Be Content to be More Fit

Living a fit lifestyle has a way of changing your perspective of the world and living healthier will change the way you think about things. Living a life that promotes health, wellness, and freedom causes one to be more self-aware, alert, and thoughtful. Living a fit and healthy life causes one to have more hope for the future, set more goals, and seek improvement.

Goal-setting is necessary to establish and maintain healthy life choices. I have discussed the importance of goal setting for living a healthy and fit life in several posts. Scientist also understand the importance of goal setting and cite that a future goal will maintain focus and lead to greater future success. Specifically a study suggested that in order to maintain health a person must consistently and frequently set goals, evaluate these goals, think about the goals, and pay attention to goals (Mann, de Ridder, & Fujita, 2013). What this means is that when trying to maintain health one must often and frequently think about individual goals, evaluate progress toward those goals, and take any additional steps required to achieve the goal. As I aprepare for my competition I daily evaluate my goal to be ready and able to compete on show day. This helps me stay motivated to work hard and follow my plan. Goals give us reason to move forward.

Setting goals keeps one looking to the future.  Looking forward helps provide motivation to achieve goals. Studies indicate future orientation, looking to the future, can change behaviors in the present. For example one study found that individuas focused on the future were able to decrease aggression and anger (a goal of study participants) in the moment (Stoddard, Zimmerman, & Bauemeister, 2011). Clearly goal setting and having a direction pointed toward the future helps achieve success. As I am focused on my future competition and all the work that is necessary to achieve my desired physique I also wonder what I am missing in the current moment.

If you are like most people pursuing a goal, patience can be difficult.  The outcome becomes a longing and as we yearn for our success and achievement we grow impatient, weary, and perhaps a bit frustrated. I know I personally struggle with this. I want to achieve my desired outcome and constantly looking to the future makes my goal seem unattainable. I, then start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and fight the urge to quit. I feel confident I am not the only one that feels this way. Perhaps setting goals and focusing on the future distracts us from the present moment. This notion is supported by research. A study found that individuals focused on diet and weight loss goals had increased distraction and experienced increased failure of tasks in the moment (Jones & Rogers, 2003).

What this means is that if I am thinking about my goal at my competition at a later date I may become too distracted while working out. This distraction will keep me from successfully completing reps, progressing in the exercise, or improving my performance. You do not need to be a body builder working toward a competition to experience decreased focus and lack of progress. If you are working to maintain a diet or lose a certain amount of pounds you may struggle  to feel satisfied when eating or working out. Future orientation and remaining focused on goals may be stealing your joy. Constantly thinking about the future keeps us preoccupied, lacking, and feeling unsatisfied. I understand how all this information can be conflicting. On one hand it is apparent remaining fit requires goal setting and thinking about the future, while on the other thinking about the future can limit progress in the current moment.

During my quiet time the other morning it occurred to me the problem was that I failed to feel contentment. The following statement cued me to my problem: ”

“Contentment isn’t a matter with being content with your situation in life and never trying to improve it. It’s a matter of being content with what you have — but realizing that as humans, we will always try to improve, no matter how happy we are. If we don’t, we have given up on life”. Leo Babauta

I always want to improve, grow, and live my passions and goals in the future. Although hope for the future is great and necessary to become a better person, it keeps me from realizing all the blessings and positives I have in the moment. Becoming content is a key component to maintain balance and overall health and wellness.

Finding contentment is needed to enjoy the work, the progress, and the journey. Contentment brings pleasure to the current moment and brings joy in life. Rather than focusing on what is to come it is important to evaluate and appreciate what is now. The current moment is all that is guaranteed and, although we can hope for the future, the future is not guaranteed. Contentment is easy to achieve.

  • Count your blessings. Recalling what you have, the people in your life, and what you have accomplished thus far brings to perspective the realization that we have much and have achieved much.
  • Look at where you have been compared to where you are now. You are not the same person. You have grown. You have changed. You have experienced success and have achieved goals.
  • Appreciate the people in your life that support and encourage you. Feeling loved and supported brings peace of mind and a sense of relaxation and joy. Knowing we are loved helps us settle into the moment and focus on the task at hand.
  • Recall future goals but do not remain focused on them. Remember the reason for the hard work and recognize the overall goal and then move on. Think about what you are doing in the present. Think about what can be done right now to bring you happiness.
  • Focus on the task at hand and the current moment. This moment in time will influence your future so use this time now to be present, aware, and engaged.
We find peace and contentment only by focusing on the present. You can choose a behavior and an action that is beneficial to the future or will stall future goals. We are better equipped to make positive and helpful choices when we choose to be happy with what we have, where we are, and who we are with in the current moment. I can choose to change the outcome in the future by making a choice to benefit me right now. Choose happiness, choose acceptance, and choose confidence that you are capable of improving your future right now!

