Tag Archives: health

The Grand Finale

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And here it is, my final post of this entire project.  What a year it’s been!  I recently read back on the “About” and “The Beginning” posts that I wrote over a year ago in order to re-familiarize myself with the reasons why I embarked on this journey to begin with.  What I learned from reading those posts is that my posts have gotten A LOT longer over the year (sorry about that) and that most of my goals for the year were achieved.  I had wanted to learn what it was like to follow a regimented diet, to learn new cooking techniques, to be able to answer questions about popular diets, and to improve my will power.  I would say I wasn’t a total success on the will power portion, but I also realized, through a year of “failing” on the will power game, that it’s not a battle that should even be fought.  More on that in a minute, but first, my “awards” for this year.

The Dow Diet Awards
These are obviously just based on my opinion, except the “Most Expensive” award.  That one is based on cold hard facts as witnessed by depletion of my bank account.

  • Most Hated: Winner – Fast Metabolism Diet. Runner Up – Paleo
  • Most Forgettable: Low Fat
  • Best for Weight Loss: Although I didn’t really lose any weight on any of those (remember: that was my goal), the ones I would recommend would be 1) Volumetrics Diet and 2) Weight Watchers
  • Most Expensive: Sustainability
  • Enhancing the Culinary Prowess: Mediterranean, Vegan
  • I Can’t Wait to Quit You: Paleo, Low Fat, Fast Metabolism Diet
  • Favorite: Too tough to choose just one. Three-way tie between Vegan, Mediterranean, and Mindful Eating.

My Dietary Recommendations for Health and Happiness, in a very specific order

  1. Eat mindfully- Taste your food, free from distraction.  Cook it and savor it with all of your senses.  It will work miracles on your relationship with food, and is by far the best thing you can do for yourself.
  2. Cook your food – Here is a video narrated by Michael Pollan, which really hammers home the importance of cooking your own food.  This doesn’t mean “preparing” a meal, i.e. a box of macaroni and cheese. It means actually cooking from scratch.  When you do that, you don’t have to worry so much about the fat, carb, and protein content of your food. It’s just nourishment at that point, and it will balance itself out over time.
  3. Don’t be a dick about it – It’s hard to put this at #3 because I want to put it at #1, but the other ones are probably more important.  I’ve always just rolled my eyes and been annoyed when people are super pretentious about their food, but these feelings were strengthened this year by trying all these different eating approaches and also by moving to Boulder, CO (the most uppity place I’ve ever experienced).  My friends back in Tucson have something called the “In-N-Out and Casa Molina” test for people.  If you aren’t willing to ever eat a tasty cheeseburger and some delicious, greasy, unhealthy Mexican food, there may be a larger underlying issue.  If you disagree with this statement, you’re probably that pretentious person I’m referring to.  Stop being a dick about it.

regular donuts

  1. Eat more produce – Everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables.  Incorporate them into more and more of your meals until you eat them constantly and start to crave them.  Then, get creative, try new ones, and try preparing them in different ways.  The possibilities are endless.
  2. Whatever approach you use if you’re trying to lose weight, choose one that can be maintained long term – At the end of the day, all of the diet trials and myriad of studies that have been performed ultimately lead to the same conclusion: the diet that works best for weight loss is the one that you can maintain.  Try out different ones to see what works for you, and don’t get discouraged when the first thing you try doesn’t work for you, but it worked for your cooler, hotter, sister who everyone likes more and who has never struggled with anything. It’s so unfair! We’re all individuals.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss.
  3. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid – Literally, but also figuratively.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  4. Stop freaking out about it – It’s not nearly as complicated as the media and all the snake oil salesmen want to convince you it is.

What I Learned

As I previously mentioned, I really struggled this year with will power, until I realized that there is no point to will power if there isn’t a larger goal in mind.  One of the most important lessons I learned this year is that curiosity is only a good short-term motivator.  I struggled nearly every month to stay on track with the allotted dietary pattern because I would either lose sight of why I was doing this or, when I would remind myself of the goals listed above, they didn’t seem like good enough reasons.  This was particularly true in months like Paleo and Fast Metabolism Diet when I had never felt hungrier and that transcended into some mental and emotional imbalance.  Those months were the only time that I ever got a glimpse into what it’s like to be on a diet.  One of my goals was to attempt to understand the psyche of a person undergoing a diet (thanks to those two aforementioned diets, I succeeded in that goal), but also to understand why people put themselves through the torture of a diet.  I never got to the place where I understood that, and that comes back to the curiosity thing.  Curiosity was my motivator, but the need to feel normal when you feel terrible trumps curiosity.  I imagine a person with a dire health concern or a need for weight loss has a different motivation, and that’s something that I can’t relate to at this point in my life.  Maybe if I ever need to change something about my lifestyle I’ll be able to relate to that issue more, and I’ll see the need for will power.  But right now, I think will power is a silly thing to get caught up on, and I think it’s an issue that prevents people from reaching their health goals.

So here is a larger spiel on will power, and I realize as I’m writing this, that these ideas are not something I’ve ever been taught in any nutrition or health class. They go against many of the recommendations that students are taught regarding diet counseling.  But here it goes.

The most important lesson I learned this year involves the concept of moderation.  I know, you’ve heard it a million times before – everything in moderation.  And maybe you’ve decided that moderation doesn’t work for you because you haven’t found that grasp on it – it’s either gorge yourself or go without, and if you are working on losing weight, the “correct” option is to go without.  I really REALLY learned the fault in that kind of logic this year (the caveat to this, of course, is people with addictive behaviors or personalities, which I can’t really comment on because I don’t have any kind of extensive knowledge or training in that area).  I’ll use the example again of FMD.  That was truly a “go without” month for me, and I HATED it.  Not only did I feel physically unhealthy, but I felt mentally unhealthy.  And there’s the crux of it all.  Physical and mental health are so intertwined that they can’t and shouldn’t be separated, though our current system attempts and is often successful at convincing us that they should be.  Typically things that are good for your mental health are good for your physical health, so focus on that.  You will never see the full benefit of a healthy lifestyle approach if you only focus on the physical health aspect of it.  This whole time I’ve thought that my will power issues could be rectified by taking away the stimulus.  This is the basis of nearly every fad diet and every dietary recommendation.  “Don’t keep chocolate in the house so you won’t be tempted.”  “Snack on fruits – it will feed your sweet tooth.” I call bullshit on all of that.  While this may lead to weight loss, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your mental health because you a) feel deprived and b) never learn how to have a healthy relationship with these foods that you consider unhealthy/evil.  And what is the point of physical health if mental health isn’t riding shotgun?  I don’t know what the meaning or goal of life is, but for me it has something to do with finding peace in the midst of a hurricane.  Removing a stimulus doesn’t improve will power – it weakens it.  We need to find ways to achieve balance, and we do this by being in the midst of a room full of crispy French fries, the most decadent chocolate, a succulent cheeseburger, the deepest of deep dish pizzas, the creamiest ice creams, with a littering of fruits and vegetables and other health foods… and then we choose to have a few tastes of each of those things.  We really savor them and appreciate them, and then we carry on with our day, never feeling deprived or engorged.  It’s being able to control a situation instead of letting a situation control you.  This clearly isn’t just about food.  It can be applied to nearly every situation you will ever face in life, but your relationship with your body and your body’s fuel is a foundation that needs to be built, strengthened, and continuously re-patched in order to live a long, healthy life.

