Keeping Extra Pounds off your Holiday List

expanding SantaAlthough by now you’ve hopefully now finished the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, the holiday eating season has just begun. And, as a result, over the next month, the average American will gain one or two pounds. While that might not sound like much, the annual weight gain adds up from year to year and can lead to significant gains as the years goes by.

So, if the seams on your favorite holiday outfit are already bursting ahead of the onslaught of holiday parties, all-you-can-eat buffets, peppermint bark and eggnog, now’s the time to consider strategies to maintain your current weight and still enjoy the season.

At this time of year, most of us are bombarded with food. High calorie treats appear everywhere you look. Tables are filled with home-made cookies, gingerbread, hot apple cider, and irresistible savory appetizers. But resist you must, says Amy Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.  Here’s her advice to keep you lean this holiday season:

holiday weight cartoonBe picky about your splurges. You can eat crackers and cheese any time, but the holidays are a time to sample special seasonal treats that people have spent a lot of energy preparing. So, if you’re at a holiday buffet, browse before you graze to size up your best options. If that delectable chocolate dessert beckons, enjoy a slice but pass on the brownies or soda. Allow yourself to indulge, just choose where you want to spend your calories.

Be mindful. When there’s a bowl of chips right in front of you, you are more likely to keep munching without really thinking about it. So pay attention to what you’re eating. Slow down and savor every bite, taking the time to appreciate what you’re putting into your mouth. Watch your portion size.

Plan ahead. If you know you are going to a party in the evening, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Don’t starve yourself; in fact, consider eating a snack to take the edge off of your hunger. Bring something healthy to potlucks so at least you can count on one healthy option being offered. Seasonal fruit such as pomegranates, clementines and cranberries are terrific holiday dishes because they are pretty, festive and, best of all, guilt free.

Conversation is calorie-free. Once you’ve taken a plate of food at a holiday gathering, step away from the table. Find a comfy space where you can talk to others. Fill up on fellowship, which is calorie-free!

Water is calorie-free, too. So, drink up. Alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage to pace yourself as you celebrate and prevent a next day hang-over. Consider creating a wine spritzer by adding flavored sparkling water to your wine. Instead of drinking lemonade or soda with a meal, choose water. Not only does water fill you up, it’s also good for your digestive system, skin, muscles and kidneys.

Christmas fitness woman wearing santa hatIn addition to watching what you eat and drink, you should offset holiday calories by becoming more active. Saint Louis University associate professor of physical therapy and athletic training, Ethel Frese, DPT, offers the following tips:

Be realistic.  Becoming more active is a great way to mitigate a few extra calories, but it is not license to add massively to your diet. So, suppose you splurged and ate a 350 calorie pastry, on top of your normal daily calories. If you want to burn off all of the excess, you’ll need nearly an hour of intense exercise. While it’s not necessary to count every calorie, it is good to have a rough idea of how your calorie intake corresponds to your exercise, and know that it can take more exercise than you might think to balance out your food intake.

Everything counts. That said, don’t be discouraged. Exercise offers many overall health benefits, and burning off even an extra hundred calories a day makes a significant difference. In some cases, extra activity may be a natural part of your routine this season. Walking from the back of a packed parking lot at the mall and scouring stores for the perfect gift provides good exercise. House cleaning for company can burn calories, as can shoveling snow, playing with children and putting up decorations.

Fight the urge to hibernate. If rainy or snowy days tempt you to stay at home watching movies and reading books, be sure you don’t make a habit of avoiding outings. Bundle up and get out for fresh air and exercise. Run errands, stop by to see friends and neighbors, drop off canned goods at a food pantry, check out an exhibit at a museum or build a snowman!

Be consistent. The secret to success is to add a little bit of exercise each day. The effort really does add up, and you’ll find that daily activity makes you feel healthier, more alert, and happier in general. You’ll enjoy the season more without the sluggish feeling brought on by too many sedentary hours. Even if you don’t burn off all of the extra calories through exercise, you’ll limit the damage and in January, you’ll appreciate having only one pound to lose, instead of five.

Remember that the secret to controlling your weight is balancing the calories you take in (food) with the calories you burn. “Even the healthiest eaters need to exercise and the best exercisers need nutrition,” says Moore. “Nutrition and exercise provides the one-two punch of holiday weight management.”

Holiday DietMake your weight management mantra for the season to maintain not gain.

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Reducing your stroke risk…because I care

stroke-1-in-6-graphics_170x304With all the upcoming excitement about Halloween, you may have overlooked the fact that yesterday was World Stroke Day.

This year, the global campaign to tackle stroke was highlighted with the slogan “Because I care…”.

The phrase showcases the role of caregivers in supporting people who have suffered a stroke and aims to correct misinformation about the disease, such as the misconception that stroke only happens later in life.