References:

Jones, N. & Rogers, P.  (2003).  preoccupation, food, and failure: An investigation of cognitive performance deficits in dieters. international Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 185-192.

Mann, T., de Ridder, D., & Fujita, K.  Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to,goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 23(5), 487-498.

Stoddard, S., Zimmerman, M., & Bauemeister, J.  (2011).  Thinking about the future as a way to succeed in the future: A longitudinal study of future orientation and violent behaviors among African American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 48(3-4), 238-246.

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Eat for Health – the Weight Loss and New Body Will Just Be An Added Benefit

There is so much emphasis on fad diets nowadays and people are frequently talking about the newest workout trend.  These things can be exciting and are fun to try.  The trick for maintaining wellness and health, for life, is to find what works best for you.  This requires patience because it takes time to have your body adjust to a new diet and workout routine and then it takes time for your body to show the progress of these changes.  I encourage you to try different things.  Try different workouts.  Try different ways of being physically active.  Try different diets.  This will help you find what is best for you.

However, as far as diet is concerned, adjusting your meal plan too much can cause serious health problems.  You see what you eat impacts your body, every single square inch of your body, all the way down to your cells.  Let’s discuss a little biology 101.  (Don’t worry I am not a biologist, so I will keep this simple).  As a living organism we are made up of cells.  These tiny little life sources contain many parts, including DNA.  DNA, without getting too complicated, is the roadmap that provides the directions to live, to be you, and to be human.  DNA, although tiny, is what contains your uniqueness, your ability to breathe, your ability to think, and your ability to live your life.  DNA is always replicating and reproducing in our cells to make more cells.  As long as we keep making cells then we can continue to live a healthy life.   What you eat will contain chemicals, nutrients, and products that will be metabolized down to your DNA.  Your DNA needs food and will use these chemicals, nutrients, and products (healthy or not) to continue replicating and reproducing.  It has been said before, you are what you eat!

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Some foods contain nutrients and products to help DNA continue to grow in healthy manner.  However there are also foods that can destroy and damage DNA.  Literally there are foods that will change your DNA, and this will increase risk for heart disease, cancer, blood disorders, and speed up the aging process.   Cells will be damaged, although cell death and cell damage is a natural process, you do not want to speed up this process.  What causes danger is when cells become mutated and rather than die they work to replicate the mutated cells.  This may be a slow process in the body, however, in the form of some illnesses and disease the health implications become more evident.

What you eat can slow down the aging process.  Food can actually heal the body from illness.  What you eat may not cure your illness, but it could improve your health.  What you eat can reduce the risk of disease and illness in the future.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring nor does it have to taste bad.  Eating healthy is as simple as adding some foods and spices to your diet.  Consider adding these things to your diet to help fight aging and improve your health.

  • Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that can slow down cells destruction. They are also associated with reduced heart disease, cancer risk, and disease.  Strive for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  Try adding 1/2 of blueberries to cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, a banana mid morning will keep energy levels up, add a cup of broccoli to your lunch, an apple mid afternoon will help avoid that 3:00pm crash, and eat asparagus with your dinner.  Sadly french fries are the most consumed “vegetable” by American children.  Not knocking potatoes or French fries, but other fruits and vegetables offer better health benefits.
  • Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that only they can provide.  They provide the type of nutrition that cannot be obtained from a supplement or vitamin.  Try eating orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe, and apricots) to improve the health of your eyes.  That is not just a myth, carrots contain nutrients that contain the same properties needed for your eyes! Eating green and yellow fruits and vegetables like melon, avocado, kiwi, green beans, and spinach are associated with decreased cancer risks.  Onions, mushrooms, potatoes and turnips lowers bad cholesterol.  Blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant improve memory and reduce the effects of cell aging.  Peppers and apples reduce risk of cancer and improve heart health.  Eat a rainbow for wellness and health!
  • Rather than cooking with butter try adding olive oil.  Do not be dismayed that oil is a fat.  We need fat in our diet.  Cooking with oil will help protect cells from damage, and oil is associated with decreased heart disease risk.
  • Nuts and flaxseed are another great fat source with added health benefits.  Walnuts, soy, flaxseeds, and beans contain nutrients to lower heart disease risks.

Perhaps eating vegetables, nuts, and beans is not your favorite thing – never fear there are things you can do to spice up your food that will help decrease adverse health complications.

