Happy January, welcome to 2020! Brand new year, brand new decade.
Health is more than just about the food and exercise. Let me explain what I mean. Our body is a whole person of interworking systems, which is why when it comes to your health your body is not a mistake. Dramatic pause ...
This is the time of year we all choose to be better, to do better. And really, it’s great that we’re wishing to invest in ourselves. This wish is much needed, as we’ve seen over the last century there has been a dramatic shift in the number of acute to chronic diseases. Acute diseases are those that are “brief”, short in duration, a hospital visit for an infection that is quickly treated, such as pneumonia. The latter, chronic diseases, are those that are persistent or otherwise long-lasting in their effects. Examples of these include, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, cancer and depression.
In America nearly 1 in every 2 people is living with a chronic condition. In the hospital I work at, I see patients on a daily basis being treated acutely for their chronic condition(s). By this, I mean the hospitalist will treat the patient to ensure they survive, but simply does not have the resources to teach the patient to thrive. Enter, functional medicine nutrition therapy.
The Integrative & Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy (IFMNT) radial is a tool used to help assess clients. One of the main areas of focus is lifestyle, within lifestyle includes twelve separate areas, food being only one of them! Although each area has a much more expansive effect than what I’m able to describe in a two-page paper. The purpose of me sharing these areas of focus is so that you understand the complexity of our bodies. So that when you begin to make lifestyle changes, you slowly piece each of these together as you strive for true, long-lasting health.
We’ll begin with our environment. This topic is broad and may include anything from the round up you spray on your lawn that trickles into our water system that you drink, to the products you put on your face. It’s been said that the average woman leaves her home in the morning with over 200 different chemicals being applied to her body. Many of these chemicals may be harmful and foreign to our human bodies. Our skin is in fact, the largest organ in our body, and no doubt absorbs what we put on it!
Similar to what we put on our bodies, is what we put in our bodies. This includes supplements, or perhaps medications we take. How many pills or powders do you take each day? Did you have testing done to give reason for taking them? Do you still need them, or perhaps were they only necessary to pull you out of a hole? It’s always good to reassess supplements, because with any benefit there’s the potential for imbalances, or competition with another nutrient. Supplements absolutely have their time and place but be sure you’re not just continuing on a path blindly, and always opt for the food first approach!
How to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays
One to five. This is the average amount of a weight (in pounds) an adult will gain each holiday season, beginning Thanksgiving and rolling through to New Year’s Day. ‘Tis the season to talk about a few physiological changes that happen with weight gain, some reasons we tend to gain weight during this time of year and how to avoid it!
What happens inside our bodies when we gain weight? Initially, there’s an increase in the number of adipocytes (fat cells). Sadly, this number will never return to the original number (unless you undergo a procedure like CoolSculpt®). Instead, the cells can increase in quantity (with further weight gain) and/or change in volume – either smaller (during weight loss) or larger (during weight gain). This means, the next time around it’s easier for those cells to “refill” the lost “weight”. Unfortunately, these adipocytes are not just along for the ride either, they change the way your body makes, stores and circulates hormones (among other things). Another area that’s affected, is your heart. It’s put under extra stress due to additional weight and blood volume, causing a rise in blood pressure. Poorly controlled blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and impotence – (the last one mentioned if you dozed off… but a good motivator). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a person can become insulin resistant. Which means that the hormone, insulin, has a reduced response to the sugar (glucose) floating in your blood streams. Often, this is due to a poor diet that leads to a consistently elevated blood sugar. When blood sugar remains high for too long it becomes similar to “white noise”. Have you ever heard a white noise machine, at first you do … and then you don’t. Other profound changes include poor sleep, skin changes, digestion upset, and the ever familiar tightly fitting clothes. You see, this is more than just aesthetics.
