Should You Be On a Ketogenic Diet?

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Keto diets are all the rage these days and I've had so many people ask me what I think of keto, if should they be doing it, and if it will it help them lose fat, heal from chronic illness, achieve better brain health, etc.  So I'm finally sitting down to give you the skinny on this high fat protocol in hopes of shedding some light on the subject to help you decide if it's right for you.  Keep in mind, this article is not intended to guide you through following a ketogenic diet.  I simply want to present you with some facts and considerations to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing depending on your goals.

First of all let me say that there is no single perfect diet that EVERYONE should be on, regardless of what “the experts” might say.  The closest thing to that would be a whole or non-processed food diet where you eat real food that comes from the earth, not from a lab or factory.  But you probably knew that already.  

If you're not yet familiar with the ketogenic diet, it is a very high fat, low-moderate protein, extremely low-carbohydrate diet.  It has been used as an effective therapeutic diet for epilepsy since the 1920's, and more recently for cancer, Lyme disease and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and ALS.  When the body is deprived of glucose (which we get from carbohydrates), it is forced to burn fat for fuel instead which is why it can be effective for fat loss, mitochondrial function and brain/neurological health.

The most well-known diet that people associate with keto is the Atkins Diet, but this differs from a true ketogenic diet in that it includes high amounts of protein.  A proper, healthy ketogenic diet will not be high in protein since the body can convert protein into glucose more easily than it can convert fat, so even if you're eating really low-carb, too much protein can prevent you from getting into ketosis.  With that out of the way, let's dive into what you need to know before doing keto.

Do Your Research First

There is SO much misunderstanding and misinformation out there about keto and there are certain people who should absolutely not follow it, so it's important to understand what it's all about before you try it.

While many people may benefit from a ketogenic diet for several weeks or even a few months, I don't believe that people should be on a ketogenic diet long-term unless they first do genetic testing to understand how a high fat diet might affect them in light of their genetic predispositions.  This applies both for those wanting fat loss and those considering keto as a therapeutic diet, and stay with me here because I'm gonna get all science-y for a minute...

For example, in people who have one or two alleles (+/+ or +/-) of the the APOE4 gene, high saturated fat intake is associated with greater risk for Alzheimer's.  Since the ketogenic diet has actually been shown to be beneficial for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, it would be important for APOE4 individuals to limit saturated fats and eat mostly  unsaturated fats.  And while the keto diet has become the hot ticket for fat loss, there are some people with a gene variant who are more likely to actually gain weight if they eat a high fat diet.  There are yet other genetic variants that put people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes if they consume a high fat diet, so bottom line, if you're following or considering the ketogenic lifestyle, you may want to do some genetic testing.

I also recommend regularly checking in with your doctor and monitoring your thyroid and hormone levels since some people (usually women) will experience suboptimal thyroid levels and hormonal changes. If you have thyroid or adrenal issues,  a keto diet may not be the best idea for you.

Carbs Matter

Let's start with what it takes to actually get into ketosis and how to measure it.

Depending on your goals for doing a keto diet, your daily intake of net carbs (total grams of carbohydrate - grams of fiber = net carbs) will vary between about 20-60 grams.  Men can often go higher and still achieve ketosis, especially if they are active, but everyone is different and it takes some people longer to get into ketosis than others which is why it's important to measure your ketones regularly.  Total daily net carbs should be lower If you are using keto as a therapeutic diet, versus for fat loss, but again this varies according to the individual.

I was at recent event when a woman who was "trying the ketogenic diet" refused to taste a special cocktail because it had a few grams of sugar, when meanwhile she was snacking away on cheese crackers.  I think some people believe that just because something isn't sweet means that it doesn't contain sugar.  The fact is that foods made from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes are easily converted into glucose (yep, that's sugar) once we eat them, so it doesn't matter if you're avoiding actual sugar if you're still eating too many carbs.

Measuring Ketone Levels

I’m not going to sugar coat it; accurately measuring ketones is a giant pain in the ass and it’s expensive. Ketones are detected in the blood, breath and urine and testing methods vary greatly in cost and accuracy.  

Most people rely on urine strips which are the least expensive option but are notoriously inaccurate since ketones will appear in lower and lower levels in the urine the longer someone is in ketosis.  Urine strips often work well for the first 1-2 weeks, but after that they become less reliable and results can differ depending on how hydrated you are at the time of testing.  Testing ketones via blood is the most accurate, but it’s also painful and expensive.  Other methods test acetone in breath and include the Ketonix and LevlNow devices.  I had the chance to test the Levl for a couple months when I was following a keto protocol and I was impressed with it, but it requires a significant investment both initially and monthly.  

At this point in time, the Ketonix device may be the happy medium when it comes to price and accuracy, but I’m hopeful that the Levl will become less expensive in the near future.  They’re a great bunch of people and the accuracy of the device is the next best thing to blood testing, so if you don’t mind the price tag, this is a good way to go.

The beauty of measuring your ketones regularly is that you will learn how your food, exercise, and schedule affect your body’s ability to get into and stay in ketosis.  If you don’t measure you can end up being more or less strict than you need to be and you may not reap the benefits of the protocol.

Not all Fats are Created Equal

Probably the biggest and most detrimental mistake people make when on a keto diet is not being careful about the types of fat they’re eating.  If you’re eating a high fat diet you want to make sure that the fats you’re ingesting are high quality, anti-inflammatory fats, versus inflammatory, processed, or hydrogenated ones, as these will exacerbate the problems that a keto diet is supposed to reverse.

Good fat sources to eat include avocado, olives, coconut, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and fats & dairy products (if you tolerate dairy) from organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed animals.  Fats to avoid as much as possible include processed/refined industrial “vegetable oils” like canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn and peanuts oils, and fats from non-organic and factory-raised animals.

It’s also important to use the right cooking temperature for each type of oil to prevent oxidation for overheating which can turn an otherwise healthy oil into a trans-fat.

Don’t Skimp on Veggies

Another common mistake keto dieters make is not eating enough vegetables.  Getting plenty of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in veggies is crucial for good health, and as long as you’re eating non-starchy vegetables that are low in starches/sugars, you can eat quite a lot of them without going overboard on net carbs.  Some of the best bets are dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, and cucumbers.

Is Keto Right For You?

A ketogenic diet can be healing and life-changing for some and a disaster for others, so it’s important to listen to your gut instincts, talk to a trusted health practitioner, and do some research before diving in.  I’ve coached many clients to successfully navigate a keto protocol so if it’s something you’re considering, let’s talk more about it.  I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have to help you decide if it’s right for you.

As I've said in previous blog posts, I'm not one for bandwagons. In fact, if "everyone is doing it" I'm extra skeptical.  The first question that runs through my head is, does this have any merit or is it just the latest fad? Usually it's a combination of the two and the important thing to ask yourself when you’re intrigued by the newest, hottest thing is “Does this resonate with me as something that might be truly helpful or is it just a shiny new object?” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about figuring out the right approach for your body and your lifestyle, not what’s right for the current Hollywood “it girl”. 

