When it Comes to Weight Loss, One Size Does Not Fit All

Bathroom Scale

An article that appeared today in the health section of http://www.nbcnews.com highlighted the story of a woman and her husband who embarked on a weight loss journey together. A big part of the article talks about what sparked the change and how the two of them set out to make healthy changes in their lives. Their choices and approach are instructive and are highlighted in the article in a sensible way.

Samantha Cassety, a dietitian and weight-loss expert in NYC whose articles I have referenced in the past, drew some conclusions from this story.

  • Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived has less of a chance of success in the long run. Recognize what you need and make sure you get at least some of it.
  • Having a supportive partner–or someone who is going through the process with you–can bolster chances of sticking to the plan. Joining forces with someone else to get healthy is a powerful thing.
  • In contrast to the top bullet point, identify not only what doesn’t work for you, but what does work for you. The process is highly personal and what is beneficial for one person won’t necessarily be effective for someone else. One size does not fit all.
  • Watch your weight in a way that makes sense. Monitoring is important–whether it is daily, weekly or at some other interval. This is especially helpful in triggering you back to the right path after vacations, holidays, etc., where eating habits may have changed. One size does not fit all, so find what is best for you.
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers; be aware of what comes with healthy habits: increased energy, greater mobility, ability to participate in activities, clothing fitting better, etc.

The main point is really that the process must be specialized to each person. Recognize negative triggers. Understand what you need. Understand your weaknesses and strengths. Find others who will support you or join you in your journey.

The healthy choices we make today, affect the health we have tomorrow.

To read the full article, go to: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-woman-lost-80-pounds-visual-cue-sparked-her-weight-ncna1059276

What Happens When You Only Read the Headline

Police arrest Batman

An interesting article appeared on http://www.cnn.com a few days ago with the following headline: “Vegetarians might have higher risk of stroke than meat eaters, study says.” NOOOOOOOO!

I have been a pescatarian for nearly 15 years and this news was shocking to me…or, at least, the headline was. Read the article, and one gets a very different story.

Although there is a higher risk of stroke (which some believe was a conclusion reached incorrectly by the researchers due to their misuse of “weighting” in the study), vegetarians are at a much lower risk of heart disease. In fact, the lower risk to heart health far outweighs the risk of stroke.

What was the “weighting?” The study took into account in classifying study subjects that vegetarians are, in general, more healthy than meat-eaters. Well, duh. The study comes from BMJ, a very well-respected journal out of London, UK. The article from CNN, though, suggests that more research is needed. So, nothing like publishing a misleading headline about an inconclusive and possible flawed study. I guess that is what they mean by click-bait.

By the way, pescatarians are not at the same risk of stroke and reap most of the benefits with regard to heart health. So you may still want to put those ribs down and reach for some halibut or salmon.

A warning: don’t just get your news from reading headlines–be they about health or any other topic–spend the few minutes needed to read the article–especially before you post it online or share it with friends.

Here is the link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/04/health/vegetarian-vegan-diet-stroke-heart-disease-risk-intl/index.html

You May Want to Put Down that French Fry

AFB067

I’m not sure if this is child abuse, but it certainly sounds like child neglect. Here is the first line of the article: “A British teenager who had been a ‘fussy eater’ since elementary school lost his vision and suffered significant hearing loss due to his yearslong diet of junk food, according to a case report published Monday.”

It goes on to describe how this “picky eater” began to suffer symptoms as a result of his diet at around age 14. By the time he was 17, he had hearing loss and was considered legally blind. Wow! I feel sorry for this kid–no really, I do.

First, I feel badly that he has to endure these health issues. Second, I feel badly that neither his parents/guardians/teachers/doctors had the cajones to do something about it. Children should not be making healthcare-related decisions–and I believe this is one; that is up to parents until a child turns 18.

The article explains that the child’s issue had to do with the texture of certain foods. This sounds like an autism spectrum issue, but that should not be an excuse for poor nutrition. To rely on fish & chips, processed ham slices and sausage, Pringles and white bread is simply not acceptable…and part of the blame has to go to those who cared for him. I have a son on the autism spectrum and while he certainly had his preferences about food–as did each of my kids–I made sure that he had well-balanced meals that he enjoyed.

