Archive | December, 2012

Battle the Bulge: Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

25 Dec

Battle the Bulge: Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

It’s that time of year for holiday parties and Christmas feasts. The season is filled with decadent desserts, buffets of food, and rich drinks. Statistics show that the average American gains 1 – 2 pounds during the holiday season.

While that doesn’t sound as bad as the media often portrays it to be, the holiday bulge accounts for 75% of annual weight gained. What’s more, most people don’t EVER lose those pounds as their weight continues to “creep.”

Worse yet, this can set you back on achieving your fat loss goals and wreak havoc on your psyche.  I’m here today to arm you with some great strategies that you can implement immediately to avoid gaining ANY weight during this holiday season.

Practice Mindfulness. The battle starts with a strong mind. Be mindful of your food choices and what you’re putting into your body. Are you choosing food that will nourish your body and keep you strong and healthy? Or, are you opting for foods filled with empty calories, insulin-spiking sugars, and health-robbing fats?

Emotional Eating. Research indicates that our emotions and thoughts play a larger role than environmental cues when it comes to successful weight control. The holidays bring on a host of emotions — both good and bad — that can trigger overeating. Be mindful of your emotions, and if stress is getting the best of you, identify it and deal with it other ways than gorging yourself with Christmas cookies.

Pre-Party. Why wait for the party? One of the biggest mistakes that people make is skipping meals or going to a gathering with a ravenous appetite. This is a recipe for disaster and overeating. Instead, start the party at home with a snack that contains some protein and good fat. These slow-digesting foods will satisfy your appetite and your cravings for hours.

Go Small. Instead of choosing the dinner plates and big bowls, grab smaller appetizer or salad plates. No, the goal is not to see how high a tower of food you can build. You’re less likely to overeat with a smaller plate.

Every Bite Counts. Try counting your bites and chew at least 10 times before swallowing. This exercise not only slows down your eating — which helps you register how full you really are — but it also allows you to fully enjoy and appreciate the eating experience.

BYOB. One of the biggest problems at holiday get-togethers is the limited health-conscious items on the menus. So, bring your own. Your favorite chili recipe would be a healthy hit. Whip up a batch of all-natural, low-carb peanut butter cups to satisfy the sweet tooth. A veggie or fruit tray is another fantastic option.

Dress to Impress. Instead of opting for “stretchy” pants, dress your best and show off that body of yours. If you wear fitted clothing, you’ll be much more cognizant of overeating to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of being full and bloated.

Liquid Calories. Egg nog is the beverage of the season, but it is LOADED with empty calories, insulin-spiking sugars, and waistline-expanding fats. Remember, liquid calories count, too. If you’re going to enjoy a drink, choose red wine, which at least contains some health-promoting polyphenols.

Make a Trade. Studies show that the average American eats out four times per week and obtains 1/3 of the week’s calories from those meals. That’s pretty staggering. If you know that you’re going to be partying more, cut back on your eating out. Even if your nutrition isn’t perfect at get-togethers, you can do an even better job on all of your other meals.

It’s Not About the Food. Many people slack on their exercise during the holidays. If you’re traveling to visit family, do your homework ahead of time and obtain a one-week pass to a local gym.

Not Enough Time. Can’t find the time to do your “normal” workout routine? Plan 10-minute sessions during the day. You might not be able to do an hour at once, but you can certainly find 10 minutes a couple times a day. Focus on bodyweight exercises, taking a walk, or engaging in activities with family. Exercise can be fun, you know?

Sign Up. There are all kinds of holiday fitness events. Sign up for a local 5K. Knowing that you’ll be participating in the event can help keep your training — and nutrition — in line. What’s more, you’ll be doing something fun within your community.

Focus on Family & Friends. The holidays are about so much more than food and drinks. Take the time to really enjoy the people with whom you’re spending your time and put your focus into those relationships.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed these tips, and I hope that you can put them to use right away to battle the bulge this holiday season!

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Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part II

19 Dec

Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part II

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

This is the second part of a two-part short article series on how your diet can expose you—or protect you—from the cold and flu this holiday season. In part one, we discussed how certain foods can wreak havoc on your immune system and make you more susceptible to these debilitating infections. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to do to fortify your immune system to help fight off these nasty bugs.

We already know that certain foods—and lifestyle factors—can weaken our immune system. But, there must be a way to enhance and optimize our immune systems in order to fight off those pesky cold and flu viruses.

Whether you’re trying to fend off the cold or flu, or you’re already experiencing the symptoms, the key is to ramp up the immune system and strengthen your immune response.

80% of your immune system resides in your gut. Yep, it’s far more than a digestion center. Your immune system depends on an optimal ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria. You already know that sugar is a haven for the bad bacteria in your gut—weakening your immune system—but how can you increase the “good” bacteria to enhance your immune response?

