Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spice Up Your Food For Healthier Living

Sadly there seems to be a direct correlation between bland and healthy - the less taste it has, the better it is for you.  This off course becomes a major roadblock towards eating healthier.  After all, the reason that so much restaurant food is so loaded up with "bad stuff" is that they are focusing on taste not health, as that is what you are paying for and what will keep you coming back for more.  Thus, successful "losers" know to stay away from restaurant food - occasional is OK, but frequent is bad.
But who wants to eat boring stuff at home?  The trick is to start with the healthiest ingredients that you can, then enhance the flavor by adding in "extras" such as spices to turn the dish from dull to distinctive.  And when it comes to natural spices, you have plenty of stuff to choose from that is not only low (or no) calorie, but also may have other benefits such as well.  Here are some examples:
Cinnamon - This popular spice can help to stabilize blood sugar, which is excellent for those with type 2 diabetes.  In addition, if you balance blood sugar you control appetite so there are possible benefits for those seeking to eat less.  Cinnamon may also help to lower cholesterol levels, especially LDL.  There are even studies that suggest cinnamon can improve brain function and improve memory.   And finally cinnamon has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties similar to that of nutmeg.
Nutmeg - Being anti-bacterial, Nutmeg has several interesting benefits.  For one, it can reduce bad breath since it specifically attacks that type of bacteria.  Once it gets deeper into the body, that same benefit can wipe out some intestinal bacteria, which in turns decreases "flatulence".  Nutmeg can also help with insomnia as it causes some people to grow sleepy, so adding it too food or drinks consumed before bedtime can have beneficial slumber effects.
Cloves - When consumed in higher quantities, cloves can help reduce iron which may help with diarrhea, intestinal parasites, infections, thyroid problems, and lymphoma.  All this and low calories too.  Plus its one of the strongest antioxidants known to man.
Ginger - Ginger is so versatile in terms of flavoring and has plenty of excellent benefits such as reduction of motion sickness, heartburn, erectile dysfunction, morning sickness and menstrual cramps.  Plus it has been shown to help against the common cold.
This is just a small sample of the spices available for enhancing food and improving health. 
To learn more, visit this site where you can find an alphabetized list of spices and seasonings, with links to specific details about each.
Then head to the grocery store to spice up your life on a path to better health.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Do Weight Loss Pills Really Work? - Qsymia

I think I made it pretty obvious in my last post that I am not a fan of using drugs for weight loss or pretty much anything else.  A key point to be really clear about is that weight loss turns into weight management once you drop those initial unwanted pounds.  Getting them off is one thing, keeping them off is another.  Thus, whatever methods you use to burn it off, you need to continue to use (forever) to keep it off.  Do you really want to be pumping chemicals into your body for the rest of your life?  Be in control, and lose weight the right way - naturally!
Ok, I'm off my soapbox...for now.
Qsymia is a new weight-loss medication that is available through prescription.  It is a combination of two drugs - phentermine and topiramate.  (Both are FDA-approved and thus considered safe??)  The phentermine helps to reduce appetite by increasing levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter,  in a certain part of the brain which reduces hunger while increasing satiety (a feeling of fullness).  The topiramate, which is typically used to prevent migraine headaches, is thought to affect another neurotransmitter in the brain, though its not exactly clear on how it reduces food intake.
In at least two different trials, approximately 62% of the participants who took Qysmia along with proper diet and exercise lost at least 5% of their body weight.  And while that might sound successful to some, it sounds very weak to me.  5% is not that much!  Is it worth flooding your body with chemicals to drop that small amount?  Remember,  the participants also engaged in proper diet and exercise, so it wasn't the pill alone that generated the weight loss.
Qysmia like many other drugs,  carries with it certain risks with birth defects being at the top of the list.  It's been shown to increase the risk of cleft lip and palate.  It can also slow down brain function and increase heart rate.  In fact, the effects on potential heart attack and stroke aren't clear at this point.  And though its been approved by the FDA, its worth noting that it has not been approved by European Regulators.
But who am I to judge, I understand the desperation that many feel when it comes to losing weight.  However, it doesn't make sense (to me) to take on potentially new health problems while trying to fix an existing one - unless of course a well-versed Physician is guiding the process.
Think about this - if you weigh 350 pounds and lost 5% of your weight over one year it would only be 17.5 pounds.  Is a drug worth that? 
On the other hand, if you cut out 250 calories of eating per day and increased your calorie burn by 250 calories per day (via a 2 mile walk) you could easily lose a pound a week which could potentially turn into 52 pounds in a year. (In theory...)
I know it works, because I have done it on a bigger scale.  So my point is simply that you must always look beyond the allure of a so-called magic pill and focus on the big picture when it comes to weight loss.  Most people have failed because of unrealistic expectations and bad choices.  When done the right way, its not nearly as difficult as it might seem right now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Do Weight Loss Pills Really Work? - Belviq

