Healthy Aging

Why Variety Is The Perfect Plan

In today's society driven by social media, filtered selfies, never ending marketing, and contradicting dogmatic beliefs it's no wonder people get lost in the world of nutrition in hope to look like the model from [fill in the blank with your favorite instagram account].

People everywhere are telling you they have found the perfect plan or cure all to get rid of stubborn belly fat. Paleo, vegan, ketogenic, as well as all the pharmaceuticals you're being advertised to buy... The list goes on and on.

I don't like to speak in absolutes. There are many factors, variables and exceptions to every rule. The fact of the matter is there is no plan or quick fix that works the the entire human population. Period. If someone is telling you this they're likely are trying to sell you something.

All this chaos started about half a century ago with the low or no fat diets based off anecdotal evidence. We've since come to realize these claims hold little merit. There is little evidence actually proving fats or cholesterol derived from our diets translate to body fat or cholesterol levels in our blood. In fact, we need fats for a ton of daily functions such as fuel our brain, create cell membranes, sex hormones, and more.

Then we came to the conclusion carbohydrates were the root of all evil. And though you may lose weight for a few weeks or months by cutting back, it can actually cause a ton of long term damage, especially for women.

This is when many people simply say the hell with it. I'll just eat as little calories as I can stand and I will lose weight and be healthier. Right? Not so fast, that causes a whole other host of problems.

The fact of the matter is the human body is very adaptive and can survive in some of the most extreme conditions but doesn't mean your body is healthy. Not sick and healthy are not interchangeable terms. Fitness and health is not black and white, it's a spectrum.

Do not risk your health in pursuit of the abs seen on the cover of the magazines. A lot of the times the models you see do a ton of harm to their bodies to reach that point and only look that way for a few days a year.

Next time you find yourself reaching for magic pills, powders, or potentially poisonous potions. Ask yourself a simple question, " will this make me healthier?" If you're even considering it, the answer is likely no. Aim for longevity by eating real, earth grown nutrient dense whole foods.

Having well balanced nutrition includes eating lean meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruit. Highly refined foods aren't bad but should be consumed in moderation.

Be careful with all the extremes you see today. Always air on the side of BALANCE.

What is the perfect plan? Variety.

No More Cheat Meals

Cheat meals.
Cheat days.
Reward meals.
Diet breaks.

These are very popular terms in the fitness world.

I can't stand how people loosely use those terms. It basically means you need to put a label on why you deserve to eat whatever you want in a specific time frame. 

The idea behind cheat meals and days is that you schedule a specific meal(s) or day during the week when you eat anything you want. It boils down to eating foods that are off limits at other times during the week. You stick to whatever regimen you have during the week, and then the weekend comes and you let loose. 

This works for some. Scheduling a meal where you can enjoy some of your favorite foods could be a positive experience. Having something to look forward to could lead to good adherence to stick to a plan. In my personal experience, this takes an extreme amount of discipline and willpower. And willpower is a limited resource in this lifestyle. You have to be a very mindful eater before entering that arena or a lot of things could go wrong. 

For instance, when some people have foods they believe are off limits they will think about those foods all the time. It can even lead to an unhealthy obsession of those foods. Since they think some foods are restricted then they crave them like crazy. They will place foods like pizza, cookies, and cake on a pedestal.  The thought of knowing something is “forbidden” or “off limits” makes those foods more desirable for many people. 

Scheduling reward meals or having cheat days might not be ideal for you. In my opinion there isn’t one thing that works for everyone. 

Here are some other problems I’ve seen people experience with cheat meals:

  1. They over eat a ton of junk during the scheduled cheat day/meal since it’s the only day they can eat whatever they want.
  2. They eat foods that they could care less about because it is off limits on other days. 
  3. Cravings are out of control until the scheduled cheat day.
  4. They lose control and eat until they are over full.
  5. They experience huge food guilt which leads to cycle of disordered eating. 

I believe we need to approach a healthy lifestyle in a different manner. My approach to nutrition is different than most health professionals. I don't believe in diets, or restrictive nutritional regimens. If you want to make this a lifestyle then you have to look at things from a broader scope. Can you sustain your eating patterns for the next 5 - 10 years? If your answer is no, then you have to find a new way.  

The issue with my approach to nutrition is that it takes time. Of course you don't like that statement. But you should be tired of trying diet after diet and losing the same 10-20 pounds over and over again. It takes a little time to attain some consistency in planning meals, preparing your food, and become a more mindful eater. But once you gain that momentum you will be able to include some foods you love when you want them.  If it’s Tuesday and you want a few cookies, you will be able to eat the cookies and then move on with your life. It will no longer be cheating because you understand your body well enough to satisfy a craving without your world is coming to an end. You will be able to eat them, enjoy them, and then move on.  You will gain a better mind and body connection and understand you can have whatever I want. Because you will understand portion sizes, proper planning and mindfulness.   

The main point is that I don’t view any food as off limits. The sooner you realize that then the more free you become in this lifestyle and then you begin to enjoy the all the fruits it has to offer. 

Why I Believe Gyms Exist

There is a gym in every community now. I was curious on how many where in my community. So I did some research to see how many gyms were in a 10 mile radius of where I lived. 

Twenty-One gyms in a 10 mile radius from my home. Wow!

Why are there so many fitness facilities? 