  • Not only will many herbs and spices add a nice flavor to your foods but they offer health benefits as well.
  • For example garlic has chemical properties associated with decreased cancer risk.  Evidence suggested that properties of garlic fought against tumor growth and lowered risk of heart disease.  Garlic is easy to add to most foods.  Simply buy a bulb, crush, and add to meats or vegetables for a flavorful and healthy dish.
  • If garlic is too overwhelming add onion, chives, or leeks to meats and vegetables.  Research has demonstrated these additions can reduce risk of heart disease.
  • Another simple spice to add to your diet to improve the health benefits of your food is cinnamon.  Cinnamon can be added daily and adding cinnamon has been associated with decreased inflammation and decreased blood clotting.  In other words cinnamon will improve your immune system and can help keep the heart healthy by keeping blood clots from developing.  Another perk of cinnamon is that it helps with metabolism and research demonstrated it helped the body process carbohydrates.  This is important for the risk and management of diabetes because it will help blood sugar levels remain stable.  Cinnamon can be added to toast, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, and tea.  All that is needed for health benefits is 1/2 tsp.
  • Rosemary is an easily found herb that can be quickly added to foods.  Rosemary will improve food flavor and is associated with decreased cancer risk.  Try seasoning meats with rosemary.

Do not fall for the belief that dairy is bad.  Dairy is a fat, but again, fat is needed in the diet.  Here are some dairy options to consider adding to your diet for improved health.

  • Yogurt contains probiotics and probiotics (a bacteria needed for digestion) helps keep the colon and digestive system healthy and working properly.  Many yogurts contain high sugar amounts in order to improve taste.  However it is easy to keep a healthier version and still the enjoy the taste.  Add peanut butter – peanut butter makes everything better.  Or add microwaved frozen cherries, strawberries, or blueberries to a plain non-fat yogurt.  Adding granola or nuts will give the yogurt a nice taste and a crunch.
  • Drink milk because it contains calcium to keep bones strong.

And if you are still not sure you will enjoy the healthier food options discussed, try eating chocolate.

  • Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is associated with decreased risk of heart disease.  Chocolate contains chemicals and nutrients that helps arteries to improve blood flow and heart strength.
  • Chocolate, however, should be eaten with caution.  This does not give you permission to binge on chocolate.  Eating chocolate in moderation provides a health benefit.  It is easy to binge on chocolate due the association of chocolate and the pleasure receptors in the brain.  In order to avoid overeating chocolate use mindfulness while eating.  Have a seat in a relaxed area with limited distractions.    Enjoy the taste of the chocolate as you eat it.  Remaining mindful while eating chocolate will decrease the likelihood of overindulging in chocolate.  Calories may need to be replaced elsewhere when chocolate is consumed and strive to eat 3-4 oz of chocolate a week.

Carbohydrates are not bad either.  Carbohydrates are necessary for metabolizing food and for maintaining and growing muscles.  Carbohydrates are helpful for health in the following forms:

  • Carbohydrates contain fiber.  Look for foods that contain about 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber.  Fiber helps reduce risk of heart disease, reduces inflammation, and helps with digestion.
  • The problem with fiber and carbohydrates is that Americans may be consuming types that are more difficult for the body to process and metabolize and increase blood sugar levels rather than stabilize.
  • Oats and beans are high in fiber, have improved health benefits, and will also help you feel fuller longer.
  • Quinoa is a grain not only high in fiber but tons of healthy nutrients.  Quinoa is easy to eat instead of rice.
  • Eat whole grains to reduce the risk of heart disease.  There are many foods that claim to contain whole grain.  However Americans are still not consuming enough.  Look for food products that list “whole wheat flour”, “whole oats”, or “whole grain corn” first.  Wheat bread or brown bread may not contain sufficient whole grains so choose breads carefully by reading the ingredients.

You do not have to eat chicken and broccoli at every meal to find health and weight loss.  Health and weight loss can happen by simply adding fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, fats, and whole grains to your daily meals.  To be healthy does not mean you need to cut out foods you enjoy, to be healthy means to eat various foods, eat more colorful foods, and eat all foods in moderation.

Avoid the Weekend Binge: Control Your Mind Control Your Eating

It’s Friday, and if you are like most people you are looking forward to the weekend. Weekends are less structured with more free time and generally time to have fun and relax. We need this time to decompress and settle down. The lack of structure is great and necessary. However the lack of structure can be detrimental to health and weight loss goals. 

