Tag Archives: healthy diet

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins (Part 2)

Amor Sin Remedio Hopeless Love Hoffnungslose LiebeClick here to read Part 1!

Why Most Vitamin Studies Are Flawed

There is another important thing to understand about clinical trials that review the utility of vitamins in the treatment of disease. The studies that show harm are often designed like drugs studies. For example, a study may use a high dose of vitamin E and see what happens. This is actually a prescient example also explored in recent media.

Studies recently found that high doses of vitamin E and selenium didn’t prevent prostate cancer and may increase risk. What this study didn’t explore properly was the true biochemical nature of vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients work as antioxidants by donating an electron to protect or repair a damaged molecule or DNA. Once this has happened, the molecules become oxidants that can cause more damage if not supported by the complex family of antioxidants used in the human body. It’s sort of like passing a hot potato. If you don’t keep passing it, you will get burned. Many studies simply fail to take this into account.

Nature doesn’t work by giving you only one thing. We all agree that broccoli is good for you, but if that were all you ate, you would die in short order. The same is true of vitamins. Nutrients are not drugs, and they can’t be studied as drugs. They are part of a biological system in which all nutrients work as a team to support your biochemical processes.

Michael Jordon may have been the best basketball player in history, but he couldn’t have won six NBA titles without a team.

Obesity Is Linked To Malnutrition

The tragedy of media attention on poor studies is that they undermine possible solutions to some of the modern health epidemics we are facing today, and they point attention away from the real drivers of disease.

Take the case of obesity, for example. Paradoxically, Americans are becoming both more obese and more nutrient deficient at the same time. Obese children eating processed foods are nutrient depleted and increasingly get scurvy and rickets–diseases we thought were left behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. After treating over 15,000 patients and performing extensive nutritional testing on them, it is clear to me that Americans suffer from widespread nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, and omega 3 fats. This is supported by the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on our population. In fact, 13% of our population is vitamin C deficient.

Scurvy in Americans in 2013? Really? But if all you eat is processed food–and many Americans do–then you, like the British sailors of the 17th century, will get scurvy.

Unfortunately, negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quietly ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?

In short, these studies often confuse rather than clarify, and they only serve up doses of media frenzy and superficial analysis. They leave the consumer afraid, dazed, bewildered, and reaching for their next prescription drug.

Please, be smart; don’t stop taking your vitamins. Every American needs a good quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fat supplement. It is part of getting a metabolic tune-up and keeping your telomeres long!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Are You Ready to Stop Eating Real Food…Forever?

Lord, no, this is not about starving yourself.

This is the latest start-up by a 20-something genius, engineer Rob Rhinehart who has apparently invented a product that will free the world from the shackles of real food. It’s a vitamin and nutrient-rich drink, derived from plants but entirely lacking in taste or color, which Rhinehart is calling “Soylent” (somewhat ironically/controversially after the 1970s sci-fi film “Soylent Green.”) The founder claims to be subsisting, himself, almost entirely on the vitamin juice at this point – and with good results.

If this is all sounding a bit wacky, then you’re not alone. Many have raised doubts and concerns over such tampering with the human diet. We are, after all, made to eat real food, and such a reduction might sound dangerously similar to an eating disorder. But when asked about the “real food” concern by Vice magazine, Rhinehart responded:

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy, and just because something is artificial doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or dangerous. Look around you. Nothing we buy is natural. Everything useful is designed and manufactured, and food should be no different. People are afraid of sweeteners when it’s real sugar that’s killing us. They’re afraid of preservatives when food waste is rampant. McDonald’s is trying to engineer lower-calorie food that is more filling to fight obesity, but people are demanding natural-sounding ingredients. It’s frustrating to watch. The idea of “real food” is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don’t like vegetables.

Still not convinced? Well we may need to get used to the idea of food replacements, says Rhinehart, who sees the growing global food crisis as one of the main imperatives for Soylent. And their company has actually seen considerable success in the short time they’ve been around. Their crowd-funding campaign has raised over one million dollars (much more than their initial goal of $100,000)! And apparently there are already people out there ordering Soylent packages online and enjoying the food-free life.

So, what do you think? Would you ever give up food in exchange for a tasteless juice of pure vitamins? Tell us your thoughts!