Continually jumping on trend bandwagons will keep you in a cycle of dieting and prevent you from creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that enables you to get results AND enjoy life.  If you are looking for support and guidance in finding the right approach for you, I can help! Click here to schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let’s chat about what you want to achieve.

Paleo Desserts on New Day Northwest's Wellness Wednesday

I had so much fun on New Day NW's Wellness Wednesday! If you missed the live show, you can click here to watch my dessert segment and here for the Wellness Wednesday panel on Sleep Issues and Healthy Food Choices with myself Dr. Darius Zoroufy from Swedish Hospital.

New Day has a beautiful new kitchen set where I shared my recipes for Sautéed Cherries with Raspberry CoulisDecadent Dairy-Free Paleo Cheesecake, Chocolate Pot de Créme and Pistachio Almond Truffles (AKA fat bombs). Give them a try and let me know what you think. And for those of you who want to make your own almond based "cream cheese", here is the best recipe I've found thus far (although I'll admit that I rarely have the time or the desire to make my own so I use the Kite Hill stuff instead). 

I'm always nervous before going on camera, but Margaret Larson is so gracious and real and she really knows how to put you at ease. I felt like I was just cooking and and chatting with a girlfriend, so thank you to Margaret and all the wonderful staff at New Day for making this so much fun! Of course I remembered good stuff I could have shared as soon as I left the building so I recorded the short video below to add to what we discussed in the panel.

Questions about trying out a paleo or ketogenic diet? Schedule a free Coffee Talk session by clicking here and you can ask me all your burning questions.

What Can Detoxing Do for You?

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Detoxing has become a popular way for people to restore their health, jumpstart their metabolism and kick off a weight-loss or clean-eating program. There are many reasons a detox can be beneficial, and done right, detoxing does a great job of helping you achieve those goals.

However, there are many different ways to detox, and the process you choose should be based on your individual needs, challenges, goals, and preferences. Don't just jump on the detox bandwagon without doing your research first! Beware of any program that requires extreme calorie deprivation or prolonged fasting, even juice fasting, as these extreme protocols can do more harm than good.

While healthy eating and/or detoxing should not feel like an exercise in depriving yourself, nearly all programs include refraining from one main food that may be the cause of many of the symptoms people suffer from most – fatigue, bloating, moodiness, headaches, congestion, itchiness, and stomach upset issues of one kind or another. That one food is sugar.

Consuming sugar does more than cause weight gain; it causes inflammation, belly fat storage, and spikes in your blood sugar that create a roller-coaster effect: it provides a burst of energy, but then it depletes your energy, so you crave MORE sugar. The more you eat, the more you want, and its effect on your body makes it nearly impossible to lose weight or reduce your symptoms.

Did you over-indulge over the holiday season? Have you been feeling more sluggish or achy than usual? Has your stomach been upset for days (weeks or years!)? Do you suffer from headaches, heartburn, or have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your clothes have shrunk? Do you want to get back on track, feel and look fabulous and have more confidence? Would you love to fit into your skinny jeans? If you answered yes to any of these questions, embarking on a detox or clean-eating program for 10 to 21 days may be a great way to remedy your symptoms, increase your energy and lose the post-holiday padding. My best advice includes:

1) Recognize that there are many types of detoxes – they don’t all involve juicing, fasting, or deprivation. In fact, my program includes real, whole food at every meal – plus snacks, and a wide variety of easy, delicious recipes. Remember, a detox isn’t just about what you DON’T eat – it’s also about what you DO eat and how you nourish your body, mind and spirit.

2) Ask yourself how you feel, what you want and why you want it. Write it down. Don't rely on willpower for motivation! You need a driving purpose to keep you in the game. 

3) Get Support – Don't try to go it alone. Get a close friend or loved one to detox with you and/or talk to an expert who can help you determine the right approach for your individual goals. Prep week for my Reboot Your Bod 21-day winter detox starts Tuesday, January 2nd and the detox begins on Monday, January 8th. This is a great opportunity to reboot your system with a great group of like-minded people, and start the New Year feeling great! Read more about it here.

I’m happy to answer your questions about detoxing and help you find a program that’s right for you. YOU CAN DO IT. I can help you! Click here to schedule a free 50-minute Coffee Talk.

You're Sweet Enough Already...

Do you enjoy a no-sugar-added soda with dinner every night? What about a low-sugar, high protein ‘nutrition bar' after a workout? At the office, are you mindlessly grazing through the low-sugar or no-sugar added cookies? Do you read food labels to see where on the ingredient list sugars are hidden? If you're regularly drawn to sweets- or foods laden with artificial sweeteners-try going without them for a few days and see what happens. Are you having headaches, irritability, cravings, and symptoms that could only be described as withdrawal? Do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you're drawn right back to those same foods? You could be trapped in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction!

Sugar is a carbohydrate, one of the major nutrient groups, but it doesn't provide vitamins, minerals, or even fiber to our diet. Still, it's added to an array of foods, including ketchup, yogurt, cereal, canned soup, some lunch meats, salad dressing, condiments, bread, and so much more. While we require some sugar (glucose) in order to function property, all of this added sugar is harmful to our system.

Sugar's Addictive Qualities

When we ingest sugar, our body generates a response similar to that seen in addictions, which is why we develop cravings for more. It's often called the cocaine of dietary additives and recent studies have shown it to be 8 times more addictive than actual cocaine. Crazy right?

Here's how it works: Sugar -- whether natural, processed or artificial -- enters the bloodstream quickly, causing your blood sugar level to spike. The body recognizes this imbalance and acts to bring blood sugar back to normal. Insulin, a hormone, pushes glucose into the cells to be used for energy. But if you eat a lot of sugar, the body can't keep up. Insulin has to work harder and the body overcompensates, causing blood sugar to drop too low - and your brain reacts. You feel depleted, irritable, and crave more sugar.

Sugar by Any Other Name

Sugar names you might recognize are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruits, some root veggies, and honey), and lactose (milk sugar). Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables has a place in a balanced diet. But added sugar, artificial sweetener, and processed ‘natural' sugar like high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to your health.

Eliminate Unhealthy Sugar From Your Diet

Learn where Sugar Hides. On ingredient lists, any words that ends in -ose are sugars.  If they're among the first five items, walk away from it. If sugar is one of the last ingredients on the list, that's a better choice.

Avoid the Fake Stuff. Products containing artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative since these sweeteners are highly toxic and arguable more addictive than real sugar. Diet soda, 'fat free' and 'sugar free' candy and cookies are associated with weight gain and cravings, creating a cycle of addiction.

Sip with Awareness. A single can of soda, bottle of juice, flavored water, or Gatorade typically contains nine or more teaspoons of sugar. Four grams of sugar is a teaspoon so keep that in mind when reading nutrition labels.

Make Sweet Substitutions. Look for snacks labeled 'no added sugar' or 'unsweetened.' Use canned foods packed in water instead of juice or syrup. When baking, swap table sugar with stevia, monk fruit, applesauce, date paste, or molasses. Adding cinnamon or cacao powder is a great way to sprinkle flavor onto yogurt, oatmeal, or coffee. Opt for honey, maple syrup or coconut palm sugar over other processed sugars.

