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Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Weekly Review: Veganism

My week as a vegan!

So last week, I decided to give the whole super-healthy vegan thing a try, just to see if I would become one those super-humans who only eats plants and feels amazing all the time. I actually did stick to the vegan rules the whole time (ok, well almost), and there were some good things and bad things I think.

First, the good.

The best thing about trying to be a vegan was that it forced me to cook. Every night. I actually got home from work, opened the refrigerator and pulled out ingredients to make a meal! Crazy! Kevin usually does all the cooking, but eating vegan without him left me no choice. I found myself liking it a bit; there’s something intrinsically rewarding about pulling together a homemade meal that I really did enjoy. I certainly eat a more balanced diet when I make dinner for myself, rather than just eating hummus and pita chips for dinner.

Then, the bad.

I missed my dairy! I have a piece of string cheese and a yogurt for lunch every day and I sorely missed those. I tried to replace them with a Kind Bar and an apple, but it just wasn’t the same. Honestly, it was really hard to feel full. The tempeh tacos I made filled me up, but that’s about it. I always left dinner feeling not hungry, but not really satisfied. Plus, may I’m just not good at making vegan meals, but nothing tasted all that great. It wasn’t that things tasted bad, but just nothing that really satified me in a delicious way.

And, the ugly.

I craved everything I wasn’t supposed to eat. I hated feeling so restricted, and I know that for the future, it just isn’t how I want to live my life. I don’t like feeling that certain foods are off limits, and I don’t want to feel guilty all the time. I much prefer to think about adding good foods, rather than restricting foods. I did find some new foods I’d like to add to my diet, like hemp milk and tempeh, and I found new recipes I’ll keep in the rotation. However, I just couldn’t justify living within such a narrow restriction forever. Plus, I’d have to take vitamins, which I really hate.

I’d love to hear about any of your dietary adventures! Have any of you ever tried veganism or another radical change?

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Vegan… for the week

My haul at the health food store

I’m doing something a little crazy this week; I’m going vegan. Hubby is out of town for the entire week, so I took the opportunity to go to the health food store and buy all kinds of things Kevin doesn’t really want to eat. He’s really a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I have only successfully gotten him to eat tofu once. He said he liked it, but I think he was just being nice.

The funny thing is, I’m not even a vegetarian. I eat meat on a semi regular basis, and I definitely have dairy every single day. Examining the research, I’m not even convinced that veganism is necessary for optimal health. Several nutrients are really hard to get without animal products (iron and calcium) and some are impossible and require a supplement (B12). Plus, I do think that the health benefits gleaned from a vegan diet have much more to do with the large amount of vegetables and fruits consumed as well as the removal of processed foods and sugar, rather than the removal of any animal products.

So why am I bothering with the whole vegan thing? Honestly, because sometimes we all make decisions based on anecdotes and emotions rather than hard evidence. The past year I have been exposing myself to a lot of health research, and much of that has been about veganism. I read Eat and Run by Scott Jurik, Finding Utra by Rich Roll, The China Study, and watched Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, and Hungry for Change. All of which tout the incredible benefits of veganism. All of these sources go above and beyond just the health benefits; the claims about this diet border on magical. They claim it gives incredible energy, a clear mind and a great mood. They also claim that veganism improves your skin, makes the white of your eyes whiter (really?), and improves libido. So, I guess I figured why not? What’s the harm? Honestly, I thought that if I didn’t at least try it, I’d always wonder.

Lentil stew

So here I am this week, eating as healthy as humanly possible and consuming no animal products. Already, I’m tried new things I never thought I would eat. For breakfast, I make my smoothie with hemp milk, fresh spinach, chia seeds, and a packet of dried green superfood (which includes basically every healthy green plant you could imagine, plus some extracts). My lunch has stayed mostly the same; almond butter of whole wheat bread (although I bought this really expensive sprouted grain bread), apple, banana, organic applesauce, and a Kind bar. I did have to give up my string cheese and yogurt, which I was pretty sad about. Dinner is where things get interesting. Monday night I had tempeh tacos with kale and hummus. Last night I made a homemade lentil stew with sweet potatoes, and on the menu tonight is either quinoa pasta or quinoa with avocado, black beans, and some tofu. I’ve been eating cold quinoa with frozen berries, hemp milk and cinnamon for dessert, which is actually delicious.