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I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that taps into the issues with how we eat in America.  Eating a diet that supports the beautiful vehicle that is your body needs to be a priority if we want to prosper and see progress on both individual and societal levels.  The path to get there isn’t as difficult as it seems.  It’s just straight into the kitchen.

“…it turns out we don’t need to declare our allegiance to any one of these schools of thought in order to figure out how best to eat.  In the end, they are only theories, scientific explanations for an empirical phenomenon that is not itself in doubt: people eating a Western diet are prone to a complex of chronic diseases that seldom strike people eating more traditional diets.”
-Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Thank you to everyone who followed this project over the past year.  There’s no way I could have done this on my own – I would have quit so many times if I didn’t have followers. Thank you for your attention, your comments, your questions.  

Live Beautiful!
Caitlin

P.S. If you’re looking for another health blog to follow with posts that will take a lot less time to read than mine, check out my friends Dezi and Matt’s blog: Simple Fitness Blog.

Are you there, Caitlin? It’s me, Questions.

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food-question-mark-628x363

One day I was at work, working on this very post (it was a slow day in science), and a friend asked what I was doing. I said I was answering questions that people had for me, and she replied with initial excitement that waned into reality: “Oooh you’re like Carrie Bradshaw! Except instead of writing about sex, you’re writing about science and nutrition.  That’s not really as exciting.” No, it’s not.  But here it goes – my attempt at being a columnist.

Q: What do you know of this Garcinia Cambogia and body cleanse diet. Dr. Oz has talked about it. Have you heard anything on it?

 A: Like usual, when I saw “Dr. Oz” in the question, I cringed.  I typically consider Dr. Oz to be a bit of an extremely charming snake oil salesman.  But I decided to look it up because when the people have questions, I give them answers. First, I went to Dr. Oz’s website to see what him and his people had to say about it.  Then I searched on PubMed to find out what the science says.

What Dr. Oz’s website says: Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit native to Indonesia and supplements are made from the rind of the fruit, which is high in a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA).  The claim is that HCA prevents fat synthesis by blocking an enzyme (citrate lyase) that converts carbohydrates to fat.  HCA also reduces appetite by increasing serotonin production in the brain.  In effect, this improves mood and reduces the drive for emotional eating (though it is unclear if people with normal or high serotonin levels and who don’t resort to food to for emotional reasons would benefit from HCA).

What the science says: 43 Brazilian women who were overweight/obese were randomized to receive either a placebo or 2.4 g/day of G. Cambogia (separated into 800 mg consumed before each meal) in addition to an energy restricted diet (~1500 kcal/day) for 8 weeks.  There were no differences pre- to post-treatment or between randomization groups following the study in terms of weight loss (or any other anthropometrics), or any marker of the lipid profile with the exception of triglycerides, which were lower after 8 weeks in the women consuming the supplement compared to those on the placebo.  This study indicates no real benefit of using G. Cambogia.  That’s just one example of a research study on G. Cambogia, but there are many more that show similar results.  A recent review article by Astell et al. evaluated the data on a variety of plant extracts (including G. Cambogia) that have been explored in randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of human research) with regards to weight loss, and concluded that there is not sufficient data to suggest that any plant extract will significantly aid in weight loss above standard dietary and physical activity practices.  One study did show that HCA taken in combination with Gymnema sylvestre extract resulted in a 5-6% reduction in body weight after 8 weeks.

The Bottom Line: There aren’t enough well designed research studies for this herbal supplement (or any) to get my stamp of approval.  First, there isn’t enough information to suggest that they are effective, but more importantly, there is a question of safety here.  People often use the logic that herbal supplements are “natural,” and therefore safe.  But there is nothing “natural” about taking a supplement that provides you with 10 fold or more of a compound than what you would get from just eating food.  Remember, hemlock is also “natural,” but it still very effectively killed Socrates.

Q: I have a friend who is using a mobile app to track his caloric intake and lose weight.  He has lost weight, but I’ve noticed that he still eats pretty unhealthy food, drinks beer, and doesn’t seem like he’s getting any healthier, though he is still losing weight.  Is he actually getting healthier?

This approach is similar to that of many fad diets, and it relies on the simple principles of “calories in, calories out.”  Yes, if you ingest fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight.  This friend may actually be getting healthier because weight loss of as little as 5% of initial body weight has been proven to confer health benefits like improvement in blood lipids and glucose, blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain, depression, Type 2 diabetes, and you’re bound to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Only 5%.  That means that if you weigh 200 lbs and you lose 10 pounds, your health will most assuredly improve.  Lose more weight, see more benefit.  So the fact of the matter is, yes, health does improve when you lose weight (if you need to lose weight. This doesn’t hold true if you’re already a healthy weight).  But this is not an approach I would ever recommend for anybody.  While you will get healthier simply by losing weight but still eating whatever you want, it’s only a fraction of how healthy you could be if you started eating healthy foods.  Matching the caloric content of two patterns, eating a whole foods diet that focuses on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats will win out every single time over a diet high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and fatty protein sources.

There was a “case study” that a brave soul performed on himself to prove a point to his students.  Professor of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University, Mark Haub, decided to go on a junk food diet for 10 weeks to prove the premise of “calories in, calories out.” He ate Hostess cakes, Doritos, Oreos, etc and consumed 1,800 calories/day (he should consume about 2,600 to maintain weight).  While he did take a multivitamin and eat a couple of servings of vegetables everyday, his diet was mostly shit and he lost 27 lbs.  A number of outcomes improved for him over the course of 10 weeks: his body fat percentage dropped, his blood lipids improved. (Read more about it here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/).

The Bottom Line: So should you try to lose weight by simply focusing on calories?  Like I said, not my recommendation.  Haub’s data are interesting, sure, but we don’t know the long-term consequences of eating like that.  I would speculate that the risk for cancer would increase, and inflammation and oxidative stress would be huge issues for Haub.  Inflammation and oxidative stress are known to exacerbate chronic disease risk for diseases like cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, CVD, Alzheimer’s, etc.  The outcomes that he measured are validated markers for disease risk, but they don’t tell the whole story.  While obtaining/maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for long-term health, there’s a lot more to it than just the number on the scale.  Eat your damn produce.

Q: Is there any science to back up Ayurvedic eating practices?

A: Ayurveda is an ancient Indian approach to medicine, and Ayurvedic eating is a therapeutic approach to eating that is often practiced by yogis and others with goals of inner peace.

The focus of Ayurvedic eating is to find joy, balance, and an appreciation of food via eating.  Most of Ayurvedic eating uses the same principles of mindful eating – being present, cooking your food, eating food that tastes good, paying attention to hunger cues, and not eating distractedly.  In addition to mindful eating techniques, the practice considers three different body types and personalities (called “doshas”) – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Once you determine which dosha is predominant for you, you can start eating to complement it. I’ll go through everything for myself, but use this link to find out about yours, if you’re interested.

