Fasting for Weight Loss is NOT the Answer

I was recently on WJLA ABC 7 to discuss the fasting craze that’s become a popular method for weight loss for many people. Unfortunately, most of what I discussed about it in the segment ended up on the cutting room floor. (I’m used to that expected consequences of editing stories). I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some things that weren’t covered. I felt that the segment makes it appear that fasting may look like a good idea, and I don’t think it’s fair that the last word should look come across in that way.

You can watch the full video here — but read on below for some additional points that didn’t make the final cut.

Honor hunger — don’t hide from it

The key point that I made in this interview is that we need to honor hunger, not avoid it. Think about this — would you ever tell your child or best friend “sorry, it’s breakfast and you are hungry, you need to skip and wait until 12 p.m. to eat.” It’s irrational to ignore your biological signs. You can’t just manipulate when you will be hungry…and actually through fasting you could end up feeling ravenous and then end up overeating.

Operating on an empty stomach? No way!

Think about this…do you want to be on the road with someone who is driving you around while fasting? Or, would you want a doctor operating on you when they are fasting? I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t! Anyone who’s skipped lunch knows that at some point your brains stops functioning properly, and it impairs your ability to think clearly. Anything that does that to us can’t possibly be good for our bodies.

How do you honestly think you will do when you need energy for work, family, and exercise without nourishment?

Some fasts are more biologically concerning to me than others. For example, ones where you have days of eating 500 calories, give or take, is not enough for your brain to function even lying down all day.

Fasting and a social life do not mix

During the interview, I also talked about how fasting can get in the way of social occasions. The next time a friend asks you to meet them out for a meal, are you really going to say “sorry guys, I can only attend the brunch if it is after 1 p.m.” Or “I can’t go on Sundays because that’s my 500 calorie day. Can you do Saturday? I can eat whatever I want that day.” Oh and heaven forbid when it’s a birthday – YOURS??? And you find yourself feeling guilty for cake and ice cream.

Fasting is just not smart, rational, realistic or sustainable.

What’s the bottom line?

Fasting is a diet — and a dangerous one at that. The large body of science on diets (NOT just one or two studies) show that diets fail, and that 95% of people regain any weight lost. Many even end up gaining MORE weight than before they started. It’s like a doctor telling you, “take this pill, I guarantee you it won’t work long term.” You would not take that pill, would you?

Finally, fasting is disordered eating. It is a slippery slope between someone developing disordered eating habits and a clinical eating disorder. If your goal is health, you should not fast. You should work on behaviors you can do realistically for the rest of your life. The people in this segment were already exercising (a health move everyone should do) and they say they “fill their plates with protein, veggies and healthy fats, they feel satiated”. You can and SHOULD do that without having to fast and fight hunger.

Biologically fasting leads to increased risk of overeating so their claims that they avoid overeating, seem in contrast to what we know about human biology.  Again, you CAN and SHOULD avoid overeating without having to follow a fast and ignore normal hunger cues.

They say they maintain “a balanced diet” — yet they don’t mention carbohydrates, beans, or whole grains. I don’t know if it was an error or if they avoid those foods intentionally. I have shocking news: Carbohydrates are not the devil and they are needed to TRULY be balanced in your eating.

In addition, you can eat balanced without eating perfectly. You mean to tell me nobody who does this fast ever has a cookie, or ice cream — ever? Sounds too perfect to me, and perfect is the enemy of life long success.

If you want to get healthy, eat better, and exercise more, you should do it. But you don’t need a fast to get healthy. You need a food and nutrition expert – a dietitian who is actually trained to help you work with your body and become your best you! If you want to lose weight, make it permanent and that means working WITH your body, not against it. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, or would not wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends, stay away.

Carrot Cake Recipe from Green Mountain At Fox Run

GMFR_final_logo1-e1364240612911For many people trying to reach a healthy natural weight, a retreat can be a great way to step outside of your environment, so you can learn new behaviors without the distraction of everyday life. While there are a number of weight loss-focused retreat options out there (and some are certainly better than others), I’ve personally been to Green Mountain At Fox Run and can tell you it’s different.

First, and foremost, it’s not focused on weight loss — it’s focused on self care. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, if you haven’t already. For more information about their programs and services you can visit their website at www.fitwoman.com. They help you to learn more about yourself in order to improve your self care, and to help you achieve real wellness (not just in terms of your scale weight).