I truly am not a fan of any drug of any kind and cringe with the thought of adding chemicals into my body.  Thus I was adamant that I would lose weight using lifestyle changes, good eating, and routine exercise to make it happen.  Slow, steady and successful.  Forget magic pills - the best way to lose weight and keep it off forever is to depend on yourself and do it naturally. 
But with that out of the way, so you know I have a jaded opinion, I figured it might be resourceful to share some medical studies about some new weight loss drugs.  I'm not a Doctor or researcher, just someone passing on the findings of others. 
Today's weight-loss drug is Belviq.
Belviq (lorcaserin) activates a serotonin receptor in the brain that may help a person eat less and feel full after having eaten smaller portions of food than normal.  During clinical trials, patients on average lost 5% of their body weight, even after taking the drug for a year.  This was a combination of drug, decreased food intake and increased exercise. 
There are some concerns in the medical community that the drug could potentially damage heart valves, especially since a similar type of drug (Fenfluramine) was taken off the market in 1997 due to concerns of heart damage.  Plus there are long term unknowns such as an increased risk for heart attack or stroke when used with other diet medications.
Side effects include potential headache, dizziness, fatrigue, nausea, dry mouth and constipation.
So all that potential negative for a lousy 5% reduction in body weight over a year?  And it still required modifications in diet and exercise to achieve even that.  Makes me wonder what they were eating and how they were exercising.  For a 300lb person, that yields a 15 pound loss.  I started at 297 pounds and dropped 50 over 5 months without any extremes or pills...just sayin... you can read about it here on my website.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Diet Soda: No Calories - Plenty Of Pounds

Making the right dietary choices for losing weight can be challenging.  It's been drilled into your head that you need to run away from calories, thus something that is advertised as ZERO CALORIES should be the perfect choice for watching your weight, right?  Well, if you are talking about water you are on the right track, but when it comes to Diet Soda, watch out!
In a study reported by the journal of Microbiology and Ecology, it was shown that people who drank one or more diet sodas a day have a five-time increase in waist circumference in 10 years compared with those who drank none.  Hmmmm... makes me want to pour out the Diet Coke sitting in front of me!
According to one specialist, our bodies use taste to figure out how many calories we have to deal with.  Disrupting that data confuses the body.  Sweet tastes tend to be caloric, which will tell the body to increase its metabolism in order to burn it off.  But if a sweet taste comes in and there is nothing to burn, then the body learns not to worry about compensating.
This in turn can lead to the body feeling like it needs more food, and thus the individual may have a tendency to eat more when drinking a diet soda which offsets the lower calories from the drink.  Bottom line, you could gain more pounds long term, because you ate more chips with that diet soda.
Plus, for many people there is the illusion that the Diet Soda is so helpful that they don't have to worry about counting calories so much.  After all, a Diet Coke and a snickers bar do go really well together!
But just to show you how there are so many different viewpoints on all the effects of diet sodas, another study from Harvard University revealed that participants who drank a diet soda per day cut daily intake by 100 calories and lost weight over three years. 
Confused yet?
So the thing to take with you is an understanding that Diet Soda alone is not going to magically make you lose weight.  You must always look at the "big picture" and ask if it is a productive and useful tool that fits into your overall plan. 
Not sure how it really factors in?  Then just drink water and don't worry about it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Music Equals More Calorie Burn

Many of us use music for motivation when engaged in calorie burning activities, but does it make a real difference?  For sure if you are doing aerobics you are probably tuned into music as it helps to coordinate the moves and set the pace, but what about other activities like riding a stationary bike or walking or running? 
In 2005 a set of British researchers decided to investigate to see if music had an impact on physical activity during work-outs.  They put 18 everyday men and women on stationary bikes and split them into three groups.  The first had no music.  The second had calming, laid back music and the third had high energy, fast-moving music.  The participants then were told to get in gear and go for it.
The results were quite interesting.  Those with both kinds of music blew away the other group and traveled a significant distance more to boot.  Another neat point was that the music groups did not perceive an increased level of effort even though they were working much harder.  Ultimately, the study shows that using some form of stimuli to disassociate yourself from what could be perceived as discomfort, will take you a lot further than if you are focused solely on the activity at hand.
I've seen this first hand and never go on power walks without music in my ears.  For me its not only about disassociation, but also about setting a pace as my music is carefully selected to help drive my feet at higher speeds.  And it works!  I can sustain 5mph for an hour with the right music dialed-in.
Another example is when I have extended phone conversations - usually for business.  I try to go outside and walk while talking.  As long as I'm not having to dodge any hazards or obstructions I can engage myself in the conversation and forget I am walking.  Typically the pace is less frantic, more in the range of 4mph, but that turns into some serious calorie burn after 30 minutes or so.
It really comes down to your level of enthusiasm and commitment.  There are plenty of simple tricks to increase your calorie burn on a daily basis without going too crazy.  So next time you engage, turn up the music and burn some extra pounds.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Revitalizing That Failed Resolution To Lose Weight

If you are one of the 92% who didn't meet their New Year's resolution, and it happened to be about losing weight, then don't despair, retool!  Focus on getting it done in small, reasonable and comfortable steps.  Typically you can lose a pound per week simply by cutting out 500 calories per day and not necessarily by food choice alone. (3500 calories are in a pound.)

The reality of reducing calories is that you either need to eat fewer or burn more.  So if you wanted to kill off 500 calories per day you could eat 500 calories less, burn off 500 calories through exercise or use a combination of both.  

For example, a 2oz Snickers Bar has about 265 calories - and a brisk two mile walk can burn 250 calories.  That simple!  Of course you have to do it everyday of the week, but it's not nearly as hard as you thing.  And though it might seem like a long time, if you stay on track for 6 months you could easily drop 24 pounds.  Go a full year and you could see 50 pounds.

In fact, I did double on the weekly goals and lost 2 - 2 1/2 pounds per week and dropped 50 pounds in six months, then as my metabolism changed, it took more in both categories to maintain that loss, so it ended up dropping back a bit.  And once I got to 70 pounds the loss pretty much quit, but since the methods were fully ingrained I have managed to keep the weight loss off for over 5 years.

Use this article from Rene Lynch that features 52 simple tips for getting jump-started on a new weight loss mission.  It's an easy and fun read and can go a long way towards pointing you in the right direction for successfully revitalizing that weight lose goal.