Tag Archive | Weight Loss

Caffeine…things that make you go “hmmm”

As you may have gathered by now, I love coffee. I love the smell, the taste, the ritual of drinking it in the morning. I love coffee shops, getting together with friends or a date for hot cup of java. So why bother with a coffee substitute when the real thing tastes so good?

Well, there’s a lot of debate out there about whether or not coffee is healthy for you. Especially in the abundance we Americans (especially New Yorkers ;-)) drink on the daily. Processed mainly through the liver, caffeine has a relatively short half-life. This means it takes about five to seven hours, on average, to eliminate half of it from your body. So if you’re having 2 cups in the morning and one in the afternoon, that’s almost like being (at least mildly) caffeinated round the clock.

Renowned physician Dr. Mark Hyman wrote a detailed article on the ways that caffeine (cumulatively and in excess) could have a negative impact on one’s health:

  • The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response triggers cortisol and increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy.

  • Habituation to caffeine decreases insulin sensitivity, making it difficult for your cells to respond appropriately to blood sugar. High blood sugar levels lead to arterial deterioration and increased risk of mortality related to cardiovascular disease.

  • Unfiltered coffee has the highest amount of beneficial antioxidants yet also leaks the most diterpenes into your system. These diterpenes have been linked to higher levels of triglycerides, LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and VLDL levels.

  • The helpful chlorogenic acids which may delay glucose absorption in the intestine have also been shown to increase homocysteine levels- an indicator for increased risk of cardiovascular disease which tends to be elevated in diabesity.

  • The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, GERD and dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora).

  • Addiction is often an issue with coffee drinkers and makes it really difficult to rely on the body’s natural source of energy. Ask any coffee drinker about how it feels to withdraw from coffee, and you will mistake their story for that of a drug addict’s…

  • Associative addictions trend with coffee – who doesn’t immediately think of warm, frothy sweet cream and sugar when they picture coffee? Surely the business of coffee has inspired a culture addicted to the sugary, fatty tastes of what has become more of a meal then a drink…Enter the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte

  • 5-HIA, an organic acid and component of the neurotransmitter serotonin (the happy chemical) seen in the urine tends to be elevated in coffee drinkers which means they may be at risk for lower levels of serotonin synthesis in the brain. Serotonin is necessary for normal sleep, bowel function, mood, and energy levels. It is a vicious cycle as caffeine can disrupt sleep and promote anxiety and depression.

  • Elevated urinary excretion of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium have been noted in coffee drinkers. An imbalance in your electrolyte status can lead to serious systemic complications.

  • Constituents in coffee can interfere with normal drug metabolism and detoxification in the liver making it difficult to regulate the normal detoxification process in the liver. Another issue to be aware of with coffee intake is how certain medications such as levothyroxine (thyroid) as well as tricyclic antidepressants are poorly absorbed, making symptoms curiously worse for patients.

Now, I like a caffeine buzz as much as the next person, but I have questioned whether or not my daily coffee consumption is helpful or harmful. Especially when I’ve read information like what Dr. Hyman and other health professionals have said about too much caffeine. I don’t think caffeine is the worst thing I could put in my body, but I certainly file this information under “things that make you go hmmmm.”

So what’s a coffee-lover to do? As I mentioned, I love so much about the coffee drinking experience.  Decaf coffee is over-processed and, in my opinion, just gross; and hot tea doesn’t cut the mustard…But I’d love to find something that I could substitute even if just here and there to drink less caffeine over all.

What if there was something out there that tasted like coffee and still gave you the energy boost but without the caffeine crash and the negative effects like insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, etc??

I know it sounds too good to be true…but I searched high and low and much to my surprise (and excitement!) I found such a product!! Stay tuned, because a writeup and review of this delightful drink will be coming very soon 🙂

Ciao for now!

-E

Liquid Armor Coffee

The time has come for me to post the much anticipated (at least I’d like to think so) recipe for my delicious, and relatively nutritious, Liquid Armor Coffee!!  As I mentioned previously, this is my modified take on the over-hyped BulletProof ® coffee that has Paleo enthusiasts, cross fitters, and even just us regular folks who love a tasty cup of joe, going crazy and jumping on the buttered/oiled coffee bandwagon.

