Do you want to lose 10, 30, 50 or more pounds? Have you recently reached your weight loss goal but want to maintain it? Are you willing to dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle? Then this blog is for you!

I have lost 118 pounds and have maintained the weight loss for two years. One of the things I have learned during the weight loss process is that it is much easier to reach and maintain your goal weight if you surround yourself with like-minded individuals to support you in the process (whether they be in person or online).

I also have learned that learning as much as possible about healthy living gives you the knowledge and expertise needed to lose weight the “right” way. So this blog includes regular posts, a book list, website list, TV list, video list and book and website of the month. In addition, there is a recipe of the month and product review section. Visitors to Weight Loss Aficionado can just enjoy the site for informational purposes or can comment on posts, ask questions, share resources, their triumphs and pitfalls during the weight loss process.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Sleep Well To Support Your Weight Loss!

One of the great things about using Body Media FIT is that it measures your sleep efficiency. After reviewing my data for several months I was surprised to see that although I am lying down 7-8 hours each evening my sleep efficiency on average was only 80%! The data in my Body Media FIT account showed I move in and out of sleep throughout the night.

Sleep efficiency is the ratio of time spent asleep to the amount of time spent lying down in bed. Until I started using the system I thought I was sleeping the entirety of the 7- 8 hours I was lying down. Obviously, I was wrong about that! Below is a great article on ways to improve your sleep efficiency, which will in turn support your weight loss efforts.



Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to sleep. Tossing and turning. Your mind is racing, going over everything that happened today. Night noises keep you awake. What can you do? There ARE things you can do! Read on and learn some new tricks to sleep well. These tips are also known as "Sleep Hygiene."
Sleep only when sleepy
This reduces the time you are awake in bed.
If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy
Sit quietly in the dark or read the warranty on your refrigerator. Don't expose yourself to bright light while you are up. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.

Don't take naps
This will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can't make it through the day without a nap, sleep less than one hour, before 3 pm.
Get up and go to bed the same time every day
Even on weekends! When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, you will feel better.
Refrain from exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime
Regular exercise is recommended to help you sleep well, but the timing of the workout is important. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep.
Develop sleep rituals
It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine free tea, do relaxation exercises.
Only use your bed for sleeping
Refrain from using your bed to watch TV, pay bills, do work or reading. So when you go to bed your body knows it is time to sleep. Sex is the only exception.
Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bed
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, chocolate and some prescription and non-prescription drugs contain caffeine. Cigarettes and some drugs contain nicotine. Alcohol may seem to help you sleep in the beginning as it slows brain activity, but you will end up having fragmented sleep.
Have a light snack before bed
If your stomach is too empty, that can interfere with sleep. However, if you eat a heavy meal before bedtime, that can interfere as well. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Tryptophan is probably why a warm glass of milk is sometimes recommended.
Take a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime
A hot bath will raise your body temperature, but it is the drop in body temperature that may leave you feeling sleepy. Read about the study done on body temperature below.
Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable
A hot room can be uncomfortable. A cooler room along with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended. If light in the early morning bothers you, get a blackout shade or wear a slumber mask. If noise bothers you, wear earplugs or get a "white noise" machine.
Use sunlight to set your biological clock
As soon as you get up in the morning, go outside and turn your face to the sun for 15 minutes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sleep at Least 7 Hours (preferably 8) Each Day!

The three most important things you can do if you want to lose weight is exercise, eat right (stick to a reduced calorie diet) and sleep at least 7 hours a day. Below is a great article on the connection between lack of sleep and being overweight or obese.

Learn About Sleep Deprivation and Obesity
Explore the Research Surrounding an Unexpected Relationship

By Brandon Peters, M.D., Guide
Updated May 23, 2011

What is the relationship between sleep deprivation and obesity? More than one-third of American adults are now obese. This epidemic has been worsening over the past several decades. There are a number of contributing factors, including: excessive caloric intake, decreased physical activity, the interaction between genes and environment, and cultural influences. Over this same period of time, Americans have been sleeping less, and some researchers have begun investigating whether sleep deprivation might contribute to obesity.

We sleep as much as one-quarter less than our ancestors did, with average total sleep time decreasing from 9 hours in 1900 to less than 7 hours over the past 10 years. In 2001, researchers found that sleeping less than 6 hours per night and remaining awake past midnight increased the likelihood of obesity. In 2002, a study of 1.1 million people found that increasing body mass index (BMI) occurred when habitual sleep amounts fell below 7 to 8 hours.