Reprogram your taste for sugar slowly. If you put two sugar packets in your coffee, cut back in half-packet increments and keep the sugar bowl off the kitchen table. Small steps add up to sweet success!

Carve a Pumpkin and Avoid Looking Like One

While sugar is a powerful “drug” (see the latest report here), it’s not just the cute and colorful treats that tempt us. Halloween may hold happy memories for many of us of our own childhood costumes and candy collecting, as well as those of our children dressing up for trick-or-treating and their squeals of delight as they came home with pillowcases filled with candy.

But it’s not all fun and games. Sugar can weaken our immune system, increase symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and contribute to weight gain, moodiness and lack of energy. And the more we eat, the more we want. So what can you do now to avoid “over-treating?” Here are few healthy tips:

1. Focus on the Festivities. There is a lot to get excited about besides candy: Make creative costumes, plan a neighborhood party; build a haunted house; have a pumpkin-carving contest; spend the day decorating your yard and house.

2. Speaking of healthy treats … What if you (and/or your kids) try making some cute, nutritious Halloween treats like the recipe below or my Coco Loco Amazeballs? Now we’re talking fun and nutritious!

3. Don’t trick-or-treat on an empty stomach. I know the kids are excited, but it’s a great idea to have a nutritious meal ready when they get home from school. If you’re in a hurry, kids can have a “snack-ful dinner” – almond butter on whole grain toast with apples; carrots with hummus; black beans and quinoa, or a whole-grain pita with avocado and chopped chicken.

4. What is your favorite Halloween candy? Whatever it is – leave it at the store! If you must buy candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters, consider buying candy that you’d never eat if it was the last sweet on earth! Perhaps buy it that morning, and get just enough to give out that night.

5. You can’t eat it if it’s not there. Don’t let one night of sweet treats turn into a month of candy snacking. Toss out leftover candy the next day, and give your kids just a few days to indulge. Better to be a little wasteful by throwing out the sweets than to derail your health and weight goals (not to mention adding to tooth decay and all the other sugar symptoms).

Just because it is the 31st of October doesn’t mean we have to indulge in daily sweet treating that we wouldn’t normally do. It’s really about making better choices that keep YOU feeling better. Have cut-up fruits and vegetables in your fridge; fill snack bowls with almonds and walnuts (and take some to work, too!) Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and give yourself permission to break with old Halloween traditions to start your own.

Banana Ghosts and Tiny Pumpkins

Serves 12

Perfect for a party, these treats are a great way to provide your kids with some healthier choices.

Ingredients: 
• 6 bananas, peeled and cut in half horizontally
• 24 carob chips
• 12 tangerines or clementines, peeled
• 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into 12 ½ inch pieces, and sliced thin (see picture)

Directions: 
For the Banana Ghouls, place carob chips as “eyes” on the bananas, turning them into ghostly goodies! For the Tiny Pumpkins, insert one cut celery piece into the center of each clementine to make a party “pumpkin” treat. Serve on a large platter at room temperature!

Fat Was Never the Bad Guy

The Secret’s Out on the Sugar Industry

Having grown up int he 80's and 90's I was one of those who fell prey to the high carb low fat diet craze and it took me years to reverse the damage it did to my health and my waistline. Luckily we now know better and the truth is finally coming out.

A report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine on Sep. 12, 2016 revealed that the sugar industry paid scientists in the ’60s to shift the focus from sugar as a link to heart disease and blame saturated fat instead.

The New York Times reported the discovery of internal sugar documents. The documents suggest that many of today’s dietary recommendations were influenced by the sugar industry.

According to the NYT, “A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists … to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies … minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.”

Sounds similar to the decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of nicotine, doesn’t it? The NYT article also cites the previous revelation of soft-drink companies covering up the link between sugary drinks and obesity. 

Why do wellness coaches and health practitioners care so much about the recent report? As the NYT cites, “For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.” 

Just one more reason to recognize that sugar is addicting and harmful to our health; the better choices we can make, the better we can influence our health and longevity, and the health of our kids. Read the entire article, with links to the research, here.

The Daily Writing Exercise that Can Help You Lose Weight

If you'd like to understand, once and for all, the relationship between what you're eating and how you feel, try keeping a mind-body food journal. It's a powerful way to gain insight into your eating habits and how your food choices impact your mental and physical wellbeing. A mind-body food journal is different from a "diet diary" because the intention is different: it's not just about the fit of your jeans, it's about how food makes you feel physiologically and emotionally and how it fits (or doesn't fit) your lifestyle.

Too often we eat mindlessly - on the run, watching television, behind the computer. A mind-body food journal helps create clarity between what we choose and how we feel. It leads the way to improved choices and - because food is medicine - supports total mind-body health and healing.

What to Track in a Mind-Body Food Journal

Food Factors:

  • When did you eat?
  • What did you eat?
  • How much did you eat?
  • Why did you eat?
  • How did you feel after eating?

Mind Factors:

  • What was your overall mood before and after eating?
  • Did you have headaches, mental/emotional fatigue or any other symptoms?

Body Factors:

  • What did you notice about your body before and after eating?
  • Did your energy level change or did you experience sympotoms like gas or bloating?

Social & Environmental Factors:

  • Who were you with for the meal?
  • Did you eat hurriedly or calmly?
  • Were you feeling stressed?
  • Were you doing another activity while eating?

Review your journal at the end of each day and summarize your habits. Note the key factors for why you chose to eat the way you did, what was going on, how you felt and if there were any physical symptoms.

By keeping a mind-body food journal you will be able to connect the dots between your food, your emotions, and your physical body. I also find that it helps me make better choices because I'm less likely to go for that sweet treat if I know I have to write it down.

Start keeping your journal today. Track your eating habits for a few weekdays and at least one weekend day. Do this for at least two weeks and see what happens. You can keep a small notebook or journal on hand or use your notes app in your phone, whatever works best for you. I recommend avoiding most food tracking apps since they require you to enter macronutrients and/or calories which defeats the purpose of this exercise.

I'd love to hear how this worked for you and what you learned, so please comment below and share your experience. Happy journaling!

6 Top Travel Tips for a Healthy Vacation

Tip #1: Plan and prepare. You wouldn’t go to the beach without making a list of essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, and a bathing suit, right? Get in the habit of planning and shopping for healthy snacks and food essentials before your trip too.

Tip #2: Pack healthy snacks. Flight delays. Traffic jams. Long lines at amusement parks. Travel is unpredictable and you don’t want to end up hungry without any healthy choices. That’s a sure-fire way to give into food temptations you might later regret. Pack a variety of healthy options. See the list of my favorites below. If you run out of snacks when traveling, look for a Starbucks in the airport terminal or on the road; you’ll usually find nuts or a protein pack with Justin’s nut butter or a hard-boiled egg and some fresh fruit or cut-up vegetables. These healthier snacks will give you the energy you need to enjoy without weighing you down!

Tip #3: Pick up fresh fruit and veggies when you arrive. Many people think because they are staying in a hotel that they can’t visit the local market. Not true! Many hotel rooms have mini-fridges, or you can keep a few snacks in the ice bucket! I love to have a banana or fresh blueberries on hand, as well as carrots and hummus – see my list below!

