World will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight by 2022

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The number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO). If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022. The study is published in The Lancet. It analyzed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five (31.5 million people aged 5 to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older), the largest number of participants ever involved in an epidemiological study. More than 1000 researchers contributed to the study, which looked at body mass index (BMI) and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.

During this period, obesity rates in the world’s children and adolescents increased from less than 1% (equivalent to five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to nearly 6% in girls (50 million) and nearly 8% in boys (74 million) in 2016. Combined, the number of obese 5 to 19-year-olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity. Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Over the past four decades, obesity rates in children and adolescents have soared globally, and continue to do so in low-and-middle-income countries. More recently, they have plateaued in higher income countries, although obesity levels remain unacceptably high.”

Professor Ezzati adds: “These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and also malnourished. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.”

More obese than underweight 5 to 19-year-olds by 2022

The authors say that if post-2000 trends continue, global levels of child and adolescent obesity will surpass those for moderately and severely underweight for the same age group by 2022. Nevertheless, the large number of moderately or severely underweight children and adolescents in 2016 (75 million girls and 117 boys) still represents a major public health challenge, especially in the poorest parts of the world. This reflects the threat posed by malnutrition in all its forms, with there being underweight and overweight young people living in the same communities. Children and adolescents have rapidly transitioned from mostly underweight to mostly overweight in many middle-income countries, including in East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The authors say this could reflect an increase in the consumption of energy-dense foods, especially highly processed carbohydrates, which lead to weight gain and poor lifelong health outcomes.

Dr. Fiona Bull, the programme coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at WHO, said: “These data highlights, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action.”

Global data for obesity and underweight

In 2016, there were 50 million obese girls and 74 million obese boys in the world, while the global number of moderately or severely underweight girls and boys was 75 million and 117 million respectively. The number of obese adults increased from 100 million in 1975 (69 million women, 31 million men) to 671 million in 2016 (390 million women, 281 million men). Another 1.3 billion adults were overweight but fell below the threshold for obesity.

Regional/Country data for obesity, BMI and underweight

Obesity:

The rise in childhood and adolescent obesity in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, has accelerated since 1975. Conversely, the rise in high-income countries has slowed and plateaued. The largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents was seen in East Asia, the high-income English-speaking region (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK), and the Middle East and North Africa. In 2016, obesity rates were highest overall in Polynesia and Micronesia, at 25.4% in girls and 22.4% in boys, followed by the high-income English-speaking region. Nauru had the highest prevalence of obesity for girls (33.4%), and the Cook Islands had the highest for boys (33.3%).

In Europe, girls in Malta and boys in Greece had the highest obesity rates, at 11.3% and 16.7% of the population respectively. Girls and boys in Moldova had the lowest obesity rates, at 3.2% and 5% of the population respectively. Girls in the UK had the 73rd highest obesity rate in the world (6th in Europe), and boys in the UK had the 84th highest obesity in the world (18th in Europe). Girls in the USA had the 15th highest obesity rate in the world, and boys had the 12th highest obesity in the world. Among high-income countries, the USA had the highest obesity rates for girls and boys.

BMI:

The largest rise in BMI of children and adolescents since 1975 was in Polynesia and Micronesia for both sexes, and in central Latin America for girls. The smallest rise in the BMI of children and adolescents during the four decades covered by the study was seen in Eastern Europe. The country with the biggest rise in BMI for girls was Samoa, which rose by 5.6 kg/m2, and for boys was the Cook Islands, which rose by 4.4 kg/m2.

Underweight:

India had the highest prevalence of moderately and severely underweight (BMI <19) throughout these four decades (24.4% of girls and 39.3% of boys were moderately or severely underweight in 1975, and 22.7% and 30.7% in 2016). 97 million of the world’s moderately or severely underweight children and adolescents lived in India in 2016.

