Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Counting Calories Will NOT Lead to Weight Loss

I came across an excellent article from Time entitled "'Eat Less, Exercise More' Isn't the Answer for Weight Loss" published on June 3, 2014.
Science has proven that burning more calories than you consume will result in weight loss. But the trouble is that this only has short-term results. Obesity experts are saying for long-term weight loss, it simply doesn’t work. They say to stop counting calories and start paying attention to what you're eating.
We need to start paying to attention to the effects of what we eat. For example, "when you eat a lot of refined carbs, like say, a 100-calorie pack of Oreos, it causes a surge of insulin that will trigger your fat cells to soak up calories—but there are not enough calories and nutrients to provide the energy that our bodies need. The brain recognizes this discrepancy and triggers a hunger response that also slows our metabolism. We are then going to want to eat more."
We should instead be focusing on the quality of the food we consume. Although foods such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil are high in fat, they are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat. Experts blame the obesity epidemic on refined carbohydrates. "Sugar and processed grains like white bread which have become ubiquitous in our diets, and one of the reasons refined carbs is the prime culprit is that we’ve spent far too long chastising fat. We have to forget the low-fat paradigm."
"Instead of counting calories, we should be focusing on the quality of the food we consume. If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose that battle."
The article is a quick read and very informative. As always, I suggest reading it in its entirety.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Vitamins, Supplements, & Homeopathic Remedies

The first time walking into a store or even down a grocery store aisle that sells vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies can be overwhelming. It's kind of like walking into a gym for the first know everything in there can help you, but how and when do you use it? You go in looking for one thing, but when you start browsing, it looks like you could use a little of everything. How does one know where to start?
First, choose one store to buy your products from. So how do you choose a store? I base this on two factors: reputation and location. When I began researching a place to get all of my vitamins and supplements, I realized I could just get them at my local grocery store. The problem was, there wasn't someone there to answer my (many) questions. So I chose a store less than five miles from my house that has been in business for over 30 years and has many great reviews on Yelp and other Internet review sites. They also had hours that worked with my schedule. (For my local readers, that store is Back to Nature Health Foods You can find their Facebook and Twitter handles on their website)
So now I have a location and reputation, but how is their customer service? Are they helpful? Are they going to see how na├»ve I am and try to sell me every supplement available? I started simply by asking for a multi-vitamin. However, I didn't want to be taking more than one or two a day, I didn't want to pay a lot, and I often get nauseous from big vitamins so I need something that's easily digestible. I was pleased that the owner offered me many different brands of multi-vitamins that fit my tall order.
In my opinion, I choose a small business not only because I love to support small businesses and shop local, but because I truly feel the owners of this store have my best interests in mind. If you can't say that about the store you're currently going to, it's time to do a little research and see what else is out there. And remember: location (because time and traffic is always a factor and if it's too far, you won't go...same train of thought when choosing a gym), reputation (referrals from a friend are great, but when you don't have that, check out how long the shop has been in business and do a little Internet research for reviews), and customer service (much like choosing a personal trainer...does the shop owner have your best interest in mind, or do they just want your money?)
OK, so you've chosen your store. Now you have a long list of supplements that you've written down from friends' recommendations and watching or reading Dr. Oz and you don't know where to begin. There are so many different brands each claiming to be the best and each bottle is giving options the others don't (capsules, oils, gummies, etc.) How do you know which is right for you? First, pick one supplement. If you're not taking multi-vitamins, I say to start there. There are some that say a multi-vitamin isn't necessary, that we get all of our nutrients from the food we eat. That may be true for some, and good for them because that's the best way to get them, however, when I look at the label of my multi-vitamins, I know there are vitamins and minerals in there that are not in my daily meals.
Discuss your allergies and preferences with the owner or employee of the shop. Make sure they are fully confident in what they are suggesting to you (and if not, try another employee or another shop. Your health is nothing to take lightly!)
Start with one vitamin/supplement and take that for a week, maybe even two. Once you feel that it is a benefit to your health and there are no side effects, then you can move on to your next. Remember that what works for a friend may not work for you, same as diet or exercise. If it's not working, don't give up, just look for another option.
I tried looking for an article online that I could provide as a guide for you to use when shopping for these products, but unfortunately they were all tied to an online company selling them. I'm sure many online companies are legitimate, however, I wouldn't suggest buying them off the Internet unless they sell your exact brand and you've been using that brand for a few months without any issues or side effects. I found this site from the National Institutes of Health to provide some useful information on the background of homeopathy, as well as use, side effects, and regulation:

I hope this has been some help to get you started. Even if you only take a multi-vitamin, it's important to make sure you're taking the right one. For years I took a popular brand sold in every major pharmacy thinking that if all of these stores are selling it and I see commercials for it, it must work. It wasn't until I started taking a brand that's not sold in big box stores that I noticed my energy increase and my nausea decrease.