 

Thumbnail credit: Julio Miles / Soylent

10 Reasons Why Summer is the Season for Eating Well

raspberriesThere are so many reasons why I love the summertime: the green grass and warm sunshine, longer days and warmer evenings, more time to savor all the beauty of the outdoors. But the best part by far is the amazing abundance of healthy, fresh, whole foods everywhere you look. In celebration of the richness of the season, I’ve put together my top 10 reasons why there’s no better time to eat well.

1. Food is Fresh, Available, and Affordable

It’s easy to eat fresh, locally grown food when fruits and vegetables are as abundant and available as they are during the summer months. And when food is more available, it’s more affordable, too, since choosing local produce cuts the cost of shipping food from some far-off place.

When food is in season, it’s better for you. Except for freezing, most food storage practices cause a loss in nutrition and quality. Think of all the preservatives and toxic chemicals used to keep packaged foods from going rancid on grocery store shelves. Beware these processed and preserved foods that can’t die. Fresh food is alive, filled with all the nourishment and nutrients needed to keep you alive and thriving!

Eating locally is not only healthy for you, it’s great for your community, too. Participate in the grow-your-own movement by shopping at your local farmers’ market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture). See www.localharvest.org to find a CSA or farmers’ market near you. For more adventurous ways to go local, try that interesting little farm stand you drive by during your daily commute (they usually offer great value for seasonal fruit and veggies) or try a pick-your-own farm.

2. You Can Get Back To Basics

Summer is all about unwinding, relaxing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Always keep basic staples in the pantry, so you’ll be ready for an easy, impromptu meal. They don’t need to cost much. To eat well, you don’t have to indulge in expensive specialty foods or the new, trendy exotic fruit du jour. Keep it simple.

Tip: Get back to basics by creating delectable meals out of everyday foods, such as beans and greens. Beans cost only 50 cents per serving, yet give you 7 grams of blood sugar-friendly fiber. Try the Black Bean Salad recipe from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.

3. You Can Savor the Flavor

Summer offers so many ways for you to add flavor to your food without resorting to salt and fat. Herbs, spices, and berries are all plentiful during the warmer months. Get creative, and experiment using herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, or fresh dill. In the summertime, these are so easy to grow right in your own window!

4. You Can Lighten Your Load

Produce is available in huge quantities and varieties during the summer months. This wide array of options makes it easy to enjoy a light, plant-based diet, which can keep your heart healthy, your waistline slender, and your blood sugar levels optimized.

Try incorporating meatless Mondays into your weekly meal plan or try eating at least one meal a day without animal protein. This can help you lighten the load on your digestive system, as well as on the Earth, since raising animals for food has a greater impact on the environment than growing fruits and vegetables.

Tip: Choose non-GMO tempeh to replace ground beef in your next recipe. This one change will drastically trim your shopping bill, because tempeh costs about a third of what you’d pay for the amount of meat needed to feed a family of four!

5. There Are So Many Ways To Enjoy Your Leftovers

Remember all those leftover berries from the pick-your-own farm or all the fresh zucchini you found from the farmers’ market? Don’t waste them—re-use them! Here’s one great way to use Monday night’s chicken dinner in Tuesday morning’s breakfast: the Roasted Chicken and Egg White Cup recipe from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.

6. Dine Under the Stars

Add flare to your normal weeknight routine by creating your own summery dinner table outside. No need to go to fancy restaurants to make your meal feel special; decorate your outdoor table with some candles, stones, or fresh flowers to enhance your dining experience! Invite friends over. Make it a potluck! Relaxing under the stars, enjoying a fine meal with friends, will soothe your nerves and help you digest your food, while truly appreciating the magic of summertime.

Click to read the rest on DrHyman.com >>

Weight Loss Tip: Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast

GirlEatingDinnerFor many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment. Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population. Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese. Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like “The Zone” or “Atkins”.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner. Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over. Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner. So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that. Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true. With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group. How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”. Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 2)

Pills vitamin supplementsClick here for Part 1!