Solutions exist to reduce child and adolescent obesity

In conjunction with the release of the new obesity estimates, WHO is publishing a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan. The plan gives countries clear guidance on effective actions to curb childhood and adolescent obesity. WHO has also released guidelines calling on frontline healthcare workers to actively identify and manage children who are overweight or obese. Dr. Bull added: “WHO encourages countries to implement efforts to address the environments that today are increasing our children’s chance of obesity. Countries should aim particularly to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods. They should also reduce the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports.”

Dr. Sophie Hawkesworth, from the Population Health team at Wellcome Trust, which co-funded the study, said: “Global population studies on this scale are hugely important in understanding and addressing modern health challenges. This study harnessed the power of big data to highlight worrying trends of both continuing high numbers of underweight children and teenagers and a concurrent stark rise in childhood obesity. Together with global health partners and the international research community, Wellcome is working to help identify new research opportunities that could help better understand all aspects of malnutrition and the long-term health consequences.”

My thoughts: The unfortunate and sad reality is that I was not surprised when I read the research. 😔 However, this is just more proof that we have to work together as a world, not a country, to fight this epidemic…..and not only obesity but eating disorders as a whole. We can win!

Adapted from: NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128*9 million children, adolescents, and adults. The Lancet, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)32129-3

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Schedule time each week to plan healthy meals! Keep your recipes, grocery list, and coupons in the same place to make planning and budgeting easier.

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet the Best for You?

Fans of anti-inflammatory diets say they can transform you inside and out. Is this another  “health” fad…or do we all really need to go AI?

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An anti-inflammatory diet=less pain, happy gut, more energy, and more! This diet may be buzzy, but the tenets of an AI diet; more plants, less sugar, no refined stuff, is far from a passing fad. “Who needs to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet? Everyone,” says Barry Sears, PhD, creator of The Zone diet, who has spent decades studying chronic inflammation. Here’s the lowdown on inflammation, and how to fight it with food.

What the heck is inflammation, anyway?

Believe it or not, inflammation starts as a good thing. It happens when your immune system sends out white blood cells and “warrior” compounds, such as eicosanoids to attack invading viruses, bacteria, or toxins. A classic example of normal inflammation: Pain, heat, redness, and swelling around a wound or injury (think of a tender sprained ankle). “There’s a separate response called ‘resolution’ that brings the dogs of war back to their barracks and heals your tissues,” says Sears. “The first phase of inflammation causes cellular destruction, and the second phase, resolution, begins cellular rejuvenation. As long as those phases are balanced, you stay well.”

However, for most of us, the balance never happens. That’s because sugar, refined grains, and saturated fat can also trigger an inflammatory immune response, notes Sears, and the typical Western diet is packed with them, meaning we’re inflaming our bodies over and over, every time we eat. Meanwhile, guess what the average American gets way too little of? Fruits, non-starchy veggies, and fatty fish. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants that help cool things down and reduce the intensity of the initial inflammatory response and fatty fish, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, can help your body move into the resolution phase.

Air pollution and environmental toxins also trigger your immune system in the same way, but “most of the chronic, extra inflammation in our bodies is diet-related,” says Sears. In arteries, chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease. In the brain, it’s linked to anxiety and depression. In your joints, it causes swelling and pain. In the gut, inflammation throws off the balance of helpful bacteria and causes direct damage to the lining of the intestines, says Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and author of The Blood Sugar Solution: 10-Day Detox Diet. This may contribute to IBS, food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and even obesity, research suggests.

In contrast, research shows that following a more anti-inflammatory style of eating may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and some cancers and may even extend your life, says Frank Hu, MD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Other claims about anti-inflammatory diets, such as reversing autoimmune disease (the goal of the Autoimmune Protocol, an extremely restrictive AI diet) or improve mental health, have less solid proof, he says.