So, in case you haven’t come across the heavily promoted (and in my opinion, overpriced) recipe for this coffee that will, metaphorically, protect you from being pumped full of encapsulated explosives…here’s the scoop. Basically, you need to buy the coffee that that the BulletProof® head honcho endorses. It’s around $20 for a 12 oz bag because it’s organic and low in mytotoxins, which supposedly will make you feel better than any coffee you’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about paying extra for healthy foods if it’s going to make a significant difference, but to be honest, the coffee I buy for $6 to $8 at Trader Joe’s tastes great and makes me feel pretty darn good, and who’s to say what level of mytotoxins is in your average cup of coffee, particularly if you buy organic. That said, I will at least give credit to the Bulletproof site for mentioning tips to finding the highest performance coffee in your city if you don’t want to pay for the stuff they market on their site.

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Can you tell I love this place? haha

Anyway, the special, pricey beans are part of the deal…another ingredient you “need” is a special MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides…just scientific jargon for healthy fats) that is supposedly 6x stronger than coconut oil.  Well, at $30 for a 32 oz bottle, it’s also about 6 times more expensive than the organic, deliciously flavorful coconut oil I get at old reliable Trader Joe’s. Coconut oil is loaded with health benefits all on its own, …so I personally don’t think it’s worth the upgrade.

And lastly, the original recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee. I’ve tried my Liquid Armor using both options (unsalted butter & ghee) and I didn’t care for it. I prefer mine with straight up coconut oil, but you’re welcome to experiment and find what you like.

Now for the big reveal…my Liquid Armor Coffee Recipe!

What you’ll need:

1-2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil (can use 1 Tbsp coconut oil & 1 Tbsp unsalted butter or ghee, but I prefer just coconut oil)
8 oz freshly brewed coffee (use filtered water and, ideally a French Press, but I usually just use a regular drip coffee pot and mine tastes delicious)
Blender (I use NutriBullet)

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I always use this coconut oil, and this is one of my favorites of Trader Joe’s coffee.

The instructions are very simple:

1. Brew coffee and add to blender (yes, while hot)
2. Plop in coconut oil (and, if you would like to try it, unsalted butter or ghee)*

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Steps 1 + 2…. I know what you’re thinking…Oil? In my coffee??? But what about my milk? creamer? How will I get it the right caramel-y color??

3. Blend 20-30 seconds until frothy.
Just a tip that with the NutriBullet, sometimes the cap feels stuck after you turn it over. I think it’s a combo of heat and pressure buildup while blending. I find that turning the blender over (lid facing up) and letting it set for 30    seconds or so before opening usually does the trick!

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It will turn a lovely, creamy caramel color…and check out that foam!! 🙂 ❤

4. Pour into your favorite mug/to-go cup and enjoy an awesome tasting cup of coffee with latte-like foam that will make you feel satisfied, focused, and energized 🙂

And there you have it!

Trust me, I was skeptical myself…but now that I’ve made it, I’m hooked. It’s so delicious, natural, and satisfying, but you’ll never know unless you try it. Don’t worry, you can always go back to using the Almond Milk Creamer you just made from my recipe, but this offers a decadent and healthy variation 😉  *You can also add in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or sugar (I like brown or coconut sugar), but try it first as is because it’s so yummy, you probably won’t even want to mess with it.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your blender, give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

Ciao for now,

-E

Hot, Or Not?

Alright! Well, time to update you guys on my progress now that I’m on day 10 of my coconut oil experiment…If you read my last post, you’ll remember that I mentioned suspecting that I have a sluggish metabolism/under-active thyroid, and that I’ve noticde my body temperature is consistently a bit low (no higher than 97.1).

So, for the past week and a half, I’ve added 1-2 tablespoons of organic, virgin coconut oil to my diet. Specifically, I’ve been using Trader Joe’s brand:

Now, let me start by telling you, as a reformed restrictive dieter, I never imagined I’d be downing tablespoons of high-fat, high calorie OIL. But, as I touched upon in last week’s post, all oils are not created equal, and organic, unrefined coconut oil is supposed to have many, many benefits. That being said, I’ve been eating this stuff every which way for the past 10 days: stirred into my coffee, for cooking, spread onto fruit, and even straight up on a spoon (don’t knock it ’til you try it…it’s actually really yummy!).  As a side note, I didn’t eat the coconut oil at any specific times, just whenever I could incorporate it into my day.