Consider the Japanese

If it is true that taking fish oil or raising your blood levels of omega-3 phospholipids increases risk for prostate cancer, then why hasn’t this been a problem for Japanese men? They certainly eat their fair share of fatty fish and have done so for generations! The Japanese (and other fish-loving cultures) have been studied many times to test this hypothesis, and guess what? Males in Japan, while having some of the highest levels of EPA and DHA, also have some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer. Only in the most recent studies have Japanese men been shown to have an increase in prostate cancer. Could it be that, as the Japanese begin to abandon their traditional diet of fish, seaweed, and other sea vegetables for the typical SAD (standard American diet, high in saturated fat and linoleic fatty acids), their risk of prostate cancer rises?

It seems that for every claim against fish and fish oil, there are several studies that confirm their benefits. One study, Consumption of Fish Products Across the Lifespan and Prostate Cancer Risk, showed that high blood plasma phospholipids was protective against prostate cancer when fish oil was consumed. Another study showed that omega-3 fatty acids protect against death caused by prostate cancer. And what about the effect of fish oils on the outcome of prostate cancer in men with elevated PSA levels? Again, the literature shows that EPA and DHA have no negative effect.

Personalized Medicine

It’s important to stop and remember that each person has a unique inner ecology and external environment. Contributing factors, such as exposure to environmental toxicity, poor nutrition, and other lifestyle variables, as well as genetics, all play a role in the development of cancer. It’s a complicated disease, and it would be a good idea to pause and look at the whole picture before drawing any major conclusions.

The simple fact is that countless studies have proven the health benefits of eating a diet rich in antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables. And just as we all know that eating your veggies is good for your health, we are now beginning to prove similar health benefits from including healthy fats in your diet. (For more information on how to increase your intake of healthy fats, please see my discussion here). We also know that limiting omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the risk of diabesity in Western cultures.

So, before we toss good medicine aside, we need to examine carefully the factors that contribute to imbalances in the body. We need to assess what we do know and keep asking questions about what we don’t.

We know that a whole foods-based diet, rich in fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein, does make a positive difference in health outcomes. We know that high-quality, purified fish oils are best. We know that a balanced and varied diet is key for maintaining good health. And we know that moderation is the key to a healthy and sensible relationship to food. Any diet or program promoting an extreme is not realistic, sustainable, or even remotely healthy. Remember, the “dose makes the poison,” so just the right amount—and not too much—will allow you to reap the intended benefits. In the case of fish oil, 1-2 grams daily is appropriate for most people, though some of you may need more. I strongly suggest you work with a trained functional medicine practitioner to help you determine the appropriate doses you need, not only for fish oil but for all supplements. My nutrition coaches are here to help you transform general guidelines into personalized solutions.

So, where do I stand on whether fish oil causes prostate cancer?  I’ll be eating sardines in my salad for lunch tomorrow, and I’ll be taking my daily fish oil supplement with my dinner tonight. And I hope you will be too!

Now, I’d like to hear from you…

Have you been swayed by recent reports to feel that omega-3s can cause prostate cancer?

Will you limit the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you consume?

What are some of your favorite ways to include fatty fish in your diet?

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Rebecca Pacheco: My Best Diet Advice

IMG_3825-580x773Are you vegan?
Have you heard of this juice cleanse?
Are you gluten free?
Have you heard of that juice cleanse?
What do you do for cardio?
How often do you run?
Do you do Pilates?
What do you think of Crossfit?
Do you lift weights?
Do you wear a heart rate monitor, Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone, etc.?
Which yoga poses will strengthen my core?
And lift my butt?
Do you think I should do a juice cleanse?

I get a lot of questions about my personal and professional approach to fitness, including those above and many more. Each time I’m asked by a reader, yoga student, Om Athlete, curious media type, or casual acquaintance at, say, a dinner party, I’m delighted to – forgive me – weigh in. I enjoy the fact that people trust me; it means I’m doing work I’m meant to do, helping people become more healthy and mindful, and I’m happy to share knowledge acquired over the years. I’ve studied a lot, experienced a lot, and been exposed to a lot, through a lifetime of playing sports, 18 years of practicing yoga, 13 years of teaching it, and the privilege of working with some of the fittest and fastest athletes in the world about what it means to look, feel, and perform your best.

But my favorite piece of advice is the same for everyone, and it has nothing to do with explicitly choosing a diet or type of exercise. It’s about choosing a mindset or, possibly, a heart set. Because the truth is not about what you do, but rather, why you do it.