I determined that my primary dosha is Vata, which is fairly spot on with my body type and personality.  The primary qualities of a Vata individual are that they thrive on movement and change. Vata individuals are typically tall and slender with narrow hips and shoulders and are generally energetic and enthusiastic, unless they are out of balance.  Signs of being out of balance are skipping meals (something I try to avoid because I actually do notice how much it throws things out of whack for me – I don’t know if this actually has anything to do with being Vata or if that’s just my personality) and snacking constantly (my worst dietary habit!).

One of the predominant issues with Vata is digestion.  To stay in balance, it’s recommended that Vata cook their food to ease digestive issues instead of eating foods (like vegetables) raw and heavier, oily, or warm foods are preferred.  Vata should avoid red meat and many types of beans, but sweet, ripe fruits and many cooked vegetables are supported.

An interesting thing about Ayurvedic eating is that it focuses on eating a balanced diet, not only by balancing carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals, but also taste.  There are said to be six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.  Each meal should contain all six tastes in order to be balanced, though each dosha should focus on some more than others.  For example, the Vata dosha should minimize bitter, pungent, and astringent flavors because these are said to lead to imbalance.

What the Science Says:  I did look for some actual science to support this, but I didn’t find anything.  This would be a pretty difficult thing to test, in general.  First, I’m not sure what the outcome would be, other than quality of life.  Ayurvedic eating is a healthy approach to eating, both due of the mindful eating approach as well as the focus on whole foods.  This means that if you put the average person on an Ayurvedic diet, they would feel better because their diet in general has improved. You could probably put anyone one on any of the specific dosha diets and see improvements in health.  In order to test it properly, you’d need to find people that already eat healthy, but perhaps don’t eat mindfully and don’t follow the recommendations of their particular dosha.  It’s pretty difficult to properly measure a health outcome on people who are already healthy because the scale by which they can improve is drastically reduced.

The Bottom Line: While I couldn’t find any data to support Ayurvedic eating, that doesn’t mean it’s not a healthy approach to living.  It just means that no one has tried to and/or effectively tested it yet.  As I mentioned above, you’re likely to see benefit because of the mindful eating techniques as well as eating whole foods.  As far as eating for your body type and personality – I don’t know.  I can’t pinpoint a specific mechanism that would suggest that that’s necessary.  But if you’re interested in it, give it a shot.  It certainly won’t hurt you, and it looks like you may learn some interesting cooking techniques as it will force you to pay more attention to flavor pairing.

Hope that answers some burning questions that a few of you had and maybe the rest of you learned a thing or two along the way. I’ll post my final blog post within the next few days!

“When Walking, Walk. When Eating, Eat.” A Lesson in Mindful Eating.

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For my final month of this amazing, yearlong experiment, I opted for an eating method unlike anything else I have tried.  December was characterized by “mindful eating,” which focuses on the hows and whys of eating instead of the whats.

virginia woolf- dined well

Background

Most diets take the approach of eliminating or emphasizing certain foods (i.e. eat less fat, eat more vegetables, stay away from wheat, only eat organic, etc.).  The problem with these approaches is that they don’t address the psychology of eating at all, and everybody knows that we, as humans, typically eat more for psychological reasons instead of out of actual hunger.  A lot of us know that we overeat and have issues with maintaining healthy portions, whereas others undereat and never feel satiated.  We focus on certain types of foods in an effort to attain a certain goal (high protein, low carb in order to get “cut”).  In doing so, we lose any sense of joy that comes from eating food.  If that’s not enough of a reason to switch your eating style, maybe the fact that you never attain said goals (likely because you never feel satisfied and then binge on “unhealthy” foods) is reason enough to change.

Mindful eating, unlike other approaches, teaches us how to enjoy food again by listening to our body’s cues.  Take a looksee at the plate below, which does a really great job at explaining what mindful eating “looks like” for a given meal.

Print

When practicing eating mindfully, the focus is to actually be present.  By being present, we can focus on the flavors and textures of food and appreciate our food more.  Turn off the TV, get away from your computer, and focus on your plate.  Another helpful practice is to actually put your fork down between bites.  Chew and swallow each bite before you take another.  By doing this, you’ll eat more slowly (if you’re prone to eating quickly, make a conscious effort to actually slow down), which means that you’ll probably notice when you’re full, thus preventing overeating.  Do you ever get through a meal and not even realize how it tasted? Practicing the above approaches to eating will help you enjoy your food and actually form a connection with it.  You’ll appreciate it more and likely not see eating as a “chore.”

Another important point about mindful eating is the conversations that arise about food – both with ourselves and with other people.  We can be extremely judgmental about our eating practices because 1) we are either unhappy with our bodies and we associate “unhealthy” habits with our body issues or 2) the media has done a really effective job at tricking you (and everyone else) into being apologetic and judgmental about everything we put in our bodies.  This is something that has to end if you are ever going accept yourself and actually be happy with attaining weight loss or health goals once you reach them.  When a judgmental thought arises when you choose ice cream over a piece of fruit, let it go.  Allow yourself to eat the ice cream, and use the approach that I outlined above to actually enjoy that ice cream and not overeat it.  When you’re eating with friends, don’t talk about dieting or make statements like, “I’m so fat.”  Don’t apologize for ordering the burger instead of the salad.  These words don’t help you – they only serve to foster feelings of guilt.  Furthermore, they may affect someone else who is struggling with food, self-esteem, or body issues.

My Experience

In many ways, this was simultaneously the hardest and easiest month of the year for me.  It was easy because shopping and cooking were more streamlined, and I didn’t have to overthink my menu.  I could eat any food at any restaurant, which was really nice when people asked, “Oh wait… what diet are you on this month? Can we go there?”  It was more difficult than many because I had to take the time to sit down and actually think about what I was eating, why I was eating, what I liked/disliked about my meal, pay attention to satiety cues, etc.  Isn’t that interesting? That actually thinking made this month more challenging than most? I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction to mindful eating.

Some of the strategies that I used to be more mindful (in addition to what I outlined above) went as follows:

  • Setting the table and eating free from distractions.  I always say I don’t eat in front of the TV because I don’t… but I eat in front of my computer, watching Netflix, which is the same freaking thing.  I always looked at this as using my time efficiently, but that’s the equivalent of an 8 year old argument, and it’s time to stop that nonsense.
  • When at work, not checking emails while eating lunch.  Another thing that I thought was just efficiency.  I move too fast through my life.  There’s no legitimate reason to sacrifice my meal time to make it more efficient, when a better way to achieve efficiency would be to simply cut the extraneous BS out (like..Facebook).
  • Sitting down for snacks as well as meals.  When I get home, I typically go right to the pantry and grab a handful of something – almonds, popcorn, crackers, chocolate-covered-whatevers.  But this month I would ask myself, “are you willing to actually sit down and eat this?” Typically the answer was no because I wasn’t actually hungry, so I wouldn’t eat it.  It made me stop mindlessly munching on things, which is one of my worst dietary habits.
  • Attempting to eat slower.  I say attempt here because it turns out that I really am an extremely slow eater.  I’ve been told all my life that I’m ridiculously slow, but I always just thought that other people were fast.  Yes, every single person I’ve ever dined with was a fast eater and I was normal.  Makes sense… So I tried to slow down when doing mindful eating, and it was not possible.  And that’s when I finally accepted how slow I am (cue lightbulb turning on).  But most people should actually try this.