If you've had good or bad experiences with vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies, or even with a store that sells them, please let me and the Body by Kelly community know!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Fear of Getting "Bulky"

Any personal trainer will tell you that strength training is necessary. The problem is women are afraid to get "bulky." Time and time again I have to explain to women that using weights, be it machines or free weights, will not cause bulky muscle. In fact, it will even help to burn more fat than just doing cardio alone, even at rest.
Recently I've come across an article on the Huffington Post that provides even more reason to work out with the intent of building muscle instead of just burning fat. The article is entitled, "More Muscle Could Help You Live Longer" and was published on March 27, 2014 by Sean Kinney. These findings were published online February 20 by The American Journal of Medicine. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging.
The main finding of the study is this: increased muscle mass appeared more closely associated with lower instances of premature death than less body fat.
One doctor says, "“Rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”
This study focused on older adults measuring muscle mass as opposed to BMI (body mass index).

The ideal workout will include time for cardio, stretching, and strength training. If you are not including any one of these three, it is time you ask yourself why. If you do not know how to strength train, your best bet is to find a personal trainer who suits you and tell them exactly what you're looking to get out of the session. You've never used the machines before? Or not sure if you're using them correctly? Then that's the first thing you work on. The machines will teach you proper form you can later use with free weights or other exercise equipment. It will also allow you to work out on your own, free of the trainer's supervision. If the trainer refuses to take you on the machines, write out a program for you, or discourages you from working out on your own without his/her supervision, it is time to interview another trainer. Thank them for their time and be on your way. You need someone who will teach you to work out independent of him or her. If they are a good trainer, then they will have plenty of ways to keep you challenged after they've taught you the basics and will encourage you to try new things to keep you motivated and active.

Another thing stopping you might be money. Trainers aren't cheap and there is a good reason for that. Trainers take the time to tailor each workout to your specific needs. They study where you're at and figure out how to get you to your goal as fast as possible without mental burnout or physical injury. So how do you get started when you can't afford a trainer twice or even once a week? Figure out what you can afford. And seriously think about every purchase you make: the daily coffee at your local coffee shop, the lunches you buy instead of preparing the night before, the nights you get take-out for you and your family. Chances are, you are spending money and gaining calories which are both working against your goal. Your trainer can sit down with you and show you how to fix that, but first you have to hire one. Maybe you can only afford twice a month, or even an hour a month. Maybe half that hour is discussing your successes and pitfalls for the month and where you can do better next month. Training is what you make it. It doesn't have to be a drill sergeant yelling at you if you don't want it to be. A good trainer will make you realize your weaknesses and take responsibility for them.

Are you working out now? What do you do for cardio? Are you sure you're doing it correctly? Are you sure you're doing enough? Do the free weights and machines intimidate you? Do you know when to stretch and how often?
If you plan on getting fit this season, these are all questions you will need answers to. And once these are answered, you'll have even more. Working out can be extremely fulfilling and a huge confidence builder. You just have to do it right.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Your Body: Chapter 1 Feeling Fine

The following is a summary of the first chapter of the paperback Your Body: The Science of Keeping It Healthy published in 2013 by Time books. If you would like more information on this book, please see my previous post from September 2013 entitled "What I'm Working On for My Next Post."
As always, I urge you to read the whole book. This is just a quick synopsis touching on the major points of the articles featured in the book.

Chapter 1: Feeling Fine
Chapter 1 is divided into four parts: "The Power of Mood," "A Primer for Pessimists," "Just Say Om," and "Can Posture Change Your Mind?"

