Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Art of Substitution


The sad reality of weight loss is that you can exercise twice a day, seven days a week and you’ll still enjoy only minimal success in losing weight. Not all foods and drinks are created equal, so simply eating less of the junk won’t yield the same results as will changing your diet to healthier foods. Though the change is difficult at first, and may even taste “not quite the same” as the processed foods you usually enjoy. With time you will come to prefer the healthier diet.

If you’re ready to lose weight, you might want to consider “subbing.”  This is not simply subbing foods you enjoy with something that is not close to what you wanted, but subbing your junk foods with a simliar, healthier choice. This is the simple craft of substituting foods and drinks you regularly consume with things that are healthier, contain fewer calories and, in some cases, keep the body satiated longer. Obviously, eating less calories will result in weight loss. But how do you overcome your desire for soda, pretzels, bagels, pasta, etc.? You do it by subbing.

You love hamburgers, right? Who doesn’t? Well, instead of the bun, why not eat it wrapped in lettuce? Most hamburger buns are nothing but empty calories you don’t need. Do you enjoy butter? Sure you do. But if you take more notice of the choices in the refrigerated isle at the grocery store you will see a few alternatives like Earth Balance that is made with non-hydrogenated healthy oils with no animal products and tastes just like… you guessed it: butter. Here are a few other ideas:

Instead of potato chips: try hummus chips.

Instead of cereal: try oatmeal from stone cut oats

Instead of croutons: try seeds, the available variety and flavor is endless

Instead of pretzels: try any nuts, raw is betternuts



Jump Start Your Metabolism


When you’re trying to lose weight — or maintain your current weight — you think about fats, carbs, calories, when you are ever going to find the time to workout and, for many of us, how good a slice of that chocolate cake would taste… and maybe it’s okay if we only have one bite. But, one important part of weight loss, that you are probably not thinking about, is your metabolism.

When you’re trying to shed extra pounds and keep the weight off, it’s smart to understand how your body uses the food you eat. Metabolism is the way the body processes everything eaten and drank, converting to sugar, protein and fat into energy. While there is no controlling how your metabolism works, you can control what you eat, how much you eat and how much physical activity you get every day. These factors have the power over your metabolism. It always comes back to diet and exercise, doesn’t it?

Your metabolism is uniquely based on your genetics, age, gender, muscle mass, and your environment. Those around you who seem to stay slim and have a faster metabolism probably just found, either through work or good luck, the perfect ratio of lifestyle factors. They have an established balance of caloric intake, exercise, muscle mass and effective sleep. When you skip meals or severely reduce your caloric intake, your body compensates by slowing down your metabolism, saving calories for energy your body needs for basic functions. When you eat too many calories without also increasing your physical activity, those unused stores mean weight gain.

Be more active and burn more calories. Your amount of physical activity determines how slow or fast your metabolism gets around to converting your food. When trying to lose or maintain weight, physical activity is one of the most important factors. A 150-pound person who runs for 60 minutes (with a pace of a 10-minute mile) will burn about 680 calories, or roughly the number of calories in a Whopper from Burger King. But even the most lazy of us is still burning calories, just not a good amount. Our bodies use about 10 percent of the calories from the foods we eat to process that food.

meatbolizmMuscle mass makes us strong and, hooray!, burn calories. Strength training helps build muscle mass and keep your bones strong. One pound of muscle burns about 15 calories a day, and while that’s still not much, it’s more than what one pound of fat will do for you.

If you are still having trouble shedding pounds it may be your sleep patterns are sabotaging you. A study conducted at the University of Chicago found that when we don’t get enough sleep, “sleep debt” changes the way our endocrine system functions. That includes our metabolism . If you’re normally getting about seven or eight hours a night, adding or subtracting about an hour won’t make much of a difference. But if you’re not getting more than four or five hours of sleep a day, add another two or more and kick start your weight loss.

To help boost your ability to lose weight, choose foods that are high in protein (lean meats, fish, soy) and fiber (pick whole grains over refined carbs) and keep your portions under control.

Dive In


When she stepped into the pool in January 2009, Makeda Pennycooke didn’t know how to swim. The 38-year-old executive pastor from Charlotte, N.C., had signed up for lessons in hopes of getting a workout and conquering her fear of the water.

During her first lesson, Pennycooke learned it was going to take some practice before she could swim a lap. “I was really discouraged at first because I felt like I wasn’t getting it,” she says, “but after two months of lessons, it started to come together and I realized that I loved swimming.”


   Swimming Benefits

Hitting the water has long topped lists of best workouts  because it’s a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress  on the joints and a heart-pumping cardiovascular workout that builds endurance and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  A 155-pound woman burns about 223 calories in 30 minutes. Plus the resistance of the water forces your body to work harder to complete each movement, toning your biceps, triceps, back, chest, stomach, and leg muscles as you swim.