Tip #4: Stay hydrated. If you’re flying, bring a stainless or glass water bottle and once you’re through security, fill it up. The pressurized air on planes can dehydrate you quickly. Rule of thumb: drink half your weight in ounces of water every day – even more important when you’re in warm weather or traveling on planes.

Tip #5: Make good choices when dining out. Even when on a cruise, visiting a foodie town or staying at a resort, you can stave off food-related symptoms or weight gain by making savvy dining decisions:

  • Pass up the bread basket. If you want to have a healthier starter, ask for a fresh vegetable platter.
  • Order a side salad. It will give you fiber that will help you feel full and keep you regular, which can sometimes be challenging when traveling. Skip the creamy dressings and ask for apple cider or red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon on the side.
  • Ask for changes. Is the fish special fried? Ask for it grilled. Does it come with a side of potatoes? Ask for veggies. Is it covered it sauce? Ask them to use olive oil and lemon juice instead. Most restaurants these days are very accommodating to their guests’ health-related requests.

Tip #6: Walk it off. Or run. Or bike. Or hike. Or swim. Whatever you chose, it’s important to take care of your body by keeping it moving every day. If physical activity is not built into your day, try to book a hotel with a gym, and consider hitting it first thing in the morning, before your day is filled with other activities.

Take-and-Travel Healthy Food Ideas

Following is a list of some of my tried-and-true travel favorites. Some I pack no matter where I’m going or for how long – like protein bars, shakes, nuts and grass-fed organic beef jerky. Others I pack depending on where I’m going, how I’m getting there, what access I’ll have to fresh markets, and how long I’ll be gone. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to eat healthier and feel better.

• Individual chia seeds or flax packs. Traveling can disrupt your regularity. One of the best ways to “keep going” is to include healthy fiber in your daily meals. Stir flax or chia seeds into your smoothie, cooked oatmeal, soups or water.

• Amazing Grass Green Superfood. Superfoods powder on-the-go gives you great energy and a dose of greens. Just mix with water or add to a smoothie. If the “green powder” scares you, choose an appealing flavor like berry or orange and try it at home before you go. It might pleasantly surprise you!

• Fresh fruit that’s easy to eat on the road, such as apples, bananas, avocado, etc.

• Justin’s Almond Butter single packs. Delicious with a banana, an apple or spread on Flackers or Mary's Gone Crackers.

• Mary’s Gone Crackers, Sticks & Twigs and/or Flackers. These are my favorite gluten-free crackers.

• Q’ia Superfood Cereal. A mixture of buckwheat, chia seeds, hempseeds, almonds and cranberries. 

• Protein powder individual serving packets. I recommend Vegan Proteins+, Sunwarrior or your choice of a non-soy plant-based powder.

• Amazing Grass Protein Superfood All-In-One Nutrition Shakes in individual packets.

• Nut mixture. Combine your choices of walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and store in individual serving containers or bags.

• Bars, bars, bars! My recommendations include Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ Bars, Primal Kitchen Grass-Fed Collagen Bars, or InBars.

• Single serving hummus and raw baby carrots or apple slices

• Dry roasted Edamame or Chick Peas (Saffron Road brand)

• Primal Pacs organic grass-fed jerky

• Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee in single serve packets

Be sure to pack a shaker bottle to mix on-the-go protein drinks and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!

Can You Actually Speed Up Your Metabolism?

Many people blame their expanding waistlines on a slow metabolism. But is that really what's keeping you from reaching your ideal body composition?

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is your body's method of converting calories, from the food you eat, into energy needed to power all the physiological processes that keep you alive and kicking 24/7. The minimum amount of energy your body needs to keep you going is called Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Calories in food - protein, fat and carbohydrates - fuel your BMR. Each of us requires a unique daily number of calories to maintain BMR so we can breathe, grow, think, sleep, digest food, and filter waste. Age and lifestyle are significant factors in calculating BMR. If you sit more than you move each day, your BMR is lower and your daily calorie needs are lower, too.

Calories In, Calories Out - Not the Whole Story

Losing or gaining weight is not just about energy balance (calories taken in - calories burned off). Sure, if you take in more calories than your body needs you'll probably gain weight, but it's not that simple. The food we eat acts as a chemical messenger that tells our hormones and other chemical compounds in our bodies what to do.

I always give the example of the doughnut and the chicken breast: both have about the same calories but the chemical reactions that occur on the body after ingesting each of the foods is drastically different. The combination of fat and starch in the doughnut will cause your blood sugar to spike and ghrelin, often called the "hunger hormone". So in short, the donut puts your body into fat storage mode, increases hunger and promotes insulin resistance.

The chicken breast on the other hand stimulates production of glucagon which enables the body to burn fat instead of storing it when insulin levels are low. The protein in the chicken also stimulates leptin production which helps suppress hunger. This is why most people could eat several doughnuts but would struggle to eat more than 1 or 2 chicken breasts.

Here's a great excerpt from this article by Dr. Keoni Teta that helps explain the importance of hormones in relation to body composition:

GLP (glucagon-like peptide) and GIP (glucose dependent insulinotropic peptide) are secreted by the endocrine cells of the small intestine.  They basically help the body sense the macronutrient ratio the incoming food. In other words, they taste the food in the small intestine and tell the body whether there is more fat and sugar in the meal or more lean protein and vegetables in the meal.  More fat and sugar in the meal cause the small intestine to release more GIP relative to GLP, and the more protein and fiber in the meal causes release of more GLP relative to GIP.  Think of GIP as fat storer and GLP as fat burner.

Eating more protein and vegetables influences a stronger signal of GLP relative to GIP thus helping to burn fat.

Your Genes are Not Your Destiny

Your genes (and hormones) play a role in metabolism because they can influence the potential you have to grow muscles (how dense and how big) and how your body stores fat. However, genetic and hormonal mechanisms in metabolism are extremely complex. There are no definitive theories. Yet, many people have lost and maintained a tremendous amount of weight despite their family history. Many health experts agree, "Your genes are not your fate."

Chances are your 'slow metabolism' has more to do with your diet and the type of exercise you are (or are not) doing on a regular basis.

If your exercise routine builds lean muscle, that helps rev-up your metabolism. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. This is why people with leaner bodies (a higher muscle to fat ratio) have a higher BMR. (Those are the folks who eat carrot cake that doesn't 'go right to their hips.)

Build a 24-Hour Fat Burning Body

The first key to revving-up metabolism is eating a whole foods diet: clean protein (organic, pasture-raised meats and poultry and wild seafood), anti-inflammatory fats and oils, fresh organic fruits and veggies, and drinking lots of water.

To really turn-up the heat on your metabolism, and your waistline, you'll want to try the muscle-building, never boring workouts listed below. These workouts help your body generate a 'post-exercise burn' that can rev up your metabolism for 2 - 24 hours after you finish a workout. Factors that determine the "afterburn" effect include your current fitness level and body composition, the intensity and duration of exercise, and type of exercise performed.

Just remember: Our bodies are designed to adapt; beginners to elite athletes both have to change-up their routine every few weeks to continue to see progress.