One of the things that I found most interesting about this month was people’s reaction to my description of mindful eating.  I would tell people about focusing on the flavors and textures of foods so that they would enjoy them more.  Many people who are focused on a health goal would reply with something along the lines of, “that sounds horrible because my food sucks.”  This always baffled me.  Just eat something that tastes better.  You can very easily attain a health goal while eating delicious food.  And that was something that I realized as well – I stopped eating crappy food this month because I was focusing on the flavors and textures.  This meant that I really avoided processed foods because I started paying attention to how much they suck.  Imagine that…

Final Stats

 

Goal/Normal

DASH

Low Fat

Sustainability

FMD

MedDiet

Volumetrics

Mindful

Anthros
Weight

121-60

123.5

123

123

125.5

127.5

123.5

125.5

BMI

18.5-24.9

19.5

19.25

19.25

19.7

20

19.5

19.7

PBF

21-32

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

WC

<35

?

26.5

27

27

27.5

26.5

27

HC

?

36.5

37

37.5

38

38

37.5

W:H Ratio

<0.8

?

0.73

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.7

0.72

Blood Pressure

<120/80

91/68

103/66

103/68

95/65

102/73

105/72

108/75

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1865

1780

1905

925-1688

1920

1820

1855

Protein (%)

13058

15

22

19

15-61

16

18

20

CHO (%)

49-52

52

60

52

28-77

46

54

53

Fiber (g)

at least 25

30

23

25

30-52

28

31

28

Fat (%)

20-35

33

18

29

10-46

38

28

27

Sat Fat (%)

<10

8

7

8

3-7

7

7

8

Sodium (mg)

2300

2147

2315

2282

1250-1740

2127

1975

2325

Potassium (mg)

4700

3874

3143

3746

4014-4624

3826

3906

3826

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

7-9

4-6

5-7

8-12

6-9

6-11

5-8

Cost

127.32

145.2

254.45

195.14

204.3

128.5

?

In general, there were no real changes from a health/dietary intake perspective.  I also didn’t track cost in December because I was home in Tucson for the last 9 days of the month, not buying groceries, so everything would be skewed.

Final Thoughts

This month resonated with me more deeply than any other month this year.  2013 has really been a year of striving to achieve mindfulness and presence on a very personal level.  I think this is true of many people, but I am very rarely present when I’m by myself, without the distraction and conversation of others.  My mind wanders to what I’ll be doing later, how I want to recount a specific activity to someone instead of just being present for that activity, and I fill my life with distractions – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… the internet, in general.  When I’m at work, I am often inefficient because I can only focus on a given activity for a few minutes before I check one of several social media sites or read a blog post.  These are habits I’m trying to break, but it’s a struggle. (You may be wondering how any of this relates to mindful eating, but it does (because everything relates to everything else 😉 I’m getting there).

One way that I have been working on mindfulness is via my yoga practice.  Yoga is a way to connect deeply with yourself in a way to better your relationship with yourself, which will benefit those around you, by working through series of asanas (postures).  The goal is to remain very present by focusing on your breath, the areas of the body that feel great as well as the areas that feel tension or discomfort.  My mind wanders constantly in yoga – as a way to escape the tension or discomfort and because that’s just what I do.  I make to do lists or daydream when I’m attempting to meditate, simply because I don’t know how to free my mind of thought and stay present.

This month felt like a culmination to what I’ve been working on personally for the whole year, even though I didn’t plan for it to end up that way.  I truly recognized how much of a journey all of this is (“this” meaning life or whatever you’re trying to work on with yourself).  Of course I knew that, but I hadn’t really enveloped it.  It’s all about progress.  One of my yoga teachers made the point that you don’t suddenly reach enlightenment when your heels finally make contact with the earth in downward facing dog.  It’s a journey of progress and a single success isn’t exciting if you didn’t have to work for it and earn it, nor is a single success exciting when it isn’t a part of a bigger picture.  This is true of all health goals too – whether it be weight loss, incorporating more vegetables into your daily routine, running a marathon, or mastering a balancing sequence in yoga.  You have your whole life to work towards making the best version of yourself, so take your time, be patient, and do it right.  When you don’t do it “right,” have the patience to come back to your center and start anew.  Be gentle with yourself and those around you.  And don’t take it all so damn seriously.

This mindful eating month provided a new approach to remaining present.  The focus was with food, but that transcended to other aspects of my life.  I found myself better (but not perfect) at meditation in yoga.  I stopped checking my Facebook account so much.  And I became more patient with myself and stopped having judgmental thoughts towards myself whenever my mind would wander in meditation, or I would check my Facebook even though I had just checked it, etc.  I just let it happen and then reconvened.  I can’t tell you how empowering this is: this practice of not being so self-critical because I finally realized that it gets me nowhere.  December was defined by progress, and it was the first month out of the whole year that I felt like I hadn’t learned all I needed to know about the given dietary approach in the allotted month.  I continue to eat mindfully into 2014, learning everyday from the approach, and I don’t think it’s something that will go away anytime soon. If you’d like more information on mindful eating, please comment, and I’ll send some resources your way!

And with that, 2013 has come to a close.  I’ll write a couple more posts to wrap everything up.  One will answer the questions that people asked me.  The other will summarize the year.  Not many people sent in questions, so please do if you have any!! Thanks, as always, for reading all these many many words 🙂

P.S. I’m sorry for ragging on Facebook so much in this post.  It’s a great forum and perfectly acceptable way to network with others.  I just have my own issues that need to be addressed.  It’s not Facebook’s fault.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, By Volume – The Volumetrics Diet

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If you’re looking for a diet to support your weight loss/maintenance or healthy eating goals, I cannot emphasize enough that you should find one with science to back it up, preferably created by someone who does nutritional research.  Perhaps that sounds obvious, but most diets are not created based off scientific evaluation (though they will try to trick you into believing otherwise).  Or maybe it sounds biased and that I’m trying to gain support for my lifestyle, but let me assure you that it’s not biased, and this isn’t a self-serving recommendation.  First, I have no plans to create my own diet, so by making this recommendation I’m only supporting those in my field.  Secondly, this should just be common sense.  You will never find a diet with published evidence in peer-reviewed journals that is wacky.  For example, there is no data to support the Paleo diet or the Fast Metabolism Diet.  Because they’re bat shit crazy.

So why should you care about science? Because you should treat that wonderful vessel that is your body with respect, for starters.  Diets that are rooted in science have been tested repeatedly on a wide array of people, making it more likely that it will be safe and effective for you.  Diets based on science are also more likely to be conservative and require real, sustained behavior change from you, which is the sign of something good.  They don’t promise short-term impressive results (lose 20 pounds in two weeks!), but you WILL be healthier if you follow them.  The only two diets that I’ve followed this year that were tested a priori (meaning that they were derived from theoretical deduction, not just observation) before they hit the market are the DASH diet (completed in June) and this month’s diet “The Volumetrics Diet.” (The Mediterannean Diet has science to support it, but it wasn’t a diet designed by scientists for health.  Weight Watchers now has science to support it and was designed based off science for weight loss, though the actual evidence for the Weight Watchers program itself didn’t come until after it was developed.)

