December 12, 2017

How Stressed Are You?

stressIf you were to rate your stress levels on a 1-10 scale, what’s your stress level right now?

Stress is a foundation of our body systems. It has allowed us to survive as a species for centuries. Stress triggers a cascade of biochemical and hormonal responses that keep us safe in emergencies and when under a threat. The signaling starts in the brain and moves down to the adrenals which in turn release cortisol and other hormones that tell the body to shut down all metabolic operations and direct energy to the muscles to run or fight.

Unfortunately, we live a life under constant stress, especially chronic mental stress which causes cortisol to be elevated at all times. Elevated cortisol signals the liver to release sugar to the bloodstream as well as signaling the body to break down muscle tissues and other organs so they can be converted into additional sugars that could be immediately converted into energy.

The problem is that we have no use of that sugar since we are not under a real emergency, and our muscles are already flooded with sugar. The excess sugar winds up escorted to the fat cells by the insulin hormone. As if that wasn’t enough, higher insulin and cortisol levels trigger the desire to eat more carbs and sugars while running on slower metabolism.

To top it off, high levels of cortisol negatively affects the brain, especially memory and thinking.  Cortisol also lowers the immune system and is associated with many chronic diseases.

One of the fastest ways to raise your stress levels even more is lack of sleep. Learn more about it in the next post.

5 Ways Toxins Prevent You From Losing Weight

High toxicity levels are sure to fail any diet! And it happens in several ways:

  1. toxinsToxins will damage cell membranes through inflammation. Once the membrane is inflamed, everything is affected; including energy production. When cell membranes are damaged, nutrients have a hard time getting in, and mitochondrial function is compromised due to the lack of nutrients.
  2. Cell receptors are damaged by toxins:  When the receptors are damaged, the hormonal signals and cellular communication will suffer. Fat burning and other messages never get delivered.
  3. Some toxins are known as hormone disrupters; they look like and mimic the action of hormones.
  4. Toxins damage the mitochondria:  The little sensitive fat burning factories in the cells are easily damaged. Especially by heavy metals. Mercury is the most damaging to the mitochondria on two levels—it promotes the formation of with free radicals, which overwhelms the mitochondria and secondly, mercury diminishes the mitochondria’s ability to fight back by depleting the body’s most potent antioxidant—glutathione.  Fat burning slows down or stops and you feel sick and tired.
  5. Toxins will promote oxidation and inflammation. Poor nutrition, sugar and carbohydrates, empty calories and low nutrient dense foods, paired with the damages caused by toxins and the toxin’s ability to suppress the mitochondria from producing antioxidants to fight back, increases inflammation and oxidative damage.

Could your challenge be caused by another factor such as stress? As you will find out in the next post, stress may very well be your biggest issue! 

Is Exercise Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

exerciseGuess What? Exercise alone is a not the best way to lose weight! Most people are doing it wrong. Exercising for health and weight loss are not the same thing.

As long as your body is using sugar as a fuel source you risk breaking down muscles that your body will convert into sugar to use for fuel. When cortisol levels rise, the liver is ordered to release sugar and break down muscle.

However, exercise has several benefits…

  • It prevents weight gain only AFTER weight loss
  • Improves brain health by building up brain cells and cognitive function, even at moderate levels
  • Improves mood and decreases anxiety and depression
  • Helps prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes and lowers inflammation
  • Improves your good cholesterol HDL
  • Helps prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Helps with osteoporosis
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves insulin sensitivity. Exercise creates a demand in your cells for available energy: sugar
  • It is the best anti-aging drug

Are you spinning your wheels with exercise? Have you been keeping track of what you’re actually losing? Shedding the pounds may not be the best indication of weight loss. Are you losing muscle instead of fat? Are you doing the right exercise to help your body switch to melting fat instead of using your muscles? Are you just working harder rather than smarter?

I would suggest you evaluate what you are doing and figure out what you are losing. Your doctor, nutritionist and qualified trainer should be able to help you.

Could it be toxins that are holding you back? Find out in the next post.

Top 3 Inflammatory Foods – #3 Vegetable Oils

Did you think it would be vegetable oils?

vegetableoilAfter all, for years we have been hearing about avoiding animal fats and using vegetable oils for health benefits.  Sure, vegetable oils have a very subtle flavor which is beneficial in many culinary applications because the oil will not affect the flavors of the finished products in cakes, dressings or even mayonnaise. Some vegetable oils also have a higher smoke point which makes them ideal for sautéing and frying.

Unfortunately, many vegetables oils are ultra-inflammatory and damage the mitochondria and prevent fat burning.  What oils fall under this category? Soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. These all increase inflammation. Inflammation will keep you in sugar-burning mode and will cause fat storage.

What makes these oils inflammatory is their high content of Omega-6 fatty acids. While we do need Omega-6 in our diet, we do not need as high of an amount as we have been consuming for years. A balanced ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is 1:1. It is estimated that we consume up to 25 times more Omega-6 than we should.