I encourage anyone to  subscribe to their newsletter or check out their blog — both are worthwhile reads. One of their latest newsletters featured this carrot cake recipe that sounded too delicious not to share. The recipe can be found below, or you can visit their website — enjoy!

Carrot Cake Recipe (Serves 18)

Dry Ingredients:Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  •  2 ½  teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cups canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Prepare an 8 by 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, mix sugar, brown sugar, and oil well.  Slowly mix in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Blend wet and dry ingredients together, being careful to not over mix.
  6. Once blended, fold in the carrots.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan
  8. Bake in oven at 375° F for 30 to 35 minutes.
  9. Let the cake cool completely before cutting.

Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?

Leave a comment below and tell me what recipe you love to make when you’re craving something sweet. Maybe I will feature it in my next e-newsletter…coming soon!

“Accident”

I don’t do much with guest bloggers, but when people are willing to share their story, I want to give them a platform. Let’s all support Adele and thank her for her insight and courage.

Guest blog By: Adele Schroder

It’s funny how perspective is everything. Looking back now I see how completely ridiculous what I believed to be true then actually was, but at the time it made so much sense, I was doing what was right, what was healthy. There was nothing wrong with eating about 500 calories per day – so many diets out there suggest it – smart people, famous people, doctors even, all support the idea that the best way to lose weight was to reduce what you eat and some even go so far to suggest that those who are lower calorie diets live longer. Skinny at any cost is the healthy thing to do.

The truth at the time, I was over weight. I know I was, but I was healthy, I ate fairly balanced, exercised, my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar I dowere all fine, but my doctor was still pushing me to lose weight. Truth is, she made me feel horrible about myself and at one point even said that if I couldn’t control what I was eating myself, then she would give me a prescription for appetite suppressants. It was that comment that began the slippery slope that would eventually become a case of accidental anorexia.

I started restricting what I ate – I went from eating balanced to eating one thing per meal – one yogurt, one piece of skinless chicken, one piece of cucumber. There was nothing balanced or healthy about it, but the weight started to come off and my doctor, family, friends, and anyone else who saw me started praising me for “looking so good”. I read about all the latest fad diets – it didn’t seem like anything I was doing was wrong – so many people ate like this, limiting there intake to a few select “safe” foods to make yourself healthy again. It was great – I was getting skinny and everyone was proud of how much “will-power” I had to stick with it.

A year, and almost 90lbs later, things started to change. I was always tired, my hair was falling out, I had passed out a couple times – but I was skinny, “beautiful” and “healthy”. Staying that way was all that I could think about – an Ana brain inside of me had taken over – nothing was more important than self-control and skinniness – skinniness at any cost. I was working at a place that insisted everyone eat lunch in the lunchroom. Didn’t take long before people started to talk and I remember that day that I got pulled into the meeting room. All of upper management was standing there and they simply said, “we want you to see a dietitian, you don’t look well”. I was royally pissed off – some of these people were the same people who just months before had been telling me how great I looked….they must be jealous, that was it, I was convinced! They were just jealous at the self control I had.

I sat in the waiting room of the dietitian’s office going over what I was going to say – figured it would be easy – just tell her what diet I was following, what my doctor had said when I was fat – how I was just being healthy…she would just sign that stupid thing for work and I could put this whole embarrassing “you need help” crap behind me. It’s not like I wasn’t doing something that so many other people weren’t doing – and I wasn’t one of those skinny-little-nut-jobs you see on those reality help shows – I was a well off business person who just took control of a problem (being over weight) and fixed it. Nothing was wrong with that.

Unfortunately my appointment didn’t go that way – instead I was bluntly told that how I was eating was dangerous, completely unacceptable, and that if I didn’t stop I would die. I told the dietitian she was crazy, rolled my eyes and must have told her I was fine at least 20 times. But the hardest part came at the end of the appointment – all she asked me to do was have an extra yogurt at lunch – one 80-calorie yogurt – and I lost it. There were tears, begging, saying I wouldn’t do it and that she wasn’t listening to me – I wasn’t doing anything wrong I was just doing what Dr X said to do and following Y diet – I didn’t have a problem, I was just trying to be healthy and why was she trying to make me fat again.

