Archive for December, 2011

Weight Loss in the New Year: A Caution

If you are one of the many people this year resolving to lose weight, be careful! I just came across a very interesting and slightly disturbing article about the potential consequences of dieting on your long term weight loss. The study was published a few months ago in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the authors ran a weight loss clinic in the area. They noticed that their clients would work incredibly hard to lose weight over the course of a few months, but once they had left the clinic, most people would gain nearly all of it back. This is something you hear about all the time, and perhaps many of you have struggled with this; weight gain is reasonably easy for awhile, but very difficult to maintain long term. The researchers thought there may be something more to this phenomenon than failing willpower, so they studied the hormonal changes in subjects who continually regained weight.

They found that people who lost a large amount of weight by severely restricting calories had some very important hormonal changes after dieting. The subjects had significantly increased the amount of circulating ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite AND reduces metabolism. They also had lower levels of leptin which has the opposite effect of ghrelin; it stimulates metabolism and supresses the appetite. In effect, once people began a severe diet, their bodies believed they were starving, and altered their hormonal levels to increase their weight. It is incredibly difficult to maintain weight loss when your appetite is increased and your metabolism is lower than before you started your diet.

So does that mean we are all doomed? Not quite. One thing to note about this study is that the subjects lost the weight by going on a very low calorie diet. The participants ate fewer than 1,000 calories per day, with some eating as little as 500 (the typical diet is 2,000 calories per day). This extreme restriction may have been the cause of the long-term and significant hormonal changes. What this means is that people who are able to achieve weight loss through less drastic measures may not be so susceptible to these hormonal changes. A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week and everyone should consume at least 1,200 calories per day.

If you are starting a diet this New Year, here a few pointers to make sure that your diet is healthy, and that you don’t sabotage your weight loss down the road:

1. Eat frequently. It is easier to maintain a lower calorie intake if you don’t have to wait 6 hours until your next meal. If you allow yourself to feel starving, you’re more likely to overeat.

2. Don’t starve yourself. Remember that food isn’t evil and your body does require energy to function. If you restrict your calories too much, you may be setting yourself up for feeling terrible in the short-term and just gaining the weight back in the long term.

3. Balance is key. If you pick up a new diet book this year, make sure that you continue to eat all three major food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and that you include plenty of fruits and vegetables. This will ensure you are getting all the vitamin and nutrients your body needs, and it won’t feel as though it’s starving.

Best of luck with your weight loss! Stay tuned for my next post about keeping the weight off!

-Sara

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Make this, Don’t buy that: Eggnog

Merry Christmas!…..and in with keeping in the holiday theme I have chosen the next installment of Make this, Don’t buy that to be a replacement recipe for eggnog! Just a small glass of eggnog carries about 400 calories with it, but the recipe will give you great eggnog for only 90 calories in half a cup. We hope you have a wonderful holiday and that you can now enjoy this delicious guilt-free eggnog!

Ingredients

2 cups nonfat milk

2 large strips orange and/or lemon zest

1 vanilla bean

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

White rum or bourbon (optional)

Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Directions

Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and the citrus zest in a medium saucepan.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; add the

seeds and pod to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium

bowl until light yellow.

 

Gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking

constantly, then pour back into the pan. Place over medium heat and

stir constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion until the

eggnog begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and

immediately stir in the remaining 1/2 cup milk to stop the cooking.

Transfer the eggnog to a large bowl and place over a larger bowl of

ice to cool, then chill until ready to serve.

 

Remove the zest and vanilla pod. Spike the eggnog with liquor, if

desired, and garnish with nutmeg.

 

Per serving (1/2 cup): Calories 90

-Kevin

Achieving Your Goals

My friend after she finished a marathon

So, if you have been reading here for awhile, you may remember that I have been training for a crazy race on New Years called the Across the Years 24 hour run. It’s basically an ultra-marathon; you have 24 hours to cover as much distance as possible and the person who runs the farthest wins. My friend has been training for years for these types of races, but I have only been training for a few months. My goal was to be able to run at least three hours all at once before I left for the race. I got awfully close this past weekend!

