Stop The Nutrition Belief Systems

Nutrition is often seen as a belief system. In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthful”, rather than on real evidence or the scientific method. Until we fix this, nutrition will get more confusing, not less. 

Stop The Nutrition Belief System.png

Unfortunately, “nutrition” is often seen as a belief system.
But beliefs don’t necessarily have anything to do with facts. Today's society has you choose a side to be on and I feel like that is where most people go wrong. Why do we have to belong to a group that believes certain things about nutrition? 

When we believe something, we choose to accept that it’s true, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This approach of “believing” is frequently applied to nutrition.
As in:

“I believe that sugar is poison and addicting.”

“I don’t believe that humans were meant to eat grains or starches.”

“I believe in only eating foods that are natural and organic.”

Yet, nutrition is not a belief system. Nutrition is a science.
Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true.

The problem happens when we base our own health decisions on emotional bias or the rules of a certain philosophy. Most people I come across with don't even know about the real facts of nutrition. 

The bad news is science is anything but simple. It would be great if there was a single ingredient to cure cancer, or a single exercise to get you ripped. But physiology isn’t simple, and neither is science. Especially nutrition science as it is related to health and fitness.

You might be able to find a study to support nearly any nutrition-related belief you want. This is especially true if the study was small, or sponsored by a particular interest (like a supplement company). A lot of people extrapolate what they need out of a study just to prove the point that they have a side they stand on. When you hear someone give black and white answers you have to be cautious into how much you believe about what they're saying. 

Practice having an open yet critical mindset.
“Because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person. 

4 things I always tell people to do in order for them to find what works best for them and their goals. 
1. Be curious. 
2. Ask questions. 
3. Try different things. 
4. Document the effects.

Over time, that’s as legitimate a way of knowing if something is beneficial to you or not. Make sure you’re always tracking, documenting the result, and sometimes revisiting old things that may have not worked in the past. Our bodies change over time so sometimes somethings are worth retrying.  

My best advice is to live in the middle ground.
Biology rarely operates in extremes. 

So be suspicious of “always” or “never” language in nutrition talk.

Instead, try “some people” and “sometimes” and “it depends”.

Notice when words and concepts trigger emotions.
Most belief-based nutrition systems are grounded in marketing that purposely gets you worked up. They try to elicit an emotional response from you so you move one way or another. Belief based systems might poke at your traumas, insecurities, or ego (the current “clean eating” craze is a good example).

Recognize when you feel “pulled” by a certain idea.

Ask yourself, am I considering this “system” for the right reasons? Am I looking for an “easy” solution because I feel sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today?

Be skeptical of one-size-fits-all approaches.

Humans are unique, complex systems. Your caloric needs and macronutrient/micronutrient breakdown is going to be different than anyone else. 

There is no one best diet. Any plan should be a system that’s based on evidence, and truly reflects the client’s unique lifestyle, goals, and needs.

Knowledge is power.

War On Clean Eating

It is not uncommon today to hear someone talk about how they're starting a healthy journey lifestyle that is accompanied by 'clean eating'. 

Every time I hear that word being uttered from someone's mouth I cringe. Literally. 

War On Clean Eating.png

What does it even mean? Are you washing your food with Windex? Maybe you're preparing your food differently than me? I don't know. But the term "eating clean" is really popular in today's society. 

If you ask a group of people, who would consider themselves clean eaters what the term 'eating clean' means, you will get some different answers. The answers may include responses like no processed food, low-fat, low-sugar, low- calorie, low-glycemic index, or only foods our ancestors ate and a variety of other answers.

There is no set definition of the trendy term taking the health and fitness community by storm. Foods that are processed aren't inherently bad anyway. We should all try to eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains and protein. And I usually eat mainly whole foods. But I also don’t freak out about foods that aren’t ‘clean’ because I know that the majority of my diet is pretty nutritious and I like to enjoy my food whether it is healthy (usually) or not (sometimes).

While labels on diets can be a good thing at times (obviously gluten-free is essential for those with celiac and those who use a certain type of diet, like low sodium, to manage a health condition), but for the most part, I think labeling your diet is stupid. Especially if you need a ‘cheat day’ from your so-called diet. 

Labeling your food clean implies that other foods are dirty or have some negative result on your health waiting to be unleashed. ‘Clean eating’ may have started with good intentions, but it has gone too far. It has turned into yet another food shaming diet fad that fuels terrible eating habits. 

Clean eating is used to sway people toward certain foods as well. It has a health halo effect on people. The “health halo” effect occurs when a food that has some healthy attri­butes is perceived as being virtuous in all respects. For instance, many people mistakenly think that organic foods are more healthful than their conventionally grown counter­parts. Couldn't be further from the truth. You can eat an organic cookie all you want. Guess what? If you eat too many of them, you can still gain weight. Calories are still KING regardless if you're eating organic or not. 

‘Clean eating’ can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food. With social media making it possible to be constantly immersed in a culture of health food and fitness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and thinking that your food is not healthy enough because it doesn’t look like the health and fitness guru you follow on social media. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to disordered eating patterns or full-blown eating disorders. 

Clean eating has no set definition. What’s considered a clean or nutritious food differs from person to person based on their situation, preferences, and goals. Don't put yourself in the box of 'clean eating'. You will find yourself finding ways to "cheat" and will end up down the yo-yo dieting path that you don't want to be a part of. 


The Power Of Emotional Eating

Do you put others' needs before your own? That may be a part of the job for you.