She stayed calm through all of it – repeated that what I was doing was not ok, not healthy and that I was going to die if I didn’t stop – then told me she would see me next week. I refused – she shrugged and said that it “wasn’t a suggestion” then walked with me to reception to make the next appointment.  I hated her – she didn’t know me – so how could she judge me. But I knew I at least had some saving grace – she was pregnant – so I figured that if I couldn’t fight her I would play her silly little game for 3 months and she would be gone. And being honest, I probably did at the time – but something else happened – I started to respect her, if for no other reason than she was consistent in what she said, “you can’t keep eating like this, it is not healthy, you will die”. Three very simple and blunt comments that stuck with me.

My eating did get a little better when she was away on maternity leave that year – not because I wanted to get healthy but because I was told that if I lost more weight then a hospital stay would no longer be up to me (I had mandatory monthly check ins with an ED psychologist that year, I played along with the stupid game) – I wasn’t better by any stretch of the imagination – I still thought that barely eating was the right thing to do – I just wasn’t willing to give up everything I had accomplished and end up in the hospital – so I ate the bare minimum I had to to avoid that consequence.

It was a year later that I ended up getting a new family doctor – and with that change came the routine “base-line” blood work workup. I got a call I never expected, “the doctor wants to see you back in her office today regarding your blood tests, how soon can you be here?”. I sat in her office looking at line after line of abnormalities – high cholesterol, high liver enzymes, poor kidney function, a large amount of ketones in my urine, and electrolytes that were all over the place. She was questioning me on how I felt, if I had been on any medications etc etc and I sat there thinking, “the dietitian was right, I’m hurting myself…” I felt so confused – why were there so many diets out there saying what I did was right? Why did my old doctor praise me? Why was my blood work normal when I was fat but so abnormal now that I was skinny…why wasn’t skinny healthy? I wasn’t “dangerously thin” – my BMI was fine – so why wasn’t I healthier than when I was over weight? Isn’t that what we are taught? Skinny is healthy…my whole world came crashing down that day. Everything that I had believed regarding what it was to be healthy – everything that I had read and seen in the media was wrong – and because I believed it, I was now sick.

The next day I swallowed my pride and sent a “you were right” email and asked for help. This time was different – I tried not to fight as much (hard to give up the fight completely) and I worked towards a goal – I wanted to be healthy – I wanted normal blood work. I wanted to learn to eat well and enjoy food again. I learned that I had to start putting my health first, my body first – it was all in my control to be healthy.

Today I can say that I am healthy – I eat well – and I eat anything and everything without worrying so much about if the food is “good” or “bad”. But there is one thing that still bothers me: how is it that even though I am well educated and a professional person I was able to believe that what I was doing was right? I accidently became anorexic, not because I was trying to gain control over my life or any of the other things that you hear about when you think of eating disorders – I became anorexic because I honestly did not know that what I was doing was harmful or wrong. And what was the worst part of this whole thing? Even if being anorexic was not your intent, once Ana brain sets in, there’s no escaping it, no controlling it, no seeing any other opinion. It is far easier to believe what you see every day than believing the truth: skinny does not always equal healthy.

Perspective is everything – and mine has now changed. I put me and my health first and realize that the number on the scale doesn’t always have anything to do with health.

*****

Thanks, Adele!

If you are intrigued by what you read here, you may want to check out the “Health at Every Size” principles and community.

Woman Loses Over 80 Pounds Eating Starbucks (Only) for Two Years!

When NBC called and asked me to be interviewed for a story about a woman who lost a bunch of weight on Starbucks, I had to say “yes”.

People who know me, know that I support health and NOT diets — as every one of them is an utter failure (you are not). Lifestyle habits is what works… and accepting that there is diversity in our sizes and shapes. Health is what is most important and your habits have a major influence over your health.

We can all be healthy and it does not mean we will all be thin. That’s basic genetics and size diversity. You see it all the time when  you look around the real world — maybe not what you see in magazines or with celebrities. With this week being focused on “Weight Stigma Awareness” it seems appropriate that I help raise awareness about our society’s disconnect between weight and health. Just this week there was a fabulous article in New York Times about the research on thinness indicating “sickness” not health – whoopsie :)

Back to the Starbucks story. So this lady eats NOTHING but Starbucks for two years. She says knowing the calories helps her. I don’t argue with that. If every meal she had at Starbucks was 1,000 calories each she would not lose weight after all. I support 100% putting calories on restaurant menus to help people make choices.