Specifically people find they binge or have increased “cheating” over the weekend. It is easy during the week to stay on track and maintain a fit and healthy routine. Know that a lot of people struggle to maintain a routine over the weekend and a lot of people “fall off the bandwagon”. That is why diets start on Mondays and a Monday in the gym is one of the busiest days of the week. People are in the gym trying to undo the damage they made with their eating over the weekend. Unfortunately it is not that easy; your body has already metabolized the food and it is impossible to out-train a bad diet. The act of binging over the weekend may be why people abandon their weight loss and health goals. They see a cheat meal, or two, or three, as failure. They let this failure cause them to lose hope. They probably think things like, “I can’t do this”, “I am not motivated enough”, or “it is too hard” to continue to maintain a fit life. If those are the thoughts then those things will be true. I have written a lot about this in previous blogs, so feel free to read those. Bottom line is, you ARE, what you think you ARE. 

The struggle is not necessarily due to being weak, lacking motivation and willpower, or having too strong cravings. The struggle is related to what you think!  How you encounter meals and the thoughts associated with eating any meal will determine whether you are successful or unsuccessful at maintning your healthy eating and fit lifestyle. 

What you think is vital to your eating behaviors and whether or not you will maintain your weight loss and health goals. Researchers found that people on diets failed because certain foods triggered enjoyable and pleasurablemthoughts about the food (Papies, 2008). People that struggled with self-regulation were less successful at avoiding the temptation, whereas people that were able to evulate their thoughts were more successful. 

Staying with your plan requires self-regulation. Self-regulation is understanding your thoughts and how your thoughts cause you to feel and behave. Let’s say I show you an image of chocolate. Looks good right?!? The majority of people would see that image and agree chocolate is good and would agree they would enjoy a piece of chocolate. The people that say “no”  and refuse the chocolate (despite agreeing the chocolate looks good) are able to see the temptation but are also able to remain focused on thier goal. Individuals with temptation-goal self-regulation thinking are able to avoid temptation and remain successful toward their weight loss goals (Kroese, Adriaanse, Evers, & De Ridder, 2011). If you are someone that struggles with binging and experiences increased cravings over the weekend do not lose heart. What is most exciting about these research studies is that volunteers were unsuccessful dieters prior to the study. They were able to learn to reframe their thinking to avoid food and they found increased weight loss success. Here is how you can win the battlefield of your own mind and stay on track this weekend. 

  • When going for a meal or snack; Stop, take a few breaths, and think. Ask yourself if the meal is worth it?  Is this really something that you want right now?  Is there another choice that sounds good? How will you feel after eating this meal?  Is it worth it to feel that way?  If you are not sure how eating makes you feel keep a food diary.  This is different than apps like MyFitness Pal (for example). In addition to writing down what you are eating and tracking the number of calories consumed and the number of macronutrients you also write down how eating that meal made you feel physically and emotionally.  
  • Avoid boredom eating by keeping the mind focused. Say to yourself, “I am in charge. I control my thoughts”. You are the boss of you, not the food. You have the power to tell yourself what to do and how to do it. In that moment you are in charge of your behavior. 
  • You choose what you put in your mouth. Say, “I choose what to eat and I right now I choose not to eat that”. This kind of thinking is only asking you to stay on task and focused for this meal and this moment in time only.  You worry about the next meal at the next meal. When learning new behaviors it is a step-by-step process. Take the urge to binge and eat poorly one meal and one step at a time. 
  • Think about your goal and your motivation. Ask, “how will eating this meal impact my goals?”  You know the answer to this and you know the right decision to make. Trust that. If you make a choice to refuse tempting foods that should cause pride and confidence for you to make healthy decisions at your next meal. If you choose to binge or “cheat” that one meal it is still ok.  Remember you are OK with taking things one meal at a time. 

A cheat meal is not a slip up. A binge is not a slip up. It is ok. Tell yourself that. You are human and you make mistakes. You are human and have the right to enjoy things. You can keep going forward and choose to eat something healthier next time. You can avoid future cheats and binges by applying the thinking above to each meal situation. Changing thinkng can be hard, but you will gain confidence as you are successful at each meal. To help improve compliance and increase confidence try carrying healthy snacks with you so you do not get too hungry. Or if you are craving a food try finding a healthier alternative. Pinterest (for example) has many clean and healthy recipes to satisfy any tantalizing craving and eating the “clean” version will leave you feeling guiltless. 

A dirty meal here and there is ok. Please enjoy your weekend and eat well. Enjoy dessert. Enjoy a fattening and dirty meal. If you do well over the week a cheat meal or two on the weekend will not mess up your goals. However binging and grazing over the weekend can be harmful. It will definitely harm your ego and your pride. If you feel guilty, bad, “fat” or shame after eating then you know you went too far. A meal, regardless if cheating or eating healthy, should not make you feel bad. Eating should make you feel full, energized, and fulfilled. Enjoy the opportunity to let loose and enjoy your self but know you can stop. You do not have to become victim to sabotaging your healthy eating. You are in charge. You are in control. 