A study done in Virginia in 2005 showed that overweight and obese individuals slept less than subjects of normal weight. Another study in Wisconsin in 2004 showed that when sleeping less than 8 hours, the increase in BMI was proportional to the amount of decreased sleep.

Since 1992, 13 studies of more than 45,000 children have supported the inverse relationship between hours of sleep and risk of obesity. As children sleep less, they are more at risk of becoming obese. In an interesting 2005 study, Reilly reported in the British Medical Journal that short sleep duration at age 30 months predicts obesity at age 7 years, suggesting that poor sleep may have a permanent impact on part of the brain called the hypothalamus that regulates both appetite and energy expenditure.

Laboratory studies tend to support the data from all these population studies. As early as 1999, Spiegel examined sleep restriction and the effect on metabolism by sleep restricting subjects to 4 hours per night for one week. This led to impaired glucose tolerance (a marker of insulin resistance and diabetes) and changes in hormones related to weight gain and hypertension. The changes were reversible with normal sleep times.

In 2004, Spiegel examined the effect of sleep restriction on hormones related to hunger and appetite. It was found that sleep restriction reduced the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite, by 18%. It also increased the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, by 28%. For comparison, 3 days of underfeeding by 900 calories per day causes leptin to decrease by 22%. Moreover, subjects showed subjectively increased appetite for calorie-dense foods with high carbohydrate content.

How might disruption of the body’s natural clock, called the circadian rhythm, through sleep deprivation affect metabolic hormones that regulate appetite? This is the cutting edge of the current research, and a question that has yet to be answered.

  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, McDowell MA, Flegal KM. Obesity among adults in the United States – no change since 2003—2004. NCHS data brief no 1. National Center for Health Statistics 2007. 
  • Overweight and Obesity: Contributing Factors . Centers for Disease Control. Accessed: September 25, 2008.
  • Prinz, P. Sleep, Appetite, and Obesity–What is the Link? Public Library of Science and Medicine. December 2004. 1:186-188.
  • Sleep in America Polls. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed September 25, 2008.
  • Spiegel, K. Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The Lancet. October 23, 1999. 354:1435-1439.
  • Spiegel, K. et al. Brief Communication: Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men Is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine. December 7, 2004. 141:846-851.
  •  Taheri, S. Sleep and metabolism: Bringing pieces of the jigsaw together. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2007. 11:159-162.
  • Taheri, S. et al. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index (BMI). Sleep. 2004. 27:146-147.
  • Vorona, R. et al. Overweight and Obese Patients in a Primary Care Population Report Less Sleep Than Patients With a Normal Body Mass Index. Archives of Internal Medicine. Jan 10, 2005. 165:25-30.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Find Your Fat Burning Zone!

How to Find (and Use)Your Fat-Burning Zone
By Ben Greenfield, Fitness and Triathlon Expert- Huffington Post

Your body's most efficient energy source is fat. Just one pound of stored fat can provide about 3,600 calories of energy, which is far more than most people actually burn in a single day. In comparison, a pound of storage protein or carbohydrate provides less than half that much energy. 

Since it's so efficient to use as energy, your body relies primarily on fat during rest and during relatively slow and easy physical activity. But once you begin moving quickly, your body begins to burn more carbohydrates, since fat doesn't provide energy as quickly as carbohydrates. When you need to get from point A to point B quickly (like a running race), or need to hoist a heavy object overhead (like weight training), your body needs more immediate energy, and that's where carbohydrates come in. They don't provide as much energy, but they certainly provide it far faster than fat.

So when you move from a standstill to a walk to a jog to an all-out sprint, your body begins to tap into carbohydrates more and more, while gradually reducing reliance on fat as a fuel. 

Of course, it's important to remember that as you move faster, you're burning more overall calories, too -- so while the percentage of fat used as a fuel is decreasing, the total fat calories you burn might still be increasing since your overall calorie burn is significantly increasing. And this is where the "maximum fat-burning zone" comes in.

If you burn 200 calories per hour while walking, and get 60 percent of those calories from fat, then you burn 120 fat calories per hour. But if you burn 600 calories per hour while jogging, and only burn 40 percent fat during that time, you burn 240 calories of fat per hour, twice as many as when you were walking. You're burning more overall fat calories, but using less fat as a percentage of your overall fuel utilization. Using this concept, you can approximate the point at which fat burning peaks during exercise -- aka, your "maximum fat-burning zone."

The maximum fat-burning zone typically occurs at 45-65 percent of your maximum heart rate, and that is the calculation ordinarily used by personal trainers or gym machines. They'll take the number 220, subtract your age to find your maximum heart rate, and then take 45-65 percent of that number to find your maximum fat-burning zone.