Before I tell you about changes I’ve noticed, I’ll also mention that since starting my coconut oil study, I’ve also been very strict with staying gluten-free. I know I have a sensitivity to gluten, but I’ve been kind of lax in sticking to a gluten-free diet. I just wanted to mention this, as I’m sure it contributed to some of the positive changes you’re about to read…

Okay, enough with the teasers…I know you’re probably anxious to read some results!

Here goes:

  • Less food cravings overall, especially sweets and between-meal snacks
  • Improved digestion (less bloating/flatter stomach, and much more…regular)
  • Noticeably clearer skin (I was getting breakouts on my upper back and chest that virtually disappeared)
  • AND I took my temperature this morning, and it was 97.9 (still not 98.6, but up significantly from 97.1)

All in all, I must say, I feel pretty great!  And definitely great enough to continue with the coconut oil and sticking to a gluten-free diet. I’m curious about what another week will do for the body temperature, so I’m going to go ahead and monitor results for another update next week. Stay tuned!

Ciao for now,

-E

Time to Heat Things Up!

So I’ve noticed for a while now that I’m consistently not reaching a high enough body temperature (I’m usually at about 97.1), and noticing symptoms like cold hands and feet, sluggishness, and joint aches. The low body temp especially surprises me because I eat plenty of protein and have gained a fair amount of muscle mass over the past few months, but still, that body temp won’t budge. Though I’ve been tested in the past and been told I’m within normal limits, I’m quite certain that an under-active thyroid is the culprit.

coconut oil weight loss metabolismSource

I have heard a lot of buzz about eating Coconut Oil to help boost metabolism and body temperature and came across some information by Ray Peat, a biologist specializing in metabolic function and repairing hypothyroidism. In addition to some other suggestions, Peat recommends eating coconut oil (at least a tablespoon a day) to help boost overall metabolism.

This makes sense because, as referenced in an article on Natural News:coconut_spr03_310

  • Coconut oil slows down the digestion of food, which helps you feel fuller after a meal. Many people notice that after adding coconut oil to their diet, they are less prone to snacking.
  • Because it slows digestion, coconut oil also helps prevent blood sugar fluctuations after a meal by slowing the rate carbohydrates are broken down into blood glucose.
  • The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil destroy candida, a condition of yeast overgrowth in the body which triggers symptoms of weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue and many others. Eliminating candida is an important part of achieving permanent weight loss.
  • Coconut oil is excellent for detoxification. It cleanses the body of many infirmities, balances the digestive tract and nourishes all cells in the body. These benefits restore your health and pave the way for natural weight loss.

The article goes on to mention that:

One study examined the effect of medium-chain fatty acids on metabolism. Participants’ metabolism was evaluated before and after a meal rich in these fats. On average, metabolism increased by 48 percent. In obese individuals, the increase was as high as an astounding 65 percent. Studies have shown this thermogenic effect can last for 24 hours.

And a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that medium-chain fatty acids were three times more effective at raising the metabolism than long-chain fatty acids. Researchers concluded that replacing long-chain fatty acids with medium-chain fatty acids was an effective method for weight loss. Another study from the same journal showed that eating medium-chain fatty acids increases metabolism and also helps burn off stored fat.

And today, stumbled on a little gem by Miss Butter Believer who shared that was able to raise her body temperature by a full degree in less than a week by adding coconut oil to her daily diet!
With all of this information, I’m willing to give this a try to see what happens. Starting today, I will consume 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day and see what happens. I love a good self-experiment!!
Check back for an update in next week’s post!
Ciao for now,
-E

Want a Fast Metabolism? Avoid “Starvation Mode!”

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a fantastic start!  I’ve seen lots of new faces at my gym and hope that they can keep themselves motivated for some healthy lifestyle changes in 2014!  Weight loss, fat loss, healthier eating, and getting in better shape are often at the top of many lists of resolutions. The problem though, is that there is overwhelming and conflicting information on how best to achieve these goals. Given my professional background and personal experiences, I often have many people reach out to me for tips, tricks, and recommendations…and I’m always happy to share what I know.  One of my ongoing pleas to those who ask me (and even to those who don’t), is PLEASE DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF!!  And by starve, I don’t just mean stop eating…I also mean UNDEReating.  I’ve written before about how eating less food can cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy, and I recently found an article by integrative physician, Jade Teta where this process is explained both simply and thoroughly.

