Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Warning about Diet Pills and Weight Loss Supplements

  On October 8th 2010 the FDA pulled the popular diet pill Meridia (Sibutramine) from the market because studies found that it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The FDA also recommends that if you are taking it now, you should stop. (always check with your doctor first before abruptly stopping a prescribed medication)

     Losing weight by using weight loss pills and supplements is a very enticing prospect for many people who have struggled with their weight for a long time. These pills and supplements often promise extreme and easy weight loss in a short amount of time, without much effort. However, their claims are dubious and the risks associated with them are high.

     Prescription Diet Pills/Over the counter FDA approved diet pills
     Diet pills such as Fen-Phen (which was taken off the market in 1997 and Alli (an over the counter FDA approved drug which is half the strength of it's prescription counterpart Orlistat) "work" in different ways. Some pills, like Alli, block fat absorption from  food into the body. Others such as Meridia and Fen-Phen, attempt to increase energy expenditure and/or suppress appetite, by acting like an amphetamine and working to increase norepinephrine and serotonin activity in the brain.
    These pills have side effects ranging from:
     Yucky...... increases in bathroom urgency (oh you know what I mean), oily stools (eeewwww!) flatulence and    gastrointestinal distress:
    Dangerous: increase heart rate, liver problems, increase risk of stroke, increases in pulmonary hypertension and heart disease.

  Ironically, if you read the fine print, most of these drugs say that you will get the most benefit from them if you add diet and exercise to your program.
 So this begs the question,

  If you have to diet and exercise ,while you take these products, to see results, why would you risk the dangerous side effects when any weight loss you are experiencing is not from the drug?

         A dietary supplement is defined as any pill, capsule, or tablet that has in it a herbal or chemical ingredient, included specifically for the purpose of increasing your metabolism or decreasing your appetite. Some commonly found ingredients in supplements are caffeine, vitamin B12, bioperine (black pepper extract), capsaisin (a component of hot peppers).
     Dietary supplements are different than Prescription or FDA approved weight loss pills. They are classified as "nutritional supplements" and therefore the FDA treats them differently than drug products. They leave the responsibility of making sure these supplements are safe to the companies who stand to gain a lot of money from their sales. A perfect watchdog right???
    The FDA will  become involved with them when there is a question about their safety or if they work,  only AFTER the product has been put on the shelves. It often takes years between the time a complaint is waged against a supplement or pill and when the FDA actually issues a warning or removes it from the stores. Meanwhile, people are still using them and they understandably think that if a supplement is being sold it must be safe.
     People are also lulled into a false sense of safety because when they read the labels of many of these supplements, the ingredients such as caffeine,vitamin B12 and bitter orange, seem harmless. However, the extreme amount and combination of these ingredients can cause, jitteriness, a dangerous rise in blood pressure and rise in heart rate, among other possible deadly side effects.
   If you read fitness and strength training magazines you undoubtedly have seen many ads with extremely fit models espousing the virtues of dietary supplements. However, if you read anything about these models, you will know that they look the way they do because they workout very hard and eat clean most of the time.

A note about Hoodia
  Hoodia is marketed as an all natural weight loss supplement that decreases your appetite. Hoodia is a succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. People started selling it as a weight loss supplement because it is said to be used by hunters in Africa to feel less hungry during a long hunting trips. However, there is insufficient evidence to prove that it works and has not been proven safe. The FDA has issued warnings that Hoodia might no be effective and that some products claiming to have Hoodia in them actually do not contain it at all. 

Remember, just because a product says it's ALL NATURAL does not mean it is safe or effective. Always be cautious and do your own research before taking any weight loss medication or supplement.

  So with that being said, here are some everyday spices and foods that MAY help increase your metabolism. You can think about ways to incorporate them into your clean meals.  But remember, if these foods really do increase your metabolism, they are only a compliment to your exercise and clean eating.

Green Tea: Green tea is probably the most promising of all of these nutritional metabolic boosters. Green tea is a thermogenic food that doubles as a disease fighter because of its cancer fighting antioxidants called catechins. Studies have found that you need to drink 3-cups a day to increase your metabolism.