Every other second, stroke attacks a person, regardless of age or gender. Of the 15 million people who experience a stroke each year, six million do not survive. Worldwide about 30 million people have had a stroke and most have residual disabilities.

Overall approximately 55 000 more women have strokes than men each year, mainly because stroke occurs more frequently at older ages and women generally live longer than men. Of note, women are twice as likely to die from a stroke than breast cancer each year.

And recent data published in the Lancet, shows a striking 25% worldwide increase in the number of stroke cases in people aged between 20 and 64. This younger age group now accounts for a shocking 31% of strokes.

But, with greater awareness, these figures don’t have to continue their alarming trend.  Stroke can be prevented, treated and managed in the long term. The campaign theme “Because I care” emphasizes these areas.

The slogan was chosen as it can easily be adapted to all cultures and in any setting. It attempts to address prevailing misinformation about the disease, e.g., stroke only happens later in life. The campaign also celebrates the important contributions of caregivers and the role they play as conduits between the stroke community and the general public in correcting misinformation.

Because I care…

    • Stroke 02.11.13I want you to know the facts about stroke
    • I will work to break down the myths surrounding stroke
    • I want you to learn how to minimize your risk of stroke
    • I want you to have access to the best possible treatment
    • I will ensure that you receive quality treatment, care and support
    • I will be with you every step of the way towards your full recovery

Research presented at the recent European Society of Cardiology [ESC] Congress  showed that there are plenty of steps young obese women can take to reduce their risk of stroke. In young women without metabolic disorders such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar  or abnormal glucose metabolism being overweight did not increase the chance of having a stroke compared to normal weight women without metabolic disorders. However, the risk of stroke increased by 3.5 times in women who were overweight and had metabolic disorders.

Study author, Dr Michelle Schmiegelow said: “Obesity puts young women at a major risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, which dramatically increases their likelihood of having a stroke. Young women who are overweight or obese probably have a window of opportunity to lose weight and keep a healthy lifestyle so that they reduce their risk of getting high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. In this way they can protect themselves from having a stroke or heart attack.”

Awareness of important risk factors, such as atrial fibrillation  and hypertension, is crucial.

OBESE-BLACK-WOMENProfessor Joep Perk, MD, a Swedish Cardiologist and spokesperson for the ESC says: “Women are at the same risk of stroke as men, and the level of risk is completely steered by the underlying risk factor pattern they have. The majority of people who have a stroke are disabled for the rest of their lives and may be paralyzed or lose their ability to speak. The devastating consequences of this disease for patients and their loved ones make prevention even more important.”

He adds: “Prevention for all cardiovascular disease follows the same pattern, be it stroke, heart attack, or peripheral arterial disease. Step one for women is absolutely to stop smoking – that beats everything. The second most important thing is to know your blood pressure to see if you are at risk. And finally, adopt healthy behaviors like eating heart healthy food and keeping the amount of salt you eat under control.”

stroke FASTThe global campaign against stroke asks people to commit to six stroke challenges:
•    Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol
•    Be physically active and exercise regularly
•    Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetable and low in salt and keep blood pressure low
•    Limit alcohol consumption
•    Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now
•    Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.

Check, check, check, check, check and check!  I’m feeling up to the stroke challenge.  Are you?

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The Real Horror of Trick-or-Treating

halloween kidsAlthough historically All Hallow’s Eve was dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows),martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers, these days for most kids Halloween is all about the candy.

It is estimated that by the end of the evening, each child’s bag of goodies contains about 4,800 calories and has 3 cups of sugar and 1 ½ cups of fat. The real horror in the Halloween trick-or-treat bag is the contribution it plays to an already scary epidemic of childhood obesity.

halloween candyKids and teens love Halloween. It’s filled with fun parties and costumes, and free candy. Halloween can be a great time as long as parents make sure their child doesn’t go overboard eating all that candy,” said Garry Sigman, MD, director of the pediatric weight management program at Loyola University Health System.

So how can you balance healthy and happy for your kids this Halloween? Here’s some great tips from Dr. Sigmam:

  • Focus on fun, not candy. Find fun activities for your kids to do instead of just walking door-to-door getting candy. Plan a party with fun games or have a pumpkin-carving contest. You could watch a scary movie or have a costume parade.
  • Set limits. Limit the time your kids are out trick-or-treating. Instead of the pillowcase look for a small bag that they can use to collect candy. When they get home let them pick out two pieces to eat and then put the rest away in a freezer or hidden place to save for another day. All children should eat no more than one or two pieces of candy a day. If a child is obese he or she should not eat more than one or two pieces of candy a week.
  • Host a candy trade-in party. When the kids get back from trick-or-treating the candy in each child’s bag is weighed. Kids can exchange their candy for prizes based on the bag’s weight.

jack-o-oranges healthy halloween treatsAdults can also help by providing healthier alternatives to candy.  For example: Fruit leathers, packs of sugarless gum, boxed dried raisins, 100-calorie packs of cookies or snacks, granola bars, snack-sized bags of popcorn or non-food treats such as play-doh, spider rings, bubbles, temporary tattoos, sidewalk chalk or cookie cutters.