For her, doing the “Starbucks diet” provided structure. She didn’t need to have ANY food in the house. But my argument is… OK, first of all, I love a good Starbucks like you do. But three meals a day for 2 years?!? Who can honestly stick to that and not feel deprived. I would get bored. Most people would.
That’s a big reason why this “plan” would not work for most people.

What do you think is going to happen if she ever stopped her Starbucks diet? If she tried operating in the real world, she is likely going to struggle. It doesn’t take many lifestyle skills to follow “eat this, that, and the other thing three times a day”. Real lifestyle changes come with building your skills — learning what influences your choices, operating within a structure of intuitive eating — letting your body’s hunger signal guide decisions to eat, and even improving shopping/cooking skills so you LOVE to eat healthy, but don’t freak out when you don’t eat so healthy.

What about truly meeting her nutrition needs? It’s one thing for the calories to be low, but did she really get enough veggies or fruits for the day? Isn’t it nice to have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to help you feel energized and prevent diseases?  What about her fiber or calcium? No way she is getting enough of these nutrients. Not only that, but some of those sandwiches she does for lunch and dinner have 1000 mg of sodium each! Even on her low calories, her salt would be high. Not so good for health.

That’s my “beef” with this and many other diets. The focus and goals are on weight loss. It is possible to lose weight as a side effect of improvements to your health and behaviors. Think about food as nourishment, not punishment. It can be very empowering to learn to ask “What do I need to nourish myself?” and learn to make choices that are good for you… and FINALLY be okay with the fact they may not all be perfect or even healthy.

My post and interview on NBC is not about bashing this woman’s changes. She had to have had some positive epiphanies through her experience. I just want her and everyone else to realize that what you are looking for when you look to diets is structure and a “promise” that what you are trying will work. Starbucks exclusively for two years… and counting? No thanks.

Curious what you all think about the Starbucks diet story.

The Worst Diets of 2011

I can’t let 2011 go without ranting about some of the most absurd diet scams of the year. If you know me at all you know I loathe diets. How is it legal for companies to profit off of lies? They promise weight loss and health. Being thin and losing weight doesn’t make a person healthy. Your genetics and your behaviors influence your health – not the scale, not the BMI, and certainly not diets.

The truth is diets do not work in the long run. In fact, they set you up to suffer while you are on them, gain weight when you go off of them, and hate yourself for not being able to “stick to it”. Biologically, our bodies resist the restrictions of dieting. It’s not you, it’s just biology.

I don’t even like the “big name” diets like weight watchers, jenny, and nutrisystem. Weight watchers is the ultimate in food policing, it says that even if you aren’t hungry, as long as you eat a zero point food like bananas or apples, you can have it because it is a “good” food. Well guess what, bananas and apples have energy and if you aren’t hungry you are giving your body energy it doesn’t need. It keeps you from learning the important skills of fueling yourself.

Weight Watchers, Jenny and Nutrisystem don’t help you deal with any potential emotional eating issues and the idea of eating packaged and frozen meals (which they all offer) is not realistic in a person’s life in the short term or long term. Sure a frozen meal here and there, but when that is the basis of your eating, you miss out on so many foods, the cooking experience, and a ton of nutrition.

But these big three are nothing compared to the crap that was honored with the 23rd Slim Chance Awards.

Here are the 24th annual Slim Chance Awards:

MOST OUTRAGEOUS: Jesse Willms, the Canadian owner of Just Think Media. Willms is a multi-millionaire connected to more than 40 product and company names. The 23-year-old high school dropout is charged with deceiving people like Candice Rozak of Edmunton who ordered a free trial of a diet pill called Acai Burn that required only a small handling fee and later found her credit card depleted of nearly $700. It’s a major international problem says Canada’s Anti-Fraud Call Centre. The FTC in the U.S. agrees and is suing Willms and his associates—who collected more than $450 million from online consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The complaint says Willms sold at least 15 brands of acai berry weight-loss pills, six brands of colon cleansers and supplements containing resveratrol—all marketed with false or misleading claims. Promised money-back guarantees were often ignored. Despite the efforts of credit card companies and banks the money kept flowing through shell companies and manipulation of payment data.