In the article, Dr. Teta discusses “starvation mode” (aka adaptive thermogenesis), which is the body’s natural protective mechanism developed through millions of years of evolution to keep you from starving when food was something you had to work to get. Rather than trying to paraphrase this awesomely well-written, concise article, I think I’ll just share it as is:

starvation-modeSource

Starvation Mode? What are we really talking about

We realize there is a ton of noise out on the internet regarding “starvation mode”, “metabolic damage” and “weight loss resistance”. Because of that it is difficult to make sense of what people mean by these terms.

Whether you are a lean bodybuilder, an elite athlete or your average Jane or Joe trying to lose some weight, you will be impacted by the metabolic compensation of the body. It is a natural response of the metabolism and not some crazy disease state. Here is how it works in bullets so you can easily follow the narrative:

  • You go on a diet.  By diet I mean you do some combination of “eat less, exercise more”.
  • At the start you do just fine and may actually lose a few pounds.  You’re happy. YAY!
  • A few days or weeks in and your body starts to compensate. You start feeling more hungry, your energy becomes unstable, you start getting cravings and your metabolic rate declines. This is metabolic compensation. It’s the body’s normal protective response.  Lets called this starvation mode phase 1.
  • Because of this metabolic compensation your weight loss slows, halts or, if you have a very large drop in metabolic rate and/or can’t control the hunger and craving urge, even reverses.
  • Being a good little dieter you decide to double down on the eat less, exercise more approach. You think, “I just need to work harder”.
  • Things may change briefly.  Maybe you lose a few more pounds or at least stop the weight regain.  But the body compensates again and this time more quickly.
  • Perhaps you try even harder, but the body slowly becomes more resistant to your attempts.
  • Now you are eating like a bird and spending hours in the gym and nothing seems to be happening. We call this metabolic resistance. You can think of this as starvation mode phase 2.
  • You don’t understand what is happening, but you have an iron will.  All you need to do is work harder.  You hit the internet and immerse yourself in the best “thinspiration” you can fine.  Maybe you play some Rocky theme music.  You quadruple your effort!!
  • You see some results, but now you have other worries.  You start feeling gassy and bloated all the time.  If you’re a women, your menses becomes irregular or disappears. Your libido is shot.
  • Your sleep is disrupted and you are exhausted.  You may feel a “wired but tired sensation”. You feel sick and unwell. Anxious or depressed but usually both.
  • You just can’t keep up any more. Now you are slowly gaining weight no matter how hard you try. This is metabolic damage. Phase 3 and the final stage of starvation mode.
  • You go to a physique coach.  Tell them what is going on and they say “you are in starvation mode”.  You need to eat more and ease up on the exercise.  They tell you to move from an eat less, exercise more approach to an eat more, exercise less approach.
  • Guess what happens?  You gain so much weight so fast you could swear someone stuck an air pump in you!  Not good, not good at all.  You gain 15 pounds in 7 days and feel worse than ever.
  • You go to seek answers, but no one has them. What do you do?  You go back to the eat less, exercise more model. But it still does not work and continue the cycle doing more damage to your body and your psyche.

The escape from starvation mode

Here is the information you have never been told. Your body does not work like a calculator.  It works like a thermostat.

What happens if your heater breaks in the winter and starts pushing out cold air?  You don’t turn up the fan speed do you? You turn it off and find another way to keep warm.

When you play the game described above you are playing an UN-winnable tug-o-war game. You pull as hard as you can and the metabolism pulls back just as hard or harder. So you pull even harder and the metabolism once again responds in kind.  If you keep playing this game you will end up in a heap of exhausted rubble on the ground. You can’t win this game, so stop playing. Remember that trick in tug-o-war when you were matched against a team that you knew would beat you? When they pulled, you let the rope go and they went flailing to the ground as you looked on in laughter!  That is how you beat starvation mode.

metabolic-syndrome-300x252Source

Fixing starvation mode

Whether you are in metabolic compensation (phase 1), metabolic resistance (phase 2) or metabolic damage (phase 3) the beginning steps are the same.