Pure olive oil is a great substitute for all vegetable oils, as the flavor is subtle and has a fairly high smoke point. Be careful however; avoid olive oil blends as they often contain some of the oils mentioned above.

Coconut oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil, grass-fed organic butter or ghee are all great substitutes for cooking.  Extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil are great substitutes for raw consumption.

Top 3 Inflammatory Foods – #2 Gluten

Why is gluten inflammatory?gluten

Gluten causes an immune response that activates inflammation. Modern grains are bioengineered to be better yielding and have higher percentages of gluten. They are sprayed with pesticides two weeks prior to harvesting so that the grain is evenly dry for harvesting.

For many, grains maybe the main cause of inflammation. Gluten and other wheat products also elevate your blood sugar levels more than sugar, triggering insulin and fat storage. The human body cannot digest today’s grains, regardless of if they have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease according to Dr. Alessio Fasano—a leading researcher on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.

To learn more about gluten sensitivity and the vast number of diseases associated with it, feel free to read my past blogs Death by Gluten  and 10 Steps to a Gluten Free Lifestyle.

Keep one thing in mind: Whether you are trying to lose weight or not, to prevent most all chronic diseases, inflammation must be kept under control. As is, our bodies make inflammatory chemicals as well as anti-inflammatory ones. Reducing the environmentally-induced inflammation, such as from our food, will allow your cells to make anti-inflammatory chemicals to fight inflammation created by the production of energy, allowing your body to repair and restore existing damage.

 

 

Top 3 Inflammatory Foods – #1 Sugar

no sugarOur body uses either sugar or fat as its energy source.  Sugar is a great immediate fuel source when it’s needed in an emergency. However, it is not the best nor cleanest fuel source. ATP is the energy molecule the body uses for every function. The body generates 36 molecules of ATP from sugar or glucose, and over 400 ATP from body fat or triglycerides, which explains feeling more energetic when you start losing fat.

High carbohydrate and sugary foods also increase inflammation and oxidation. When sugar molecules bind with proteins they cause glycation. Sugar also damages the mitochondria—the fat burning factories in your cells—and that leads to less fat burning.

When your diet consists of foods that could be quickly converted into sugar, such as starchy foods and foods that contain any kind of sugar, you train your body to use sugar as its main source of energy and it never taps into the fat cells.

Under certain circumstances, such as stress, exercise and lack of sleep, your metabolism will go to the extent of breaking down your own muscle and organ tissues to convert them into sugar, even when you have plenty of body fat available to use.

Sugar is your fat burning and weight loss enemy. Sugar disrupts the hormonal balance and keeps insulin constantly elevated, preventing other hormones and growth factors such as IGF-1 from repairing and maintaining your body.  It disrupts the communication between leptin—your fat cells’ fuel gauge—and the brain which causes the brain to think you are starving and sends signals to eat more and slow down your metabolism. Even though you may have cut back on your caloric intake, the “lower calories” are still perceived as extra and are stored as fat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrition

no processed foodsDieting is not about deprivation: You can’t win against the force of the hormonal changes in your body sending powerful signals to your brain to eat more and conserve energy.  Nor is it about miniature portions; we are blessed with a physiology that helped us survive periods of famine for centuries, and cursed at the same time by it, as it adapts quickly to new dietary changes, triggering the dreaded plateaus. And forget about calorie counting; clearly, it hasn’t worked all these years! Moderation of bad calories is nothing but accumulation of bad calories. The source of the calories is far more important than the count.   A diet is a lifestyle choice and a lifestyle change!

Everything at the end of your fork matters! Every bite, every sip and every pill will send powerful signals to your cells and genes. You can create a raging fire in your body by simply eating the wrong foods; foods that are inflammatory and promote oxidation and glycation in your body. Or you can choose foods that will repair your body, calm down the fires, burn fat, boost your energy, fine tune your hormones and keep you looking and feeling younger.

Nutrition is the foundation to a healthy lifestyle. It could excel or stop your weight loss journey. It could promote or reverse disease. It plays a big role in your hormonal signaling, your energy, your mood and your longevity.

It is therefore important to choose wisely the food you eat. Choose foods that are seasonal and rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed, nutrition-depleted, chemical and pesticide-treated, and preservative, additive, and sugar-laden food. Buy organic, grass-fed, wild-caught, antibiotic and hormones–free meats and sea food as much as possible.

The top 3 problems with most diets

dietOur metabolism hasn’t changed much since ancestral times. Our body learned to survive periods of food shortage—and that’s a disadvantage when it comes to dieting. Cutting calories without paying attention to the source ultimately makes you gain even more.

Problem #1

Your metabolism slows down.

When you cut back on your caloric intake, a domino effect of changes happen in your body. Your body believes you are starving and it signals to slow down your metabolism. At the same time, the “extra calories” are stored as fat.