Whether you’re a high-powered professional, a mother, a caregiver, a partner, a worker, a daughter, a son, a friend, or all of the above and more.

We live in a busy world today. Many of you spend your days putting out fires, handling to-do lists, wiping little noses, meeting deadlines and making sure other people aren't going hungry, feel safe, and happy.

The Power Of Emotional Eating.png

The stressors of life can literally beat a person up. If they go unattended too long they can destroy relationships with food and lead to a series of events that prevent a person from living their best life. Emotional eating is real and if we don't heighten our awareness around it, we can easily fall victim to it. 

In some cases, the story goes like this. 
Life stressors become too much to bear. 
You get drained mentally and emotionally.
The time you used to invest in your health and fitness has disappeared.
The clothes that you felt comfortable in are now fitting tighter than you would like. 
The sugar and junk food cravings seem much stronger.
The gym membership you have isn't being utilized and the home gym equipment you have is gathering dust.
The bathroom mirror and scale are avoided. 
You end up putting your health and fitness goals to the side because changing it feels like the roller coaster ride that never ends.
Food becomes the way you deal with stress. 
Food becomes the gateway to helping you feel better. 

At the end of a long and hectic day, a big bowl of ice cream can be especially effective in temporarily soothing our exhausted, hard-working selves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can feel healthy, fit, and good in your own skin.
You can regain control of your schedule and your body. You can overcome emotional eating and cravings.
You can show love and appreciation to others while still taking care of yourself.

Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Therapists call this unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when you’re done with your meal and you continue to pick at it, slowly eating the remaining portion that you intended to leave behind. It can also be putting chips, crackers or any other food in your mouth, just because it’s in front of you.

Possible Solutions

Find other ways to reward and soothe yourself besides food (and other self-destructive behaviors.) Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Absolutely not!  The things you come up with will help somewhat,  But, In order to truly give up emotional eating, you are also going to have to practice tolerating difficult feelings.

Try to remain mindful of what and when you are eating. It sounds crazy but you have to be intentional about asking yourself a series of questions so you can be more mindful of breaking the cycle. 
Why am I eating this?
What am I thinking?
What am I feeling?
Who am I with?

Emotional eating is a powerful and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges. If it didn’t work so well, no one would do it. In order to stop this cycle of emotional eating, you have to make a commitment to reach deep inside yourself to find a place of grit and strength to break the cycle. 

Hopefully the above reminders can assist you in your journey.

The Truth About Corn

Corn has an undeserved reputation as a fattening, carb-laden, genetically altered food. Add to that its association with high-fructose corn syrup and you may find yourself wondering if corn on the cob deserves a place at your dinner table this summer. 

Information bullies live on the internet and lure on the people who are on the fence about tons of different nutritional topics. They scare us by using our indifference against us. I personally can't stand an information bully. They live to sway you to their camp or belief system. I always tell people who I come in contact with that the truth is somewhere in the middle. There are no absolutes in this lifestyle. 

The Truth About Corn.png

Let's break down this corn phenomenon. The short of it is you should enjoy corn guilt free. 

Admit it, there’s nothing quite like a crisp piece of corn on the cob. There seem to be a few myths that surround corn about the healthfulness of it as a vegetable. After all, something so sweet and delicious surely has to have a downside, right?

I often hear people say, "Humans don't digest corn."

Dietary fiber, the indigestible part of plant material, is made up of two main types. Soluble fiber easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the part of the gut known as the colon. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

Corn has high amounts of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the kind of fiber that goes through the body intact and gets those bowel movements going. if you eat a lot of corn, you might see some of it in your stool, but insoluble fiber has been shown in research to help feed the “good” bacteria in our gut. If we’re looking at getting lots of good fiber in our diet, it’s good that [corn] has a higher ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber because it feeds the good gut bacteria in our body.

Vegetables like kale and spinach may have better reputations as nutrition all-stars, but corn has something to contribute, too. Corn contains certain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as magnesium and potassium. Yellow corn is also a good source of two antioxidants, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which are good for eye health.

I've also heard the comment, "Corn is high in sugar." 

You don’t steer clear of bananas because you think they’re high in sugar, do you? Then why should you do the same for corn? A banana contains about the same amount of calories as an ear of corn. Both of them are around 110 calories. Guess what? A banana has more sugar than corn.  A cob of corn has around 6 to 8 grams of sugar, while a banana has about 15.

Don't let food bullies sway you one way or another. As you have heard from me before, there are no bad foods.

Is Aspartame Dangerous

Aspartame is a popular artificial sweetener used in many foods and drinks. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal for the most part. It’s also used widely in packaged products — especially “diet” foods, low-calorie juices and diet sodas. 
Contrary to what many people believe, aspartame does contain calories. It contains the same amount of calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates which are 4 calories per gram. However, seeing that aspartame is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, the amount required to sweeten food is so small the calories are inconsequential. Which makes it essentially calorie free.

Well, why are people saying aspartame causes cancer?

In 2005, a study found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed very high doses of aspartame. So the media did scared people with the findings and people labeled it a "bad" food as a result. 

The interesting fact is that the amount that it took for those negative side effects to happen was absurd. There is always a dose response relationship whenever something like aspartame is studied but no one tells the truth about that. You would have to take in over 1,000 cans of diet soda a day to reach the amounts that caused the negative health effects in those rats. 

I can't stand when "experts" cherry pick science to prove a point without giving the whole story. 