 

References:

 

Kroese, F., Adriaanse, M., Evers, C., & De Ridder, D. (2011). “Instant Success” turning tempest ions int cues for goal-directed behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1389-1397. 

Papies, E. (2008). Healthy cognition: Processes of self-regulatory success in restrained eating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 1290-1300. 

Top Tips to Find Balance to Keep A Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life.

We have all heard the term, “Go hard or go home”. I say this to myself to power through a workout. I say this to my classes to motivate my students to push through their workout. I highly encourage working hard while being physically active. I also encourage being disciplined in your healthy eating choices. However I also recommend balance. 

Balance is necessary to keep us focused, motivated, interested, and engaged. Giving your all every single day can deter you from your goals. Why?  Because you are human. There will be days you will be tired, you will have obligations, your loved ones will want to spend time with you, and you will make mistakes. Having the “go hard or go home” mentality will sway you from your goals because you will be quick to abandon your goals when you have a dirty meal or you skip a workout or two. 

Balance is the key to making fitness, health, healthy eating, and weight loss a lifestyle. I think balance is hard to find though. For example people fear skipping the gym or having a cheat meal because they worry this will cause them to abandon all motivation. Skipping the gym today will not make going tomorrow any harder or easier. Or people fear certain foods and avoid health benefits by restricting foods for fear of gaining weight or not losing any additional weight. Restricting is not helpful and restricting leads to future weight gain and binging. All the stress of trying to stay 100% focused makes working out and healthy eating bothersome and it removes the fun from living a fit life. 

Here are my top tips to find balance and keep a fit, fun, and fabulous lifestyle. 

1.  Step away from the scale. Put it away. Throw it away. The scale will deceive you and only make you feel bad. The scale only measures your body as it is related to gravity. People tend tomfocus on weight loss and will weigh weekly. Some even weigh daily. In the midst of my hysteria and unhealthy way of achieving fitness I weighed multiple times a day. This caused guit and shame and drove me crazy. You see we weigh to expect a certain outcome (pounds lost) and it is impossible to achieve that outcome overnight. Rather than focus on pounds lost focus on how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, how much longer and faster you can run, that you can lift heavier today than last week, that you were able to complete a group fitness class, and the extra energy that you have. 

2.  Turn off your cellphone, computer, tablet, and TV. Specifically spend a day not looking at fitness models or people working out on Instagram or Facebook. Seeing this can shame you and cause you to feel like you need to be working out rather than resting. Not only will this allow you to rest but eliminating these distractions opens you to have more time to enjoy the weather outside, enjoy time with loved ones, or learn something new. 

3. Take things one day at a time. Yes, planning will help you be successful in your goals. However life happens. It is inevitable that you will have your whole day planned but life will have a plan of its own. Rather than be thrown off by life’s little mishaps and things that are not planned, you can be best prepared by planning one day at a time. Yesterday may have been terrible and things did not go according to your plan. The good news is you have tomorrow. Tomorrow you will wake up and your goal and your plans will still be there. The gym did not close over night and healthy foods will still be stocked in the stores. Decide to tackle each day and be the best you can be today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. 

4.  There is nothing more important than your relationships with family and friends. Do not sacrifice spending time with loved ones for a workout. Perhaps you can incorporate fun and family time with physical fitness. But you must make time to spend time with those you care about. Have a weekly date night with your spouse or have coffee with a friend. Cut your workout early to,get home and greet your family. We are all busy and we have things we are working toward but nothing is more important than our time with the special people in our lives. 

5.  Find hobbies and interests that are different from healthy eating and working out. As you engage in fitness and healthy eating you will find you are drawn to friends with similar interests. You will start to read books and articles about health and fitness. Soon your activities become consumed with health and fitness. It is true you can have too much of a good thing. Having other interests outside of your new fit friends and outside the gym helps you find peace. When you can enjoy and look forward to other things it helps keep working out and healthy eating fresh and interesting as well. 

6. Find time to meditate, journal, and relax. You take such good care of yourself by working out and eating well but you also need to care for your soul. You need to find peace to stay relaxed and focused. A relaxed and peaceful mind will help you enjoy physical activity better. Meditation will help you keep your emotions calm. This will only help you acheive your fitness goals. Stress makes weight loss and healthy eating harder. Meditation, journaling, and relaxation will control stress so you can be your best. 