I believe the intention behind anything colors everything, which is why my diet advice is not a diet. My most killer workout secret is not some grand secret. I’m not hiding stealth spa procedures or supplements in my bicycle basket. I’m not fired up by fitness fads or new technology that tracks my every calorie taken in or burned off. (I respect that many people like and benefit from health trends and technology; I just don’t think they’re essential to my point or your wellness).

Personally, I do a lot of yoga. I run a lot. I eat a lot. What I eat has read like Michael Pollan’s advice long before he wrote In Defense of Food and other books widely regarded as manifestos for eating mindfully: eat real food, not too much. Mostly plants. But, sometimes, chocolate covered salted caramels. (I added that last part). Professionally, I’m like a sherpa for surpassing mind/body limitations, and my approach to yoga might cause your kid to turn to you and say, “Wow, Mom, you’re STRONG! You’re stronger than Daddy,” as the child of one of my clients did at the beach over the weekend when she tossed him high in the air so that he landed in the ocean with delight like it was no big deal.

In the past, I’ve been too thin and too heavy. I ended up too thin by accident, at a time when I felt very heavy—as in emotionally. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It just happened as a result of the stress of what was happening in my life. I couldn’t have cared less about scales or pant sizes. Ironically, I was too heavy while trying too hard to be thin. Roughly around college, as the current often pulls women that age. It was my personal heyday of low fat frozen yogurt, Diet Coke, and other fake foods about which I didn’t know better and were the diet de rigueur of the time. Now, I know better, and I stay away from that stuff. It’s not a diet. It’s chemical junk that messes with your hormones and doesn’t add any nutritional value anywhere. I don’t eat other non-food stuff like Play-Doh or glue. That’s not a diet. It’s common sense.

And, ultimately, that’s the secret weapon I want people to rediscover. Good sense. Stop cleansing. Start sensing. Ask yourself this one essential question:

What do you want to embody?

Seriously. Think about it. Because the answer will be telling, and the actions needed to achieve your desired state will be clear. If you know how you want to feel, you’ll intuitively know what to do to get there. You don’t want to embody artificial colors, flavors, or feelings. You don’t want to embody scarcity and deprivation.

If you want to embody strength or confidence, you can’t choose diets, fitness inspirations, or yoga teachers that encourage diminishing or depletion. It’s that simple. If you want to feel joyful and light, you can’t choose workouts that are drudgery or self-talk that is demoralizing. Maybe you’ll lose weight on a certain diet, cleanse, or workout regime, but will you feel light? Will it last? Or, will it dissipate—like anyone’s capacity to stay on a diet or regime, and you’ll have to search for the next fitness fix during the next dinner party conversation. If you want to embody speed or endurance, your workouts must prioritize the same. If you want to feel energetic and endorphin-drunk, then you’ve got to get up and move like your life depends on it (because it does). If you want to embody beauty, you’ll have to do things that genuinely make you feel beautiful. They are not usually available in stores. They frequently include smiling or laughing. Remember: mindset. Heart set.

The way we move our bodies and how we nourish them are beautiful opportunities every day. Meanwhile, getting too caught up in how we label ourselves according to what we eat (i.e. vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc.) and forgetting that the best wellness resource we have is our own mind only leads to more of the same. Change how you think. Start with what you want to embody, and let that word, feeling, or mantra dictate the health choices you make.

Embody grace. Eat energy for breakfast. Run with heart-pumping, leg burning, soul exhilarating speed. Balance with confidence. Breathe with love. Put on your clothes with joy. Take them off with acceptance. Embody yourself fully. It’s a beautiful thing.

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 1)

SalmonWhenever a newly published health study challenges current thinking, you can bet it won’t be long before the news media starts ratcheting up the drama and jumping to conclusions. This is true of a recent study called “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial,” published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This study suggests a higher risk of prostate cancer among men who eat omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish like sardines and salmon or in fish oil supplements.

Because I encourage my patients and readers to get plenty of omega-3s, I want to respond to these reports and offer my answer to the question they’ve raised: can fish oil cause prostate cancer? But first, let’s examine the findings.