The Volumetrics Diet
This is a diet developed by Barbara Rolls, PhD, a woman that is sort of a celebrity in my eyes.  She has been studying Nutritional Science at Penn State for decades, she has published over 250 peer-reviewed research articles, and she has been the president of The Obesity Society.  This isn’t all pomp and circumstance.  The lady knows what she’s talking about, and what she likes to talk about it is human ingestive behaviors.  Dr. Rolls runs a lab that observes people’s eating behaviors and then tests different ways to prepare food that are more healthful and less energy dense.

Energy equilibrium (thus, weight stability) is achieved when energy intake equates to energy output.  If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.  The crux of the issue is that people get hungry when they try to reduce their energy intake because they simply reduce portion size.  A potentially more sustainable and effective approach (as outlined by Rolls) is to reduce the caloric density (CD) of your food.

Rolls’ research indicates that people typically eat the same volume of food, regardless of what the food is.  She has tested this by feeding people a serving of food, say lasagna, and they eat x volume.  On another day, she feeds them the same size serving of lasagna, but this time the lasagna has a lower CD because she has added in vegetables (typically low CD foods) and taken away some meat (typically high CD foods due to fat content), and people eat the same volume (x).  Thus, the whole premise of the Volumetrics Diet is to eat either the same or larger volume of food compared to what you would typically eat, but decrease the caloric density of the meal.  In doing so, you eat fewer calories but feel more full.  SCIENCE.

stomach CD

How To Do It

Reduce caloric density (CD) of the foods you consume.  How? Check out the nutrition label and calculate:
Calories per serving/grams per serving = CD

Category Calorie Density How to Eat Examples

1

<0.6

“Free” foods to eat anytime

Almost all fruits and non-starchy veggies, broth based soups

2

0.6-1.5

Eat reasonable portions

Whole grains, lean protein, legumes, and low fat dairy

3

1.6-3.9

Manage your portions

Breads, desserts, non-fat baked snacks, cheeses, higher-fat meats

4

4.0-9.0

Carefully manage portions and frequency of eating

Fried snacks, candy, cookies, nuts, fats

This becomes almost fool proof once you get used to where foods lie in the given categories.

Throughout this year, I have found that I get really sick of tracking my diet or spending a lot of time figuring out what to eat based on specific nutritional attributes (how many grams of fat/protein/carbs, type of fat, type of carb, etc).  These are extremely beneficial and perhaps even necessary practices when you start a weight loss plan because you HAVE to learn what healthy foods look like. For me, I just got bored with it and it became tedious.  The Volumetrics Diet simplifies and streamlines things, which I really appreciate.  In addition to changing the CD of the foods you eat, the plan promotes physical activity (working up to at least 10,000 steps per day), and becoming more mindful of how you eat, why you eat, and how you can change your attitude to promote a healthier lifestyle.  I won’t go into all of that, but Rolls’ book The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet is an amazing resource.

To make it easy on myself, here are a few things I did to stick to my “volumetrics” plan.
1) Drink a big glass of water before every meal.  This activates the stretch receptors in your stomach and sends a signal to your brain that you’re about to start eating.  It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register feelings of satiety (fullness), so it’s good to give it a head start by stretching the stomach a bit.  This will help to prevent overeating.

2) Eat fruits/veggies as a starter. This means that if you make a salad to go with dinner, eat it first. If you bring an apple to go with your lunch, eat it before you eat the rest of the meal.  This works similarly to the water thing, except you’re getting some calories and lots of nutrients, which is extremely important.

3) Change up the snack routine. Most of my snacking typically involves fruit, nonfat/lowfat yogurt, and nuts.  I can easily overeat nuts because I love them so…and they’re small, which makes it feel like you’re not eating much when you’re actually getting A LOT of calories.  I switched it up by incorporating “popped” foods instead of nuts (and saved nuts as meal ingredients instead of snacks).  Popped foods include popcorn (duh) and rice cakes.  I like to eat crackers, but they tend to have an incredibly high caloric density so you can only eat a few (which I never do) if you’re trying to control intake. Popcorn and rice cakes (cinnamon was my favorite flavor) allowed me to get my starch fix without even really think about portion control.
**I also don’t eat microwave popcorn. I either make my own or buy different flavors of the already popped stuff to cut down on fat and all the freaky chemicals that are in microwave popcorn.

4) Controlling my sweet tooth. I just can’t get enough. I love sweets, everyday. This is probably my most unhealthy habit.  Delusional people (or those with extreme will power or who don’t care for sweet foods) will give you stupid advice like, “Just eat a piece of fruit.” Get real. So, I had to figure a way around this.  One way to get my chocolate fix was to buy popcorn with chocolate drizzled over it (got it at Sprouts).  I especially love salty and sweet, so this was a great snack.  I could just grab a handful and not worry about the calories because a handful was enough volume to give me the fix without a ton of calories.  When I want something more than that, my go to is always ice cream. So instead I switched to frozen yogurt, which I love just as much, and just used portion control.  This brought the CD down from 2.16 (for chocolate ice cream) to 1.13 (for chocolate frozen yogurt).

5) When you aren’t eating something healthy, don’t eat as much of it. This is seemingly obvious, but I think a lot of us forget this and just go all out when we eat unhealthy, convincing ourselves that we’ll “go back to eating healthy tomorrow.” This is why it’s so easy to fall off the healthy eating wagon.  Just allow yourself to eat these things occasionally and just don’t eat as much of it.  That way, you never “fall off the wagon.” This is one of the most important things that you can learn from reasonable diets.  There is much less of a struggle to stick to a diet when you’re granted the freedom to eat what you want.  Learning portion sizes and implementing portion control would be my number one recommendation for anyone who wants to eat healthier.

Stats

  Goal/Normal DASH Low Fat Sustainability FMD October November
Weight 121-60 123.5 123 123 125.5 127.5 123.5
BMI 18.5-24.9 19.5 19.25 19.25 19.7 20 19.5
PBF 21-32 ? ? ? ? ? ?
WC <35 ? 26.5 27 27 27.5 26.5
HC ? 36.5 37 37.5 38 38
W:H Ratio <0.8 ? 0.73 0.73 0.72 0.72 0.7
Blood Pressure <120/80 91/68 103/66 103/68 95/65 102/73 105/72
      Diet
Total kcal 2000-2200 1865 1780 1905 925-1688 1920 1820
Protein (%) 13058 15 22 19 15-61 16 18
CHO (%) 49-52 52 60 52 28-77 46 54
Fiber (g) at least 25 30 23 25 30-52 28 31
Fat (%) 20-35 33 18 29 10-46 38 28
Sat Fat (%) <10 8 7 8 3-7 7 7
Sodium (mg) 2300 2147 2315 2282 1250-1740 2127 1975
Potassium (mg) 4700 3874 3143 3746 4014-4624 3826 3906
Fruit/Veg (servings) 5-9 7-9 4-6 5-7 8-12 6-9 6-11
Cost   127.32 145.2 254.45 195.14 204.3 128.5
  

By following the Volumetrics Diet, I lost the weight that I had gained on FMD and the MedDiet.  I wasn’t really intending to, but I found myself getting full on fewer calories…exactly as the plan is laid out. I also didn’t spend much money this month, but I think that was mostly because I had a lot of food left over from MedDiet. However, I really don’t think Volumetrics is an expensive way to eat.  There are no special ingredients to buy – just lots and lots of produce.

