Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Reasons You're Gaining Weight

woman on scale
You’ve been trying so hard to shed pounds, but notice the scale tipping the other way. Before you toss your arms up in defeat, perhaps there are reasons why you’re gaining weight that you never thought of. My clients often tell me they’re sure they should be losing weight, but sometimes I point out the little things that really make a difference.
#1: Oil Overkill
Olive oil is a healthy fat—and so are some hyped-up expensive oils like grape seed and macadamia nut oil. Regardless of which type of oil you use, they all contain 120 calories per tablespoon. You need to be VERY careful about how much oil you’re cooking with or using in dressings and marinades.
Solve it: Aim for 1 to 2 teaspoons per person in one sitting to get your oil fix without going overboard.
#2: Unforgiving Take-Out
Do you pick up a bowl of oatmeal or favorite smoothie every morning before work? If you’re not checking the calories or the restaurant doesn’t supply the nutrition facts, you may be eating MANY more calories than you realize. The oatmeal may contain loads of butter and sugar while the smoothie may be a very large portion or made with high-fat dairy products.
Solve it: Know what you’re eating! Inquire about all the ingredients in a dish or dine at an establishment that provides calorie counts. You can also brown-bag your meals and snacks to be 100% certain of what you’re eating.
#3: FroYo Obsession
Frozen yogurt stands are becoming a country-wide snack time favorite. You may be choosing the nonfat, sugar free variety to save calories but may be serving yourself WAY more ounces (and calories) than you realize. And don’t forget the toppings—they count too!
Solve it: Make yogurt a special treat and pay close attention to how many ounces you serve yourself.
Check out our top picks from popular fro yo chains
#4: Mindless Picking
A few gummy bears here and a half a cookie there may not register in your daily food log, but it all counts. Some folks mindlessly pick from their kids’ plates or a co-workers basket of baked goodies. Calculations have determined that seemingly harmless picking can add up to over 1,000 extra calories per day!
Solve it: Be conscious of any food or beverage you take in. Keep a food diary for a week or two to really check where the extra calories are coming from.
#5: Not Enough Zzzz’s
Studies show that it’s tougher to achieve your weight loss goal if you’re not getting enough sleep. Moreover, when you’re exhausted you tend to be less physically active and reach for higher-calorie comfort foods.
Solve it: Aim for 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
#6: Your Meds
Certain medications like oral contraceptives, antidepressants, heartburn meds and those used to control high blood pressure and diabetes can cause weight gain. The amount of weight gained varies from person to person. Oftentimes, the weight gain happens slowly and you don’t notice it until it’s already happened.
Solve it: Before you start a new medication or aren’t sure if weight gain is a side-effect of a current medicine you’re on, speak with your doctor or registered dietitian. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different type of medication, and if not, an RD can help you make sure you’re doing everything you can to minimize weight gain.
#7: Stress
Stress can trigger overeating. After a tough day of work all you want to do is be a coach potato and indulge in a pint of soothing ice cream.
Solve it: Choose 10 minutes a day for “me” time where you relax. This can be in the form of meditation, a bubble bath or walking your pooch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bad Habits = Weight Gain

potato chips
Could too many of these lead to weight gain? You shouldn't be surprised that the answer is yes.
Most studies try to tell us what we should be eating or doing. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed top habits that rack up the pounds. See if the top “bad” habits are some of your own.
Understanding Bad HabitsThe obesity epidemic is costing us our health and money. More than one-third of adults and close to one-fifth of kids in the U.S. are obese. These folks are at a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, and certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated that it costs the U.S. nearly 10 percent of its medical spending to treat these diseases – that’s equivalent to $147 billion a year!
Top Bad HabitsThe study examined ways to prevent obesity before it starts. Researchers followed over 120,000 men and women for 20 years. These folks started at a healthy weight. Their habits (specifically foods, activity, and sleep) and weight were tracked every 4 years.  Here are the top habits that caused weight gain:
  • Food: Eating potato chips, potatoes, sugary drinks, unprocessed red meat (like steak), and processed meat (like deli meats) every day caused the most weight gain.
  • Activity: Watching an hour of TV per day racked up one-third of a pound over 4 years.
  • Sleep: Folks who got less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours of sleep a night were more likely to gain weight.
Top Good HabitsThe study revealed the top habits that these habits help pounds from creeping up.
  • Food: Eating minimally processed foods and more fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains resulted in either weight loss or maintenance of a healthy weight during the study.
  • Activity: Increasing physical activity resulted in less weight gain.
  • Sleep: Folks who slept between 6 to 8 hours of sleep were less likely to gain weight.
Turning Bad Habits AroundThe point of this study is not to banish potato chips and red meat from your diet. Overindulgence leads to trouble (like eating potato chips every day). Start making small changes in these bad habits. For example, eat red meat once a week instead of every day. Replace potato chips with fresh fruit salad, veggies and dip, or a trail mix. Or if you do get a craving for chips, make your own baked crisps rather than buying a bag from the store. Over time, these small changes make a world of a difference.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why you should please ditch the margarine