Aspartame has been approved for human consumption by regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries and received wide consumer acceptance with consumption by hundreds of millions of people over the past 20 years, representing billions of man-years of safe exposure. If it was truly as dangerous as the experts say, wouldn't more people be dying from it? Or wouldn't we see a higher prevalence of it being linked to death? Exactly! What I see is people always trying to place a label on something so they can belong to some group or frame of thought. Meanwhile, we are still getting heart disease, metabolic diseases, and obesity is at an all time high. But let's blame aspartame right? 

Some people will argue that aspartame causes weight gain. Which makes ZERO sense because aspartame is essentially calorie free. The amount you would have to consume would be astronomical. 

Things To Take Note Of:
1. Now there is some research that suggests that aspartame could negatively affect your gut bacteria but that is why we practice moderation. 
2. Some people say that diet drinks cause them to crave more sugar. If you experience this then I would shy away from drinking them or reduce your overall intake of diet drinks. 
3. Constantly consuming really sweet foods and drinks can change your taste palate. I know people who can’t drink plain water as they don’t “like the taste” and need to sweeten everything. This isn’t exactly ideal and won't lead to sustained lifestyle changes so be very mindful of how much you consume. 
4. Drink More Water.

Underestimating How Much You Are Eating

If you have been exercising regularly and resting 6-8 hours a night you are off to a great start. Weight loss can be frustrating when you feel like you are doing all the things necessary to see the changes you envisioned. You freak out when the changes you’ve seen on the scale begin to slow down, and then seemingly stop altogether. Don't be discouraged if this is your story or if you are currently experiencing this. 

Your weight loss can stall for a variety of different reasons. Less health conscious habits, diet is slipping by the wayside, or exercise schedule has dipped for the worse. It can be hard to identify the reasons for a weight loss plateau when you stick to the healthy lifestyle changes that have already helped you lose weight.

One of the things I want to point out is the importance of tracking your nutritional intake. It’s clear that excess calories can slow your weight loss progress. However, it can be difficult to estimate how many calories you consume and expend in a day. Research suggests that most people, including trained healthcare professionals, tend to overestimate calories burned through exercise and underestimate calories consumed in food. Even if you carefully keep track with a food journal or phone app, or wear an activity tracker, these methods can only provide a general estimate and are often much less accurate than you might expect. 

Mixed nuts are a very popular snack for someone on the go. Let's just say you decided to consume mixed nuts every day for your mid day snack. You may think you are consuming one serving of mixed nuts that you had which is about 30 grams or 1/4 cup which would equal around 200 calories for most brands. If you've never weighed or measured the serving size you may actually consume 2 servings for that particular snack every single day. Over the course of the week, you would have consumed 1400 calories that you didn't account for. Yes, nuts are a healthy choice but a calorie is still a calorie when it comes to being in a deficit and losing weight. 

I'm not saying that you have to track your calories daily to be successful at losing weight. But those tools can help you be a little more accurate day to day. Measuring food on a scale and tracking your intake may be stressful, or overwhelming to you. For that person, I would say it probably isn't something you are mentally ready for. A more practical approach is to look closely at your everyday habits and consider what potential impact they might have on your goals. For example, little “extras” such as sugar and cream in your morning coffee, or absent-minded snacking while you’re cooking a meal can really add up over the course of a day. A closer look at these habits might be what you need to get the scale moving again.

The key is to not ignore the details. That little candy bar you ate because your boss gave it to you, the small piece of candy you ate on the way home because you were starving, and the few scoops of ice cream that you had before bed can add up quick. 95% of your day may have been spent sticking to your nutritional plan 5% of the day that you were mindlessly consuming extra calories could be screwing up your weight loss goals. Sometimes it's all in the details. 

Are Carbohydrates The Enemy

Carbs are bad right?

I'm sure you have been apart of a carbohydrate debate before. Avoiding carbs is the go to strategy in most of the diets that are out there today. You see all the celebrities promoting low carbohydrate diets and tons of professionals swearing that sugar makes you fat. More and more health conscious individuals are ditching carbs and opting to eat more fat.

What should you believe and what advice should you follow?

Let's get something straight first. Any macronutrient consumed in excess will result in weight gain. It could be 10,000 calories from the healthiest fat you can find or leanest protein out there. Eating above your maintenance calorie intake over time will start to add pounds to the scale.

Carbohydrates are not the enemy but they get the blame because of there inherent structure.

The conventional wisdom suggests that there shouldn’t be any difference in whether or not weight loss is achieved by cutting calories from either carbs or fat. If a calorie equals a calorie, then reduction of energy intake from either should lead to weight loss. We know that some foods react different in the body. Some foods are more nutrient dense than others. We are just talking about energy balance right now. 

Some have argued that carbs could cause more weight gain due to their effects on insulin. After all, insulin is the hormone that promotes the accumulation of storage of adipose tissue (body fat) as a result of overeating carbohydrates.

But while the carbohydrates effects on insulin propose that replacing carbs with fat should reduce insulin secretion leading to greater fat burning, this logic hasn’t quite held up to scrutiny when put into practice in scientific studies.

Does this mean carbohydrates are off the hook for weight gain? No, because it’s also well known that the majority of expendable calories do come from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods, drinks, and desserts. You can't eat twinkies all day and not expect to pay a cost for it.

Additionally, there are some individuals who might benefit from low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. There is some merit for those that struggle with Type II diabetes or epilepsy to try a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. But this doesn't mean that everyone should be on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. 