As for the rest of us, this is a warning. It does matter what we eat. Our bodies need to be properly fueled. They will not function if certain nutrients are absent. While it is true that we can take supplements to make up the difference (I take Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and Multivitamin every day), there is no substitute for a healthy, mostly non-processed, balanced diet.

Are french fries evil? Will they blind our next generation? No and no. While not the healthiest choice, the occasional serving of french fries is OK…and depending on where you get them, they may even be good for your mental health! Just don’t overdo it.

Here is the link to the full article: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/blinded-junk-food-teen-loses-eyesight-years-long-bad-diet-n1049181

An Intermittent Fasting Success Story

Stopwatch

Here is a story from http://www.cnn.com that talks about this nutrition trend. I like that it also focuses on their exercise journey.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/26/health/intermittent-fasting-jared-sklar-wellness-live-longer/index.html


I don’t know if I could be that strict–only eating between noon and 8 pm–but it seems to work for some people.

Fasting and Intermittent Fasting

empty plate

Today on the Jewish calendar is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av; it is a 25-hour fast that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Ancient Jerusalem. Aside from Yom Kippur, it is the only full fast (others just go from sunrise to sunset)…and I’ve got about 6 hours to go.

The goal of the fast (which is the case on Yom Kippur too) is not to lose weight or to suffer greatly, but rather to focus less on the physical and more on the metaphysical. Tisha B’Av causes those who observe it to reflect on the history of the Jewish people: the enemies who have arisen against us from the outside, as well as the enemies from within. Not having to think about eating (which isn’t easy), allows the day to be mostly spiritual, and also gives us a small taste of the suffering of our ancestors.

Interestingly, fasting has been a hot trend in the diet/fitness world the last several years. In particular, a lot of attention has been paid to Intermittent Fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting? There are several versions. One way to do it is to restrict eating to only certain times of the day (generally an 8-hour period). Others fast one or two days out of the week. Others choose 1-3 days to eat a very restricted calorie count (say around 500 KCals) during the week, and eat normally the rest of the week. The science behind it is that during the fasting periods, the body is required to burn fat in order to maintain its regular functions; in particular, this kind of fasting seems to target belly fat. Other health benefits may include better control of insulin and cholesterol levels.

Why this is appealing to many is that you don’t have to think about calories or only eating certain kinds of food. The process is very simple: eat during certain times and not during others. This can also simplify the dieting process: no need for extensive reading of labels, less meals to plan , etc. Of course, one shouldn’t assume that during non-fasting times root beer floats, corned beef sandwiches and tubs of whipped topping should be the staples of the diet. As always, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and less-processed foods are recommended.

I started doing Intermittent Fasting many years ago not really knowing that it was a “thing.” I noticed that I grazed a LOT after dinner, and it added up to hundreds of calories. I made a rule for myself that I still follow pretty closely: after dinner, no eating! I can drink calorie-free liquids, but that is it. (I do make exceptions for special occasions but don’t go crazy). I found that it helps me control my weight and that my cravings for after-dinner snacks quickly subsided.

There is admittedly a big difference between the kind of religious fasting to which many of us are accustomed (Ramadan, Yom Kippur, etc.), but there is a commonality as well. While one focuses on a physiological goal and the other on a more spiritual goal, both require self-control and self-sacrifice. Both also are means to an end: either greater physical health or greater spiritual awareness.

Readers, I would be interested to know how many of you have tried Intermittent Fasting, or if you currently practice it now. What are the challenges and what are the advantages? What are the results you have seen?

I am a believer–as long as it is done in moderation. Before jumping into Intermittent Fasting, though, do some research and talk to your physician. Be safe and be healthy.

There are many articles on the topic on-line, but a good introduction is: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide .

Wishing those observing Tisha B’Av a meaningful fast.

Is “Eating Clean” a Dirty Word(s)?

sshhh. dont say it! the x-word is the un-word of the day. and tomorrow!