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by Leanne Ely

A while back, I shared an article giving you the skinny on fats. I gave you an overview of good fats, information about how to use them and what fats and oils I don't recommend.

Once upon a time (in the 80s and 90s), we were told that butter was evil.

We were told that its saturated fats would clog our arteries and that we could be saved by using margarine which is made with "heart healthy oils."

We were also told that margarine would lower blood pressure and cholesterol. And, that it would help us to lose weight; it would make us healthy.

This is not true. None of it.  We certainly weren't told that vegetable oil-based margarine would actually increase our risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

Margarine is made from vegetable oils--oils that are chemically extracted from soybeans, rapeseeds (canola oil), sunflowers, corn, safflowers, etc.

Vegetable oils really didn't exist in the food chain until the 1900s when new technology allowed for chemical processes to extract these oils.

Think about this.

Chemical processing is required in order for these oils to exist. They come from factories where seeds from genetically modified crops (which have been treated with pesticides) are processed until they resemble oil.

In the production of canola oil, rapeseeds are heated and processed with petroleum solvents in order to extract the oil. Acid is then added  to get rid of wax and other unappealing solids that come from the first process, and then there's more heating. Chemicals are needed at this point in order to make the color a bit more appetizing. Because the smell after all this processing is quite nasty, chemical deodorants are also added.

Now, if this canola oil is to be transformed into margarine, it needs to be made solid, so it has to undergo more processing known as hydrogenation. See, unlike natural saturated fats like butter and coconut oil, which are solid at cold temperatures, vegetable oil is a liquid. So, through this hydrogenation process, transfats are born.

Let's compare all this to the process required to make butter:

You milk a cow, let the cream separate to the top, remove the cream and shake the cream. Ta da, butter.

So, if all this talk of chemicals and processing doesn't shy you away from putting margarine on your dinner table, let me see if I can change your mind by telling you what happens once it's in your body.

The human body is not made to process man-made fats.

The human body is made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats. We can not be afraid of fat. We need fat. We need fat to burn fat. We need fat to make hormones and to build cells. The body needs fats, but it can only work with the fats we give it to work with.

Ever put diesel in a gasoline burning car? Doesn't work so well, does it?

Well, when we feed our bodies vegetable oils, we're giving it polyunsaturated fats instead of the saturated and monounsaturated fats that the body recognizes. Even though our bodies don't know what to do with it, without a recognizable alternative, we have no choice but to use that processed oil to build and repair cells.

Polyunsaturated fats are very unstable. They easily oxidize inside the human body. When cells are made from polyunsaturated fats, they can become mutated (leading to an increased chance of cancer) and inflammation occurs. This inflammation can clog our arteries. Vegetable oils lead to an imbalance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels, which is strongly linked to cancer.

The body needs a nice equal balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Unfortunately, lots of folks eat more Omega-6 fats than Omega 3s. This is not good.

Vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are quite easily oxidized in the body when we're exposed to light or heat. When skin cells are fed these fats and oils and are directly exposed to the sun . . . well,  you have the perfect conditions for increased skin cancer risk.

I came across a study from the University of Sydney where mice who were fed saturated fats were totally protected from skin cancer after being irradiated. The mice in the group being fed polyunsaturated fats very quickly developed skin cancer. Later in the study, those mice who'd been fed saturated fats were given polyunsaturated fats and were again irradiated. They developed skin cancer.

Similar studies have been conducted to show a link between vegetable oil and heart disease. These studies show that there is a relationship  between increased margarine consumption and increased heart attacks. Conversely, a correlation was also shown between increased butter consumption and a decline in heart attacks.

I could go on all day about this, but I think this should be enough to open your eyes enough to start thinking about using real butter instead of man-made margarine and vegetable oils.

Just get rid of it. Refer to that article I referenced before and find some alternatives you can get good and comfortable with! And don't be afraid of butter! (Bonus points if you find grass-fed butter!)