But the result you get from this method is highly variable and tends to be inaccurate, primarily because your maximum heart rate is highly variable, and that 220 equation doesn't pinpoint it very well. So here is a better way to find your maximum fat-burning zone:

Warm up on a bicycle for 10 minutes. An indoor bicycle is better, since there's no traffic, hills, etc.

1.     Pedal at your maximum sustainable pace for 20 minutes. You should be breathing hard and your legs should be burning, but you should be able to maintain the same intensity for the full 20 minutes. If you're looking at RPM, go for about 70-90 pedal turns per minute.
2.     Record your average heart rate during those 20 minutes by using a heart rate monitor or the handles on an exercise machine.
3.     Subtract 20 beats from that heart rate. Add and subtract three beats from the resulting number to get a range, and that is your maximum fat burning zone.

For example, if your average heart rate was 160, 160-20 is 140, 140+3 is 143, 140-3 is 137, and so your maximum fat-burning zone is when you have a heart rate of 137-143 beats per minute.

Compared to the results that I have obtained from hundreds of individuals in a professional exercise physiology lab with all sorts of gas masks and gadgets, this method obtains very similar results. 

Finally, remember that the maximum fat-burning doesn't necessarily burn a high number of calories; and if you do all your exercise in that zone, you won't necessarily develop strong lungs or muscles, or much fitness or athleticism. As a matter of fact, because they burn so many calories and boost your metabolism so much, hard cardio bursts and weight training help you lose fat much faster than exercising in your maximum fat-burning zone.

So your ideal workout program should combine cardiovascular exercise in your maximum fat-burning zone (for example, in the morning or on easier, recovery days) with a combination of resistance training and cardio intervals that go above the fat-burning zone (for example, on afternoons or alternate days). Here is a sample workout week that incorporates the fat-burning zone:

  • Day 1: Strength training -- 30-60 minutes
  • Day 2: Peak fat-burning zone cardio -- 30-60 minutes
  • Day 3: Cardio intervals -- 30-60 minutes
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Strength training -- 30-60 minutes
  • Day 6: Peak fat-burning zone cardio -- 30-60 minutes
  • Day 7: Cardio intervals -- 30-60 minutes

With the workout above, you give your body a chance to burn fat fast with the resistance training and cardio intervals, but you also get to utilize easier days to burn fat in your maximum fat-burning zone, without quite as much strain on the body.
So now that you know how to find your maximum fat-burning zone, it's time to head to the gym and do your test!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Make a Skinny Muffin In 60 Seconds!

Last week Jorge Cruise (The Belly Fat Cure) was a guest on the Doctor Oz show. He demonstrated a recipe called the “Morning Microwave Muffin”. It is also called the Skinny Muffin on Cruise's Facebook page. It takes 1 minute to make in the microwave and is made of ultra-healthy ingredients! The main ingredient, Flaxseed has omega-3, lignans and dietary fiber. 

As per the Dr. Oz website, "Traditional energy bars are often packed with sugar, which can cause a spike and a subsequent crash. These muffins are designed to provide sustainable energy that lasts through lunch, thanks to coconut oil, a healthy fat that’s good for your brain, fiber-rich flaxseed and egg protein."

So, this weekend I went and bought the ingredients at my favorite store Trader Joe’s. I bought “Bob’s Red Mill Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal”, Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil” and “Trader Joe’s Baking Powder”. I had the rest of the items at home already. 

I just put all the items in a mini loaf sized dish (I didn’t have an appropriate mug liked used on the Dr. Oz show). Then, since I don’t like Stevia, and I have a sweet tooth, I substituted the Stevia with four packets of equal.  I then mixed all the ingredients well and put it in the microwave for 60 seconds. 

I turned it over onto a plate and put my “Calorie Free Walden Farms Strawberry Fruit Spread” on it. It was delicious! Surprisingly the four packets of equal gave it a mild sweetness. If you have a sweet tooth you should add more. I think I will be eating this a few times a week for breakfast! 

Here's the recipe:

One thing Jorge Cruise did not give us was the nutritional information. So, I calculated it. See the information below:

Skinny Muffin
Nutritional Information

230 Calories
Cholesterol 215 mg
Total fat 18.5 g
Saturated Fat 6.5 g
Polysaturated Fat 9 g
Monosaturated Fat 2 g
Carbs 9 g
Soluble Fiber 2 g
Insoluble Fiber 3 g
Protein 12g
Sodium 120 mg
Vitamin A 6%
Calcium 10%
Iron 12%

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Keep Track of Your Sugar and Carb Intake!