How are you planning on making your Halloween healthier?

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10 Brain Damaging Habits

brain damageAccording to the World Health Organization here’s 10 habits that can severely damage your brain:

No Breakfast1.  No BreakfastSkipping breakfast in order to lose weight or save time is totally wrong and directly affects our brain. Those who don’t take breakfast or take unhealthy breakfast having lower blood sugar level and sometime it may cause overweight.

2. Overreacting – causes hardening of the brain arteries, leading to a decrease in mental power.

3. High Sugar consumption – Too much sugar will interrupt the absorption of proteins and nutrients causing malnutrition and may interfere with brain development by reducing the production of Brain Derived Neutrotrophic Factor, without which the brain cannot learn.

Smoking4. Smokingcauses brain shrinkage, damages memory, judgment, learning and thinking powers and may even lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Air PollutionThe brain is the largest oxygen consumer in our body. Inhaling polluted air decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, bringing about a decrease in brain efficiency.

6. Sleep Deprivation Sleep allows our brain to rest. Long term deprivation from sleep will accelerate the death of brain cells.

7. Head covered while sleeping – Sleeping with the head covered decreases available air space and forces you to start breathing carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. This leads to a rise in intracranial pressure and results in brain hypoxia which may lead to brain damaging effects.

8. Working your brain during illness – Working hard or studying with sickness may lead to a decrease in effectiveness of the brain. When we are sick the brain is at its weakest and becomes more easily stressed. This stress can also affect memory.

9. Drinking too little water – Water is the main source of energy and is essential for brain function and activity of neurotransmitters. Dehydration can lead to anger, stress, exhaustion, depression and lack of mental clarity.

Talking Rarely10. Rarely Talking – Intellectual conversations help to train and promote efficiency of the brain. Conversely, lack of stimulating thoughts may cause brain shrinkage. Reading SRxA’s Word on Health and discussing the content with friends is an excellent way to avoid this!  So grab a glass of water and subscribe today. Consider it free brain fuel!

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A Call to End Religious Nutrition

lowcarbQ: “How can you tell if a friend is on a gluten-free diet?”

A: “They’ll tell you.”

Again and again and again… Same joke goes for paleo, low-carbvegan and pretty much any organized dietary strategy that has a defining name and movement behind it.

Along with politics, gun rights, religion and abortion, is one of those areas where people feel comfortable not only sharing their views but do so with incredible conviction, passion and certainty. And yet, nutrition is anything but certain.  Sure, we know there are patterns of eating that help in minimizing the risk of various chronic diseases, but those patterns are far broader and less drilled down than most nutrition gurus and zealots believe.

So, we were very interested in fellow blogger –Yoni Freedhoff’s – recent blog in which he calls for an end of nutrition as religion.  More so, because Yoni is not just another disillusioned dieter. No siree!  He is the Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa.  Dr. Freedhoff has also been called Canada’s most outspoken obesity expert and his award winning blog, Weighty Matters, has at times been ranked the world’s top health blog by blog ranking service Technorati.

So what does Dr Freedhoff have to say?

First, he suggests that practitioners of dietary religion risk alienating friends through strict adherence to their religious commandments.  Second, he states that diet adherents tend to use their online platform to frown upon any and all dietary strategies beyond their house of worship. To question their program or guru’s plans is akin to questioning their religious beliefs; and yet, unlike actual religious questioning (which would almost certainly lead to a thoughtful discussion), question dietary dogma online, and you can bet it will lead to a highly heated debate where anger and indignation can easily descend into name calling and personal attacks.

jesus toastAnd even if you religiously avoid all cyber nutrition nuts, you may still be at risk. According to Freedhoff, although you may not have a stranger’s zealous scrutiny to watch out for, you’ve still got yourself. Dietary dogma, almost by definition, dictates blind faith and absolute loyalty, where breaking a dietary commandment is akin to committing a sin. And with sin, comes guilt. And if you feel guilt often enough, you might well decide to abandon your entire healthier-living, guilt-inducing effort.