You stop the eating less, exercise more approach and instead let go of the rope by matching your intake of food with your output of energy. You either 1) eat less and exercise less OR 2) eat more and exercise more.

These are your only two options, and the only way you start to decrease the stress on your metabolism while not gaining weight in the process. If you happen to have gotten all the way to stage 3, your only real option is the eat less, exercise less approach.

Steps to take

Metabolic Compensation (phase 1):  This phase is pretty easy to deal with.  Just simply move to an eat less, exercise less OR and eat more, exercise more approach. The approach you choose does not really matter. This will almost always solve the issue. Expect to be back on track within a week.

Metabolic Resistance (Phase 2): If you find yourself in this phase you will need to cycle the diet.  Spend 2-3 weeks in the eat less, exercise less phase and then switch to an eat more, exercise more approach for a time.  You will likely need to take some other steps involving rest and recovery activities like prioritizing very low intensity activity like walking and muscle regaining activity like weight training over intervals and traditional cardio. Expect to be back on track within 1-3 months.

Metabolic Damage (Phase 3):  Here you have no choice.  It’s eat less, exercise less.  It is also relaxing and restorative activity and no intense exercise or cardio.  Even the popular short intense metabolic conditioning workouts will be too much at this stage.  You will likely also need to consult with a functional medicine doctor who can evaluate thyroid, adrenal and gonadal function. This is beyond the scope of a physique coach to deal with. Supplements and or hormones may be required at this point. Expect to be back on track within 3 to 15 months (if you get the right help).

Understand-metabolism

I hope this hit home with some of you who are struggling with weight loss and educates you as to what NOT to do. I often wish I would have had this information when I was 14, before I began the slippery slope of crash dieting that would find me in a decade longs struggle with eating disorders. Then again, now that I’ve made it through to the other side and now know how to properly nourish my body, I’m grateful for my experience, as it allows me to connect with and educate others.

If anyone has any struggles, questions, or success stories about anything mentioned in this post, please feel free to share 🙂

Ciao for now,

-E

 

 

ProGress

We live in a success-driven world whereby “success” is perceived less as a journey and more as an ultimate destination. While this way of thinking can be motivating, it can also be discouraging and rob us of happiness “in the moment.” We think we will finally be successful when we ______________ …fill in the blank: lose 10 lbs, have a six-pack, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, get married, make x amount of money, drive x car… Can you relate? Are you auditing your own list of “I will be successful when’s?”

Rather than having this mindset, I’m reminded lately how much more beneficial it is to focus on and celebrate progress, rather than waiting for whatever finite parameters of success we have in mind.

celebrate-your-progress-e1355501619381

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By definition:

prog·ress (n.)

1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.

2. Development or growth

3. Steady improvement

pro·gress (pr-grs) pro·gressed, pro·gress·ing, pro·gress·es  (intr.v.)

1. To advance; proceed: Work on the new building progressed at a rapid rate.

2. To advance toward a higher or better stage; improve steadily

This means that every little step we take in an overall forward direction is progress. Your goal is to lose 10 lbs? Great! Celebrate each pound lost. Celebrate new, good habits of eating more healthfully.  Your goal is to go to the gym 5 days a week? Great! Celebrate each time you get yourself there.  Is your goal to make six figures?  Fantastic! In the meantime, celebrate the progress of getting a raise

no-matter-how-slow-you-goSource

On top of that, research shows that positive reinforcement (i.e. celebrating progress) is more powerful than negative reinforcement (i.e. beating yourself up for not being exactly where you want to be). So, a kick in the ass may be necessary at times to get you going, but periodic self pats on the back will keep you going longer. 😉

 “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.” – Oscar Wilde

 Ciao for now!

 -E

To Fast, or Not to Fast…That is the Question.

As summer comes to a close, you may be feeling like you indulged in a few too many margaritas, barbeques, and ice cream sundaes. Maybe you didn’t get out and exercise in the nice weather as much as you had planned. We live in a society of “extremes,” so it’s not surprising to me that, in the wake of the new fall season, I’m hearing talks of people “fasting” to detox and undo some of the summer over-indulgences.

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Given that there was a period in my life where I did a lot of fasting (in a very unhealthy way, and for unhealthy reasons), my initial reaction to hearing that someone is on a “water fast” makes me cringe and feel concerned. I personally feel that our bodies are perfectly equipped with organs that already do the job, removing toxins through the skin (by sweating), liver, colon, and kidneys.