Last week I decided to not only to watch my calorie intake and my exercise but to also watch my carb and sugar intake.  As per Jorge Crusie (The Belly Fat Cure) you should consume no more than 15 grams of sugar a day and no more than 6 servings of carbs (up to 20 grams of carbs a serving). So for the last week, each day I checked my carb and sugar intake. What I learned is, keeping my sugar intake at below 15 grams a day is easy for me. What is not easy is sticking to the 6 servings of carbs (no more than 120 grams)! Six servings seemed like a lot. I rarely eat starches so I shouldn’t have a problem I thought! Boy, was I wrong! Four out of 7 days I went over! 

So I started looking at my Bodymedia data. Did you know that strawberries, mushrooms, raisins, mandarin oranges and Greek yogurt all have carbs! I was beginning to think every food I ate had carbs! 

Then came the kicker! I haven’t  had regular Coke in years. But a friend brought cans of soda over two months ago and there was one can left sitting in my refrigerator. Since I was curious to remember what “real” soda tasted like, I took a few sips then looked at the nutritional info: 140 calories, makes sense because all of the sugar, then I looked at the carbs 39.8! Soda has carbs, I thought to myself! That’s two servings according to Jorge Cruise.

So I did some research. Here is the definition of carbohydrates from the American Heritage Dictionary:

Any of a group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses, and gums and serves as a major energy source in the diet of animals. These compounds are produced by photosynthetic plants and contain only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually in the ratio 1:2:1.

Then I read the two informative articles below; one from Harvard School of Public Health and one from Now I think I know all I need to about carbs!

The Nutrition Source-Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way

Harvard School of Public Health



We've come a long way from the days when one of the knee-jerk answers to the question "What should I eat?" was "You can't go wrong with carbohydrates." We now know that carbohydrates, the staple of most diets, aren't all good or all bad. Some kinds promote health while others, when eaten often and in large quantities, actually increase the risk for diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The wild popularity of the Atkins, South Beach, and other low-carbohydrate diets led many Americans to believe that carbohydrates are "bad," the source of unflattering flab, and a cause of the obesity epidemic. That's a dangerous oversimplification, on a par with "fat is bad." Easily digested carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods may, indeed, contribute to weight gain and interfere with weight loss. Whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and other sources of intact carbohydrates do just the opposite—they promote good health.

Don't be misled by the blanket pronouncements on the dangers of carbohydrates. They are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function. The best sources of carbohydrates—fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains—deliver essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.


What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.

The basic building block of every carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, a simple union of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Starches and fibers are essentially chains of sugar molecules. Some contain hundreds of sugars. Some chains are straight, others branch wildly.

Carbohydrates were once grouped into two main categories. Simple carbohydrates included sugars such as fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates included everything made of three or more linked sugars. Complex carbohydrates were thought to be the healthiest to eat, while simple carbohydrates weren't so great. It turns out that the picture is more complicated than that.

The digestive system handles all carbohydrates in much the same way—it breaks them down (or tries to break them down) into single sugar molecules, since only these are small enough to cross into the bloodstream. It also converts most digestible carbohydrates into glucose (also known as blood sugar), because cells are designed to use this as a universal energy source.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

Adults need at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day for good health. But most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. Fiber is an exception. It is put together in such a way that it can't be broken down into sugar molecules, and so it passes through the body undigested. Fiber comes in two varieties: soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not. Although neither type nourishes the body, they promote health in many ways. Soluble fiber binds to fatty substances in the intestines and carries them out as a waste, thus lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol). It also helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Insoluble fiber helps push food through the intestinal tract, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation.


When Sugar Management Goes Awry: Insulin and Diabetes

When you eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which then enters the blood. As blood sugar levels rise, special cells in the pancreas churn out more and more insulin, a hormone that signals cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. As cells sponge up blood sugar, its levels in the bloodstream begin to fall. That's when other cells in the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that tells the liver to start releasing stored sugar. This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar.

In some people, this cycle doesn't work properly. People with type 1 diabetes (once called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) don't make enough insulin, so their cells can't absorb sugar. People with type 2 diabetes (once called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset diabetes) generally start out with a different problem—their cells don't respond well to insulin's "open up for sugar" signal. This condition, known as insulin resistance, causes blood sugar and insulin levels to stay high long after eating. Over time, the heavy demands made on the insulin-making cells wears them out, and insulin production slows, then stops.
Researchers estimate that 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through a combination of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.Insulin resistance isn't just a blood sugar problem. It has also been linked with a variety of other problems, including high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and excess weight. In fact, it travels with these problems so often that the combination has been given the name metabolic syndrome. (1) Alone and as part of the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and possibly some cancers.