Circuit Training: Exercises all the major muscle groups in one workout (30-45 minutes) and may include body-weight movements, machines, dumbbells, and exercise bands. Exercises are performed for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets of each.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Rest-Based Training. These workouts alternate bouts of maximal physical effort with a rest (or lower intensity) period for set times (e.g., 40 seconds max, 15 seconds lower effort). HIIT principles can be integrated into a variety of exercise routines including walk/run, swim, weight training, and group classes. Research shows an increase in calorie burn for up to 24-hours post exercise. I take this a step further with what we Metabolic Effect folks call "Rest-Based Training". This means that you go as hard as you possibly can during a high intensity interval until you have to rest. You then rest as long as you need to until you can go again at the same intensity. This allows you to individualize a workout to your fitness level and achieve that afterburn effect in less time.

Metabolic Conditioning routines are highly intense and designed to engage different physiological "energy" pathways in the body. These workouts typically use a "suspension exercise system" (e.g., TRX) but can be integrated into other fitness activities. It's best to have a metabolic exercise routine designed and supervised by an experienced exercise specialist who can appropriately alter the intensity, reps, sets and rest intervals.

References

Spend Less Time Cooking and More Time Enjoying

I don’t know about you, but everyone I know is super busy. Every client who comes into my office seems to be juggling long work hours, a demanding career and family obligations while trying to maintain a social life and some semblance of a healthy lifestyle.  The number-one reason people give me for why they don’t eat well or exercise is lack of time. Self-care seems to be the first thing to go out the window when we get overwhelmed and busy. 

Luckily you don't have to spend countless hours cooking or prepping meals each week to maintain a healthy diet. There IS a better way! In fact, if done right, meal prep can actually save you time while helping you look and feel your best. So why not give it a try? You’ve got nothing to lose (except maybe a few pounds) and who couldn't use more free time in their schedule?

Below are my top tips for streamlining your meal prep and making the most out of the time you spend in the kitchen.

1. Cook once, eat twice (or more!) You may have heard me say this before and that's because it’s the best way to make mealtime most efficient. Some of us refer to this approach as “batch cooking.” You'll do one set-up and one cleanup, but you'll end up with multiple meals. Here’s what you do:

• Pick a cooking day. Instead of cooking every night -- pick a day or two when you’ll make the recipes for the week ahead. Sure, you’ll spend a little more time in the kitchen on your cooking day(s), but you’ll get an extra hour or two the other days (or evenings) of the week! I recommend you also prepare snacks and lunches on your cooking day. I cook on Sunday afternoons or evenings which works for me, but you'll need to pick a day that works best for you.

• Double or triple your recipes when cooking. When you prepare more than you need for one meal, you have plenty to pack for lunches and you’ll find that dinnertime is fast and easy. Learn to love leftovers!

2. Have it your way. Try different ways to eat the same meal – if you’re grilling chicken breasts, make extra to chop and include in salads or soups. Make a large batch of quinoa and add it to soups, salads or use it in place of rice with a stir fry or curry. I even use it in place of oatmeal to make a hearty breakfast porridge by adding coconut milk and topping it with shredded coconut, walnuts and cinnamon. 

3. Plan ahead. We all know we shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but you also shouldn’t go without a list! And the only way to have the most effective list is to plan your recipes for the week and get everything you need for those meals.

4. Delegate! Use grocery delivery services like InstacartAmazon Fresh, or Amazon Prime Now. For a small delivery fee you'll save all the time you would have spent driving to and from the store and shopping. You also won't be tempted by impulse items so that fee may pay for itself! And if your kids are old enough, get them involved! Teach them how to wash produce and safely use a knife, and give them a special reward if they help with cleanup. The more involved they are with the process, the more they'll want to try new and healthy foods. This applies to spouses too :-).

5. Invest in quality storage containers. Now that you’ve made extra food, you want to package it in single-servings or family portions, then freeze or refrigerate it. Don’t forget to label and date the container – I use glass containers with seal-tight lids (don't store food in plastic!), mailing labels and a Sharpie for this task. Then when you’re ready to prepare, just take out the number of containers you need for the number of people who’ll be eating with you; warm it up, and serve! See what I mean by less time in the kitchen on the other days of the week?

6. The freezer section is your friend. Many grocery and health food stores carry high-quality, organic, non-GMO frozen vegetables, fish, berries, and more. This will significantly reduce your cooking time and ensure you always have something healthy and fresh to eat. The same goes for pre-washed salad mixes and greens like arugula and baby kale. I keep organic arugula on hand at all times so I can throw together a quick salad to get my greens in when I'm short on time or energy.

7. Stock your kitchen with standbys. Foods I always have on hand include: organic arugula, organic, pasture-raised eggs and chicken breasts or thighs, pre-cut celery, radishes (great with guac!), bell peppers and cauliflower (SO versatile), avocado, salsa, guacamole, organic sauerkraut, brazil nuts, pumkpin seeds, organic extra virgin olive oil & raw organic apple cider vinegar. The pre-cut and pre-washed veggies really help reduce my prep time! With these standbys on hand, I can always make a salad or lettuce wrap. I also keep my kitchen stocked with coconut milk, quinoa, and frozen berries (which I use in my morning smoothies).

8. Prepare for the next day tonight. If you pack a lunch, select your favorite mix of leftovers the night before, and pack it in an insulated lunch box. Include everything you’ll need to enjoy the meal at work, school, or wherever you’ll be for lunch! Also include your snack(s) and water. Try to avoid microwaving your food if at all possible. I know this can be tough in the workplace but there are alternatives. This Lunch Warmer by Crock-Pot is a great and affordable option.

9. Fast times call for slow cookers. Invest in a high quality slow cooker and buy the biggest one possible. Throw in your ingredients in the morning, set the timer and voila! Dinner is ready when you get home from work. This is a super-efficient way to make several meals worth of a delicious and hearty dish that you can easily reheat on the stovetop or freeze for future meals.

10. Buddy-up and swap meals! Make arrangements with a family member, friend or neighbor to cook and swap! You make one soup or meal and they make another and you split them in half and share.

I’d love to hear how “cook once, eat twice (or more!)” is working for you! There are loads of benefits, including: 
- Sticking to your healthy eating goals
- Saving hours during the week
- Reducing the stress of those three little words: "What’s for dinner?"
- Saving money by sticking to your list and resisting “impulse” buys at the store
- Trying new recipes and food combinations
- Less waste by using up leftovers throughout the week
- Being more present with family at dinner time

Happy prepping!

The Power of Walking

Walking just may be the best-kept health secret today! It releases stress, reduces anxiety, helps clear your mind, increases blood flow, improves your energy, helps with weight loss, enhances your mood, and – along with healthy nutrition - can reduce or eliminate a host of symptoms, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, stomach distress, and more! And with daylight savings time and spring just around the corner, this is the ideal time to put on your sneakers and get out for a walk.

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes of walking a day, at least five days a week (the equivalent of 10,000 steps daily) for the best health benefits. Here are more top tips to get the most health value from your daily walk:

• Make it your morning routine. Studies show that it feels easier to keep our commitment to exercise when we schedule it in the morning or early part of the day – before we are exhausted after work or get bogged down with other commitments.