The goal is to keep it up at least through Sunday and see if I have any of the proposed “magical” effects. I know that a week may not be long enough to tell, but I’m not sure I could really last any longer than that. Are any of you vegans? What do you think?

I’ll let you know how it goes!

-Sara

Should we be exercising… less?

This might sound crazy to you, but in the quest for weight loss, some of us may be exercising too much. How can that be, you might be asking, since so few people actually exercise? Let me ask you this; for those of you who regularly go to the gym, do you know anyone that you see there every day on the treadmill not getting any thinner? I know I do. There is a new research study out this month that suggests that some people may be struggling to lose weight because they are actually exercising too much!

The study was conducted by the University of Copenhagen and followed the weight loss efforts of overweight but otherwise healthy men in their 20s and 30s. The men were broken up into 3 groups; no exercise, 30 minutes daily and 60 minutes daily. They were told to keep their eating habits constant throughout the duration of the 13 week study. Afterwards, they were weighed, and as expected the group that did not change their diet or exercise habits lost no weight. The 60 minute group lost around 5 pounds on average, so they were mildly successful. However, the 30 minute group lost 7 pounds on average, which was significantly more than the researchers were expecting. How could this be?

One hypothesis is the compensatory eating effect. Those who worked out an hour each day felt exhausted afterwards and may have had an increased drive to eat in order to compensate for the large number of calories burned. The 30 minute group most likely didn’t perceive the effort to be all that hard, and may actually have kept their calorie intake constant. The second and more interesting hypothesis (I think) is the amount of other activity they did during the day. The 60 minute group usually felt pretty wiped out from their workout and spent most of their free time sitting; they took the elevator instead of the stairs and sat on the couch after work instead of tackling some chores. The 30 minute group actually reported feeling energized from their workout and they moved around significantly more during the day.

I loved this study because it actually made sense in my own life. When I was in college I ran both track and cross country. During the cross country season, I ran more miles during the week, and therefore always felt like I was burning a ton of calories. I definitely reduced my other activity and ate as many brownies as my heart desired and looking back at pictures, I was always a little heavier during cross country season.

How much do you exercise? Have you ever felt frustrated that you’re exercising so much and yet not losing weight?

-Sara

Guest Blog: Cancer and Nutrition

Please welcome guest blogger Jillian McKee, a Complimentary Medicine Advocate, to discuss proper nutrition when undergoing cancer and cancer treatment.

Cancer is a difficult situation for individuals, their family members and friends. However, eating nutritious food can help improve the quality of life during treatment, alleviate some symptoms, and offer strength and energy.

Nutrition Priorities

Eating healthy under normal circumstances is a good idea. Eating well when you have cancer is a priority, regardless of the type of cancer you may have, such as mesothelioma or any other type of cancer. Frame your eating plan around the following priorities:
            – Maintain a healthy weight
            – Promote muscle mass, strength, and energy
            – Find appealing foods that fit changing tastes and appetite levels

Nutrition Tips

Cancer patients may want to consult a registered dietitian to help find foods that are healthy and also easy to chew and digest.

Consider adding beverages, such as protein shakes, if eating meals becomes difficult. However drinking liquids during meals may increase nausea. A Stanford article suggests that cancer patients take medications with high calorie liquids or shakes. If your appetite is low, light exercise can help stimulate your appetite.

Choose foods high in protein in order to increase energy and maintain weight. Recommended levels of protein for cancer patients are approximately 45 to 60 grams daily. Foods high in protein include cheese, meat, peanut butter, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk and dried beans.

Avoid spicy foods, overly hot or cold foods, and foods with strong odors. These can make food appear less appetizing and become more difficult to eat.

Nutrition Recommendations

Before beginning cancer treatment make sure that you have plenty of easy-to-eat foods available to you. When preparing food, make and store extras to be easily accessed later. The extras should also be easy to finish making, such as a few minutes in the microwave. If you are too tired to create food, ask friends or family to help cook and deliver meals to you while you are in treatment.

As always, remember to speak with your doctor to receive information on how to handle nutrition during and after cancer treatment.

