to hear from you!

Why I choose organically raised wheat

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.

Golden wheat field with blue sky in background

Golden wheat field with blue sky in background

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.

Is it worth the risk?  Not to me – especially after reading in the Lancet Journal of Oncology that

“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.

 

Why would anyone want this in their food?

Just a short post to point out the continued concerns with glyphosate- the primary chemical in the product Roundup.

Previous postsroundup-display 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 rroundup-ingredientseferenced 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!

 

What is a ketogenic diet?

Recently we’ve looked at liver function and how to keep your liver healthy and the role your liver plays in weight loss, and how that is connected to how your body processes fats, followed by a quick overview of the metabolic process called ketosis.

This now brings us to the subject of ketogenic diets.  Many people will immediately think of the Atkins diet, but there are many other ketogenicdiet 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.

 

 

What is Ketosis?

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.waist line

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.

What we are NOT talking about here is diabetic ketoacidosis.  As defined by the Mayo Clinic:  “Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones..”  In this case the production of ketones runs out of control and causes a buildup in the blood – which can quickly become serious. If you have diabetes, you should understand the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis and seek medical care immediately if you observe any of the warning signs.

More about ketogenic diets in the next post.

 

 

Is there a connection between a healthy liver, diet, and weight loss?

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.

Several diets claim to not only assist with weight loss, but also address some of the symptoms of fatty liver disease – and in some cases reverse the condition.  According to the National Institutes of Health, weight loss is the generally recommended clinical management for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  Some studies have demonsrated improvement of fatty liver disease on a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.

In our next post we’ll begin looking into what a ketogenic diet is, and begin to explore some of the impact on your overall health from making this dietary approach part of your lifestyle.

The importance of healthy liver function

It’s important to briefly touch on the liver before reviewing some of the various dietary approaches to a healthier lifestyle.  Why?  Because your liver is one of the most vital organs in your body, performing dozens of functions – only a handful of which we’ll look at here.  Without your liver you cannot live, and without a healthy liver, you cannot be healthy.

The liver is the largest organ of the body – a few of it’s most important functions are:Liver

  • Helps metabolizes nutrients
  • Detoxifies harmful substances
  • Storage of glycogen for later use
  • Production of bile
  • Helps break down insulin and other hormones
  • Production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
  • Production of ketones

While there are many other important functions of the liver – these are the ones I wanted to focus on as we look at a healthy diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Consider these four important facts regarding your liver:

  1. A healthy liver is important (and necessary) for daily health and living.  Impaired liver function can cause many serious diseases and conditions.
  2. Your lifestyle and diet can have a great effect on the health of your liver and it’s overall function
  3. A healthy liver is *crucial* to the proper metabolism of fats in your diet (especially if you intend to live a low-carb lifestyle)
  4. There are specific dietary and supplement approaches to assist in keeping your liver healthy

Upcoming we’ll look at

  • one specific herbal supplement to aid in healthy liver function
  • the liver’s function in low-carb and very low carb diets
  • some of the benefits of a low-carb diet as a part of a healthy lifestyle
  • some first-hand experiences with a low-carb approach to a healthy diet

 

Have a question or something to add?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t I just need to go by the RDA?

Ask many people about vitamins supplements and they’ll tell you that they get everything they need from the food they eat.  “Besides” they’ll tell you – “I get the RDA (recommended daily allowance of everything I need.”  The unfortunate fact is that you probably don’t get everything you need just from the foods you eat (see Do you need supplements).naturevalley

It’s helpful to start by asking – What is the RDA?  If you’ve looked at the side or back of most packaged food products you’ve seen a label similar to this one:

If you’ve wondered what the RDA is or where it came from – here’s the background, and here’s why it’s probably not a good measure of what your nutrient needs are for optimum nutrition and health.

The RDA is based upon calculations made in 1941 during World War 2.    The RDA was calculated based upon Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) which were the levels estimate in order to meet the basic nutritional needs of 50% of the people  (keep in mind that this was an across-the-board calculation for soldiers, citizens, and people facing food rationing).  While the levels and amounts are reviewed every 10 years or so, even these are designed to meet an average requirement in order to avoid the diseases of deficiency, and to provide basic nutritional needs (not what I would call optimal health).

So what does all this mean to you if you’re seeking to live a healthy lifestyle?

  1. Understand and be in touch with your body and your specific needs
  2. Do your research on what are considered levels for optimum nutrition.
    One excellent source for this is Life Extension Foundation.  Their stated mission is “to help you stay younger and healthier longer … looking for new and better ways to prolong youth, health, life.”  That sounds pretty good to me – most people are interested in staying healthier longer and being able to prolong health – I know I am.
  3. Adjust your lifestyle and diet accordingly.  As I’ve pointed out many times, you should focus on a healthy diet that supports a healthy lifestyle – not on going on a diet.  Remember – diets don’t work.
  4. Add the right foods and supplements to your diet to ensure that you are setting yourself up for optimum health, not just avoiding the diseases that come from nutrient deficiency.

If you are only going by the RDA printed on your processed food packages, I think you are doing yourself a great disservice and not setting yourself up for optimum health.  Remember – these calculations which formed a basis for all this were done during a time of scarcity and in order to avoid nutritional deficiency diseases for an average person with average needs.

In future posts we’ll review so of the specific vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements I believe you should consider adding to your diet to preserve, protect and prolong your health,