• Eat a balanced dinner of organic veggies and anti-inflammatory fats to ensure your body has fuel for the morning. Make sure you stop eating two to three hours before bedtime, and skip the alcohol (which can interrupt your sleep cycle or make you feel sluggish in the morning).

• Prep the night before. It helps to have your walking shoes, bottled water, and morning smoothie ingredients (or a banana) ready to go.

• Include short, power walks as well as longer, more moderate-paced walks each week. Health experts have long recommended challenging yourself to keep a brisk pace, but that you should still be able to “talk and walk.” However, the latest research cited in Prevention Magazine, from studies at the University of Virginia, found that women who walked shorter, fast-paced walks three times a week PLUS two longer, moderate-paced walks “lost five times more belly fat than those who strolled at a moderate pace five days a week - even though both groups burned the same number of calories (400) per walk.”

• Take a moment! If you’re walking outside, take time to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, the flowers blooming, the blue skies, the birds chirping. Walking is not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind! If you have a favorite playlist – great! That can also be meditative and relaxing. Just remember to pay attention to your surroundings and look ahead for any uneven payment, cracks in the sidewalk, or holes in the ground to avoid injury.

• Warm up and cool down. Within the first few minutes of your walk, stop and complete a few easy stretches to protect your hamstrings, knees and ankles. During the last 5 to 10 minutes of your walk, slow your pace and complete additional stretches, ensuring your muscles and heart have a chance to recover.

• Replenish with water. Believe it or not, most of us are dehydrated before we even head out the door in the morning. I recommend that you drink half your weight in ounces of water every day, and on those days when you exercise more, you’ll want to drink more water. One easy tip: Start by drinking eight ounces of water when you wake up. An hour or two before your walk, drink another eight ounces. During your walk, replenish with water every 15 minutes. This will not only keep you hydrated, but will also help you maintain your energy during and after your workout.

One of my favorite tips is to walk with a friend! It helps me keep my commitment to walking, while giving us time to catch up and motivate each other. Who can you partner with to step up your walking workout?

Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How You Can Make Sure Yours Succeed!

Did you know that 95% of New Year’s resolutions are forgotten or denied by the last day of January? Studies find that by February, many people are further behind than when they made the resolution! Here are some of the reasons why, and what you can do to avoid the pitfalls.

Challenge: New Year’s is a false start-time influenced by a group mindset. People have a greater chance of succeeding when they have laid the groundwork for success and considered the best time to begin working on their goals. January 1st is an arbitrary date, and we get caught up in feeling as if everyone is doing it. That said, there are some great ways to kick off the New Year on a positive note by taking care of your physical and emotional health and establishing healthy habits.

Solution: Collaborate with a friend or coach to pick a start date that’s right for you to begin working toward your goals. For example, if your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight, you may first want to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, then clean out the “temptations” from your pantry and refrigerator. This helps you set up for success from the start. The best way to accomplish a long-term goal is to work toward it all year long. If you do choose to participate in a January health or fitness program, look for something like my Reboot Your Bod Detox that will teach you healthy, sustainable habits that you can incorporate in your daily life long after the program ends. 

Challenge: We set vague and/or unattainable goals. Resolutions are typically black and white – dealing in absolutes: I will quit smoking. I will exercise every day. I will not spend money. Goals like these set you up for failure before you even begin!

Solution: Set realistic and specific goals. Don’t try to fix everything all at once. Focus on what is most important to you right now, for THIS year. For example, “I will lose weight” is not a specific goal; however, “I will lose 10 pounds” is both specific and measurable. To make it realistic, give yourself a reasonable timeframe to attain your goal and set smaller, weekly goals. Then, celebrate when you’ve reached that first weekly goal, such as losing your first pound or two!

Challenge: It is difficult to stay motivated day after day, week after week. If we decide to give up or give in, who’s really going to call us on it? In order to make true change, we need to “retrain our brain,” create new habits and ensure accountability.

Solution: The #1 tip from health experts is: get support. Have an accountability partner, work with a Wellness Coach one-on-one, or exercise with a “workout buddy.” Accountability increases your opportunity for success by more than 50 percent! For example, with a Wellness Coach, you can explore your individual challenges and what’s holding you back, without feeling judged. With a workout buddy, you’ll show up on time, week after week, and have someone with whom to share your successes and hardships!

Try these other proven tips:

Picture your preferred future. Close your eyes. Picture how you will look, act, talk, walk, smile, when you’ve achieved your goal.

Feel the feeling of success. Consider how you will you feel once you’ve achieved your goal: Happy? Confident? “Lighter?” Go ahead and let yourself imagine it! Be specific – are you walking down the aisle in your wedding gown (or bridesmaid dress)? Are you dancing in skinny jeans and sexy heels? Are you on the beach in a bathing suit – without a cover up? Visualizing yourself as already having achieved your goals will help you stay on track toward what’s truly important to you.

Understand what de-rails you. Have you ever heard of “emotional eating?” That’s when we use food to comfort us when we’re depressed, scared or stressed out, for example. Let’s say you get upset at work; you may head to the vending machine thinking something sweet or salty will make you feel better. (It won’t.) Or if you’re bored, you might find yourself mindlessly eating chips in front of the T.V. Identifying your own unique, emotional eating triggers is the first step toward creating new healthy habits!

Start with these tips to help you ring in the New Year – healthier, happier, and with more intention and compassion for yourself!

How to Win Thanksgiving

Forget football! Here is YOUR game plan for enjoying a healthy, feel-good Thanksgiving weekend!

1. Don’t show up hungry. When you sit down for the Thanksgiving meal, you don’t want to be “starving.” Studies show that skipping meals on the big day won’t save you calories – in fact, you will end up eating more!

2. Start Thanksgiving Day with two things: : 1) A healthy, satisfying breakfast and stay hydrated. There is not one right meal choice for everyone; if you need help figuring out what breakfast is best for you – let’s talk. 2) An intention for the holiday, such as “I will have a 'plan' and stick with it; I will eat mindfully, and I’ll remember to breathe!"

3. Have a midday mini-meal. If your Thanksgiving meal is in the early afternoon or evening, have a healthy midday snack that includes protein, fiber and healthy fat to help you avoid overeating at the Thanksgiving table.

4. Skip any foods that you don’t absolutely love. Don't waste your calories or indulgences on foods that aren't totally wonderful and amazing. Enjoy that piece of pie but skip the rice or potatoes that aren't that special, and fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and clean protein. When you do eat something indulgent, really SAVOR it! Eat it slowly and take time to notice the smell, taste, and texture. You'll be surprised at how much more satisfied you are if you are mindful and present in that moment vs. popping cookie after cookie in your mouth without really paying attention.

5. Make the good stuff. If you’re not in charge of the Thanksgiving meal, you can still bring a healthy dish to ensure that you have a healthy option that you enjoy. Use this tip when you are the host, too!

6. Limit alcohol to one drink or skip it altogether. The more alcohol you drink the worse your judgement will get so this can also keep you from “mindless” eating and drinking! Instead, sip water, sparkling water with lemon/lime, or herbal tea. 

7. Say no to unhealthy leftovers. If you’re hosting, buy disposable food storage containers and send your guests home with all the not-so-healthy leftovers. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it!