Problem #2

You start breaking down your own muscle tissues.

The hormonal shifts continue: dieting is stressful for the body and under stress your body produces the hormone cortisol. Because your body is under stress it perceives that you are in an emergency. Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone; it’s the hormone that gets you out of emergencies. It helps you by raising your blood sugar levels and sending signals to break down muscle and organ tissues to be converted into glucose. The problem is, there is no real emergency! All the excess sugar gets shipped to the fat cells.

Problem #3

It messes up your hormones.

Diets cause leptin—the fat hormone—levels to drop and ghrelin—the appetite reinforcement hormone—levels to rise and signal your brain to eat more. Lower levels of leptin signal the thyroid glands to slow down production, which leads to slowing down of your metabolism and all calories to get stored as fat. Your body perceives an emergency and cortisol levels rise, leading to an increase in blood sugar level and ultimately an increase in insulin levels. Fat burning comes to a standstill. You get grumpier, moodier and depressed, and you get stronger cravings for sugars and carbs.

Tested and busted!

Family members and relatives are often the hardest people to please and satisfy. July was a major birthday month for my family. To celebrate everyone’s birthday (5 within the first two weeks), I decided to host all birthdays at once. Secretly, I wanted to really test the myth that “eating healthy is expensive”. I wanted to see if I could plan a nice, simple, different than the usual, yet healthy dinner without “alarming” everyone, especially the teenage nieces and nephews. My family views my cooking as “too fancy” and honestly, I didn’t have the time to spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.

I am always thinking about you and your picky eaters. Of course, I had set some criteria for this secret test to be gluten-free, and sugar and casein-free where possible, and most importantly, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck, feeding 15 hungry souls while keeping it clean. The meal needed to be additive and preservative- free, with no GMO products, and as anti-inflammatory as possible (in case you forgot, that’s grains, gluten, sugars and vegetable oil-free).

What ended up on the menu? Keep in mind, it had to be fairly simple.

  • Black bean chips and roasted organic tomato salsa—to keep everyone busy and out of the kitchen
  • Romaine heart salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, fresh herbs and a simple vinaigrette
  • Cajun turkey meatloaf (oh, I didn’t tell them it was turkey)
  • Sweet potato and cauliflower mashers ( I kept the cauliflower part a secret)
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Good old cheesecake with fresh blueberry sauce—as it happened to be the favorite dessert of the crowd
  • And some wine—nothing fancy

receiptsDid I once again bust the myth that eating healthy is expensive? You bet! The total bill was under $125.00. Yep, you can make the above menu for less than $10 dollars per person and still send everyone home with some left overs as I did. You don’t believe me? Check out the actual picture of the receipts.

Sometimes, we make things harder than they actually are. We tend to resist change, we like to keep things as they are—even though we don’t like the outcome. That sluggish feeling, the bloating, and the rise of insulin creates a wave of undesirable side effects on our system that keeps us unhealthy, sick, fat, and depressed.
You deserve better health and your family and kids deserve better health and a brighter future. Nutrition is the first step towards that: take that step, it’s not that hard, nor expensive.

Ready to give it a try? Do you want the recipes? Comment below and as the old saying goes… Ask and you shall receive!

Lesson Learned Part 1

The lesson I learned from my clients…

scale with tape measureHow is it possible for someone to do everything right and still struggle to lose weight while others on the same exact nutrition plan shed the weight like an autumn tree sheds its leaves?

This became my frustration with a couple of clients. They followed the nutritional plan to the letter; yet, the results were simply not as exciting as others have enjoyed. How is it that a nutritional plan works for many, but not others? What was going wrong? Why was the plan not as effective for them as it was for the others? Were there other underlying issues preventing them from losing? And if so, what were they?

After extensively researching, reading studies, publications, and books, and consulting with other experts, it turned out it was NOT just their diet or nutrition!

They all had a few common symptoms, beliefs, habits, and routines that kept them stuck, unhappy, sluggish and frankly, overweight.

Sadly, some of these beliefs were just simple old myths, special interest-driven propaganda and marketing misinformation that we all have been force-fed for all this time; information such as “eating fat will make you fat”, “exercise longer and harder to lose weight”, “counting the damn calories”, “drink some green juice once in a while and you’ll detox”—as if it were some magic pill! These clients had also jumped from one diet to another, stressing their body to the max.

Some of the most important factors that held them hostage in their own body was that they all had another common condition: they all had a stressful life (who doesn’t in today’s society?). They also all underestimated the power of a good night sleep and most had some sort of thyroid issue which is mostly the result of the combination of the factors mentioned above.

In the next few posts, I will address all of the issues that could be holding you hostage and preventing you from reaching your health goals.

Could it be the food you’re eating? Does stress really play a role in your weight loss? How does sleep affect weight gain? Are toxins stopping you? Or maybe you’re pushing yourself too much at the gym!