WORST GIMMICK: The “Pure Energy Weight Loss plus Energy Band.” This plastic bracelet embeds green and silver hologram discs claimed to give off vibes that resonate throughout the body and stimulate weight loss and health. Among the alleged results are decreased appetite, balanced metabolism, balanced hormones¸ enhanced energy flow, increased energy levels and the promotion of positive emotions. A testimonial declares, “Since I bought my Pure Energy Band I have lost over 83Lbs and I feel fantastic.” Furthermore a disc does not even need to touch the skin—apparently it can hover at some distance. Supposedly, to be effective it “only needs to be within the body’s natural energy field. For most people, that is within two inches of the body.”

WORST CLAIM: Sensa weight-loss crystals. The Sensa website states boldly that users can lose an average of 30.5 pounds in six months without dieting, exercise, food restrictions or drastic lifestyle changes—by merely sprinkling these weight-loss crystals on their food. It claims that Sensa has been “clinically proven.” Smell and taste receptors supposedly send the brain messages to tell your body to stop eating. It “activates a hunger-control switch in the brain and you “eat less and feel more satisfied… no feelings of hunger or intense cravings.” Class-action suits have been filed in California and Texas against the marketers of Sensa, developed by Chicago neurologist Alan Hirsch, M.D. and sold by California-based Sensa Products. The California complaint states that (a) there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate these claims and (b) an expert who reviewed Sensa’s main clinical study judged it “beyond worthless.”

WORST PRODUCT: HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin. HCG was first introduced more than 50 years ago by British physician Dr. Albert Simeon who claimed the hormone, found in the urine of pregnant women, would mobilize stored fat, suppress appetite and redistribute fat. He contended that regular injections would enable dieters to live comfortably on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. For a time, these weekly injections were the most widespread obesity medication administered in the US. In the mid-70s the FDA and FTC effectively shut them down by ordering the Simeon clinics to stop claiming their programs were safe and effective, and requiring they inform patients in writing that there was no evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction.” More recently infomercial king Kevin Trudeau took up the cudgel. His 2007 book claims HCG is “an absolute cure for obesity discovered almost fifty years ago,” but “suppressed” by medical experts and the FDA. HCG is heavily marketed online and in retail outlets as oral drops, pellets, and sprays, while injections for weight loss continue. Labeling states that each should be taken in conjunction with a very-low-calorie-diet which, the FDA noted, can trigger gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance and abnormal heart rhythms. (HCG is approved as an injectable prescription drug for the treatment of some cases of female infertility and other medical conditions.) In December the FDA and FTC jointly warned six companies that it is illegal to market over-the counter HCG products labeled as “homeopathic” for weight loss. This is considered a first step in halting sales (Dec 6, 2011).

“Deceptive advertising about weight loss products is one of the most prevalent types of fraud,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The new marketing is so lucrative and people with weight concerns so vulnerable that case-by-case enforcement action has little impact, quackwatchers say. To improve the situation, our society needs a plan that includes screening of certain types of ads, publicly exposing sellers placed on the Visa/MasterCard Match list and routine criminal prosecution of violators.

The Slim Chance awards are sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud. They are a lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January ( www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm ).

So if you happen to be thinking of 2012 resolutions and you happen to be thinking about your health. Take a risk and don’t set a weight loss goal this year. Set a goal that really has your health in mind. See a dietitian who doesn’t promise dieting. Take healthy cooking classes. Attempt to do a race – whether it is a 5K or a marathon! Whatever you do, make it positive and realistic. It’s what you deserve.

 

Best New Year’s Resolution: Ditch Dieting!

What kind of new year’s resolution have you made for 2012?

Odds are at least one of them has to do with losing weight. Unfortunately, as many people have found over the years, this strategy does not work. Research has shown that diets don’t work, and that although people tend to lose weight initially, the weight plus more tends to return shortly after. We need to accept that fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy, and thin doesn’t always correlate to being healthy. What works is having healthy habits that can carry you through life, and part of that means celebrating holidays and life milestones with family, friends and often times food.

But Rebecca, what about all the weight I gained over the holidays?