The research does suggest that it’s important that a balanced approach toward reducing calories is warranted for healthy weight loss. Carbs and insulin are not inherently fat producing on their own. The context in which carbs are consumed matters, in terms of energy balance.

Eliminating an entire macronutrient from the diet not only could have a person miss out on foods with important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, but also may not be any more effective for weight loss.

Don't Be A Weekday Dieter

The weekday dieter.

That is actually a real thing. I can't tell you how many times I have met someone who eats good on the weekdays and throws everything healthy out the window on the weekends.

Let's talk about reducing calories for the goal of weight loss. 3 things everyone should consider prior to losing weight is:

  1. Not eating enough protein.
  2. Over restricting calories.
  3. Restricting calories for too long.

For today's blog we are going to focus on over restricting calories. The more restrictive you are with your diet, the more likely you are to engage in binge eating and have higher body weight.

What you have to take into consideration is that no matter what kind of diet you’re on, you need to actually be able to adhere to it.

If you can only stick to a your diet during the weekdays then you need to rethink your strategy.

Dietary adherence is the most important determinant of weight loss success.

There is no magic formula out there that is going to elicit some special result. I know that there are pills, powders, formulas, and potions out there that some people claim to be weight loss guarantees. But the truth is they don't exist. The one thing that is proven to give the best results is consistency.

I run into people who feel that they have to restrict calories in the 1000 - 1200 calorie range all the time. These are the same people who suffer from Last Time Syndrome. When the weekends come around they will tell themselves, "This is the last time I will cheat on my diet." or "I'm only going to have one cheat meal this weekend." That last time or that one cheat meal turns into a weekend of over eating there favorite foods and the emotional guilt of throwing all their hard work away.

Have you ever heard someone say this before? “This is the last chance I get to eat this [forbidden food] until next week, so I’d better eat as much as of it as I can!” In a study performed in 2002 researchers found that restrained eaters (those who had been told to diet for several weeks) consumed significantly more of a ‘forbidden food’ during a taste test than unrestrained eating (non-dieters).

Most trainers will tell you "try harder” or “be more strict” when it comes to dieting to your goal weight. But I assure you it is rarely ever the answer when it comes to achieving diet success.

Successful weight loss is about developing new healthy diet habits through conscious patterns of behavior that we repeat frequently, until they become unconscious! It takes a while to practice and develop a new pattern of eating. But you can do it.

A weekend of irresponsible eating can absolutely erase a whole week’s worth of hard work. I’m sure you or someone you know has been through this before. It’s a slippery slope to an endlessly frustrating cycle of restrict, binge, restrict, binge. What’s worse, you don’t make any forward progress. In fact, you may even find yourself regressing. This is why it’s so crucial to keep everything in check.

Choices & Consequences

It's Friday night, you had a long day at work. You skipped lunch and food has been invading your thoughts like a bad dream.

It comes down to good old choices. You inherently have the free liberty to make day to day nutritional choices. Those decisions have consequences regardless if you think about them or not. Everything we eat has a trade off. This means that sometimes the food choices you make could give you substantial energy or possibly make you feel like crap. The choices you make could add to weight gain, weight maintenance or weight loss. The choices you make may ultimately take you down a path of a lower quality of life or they could benefit your health immensely.

The personal conversation of "What am I going to eat and how will it make me feel" needs to happen daily. The hardest part of this question is separating the emotional decision from the physical one. The emotional decision is often times the easiest one, or the decision that speaks to how we feel in that moment. The physical decision can take some problem solving and may require more time. It might be the less exciting one or the least spontaneous choice. But often times it's the choice that will benefit you long term.

These choices could vary but typically look something like this:

  • Go out to eat or stay in and cook.

  • Order take out or eat left-overs.

  • Stop for some fast food or or wait to eat the food you meal prepped.

  • Eat a three course meal with family and friends or watch portions and say no to some possible favorites.

  • Stay out late drinking with friends or limit your intake and leave an it earlier than others.

  • Hang out with friends at happy hour or eat your scheduled snack and get to the gym.

We tend to not weigh those decisions but they accumulate into something negative or positive depending on what we decide. Often times they are the deciding factor if we reach our goals or not.

When your willpower is depleted, you are even more likely to make decisions based on the environment around you. After all, if you’re feeling drained, stressed, or overwhelmed then you’re not going to go through a lot of effort to cook a healthy dinner or fit in a workout. You’ll grab whatever is easiest.

Set yourself up for success with these decisions so you're armed to face them head on.

Here are 5 tips that help me fight off giving into food choices that don't benefit my overall goals.

  1. Have a healthy snack alternative to hold you over on your ride home.

  2. Pace healthier foods in more visible spots in your refrigerator, pantry, and around the kitchen.

  3. Tuck away cookies, treats, and other unhealthy choices down on the lower shelves.

  4. Have your meal already waiting for you in a container so it is easy to grab and less time to wait when you get home.

  5. Plan out a day or two that you will have a treat so it's worked into your week. That way you aren't going over your allotted calories for the day or week and you have something to look forward to instead of feeling guilty about.

5 Tips To Help Stay On Track While Traveling

Is there a trick to traveling and managing your nutrition?

Many of my clients travel often for work. They say, "I can't be healthy this week because I have to travel for work". Or "This week is going to be rough because I have to go out to eat a lot for work."

Of course when you are thrown into the unknown things will be challenging. I know it will not be easy for you to stay on track with nutrition but it is doable.