Final Thoughts

This diet was my favorite when considering the diets that I’ve tried this year that are designed for weight loss/maintenance (Weight Watchers, Low Fat).  It was the most intuitive out of all of them for me and I wasn’t required to track my intake, so it wasn’t nearly as cumbersome as the others.  Weight Watchers really uses the same premise as Volumetrics by promoting fruit and vegetable intake; they are just two different approaches and they will each work well for different people.  Perhaps the most important thing I gained from this month, though, was the skill to start listening to my hunger and satiety cues.  I was somewhat doubtful that I’d actually feel full simply by drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables, so I had to pay close attention to how hungry/full I felt.  Turns out that I felt full a lot faster when I was following the Volumetrics approach to eating.  This is perhaps the most important skill you can learn when trying to eat healthier – listen to your body.  She will not lie to you.

And now…only one month left in this year long experiment! Join me at the end of 2013 (more likely the beginning of 2014) as I review my experience with Mindful Eating, the only “program” where I won’t really be paying any attention to WHAT I eat but HOW and WHY I eat.

June, With Fewer Grains of Salt

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First, an update on my life.  If you read my last post (or know me), you know that I just moved to Boulder, CO.  Life here is pretty great so far.  You might say it’s Coloradical. I’ve spent the last month hiking, doing yoga, going to concerts…and that’s about it. You may be asking why I have been neglecting my blog if I’ve had so much time on my hands, and the answer is simple.  I live in Boulder, CO, and I don’t want to spend any time on my computer (if you are unfamiliar with the area, do a Google image search, and you’ll see why).  But don’t fret.  I have still been true to the experiment, and I’ve been following the DASH diet for the last month (minus the last nine days, as it’s now July).

Background

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) aims to reduce blood pressure and improve vascular health (my favorite topic).  Check out http://www.dashdiet.org for more info. The stars of the DASH diet are really fruits and vegetables, though emphasis is also placed on incorporating lots of beans and legumes, switching meat to lean meat, dairy to low or nonfat dairy, and making at least half of your grains whole grains.  Sounds like an overall healthy diet, right? Right.

In making these simple changes, what ends up happening by default is that you reduce your processed food intake, thereby reducing your sodium intake (fun fact: the majority of sodium in our diet comes from processed foods.  What we add from the salt shaker accounts for very little of our intake).  Additionally, by switching to all the whole foods mentioned above, you increase your intake of other vasoprotective minerals including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

The goal of the DASH diet is to reduce sodium intake to 2300 mg/day (though the DASH-reduced sodium diet recommends 1500 mg/day for people with suboptimal blood pressure….which is 70% of the American adult population).  The average American consumes about 3700 mg/day (thanks, processed foods), but the reduction to 2300 mg/day isn’t difficult if you eat whole foods.  Even with this minor change, you can still see a reduction in blood pressure because you are increasing your intake of all the other vascular protective minerals, thereby counterbalancing the impact of sodium.  In fact, studies have shown that individuals who are moderately hypertensive who follow the DASH diet can show reductions of up to 6 mmHg in their systolic blood pressure after only 14 days.  These results are equivalent to that of the primary hypertensive medication on the market, ACE inhibitors.

The cool thing about the DASH diet is 1) there are absolutely no gimmicks, extra money, or bullshit promises involved, and 2) although the diet was originally designed to treat moderate hypertension, so many more benefits have been shown over the years.  It is now recommended for improving overall cardiovascular risk, reducing insulin resistance, reducing the risk of diabetes, and is a great tool for weight loss as well.  It’s one of the few diets that has stood the test of time and can easily be maintained over the long haul because it focuses on incorporating MORE into your diet (fruits, veggies), and consequently, reducing some of the less healthy options.

My Experience

To be honest, this was probably the easiest month for me, which was one of the reasons why I chose it now – I wanted something that would be fairly straight forward as I transitioned into my new life.  The biggest challenge for people as they transition into the DASH diet is to cut out processed food.  This isn’t much of an issue for me since I don’t eat much of that stuff these days.  My typical diet roughly follows the DASH recommendations, though I did focus on cooking more with spices and avoiding mindlessly adding salt to dishes as well as eating more fruits and veggies.  While it wasn’t a far cry from my actual diet, it was nice to have goals to focus on.  In doing so, it made my diet much healthier than normal. Here are some tips on how to easily incorporate the DASH plan into your life:

  • 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day keeps the heart disease away: To reach your fruit and veggie goal, eat at least one serving of F or V at every meal.  Also, replace all snacks with F or V.  For me, the easiest way to do Part 2 was to either just eat a piece of fruit or to eat baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or bell pepper slices with hummus (I don’t like veggies by themselves).
  • Spice up your life: Instead of immediately adding salt as your go-to season, try other spices first.  Cumin is my personal favorite spice, and garlic/onion powders are other good spices when you’re looking for a more savory flavor.  Fresh herbs also go a long way in adding flavor.  The DASH plan has also come up with the brilliant idea of marketing their own spices and marinades, Mrs. DASH.  These are sodium free flavor enhancers, and boy, are they tasty.  If after you have added all these other spices and still need a little somethin somethin, add a pinch of salt– you don’t need much.(Another fun fact: most of our taste buds serve some sort of survival mechanism.  Sweetness cues our brains that something is probably nutrient rich, like fruit, whereas bitterness is indicative of poisonous things, causing us to spit them out.  The love of saltiness, on the other hand, is not something that we are born with, and is instead a taste we grow to love.  I imagine the introduction to salt began when we started salting our meats as a preservative.  That tasted good and we love it.  However, we have not evolved to need/love it, and we can teach ourselves to love it less.  I’ve been working on this, and I have found that the less I eat salty foods, the more overpoweringly salty and terrible they taste when I do eat them, french fries excluded.  Give it a try!)
  • Hop on the whole grain train:  If you eat a lot of bread products, do whole wheat (beware of “multigrain” products.  While many are in fact made of multiple whole grains, others are simply multiple refined grains put into one product and are no better than their refined counterparts.  The ingredients list will tell you if they are whole or not).  Try whole grain pasta (many people hate it, I like it better), brown rice, quinoa, etc.  Get creative.
  • Skip the salt (another way): Buy canned vegetables/beans/sauces with no salt added.  They taste pretty meh, but you can always add your own salt.  Chances are that you’ll add less than what the saltier packaged counterparts include.

Final Stats

 

Goal/Normal

Baseline Data

Vegan

Paleo

WW

GF

Smoothies

DASH

Anthro
Weight

121-60

127.5

127.5

128.5

124

120

124

123.5

BMI

18.5-24.9

20

20

20.1

19.5

19

19.5

19.5

PBF

21-32

21.4

21.2

20.6

21.3

18.5

19.0

?

WC

<35

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

?

HC

38.5

37.5

38

38

38

38

?

W:H Ratio

<0.8

0.71

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.72

0.72

?