Jalepeno and all hot peppers: Jalepeno peppers have a thermogenic effect, increasing your metabolism through the heat they produce. (The effect is probably very small. )

Spices: Cinnamon, Cumin, chili, ginger,cayenne pepper hot mustard and garlic....will all raise your metabolism a tiny bit. Plus they also have other health benefits and make food taste delicious!! So make a clean stir fry or sprinkle plain cinnamon on apple slices or your morning oatmeal to give yourself a small metabolic boost.

Caffeine: Caffeine has been shown to help you work out better. However do not drink more than two cups a day and beware that caffeine can make you jittery, anxious and increase your heart rate.

STRENGTH TRAINING!!!!!  Although this isn't something you can eat, building muscle is the BEST WAY to increase your metabolism! Muscle is active in your body unlike fat, and will burn calories all day even when you are being a couch potato!! The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism will be, and it will help you reshape your body! Strength train 3 days a week with at least 24hrs in between sessions for maximum results.

In my opinion, the potential dangers of using a diet pill or supplement are not worth the risk. I believe that consistently eating clean and exercising will get you the results you want without the side effects and cost a lot less!!!  Have you had any experiences with diet pills or supplements? Let me know.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumping Up Your Willpower Muscle!


Temptation. It's powerful and it's everywhere.!!!  There is no way to avoid it. So you must learn to fight it. But how?
You've heard it before...
All you have to have is willpower!
Well, yeah, everyone knows that.
But how do we get willpower?
And when we do get it, how do we get it to stick around for the times we need it?
     Well,  our willpower "muscle" is located at the front of our brains in the Prefrontal Cortex. That sounds like a great spot for it, easy access and all... until you find out that our Prefrontal Cortex is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.
       Phew!  Our PFC  is very busy even without adding the burden of helping us say no to a delicious cupcake!
       So it's no wonder that when you are stressed at work or thinking about the million different things you need to accomplish at the same time, you feel as though you literally have no strength left to make good food choices.

                 You feel that you definitely do not have any willpower at all!!
  Willpower is actually a muscle that is very similar to all the other muscles in your body... If you train it, it will get stronger. 

Of course, it's ability to get stronger will be leveled off at some point. Just as you can't increase your biceps strength indefinitely. But if you understand how much load it can handle, and continue to work on keeping it strong, you can have a great deal of willpower at your disposal.

   Each time you exercise your willpower, (i.e. say no to a temptation) you actually re-wire your brain; the neurons responsible for willpower develop stronger, “cleaner” more efficient connections and your willpower improves.
    This information is very empowering because we often say to ourselves, "Well, just this one time I'll eat the Oreos with the's not going to hurt." However, when you understand that each time you say no, your willpower becomes stronger, and consequently makes it easier to say no the next time, you might feel more motivated to resist.
  Here are some tips on how to strengthen your willpower muscle.
 1. Choose one big change to tackle at a time.
      When you are making New Years Resolutions (or Fall time resolutions!) it's a good idea to choose one major lifestyle change at a time to maximize your success. When people try to change too many things at once their willpower is often over taxed and they don't see success in any area. So if you want to start a weight loss program, try to make it the main focus of your willpower.

 2. Believe that this is a choice you are making not something forced upon you.
     When we are faced with something delicious to eat, it is natural to feel that we are somehow being "punished" by not being allowed to eat it. But, if when you are offered your favorite dessert, you take 10 seconds, breathe and remind yourself that YOU in fact are CHOOSING not to eat it because you are eating clean, NOT EATING it feels less like a punishment and more like a reward!

3. Keep your glucose level steady all day by eating clean meals, with complex carbs and at least 5 grams of protein, every 3 hours.
    Studies have shown that when our bodies are low in blood glucose, our willpower dips and we are susceptible to eating food that we shouldn't.  So keep your willpower strong all  day by eating clean (click here to read how) every 3 hours.
4. Keep your Leptin levels from going too low:
    Keep your leptin levels from dipping too low so that you never feel ravenously  hungry and over eat. One way to do this is to never starve yourself by eating every 3 hours. The second way is to make sure you get enough sleep. click here to read my blog about the relationship between leptin and sleep

5. Exercise everyday or almost everyday:
   Exercise boosts blood flow to your brain which will strengthen you prefrontal cortex. Exercise also is a great motivator. If you have worked out hard in the morning, you will be less likely to undo all of that hard work by eating cookies in the evening.