Here are 5 tips to help stay on track while traveling:

  1. Be prepared.
    By planning ahead you will find yourself staying much closer to the path of wellness when on the go. The first stop you should make is at the grocery store. There are tons of great snacks that travel well so you can have nutritiously dense food to take with you. I've brought protein bars, raw nuts, fruit, and my empty water bottle so I can fill it up once through security that way I have more than enough. Those tiny little cups they give you on the plane might as well be a shot glass.
  2. Be boring when choosing your meal.
    Eating out at most restaurants can be very difficult. The portions are likely too big, the healthy options are limited, and they cover just about everything in inflammatory oils. When your calorie friendly choices are limited order a salad with dressing on the side. I dip my fork in the dressing then take a stab at the dry salad and I typically use about half as much if they poured it over the salad for me. Pay the extra money to add protein if it doesn't come with it. The extra protein can be satiating and may keep you from ordering dessert or eating too much past what you should. Steamed vegetables with lean proteins like chicken or fish are available at almost any place you go.
  3. Keep tracking.
    If you're already tracking your food in some sort of log or app keep doing it. Don't stress out if you go over your normal amounts but by tracking you will be more cognizant of what you're doing and you will inevitably make better decisions or choose smaller quantities. You may not hit the target carbohydrates, protein, and fats you want but you can make sure that you don't go over the allotted calories you have during that time.
  4. Fast food.
    Sometimes we simply can't avoid it when traveling. You're with 3 co-workers who all could care less about the things they put in their bodies so you're outnumbered. Don't freak out and don't starve yourself in this situation. One of the few changes we have seen in recent years is restaurants actually telling us the nutrition info. Keep an eye on the fats and aim for something that is high in protein. The fats is where they tend to get us because they douse the food in the worst kind of oils imaginable. If you do happen to overeat because you had a lack of choices then consume it guilt free and move on with your day.
  5. Enjoy it.
    We can't expect to be perfect and life is all about controlling the flow. I try living by the 80/20 rule. Make good nutritional decisions 80% of the time and the other 20% I enjoy life! Exploring new cities is fun so don't let it go by without having one mouth watering meal, beverage, or both!

4 Reasons Why Smoothies Are Amazing

When was the last time you had a smoothie? And I'm not talking about one from Smoothie King or some milkshake-like dessert from your favorite fast food joint. If the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned smoothie is ice cream then shame on you.

I'm talking about a whole food nutritiously dense smoothie!

Smoothies alone won’t fix a poor nutritional habits. But they can be an amazing addition to your diet. Smoothies offer a lot of great benefits, but one of the best things about them is that they are awesome for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables. They may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake as well. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 4 great facts about why you should consider adding a smoothie to your meal plan.

1. A Variety Of Fruits & Vegetables
Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables. When was the last time you met the USDA recommendation of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can incorporate a cup or two of greens and a serving or two of fruit easy. Fiber is an important part of any nutritional regimen. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. Fruit or vegetable juices can sometimes have a lower fiber content for various amounts of reasons. But the fiber in a homemade smoothie is still in tact.

2. High Amounts Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are involved in the prevention of cellular damage. That sounds like a big fancy term but it's not. Cellular damage is a common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases. Point being, you don't want cellular damage on a large scale. The goal is to prevent it. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits which are rich in antioxidants into your smoothies.

3. Fun Experiment That The Whole Family Can Enjoy
When I was younger there were certain vegetables I just didn't want to eat. Texture was a major thing for me then. But when my mother started making smoothies for me and hiding the spinach, kale, and other nutritious vegetables I had no problem chugging it down. Smoothies can be a fun way to get your family to eat whole foods and can be a fun experiment for the entire family. If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount a little bit over time.

4. Unlimited Add-On Options
I love to use smoothies as a way to throw in extra nutrients that I might not be able to get in during the day. Things like honey, greek yogurt, flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Of course there are many more you can add in that list but those are just some of my favorites.

Smoothies are great drinks filled with fruits and/or vegetables and other nutrient dense ingredients.  They make wonderful options for a meal or a snack when made with natural items. When you have a good blender and quality ingredients, making a delicious, healthy smoothies is simple and easy.

The Importance of Vitamin D

I always see vitamin D supplements being advertised but not enough quality information being put out about the benefits of it. 

It’s well known that vitamin D (along with calcium) is important for bone health for both adults and kids. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasized the importance of kids getting enough calcium and vitamin D rich foods. Foods that have a rich source of vitamin D include milk, eggs, fish, vegetables, and whole grain cereal. Receiving vitamin D from a nutritious diet is key to establish a foundation for healthy bone development and maintenance.

There's a lot more to Vitamin D than meets the eye. It serves a variety of functions in the body. Unfortunately, most of us don't get enough vitamin D on a daily basis, with a reported one billion people worldwide having a deficiency.

Here are three benefits of having optimal vitamin D levels in your body:

1. Vitamin D supports your skeletal system.

When you think of strong bones, calcium often comes to mind. Calcium is the major player when it comes to bone health and increasing bone mineral density, but don't overlook the importance of vitamin D.

Previous research has shown that vitamin D is a strong simulator of calcium deposition in bones, making them stronger and healthier. If you're not getting enough vitamin D, your body begins to slow or stop depositing calcium into bones, eventually drawing calcium out from your bones back into the bloodstream. Over time, this constant cycle of deposit and withdrawal will make your bones weak and at high risk for fractures as you age

2. Vitamin D helps you recover faster after exercise. 

The day after a good workout can make sitting a little difficult or washing your hair a challenge. Feelings of soreness, stiffness, and fatigue will affect performing the days following too. Vitamin D definitely helps this situation. Studies show that having adequate levels of vitamin D levels helps recovery after exercise. 