I ran 20.5 miles in 2 hours and 43 minutes, which is faster than I thought I could do. It isn’t quite three hours, but over 20 miles, so that’s something! One thing I did to keep me motivated during the training was to keep my goal posted by my computer at work. Every day, I saw a picture of my incredible friend who has completed several 50 mile races sitting right next to a notecard that read 3 hours. I was reminded of my goal everyday. Achieving a tough goal has much more to do with the decisions you make everyday rather than just summing up an incredible amount of willpower one time. I had to daily make the choice to run or I could never be prepared to run 30 or 40 miles at the race. You all may have some similar goals; if you want to lose weight, you can’t just starve yourself for a week and eat whatever you want the rest of your life. You have to daily make a choice to eat well and exercise, and the weight will slowly come off.

The best advice I can give you about how to achieve your goal is to write it down in a place that you and your friends can see it everyday. The reason most of us don’t achieve our goals is that we either forget about them or believe we can’t achieve them. If you write your goal down, you will be reminded to keep pressing on and making those little choiced everyday to accomplish your goal. And, if you display your goal where your friends can see it, they can encourage you and make sure you keep believing in your ability to achieve it.  

I know this is about the time of year when we all start setting New Year’s resolutions; especially resolutions to be healthier. If you are trying to eat more vegetables, lose weight, or exercise more in the new year, we want to invite you to post your goals here! We can encouage you to keep at it, and you will be part of a community that can hold you accountable.

I will keep you all updated on my race and bring you pictures!

-Sara

Could exercise make you live longer?

Absolutely! Because regular exercise significantly decreases your risk for so many chronic diseases, many epidemiological papers have shown that exercise does increase your predicted lifespan. What’s really cool, though, is that there’s some promising evidence that exercise may actually slow the process of aging at the cellular level. There was a very interesting study published about how exercise can slow the damage of our DNA. Check out this blog describing the article. What do you think??

-Sara

DNA Longevity and Exercise Connection Dec 17 2011.

Weekly Review: My Fitness Pal

We live in a technology driven world with smart phones and tablets that assist us in our daily wants and needs. So why should our dietary and fitness needs be any different? In this installment of our weekly review I choose an application I have used for the past year to help me track my dietary intake. Enjoy and as always we would love to hear any thoughts and comments you all have!

My Fitness Pal app: This is an app you can find for any phone. It is a dietary tracker that can help you keep a running count of your caloric intake for a day. It’s designed to be an easy to use calorie counter and can give you information about the composition of your diet.

The Good: I will just come out and say it; I love this app and you will probably be able to tell from this review. This app is really all-inclusive. You personalize the app for your needs by imputing your height and weight and fitness goal; you also input whether you would like to lose, gain or maintain your weight. It has a bar code scanner you use in conjunction with your camera and you scan the UPC code on the back of the wrapper or label of anything you buy. It will pull any and all dietary info for your food and add it to your running total of calories consumed for the day. If for some reason the scan doesn’t find your food, you can search for food in the search bar provided by the app. Also it doesn’t just track your calories, but it tracks sodium, fat to include polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, fiber and carbs. You can also review your weekly and monthly averages. Plus, you can view all your stats in a bar graph if you find that easier to follow. You can also set your serving size because, let’s be honest, who ever ate just one recommended serving size of goldfish crackers?

 

The Bad: It takes a little time to get used to pulling out your phone every time you grab a snack. You may find yourself trying to remember everything you ate that day at 9 pm. Also, this app, like all apps, will sometimes crash or fail, but it almost always is fixed right away and I have never lost my past data due to a crash

 

The Ugly: Obviously, this will make you feel tied to your technology and in this case it means you have to have a smart phone or tablet to be able to use this app. But other than that, it really is a great tool for keeping you informed about your dietary habits.

 

Have you all found that smart phones and tablets have improved your health?

 

-Kevin

Avoiding the Holiday Weight Gain

It’s that time of year again! Time for cookies and candy, drinking and parties, and of course, time that we all start worrying about our weight. I know how hard it is to be worrying about your weight this time of year; you just want to enjoy the season and have fun at all the holiday parties, and the last thing you want to do is diet. To keep you sane through all the festivities, I thought I’d leave you a few diet tips. This way, you won’t have to count calories and only eat celery when you’re out celebrating and hopefully you can still maintain a healthy weight through the New Year!