Fermented foods (i.e., yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, and kimchi) are high in probiotic bacteria that can optimize your immune system. The good ol’ green pickle is also a source of good bacteria, as is the fermented tea komboucha. As briefly mentioned in Part I, Pro-X10™ is a breakthrough probiotic supplement from BioTrust Nutrition. It is unparalleled in its ability to deliver a variety of high-quality “good” bacteria to your gut.

You can boost your immunity and your ability to fight infection by increasing the amount of antioxidants you consume. The top antioxidants are vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, zinc. Include plenty of brightly colored, organic vegetables and fruits like:

  • Berries
  • Bell peppers (multiple colors)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Nuts and Seeds

I’ve been known to be a “myth buster” of wives tales, but one that is tried and true is good ol’ chicken noodle soup. Interestingly, chicken contains a specific amino acid (cysteine) that thins and loosens the mucus in your lungs so you can get rid of that bad bacteria more easily.

The following herbs and spices have been shown to exert potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties:

  • Basil
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Water is a nutrient critical for the optimal functioning of every system in your body. Make sure you stay hydrated—drink at least 9 – 12 cups (i.e., 8 ounces per cup) per day. Green tea has recently been shown to be associated with a lower rate of infection with the influenza virus. It is recommended to drink 1 – 5 cups per day to enjoy these flu-fighting benefits.

Zinc is a super-important mineral when it comes to fighting off the cold. Research shows that, when taken within one day of the onset of symptoms, zinc can reduce the time you battle the cold by about 24 hours. Studies show that 50 to 65mg are enough to reap these benefits. While calf’s liver is the richest source of zinc, more palatable foods like mushrooms and spinach are very good sources of this cold-fighting mineral.

Other vitamins and minerals may play a role in boosting your immune system, as well. Specifically, vitamins B6 and D have been shown to play a significant role in your ability to fight off the cold and flu. Supplementing with vitamin B6 has been shown to restore immune function, while vitamin D is a potent antimicrobial agent that can help kill off bacteria and viruses.

If you follow these tips, your immune system will be strong and happy. A happy immune system means those pesky cold and flu viruses don’t stand a chance!

Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part I

17 Dec

Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part I

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

The cold and flu season is most certainly upon us. In this two-part article series, we’ll talk about how significant of an impact your diet has on whether or not you get sick. What’s more, in this first article, we’re going to expose specific foods that make you more susceptible to these debilitating illnesses.

While these two ailments are distinct in their symptoms and severity, how one actually “catches” these viruses are quite similar.

The most common way these viruses are spread is through hand-to-hand contact. That is, you touch the same surface that someone who is carrying this virus also touched—you can wash your hands as much as you want, but you can’t wash other people’s dirty paws=)

As an aside, that’s along the same lines as one of many wise pieces of advice my father gave to me as a child. “You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But, you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Just because you have been exposed to the virus doesn’t mean that you’ll “catch” it. If your immune system was running full-throttle, it could fend off those viruses without ever sensing any symptoms.

So, the real question is…what foods should you avoid that may impair your immune system? The number one food that you should avoid because of its ability to devastate your immune system is (drum roll, please)…SUGAR.

Controlling your sugar intake is key to optimizing your immune system because sugar—especially that nasty, processed high-fructose corn syrup—actually feeds the “bad” bacteria in your gut.

This is important because your gut houses 80% of your immune system, and your immune system function depends largely on an optimal ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria. Anything that decreases this ratio (i.e., increasing “bad” bacteria) will compromise your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to catching the cold and flu.

[Note: There will be more on this in the future, but BioTrust Nutrition released a breakthrough probiotic (i.e., “good” bacteria) supplement called Pro-X10™. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that taking a probiotic daily is more important for your overall health and well-being than taking a daily multivitamin.]

It is really important to limit your overall sugar intake to keep your immune system running at its peak. Some low-fructose fruits—strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and pineapple—can be included, but don’t overdo it.

Also, refined grains and carbohydrates can act similarly to refined sugars because of the lack of nutrients and fiber. It’s important to limit yourself to whole, minimally processed grains to optimize your immune system.

Other foods to avoid include trans fats and vegetable oils (i.e., soybean oil) that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fats trigger inflammatory responses, which are under the control of your immune system.

If your body’s immune system is busy dealing with these inflammatory fats, you can bet that you may not be able to fend off the cold or flu virus effectively.

Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, and many pre-packaged processed foods. You’d be well advised to avoid these at all costs because of the many ravaging effects on your health.

Burnt and charred foods (i.e., grilled meats) and refined oils can also be detrimental to your immune system. These foods contain high amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can cause excessive inflammation and free radical damage.

Three other “non-food” lifestyle factors that may dampen your immune system are the following:

  • lack of rest
  • lack of exercise
  • stress

If you eliminate these foods and address these lifestyle factors, you should be well on your way to beating the cold and flu viruses this season.