Holidays are a wonderful time of year; I am one of the first to turn the station to Christmas tunes as soon as the calendar rolls to November. Nevertheless, just like the American way, we allow such a special time of year to become all about over-spending, overeating and under sleeping. Oftentimes when I talk to others about their holiday plans and I end up hearing them complain about too many parties, classroom gatherings, gifts for her and gifts for him. To top it off each party has a menu, with too many decadent cookies, gingerbread houses, stuffing and don’t forget the free-flowing wine and spirits. All capped off with year-end work deadlines, gift wrapping and last-minute online shopping. Just writing this makes me exhausted! You see how our over packed agendas and less than charged personal batteries cause us to store extra weight this time of year.
How do we avoid all of this?
Creating a Goal Worth Sticking With.
We’ve all experienced it. At some point in our lives we’ve created a goal that we’re so giddy about. That initial phase is like Christmas day; there’s excitement, along with progress and a natural momentum with each breathe of confidence … then something happens. It could be the loss of a job, a vacation, or a crazy-busy season of life. This eventually results in a slowdown of those momentum wheels, maybe this slow down results in a plateau (this is actually success believe it or not), or perhaps a total loss of progress.
Was it you, or your goal?
The first step to creating change is identifying a proper goal. Begin with a specific action that you wish to change. This action should be measurable, easy to calculate whether you’ve achieved it or not, achievable, literally, is this goal within your capabilities (or perhaps start a bit smaller) and include an end date (you will follow this goal for a definitive amount of time). Remember SMART goals from grade school, yes, there’s a reason we learned how to do them?!
Since I’m a dietitian, the example goal we’ll use is going to be food related. My goal; to consume a total of nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day for the next two months. There’s action (eating, easy enough), measure (nine total servings of fruits and veggies), and a timeline (daily for the next two months).
“Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.” – Brian Tracy
What I love about a goal like the above is that instead of depriving you of something, it comes from a place of positivity and kindness, (something health related goals rarely do). By this I mean that you are encouraged to eat more of what makes you feel good, not less of something. Goals shouldn’t be punishment.
Now that we’ve identified a written goal, assess progress toward your goal daily. Fast forward two months and now you’re getting in the groove of eating nine servings of fruits and veggies daily, and you’ve gained confidence. When you’ve achieved your goal, create another one while the momentum is still hot! This is the definition of steppingstone, or mini goals.
Steppingstone goals are beneficial because they are short enough to stay motivated and see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet they still offer a big boost in confidence with each successful completion! With confidence you can create your next steppingstone goal and make it just a little bigger. Each time you reach a goal you gain confidence and become a little closer to the person you wish to become.
“Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.” - Mark Twain
How to Boost your Health with Delicious Coffee
There’s little better than a warm, aromatic, comforting cup of coffee in the morning. It is one of the most beloved drinks of Americans, in fact it’s estimated that 83% of the United States population drinks at least one cup daily. Most people would agree that the drink started out as a caffeine jolt (maybe during late nights studying for college courses, or in the first days of their new baby’s life). For most, the beverage gradually morphed into a daily ritual, something they could plan on. Coffee comes in many different mugs; some like it lightly roasted, others black and bold, and some can’t have it without a good dollop of sugar, cream or maybe even a little Bailey’s? Hopefully it goes without saying (though I will anyway), that all of these additives can break the benefits that come with a health conscious brand of coffee. Read on to learn whether coffee is good for you … spoiler alert, ~ 83% of you will be pleased with the findings, and the rest of you aren’t reading this article anyway! :)
Coffee is one of those habits that constantly receives mixed health reviews. Did you know that coffee is actually the richest source of antioxidants in the western diet, more than even ‘superfoods’ like blueberries and kale? This comparison is based on 100 gram weights of said food/drink. Antioxidants are important because they’re anti-aging, free-radical fighting compounds - these are the shields that defend our cells from damage (a.k.a cell oxidation = cell aging).
Celery Juice - yay or nay?