Additionally, vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in athletes and is associated with muscle weakness and atrophy, specifically Type 2 muscle fiber atrophy. Skipping out on this vitamin is just as bad as skipping out on leg day.

3. Vitamin D aids in keeping your arteries healthy. 

Arterial health effects heart health along with other factors such as diet, weight, and stress. Scientific literature supports the link between vitamin D inadequacy and poor arterial health.

One of the reasons may be that vitamin D is necessary for blood vessels to maintain their normal function and flexibility. Arteries are blood vessels that act like highways in our bodies, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to various organs. Aging as well as lifestyle and dietary factors can cause arteries to stiffen, lose their flexibility, and even harden. This could lead to an increase risk of  cardiovascular disease.

A simple way to help avoid this is by getting enough vitamin D. 

When looking for a vitamin D supplement, choose the D3 form. Gel caps are a great option. Liquids are good too. How much you take depends on many factors. How much sunlight you get, ethnicity, where you live and the type of clothing you wear. If you really want to dial it in, get your levels tested. 

How much of this overlooked vitamin should you be getting a day? Currently, the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board is the governing body that sets guidelines for intakes of all kinds of nutrients, including vitamin and minerals. The recommended daily allowance (or RDA) for vitamin D is currently 600 IU per day for men and women between the ages of 9 and 70.

However, it is likely that this value is an underestimation. The currently established upper intake level is 4,000 IU per day, but research has reported no adverse health effects to taking 6,000 IU per day.

Keep in mind that the RDA value is primarily based off of outcomes centered around bone health, without taking all of the other beneficial things that vitamin D does into account. The take home point is that you should be much more worried about getting too little vitamin D than too much.

Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

Did you know fiber is also known as roughage? Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that travel through our digestive system. Fiber absorbs water along the way and helps to ease bowel movements.

Fiber is a very important conversation that I have with clients all the time. Do you get enough fiber? The odds are pretty good that you don’t get the recommended daily amount. Studies show that only five percent of adults consume adequate dietary fiber. The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men every day.

The majority of us are missing out on the health benefits from fiber including support for heart health, digestive health, and weight management.

Many nutritionally dense foods have much less fiber than you think. For example, an apple has about 3 grams and a slice of whole grain bread contains about 2 grams. So you can see that it takes some planning to make sure that your daily fiber content needs are met.

Don't try to fix your fiber needs in a day. Gradually improve. Any time you make a major change to your diet your body will need some time to adjust. Increasing fiber is best done in small increments because drastic change can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Attempting to improve it too fast can cause digestive upsets such as intestinal gas, cramping, or diarrhea. One approach may be to add one serving of fiber-rich foods every day for a week. See how your body feels and maybe increase to two servings the next week. You could repeat that as long as you listen to your body until you reached the desired fiber content level. Your best choice is a slow, gradual increase over time to help your system adapt and avoid any uncomfortable symptoms.

A key component to increasing fiber content is to also increase water as well.

Hydration levels and digestive comfort are closely related. The large intestine plays an important role in maintaining the body’s water balance so monitoring water becomes even more important. On a day when you don’t drink as much water as your body needs, the large intestine will compensate by absorbing more water than usual from the materials entering the large intestine. The end result can often leading to constipation. One of the benefits of getting an adequate amount of dietary fiber is to increase both the volume and moisture content of the material in the large intestine. This is beneficial because it supports the body’s ability to eliminate waste and promote regularity. However, increasing dietary fiber can only support regularity if you are well hydrated.

Exploring many different sources of dietary fiber is a major key.

There are a many different types of dietary fiber and each type has unique benefits. Some types of fiber can dissolve and thicken when mixed with water. This is a property that helps you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time after a meal. Oats, for example, are a a type of fiber that helps keep your appetite in check and can have benefits for heart health. Other types of fiber are called prebiotics and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. You can maximize the benefits for your body by choosing a variety of fiber-rich foods.

Almost everyone can help their bodies by getting more fiber. Fiber rich foods support both healthy intestinal function and overall health in many ways. By keeping the tips in mind that I laid out, you can receive maximum benefits from getting the right amount of fiber for your body every day.

You Need To Take A Diet Break

Dieting is when you lower calories to create an energy deficit so you can lose unwanted body weight. This creates an imbalance. It disrupts homeostasis. Remaining in a state of imbalance for prolonged periods of time is not healthy. If you have more than 15 pounds to lose and you try to do it all in one ultra marathon stretch, you risk failure, injury, and weight rebound. 

Dieting is mentally stressful in part because of the body’s physiological response to caloric restriction. On the surface eating less doesn't seem that harmful. Have you ever wondered what happens to your body during calorie restriction? In an attempt to keep you from taking body fat, your body will make you feel tired, hungry, and lethargic. This is so you burn less calories through the day and conserve energy. That feeling will make pushing through your daily workouts harder and harder. When your calories are low you can feel like you are missing out on fun foods and experiences. It can wear on you mentally and you can begin to feel deprived and depressed. Hunger and fatigue are  normal when calories are restricted but it should only be a temporary state. 