That said, I do that that the typical American diet includes too much processed food, saturated fats, genetically modified products, and too much sugar. So I actually do support the idea of eating clean as a method to “detox” from all the non-foods that many of us consume. But as far as eliminating food altogether? I feel that it just sets you up for an all-out binge once you start eating again, because that’s what tends to happen after deprivation.to fast or not to fast

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WebMD seems to support my beliefs, and according to their site:

When you fast, your body is forced to dip into energy stores to get the fuel it needs to keep going, so you will lose weight. The big question is how long you will keep that weight off. Because food was often scarce for our ancestors, our bodies have been genetically programmed to combat the effects of fasting. When you eat less food, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Then, when you go back to your usual diet, your lowered metabolism may cause you to store more energy, meaning that you will probably gain back the weight you lost and possibly even put on more weight when eating the same calories you did before the fast.

As you fast, your body will adjust by reducing your appetite, so you will initially feel less hungry. But once you have stopped fasting, your appetite hormones will kick back into gear and you may actually feel hungrier and be more likely to binge.

So, in conclusion, fasting (such as with a water fast) for a day or two probably won’t hurt you if you’re generally healthy. Longer than that, though, and you start messing with your metabolism and depriving your body of necessary nutrients that it needs to survive.  And unless it’s part of your religious practices (which I completely respect), I don’t think temporarily starving yourself does much good.  I don’t know about you, but I actually like food and feel like a huge grouch when I’m hungry. If you want my advice, just cut out the crap. Yep, you heard me…lay off the alcohol and stop eating Cinnabon, pizza, Haagen Dazs, and 25-cent wings for a while. Eat fruits, veggies, healthy fats (like avocado), and drink more water and herbal tea…your body will detox naturally and you won’t have to starve yourself. Your body (and your friends, coworkers, and spouses) will thank you.

eat cleanSource

Ciao for now!
-E

Fitness Motivations

I was at the grocery store last night stocking up on fresh produce, and in casual conversation, I mentioned to checkout clerk that I was heading for a run after I went home. His reply? “Well you don’t need it!” Which I guess was supposed to be a compliment (because I suppose I appear in good shape/fit), but what it did was get me thinking about the motivation behind my workouts…

I’ll preface my own explanation for why I work out by saying that many people I know view exercise as punitive…as a means to an end (losing weight, usually). But in truth, just like with nutrition, it is small changes/improvements over time that yield lasting results. It means doing a little bit when you can, and not having an all-or-nothing mentality. It’s making it a priority but also fitting it into your busy schedule/lifestyle.

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Okay, so back to the point of this post…What motivates me to exercise:

  • Cardio is good for heart health, and I want my heart to tick as many days as possible!
  • Weight training increases muscle mass, which increases resting metabolism (how many calories you’re burning when you’re not doing any activities)…and this helps me not have to count calories to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Strength training/weight bearing exercise is good for bone health, and I don’t want osteoporosis when I get older.
  • Working out gives me a natural serotonin (happiness hormones) boost so I have a more positive mood/outlook on life.
  • Exercise is great for reducing/coping with stress!
  • I feel more toned and strong when I work out. It’s a definite confidence booster.
  • I sleep better when I workout regularly.
  • It’s my “me” time, where I can either zone out or reflect on things I’m too busy to think about during the day.

running silhouettes

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Those are some of the concrete reasons that I have made working out a regular part of my life. It’s become as important to me as brushing my teeth. Working out just to lose weight or purely for vanity reasons never had much staying power for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have my days when I don’t feel like working out, or when I don’t have the energy for a full-blown session…but when I’m out for a run and I see someone being pushed in a wheelchair, I think to myself about how lucky I am that my body is strong enough to be able to do physically challenging activities. It’s that type of thinking…being grateful and respectful of my body’s capabilities…that keeps me going and drives me from within.

If you want my advice, work out because you deserve to feel good in your body…after all, it’s the only one you’ve got while you’re on this earth…and hopefully you’ll be around for a good long while!