In "The Power of Mood," author Michael D. Lemonick explains that doctors and other health experts are beginning to realize that the brain and body affect each other profoundly. "Physical illness often leads to mental imbalance, and patients suffering from psychological ills seem especially vulnerable to serious physical disorders. But the spiral doesn't go only in a negative direction: a state of optimism and mental health can make the body healthier, and a healthy body can elevate the mind." The best example of this may be depression and its correlation to heart disease. One doctor says that depression may be as bad as cholesterol for putting one at risk of heart disease. Those with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis all appear to run a higher risk of disability or premature death when they are clinically depressed.
The good news is, just as research has shown a negative outlook can make you sick, a positive outlook can make you healthier. A study published in Psychological Science which used a meditation technique to help generate positive emotions, implies that "experiencing a steady diet of positive emotions in daily life tunes up our cardiovascular system in ways that make us physically healthier."
Some people can experience positive emotions side by side with their negative emotions, and those who can't can learn to develop that skill. Meditation is quickly becoming a popular way to do it, but one study suggests that you can improve your mood just by eating better. The study discovered a strong relationship between a diet high in fruits and vegetables and a positive mood. Though they haven't figured out why just yet, they believe it could boost serotonin levels. It could be because these foods are high in antioxidants, which have a calming effect on bodily systems.
Finally, Lemonick reminds us that, while there is still a lot of work to be done to unravel the links between mental and physical health, it doesn't matter which is cause and which is effect. "Whether you can stave off emotional problems by helping the body or stave off physical ills by addressing the mind, the whole person is bound to be better off."

There is a short piece entitled, "Mood Boosting Remedies" which is a summary of the newer treatments available to help relieve negative moods and boost positive ones. These include alternative therapies, electrical and magnetic, talk therapy, and drugs.

"A Primer for Pessimists" by Alice Park illustrates the benefits of being an optimist and how to be one if you're not already. This is a quick article that gives three ways we can learn to be positive. The first is to be an "optimalist," which is a realistic optimist who is able to make the best of things that happen. "Studies suggest that people who are able to focus on the positive fallout from a negative event can protect themselves from the physical toll of stress and anxiety."
Second is to accept pain and sadness. Martin Seligman launched the field of positive psychology in 1998 after realizing, through work with his patients, that getting rid of the sadness, anxiety, or anger wasn't enough. They also had to learn how to build their strengths through constructive skills like Professor Tal Ben-Shahar's PRP. PRP is an optimalist exercise in which the patient allows him or herself permission to feel down, reconstruct by learning from what's happened, and finally gain perspective on the situation. Ultimately these patients will get to a positive state because they are able to tolerate the negative.
Third is to try "catching" happiness by surrounding yourself with happy people.
Studies say that only about 25% of a person's optimism may be in their genes, which suggests that the greater part of an optimistic outlook can be acquired with the right instruction. Being optimistic is an active process through which you force yourself to see your life in a certain way. And although it's work, the payoff seems to be a healthier mind and body, which leads to not only a longer life but a better quality life as well.

The third article, "Just Say Om" by Joel Stein, shows just how widespread meditation has become among all walks of life. Google has a class for its employees, the Marines use meditation to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, and celebrities are not only practicing it but starting programs to teach adults and children the benefits of meditation.
The article shows the results of many studies that prove just how beneficial mediation can be. For example, it can help people deal with chronic pain and anxiety. It also seems to enhance the immune system. More recent studies show that eight weeks of meditation thickens parts of the brain used in learning, memory, executive decision making, and perspective taking. Another study suggests that meditation might reduce the risk of dementia. With so many published results, it is no wonder that about 6.3 million Americans have been told by doctors to practice meditation or similar activities.
A short article entitled, "The Art of Mindfulness Meditation" follows this, which instructs us how to begin meditation and what to do when problems, such as distractions or boredom, arise. "Meditation is not about getting anywhere else-it's about being where you are and knowing it," says Jon Kabat-Zinn. A long time ambassador of mindfulness, and an MIT-trained biologist, he adds that meditation can improve "both physical and mental health, no matter what your circumstances."

The final article of this section is entitled, "Can Posture Change Your Mind?" Written by Regina Nuzzo, it explores the mind-body connection between your physical actions and psychological emotions.
Studies are showing that posture can affect what your brain thinks, feels, and believes. It's called "embodied cognition" which says how you move controls your mood, your behavior, and the way you think. The article offers a few tips on how your body can affect your mind. One tip is to smile in order to feel happy, instead of the other way around. Psychologists say that the connection between the smiling-muscles parts of the brain and the feeling-happy parts of the brain has been reinforced so many times that it doesn't matter whether you have a real reason to feel happy. "Fake it and you'll make it."
Another tip is to adopt a "power pose," such as the one seen on Don Draper. "Power is displayed through large, expansive postures. And if you engage in those postures, you can trick your mind a little bit into feeling like it has power." These postures result in relaxed, confident, and dominant people who, according to recent studies, have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of confidence-inducing testosterone.
Embodied cognition is a booming field in psychology, and researchers are hard at work figuring out all the ways that our bodies can lead our minds.