Weight loss is best done in moderate spurts spread out with diet breaks in between. After about 3 to 4 months of dieting, the amount of calorie restriction needed to continue losing weight becomes brutal. You begin to risk injury from working out with increasing mental and physical fatigue. The body’s protective mechanisms are in full force to make more weight loss harder and harder. You need a break to allow your body to recover from this stress, ramp metabolism back up, and bring hormones back into balance. 

Most people think the journey is over once they hit there goal weight from being in a caloric restriction. But the truth is, the journey just began. To make fat loss a permanent change, a good maintenance phase is important.The number one goal during a diet break is to improve your set point. Data suggests that your body establishes a set point weight. This means that your body has a weight that it becomes accustomed to and likes to maintain. The good news is that this set point can be changed. The bad news is that it takes time and care to move this point. 

The changing of the set point actually occurs during the maintenance phase. You need to give your body some time to grieve over the lost fat and accept its new weight. The amount of time this takes varies from person to person. Over this period the goal is to slowly increase food intake. This will enable your metabolism to ramp back up, mental and physical fatigue to dissipate, and all your body to get comfortable t at your lighter weight. During this time you will feel less hungry and fatigued. By the end of a good maintenance you should be in that healthy state of balance where you enjoy good food, training hard and not excessively worried about what the scale says.

Another benefit for having this maintenance phase is you have time to build up your caloric ceiling. Through your efforts in your workouts and adding calories back in your metabolism will be in a healthier state. Therefore if you have to go back into a caloric restriction to lose more body fat you will not have to cut as many calories to lose weight. 

Dieting is not a lifestyle. It is a temporary state of imbalance. It works best that way. Make sure you spend as much time in the maintenance phases as you do in the dieting phases. 

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. 

Grandma's Cooking Can Get You In Trouble

When I was growing up I remember going to my grandmother's house and salivating over the food she made me. I'm sure that everyone will agree with me when I say, "There is no cooking like Grandma's." Right?

One reason Grandma's cooking tastes so good is that she isn't afraid to use oil and butter. She coats the pan with it. She adds it to the recipe. She even adds it as a topping sometimes. 

I always wondered how the vegetables tasted like pie. Ha! Those "healthy" green beans added up to hundreds of extra calories to the meal for sure!

The unsaturated, "healthy" fats in oils such as olive, canola, and avocado oil and the saturated fats in butter and coconut oil have their place in your diet. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have them. They play an important role in your physique and performance goals. But those fats are very calorie dense and you shouldn't throw them in dishes without accounting for them. They can raise your daily caloric intake by 300 calories really fast. 

Let's say you are cooking lean ground turkey for lunch. It may have a 90/10 ratio and it will typically lose some fat when cooked. But when you add in all the oils and butter then it is possible that you are you're adding hundreds of additional calories to your day.

Rather than adding oil or butter throughout the cooking process, use a nonfat cooking spray. Another great idea is to flavor your dish with your favorite herbs or spices instead of butter. There are tons of great seasonings out there that can help you in this endeavor. 

I love to cook and try different seasonings. The key to this process is finding seasonings that you like and work with your taste buds. 

Here are my top 3 favorite seasonings to use on protein sources like chicken, turkey, beef or pork. These brands have worked for me over the past 10 years. They have many different options but I felt the need to share. Hopefully it can help you in your journey. 

What Is Disordered Eating?

There is an obsession in our culture with body size, weight, diet and exercise. Unfortunately this has led many down a road of disordered eating. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of the population show signs and symptoms of disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise. Clinical eating disorders are estimated to be around 1 to 3 percent of the general population. Do you see where I am getting at?

Disordered eating patterns need to be taken seriously. They can be problematic if not. An individual with disordered eating patterns engages in some of the same behavior as those with clinically diagnosed eating disorders. It is at a lesser frequency or lower level of severity but it is still very important not to ignore. 

When disordered eating patterns aren't addressed it could lead to depression or anxiety. Some of the more harsh symptoms of disordered eating may include food restriction, binge eating, and purging. Purging could include self induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and the use of diet pills or laxatives.

When I meet an individual who may have had a bad relationship with food in the past I always start slow. One of the first things I address is creating a better self image since self image issues can be a trigger for most. Issues with your body shape and weight can weigh on you and lead you down a path of disordered eating. I will see this happen when someone's weight falls within a healthy range but they continue to feel they are overweight. This attitude could lead to an excessive or rigid exercise routine. I've seen people play it off as if they are practicing self discipline. But it is a mask they wear to hide hours spent in they gym, avoiding social situations, and ignoring family events. This approach could go with obsessive calorie counting too. I often see people who have anxiety about certain foods or food groups because it will 'make me fat'. The process of rigid eating, only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times and refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home is the start to destructive patterns of eating.

Learning how to over come disordered eating patterns is a process.

Here are 4 helpful tips to help you or anyone you know get through this difficult obstacle.

1. Do your best to avoid fad diets. Diets are typically restrictive in some form or fashion in both quantity or variety. Restriction at high levels leads to a feeling of deprivation and binge eating could follow that feeling. I have always preached to be more inclusive than exclusive. Moderation is a more healthier long term approach.
2. Have a healthy limit on exercise and always do physical activities that you enjoy. When exercise becomes a chore then it is time to look into other means of partaking in physical activity. 
3. No more negative self body talk. Even simple comments pointing out a proposed flaw of yours could lead to a downward spiral. Be mindful of critical talk about yourself or your body.
4. Put the scale away until you have a better relationship with food.