Ciao for now!
-E

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners

It started out as an innocent way to save some calories…I put Equal or Splenda in my coffee and tea, used sugar-free creamers, sugar-free syrup on my pancakes, and dumped sugar-free flavored packets into my water (I’m cringing now thinking back on it). Even after I started really focusing on my health mid-way through 2006, I’m a little embarrassed to stay that I continued to use artificial sweeteners…partly because my body had become addicted, partly out of sheer habit, and partly because I was afraid that I’d blow up like a blimp if I started using real sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.

Now until recently, when I’d heard negative things about artificial sweeteners, I pretty much swept the information under the rug. And honestly, so many people I knew used them too, so it wasn’t like I stood out like the yellow packet-toting renegade that I was…

sweeteners in coffee
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But as 2012 was coming to a close and it was time for resolutions, I started thinking about this dirty little habit I’d held onto and decided to be honest about how this crap was affecting me. I’ll start with some personal observations:

  • The more artificial sweeteners I used, the more I needed to use…what started out as 1 Splenda in a mug of coffee had turned into 3, and virtually every liquid I consumed had artificial sweeteners in it.
  • I was craving sweets all the time, and when I indulged, I was never satisfied.
  • Instead of giving in to every craving, I would just drink more coffee (with Splenda of course) or diet soda, or suck on some sugar free candies…it was becoming a vicious cycle.
  • My metabolism felt sluggish, and for the amount of exercise I was doing and as clean as I was eating, I felt like I should have been in better shape.
  • Most of the people I knew who were naturally thin and seemed healthy to me used real sugar, not Splenda (or artificial sweeteners).
  • With most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, you should probably check into it!

Now for some of the information I finally decided to listen to about these super sweet, non-caloric chemical packets of doom:

  • Studies show that artificial sweeteners stimulate high insulin levels in the blood which promote storage of body fat (especially around the mid-section). Your body is pretty smart and prepares for the arrival of food/nutrients before anything even crosses your lips. When you trick your body and give it fake food (non-nutritive or non-caloric sweeteners), it gets understandably confused. Your taste buds sense the sweet taste from artificial sweeteners, and the pancreas secretes insulin unnecessarily. Over time, your body gets used to this and basically goes on strike (i.e. insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc).
  • Artificial sweeteners may save you calories but there is strong evidence that they promote hunger and increase your appetite–so you many end up eating more food throughout the day. You ingest artificial/calorie-free food with the intention of reducing your calorie intake, but this does not satisfy your body’s need for nutrients and energy. So, you end up feeling ferocious about eating more and more until you satisfy that need. Think about it—we’re currently surrounded by low-calorie, “health conscious foods” and diet soft drinks that contain artificial sweeteners, yet obesity is on the rise.
  • Aside from weight gain and insulin resistance, other health issues include: headaches, gastrointestinal problems, toxicity to the liver and kidneys, and increased cancer risk.

Taking into account my own personal observations, combined with the endless information on the internet and in medical studies about why artificial sweeteners are bad, I decided to give them up in 2013. I went cold turkey.

artificial is bad
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Here’s what happened:

For a week or so, I went through withdrawals—headaches, stomach cramps, mood swings, etc. But rather than making me want to go back to them, this further solidified that I’d become addicted to a poisonous chemical that was likely wreaking havoc on my insides. I stuck with it. I started using a reasonable (2 tsp or so) amount of raw sugar in my morning coffee, using honey (if anything) in my tea, and drinking plain old water. After a couple weeks, I noticed that I started craving less sweets, was eating less overall without feeling deprived, and could actually taste my food better than ever. I had more energy and actually started to feel my metabolism revving again. Now, 7 months later, I can’t believe I ever even used the fake stuff. I’d never go back…

feeling great!

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Now I’m not suggesting that you start dumping mounds of sugar in your coffee, drowning your pancakes in syrup, and eating pastries for dinner. And if you’re diabetic, you should talk to a doctor or nutritionist about managing your glucose levels and sugar intake. What I am saying is stop confusing your body. If you are craving something sweet have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods. Eating a whole-foods, balanced diet and occasionally indulging in a few real sweet treats is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners – which ultimately leads to a sluggish metabolism, obesity, and a host of other issues.

Do yourself a favor and put down the yellow (or blue, or pink) packets of fake chemicals that are doing damage to your precious body, and eat real food for a while. Take it from a former addict, the change is SO worth it.

Ciao for now!

-E