 

5 “Health Foods” that Aren’t Healthy

I know there’s a ton of information out there about what is a “healthy” diet, and advertising doesn’t help to clarify the situation at all. We get bombarded with images of “all natural”, sugar-free, and pictures of skinny people eating and drinking things we think will make us fitter, thinner and healthier. Unfortunately, many of these products don’t deliver what they promise, and instead may wreak havoc on your waistline. Here are the top 5 offenders (in my opinion):

1. Gatorade. This is my favorite product to poke fun at, not because their advertising is deceiving, but because of the way most of us react to it. Every Gatorade ad features professional athletes, extreme endurance runners, and fitness gurus pushing themselves to the max, and using Gatorade to achieve their incredible goals. And yet, who consumes a huge portion of their product? We do. Us 30 min run 3-5 times per week, average joes. Why? We know we aren’t Lance Armstrong or LeBron James, and yet some of us drink these products after every workout. Time for a little reality check; Gatorade (or other sports drinks) are a great way to replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates if you’ve depleted them.  Working out for 2-3 hours at a time in the sun means you’re very dehydrated, have low muscle glucose, and in need of sodium and potassium. If you just ran 2 miles on a treadmill, water will do just fine. For those of you who are interested in exercising to lose weight, Gatorade is a great way to negate all the hard work you’ve just accomplished. Put the bottle down and just have some water. It’s free!

2. Balance Bars. These are one of those energy bars that fall in between a few categories, and may be successful at tricking you into thinking they are incredibly healthy. (I used to eat one everyday!) The packaging has a runner on the front with a 40-30-30 graphic that suggests scientific research has gone into the bar (which it probably has). However, each bar has 200 calories, 17 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat. Just for a point of reference, a Twix Bar has 286 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of fat. So, the balance bar is better, but not by much.

3. Vitamin Water. How could something called vitamin water be bad for you? Well, it isn’t necessarily bad, just not as good as they claim. Each bottle of vitamin water contains 120 calories, and 32 grams of sugar (more than the Twix Bar). That’s a ton of sugar for something you’re just sipping on to get some vitamins. You’re much better of drinking water with lemon and taking a multi-vitamin every morning.

4. Diet Soda. You may have heard about this one. There are several reports and publications liking regular diet soda consumption to an increase in metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, and weight gain. Here’s a nice article reviewing some of those studies. The evidence is controversial; some claim extraneous factors led to weight gain, and that not enough factors were controlled to draw accurate conclusions. What I do think is interesting is that while the relationship between diet soda use and weight gain is weak, there is convincing evidence that diet soda doesn’t lead to weight loss. (at least not in the long-term). Additionally, the artificial sugars and dyes used in soda have been linked to cancer and other digestive issues. If you can, try switching to water with lemon, or put some natural fruit juice in sparkling mineral water.

5. 100 calorie packs of anything. Honestly, I think these are just dumb. I bought them quite a bit in college thinking I would be able to regulate portions better and feel satisfied from a little treat, but it never worked. I would take one pack of 100 calorie cookies to school with me, eat another at dinner, and a third before bed; each time feeling completely unsatisfied with my meager portion of fake food. If you want to eat, then you should eat something whole, natural and real. Yes, it will contain more calories, but it will leave you actually feeling satisfied and you won’t need to eat so much.

What foods do you consider “diet” or “healthy” foods? Has your opinion of what’s healthy changed over time?

Stages of Change

Hey guys! Here’s a section from our book about how to negotiate changing your habits when  you’re in a relationship. Enjoy!

“For most couples, seeing eye-to-eye on health and fitness is something you dream about, but not really a practical reality. You may like to read articles about diet and vegetables, but your partner is only interested in hitting the gym. Or, perhaps fitness has never been part of your relationship, but as you become more interested in a life change, you’re hoping your partner will be excited about changing with you.  In order to make this transition as easy as possible, it will be helpful to understand how willing your partner is to change and what methods will be most helpful in ensuring the two of you change together. In this section, we’ll teach you about the 4 stages of change and what strategies are most effective in communicating with a partner at each stage.  This theory was originally published by Prochaska et al in 1992, and the strategies we discuss are based on a paper published by Zimmerman et al in the American Family Physician Journal.