Genes, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and a diet rich in processed carbohydrates can each promote insulin resistance. (The combination is far worse.) Data from the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study suggests that cutting back on refined grains and eating more whole grains in their place can improve insulin sensitivity. (2) As described in "Health Gains from Whole Grains", the benefit of eating whole grains extends far beyond insulin to helping prevent type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis (the build-up of cholesterol-filled patches that clog and narrow artery walls), heart disease, colorectal cancer, and premature death from noncardiac, noncancer causes.


Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Index

Dividing carbohydrates into simple and complex makes sense on a chemical level. But it doesn't do much to explain what happens to different kinds of carbohydrates inside the body. For example, the starch in white bread and French-fried potatoes clearly qualifies as a complex carbohydrate. Yet the body converts this starch to blood sugar nearly as fast as it processes pure glucose. Fructose (fruit sugar) is a simple carbohydrate, but it has a minimal effect on blood sugar.

A new system, called the glycemic index, aims to classify carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar compared to pure glucose.(3) Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar. Foods with a score of 70 or higher are defined as having a high glycemic index; those with a score of 55 or below have a low glycemic index.

Glycemic Index
Many factors can affect a food's glycemic index, including the following:
  • Processing: Grains that have been milled and refined—removing the bran and the germ—have a higher glycemic index than whole grains.
  • Type of starch. Starch comes in many different configurations. Some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. The starch in potatoes, for example, is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.
  • Fiber content. The sugars in fiber are linked in ways that the body has trouble breaking. The more fiber a food has, the less digestible carbohydrate, and so the less sugar it can deliver.
  • Ripeness. Ripe fruits and vegetables tend to have more sugar than unripe ones, and so tend to have a higher glycemic index.
  • Fat content and acid content. The more fat or acid a food or meal contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Physical form. Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested, and so has a higher glycemic index, than more coarsely ground grain.

The most comprehensive list of the glycemic index of foods was published in the July 2002, issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (4) It included almost 750 foods, ranging from angel food cake to yams. The University of Sydney in Australia maintains an updated searchable database at that now has almost 1,600 entries.

Diets rich in high-glycemic-index foods, which cause quick and strong increases in blood sugar levels, have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, (5) heart disease, (6, 7) and overweight, (8, 9,10) and there is preliminary work linking high-glycemic diets to age-related macular degeneration, (11) ovulatory infertility, (12) and colorectal cancer. (13) Foods with a low glycemic index have been shown to help control type 2 diabetes and improve weight loss. Other studies, though, have found that the glycemic index has little effect on weight or health. This sort of flip-flop is part of the normal process of science, and it means that the true value of the glycemic index remains to be determined. In the meantime, eating whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables—all foods with a low glycemic index—is indisputably good for many aspects of health.

One of the most important factors that determine a food's glycemic index is how much it has been processed. Milling and grinding removes the fiber-rich outer bran and the vitamin- and mineral-rich inner germ, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. (See the sidebar, Nutrition In-Depth, for more information on what affects a food's glycemic index.)

One thing that a food's glycemic index does not tell us is how much digestible carbohydrate it delivers. Take watermelon as an example. The sweet-tasting fruit has a very high glycemic index. But a slice of watermelon has only a small amount of carbohydrate per serving (as the name suggests, watermelon is made up mostly of water). That's why researchers developed a related way to classify foods that takes into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food and the impact of that carbohydrate on blood sugar levels. This measure is called the glycemic load. (14, 15) A food's glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate it contains. In general, a glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium, and 10 or under is low.

You can't use the glycemic index to rule your dietary choices. For example, a Snickers bar has a glycemic index of 41, marking it as a low glycemic index food. But it is far from a health food. Instead, use it as a general guide. Whenever possible, replace highly processed grains, cereals, and sugars with minimally processed whole grain products. And only eat potatoes—once on the list of preferred complex carbohydrates—occasionally because of their high glycemic index and glycemic load. 


Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Choose Good Carbs, not No Carbs

Some popular diets treat carbohydrates as if they are evil, the root of all body fat and excess weight. That was certainly true for the original Atkins diet, which popularized the no-carb approach to dieting. And there is some evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet, although so far, that evidence is short term.