What the Study Found

The study, which was conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, claims a link between increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and increased incidence of prostate cancer. The highest blood plasma levels of these polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically EPA, DHA and DPA, were associated with the highest risk. The research also showed that higher levels of linoleic acid (or omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans eat too much of) were actually associated with a lowered risk. This would suggest that the more fish or fish oil a man included in his diet, the greater the chances he would develop prostate cancer. It would also mean that increasing his omega-6 fatty acid intake would be a good idea.

So, have I led you astray by telling you to eat your fatty fish and limit your intake of processed vegetable oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids? Should I warn you against taking fish oil and instead tell you to eat more cottonseed and sunflower seed oils? Let’s look at the facts and decide.

A Closer Look at the Study 

This study used what is called a retrospective case controlled cohort design. Simply put, to make their conclusions, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used data from a previous study conducted in 2011 called the SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). It’s important to note that the original SELECT study did not have the same objective as this current one.  It wasn’t designed to determine whether fish oil led to prostate cancer. The fact that both studies didn’t have the same goal calls into question whether the old data is even relevant to the new study.

What we can be sure of is that association does not prove cause and effect. If this had been an intervention design study, where half the participants got fish oil and half didn’t and they were followed for 20 years to see if they got prostate cancer, then you can say pretty definitively that they are connected. Bottom line, this type of study does not prove cause and effect. If I did a study on sunrise and humans waking up, I would find 100% correlation, but that doesn’t mean that the sun came up because you woke up. Correlation, yes; causation, no.

Another problem with the study is that the researchers did not address whether the men who were studied got their omega-3 fatty acids from eating fatty fish or from taking supplements. Also, there was no regard for their health status before starting the study. Did they start using fish oil as a therapy once diagnosed with prostate cancer or had they been taking it all along?

And what about the myriad other factors that can lead to the onset and progression of cancer, such as how lifestyle affects genetics? Smoking, nutrition, exercise, environmental toxicity, stress: none of these things were taken into account. It is too simplistic to reduce a disease as complex as cancer down to one trigger. In fact, perhaps we should be asking if these men were exposed to toxins and heavy metals from eating mercury-containing fish, which can cause cancer. Or did the men smoke or drink to excess? Was there a history of cancer in the family? What was their personal health history prior to diagnosis? Were they overweight or obese, and did they have other symptoms of diabesity?

Another major flaw with this study’s design involves the way the researchers got their data. They analyzed blood plasma instead of red blood cells. And they did so with one single blood draw! The conclusions would have been stronger and more reliable had they used red blood cell samples, because those provide a more accurate assessment over the long term (plasma tends to provide only a short-term picture). Because the research was based only on samples of a single blood draw, the red blood cell analysis would have given a better picture of long-term omega-3 intake (a couple months of eating salmon, for example, instead of what happens in the body after a single meal). That’s why I suggest people use the omega-3 index test, which measures levels from within the red blood cells.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

The 80/20 Rule: How to Keep Your Family Healthy (And Have Fun Doing It!)

Matt and Jack share a snowconeWe went to a local carnival on a recent night, and the boys and I each had a snow-cone. Sam’s and mine were both bright blue and George’s was half red, half blue.

They were nothing but sugar and nasty dyes, but it was part of the fun of being there. We stood under the fireworks and happily ate them. We broke a lot of rules that night. We stayed up past 10 o’clock, we paid to play games we knew were unwinnable  and we ate carnival food. It was all part of the experience of being there and we had a blast.

This confuses some people. Most notably, my husband. Yesterday he brought home conventionally grown strawberries which I promptly returned to the store. “How can you let the boys have snow-cones and not let them eat conventional strawberries?” he asked. I understand the question, and see that it looks like hypocrisy, but this is how I make sense of our lives. This is my 80/20 rule.

scale (1)It’s All About Balance

I do not strive for nutrition perfection. That wouldn’t be any fun. I mean, what is life without french fries? Instead I strive for 80% good and 20% of whatever comes our way. Life is to be enjoyed. The negative impact of the stress of trying to eat perfectly all of the time far outweighs that of eating something that really makes us happy.