8. Get right back to your healthy routine. If you eat a little too much or make some poor choices on Thanksgiving, don’t sabotage the entire weekend! The next morning, head to the gym, go for a walk or a bike ride. Drink half your weight in ounces of water each day, and journal about whatever cravings or feelings you have. The faster you get back on track, the less chance you’ll have of gaining weight or suffering from food-related symptoms. It's not the occasional indulgence that sabotages your health goals, it's the habitual, daily choices you make that determine your long-term success.

9. Be good to YOU. The holidays are a busy and stressful time for most of us and self-care tends to go out the window. Schedule some time for yourself to get a massage, take a relaxing walk, or spend some down time alone or with your partner. Don't engage in negative self-talk or inner dialogue because it just makes you feel worse and less motivated to make good choices that truly serve you. You deserve to be well taken care of, especially by yourself.

By being proactive and using these healthy planning tips, you can have a happy AND a healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Fat Loss and Detoxification - Why Toxicity May Be Stopping You From Losing Weight

Detox has become somewhat of a dirty word these days. With all of the "detox" programs that require juice fasts, extreme calorie restriction and bizarre foods, it's no wonder that people cringe when they hear the word. Truth be told I have the same reaction and unless I know and trust the source of a detox program, I tend to assume it's a bad idea.

Our bodies have built-in detoxification processes which, as long as they are working properly, don't need crazy diets or loads of supplements to rid our bodies of the toxins and pollutants we're exposed to every day. However, our bodies were not designed to handle the amount of toxic exposure we are subjected to in this day and age which means that our internal detox pathways can get overloaded. Throw a poor diet on top of that and you'll find yourself feeling and looking pretty awful.

For years we have been told that losing weight is simply a matter of calories in, calories out, and to some degree that is true. But weight loss and fat loss are two VERY different things, and for most people, real fat loss is what we want to achieve. That brings us to our fat cells. These little guys get a bad wrap, but in fact they're helping to protect us by storing any fat-soluble toxins that our organs of detoxification can't get rid of. So the next time you see those rolls of chub on your tummy, remember that while you don't want to keep them, they're preventing your organs from being poisoned.

If we are storing a lot of toxicity in our fat cells, our bodies will not release that extra weight because it simply isn't safe. But if we nurture our liver and kidneys and optimize our body's detox pathways, we will have a much easier time eliminating those toxins and then we will more readily burn fat.

So how does one go about detoxing in a natural, gentle way without going to extremes? There are a few ways to go about it, but the bottom line is - use your food as medicine. By eliminating the most common inflammatory and allergenic foods, avoiding non-organic foods and toxic chemicals, and eating foods that support the your detox organs, you can help optimize your body's ability to "take out the trash".

October is a great time to step back and take stock of your health, using the change in season as a chance to make a fresh start. I wanted to give clients a way to do this that was both effective and enjoyable so I created the Reboot Your Bod Detox. My Fall detox program is an ideal way to detox gently and naturally while enjoying delicious, whole foods that nourish and heal your body. And you won't be going it alone! Starting on October 19 others just like you will begin their 21-day journey to a healthier, happier body and mind, and I'll be supporting you every step of the way with one-on-one coaching and a private Facebook group.

The most common feedback I hear from my Detoxers is that they are amazed at how they can eat so much delicious food and still lose weight, eliminate bloating, feel more energized. And the best part is that you'll learn skills to continue seeing results long after the program is over. Want to learn more? Click here for Detox details and to read what others are saying about this transformational program.

Other articles on this topic from industry experts:

PCBs are Linked to a Fat Stomach by Byron J. Richards, CN

Pesticides vs. Calories. Another hit to the calorie model. by Dr. Jade Teta

Remove Toxins From Your Fat Cells by Dr. John Douillard

How Toxins Make You Fat: 4 Steps to Get Rid of Toxic Weight by Dr. Mark Hyman

High Cholesterols Foods - Friend or Foe?

Originally published on the Sophia Health Institute blog on June 20, 2015.

For decades we have been conditioned to believe that saturated fats and cholesterol were the enemy responsible for heart disease, obesity and a host of other health problems. In the 80’s we all began ditching the bacon, nuts, and full fat dairy in favor of low-fat, high carbohydrate foods that were supposed to contribute to a healthy heart and a leaner body. But here we are, a little over 20 years later, finding ourselves hungrier, fatter, and sicker. So what went wrong?

It all began with a study published by Dr. Ancel Keys in 1970 who postulated that heart disease was directly related to high serum cholesterol, caused by high dietary fat intake. The model of his study was highly suspicious and recent studies have found that there is in fact no link between saturated fats in the diet and heart disease. However, Dr. Keys’ ideology was – and still is – widely accepted in the mainstream medical community. Many doctors continue to recommend low-fat, high carbohydrate diets in spite of the new, more accurate science proving that this approach is detrimental to our health.

Produced by the liver, cholesterol would still be present in your body even if you consumed no dietary cholesterol whatsoever. It is the most common steroid in the body and it is a crucial component of our cell membranes. In addition, cholesterol is required in the formation of Vitamin D, bile acids and hormones. Evidence suggests that without adequate cholesterol, our risk for heart disease and other inflammatory diseases increases; according to Dr. Joseph Mercola “Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.”

Cholesterol is also necessary for a healthy brain as it acts as a protective antioxidant, promotes neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells) and facilitates communication between neurons. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, there is a correlation between higher serum cholesterol and increased cognitive function and a Mayo Clinic study found individuals consuming a higher saturated fat diet reduced their risk for developing dementia by a whopping 36%.

Not all saturated fats are created equal, especially when it comes to trans fats and animal fats. In a ruling on this Tuesday the 16th of June, the FDA declared that trans fat are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats/oils are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs.

Fats from animals raised by grazing on a natural diet (grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and eggs, etc.) contain higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, whereas animals fed grains or other foods foreign to their natural diet are higher in omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory if we get too much of them. Ideally our diet would consists of a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, but in the standard American diet, people consume over 25 times as much omega-6 as they do omega-3.

There are three types of omega-3 fats – ALA, EPA and DHA, and while there are good plant-based sources of ALA (hemp, flax, chia), our bodies need all three types. To get the necessary doses requires eating a variety of both plant and animal foods.

Refined vegetable oils can be equally problematic; these so-called  “heart healthy”, “cholesterol free” oils such as canola, soybean, peanut,  sunflower and corn are high in omega-6 fatty acids which can contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), increase the risk of inflammatory diseases and negatively alter gene expression. These oils are also commonly made from genetically modified crops which destroy our beneficial gut bacteria, further compromising our digestion, immune system, and neurological functions. If you are already struggling with digestive issues or chronic illness you may already have too much inflammation in your body. By eliminating refined vegetable oils you can reduce your overall inflammation.

A diet high in healthy fats is also beneficial for digestive health. Ghee and butter from pastured animals are excellent sources of butyric acid. This fatty acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory source of energy for the cells lining our intestines and it helps to “seal” the gut and reverse intestinal permeability. In addition, bacteria, parasites and fungus do not eat fat which means that we can reap the nutritional benefits of healthy fats while starving any unwelcome bacteria or pathogens in the gut.