It’s actually a myth that people gain significant weight over the holidays. There is a general fear of gaining 10 or 15 pounds, when in fact, the average person only gains 1-2 pounds of extra weight during those holiday months. It’s long term behaviors that impact siginificant weight gain, and in turn, it’s healthy long term behaviors that impact weight loss. Depriving yourself to “be good” can lead to overindulgence later, so why not have 1 or 2 cookies now instead of 10 cookies later?

You can’t go wrong with self care

For almost everyone, it’s not healthy, realistic or even feasible to count every calorie eaten and every calorie burned. What’s important is to practice self care, and mindful eating. We should exercise because it’s good for our minds and bodies, not purely to stay thin. We should eat balanced, nutritious meals because our bodies need fuel and nutrients. Eat for hunger (not for boredom, stress, etc.), enjoy the foods of the season, and then get back to your normal, healthy routine. You will be less anxious, happier, and despite your fears, you will most likely still fit into the clothes you were wearing before Thanksgiving.

Check out this video for other healthy tips, and enjoy the holiday season!

“Am I Overweight?”: Teen Body Troubles

Growing up is tough! Especially in today’s society with more and more pressures being put on children and teenagers. One of such pressure is ‘looks’ with the focus on body weight.

Around junior highs and high schools, girls (and sometimes boys!) often talk about their weight, and dieting almost becomes a trend. The media has a lot to do with it. Magazines that are often read by teens, such as Cosmo or Shape, put out a lot of dieting tips and suggestions that are often taken out of context, or abused by the younger readers. More often than not, teens compare themselves to their role models: actors, athletes, or models. These role models are usually very fit, thin, and some on the verge of underweight. When one person decides they’re “fat”, and tries to lose weight, it causes others to assess themselves and think “Well, maybe I’m fat too, and maybe I need to lose weight too”.

A study done by Janet Leichty showed that many teens who believed they were overweight were in fact of a normal and healthy weight for their height. Leichty obtained these findings not by measuring body dissatisfaction, but by observing body-image distortion. Those with a poor body-image are at greater risk for using unsafe weight-loss techniques; once the techniques for weight-loss are used, the odds that those same techniques will be used again increases by 11 times.

The need for early prevention in unsafe dieting and disordered eating is quite obvious, but it’s a touchy subject for most. Doctors generally address weight-loss with those that are overweight, but for those of a normal weight, the topic gets brushed off. It is important to address body-image with children and teens of all shapes and sizes, whether it be a doctor, nurse or parent who does the talking.

The most important thing to remember is to respond appropriately. Encourage the child or teen toward more positive lifestyle changes rather than “healthy” dieting, as any type of diet can easily spiral out of control. Suggest going on walks or bike rides, and eating more fruits and vegetables with every meal. Remind them that feeling good is what’s important, and it will help them see their body in a better light.

The Skinny on Alcohol and Healthy Weight Management

If you’re trying maintain a healthy balance in your life, it may seem that every time out for drinks with your friends could be a calorie disaster! Sugar-laden mixes push most standard cocktails well over 300 calories. Did you know that an 8-ounce pina colada can pack in 640 calories? Thats 100 calories more than a Quarter Pounder with cheese! Meanwhile, 8 oz of a Long Island iced tea tips the scale at 780 calories. But you don’t have to become a recluse to avoid these sugar bombs. Follow these tips and you’ll be in tip-top shape.

source

Ask Yourself-do you really need that drink?

Try to limit yourself to only a couple drinks per week. There is no nutritional benefit to liquor, so each gram of alcohol provides 7 ‘empty’ calories. Not only will the drink up your caloric intake for the day, but it can also decrease your inhibitions when it comes to food. You may find yourself mindlessly overeating after drinking, be it a slice of pizza, cake, or whatever is closest to you before you stumble into bed.

Drinking alcohol can also make you feel hungrier because alcohol can lower blood sugar. Besides the fact that alcohol is highly addictive, drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Leslie Schilling, RD, and low-calorie cocktail expert, said “There are many negative effects when alcohol is over consumed. Besides the obvious impaired judgment and operation of anything mechanical, decreased inhibitions and poor hydration status come to mind. Decreased inhibitions can lead to overeating and poor decisions of all sorts, while poor hydration status can leave you cramping on your morning jog and overly fatigued the next day.” If you feel pressured to be carrying a drink while out with friends-ask for soda water and lime.