Continuing To Eat When You Are Full

You loosened a belt buckle just so you could get another bite of your favorite dessert. Did you need it? Did you want it? Or did you just have to have it? You knew you were full before you took the bite. You knew you shouldn't have even gotten desert but that cheesecake looked too good to resist. Then you wondered why you even did that. How many times has this happened to you?

Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone”. It's known to stimulate your appetite when you’re hungry or in need of calories. It will also make you want to eat just because the food in front of you looks especially good.

Ghrelin is secreted by your stomach. From there it sends a message to receptors in your brain. It tells them to be more receptive to food’s visual cues. Your brain responds by sending back a reply to your belly saying, “Hey, that looks delicious" or "Let’s eat it!” For many people, hungry or not, that message is just too hard to resist.

Grehlin increases specific rewarding aspects of eating. There's some evidence linking grehlin levels with the pleasurable feelings that someone would get from alcohol, nicotine or cocaine. 

People with anorexia, loss of appetite due to physical illness, or who are fasting or losing weight by dieting, have especially high levels of ghrelin circulating in their bloodstreams. It makes sense if you think about it. Because these are conditions where your body is fearing starvation. But we are armed with natural survival tools and your body will tell you that it wants you to eat. People who are obese and those who have had gastric by-pass surgery are found to have lower circulating levels of ghrelin. That is why they eat considerably less than what they were accustomed to and eventually lose a considerable amount of body weight from being in such a deficit. 

The real job of this hormone is to work with other hormones to correct appetite and energy imbalances, and help you maintain a consistent weight. 

This is why you are hungrier when you don't get enough sleep. It also explains why there is always more room for dessert. These intricate hormones acting together is also why your body always seems to work against you in your valiant weight loss efforts.

Grehlin is so powerful that it is stimulated by the mere sight of food. That is why fast food advertising is so appealing.

So the next time you reach for the dessert menu, stop and think. When your brain is telling you to get that special desert ask yourself if it is really you wanting the dessert or just ghrelin making you think that you do.

Has Foodie Become A Personality Type

I may be bias because I am a personal trainer but I feel like food has taken over all things social, emotional and even physical. I understand that food is an art form. Enjoying the pure essence of something that entertains your taste buds is enjoyable. I get it. But since when did a 'Foodie' become a personality type? 

I've coached hundreds of people. Nutrition is the hardest hurdle to tackle because of all the habits that one has to change. 

I've come up with a little list of foodie personality types. If you do consider yourself a 'foodie' then learning how to navigate these constructs is going to be vital to your health and fitness. 

1. Licensed Snacker
Instead of eating true meals that will actually be satiating this person eats snacks all day long. A handful of almonds here and a spoonful of peanut butter there. It's John's birthday at work so a piece of a cake at work won't hurt right. Let's not forget about their favorite candy spread throughout the day. But it is only the 100 calorie pack so it doesn't really count.  

The reasons for snacking vary but they revolve around boredom, anxiety, curiosity, or because food is in arms length which is just pure habit. I've found that this person is often frustrated by not hitting there weight loss goals. They believe that they practice self restraint because they didn't eat the whole cake or all the peanut butter. If you were to ask them if they ate well today they will tell you with a straight face that they only ate 1-2 times per day. Because snacks don't count right? 

Guess what, those jelly beans add up. Sorry. 

Priority number one for this personality type is to realize that all calories count, in all portions and amounts.

Anyone with this habit has to wean themselves off this behavior slowly. Because they typically snack like it's second nature. A helpful tool to change this habit is to start tracking food intake. This will paint the picture of where you stand calorically. Another good tool is to make sure you are getting enough fiber. It is difficult to consume nutritionally empty foods and have a good daily fiber intake. Men should consume somewhere between 27 - 38 grams per day and women should consume somewhere between 21 - 26 grams per day. This nutrient slows down digestion and promotes fullness! Fiber rich foods include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Another great technique is to practice more food caution. Before you eat something ask the question, "Why am I snacking?" Is this behavior due to my nerves, anxiety, or boredom? Or is this a coping mechanism?"

2. The Chock Full Eater
Do you have your going out to eat jeans? Or do you have an outfit that you wear that hides how full you are because you know you are going to go ham at your favorite restaurant tomorrow evening? Unzipping your pants midway through your meal to 'make room'. Do you have a habit of leaning back in the chair and rubbing your stomach only to brag about how full you are?

This person may live by the notion of, "I see food, I consume food until it is gone."

You can chalk it up to having a big appetite, not eating enough at breakfast, or because you skipped lunch so you could eat a big dinner. Your parents may even have made you eat all your food on your plate before you could get up from the dinner table. That doesn't mean that you have to eat yourself into a coma every time the opportunity presents itself. 

Granted you may have the work ethic of a race horse, but working out is often seen as an excuse to overindulge and eat more food than you need.

My wife is my witness that I can not stand to be full. I find it to be extremely uncomfortable and the worst frame of mind to be in. I once read a book about the Okinawan culture and their eating principles. I'm always curious of other cultures, especially cultures that are living well beyond 100 gracefully. They have an interesting saying that is called "Hara Hachi Bu." It is a saying they say so they will stop eating before they are full. They eat to 80% full and push the plate away. They don't eat until they are full, they eat until they are no longer hungry.

Nutrition is a skill and you have to practice mindfulness. 

Practice taking time between each bite to actually enjoy and savor the particular flavors of your food. Patience during your meal is valuable. Your brain doesn't immediately register that your stomach is full and that can lead into to overeating.

Improving your awareness is key no matter what your food personality might be. 

Be on the lookout for part two tomorrow.