6. Get 8 hours of sleep
    Sleeping 8 hours helps balance all of your hormones that effect your metabolism and cravings. Read my blog linked on number 3 to learn more.

7. Meditation and Visualization
    You don't need to be a full blown yogi to reap the benefits of meditation. Simply taking a few minutes in the morning or when you are feeling overwhelmed, to sit quietly , breathe deeply and feel peace flow within yourself, will help you feel less anxious and stressed and consequently less likely to reach for a comfort food.
    Visualizing yourself reaching your goals can be very powerful. Picture what you will look like when you lose the weight and get stronger. Try to "feel" how proud you will be of yourself. Take those positive feelings and make them part of how you think about yourself now.
    Also, when you are offered a treat, take a moment and visualize yourself eating it. Think about how it will taste, and how you will feel when you are done. Many times after picturing yourself eating it, you can say to yourself, I know how that will taste and I don't need to eat that now.

8. Distract yourself
   When you are tempted to "cheat", give your willpower a helping hand by distracting yourself. Leave the kitchen or office where the treat is. Go for a walk, polish your nails, take a shower or call a friend. Studies have shown that going for just a 20 minute brisk walk can stop a craving in its tracks! 

9. Focus on your goals
    We tend to lose our sense of self control when we get caught up in the moment. When presented with a tempting situation, step back and take a minute to focus on the bigger reasons you are eating clean and exercising. Are you trying to set a good example for your kids? Are you trying to improve your health so you will live a long life to be with the ones you love? Are you trying to look better so that you can feel proud of yourself? Whatever the reason is that made you make the decision to finally change your life, should be called upon when you feel tempted to eat something that will be destructive to achieving that goal.
  **One way to stay focused on that goal is to write it down. Keep a note with your goal written on it in your purse and take it out and read it to yourself when you feel your willpower fading. Also, for when you are at home, make a vision board (see how here) and keep it in your kitchen to keep yourself focused.

10. Practice on small tasks first
 A recent study showed that if you feel that your willpower is always really low no matter what you do, trying to do small mental "challenges" like reminding yourself to sit up straighter or trying to brush your teeth with your opposite hand for two weeks often helps build up that willpower muscle.  Once your self control gets stronger from conquering smaller tasks, you can then use it to work on a bigger challenge such as eating clean and exercising.

11. Avoid alcohol.
    When we drink alcohol,  our willpower is lessened.  We feel freer to overeat because our judgement becomes impaired. Also, many times the places and social situations where we have the chance to drink alcohol also have an abundance of food that we shouldn't be eating.  So when you are trying to lose weight, give yourself a break and stay away from alcohol.
  Willpower is a limited resource, but it can be strengthened. Don't forget, that each time you say no, the easier it gets!

So, the next time you are faced with a cupcake with awesome frosting,  use your pumped up willpower to say.... 
                            THANKS BUT NO THANKS!
Do you have any willpower strengthening tips? Let me know!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Clean Eating Challenge Week 6:



  We all know that we should not be eating a lot of sugar when we are trying to lose weight; and that candy, cakes and cookies have tons of sugar and should be avoided! However, there are a lot of foods that may seem fine to eat, but actually have tons of hidden sugar.
   Having one item with some extra sugar might not make a big difference, but you would be surprised how quickly the calories add up throughout the day. Also, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave. Sugar is a drug! When we eat foods with high percentages of sugar,( a serving size with more than 9-10 grams) throughout the day, we are training our brains to always want very sweet foods. So consequently, when we eat foods with very low sugar, that are healthy and clean,  they don't taste good to us.
   Obviously, the more processed the foods you eat are, the more potential hidden sugar there can be. Americans average eating 160 lbs of sugar each year! But only 29lbs comes directly from the sugar bowl. The rest is from processed foods.

So the most important thing to do to limit our sugar intake, is to eat food in as natural a state as possible. This is a basic tenant of clean eating, so I know you have heard me say that many times before.

 One side note:
 High fructose corn syrup- It's use has increased 3.5 % over the last decade, twice the rate of refined sugar. click here to read my blog about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup Avoid any product that has it in it!

So this weeks challenge is to really tighten up your diet by finding foods that have added sugar and substituting them for low sugar or non sugar versions!! Here are some sugar detective clues you can look for to rid your diet of unwanted sugar!