Blood Pressure

<120/80

113/77

101/69

105/72

110/70

93/65

92/68

91/68

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1975

1809

1965

1900

1850

1980

1865

Protein (g)

77.5

57

100

75

78

80

70

Protein (%)

Oct-35

16

12%

20

16

17

17

15

CHO (%)

49-52

51

39-50

47

54

52

54

52

Fiber (g)

at least 25

26

42

32

27

29

33

30

Fat (%)

20-35

29.5

44-54

47

30

31

29

33

Sat Fat (%)

<10

7

8

8

7

7

7

8

Sodium (mg)

2300

2587

2138-2527

2132

2370

2250

2320

2147

Potassium (mg)

4700

3479

3959-4109

3742

3628

3658

3925

3874

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

3-7

8-12

6-8

5-7

6-8

8-10

7-9

Cost

192.59

206.38

120.97

128.57

135.42

127.32

 

Since I moved, I haven’t had anywhere to measure my body fat or waist/hip circumference.  I’m not sure if my new lab will have those tools available; if not, that information may no longer be included.  I’m pretty sure nothing has changed, though.  Other than that, no real changes, other than my fat intake went up a few percentage points…. just in time for me to follow a low fat diet plan for July! I have kissed peanut butter, avocadoes, and pasta drenched in olive oil goodbye (ish).  So far, so OK…see you later this month! (But realistically, see you in the beginning-middle of August.  I suck at having a blog).

Sionara Smoothies!

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Smoothie month may have been my favorite month thus far.  I think that is likely due to the fact that smoothie month involved absolutely no restrictions – it was just an addition to my diet.  I was still able to eat all the food I wanted to, which made it super easy to adhere to the “diet.” And therein lies the problem with smoothies.  Smoothies are so easy to incorporate into the diet because they taste good.  But, as I’ve said before, they can be very calorically dense, which means that it’s easy to over-do the smoothie thing.

Last month I lost 4 pounds, and I was worried about the weight loss.  I started this month by replacing my breakfast with a smoothie.  I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to gain any weight that way.  Typically, breakfast for me consists of 400-500 kcals, and my average smoothie was probably about 300-350 kcals.  Clearly, that isn’t going to result in weight gain, so I decided to start drinking the smoothies as a snack in either the morning or the afternoon.  I found that I snacked less on empty calories and that I was able to regain the weight that I had lost the previous month.  This actually happened to be a perfect fit because I was able to get in plenty of extra, nutrient-dense calories. It’s easy to eat extra, empty calories (i.e. chips, cheese, candy, French fries, etc.), but those leave me feeling sluggish and lazy.  Packing in calories that were rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals is the best way I’ve ever put on weight.

Moral of the story: If you want to pack more nutrients into your day via smoothies, you can do it.  If you want to gain a little weight, add it to your normal diet.  If you want to lose a little weight, replace a meal with one. SCIENCE!

 I also have a few tips based off some of my experiences.

Some fruits/veggies don’t blend well: apples, mangoes, celery, grapefruit, carrots.  Whenever I added apples to my smoothies, they came out with the consistency of applesauce.  Mangoes – again, weird texture…the same is probably true of peaches, plums, etc.  Celery is really good when you juice it, though it also lends a weird consistency to a smoothie.  Grapefruit (maybe other citrus, I didn’t try any) wasn’t a good addition to smoothies.  The pith doesn’t break down well, and you’ll get weird “skins” throughout your smoothie, which is pretty gross.  I didn’t actually try to put carrots into my blender because experience and a brain told me that wouldn’t blend well.  However, carrots are a great veggie to juice, and carrot juice is delicious.  Drink it on its own or add to a smoothie of your liking.

Liquid is necessary.  This is pretty obvious, but there were some fruits that I thought had more liquid in them than they do (berries, mostly), and your smoothie will come out super thick and more like a puree than anything drink-able.  I usually just added water, coconut water, or almond milk to increase the drinkability of these smoothies.

For thickness/creamy texture: avocado, avocado, avocado.  I had never thought to put avo in a smoothie before, but it’s one of my favorite foods, so I tossed it in just to see what would happen.  Magic happened.  The avocado adds a very subtle flavor, but gives a smoothie a really silky texture.  Plus, avocadoes are full of monounsaturated fats, fiber, and potassium. Never a bad thing! Plain greek yogurt also gives a similar result.

And now for my favorite smoothie and my favorite juice. Sorry, as usual, for not real recipes.  As usual, I didn’t measure anything.  These are estimates – adjust accordingly.

Berry Avo Smoothie -This is tangy.  Replace the cranberry juice with coconut water if you want something a little sweeter.

½ avocado

¼ cup 100% cranberry juice

4-5 strawberries

handful each of blueberries, raspberries, and frozen cherries

dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt

~1 tbsp flax seeds

Carrot-Pineapple-Ginger Juice (2 servings) –This is amazing.  I only made a couple of juices because they’re a pain in the ass to make/clean up, but this one is SO good.  It just felt like I was giving my body a hug when I drank it.

6-7 full sized carrots

½ pineapple

2 celery stalks

A few quarter sized slices of fresh ginger (I LOVE ginger, so reduce this if you don’t)

 

Goal/Normal

Baseline Data

Vegan

Paleo

WW

GF

Smoothies

Anthro    
Weight

121-60

127.5

127.5

128.5

124

120

124

BMI

18.5-24.9

20

20

20.1

19.5

19

19.5

PBF

21-32

21.4

21.2

20.6

21.3

18.5

19.0

WC

<35

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

HC

38.5

37.5

38

38

38

38

W:H Ratio

<0.8

0.71

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.72

0.72

Blood Pressure

<120/80

113/77

101/69

105/72

110/70

93/65

92/68

Diet    
Total kcal

2000-2200

1975

1809

1965

1900

1850

1980

Protein (g)

77.5

57

100

75

78

80

Protein (%)

Oct-35

16

12%

20

16

17

17

CHO (%)

49-52

51

39-50

47

54

52

54

Fiber (g)

at least 25

26

42

32

27

29

33

Fat (%)

20-35

29.5

44-54

47

30

31

29

Sat Fat (%)

<10

7

8

8

7

7

7

Sodium (mg)

2300

2587

2138-2527

2132

2370

2250

2320

Potassium (mg)

4700

3479

3959-4109

3742

3628

3658

3925

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

3-7

8-12

6-8

5-7

6-8

8-10

Cost

192.59

206.38

120.97

128.57

135.42

 

Again, sorry for the late post.  I just moved to Boulder, CO on Saturday, so things have been a bit hectic.  But don’t worry! I haven’t fallen off the diet-a-month train. This month I’ve started following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.  I won’t give too much away yet, but if you’re interested in improving your vascular health, stay tuned! I’ll give a nice physiology lesson on how sodium and potassium impact vascular function next time, and I’ll go through some basics of keepin your ticker and its extensions in good working order.

Dr. Oz’s “Three” Day Smoothie “Detox”

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As part of my Month O’ Smoothies Challenge, I decided to do one day of nothin but smoothies.  (As a reminder, my “diet” for this month is replacing my breakfast with a delicious, produce packed smoothie. Just one a day, nothing too crazy.)