Can I have your number?

According the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the allotted amount of alcohol per day is one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man.

A drink means:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor like vodka or rum

Each of these portions contain around the same amount of calories — 100-150 calories.

Watch the glass!

Serve wine in smaller, thinner glasses, so that you will not mindlessly pour more than the intended serving.

What are you drinking?

Wine
Remember: Despite all the press about red wine’s heart healthy benefits, the Mayo Clinic states, “There’s still no clear evidence yet that red wine is superior to other forms of alcohol when it comes to possible heart-health benefits.” It’s not suggested by the American Heart Institute (or others) that you start drinking red wine solely for these health benefits! However, per oz, wine does have few calories than distilled spirits.

Beer
Reach for a light beer (around 100 calories per 12 ounce bottle) rather than regular bear (150 cal). Remember to stick to suggested portions (12 ounces for women and 24 ounces for men per day.)

Cocktails
Cocktail mixes are packed with sugar and when combined with alcohol, the calories for one drink can be 500 or more. Remember, you can also ask the bartender to make your order diet or light. Schilling’s favorite cocktail is a Vodka Grayhound-vodka and preferably fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.( See below for Schilling’s great Margarita recipe, and check out these lower Calorie Recipes of classic cocktails: Skinny Margaritas Low-cal Mojitos, Moscow Mules, and Caprhina’s . )

source
Water:
Start your night off with a no-cal glass of H2O and continue to have one between every drink you order. Water will keep you hydrated so you’re not chugging cocktails to quench your thirst, and  it prevents you from having a hangover the next day, so we say cheers to that.

Leslie Schilling, RD, shared with me a low calorie cocktail recipe that’s in high demand at all of her dinner parties:

The Million-Dollar Margarita

Copyright © 2010 Leslie Schilling. All Rights Reserved.

Make 2 quarts (you might as well mix the pitcher)

  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 12 fluid ounce light beer (yes, a beer)
  • 1 long squeeze lime (optional), ~ 1 Tbsp
  • 1 container sugar-free lemonade** (makes 2 quarts
  • Water

Mix the first four ingredients in a 2 quart pitcher. If you like, add the juice of one fresh lime (or natural lime juice). Add the sugar-free lemonade and mix with a whisk (clumps aren’t very popular or tasty). Fill the pitcher to the 2 quart mark with water. Stir and chill.

These are great served on ice right away or chilled for about an hour. They’re still very drinkable for about two days. **If you’d prefer a stevia-based sweetener, use one pack of no sugar added Lemonade, like Kool-Aid, and add 1 packet stevia sweetener to each glass.

Makes ~10, 6½ oz servings. Approximate calories per serving:  120-more than half the calories of an average margarita!

Take these tips into account and you’ll never gain the dreaded beer gut! See more of Leslie’s great recipes on her new blog Sippin Smart or follow it on twitter!

Do you have any tips to share? What’s your go-to drink at the bar?

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

Is it possible to eat what you want without gaining weight? Many people, especially those who are chronic dieters are afraid this is not possible. Breaking away from the rigid set of dieting rules feels scary, and dieters are comfortable with the “restrictive” state diets teach. How can we learn to reshape our relationship with food, and respect our hunger?

Michelle May, MD is the  author of “Eat what you love, love what you eat: How to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle.” Her website Am I Hungry? describes many of her eating philosophies. In her own words:

“Most diets are restrictive and unsustainable, leaving the dieter feeling guilty and disappointed. My goal is to help people recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating, rediscover joy in physical activity, and effectively nourish their body, mind, heart and spirit.

Video Brochure: Watch excerpts of Michelle's powerful message Imagine how your participants, members or employees will benefit from a presentation like this!

After reading her article on the blog “Dieting and You” entitled Paint-by-Numbers or a Masterpiece, I decided to reach out to her for an interview. Michelle was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Eloquently and kindly she spoke about how we can turn our relationship with food around and answer the question “What are you hungry for?”

Q: You don’t advocate “Dieting,” So tell us, Why don’t diets work?