As a trainer, I sometimes feel that the only thing getting in the way of my clients' success is themselves. I hear a lot of negativity in the beginning or when we hit a plateau, which is an inevitable part of a long-term workout regimen. I'm hoping I can apply the techniques here to my clients when we come across these obstacles. 

After reading this, which do you feel strikes you as most surprising? Mood affecting health? The ability to learn to be more optimistic? The popularity of meditation on the rise? Posture affecting your confidence?

Please leave me a comment and let me know.

My next post will summarize Chapter 2: Staying Healthy, which has five sections having to do with Mediterranean diet, minimizing inflammation (heart disease, cancer, etc.), the various types of personal monitors available, the issues Angelina Jolie's preventive mastectomy has raised, and living agelessly.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Should I Get a Physical?

If you've trained with me, then you know one of the first questions I ask during the assessment is if you've had any illnesses or injuries and when was your last physical. It's rare that I hear someone tell me they keep up on their physicals on a yearly basis. In some cases, depending on age and health history, this is ok. Every other year or less is acceptable. In most cases, it's time to start the routine of getting a yearly physical.
I suggest getting a physical around the same time each year: your birthday, after the holidays/start of the new year, or the start of a new season (fall is perfect as we usually fall into new routines when the new school year starts).

If you need a reason to get a physical or want to know how often you should consider getting one, this is a quick read that can answer your questions:
Should You Get An Annual Physical?

Most doctor's offices will do blood work, a urine test, and an EKG and will only call you with the result of the blood work if there is something wrong. However, you can get a copy of your results even if you don't get a call. If you're curious to see where you stand, the following article can tell you normal ranges for blood cell count, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
What Do Blood Tests Show?

If cancer runs in your family, it's even more important for you to get a physical. According to the article below, "Often a doctor can find early cancer during a physical exam or with routine tests, even if a person has no symptoms."
About a year ago, a friend of the family in his mid-30's went to his doctor for a routine physical with no other reason than he was getting married and wanted to see if he was in good health. The doctor informed him that he was in the early stages of cancer. He had no symptoms. I am happy to say that he is doing well, as he found it and fought it early.
As the article says, "Ask your doctor about your cancer risk, problems to watch for, and a schedule of regular checkups."
How Can Cancer Be Detected Early?

These articles are all quick reads and can give you a good idea of what to ask your doctor when you are at that appointment. The best time to understand your body and your risks is when you are healthy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What I'm Working On for My Next Post...

I recently bought the Time paperback Your Body: The Science of Keeping It Healthy. I should add that although it is considered a paperback book, it looks like a thick Time magazine, but without all of the ads.
It is divided into 4 chapters: Feeling Fine, Staying Healthy, Looking Good, and Going Strong.
I am wrapping up the last section of Feeling Fine and will be blogging about it soon. My plan is to have a post for each chapter.
As always, I encourage you to read the entire article, or, in this case, book.
If you're thinking about buying the latest magazine regarding health, exercise, skin care, aging, weight loss, etc. I suggest you skip it and put your time and money into this.
I included a link to Amazon who unfortunately doesn't have the book available, but it does offer a picture of it so you'll know what to look for. I found my copy at Barnes & Noble.

If you give it a read, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Diana Nyad: "She Freaking Made It"

Normally on this blog I'll choose an article to discuss and highlight my favorite and most poignant parts of it. Today I've chosen the topic of Diana Nyad, which will include a few links to articles and videos, which I hope you'll take the time to watch and read.
Today 64 year old Diana Nyad made history by swimming over 100 miles from Cuba to Key West. This morning Diana reached the shores of Key West after being in the water for more than 2 full days (some sources reporting 53 hours).
This was her fifth attempt. When reaching the shore, Diana gave this advice:
 "I have three messages: One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you are never too old to chase your dream. And three is, it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team."

Below are a few links to articles and videos about Diana. I hope you will give these a read. If not today, then maybe on a day when you need that motivation to prepare for a 5K, get to that class you've been wanting to take, or go back to doing something you once loved.

There are so many more articles out there. These are only a few of my favorite and there will be many, many more in the coming days. I urge you to read about her defeats as well as her victories to learn how she overcame them.

If you find another article or video today or in the coming days that you find especially motivating, please leave a comment with the link so we can all read and be inspired.

It's a new month and a new season and a new chance to live your dream. I hope Diana will inspire you to do so.