“Swimming isn’t about perfect strokes — at least not at first,” says Jane Katz, EdD, professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and author of Swimming for Total Fitness: A Progressive Aerobic Program. “New swimmers should just focus on getting into the water and moving.”

Beginning Swimming

Not all swimming workouts are the same. How you structure your water routine and the strokes you choose make a difference. Beginners often prefer the backstroke and sidestroke, which are less difficult and don’t require breathing out underwater. More experienced swimmers who want a demanding exercise session favor the butterfly and freestyle strokes, Katz says.

The trickiest part of learning to swim is mastering the art of breathing. Katz suggests practicing in the shallow end: Put your face underwater and exhale through your nose and mouth, lift your face out of the water and inhale, go back under water and exhale. Keep practicing until it feels comfortable.

Pennycooke’s lessons lasted 30 minutes, and each week she was stronger, faster, and more confident in the pool. “The first time our class swam 10 laps, I was one of the last to finish, but I didn’t care because I felt such a massive sense of accomplishment,” she recalls. “To go from a nonswimmer to a swimmer is a huge item checked off my bucket list.”

What You Need for Swimming

To ensure your workout goes swimmingly, swim expert Jane Katz, EdD, suggests stocking up on a few essentials:

Swim cap. A fitted cap keeps your hair in place, reduces drag in the water, and helps protect your hair from pool chemicals like chlorine. Beginners should stick with the more comfortable silicone caps, while competitive swimmers favor thinner, tighter latex caps.

Goggles. Protect your eyes from irritation and inflammation while seeing more clearly underwater. Transparent lenses are best for indoor swimming, and polarized lenses with UV protection are essential outdoors.

Sunscreen. If you’re swimming outdoors, sunscreen is a must. The sun reflects off the water, increasing your risk of sunburn. “Apply waterproof sunscreen before you get in the water,” says Katz.

Water bottle. Your body still sweats while you’re in the pool. Katz advises taking regular breaks from swimming laps to hydrate, just as if you were at the gym.

10 Little Changes That Offer Big Results


Weight control is all about making small changes that you can live with forever. As you incorporate these minor adjustments into your lifestyle, you’ll begin to see how they can add up to big calorie savings and weight loss. Here are my top 10 habits to help you turn your dream of weight loss into a reality:


1. Evaluate your eating habits. Are you eating late at night, nibbling while cooking, finishing the kids’ meals? Take a look around, and it will be easy to identify a few behaviors you can change that will add up to big calorie savings.

2. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. You need a strategy for your meals and snacks. Pack healthful snacks for the times of day that you know you are typically hungry and can easily stray from your eating plan.

3. Always shop with a full belly. It’s a recipe for disaster to go into the grocery store when you are hungry. Shop from a prepared list so impulse buying is kept to a minimum. Eating right starts with stocking healthy food in your pantry and refrigerator.

4. Eat regular meals. Figure out the frequency of your meals that works best in your life and stick to it. Regular meals help prevent bingeing. Smaller, more frequent meals is the best option.

5. Eat your food sitting down at a table, and from a plate. Food eaten out of packages and while standing is forgettable. You can wind up eating lots more than if you sit down and consciously enjoy your meals.

6. Serve food onto individual plates, and leave the extras back at the stove. Bowls of food on the table beg to be eaten, and it takes incredible will power not to dig in for seconds. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your mind to get the signal from your belly that you are full.

7. Eat slowly, chew every bite, and savor the taste of the food. Try resting your fork between bites and drinking plenty of water with your meals.

8. Don’t eat just before bed. This is where lots of folks pack on the extra pounds. If you are hungry, try satisfying your urge with a large glass of cold water or a piece of hard candy. Brushing your teeth after your last meal helps reduce the temptation to eat again.

9. Snack during the day and treat the snack like a mini-meal. The most nutritious snacks contain complex carbohydrates and a small amount of protein and fat.

10. Start your day with breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day. After a long night’s rest, your body needs the fuel to get your metabolism going and give you energy for the rest of the day. Ideally, you should eat within 30-60 minutes after you wake up.

6 Reasons To Drink Water


z7There are plenty of reasons to drink water. In fact, drinking water (either plain or in the form of other fluids or foods) is essential to your health.

“Think of water as a nutrient your body needs that is present in liquids, plain water, and foods. All of these are essential daily to replace the large amounts of water lost each day,” says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute, an industry group.

Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, agrees: “Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health,” he says.

When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in small children and older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

Here are six reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids every day:

1. Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, flushing of toxins, and maintenance of body temperature.

“Through the posterior pituitary gland, your brain communicates with your kidneys and tells it how much water to excrete as urine or hold onto for reserves,” says Guest, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University.

When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. And unless you are taking medications that make you thirsty, Guest says, you should listen to those cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk, coffee — anything but alcohol.

“Alcohol interferes with the brain and kidney communication and causes excess excretion of fluids which can then lead to dehydration,” he says.