In two short, head-to-head trials, (16, 17) low-carb approaches worked better than low-fat diets. A later year-long study, published in 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed the same thing. In this study, overweight, premenopausal women went on one of four diets: Atkins, Zone, Ornish, or LEARN, a standard low-fat, moderately high-carbohydrate diet. The women in all four groups steadily lost weight for the first six months, with the most rapid weight loss occurring among the Atkins dieters. After that, most of the women started to regain weight. At the end of a year, it looked as though the women in the Atkins group had lost the most weight, about 10 pounds, compared with a loss of almost 6 pounds for the LEARN group, 5 for the Ornish group, and 3.5 for the Zone group. (18) Levels of harmful LDL, protective HDL, and other blood lipids were at least as good among women on the Atkins diet as among those on the low-fat diet.

Q. What is the best diet for losing weight?
Dr. Walter Willett, Chair, Dept. of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
A. The real issue is not losing weight —people can cut back on calories and lose weight on almost any diet—but keeping weight off over the long run. Thus, it is more important to find a way of eating that you can stay with for the rest of your life.
If you read the fine print of the study, though, it turns out that few of the women actually stuck with their assigned diets. Those on the Atkins diet were supposed to limit their carbohydrate intake to 50 grams a day, but they took in almost triple that amount. The Ornish dieters were supposed to limit their fat intake to under 10 percent of their daily calories, but they got about 30 percent from fat. There were similar deviations for the Zone and LEARN groups.

What about longer term studies? POUNDS LOST (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies), a two-year head-to-head trial comparing different weight loss strategies found that low-carb, low-fat, and Mediterranean-style diets worked equally well in the long run, and that there was no speed advantage for one diet over another. (20) What this and other diet comparisons tell us is that sticking with a diet is more important than the diet itself. (Read more about the POUNDS LOST weight loss trial.)
No one knows the long-term effects of eating little or no carbohydrates. Equally worrisome is the inclusion of unhealthy fats in some of these diets.

If you want to go the lower carb route, try to include some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains every day. They contain a host of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are essential for good health and that you can't get out of a supplement bottle. And do your heart a favor by choosing healthy fats and proteins to go along with those healthy sources of carbohydrate: A 20-year prospective study of 82,802 women looked at the relationship between lower carbohydrate diets and heart disease; a subsequent study looked at lower carbohydrate diets and risk of diabetes. Women who ate low-carbohydrate diets that were high in vegetable sources of fat or protein had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease (7) and a modestly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, (19) compared to women who ate high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. But women who ate low-carbohydrate diets that were high in animal fats or proteins did not have a reduced risk of heart disease or diabetes.(7, 19


Adding Good Carbohydrates

For optimal health, get your grains intact from foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, and other possibly unfamiliar grains like quinoa, whole oats, and bulgur. Not only will these foods help protect you against a range of chronic diseases, they can also please your palate and your eyes.
Until recently, you could only get whole-grain products in organic or non-traditional stores. Today they are popping up in more and more mainstream grocery stores. Here are some suggestions for adding more good carbohydrates to your diet:

  • Start the day with whole grains. If you're partial to hot cereals, try steel-cut oats. If you're a cold cereal person, look for one that lists whole wheat, whole oats, or other whole grain first on the ingredient list.
  • Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks. Check the label to make sure that whole wheat or another whole grain is the first ingredient listed.
  • Bag the potatoes. Instead, try brown rice or even "newer" grains like bulgur, wheat berries, millet, or hulled barley with your dinner.
  • Pick up some whole wheat pasta. If the whole grain products are too chewy for you, look for those that are made with half whole-wheat flour and half white flour. 
  • Bring on the beans. Beans are an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates as well as a great source of protein.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

Many health experts recommend cutting down or eliminating sugar and other simple carbohydrates, and increasing the servings of complex carbohydrates in the diet.
Carbohydrates are necessary to your health, because every cell in your body uses them for energy. In fact, your brain can only use carbohydrates for energy.

Unfortunately, over-consumption of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other highly refined carbohydrates has been associated with a higher incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even breast cancer. And eating refined carbs can, over time, result in almost uncontrollable sugar cravings.

According to the World Health Organization, sugars and other simple carbohydrates are a leading factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic.

With the popularity of low-carb diets, many people are afraid to eat any carbohydrates, but it is important to distinguish between the health-robbing effects of simple sugars and other carbs, and the health-giving properties of complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are high-fiber foods, which improve your digestion. They help stabilize the blood sugar, keep your energy at an even level, and help you feel satisfied longer after your meal.