I can't speak for all fitness facilities. I can only hope that they have a clear vision in how they will play their part in guiding their clientele to a healthier lifestyle. 

The gyms that are around my community all have different reasons for why they preach certain principles. Some are CrossFit Boxes, yoga studios, corporate ran facilities, old school mom and pop gyms, and community facilities like YMCA's. 

I have my own personal opinion on why gyms exist and I think more gyms would be successful in helping the public improve their lifestyles if they adopted this train of thought too. 

All facilities are open for one simple purpose when you break it down to the core. To practice and improve movement. 

Yes, we live different lives than we did from our ancestors. We don't move as much. There were no gyms back in the day when we walked more, and had more labor intensive jobs. There was no need for them because people were lifting heavy objects, squatting down, and put things up over our heads numerous times in a day. They also stood for most of the day. 

In today's age we have to practice movement more. We are missing it in our professional lives. Which is not a bad thing. But time needs to be set aside to make the gym a priority so we can improve our ability to move. I believe that many of us take movement for granted. We wait until something hurts, or put up with pain until a healthcare professional shines a light on it. 

How many times do you squat down to pick something up off the ground vs how many hours you are sedentary? 

We sit down to put our socks on. We prop our feet up to put our shoes on. We get the closest parking spots we can find and we opt to take an elevator over stairs. 

Gyms exist so we can work on our movement patterns and improve our bodies so our quality of life stays high. These places that are filled with equipment are open so we can correct movement patterns, improve our strength,  and increase our performance. When you feel the ache in your lower back, or the pain in your feet from long walks; it happens because of weak muscular systems and faulty movement patterns. How else are we supposed to manage the way we were designed to move? Most jobs certainly aren't conducive to helping you age gracefully. Something has to give. 

Make it a point to practice movement. It will make you stronger, more mobile, and pain free. It just so happens that the gym is a really good place to practice. You have all the tools that you need at your disposal. It is up to you to use them to your benefit. 

How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?

The beloved water debate. This is a topic that I cover at least once a day between friends, family and clients. 

The question of how much water your body needs to stay hydrated can be a bit tricky. Is it eight glasses a day? Half your body weight in ounces? Those are all common suggestions to follow when trying to stay hydrated. But is there a definitive answer to how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis? 

We all have different hydration needs that vary depending on our health, activity level, diet, and climate. 

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but there is no specific “one size fits all” recommendation. So if someone tells you to carry around a gallon jug and finish it by the end of the day, run the opposite direction. 

Water is critical for for everyone. Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight, and even that can vary depending on size and gender. Hydration can come from water, food, or metabolic water production. Research has given us some general guidelines. Healthy adults should drink at the very least 2 liters, or 8.5 cups of water every day. 

Why would there be differences in optimal intake for different people?

While considering optimal hydration there are a few factors to keep in mind. You must take into account the intensity of your fitness routine, the temperature outdoors, and current health status. Women must also take extra things into consideration like being pregnant or lactating.

If you have an exercise regimen of any kind then hydration becomes even more important. You have hydration requirements greater than those individuals who are sedentary by about one to three cups per day. Performing exercise for extended periods of time, especially over an hour, makes electrolytes (sodium and potassium) imperative to hydration. Replacing electrolytes that are lost through sweating helps avoid the condition of having too little sodium in your blood.

Similarly, living in warm weather with high temperatures or humidity causes greater fluid loss than that of individuals living in more temperate climates. For this reason additional fluids and electrolytes are recommended for people lucky enough to live where the sun always shines.

Lastly, pregnant or lactating women require more fluids for adequate hydration in the range of 10 to 14 additional cups per day. Putting their recommended daily fluid intake level to around 4.5 liters or 18 cups.

What can you do to ensure you are drinking enough water?

Optimal hydration can be reached through drinking various fluids and by eating water-dense foods.

Findings from a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggest that regardless of the fluids ingested, the body knows how to use them for optimal hydration. Researchers observed a group of healthy males, randomized to varying sources of hydration for 24 hours. They were randomized to either consume water, water and diet soda, water and regular soda, or water with regular soda, diet soda, and orange juice mixed. After testing the subjects’ urine for biological markers of hydration and dehydration, the scientists discovered that all of the men were adequately hydrated.

Coffee, despite some common beliefs, is also a good hydrator. 

How does hydration effect your weight loss efforts?

Hydration is eminent to health and wellness and can even contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Research shows some of your favorite beverages can help your hydration levels. But you must remember that some of those options aren't calorie free. Make smart decisions when consuming some of your favorites. The sugar free version of your favorite soda or coffee not loaded with sugar could lead to better weight-loss success. 

Proper hydration plays a role in counteracting overeating. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger so food is eaten instead of drinking water or other fluids. A good idea is to first hydrate with a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or any other sugar-free beverage before grabbing a snack.

Staying properly hydrated also plays a role in thermoregulation. A body that is properly hydrated burns more calories than a body that is dehydrated. 

My top 3 optimal hydration tips for success. 

1) Never allow yourself to be thirsty. 
2) Eat plenty of water dense fruits and vegetables. These include cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. They all contribute to optimal hydration as well. 
3) Keep fluids with you where ever you go. If you have it with you then you will likely stay hydrated. 

Tucker MA. Ganio MS. Adams JD et al. Hydration status over the 24-H is not affected by ingested beverage composition. J A Coll Nutri. 2014