Green drinks and juicing have been a nutrition guru’s go-to for years now. If you read nutrition blogs or browse Instagram posts then you may have seen something about celery juicing. According to the Medical Medium, “Celery is truly the savior when it comes to chronic illness.” Which is a far contrast to what most people think of as a measly veggie that provides a bit of crunch in their ranch dip. Despite that, this health kick is sweeping the nation. I can’t believe the number of patients and friends that have asked me about this newfangled-fix-all! Who is behind this celery juice that is taking over the world, what does it taste like and most importantly, does it really work?!
First let’s talk about the man behind the green glass of goodness. He calls himself the Medical Medium. The following is what his bio looks like, “Meet Anthony William, #1 New York Times best-selling author... was born with the unique ability to converse with Spirit of Compassion who provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that’s often far ahead of its time.” That’s pretty much it…a man whose advice millions are following with absolutely zero health, nutrition, science, anatomy or physiology background. Now mind you, eating a stalk of celery everyday isn’t bad advice, but is it going to cure all your ailments?
Let’s start with how the juice is supposed to be consumed. To really reap the benefits of celery juice, the stalks should be juiced (no pulp), consumed by itself (nothing added to it at all, not even ice), and a full 16 ounces are drank on an empty stomach first thing in the morning at least 30 minutes before breakfast.
The amount of celery to use is an entire stalk (not just a single rib) which is about 8 cups, roughly chopped. Nutrition information for 8 cups of celery (pre-juiced) is 113 calories, 5.6 grams protein, 1 gram of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 13 grams of fiber (40% Daily Value, DV), 2101 mg potassium (105% DV), 25 mg Vitamin C (42% DV), 0.46 mg Riboflavin (27% DV), 0.6 mg Vitamin B6 (30% DV), 178 mcg RAE of Vitamin A (~20% DV), 237 mcg Vitamin K (nearly 300% DV) and various other vitamins and minerals. The nutrition profile is for those chewing the entire 8 or so cups of celery. Whenever you juice anything you remove most, if not all, of the fiber. Listen… can you hear your gut microbes crying? ☹
In addition to the quantifiable nutrition facts, celery also contains antioxidants that help protect against oxidative damage to our cells and tissues (think vibrancy and youth). They also contain phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) which have antioxidant like properties and other beneficial effects in the human body. Both, antioxidants and phytochemicals are found in all plant foods in varying amounts.
Before writing about this topic I had to try the trend out for myself. First, let’s talk about what the juice tastes like? Honestly, it’s not the worst thing I’ve tasted, it’s much like what you’d expect celery juice to taste like; a cold, grassy juice. The vibrant green drink is beautiful too, so that adds to its’ appeal. However, I didn’t like the laborious, wasteful process. During my short stint of celery juicing I started the process the night before (as to not wake my kiddos with the hum of our blender); each night I’d wash and roughly chop my organic celery and begin to blend, then I had to remove the pulp. I didn’t like that the pulp had to be sieved through mesh and tossed out (not an issue if you have a juicer, but in either case it’s wasteful). I searched for recipes to use the pulp but found nothing appealing, so I fed it to our chickens. Lastly, and most importantly, I missed my warm cup of coffee. Don’t get me wrong I drink a fair amount of water first thing in the morning, but I want to quickly follow that with my morning coffee. For me, it just wasn’t a good fit.
Even if the process seemed too time consuming, would I be willing to do it if science suggested? Well…the research behind the craze is sparse. I searched PubMed and Medscape and looked for other reliable resources and didn’t find much. However, I did learn that celery has been used for thousands of years as a homemade remedy for various ailments such as hangovers and digestive issues, like bloating.
Whether the science backs this trend, or not, perhaps part of the benefit of celery juicing is that the follower is consuming nearly 8 cups of veggies and 16 ounces of water before they wipe the sleep out of their eyes; the average person only eats two to three servings of veggies their entire day! In addition, this amount of celery is an excellent source (greater than 20% DV) of fiber and potassium (two nutrients that are inadequately consumed in the American population).
Does celery juicing work for you? I’ve heard believers of celery juice say their skin improved, they had more consistent bowel movements and they felt less bloated. If celery juicing makes me you feel better, then keep it up! If you feel better, do you need further reassurance than that?