In contrast, sugar and other simple carbohydrates can alter your mood, lead to cravings and compulsive eating, cause wide swings in your blood-sugar levels, and cause weight gain in most people. In addition, a high consumption of sugar can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you finally decide to improve your diet and forgo the sweets.

Examples: simple and complex carbohydrates
Some examples of healthy foods containing complex carbohydrates:

Spinach Whole Barley Grapefruit
Turnip Greens Buckwheat Apples
Lettuce Buckwheat bread Prunes
Water Cress Oat bran bread Apricots, Dried
Zucchini Oatmeal Pears
Asparagus Oat bran cereal Plums
Artichokes Museli Strawberries
Okra Wild rice Oranges
Cabbage Brown rice Yams
Celery Multi-grain bread Carrots
Cucumbers Pinto beans Potatoes
Dill Pickles Yogurt, low fat Soybeans
Radishes Skim milk Lentils
Broccoli Navy beans Garbanzo beans
Brussels Sprouts Cauliflower Kidney beans
Eggplant Soy milk Lentils
Onions Whole meal spelt bread Split peas

Some examples of foods containing simple carbohydrates:

Simple carbohydrates are more refined, are usually found in foods with fewer nutrients, and tend to be less satisfying and more fattening.

Table sugar
Corn syrup
Fruit juice
Bread made with white flour
Pasta made with white flour
Soda pop, such as Coke®, Pepsi®, Mountain Dew®, etc.
All baked goods made with white flour
Most packaged cereals

If you are trying to eliminate simple sugars and carbohydrates from your diet, but you don’t want to refer to a list all the time, here are some suggestions:

Read the labels. If the label lists sugar, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, white or “wheat” flour, they contain simple carbohydrates. If these ingredients are at the top of the list, they may contain mostly simple carbohydrates, and little else. They should be avoided.

Look for foods that have not been highly processed or refined. Choose a piece of fruit instead of fruit juice, which is very high in naturally occurring simple sugars. Choose whole grain breads instead of white bread. Choose whole grain oatmeal instead of packaged cold cereals.

The closer you get to nature, the closer you get to health.
Simple carbohydrates, like sugar and corn syrup, are created in a factory – while complex carbohydrates in vegetables and whole grains are designed by nature, and help you maintain your health.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Hunger-Free Way to Flatten Your Belly!

A Hunger-Free Way to Flatten Your Belly (

Finally! Right here, right now—a hunger-free way to flat abs.

Your waistline has gone MIA and you’re ready to reclaim it—for health reasons, yes, but also because you want to look better (there, you said it). Happily, this is one area where vanity and wellness align. "Visceral fat, which surrounds the organs in your midsection, plays a big role in the risk of metabolic conditions like diabetes," says Claire Wheeler, MD, an instructor at Portland State University’s School of Community Health and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Losing Belly Fat.

And contrary to what a lot of people think, the belly is not a stubborn fat zone. "Unlike fat in other places, belly fat is earmarked to provide quick energy in the event you need to fight, flee, or endure a famine," Dr. Wheeler says. "When you engage in moderate activity (akin to fleeing or fighting) and cut calories (as in a famine), most of the fat you lose first will come from your belly."

It’s ready to come off; now give it a kick-start with these strategies.

Belly busters

Slipping into that waist-cinching pencil skirt (the one pushed to the back of your closet) requires exercising more and making smart food choices so that you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in—no surprise. What is surprising, though, is just how easy it is to make that happen. Try this: Every day, aim to get 30 minutes of exercise, spend no more than six hours sitting down, and keep your calorie count in the 1,500 to 2,000 range. "A woman who is moderately overweight (about 15 to 25 extra pounds) should lose 2 inches in the first two weeks—most will lose more," says Dr. Wheeler.

Also helpful: eating more of the following, which target belly flab in particular.

Getting your fill helps keep your stomach sleek, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Compared with people who only cut calories, those who also ate four to seven daily servings of whole grains (such as a slice of whole-wheat bread or half a cup of brown rice) lost significantly more belly fat.

That’s one more reason to be a (healthy) carb lover: "Not only does the fiber in whole grains help flush the digestive tract, leading to a flatter stomach due to less constipation, but it also helps you feel more satisfied," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, the author of The Secret to Skinny.

Soluble fiber—the kind found in oatmeal and apples—appears to be an especially effective fat fighter. For every 10-gram increase in your daily consumption of the stuff, belly fat drops nearly 4% over five years, suggests research from Wake Forest University. "For the most benefit, get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day," advises Dr. Wheeler.