7.  Cheat!  It is ok to have a “dirty” meal two to three times a week. It is ok to skip the gym because you would rather go shopping or go to the movies. This helps keep life in perspective. This helps you have fun without worrying about your stomach or your thighs. Life is precious and fun. And although living a fit life is fun and exciting, cheating every once in while keeps life interesting as well. You have motivation to make changes. Your desire to be fit and healthy will not change because you ate dessert or because you were not able to workout for a couple days. 

Life is an adventure. You are the author. You have control over every thought and behavior. You get to choose how you live each day. Sure there are things beyond our control but you are responsible for how you approach each task through the day. The best way to find balance is to accept yourself and love yourself. Know that you are ok. Trust you are making the right decisions for yourself. Trust your choices. You will make mistakes. Be open to learn from them. Be open to change today what you did wrong yesterday. Live this one life with passion and drive. You accomplish that when you say to yourself, “I choose”. What do you choose to do today?

Meal Planning to Help You Stay Focused and Successful in Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals

I get a lot of questions about meal planning. I will start by saying that I am not a nutritionist, nor am I am dietician. But I do understand how eating and food impacts mood, behavior, thinking, and the body. And as such I have learned that food is essential for health and wellness. Not only does food impact the body and how the body functions but food can influence your mood. Research suggests that diets high in fats and starch are also related to higher rates of depression (Pepino, Finkeiner, & Mennella, 2009). Diet can negatively impact mood, but eating foods can also improve mood and behaviors. Making proper diet changes can decrease symptoms of ADHD (Peisser, Frankena, Toorman, Savelkoul, Pereira, & Buitelaar, 2009).  The food you eat will be a reflection of you. 

The food you consume is taken into your body via your mouth. From the moment the food touches your lips your body starts to process and break down the food. This process also involves brain function and these brain chemicals are also responsible for regulating mood, thinking, and behavior.  The body then works to help the food travel down to your stomach. Here the food is further processed and met with stomach chemicals that breaks down the food for digestion. The same chemicals that process food in the stomach are also in the brain. In fact your gut contains serotonin, a chemical responsible for moods like depression and anger, just like the brain. 

A study looked at how eating foods impacted the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. They found a diet that consisted of probiotics, yogurt, improved areas of the brain known for regulating emotions and keeping mood stable and improved the body’s alertness (Dr. Mercola via Mercola.com). This research supports the notion that “you are what you eat”. Healthy eating is not just necessary for weight loss and physical health but for improved thinking, improved focus, alertness, improved mood, and thoughtful behaviors. 

 What makes healthy eating difficult is when we are away from home, we are out with others, or we are busy. There is much research about the benefits of setting specific daily plans to maintaining healthy behaviors. Therefore meal planning is required to maintain healthy eating. 

  • The more specific the meal plan the better. Know what you will eat for each meal and know when you will eat. 
  • Plan for every single meal, including snacks.
  • All meals should include a lean protein, a complex carb, and a healthy fat. So for example a snack could include an apple, deli cut turkey breast, and half a serving of almonds.  (This is just an example and does not consider portion sizes, blood sugar, or other medical issues – a registered dietician or physician can best prescribe individualized meal plans). 

People meal prep in different ways, so how prepare for meals depends on personal perference. Some meal prep for a whole week or a few days in advance. I meal prep for the next day, as my schedule allows that flexibility. Everyone is different. But here are some tips to start and find a meal prep routine that works for you. 

  • Meal prep starts with breakfast.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kicks off your metabolism to start for the day.  Breakfast can include eggs whites, whole toast, and peanut butter. Pull any dry foods out and place on the counters in ziplock or Tupperware. Only package the serving size you need to meet your dietary needs for the day. You do not need to prepare 4 pieces of toast unless that is your meal plan. Place perishable items in containers in the fridge.  
  • If you eat right your body will need more food in a couple of hours. Pack snacks that will satisfy. Avoid snacks high in sugar and that are overly processed. When I meal prep I try to follow the rule of protein, complex carb, and healthy fat for every meal, including snacks. 
  • Next you will pack lunch. Prepare foods by cooking them before and place in Tupperware. If you need to be more organized, label the bag or the Tupperware with date to eat and meal to eat. Then you can pull your Tupperware out of the fridge, warm it up, and you know you are getting in your healthy meal. 
  • You want to avoid starving and letting your metabolism drop so eating another fulfilling snack between lunch and dinner will help you stay focused and alert through the day. 
  • To avoid the evening hustle and bustle have dinner prepared. Crockpot recipes are helpful. Have meals partially prepared, all prepped, so you can remove food and place on stove, microwave, or oven with minimial effort. 
Meal prep will keep you eating healthy. It will keep you from eating out. It will keep you from eating unhealthy snacks and meals. It will keep you focused. Meal prep eliminates excuses of “you do not have time” to prepare meals. Meal prep will keep you from starving and avoid craving unhealthy options. Meal prep is a way to have a specified plan that will you help you be successful with you weight loss goals. 