So, how do I balance this? How do I keep track? My way is to treat my home as a sacred food zone. We eat 100% clean food. No dyes, no chemicals, no pesticides (hence the no conventional strawberries rule), no refined sugars or refined flours and no GMOs. The 20% of the time that we are out in the world then all bets are off. We eat what comes our way. That said, of course we eat the best option of what we are offered. Like if we are given a choice between a not-so-good food and a just-plain-awful one, we will choose the former, and if there is a healthy option we will always go for that. But, even then sometimes, we take a time-out.

When we go to birthday parties, we eat cake. We go to the movies and eat movie-theater popcorn. Today, after a haircut, we went into town and had a double scoop of ice cream before dinner. I believe that the key to teaching children to eat healthily is for them to recognize those not-so-good-for-you foods and accept them as being something that is consumed occasionally.

The 80-20 rules works well for us. The kids know it’s all right for them to break the rule on occasion because they understand what the rule is – and why.

 

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips.

Weight Loss: Fact and Fiction – What Works and What Doesn’t

Body Image. The subjective concept of one's physical appearance based on self-observation and the reactions of others.

Does sex really count as exercise? Should you set conservative weight loss goals of 5-10 pounds instead of 50? Does adding a little bit of exercise regularly over a long period of time really add up to significant weight loss?

A recent analysis of weight loss research by The New England Journal of Medicine, entitled Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity, attempts to answer these questions.

Some findings are surprising, some are not, and some common notions about weight loss are yet to be proven or dis-proven. I have my own opinions based on treating tens of thousands of patients over many decades.

We are all different. What works for some may not work for all, which is why I practice personalized lifestyle medicine, or functional medicine, that  allows me to discover the root causes of imbalances in the body that lead to weight gain and disease  – matching the treatment to the person.

The good news for me is that I was not surprised by the myths that are commonly held by doctors, nutritionists, and most people. And I know that some of the presumptions will turn out to be true – we just don’t have enough data to “prove” it.

Remember, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Just because something has not been studied accurately does not make it untrue.

So what are the top myths and facts about obesity and weight loss?

Myth #1: If you make small changes in your lifestyle over the long term you will lose weight.

Most of us have learned that if we just cut our calories by 100 calories a day, or increase our exercise a little bit over the long haul, we will lose weight. It’s all about the calories in or the calories out.

Sorry Mr. Newton, your laws of thermodynamics don’t apply in living systems. Biology and metabolism are more complex. If we just go with the math and burn an extra 100 calories a day by walking one mile or consume 100 calories less in 35 days, you would lose one pound (3500 calories = 1 pound).

And over five years you would lose 50 pounds. Yet, in studies they find you would lose only 10 pounds in five years. This occurs because of changes in your metabolism and calorie needs as you lose weight.

Bottom line: Big changes are needed to create big weight loss.

Myth #2: Don’t set big weight loss goals because you will become frustrated and set yourself up for failure.

The fact is that if you set your sights on big weight loss, you have a better chance of losing a significant amount of weight than if you keep your goals “realistic”. If you want to lose 50 pounds, then set that as your goal.

Studies have shown that if you don’t expect to lose a lot of weight, then you won’t! Common sense, it seems, but conventional wisdom is to keep people’s expectations low because weight loss is hard and people will get frustrated if they fail to achieve their goals. The truth is that you will only lose big if you think big.

Bottom line: Set your weight loss goals high. Don’t be realistic. If you set 10 pounds as your goal you might succeed, but if you need to lose 50 pounds you will fail. If you want or need to lose 50 or 100 pounds then name it. Own it. And you will lose it!

Myth #3: Don’t lose weight too fast or you will rebound and gain it all back.    

We have been taught that if you go for the quick fix, if you go for the rapid weight loss strategy, in the long run you won’t lose as much as if you go for the slow gradual approach.

Nonsense!

Studies show that if you drop weight quickly you end up with more weight loss in the end.  Mark Twain said, “The problem with common sense is that it is not too common.”

When I give my patients a big jump-start with weight loss, which is how I have designed my practice and my programs like The Blood Sugar Solution, they do better and lose more weight over the long run. They learn how to own their bodies and feel empowered.  The studies back this up.

Bottom line: Kick-start significant weight loss with dramatic shifts in your diet. Try things like cutting out all sugar, flour, and processed food. You can follow the program I have created in The Blood Sugar Solution.