T he Stages of Change model shows that most people slowly change their behavior over time, instead of just having that “aha” moment. True change in one life takes time and is not a linear progression. Relapses are almost guaranteed to occur and actually become a piece of the process. The Stages of Change model describes 4 stages along to way to making a life change; pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation and action.  In the pre-contemplation stage, a person has no intent or desire to change. They don’t think the statistics apply to them and they don’t think there is any reason to live their life differently. In the contemplation stage, a person will begin to weight the benefits and costs of changing their habits. They may see the merit in diet or exercise, but giving up their lifestyle will seem like a loss. In the preparation stage, a person is getting ready to make a big change. They may test out smaller changes such as buying a pair of walking shoes or shopping for low-fat items in the grocery store. Finally, the big leap is the action stage. This person has weighed the pros and cons, done the proper preparation and has decided to jump in and live life differently.

It is critical to understand where your partner is in the stages of change before you expect a significant alteration in their behavior. If they aren’t even contemplating change, then giving them goal setting tips probably isn’t your best course of action. The most effective way to help your partner change their lifestyle right along with you is to match your interventions with their stage. So how do you do that?

The best thing you can do is to listen. Ask your partner how they feel about diet, exercise or even their own health and then listen to what they have to say. More than likely, they’ll let you know exactly where they are just by their answer. Here’s what to listen for:

If they are in the…. They might say….
Pre-contemplation Stage “All that research doesn’t apply to me”

“It’s impossible for me to lose weight”

“I’m fine the way I am”

In this stage, your partner won’t think change is necessary at all. They don’t think advice applies to them and altering their lifestyle is not something they are interested in.

 

Contemplation Stage “I know I should work out, but I just don’t have time”

“I’d like to eat better, but I just hate the taste of vegetables”

Your partner will be receptive to the benefits of diet and exercise, but they feel that the cost (whether it be money, time, or taste) is just too much

 

Preparation Stage “I’ll try walking once a week with you”

“I guess some more vegetables would be nice”

Your partner may be willing to try out small changes that don’t seem too intimidating

 

Action Stage “Alright, let’s do it”

Good idea! I’ll challenge you to see who loses the most weight!”

In the action phase, your partner is truly ready to make a big life change

How to be Manly on a Diet

Can you really maintain your manly credibility on a diet? I will testify to the fact that if you truly strive to eat healthy, the legitimacy of you Y chromosome will take a few shots. Don’t believe me?  Ok, next time you go out with the guys, order the fresh green salad with salmon and low fat dressing on the side with a glass of ice water……….that’s what I thought.

So how do you try to lose weight while still maintaining your masculinity? Here a few things that worked for me.

Talk up your testosterone:

First thing you have to do is make it publicly known to your friends that you care about what you put into your body. You’re going to want to address this as a performance issue; every man can get behind this. Whatever your cup of tea is:  weightlifting, running, triathlons, martial arts or vinasea yoga, let people know what your goal is and that a proper diet is pivotal to your success. This brings forth manly thoughts of determination and desire to be physical, which will strike a chord with every guy and they will get behind you.

Having a Drink:

Next comes the booze.  There is nothing wrong with ordering a light beer and water; this way you are still having a drink and hydrating to go with it. Or, volunteer to be the designated driver.  Trust me, this will make you popular. One great excuse for passing up the booze Friday or Saturday night is having a planned athletic event the next morning. For me, it’s a race because I still consider myself a runner despite everything else I do.  Not a runner?  No problem!  Tell your friends that you’re maxing out on bench in the morning; trust me, they will buy into that.

Football Sunday:

This is a problem I encounter a lot; friends invite me over to their house for a day of football or just a cook out, but they don’t follow my regiment when it comes to food. Everything bacon wrapped, extra cheese, beer, fried, ranched covered is what is served to me. First, I try to bring a dish, not just an appetizer but something that will count as real food. On top of that, I make it something that’s actually good.  There is no way you’re reaching over the extra large pizza for goat cheese salad. Try my healthy pizza recipe or make it a pasta salad and chalk it up to carbo loading. The next trick, and probably the best, is to host the party at your own house. It’s your turf, your food and so you can just provide all the crap that they want and make your own food to suit your needs. Couple that with my other techniques listed above and you maintain your man credibility.

Let me know how it goes this week!

-Kevin

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