 

References:

Peisser, L., Frankena, K., Toorman, J., Savelkoul, H., Pereira, R., & Buitelaar, J. (2009). A randomized controlled trial into the effects of food on ADHD. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 18(1), 12-19. 

Pepino, M. Y., Finkbeiner, S., & Mennella, J. (2009). Similarities in food cravings and mood states between obese women and women who smoke tobacco. Obesity, 17(6), 1158-1163. 

Supplements – The Good, The Bad, and How to Decide if Supplements Are For You – Part 2

There may be vitamins and minerals you are not getting due to diet, health, or age and adding a supplement may be beneficial. Here I review some of the most important nutrients for health. Some are obtained from healthy eating, whereas others are not. Please see the list below to deterimine if foods or a supplement need to be added to your diet. There is lot to discuss here so I am going to just “jump right in”. 

  • Vitamin A can be found in foods. This is a necessary vitamin to consume because it helps with vision, improves the immune system, and helps organs of the body like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Vitamin A is found in meat (chicken, fish, dairy) as well as fruits and vegetables. Try eating salmon, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, squash, carrots, and brocolli, and fruit like cantaloupe, apricots, and mangos. 
  1. Vitamin A is equivalent to foods or supplements that contain retinol, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, or beta-cryptoxanthin. This information will be provided on food labels. 
  2. The body will consume these nutrients differently and at different rates. The body will consume a supplement containing Vitamin A differently than with food. For example the body will consume .015 micrograms of Retinol from a supplement, whereas the body will consume .05 micrograms of Retinol from food. This suggests the body will get more Vitamin A from supplements. 
  3. We are encouraged to eat different types of food daily. The body will get Viatmin A with each food item consumed  
  4. Per the National institutes of Health, the average Americam adult should get 900 micrograms of Vitamin A a day. If you consider that salmon has only 59 micronutrients you would need to eat 15 salmon to get your daily intake. Forantely other foods will help you get your daily intake. Foods like spinach have 573 micrograms and a sweet potato has 1,403 micrograms. If that was your meal every day you would consume the recommended amount. 
  5. Supplements that contain Vitamin A may only contain a portion of the Vitamin A nutrients. However most multivitamins contain Vitamin A and will contain well over the recommended daily intake. 
  6. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggested that Americans consumed below average amounts of Vitamin A a day. Therefore it may be necessary to add a vitamin that contains Vitamin A. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with sight problems, people with anemia, people with cancer, measles, or cystic fibrosis could benefit from increased vitamin A consumption. 
  • Vitamin B12 keeps blood cells and nerve cells healthy. This vitamin is helpful for people with anemia or is known to increase energy. 
  1. The NIH recommends adults consume 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B 12 a day. 
  2. Vitamin B12 is found in meats. However only fortified, processed, fruits or vegetables contain B12. 
  3. Beef liver and clams are the best source of B12. I highly doubt people are eating beef liver and clams daily. Although dairy, fish, and eggs contain sufficient B12. Most people get enough from food. 
  4. Consider adding a B12 supplement if you are over the age of 50, have anemia, have had gastric bypass surgery, have Chron’s Disease or celiac disease, or you have a vegetarian or vegan diet. 
  5. Adding a multivitamin could provide the adequate amount of B12. Folic acid is another supplement a person can add to consume the daily amount of B12. 
  • Acai is a popular supplement. Particularly people refer to acai as a method to lose weight and support anti-aging. This is a common misconception. Particularly there are no research studies to support this notion. However the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports acai has demonstrated high antioxidents, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer potential. 
  • Vitamin C is another antioxidant known to improve immunity, help cell growth, and is helpful for healing wounds.
  1. The National Institutes of Health recommends adult men consume 90 milligrams of vitamin C a day and adult women are recommended to consume 75 milligrams. 
  2. Fruit is the best way to consume Vitamin C. Oranges, grapefruit, red and green peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes are all foods that contain vitamin C. 
  3. Think about adding a Vitamin C supplement if you smoke, eat limited varieties of food, have cancer or kidney disease. 
  • Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and supports bone strength. 
  1. If you want to improve bone and muscle strength consider adding Vitamin D. 
  2. The main source of Vitamin D is the sun. 
  3. Fish, mushrooms, egg yolk, beef liver, and cheese contain Vitamin D. However they contain small amounts. Processed foods also contain Vitamin D. Check food labels. 
  4. Most people should consider adding Vitamin D as a supplement Particularly because most Americans are inside most of the day. People that spend a lot of time in the sun should not need to add this supplement. 