  1. Never go to a party hungry! The food that is served at parties is almost always high in calories and low in protein and fiber, which means it will taste delicious and do nothing to fill you up. If you go hungry, you may be eating upwards of 1,500 calories before you feel full. Eat a healthy meal before you party, and then just sample all the delicious treats!
  2. Carry a clutch. Women, when you go to a party, carry a clutch instead of a purse with a shoulder strap. You’ll have your purse in one hand and a drink in another, which will make it very hard to go get a plate of food. You’ll be so busy having fun; you won’t realize you never went back for seconds.
  3. Drink champagne instead of wine. ‘Tis the season to be merry, and we wouldn’t want you to have to go all holiday without ever having a drink. If you swap your wine glass for a flute of champagne, you could save yourself 100 calories per drink. Multiply that over a week’s worth of drinks and you could save yourself several hundred calories without even noticing.
  4. Give away the treats you make. For most people, part of the holiday season is baking Christmas cookies or other holiday treats at home, and who ever just makes a dozen cookies? If you make a huge batch of Christmas goodies, do a good deed and give them away! It’s a great Christmas present for your neighbors, or your mailman, or you can even bring them to work and let your coworkers enjoy them.
  5. Put treats away. If you do keep some of your delicious cookies around the house, don’t leave them out where you can see them. Put them away in a pretty Christmas dish, and only take a few out when you intend to eat them. That way, you won’t be snacking on chocolate cake all day.
  6. Keep exercising. The very best defense against an increased calorie intake around the holiday season is to keep up your exercise routine. I know it gets cold and dark outside and we let our daily workout slip, but if you can find ways to keep up your daily calorie burn, you can do wonders for your waistline. If you need ideas about how to enjoy to winter weather and burn a few extra calories, see our previous post!

Do you all have any other tips for avoiding holiday weight gain? Let me know if any of these work for you!

-Sara

Burning Calories in the Cold

Since Kevin and I moved to South Texas this August, we have experienced absolutely no cold weather. It was 85 degrees for most of November and I had completely forgotten that I was almost winter! However, I’m sure most of you are not so fortunate (or unfortunate, I suppose) to live in perpetual summer and are now dealing with the cold, dark winter. To uplift your spirits a bit, I put together a list of a few ways you can go outside and enjoy the freezing cold weather. Plus, spending time outside increases your absorption of vitamin D, and the natural sunlight can help stave off seasonal affective disorder (a form of mild to moderate depression that occurs in the winter months). Spending time outdoors is also a great way to have some fun with your significant other, or family and friends.

So, here are some fun, calorie burning activities to do in the winter!

1. Sledding. Not just for the kids! Kevin and I had a fabulous time sledding last winter when we went home! I had forgotten how fun it was. It’s a great way to let loose your inner child and an excuse to be silly. Plus, you can burn up to 450 calories in an hour, if you walk up a sizeable hill! What a great excuse to skip your workout.

2. Shoveling snow. Ok, so this one isn’t as fun. But, if you have a lot of snow, it’s a necessary evil, and a great way to incorporate extra exercise into your routine. Buy two shovels instead of a snow blower and use shoveling as a reason to spend some quality time with your significant other. Burn up to 400 calories in an hour.

3. Ice skating. A great activity you can do with your family and friends as well as your spouse, ice skating is relatively easy and cheap! Most places will allow you to rent skates, and if you live far enough north, you can probably skate outside. Kevin and I will be in Chicago this winter and they have a beautiful skating rink on State St. that will be definitely be visiting! You can burn up to 350 calories an hour.

4. Hiking. This may seem a little strange for a winter activity, but hiking through snow can be absolutely gorgeous. Places that looked ordinary in November take on a magical quality when covered in white, sparkling snow. If you are feeling brave, see if you can rent some snow shoes or cross-country skis. You’ll have an adventure and burn tons of calories!

Anything you guys like to do in winter? Happy Holidays!

-Sara

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