2. Water Helps Control Calories. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help.

“What works with weight loss is if you choose water or a non-caloric beverage over a caloric beverage and/or eat a diet higher in water-rich foods that are healthier, more filling, and help you trim calorie intake,” says Penn State researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.

Food with high water content tends to look larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.

3. Water Energizes Muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. “When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer,” says Guest.

Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.

4. Water Keeps Skin Looking Good. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. But don’t expect over-hydration to erase wrinkles or fine lines, says Atlanta dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, MD.

“Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration,” he says. “But once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys take over and excrete excess fluids.”

You can also help “lock” moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.

5. Water Helps Your Kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Guest. “Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate,” he says.

When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.

If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates, Guest warns.

6. Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation.

“Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly,” says Koelemay.

5 Tips to Help You Drink More

If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:

  1. Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
  2. Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
  3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
  4. Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
  5. Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water.

Coping with Unexpected Health Issues


One day, your life is all peaches and cream. Your routine is amicable, and you are living comfortably within the confines of your life. And then suddenly, you have a heart attack, or your husband has cancer or a car accident derails your existence, as you know it. Your child may suddenly become sick – or even an aging parent can become suddenly ill – and you become forced to rearrange your life to take care of them. Dealing with unexpected health problems can be a fork in the plans of any and every family at any time. The reality is that the reason health problems can be so disturbing to life as you know it, is because they are almost always unplanned. One day everything is fine and the next it is not. –Stef Daniel

You may be eating healthy for the needs of your body, exercising regularly and correctly,  and keeping current with your doctor. You may also be maintaining your mental health through meaningful relationships, religious adherence and interaction, and healthy socializing. One day you have a heart attack, lose track of large amounts of time, faint, or lose the ability of speech. At first, the fear and worry can bring you down and bowl you over. Experts advise you deal with the unexpected one day at a time. In the very beginning you must start by emotionally grasping the depth of the problem. Is it life threatening? It is a temporary problem? What are your options? While many doctors are experienced at treating the patients, the family of the patient or the one afflicted becomes forgotten. Many health organizations, such as insurance companies and even hospitals, have people who can help you answer the questions of what to do next, where to find emotional support, and how to adjust your daily routine to continue as normally as possible around your limitations. The first blow is always the worst and can be the most devastating, but with time and support comes acceptance and a desire to overcome.

Most often, the most direct impact felt by families with serious health issues is a financial one. The problem may make it impossible for one member of the family to work, cutting the earned income in half. Or, retirement planning can suddenly be thrown amuck by a serious diagnosis that means you or your spouse may not live till retirement age. Most people plan their financial future as if they will never have a health problem to deal with. And why wouldn’t they? Today, life expectancies are at all time highs. This is one reason why financial experts often encourage people to plan for a worst-case scenario.

Where do you start? The stressful state of confusion stemming from a change in path is second only to the initial shock upon diagnosis. First, sit down with your physician and have everything explained to you; beginning to end. Be sure to gain as much information as possible concerning cost, treatment, limitations on daily activities, issues of any possible permanency in and changes to environment. It may be wise to bring a family member or close friend with you – so that they can hear what is being said, as well, since you may not be thinking clearly. Ask for help. If you have kids that will need care or help with cooking meals don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. This is when the ‘village’ should be invited in to help you. If you think you can handle it all on your own, you are wrong and will only increase your stress. Get in touch with your insurance company. They will help you understand what the financial setbacks will be; currently and in the future. Reset your priorities. Figure out what is important and what is not and do your best to see the goals in your life more clearly. Try to keep things as routine and normal as possible. If you have kids, throwing everything off kilter will only shock and awe them and refute their sense of security. While you should be honest with your kids (if they are old enough) you should also remember they are likely to suffer in a similar fashion as yourself when the diagnosis was first made. Don’t send them away with the intent of sheltering them from the truth. Try to get a family member or someone they are familiar with to come to your home and stay with them, keep them enrolled in school, and try to keep their activities as routine as possible. Do not lie to them. Smaller children will need a much more simplified version of your experience and it is not necessary for them to be privy to all details, especially those that are too private, but they should not be kept in the dark or they will harbor feelings of neglect or will invent situations that may be far worse than is the case. Worse, they may imagine a future that is much rosier than reality which will come crashing down eventually and with devastating consequences.

Talk to other people who have been through the same ordeal. By opening your mouth and being honest with those you regularly interact with you may be surprised to find someone, either among that group or someone new, that can bring you the comfort only empathy can give. There are support groups for nearly every type of health problem and these people can become your support system and your lifeline as they know exactly how you feel.

Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. It is okay to cry, and it is okay to feel pain. The important thing is working through these feelings when they arise and not trying to be strong for everyone else around you. You are entitled to your feelings, and you should not be forced to hide them. If you have children, you should be able to talk to them as well and offer them a platform for expressing their feelings.

It is also important to realize that you are not alone. Life may never be the same again, but it will go on. There are solutions to your problems, and there are people that will be able to help