As some of you may recall from my June 17 post “What I Hadn’t Counted on After Surgery,” I am working on taking off the weight that I put on after my foot surgery. I had even turned to a subscription weight-loss app to help me; the jury is still out on that.

I have been counting calories using the app and generally feel like I am depriving myself of a lot of stuff I really like…(mmmm, pastry). Not seeing the results I would like yet, but I am being patient. I am also trying to follow the advice that I give to others about what they eat: a lot less processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.

In my mind, I am trying to remind myself to “eat clean.” I first heard this term from a personal trainer and wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Turns out, there is no one definition of what eating clean means. To me, it means trying to eat the right stuff–cutting out junk foods, fatty foods and overly-processed foods.

Turns out that the term “eat clean” has some pretty serious connotations for a lot of people. There are those who argue that this kind of terminology makes moral judgments. I think this is a bit far-fetched. A donut is a donut; it does not have moral implications. It has no moral force for me, but for others it does. Can eating a brownie make a person feel somehow “less than?” I guess so.

A recent article by Samantha Cassety (who else?) was published on http://www.nbcnews.com today, exploring this issue: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/better-way-think-about-clean-eating-ncna1020996 . She gives what I consider to be sane advice about approaching “clean eating.” Cassety recognizes the complexity of the concept for many, but says it need not lead to negative results. Each of us can create our own definition of what eating clean means–one that is helpful to us rather than intimidating or shaming.

Beyond the journey that I am on now to lose the weight that accumulated after my surgery, I know that I want to continue to eat in healthy ways after I hit my goal. It is not about being “clean” as a opposed to being “dirty,” but rather about remembering that I am what I eat. While I may not see this directly as a moral issue, I do see it as a way to help me live a longer and healthier life.

What I Hadn’t Counted on After Surgery

Scales

It has been 9 weeks since my surgeries on my leg and foot. The recovery has been more arduous and painful than I expected. And I have learned a lot.

It is only since I began physical therapy exercises a couple of weeks ago that i finally began to see progress in my mobility and levels of pain. As a personal trainer, I am on my feet a lot; after a month of putting no weight on my foot, the shock of doing that again was dramatic. After having been off pain medications, I went back on again for a short time. I’m still taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol–although a lot less now. It has only been in the last week that I finally have been able to go through a large part of the day without pain.

To those of you doing PT…listen to the instructions and do what you are told! It makes a difference. PTs are amazing skilled health professionals and I am really impressed with their ability to spot (diagnose) issues and recommend the appropriate exercises. I even “borrow” some of them for clients who have similar complaints.

Here is what I really did not expect. I put on quite a bit of weight–about a 5% gain. This is due to a number of issues. I was forced to be sedentary. Medications (especially pain meds) messed with my system. I did not eat as I normally did since I was sitting around with little to do but…snack. My exercise regimen was interrupted.

I have been trying for over 6 weeks to get back to my pre-surgery weight and really been finding it difficult. I finally turned to a subscription weight-loss app. Too soon to say if I am making progress, but the tracking of calories is scary as hell and definitely showing me where I am making mistakes. I will let you know if it works.

It is noteworthy that weight gain is quite common after many different kinds of surgery. It is also notable that few doctors warn their patients that this is a possibility and to prepare for it–physically and emotionally. I wish I had known; not that it would necessarily have made a difference, but I believe that knowledge is power.

My big takeaway? With regard to both the pain and weight gain after surgery, patience is required. Others who have had foot surgery have told me to not give up hope or get anxious; it takes a while for recovery. This is true of nearly any surgery. I now see a pain-free light at the end of the tunnel, but it took me longer to get here than I thought it would. With regard to the weight, I am also learning that what took 8 weeks to come on will not come off in 8 days. Slow and steady wins the race.

At some point, most of us will have to undergo some kind of surgery; in my experience, I never felt like I adequately understood what the recovery would be like (if we did, would we ever agree to the procedure?!?). If there is a next time, I will ask more questions, adjust my expectations, and remember that there is a reason why we are called patients!