Myth #4: You have to be ready to succeed and go through the “stages of behavior change”.

The science tells us that those who attempt weight loss without feeling ready still succeed. You can act into the feeling instead of waiting for the feeling to act.  

Bottom line: Even if you don’t feel inspired, excited, or motivated to start taking care of yourself, just start anyway. You are just as likely to succeed as someone highly motivated.

Myth #5: Sex is good exercise.

Somewhere we all got the idea that sex was good exercise. A bout of sexual activity burns 100-300 calories for each participant. That reminds me of a young teenage patient I saw when I was a resident. I asked her if she was sexually active. She said, “No, I just lie there.”

But even if you don’t just lie there, a vigorous love-making episode usually lasts about six minutes and burns about 21 calories. If you just sat and watched TV you would burn 14 calories. So find some other way to exercise or study tantric sex and make love for an hour.

Bottom line: You can’t “love” your way to weight loss. Get out of bed and start moving.

The article also had a few presumptions, which may or may not be true and still don’t have enough evidence to firmly put them in the fact category. However, a few of them I do think are crucial for weight loss.

The Value of Breakfast

In the large weight registry of people who lost 70 pounds or more and kept it off for 4 or more years, the only things they had in common were breakfast and regular exercise. It is one of the most powerful strategies. But it can’t be a muffin and a latte. The secret is a protein breakfast, which speeds metabolism and controls appetite.

Eating Fruits and Vegetables

If you eat more fruits and vegetables you will be eating less junk and creating health through hundreds of other mechanisms. In fact the only thing all nutrition experts agree on is that we should eat more fruits and vegetables.

Built Environment and Obesity

While it hasn’t been proven that more parks and sidewalks lead to a skinnier population, we do know that your immediate environment plays a big role in your health. Dan Buettner did an experiment in Albert Lea, MN where he implemented changes in the environment that led to significant weight loss and health.

Kids lost 10 percent of their body weight after eating in classrooms and hallways was outlawed. And the town’s population lost a total of 12,000 pounds by everyone agreeing to eat their meals using 10 inch plates and having grocers put healthy foods at the check-out counters. Your environment does matter.

The good news from this article is we can lose weight, but we have to set big goals, think big, act big, and we will get big results!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Finding Neutrality in the Genetically Modified Food Debate

GMO debate IntentI’ve been heavily involved in understanding and tracking the GMO debate for many years.  As an expert for the natural products industry, the issue of genetic modification and the role it should or should not play in natural products is a heavily debated (and litigated) topic. You need look no further than the New York Times, the Dr. Oz show, or your Facebook feed to get a dose of the emotion and polarized positions on both sides of this subject.

Over the course of these years I have come to a couple conclusions that I believe heavily influence our ability to productively communicate about this issue: 1) Despite the rapidly growing debate on this subject, there is still an incredible lack of awareness about GMO and an even bigger level of ignorance about the various topics at play under the “GMO” label, and 2) the emotional intensity this topic carries with it makes improved education, understanding and rational dialog a seemly impossible task at times.

I confess that I also feel a lot of emotion about this subject and wish for more information and understanding. I am troubled by conventional farming practices, the petro-chemical use required to keep it going and the seeming disregard for the natural wisdom of nature. I worry about the global impact the spread of these farming practices into developing countries will have not only to the health of the soil and people but to the traditional farming wisdom that will no longer be passed from generation to generation.

On the flip side, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things start to get complicated to me. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and the planet as it relates to GMO is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

Last week I came across a series of articles that are currently posting on Grist.org attempting to do the thing I’ve been hoping I would have the ability to do myself someday – investigate and dissect this issue without emotion and understand the impact of biotechnology in food crops on human and planet health.

Like me, the reporter, Nathanael Johnson, has been wishing for a rational dissection of this issue for many years. I’ve spoken to some of the same people he’s interviewed for this series and am impressed by the depth of his research. I’ve been reading and note taking as each of his articles are published and hope that if you’re also seeking to understand this complex issue, you will take the time to read his pieces as well.

You can find a link to the first article in his series here and can find links to subsequent articles in the series at the bottom of the piece.

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Image by Steve Rhodes

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