Great sources of cholesterol and healthy fats:

  • Nuts
  • Wild fish
  • Wild and grass-fed meats
  • Ghee and butter from pastured animals
  • Seeds (hemp, chia, flax)
  • Avocados
  • Whole organic pastured eggs (the yolk is the best part!)
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil

People often ask me if eating more fat and high cholesterol foods will make them fat, and the answer is absolutely not! In fact, proper fat intake can help us lose weight and maintain healthy body composition by training our bodies to tap into our fat as a fuel source instead of burning sugar. Fat also keeps us feeling full and satisfied, enhances absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, helps reduce blood sugar and provides a steady flow of energy throughout the day.

Heart disease is less likely a product of high fat foods and more likely the result of chronic stress, a diet high in processed foods and poor lifestyle choices. When we are under constant stress our bodies produce more cortisol which then breaks down vitamin C. If we have a long-term vitamin C deficiency, it weakens our arterial walls which the body then attempts to “patch up” with available cholesterol from the bloodstream. This creates atherosclerotic plaque to protect the arterial walls which is often treated with statins. Sadly this approach does nothing to address the root cause of the problem which could most likely be resolved with proper diet, lifestyle changes, and natural interventions.

By choosing real, unprocessed, properly raised and cultivated high fat foods from both plant and animal sources we can greatly improve the state of our health and overall well-being. So enjoy that organic, grass-fed steak and full fat organic yogurt and don’t skimp on the avocado in your salad. You will enjoy your food so much more and your heart, brain, gut and waistline will thank you.

If you have trouble digesting fats or have had your gallbladder removed, talk to your practitioner about supplementing with digestive support such as digestive enzymes, ox bile and/or betaine HCl. Fatty or greasy stools that float or are pale and very stinky are good indicators that you’re not digesting fat properly.

References:

Dietary intake of saturated fatty acids and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk (JACC) Study. - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Yamagishi K., et al. 2010

Aglaée Jacob, M.S., R.D., Digestive Health with Real Food (Paleo Media Group, LLC, 2013)

Effect of Dietary Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Gene Expression in Healthy Humans*  - Kelly L. Weaver, et al.

The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy - by Chris Kresser 2013

Your “Healthy” Diet Could Be Quietly Killing Your Brain - A new book challenges convention with the latest science on brain health. by Max Lugavere for PsychologyToday.com 2013

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. -  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Siri-Tarino PW, et al. 2010

The Great Cholesterol Myth, - Dr. Stephen Sinatra 2014

New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth – Mercola.com 2014

The 6 Greatest Cholesterol Myths Debunked - James Colquhoun,2014

The diet–heart hypothesis: a critique - Sylvan Lee Weinberg, MD, MACC* 2004

Why Grassfed Animal Products Are Better For You – Dr. Joseph Mercola

FDA orders food manufacturers to stop using trans fat within three years, By Jen Christensen, CNN Updated 3:47 PM ET, Tue June 16, 2015

The Science is Practically Screaming... Don't Make This Trendy Fat Mistake – Mercola.com 2011

How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick - 2010 by CHRIS KRESSER 

Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence - Glen D. Lawrence* 2013

How to Have a Great Summer While Staying on Track With Your Goals

Summer officially begins this month and that means Father's Day, graduations, parties, weddings, and vacations, all of which may be fun but can also be stressful and filled with temptations. We want to look and feel our best when we’re traveling and enjoying warm weather and less clothing, but being in “vacation mode” often means over-indulging in foods that don't serve us and neglecting workouts. This leaves us feeling sluggish, bloated, heavy, and regretful, and when we return to everyday life it feels like we're starting from scratch (again).

But this doesn't need to be the case! You don't have to miss out on the fun or deprive yourself if you put some strategies in place and plan for success. If you know how to navigate different situations, you can feel confident and take good care of yourself no matter where you are or what you're doing.

Traveling
Preparing for a trip requires pre-planning. Start with your mode of transportation and make sure you’re prepared with healthy snacks whether you go by plane, boat or car. Below is a list of my favorite traveling companions. If I’m driving, I pack extra in a cooler to have in my hotel room; if I’m flying, I bring whatever I can and I try to find a health food store at my destination: 

  • Almonds or a mix of almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds 
  • Protein powder and/or meal replacement shakes and a Blender Bottle
  • BPA Free water bottle with a built-in filter such as Eco Vessel
  • Sliced veggies, organic apples, or grapefruit
  • Individual-sized hummus, almond butter and/or guacamole 
  • Sliced apples (goes great with the almond butter!) 
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers or plantain chips; great with guacamole or hummus!) 
  • Hard-boiled organic eggs from pasture-raised chickens 

Dining Out
With the possible exception of fast-food restaurants, every restaurant has options or will provide substitutions to meet your needs and any food restrictions. Do your best to find farm-to-table style restaurants that use organic, local ingredients and ask for extra veggies instead of the starch. At a Mexican fiesta? Skip the chips and melted cheese and order the veggie fajitas, for example. Ask your server to bring just the grilled veggies, and extra guacamole -- hold the sour cream and cheese (if you're gluten-free, ask for corn tortillas or skip them altogether since non-organic corn is usually GMO). Salsa works as a great side, as do black beans and a small amount of rice for some complete protein sans factory-farmed meat or poultry. No matter where you go, you should be able to order grilled chicken (hopefully free-rang/pasture-raised) or fish; steamed or grilled vegetables, and salad with olive oil and lemon juice or a vinaigrette. You might even consider asking the server not to bring the bread basket. And what if you drank less alcohol and relaxed with some sparkling club soda with lime or berries? You may be surprised how GOOD you feel after the meal (without the bloating, sluggishness, or headache)!

Picnics, BBQs and Family Reunions
You can’t control what your hosts will serve, but you can stack the odds in your favor by BYOF (bringing your own food). Make enough to share, of course! If you arrive with one or two healthy, delicious options, you’ll be sure to have something you enjoy without having food-related symptoms or regret. Check out my website for healthy recipes, from appetizers to desserts. No time to cook? A veggie or fruit tray is always welcome!

The Wedding Crasher
You can’t bring your own meal to the wedding, but you can prepare in other ways. Eating something healthy before you go will prevent you from being ravenous by the time the reception doors open. And of course, while a sip of champagne to toast the newlyweds won’t throw you off your game, drinking throughout the evening can add up, interrupting your sleep cycle and leaving you feeling rotten in the morning. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and if available, add fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries to that bubbly to make it even yummier!

What To Know Before You Go
If you find that you cave in to temptations during these summertime soirees only to experience regret, you could be an “emotional or situational eater” or there could be situations that “trigger” your eating habits. You may want to consider meeting with me before your big event or vacation, so we can talk about your concerns and challenges and set you up for success. As your coach, I can help you change your relationship with food so that you are control of it, instead of it being in control of you. Together, we can learn why you might be “stuck,” what’s getting in your way, and how you can make small changes that will make a big difference. To learn more about what wellness coaching can do for you, cIick here to schedule a complimentary Coffee Talk session where we can talk about designing a plan based on your specific needs and goals!