Look for these sneaky words that sugar disguises itself as...Also, although honey and raw sugar sound healthier then table sugar they are processed the same way as sucrose and should not be overeaten.  
•beet sugar
•brown sugar
•buttered syrup
•cane-juice crystals
•cane sugar
•carob syrup
•corn syrup
•corn syrup solids
•date sugar
•diastatic malt
•ethyl maltol
•fruit juice
•fruit juice concentrate
•glucose solids
•golden sugar
•golden syrup
•grape sugar
•high-fructose corn syrup
•invert sugar
•malt syrup
•raw sugar
•refiner's syrup
 sorghum syrup
•turbinado sugar
•yellow sugar

Any foods that say "low fat" will most likely be high in sugar to make up for the lost flavor from the low fat content. These items usually have the same calorie count or higher, as the regular "full fat" variety so beware.

Sodas...  We all know regular sodas have sugar but did you know that these are the number one offenders with 10 teaspoons of added sugar!!! click to read my blog about giving up soda 
Ketchup...can be 20 percent sugar or more! Use mustard (but check label for clean ingredients) instead.
Salad Dressing-bottled or packaged- use teaspoon of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar with lemon and spices for your salad instead
Yogurt- Yogurt seems healthy but flavored varieties even vanilla can have up to 27 grams of sugar in a small container!!  choose plain non fat Greek yogurt (Oikos is awesome) instead!
Cereal- Cereal often has 12-15 grams of sugar in even so called healthy varieties. Choose plain oatmeal instead of flavored oatmeal in packages. You can add your own cinnamon and fresh fruit on top.
Fruit Juice- is loaded with sugar. Have a fresh piece of fruit instead, which will give you fiber as well and drink water!
Jarred Spaghetti sauce- Sugar is added to tomato products to enhance the flavor of the tomato especially if they're picked before they are ripe.  Check the label of any tomato product you buy, only buy it if it doesn't have any added sugar. Instead,  make a pot of homemade sauce, using only canned tomatoes, without any added sugar, and use it the entire week over chicken breast or steamed veggies.
White bread with brown crust- There is often a lot of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup in bread. Check the ingredients carefully and pick a brand that is 100% whole grain with a small amount added sugar but NO high fructose corn syrup
Protein bars- These are glorified candy bars, often with 11-15 grams or more of sugar. Plan ahead and bring a your own clean protein packed snack with you, like a low fat string cheese and an apple or 3 egg whites and a couple whole grain crackers. (check nutrition label on crackers for no added sugar!)
Canned veggies and fruit- Canned fruit is often packed in a sugar syrup. Always go for the fresh fruit. If you are looking for a convenient vegetable option, frozen is a much better choice than canned vegetables.
Canned Soup- Make a big pot of homemade broth based soup on the weekend without any added sugar and lots of delicious spices and enjoy it the entire week.
Frozen Dinners- Frozen  meals often have added sugar to add flavor. Prepare homemade meals over the weekend and warm them up throughout the week.

The weather is getting chilly and it's the perfect time for a pumpkin latte, but beware sugar detectives...
Coffee Drinks- These are loaded with sugar and fat. A pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks is 380 calories, 13grams of fat and 49 grams of sugar!! That's 11.6 teaspoons! Have a plain coffee or green tea no sugar instead.

 Sugar Substitutes:
  There are many sugar substitutes on the market. Most of them are not healthy for you and should be avoided. The two most dangerous are Saccharine and Aspartame. Aspartame is sold as Nutrasweet. Foods with Aspartame sometimes say "may contain phenylalanine on their labels."  Avoid all foods with Aspartame in them.
  If you feel you must use a sugar substitute Stevia in the raw is probably the best choice. It comes from the Stevia plant and is available at most food stores such as Jewel and Whole Foods. It does have an after taste that I do not like, but, it is a better choice than any of the other sugar substitutes.

 It's important to change your taste buds to enjoy foods without high levels of sugar in them. It will take about a month ( or two) but your taste will change and you will begin to crave sugar less and enjoy the taste of naturally sweet foods such as fruits and vegetables even more.
So when you shop this week, put your detective cap on and search out those hidden sugars...
.... and maybe you should avoid the Halloween Candy Aisle altogether!