There is a definite craze going on these days that supports the notion that we need to “detox” our bodies.  It’s hard to make a list of my least favorite  words that arise whenever people want to talk about health and nutrition because there are so many of them, but “detox” definitely makes the top 10…along with “anti-nutrient” (see my original post on Paleo for more information on that).  “Detox” is one of those very vague terms that floats around the media.  No one really knows what it means, but it sounds important, so people keep saying it.  Here are some important questions that you should chew over when considering a “detox.”
Q: What are the toxins of which you’re ridding your body when you go on a “detox”?
A: Pesticides? Inflammatory molecules? Antinutrients? Cancer? The boogey man?
I use question marks in my answer because I don’t know what the answer is.
Q: How, exactly, are drinking a bunch of fruits and vegetables going to rid your body of these toxins?
A: I’m not knocking fruits and veggies here.  If you’ve been paying attention this year, I’ve got nothing bad to say about them. But, unless you’re eating organic, you’re actually going to introduce pesticides (and who knows if that’s even a bad thing? I’ll go into detail on that when I do my Sustainability Month). Eating fruits and veggies that are packed with anti-inflammatory agents will promote health and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, but they aren’t going to get rid of the ones you have.  You can actually just eat lots of fruits and veggies on the reg — there isn’t some transformative value of putting them in a blender that gives them miniature superhero capes. And doing it for a day only isn’t really going to do anything at all.
Q: Does the body lack the ability to get rid of “toxins” (put simply, things that are bad for us)?
A: No, it doesn’t.  It actually has some really incredible organs called the small intestine, liver, and kidneys whose jobs are to prevent bad stuff from getting in / getting rid of The Badness when it does get in.  These organs stop working properly when they aren’t treated properly (i.e. binge drinking, doing drugs, eating an unhealthy diet).  The body is composed of a pretty incredible set of systems, and a single “detox” isn’t going to do much for them.  In fact, a detox could actually hurt those organs, because they require a proper balance of nutrients to work, and most “detox” programs are deficient in nearly every nutrient. A better program is to just eat a healthy diet full of foods that are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich components pretty much all the time.  But that just doesn’t have that glamorous ring to it, does it?
Q: What about cleanses? Aren’t those good? Don’t I need to cleanse my body? (This is sort of a tangential thought, but it seemed like the right time to answer this question).
A: No.  See above answer about the organs that get rid of bad crap — same thing.  Also, anything that involves a “colon cleanse” is a bad idea.  There are lots of really beneficial bacteria that have formed a symbiotic relationship with your gut – they live off what you eat and they help to promote a healthy immune system and overall keep your insides happy.  Don’t get rid of them. YOUR COLON SHOULD NEVER BE CLEAN (unless you’re getting a colonoscopy. Have fun with that).

The Detox
I decided to follow Dr. Oz’s three day smoothie detox because 1) I saw it on Pinterest, so I figured lots of other people had too; 2) I didn’t look for any others. This doesn’t mean that I support anything Dr. Oz says or does.  I don’t know everything he says because it makes me too angry to listen to him, but I do know that he’s a really important contributor to the propagation of whack ass health information out there. He’s making my life harder than it needs to be. Anyways, back to my smoothie challenge.  I decided ahead of time that I was only going to follow this thing for a day because it’s so low in calories, and I’m not trying to lose weight.  Also, I didn’t want to become a huge bitch due to not eating for a few days.  I was really just thinking about everyone else. You’re welcome, loved ones.

Here’s how it goes:

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I did take a fish oil supplement because I had one.  I didn’t take a multivitamin or a probiotic supplement because I didn’t have those, and I wasn’t going to spend money on them.  I also decided to do a nutrient analysis to see what my intake was for that day:

Nutrients Target Average Eaten Status
Total Calories 2000 Calories 1047 Calories Under
Protein (g)*** 46 g 21 g Under
Protein (% Calories)*** 10 – 35% Calories 8% Calories Under
Carbohydrate (g)*** 130 g 170 g OK
Carbohydrate (% Calories)*** 45 – 65% Calories 65% Calories OK
Dietary Fiber 25 g 37 g OK
Total Fat 20 – 35% Calories 36% Calories Over
Saturated Fat < 10% Calories 13% Calories Over
Monounsaturated Fat No Daily Target or Limit 11% Calories No Daily Target or Limit
Polyunsaturated Fat No Daily Target or Limit 8% Calories No Daily Target or Limit
Cholesterol < 300 mg 0 mg OK
Minerals Target Average Eaten Status
Calcium 1000 mg 658 mg Under
Potassium 4700 mg 3485 mg Under
Sodium** < 2300 mg 610 mg OK
Copper 900 µg 2840 µg OK
Iron 18 mg 8 mg Under
Magnesium 310 mg 405 mg OK
Phosphorus 700 mg 595 mg Under
Selenium 55 µg 13 µg Under
Zinc 8 mg 4 mg Under
Vitamins Target Average Eaten Status
Vitamin A 700 µg RAE 698 µg RAE Under
Vitamin B6 1.3 mg 1.6 mg OK
Vitamin B12 2.4 µg 0.0 µg Under
Vitamin C 75 mg 295 mg OK
Vitamin D 15 µg 1 µg Under
Vitamin E 15 mg AT 16 mg AT OK
Vitamin K 90 µg 833 µg OK
Folate 400 µg DFE 263 µg DFE Under
Thiamin 1.1 mg 0.9 mg Under
Riboflavin 1.1 mg 1.2 mg OK
Niacin 14 mg 7 mg Under

Clearly, I was deficient in nearly every nutrient, which is to be expected when there is absolutely no variety in the types of foods you’re eating. Some whole grains and a couple of lean protein sources could have done this body some good.  I was kind of surprised that this day didn’t provide more fiber (37 g is still pretty substantial, but that’s the goal for the average man, so it’s really not that much).  What’s most interesting to me is that a standard low calorie diet that is prescribed to someone trying to lose weight is 1200 calories.  This was only 150 shy of that, and I can think of a lot of lean, satiating foods that I could have eaten with the same number of calories and felt a lot better.  But pain is health, right? …Wrong.

My Experience

This day was pretty hard for me.  I tried to drink the smoothies slowly so that there wouldn’t be much time in between meals for me to get hungry.  It worked between breakfast and lunch, and I wasn’t too terribly hungry.  But the lunch smoothie was pretty weird.  The consistency was more like apple sauce than a smoothie, and I ended up eating it with a spoon.  It was also the only time that I did any chewing throughout the day, and it was pretty unsatisfying.  Which brings me to things that I couldn’t stop thinking about throughout the day: chewing, food, food, chewing, food, food, I hate vegetables, chewing, I hate fruit, food, food, food.  I also had some interesting cravings for things I really never crave including BBQ chips, fried chicken, orange chicken, fettucine alfredo, and Olive Garden breadsticks. Now that I’m not hungry, those things sound gross to me, but that’s what a day of low calories, low fat, low protein, and no salt will do to you. I’m pretty sure my attempt to detoxify my system only made me want to re-toxify by the end. Not really much of a homerun on the health front.
However, the smoothies were actually really good (minus lunch, whose flavor was nice, but was too weird of a texture to want to enjoy again), and I have since made them for breakfast. As you may have guessed, I noticed no positive changes in how I felt.  No little health cherubs descended from the heavens and kissed my forehead and eradicated all my ailments.  I ended the day disappointed and hungry and then went back to my normal, overall healthy eating pattern the next day.  What a sad, boring story.