A: They do work-temporarily. But they fail to address the root cause, and for many people, result in feelings of deprivation. This causes them to crave food more, and feel more out of control when they are around food. Restriction drives overeating. People think they don’t have enough willpower. Restriction also leads to obsession which is bad. Our body is wise, but people are skeptical because we are so diet-focused as a society. we think that we need to diet chronically to maintain are weight. But, we are all born with the instinctive ability to eat what our body needs. Instinctive eaters eat what they love, when they’re hungry, stop when they’re full and don’t worry about food in the between times.

Q: It can be very difficult and scary for chronic dieters to look at this approach to eating. They believe being intuitive is impossible and they will never know when they are really hungry and full. How do we separate cravings/hunger for love etc. from real biological hunger

A: This is a deceptively simple step. Ask yourself the question “Am I hungry?” Before you eat. Before starting to eat, focus on what’s going on inside. Do a Mind-body scan for the physical sign/symptoms (such as a drop in blood sugar) and also notice emotions/feelings. If your not sure you’re hungry, you’re probably not. If you decide to eat even if you are not physically hungry, notice this, and try to gain insight on why you want to eat. This question, “Am I hungry” must not become a rule to abide to, instead look at it as a way to pause, and reflect, being more mindful of your eating habits.

Q: So if we learn to appreciate and respect our hunger we can end yo-yo dieting and the eat-repent-repeat cycle?

A: Instead of a yo-yo I like to think of this as a Pendulum between excess and restriction.  Find the flexible arc in the middle of the pendulum where you still have freedom. We need to get away from this hopeless pursuit of trying to be perfect. Accept where you are. Everyone overeats, undereats, over exercises, underexerises sometimes. Its just important that we find a Balance.

Q: How can we move away from the “perfect” “skinny” mindset and learn to appreciate ourselves and our bodies, our health?
A: For too long now, we’ve tried to measure things by physical attributes-health is just a trophy that everyone seeks.
We need a balance of body, mind, health and spirit.  Health is  more than a number on a scale. Numbers like BMI, blood pressure, are easy to get obsessed with, and we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture of health.

Q: How can we fit fitness into this pictures without it becoming obsessive?

A: Often we look at exercise as punishment for eating or we need to exercise to earn the right to eat, which creates a very negative relationship with exercise. It turns into a penance for eating a “bad” food, and often you feel guilty if it is missed. This becomes an obsessive behavior which strips all of the joy from exercise. I think we need to not discuss exercise at the same time as weight loss. Exercise is good for everyone! Not just for those people that need to lose weight. It is also important to pay attention to the positive aspects of exercise, and find something you love doing.

Q: How do we create an atmosphere where food is not viewed as an enemy but can be savored and enjoyed without going overboard?

A: We need to put food back into perspective. When you are eating, EAT. Eat with abandon and joy, not to pay penance or seek to be virtuous. When you are not eating, let it go. Don’t think about it. Enjoy what you are doing at the time. Approach life fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness is not only a form of eating, but also a life skill.

Thank you Michelle for your wonderful insight and tips! Check out her website Am I hungry?, read her new book “Eat what you love, love what you eat” and follow her on twitter @eatwhatyoulove

Chokeberries May Help Manage Weight, Blood Sugar

Have you ever heard of a chokeberry? Me neither, until I attended a nutrition research conference and learned that they are helping rats manage their weight. Intriguing, especially if they can help do that for people too. So, if you’re curious about the chokeberry, look no further.

Chokeberries, a distant relative of the cherry, grow in the U.S. But, they are inedible in raw form; hence, the name “choke,” I’m thinking. They have a very high anthocyanin content, a plant chemical that gives all berries their color. Anthocyanins are really good, even if it is hard to pronounce. In fact, laboratory studies show potential benefits of anthocyanins to combat:

  • cancer
  • aging and neurological diseases
  • inflammation
  • diabetes
  • bacterial infections

A particular research study was looking at the use of chokeberries for weight management and diabetes prevention. Pre-diabetic rats were given an extract of chokeberries, which proved to help manage weight and blood sugar. Now, before you go looking for frozenchokeberries in your supermarket, you may want to think twice. Since they taste so strong, they aren’t really available in raw fruit form. However, chokeberries can be made into wine, syrups, jams, pies (mmmm healthy) and used in supplements. For now, keep eating the edible berries with anthocyanins like cherries, cranberries, blueberries, purple grapes, and blackberries.

Watch my latest video report on the nutrition research on chokeberries.

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