Nutrition as religion demands perfection, yet perfection is an impossible goal. Remember, food is not simply fuel. Since the dawn of humankind, food has been used for comfort and celebration, and if your newly found dietary religion forbids foods you enjoy, my bet is you’re not long for that diet.

diet tapemeasureSo what’s the solution?  Freedhoff advises : the easiest question to evaluate any dietary plan or religion is simply, “Could I happily live like this for the rest of my life?” where the most important word in that question is “happily.” If the answer’s “No,” you’ve either got to get comfortable with adding in some sinning, or find another way to go.

Add in some sinning in the form of thoughtful, “worth-it,” dietary imperfections, and suddenly new lifestyles may transform from the merely tolerable to the actually enjoyable. Enjoy your lifestyle, albeit imperfectly, and maybe you’ll even stick with it.

Nutrition isn’t religion. Eat the healthiest diet that you can enjoy, because if you’re not enjoying it, it isn’t going to last, and tolerable isn’t good enough.

Go on, sin a little, on us. The good doctor will forgive you enough to forgive yourself.

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Happy, Healthy Monday

labor daySummer is drawing to a close. And while that makes me more than a little a bit sad, I’ll also be happy to no longer have to overhear  the neighborhood kids whining about how they are bored or the ear-numbing / brain-freezing,  repetitive, tinny tones of the ice cream van.

For those of you waking up in America, there’s another reason to celebrate this Monday morning.  It’s Labor Day – the last hoorah to summer. So go ahead, press the snooze button…and keep the dream alive!

bikini bodyAnd when you do finally come to, go enjoy that pool party, beach trip or family cook out. But remember, even though you may be about to pack away your swimsuit you don’t need to sacrifice your bikini body!

And while indulging in your friend’s tasty casseroles and decadent desserts might sound tempting, we urge you to consider some simple, calorie cutting, healthier options:

  • Slim down your dips:  If you replace half of the mayonnaise or sour cream in your dip recipe with 0% Greek yogurt you will reduce the fat and calories significantly. And why not use sliced veggies for dipping and cucumber instead of crackers in your appetizers.
  • Go easy on the carbs:  Carbohydrates can leave you feeling sluggish and the calories are quickly converted to fat.  So skip the pasta salad and head for the shrimp cocktail instead
  • Skip the soda and beer:  Soft drinks and alcohol have a lot of calories.  Instead, opt for water with lots of ice and some sliced cucumber or citrus in it.
  • veggiesPile on the veggies:  Instead of bacon and cheese on your burgers, choose lettuce, onion, peppers , mushrooms, fresh chili slices and tomato.  They will add a ton of crunch without a lot of fat or calories.  My personal favorite of the year… eggplant sliced lengthwise, drizzled in olive oil and spices then grilled or baked, instead of the bun.  Try it…it’s delicious!
  • Avoid processed foods:  Processed foods are usually high in salt, preservatives and artificial flavors.  Although sandwich meats are a popular Labor Day party food they are highly processed. Slice your own chicken, beef or ham for a tastier, healthier version.

Whatever you eat, whatever you do, whether today is a vacation or not [ and in my case it’s not], let’s start the week healthy!

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Vegetable Fat Slashes Prostate Cancer Deaths

prostate cancerThe link between cancer and diet has been extensively studied, It is known for example that being overweight is related to as many as one in five cancer-related deaths. Weight is most closely connected with cancers of the breast and uterus in postmenopausal women. Other cancers associated with obesity include:

              • Esophagus
              • Pancreas
              • Colon and rectum
              • Kidney
              • Thyroid
              • Gallbladder

But less is known about the association between diet and prostate cancer.  The three well-established risk factors for prostate cancer: are race (specifically, African American race), family history, and age. Unfortunately, these are three things we cannot change. So given this reality, there is much interest in identifying modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer, not least among the roughly 2.5 million men in the United States currently live with prostate cancer.

Now, a new study might provide some hope. It showed that replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetable fat may be associated with a lower risk of death in men with non-metastatic prostate cancer.

olive-oil-walnuts-healthy-fatsErin Richman, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues at UCSF examined fat intake after a diagnosis of prostate cancer in relation to lethal prostate cancer and all-cause mortality in 4,577 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer. Their findings have just been published in Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Between 1986 and 2010, the researchers noted 315 lethal prostate cancer events and 1,064 deaths during a median follow-up of 8.4 years. They also discovered that replacing 10% of calories from carbohydrates with vegetable fat, such as oil or nuts, was associated with a 29% lower risk of lethal prostate cancer and a 26% lower risk of death from all-cause mortality.

Overall, the findings suggest that men with prostate cancer should be advised to follow a heart-healthy diet in which carbohydrate calories are replaced with unsaturated oils and nuts to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality.

And although the exact reason for the reduction in mortality is unknown, the authors conclude; “the potential benefit of vegetable fat consumption for prostate cancer-specific outcomes merits further research.”

SRxA’s Word on Health agrees.

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