Milk products do a belly good, helping it retain lean muscle and store less fat. Take it from the dieters in a University of Tennessee study who ate 6 ounces of fat-free yogurt with every meal and lost 81% more abdominal fat than those who cut calories alone. "Increasing calcium suppresses calcitriol, a hormone that promotes fat storage," explains lead author Michael Zemel, PhD. Quashing calcitriol also lowers your fat tissue’s production of cortisol, the hormone known to increase visceral fat.

What’s more, a recent Harvard University study makes the case for vitamin D and calcium as weight-loss aids. Researchers gave one group three daily glasses of orange juice containing calcium and vitamin D, while another group drank the same amount of unfortified OJ each day. After four weeks, the vitamin-D-and-calcium group lost nearly 10 times as much belly fat as those who drank regular juice. For that get-slim boost without all the calories in three glasses of OJ, supplement daily with 450 IU of vitamin D and 1,500 milligrams of calcium.

Fruits and Veggies
According to a University of Florida study, people who ate more of their overall diet from plant-based foods were slimmer. "Researchers developed an index—called the phytochemical index, or PI score—that ranks the number of calories consumed from plant-based foods compared with overall daily calorie intake on a scale of zero to 100," says Cynthia Sass, RD, a New York City–based dietitian and author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. "People of normal weight had PI scores 10.3 points higher, on average, than overweight or obese people," she says. "And even though both groups consumed about the same number of daily calories, those with lower PI scores had larger waist circumferences." Researchers suggest including plant-based foods—fruits, veggies, nuts—every day, ideally at the start of each meal.

Healthy fats
Not all fats make you fat. In fact, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)—found in some nuts and oils—help you stay lean. In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, insulin-resistant people who ate a diet high in MUFAs avoided the fate of those on a high-carb diet, who saw fat mass shift toward their bellies.

Include plant-based fat—like 2 tablespoons of almond butter or a quarter of an avocado—at each meal, advises Sass. Likewise, adding just under 2 teaspoons of PUFA-rich safflower oil to your diet each day—without even cutting calories—reduces abdominal fat, suggests an Ohio State University study. Linoleic acid—a polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid found in safflower, sunflower, soybean, and corn oils—helps increase the fat-burning hormone adiponectin, says lead author Martha Belury, PhD. "Use safflower oil in salad dressings or baking—anything in which the oil doesn’t reach the smoking point (as in deep frying)," she suggests. "That breaks it down."

What to avoid
In addition to moving more and eating waist-friendly foods, aim to limit these fat magnets:

Folks who had three-plus drinks in a day—even infrequently—had more visceral fat than those who had the same amount monthly but spaced them out, according to University at Buffalo researchers. Tempted to have more than one drink? Choose light beer, wine spritzers, or diet mixers.

Trans Fats
The type of fat in many baked goods and salty snacks may cause belly weight gain even if you’re not consuming excess calories. Skip anything with partially hydrogenated oils, says Dr. Wheeler. They can hide out in surprising places (like some bran cereals and low-fat ice creams).

Minor Stress
Eating triggers insulin, and stress boosts cortisol. "When elevated, these two hormones work together to store extra calories you consume in the form of belly fat," Dr. Wheeler says. In a study at the University of California–San Francisco, stress eaters showed higher levels of insulin and cortisol—and gained more weight—than those who didn’t eat when anxious. Next time you sit down to eat, take five minutes to relax first. A good place to start: Put away your gadgets.

All the right moves
Over 40 and flirting with perimenopause? That may explain those five stubborn pounds around your middle, just under the skin (a.k.a. "subcutaneous" fat). "As ovaries slow their production of estrogen, the body compensates by making more fat cells," says Dr. Wheeler. Subcutaneous fat isn’t as bad for you as visceral, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Fight back with exercise.
5 Ways to Beat the Bloat

Felling puffy? Bloating caused by gas, irregularity, or water retention can make even a tiny tummy become anything but. Here’s how to nix the problem

Burn fat
Ab exercises tone, but you need cardio to torch the fat that’s hiding them.Try alternating the intensity, suggests Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. Whether you’re running or using a cardio machine, do one minute at an intensity level of 8 or 9 out of 10, followed by two minutes at 5 or 6; repeat this pattern.

Build strength
Research suggests the bicycle maneuver tops the list of most effective core exercises. Lying down, hands behind your head, and knees at a 45-degree angle, extend one leg then the other in a slow pedaling motion, touching your right elbow to your left knee, and vice versa. Do two to three sets of 8 to 15 reps, every other day, and you’ll be well on your way to a thinner middle.
Melissa Daly