  5. People with dark skin, breastfed infants, older adults, and people with Chron’s Disease or celiac disease should add this daily supplement.  
  • Studies suggest even healthy people are not getting enough Vitamin E. Vitamin E is important for immunity and is another antioxidant. Vitamin E can help prevent blood clots. 
  1. Think about adding this supplement to improve health. It is recommended to take a Vitamin E only supplement because multivitamins do not contain enough of the recommended daily value of vitamin E. 
  2. Vitamin E is consumed by eating foods. Foods like vegetable oils, particularly sunflower and safflower oil, nuts and seeds, and green vegetables contain vitamin E. 
  • People should also consider adding an iron supplement. The World Health Organization reports iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder. 
  1. Iron is necessary for blood cells that carry oxygen through the body. Not getting enough iron decreases blood cell production but also reduces the amount of oxygen in the body. 
  2. People need to consume both animal meat and vegetables to consume the right amount of iron daily. 
  3. Healthy people may not get enough iron because sugary deserts and drinks contain iron because it has been added. A study found that children that consumed sugary drinks and deserts were more likely to consume the recommended daily amount of iron. Healthier people have most likely decreased or eliminated these sources of iron from their diet. 
  4. However it is possible to consume too much iron. It is important to first consult your physician before adding this supplement due to risk for iron overload. 
  • Most vegetables contain Vitamin K. Most people get enough vitamin K 
  1. However Vitamin K can be harmful. If taking a supplement with vitamin K please consult your physician first. Primarily vitamin K interacts negatively with the medicine Coumadin (warfarin). Vitamin K can decrease the effectiveness of this mediciation. 
  • The body also needs magnesium to stay healthy. Magnesium helps support muscle function and makes protein in the body. 
  1. American men should consume 400-420 milligrams and women should consume 310-320 milligrams of magnesium a day  
  2. Beans, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, milk, and dairy contain magnesium. Also check food labels because processed foods will contain magnesium as well. 
  3. Studies show most Americans do not consume sufficient amounts of magnesium a day. 
  4. Therefore people should consider adding a multi-vitamin, magnesium aspartame, magnesium citrate, megnesium lactate, and magnesium chloride. 
  • Most Americans consume the daily recommended amount of Selenium. Selenium is important for reproduction, and it keeps the thyroid and DNA healthy. 
  1. Selenium is found in breads and foods that contain grain. Selenium is also found in the soil where plants are grown and is found in fish and most animal meats. 
  2. People that have eliminated grains fromtheir  diet or eat locally grown foods should consider adding this supplement. 
  3. Selenium is found in most multi vitamins or independently in selenomethionine and sodium selenate. 
  • Zinc is needed to keep a body healthy. We need zinc to make DNA to allow cells to produce. 
  1. Zinc is found in foods like oysters, red meat, and seafood. Foods like nuts, beans, and whole grains contain some.  It is likely these foods are not consumed on a daily basis.
  2. It is recommended American men consume 11 milligrams and women consume 8 milligrams of zinc daily. 
  3. Zinc should be added as a supplement if zinc is lacking from food. 
  4. Zinc as a supplement can be helpful to improve immunity. Research studies suggest zinc is helpful to cure the common cold. 
  • Antioxidants are discussed a lot in health. Particularly because researchers have found antioxidants are essential to maintain and increase health. 
  1. Antioxidants include some of the above vitamins. Particularly antioxidants contain beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium. 
  2. The best way to consume antioxidants is to consume colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat more berries, asparagus, broccoli, beets, kale, carrots, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, spinach, and tomatoes, to name a few. 
  3. Supplements can provide antioxidants but it is advised to get these nutrients from eating food because a supplement alone can cause you to miss other important nutrients food will provide. 
  • Fish oil, also referred to as omega-3, is another important supplement to consider. Omega-3 is a type of fat the cells need to reproduce. Omega-3 also is necessary for the brain to function well. 
  1. It is recommended Americans consume fatty fish twice a week. This is adequate to provide the body this nutrient. 
  2. However studies show people are not consuming fish at this rate and most Americans have this defiency. 
  3. Adding an omega-3 supplement can be beneficial if you do eat a lot of salmon or tuna. 
This is not an exhaustive list. Rather this is a brief review to hopefully help you determine if adding a supplement is right for you. Please always consult a doctor before taking any supplement. Read all food labels and supplement labels so you know what you are consuming. 
 
*For more information on supplements please see research published in International Journal,of Sports Nutrition and Exercise  or Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Also see National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements for more information.