How to spot an anti-inflammatory diet

There isn’t just one specific “AI Diet,” unlike Atkins or South Beach. Sears’s Zone diet and Dr. Hyman’s Detox are both highly anti-inflammatory, as is the soy-heavy plan from integrative medicine guru Andrew Weil, MD. Paleo and Whole30 diets are both AI, as well. However, the plan with the most research-backed anti-inflammatory credibility is the traditional Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil. Several very large studies, including the famed Nurses’ Health Study, have found that people who follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating have lower levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood compared with those who do not. This may be one reason the Mediterranean diet is linked to so many health benefits, from keeping weight down to slashing heart and stroke risk, notes Dr. Hu.

The goals of an AI plan are simple: Cut back on foods that trigger an inflammatory response and eat more of the foods that heal damage. While there are some variations in what’s allowed and what isn’t, most AI plans share an emphasis on eating whole, minimally processed foods, non-starchy vegetables, monounsaturated fats, such as olive and avocado oil, colorful berries and other fruits, omega-3s from fatty fish (or supplements), and avoiding added sugar and refined grains. That said, your plate may look a little different from your friend’s or coworker’s, and that’s the way it should be, says Dr. Hyman. Some people thrive on a grain-free Paleo plan, while others would rather die than give up bread. Food sensitivities also play a role: “People react to foods differently, and if someone has a sensitivity to a particular food, it will lead to cytokine production and an increase in other inflammatory chemicals,” says Dr. Hyman. If you suspect you have a sensitivity, talk to your doctor or a dietitian, who can design an elimination diet to help ID the culprit.

What’s off the menu?

While all AI plans give a thumbs-up to veggies, fatty fish, and olive oil, the foods you can’t eat vary. Women with a history of eating disorders take note: “Restricting whole food groups can be triggering,” says Sonya Angelone, RDN. Here is what’s not allowed in four different diets:

Autoimmune protocol: Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants,peppers), nuts, seeds, eggs.

Paleo: All grains, dairy, legumes, (chickpeas, lentils, beans, peanuts).

The Zone Diet: All refined grains, white potatoes.

Mediterranean Diet: Added sugar, refined sugar.

So what exactly do you eat?

You don’t have to follow any AI diet perfectly to make a big impact. A healthy body is built to handle the occasional onslaught of inflammation (like having a cupcake at a party); it’s the regular, consistent consumption (and overconsumption) of inflammatory foods, such as sugar and saturated fat that’s linked to serious disease, says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A 2012 study of nearly 2,000 people, for example, found that those who ate the most sweets over two years had significantly higher levels of interleukin-6 than people who ate more veggies, fruits, and whole grains. That’s why it’s more important to eat an overall “super” diet rather than focus on individual superfoods, says Angelone. “If you’re regularly eating a bunch of doughnuts along with a bunch of anti-inflammatory veggies, you’re still harming your body,” adds Dr. Hyman. Follow these AI guidelines on most days:

1. Aim for half to two-thirds of your plate to be nonstarchy vegetables. Greens of all kinds, mushrooms, summer squash, beets, cauliflower…the list goes on and on, as well as at breakfast, too, says Dr. Hyman. They’re packed with gut-balancing fiber and powerful antioxidants.

2. Limit added sugar and sweet drinks. That includes fruit juices and natural sweeteners, such as honey, says Dr. Hyman. In a small 2005 study, people who were fed a high-sugar diet for 10 weeks had significantly elevated blood levels of haptoglobin, an inflammatory marker that in high concentrations is associated with diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity, compared with controls.

3. Eat fish. Especially fatty kinds, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and anchovies, or take omega-3 supplements, at least 1,000 milligrams daily, says Dr. Hyman.

4. Nix white flour and limit other flour-based foods. Focus on whole, intact grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and bulgur wheat instead of loading up on whole-grain crackers, breads, and tortillas. Even 100% whole-grain flour will cause a spike in blood sugar that exacerbates inflammation, especially for people with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (i.e., prediabetes), or diabetes, so use them moderately, says Sears.

5. Choose fats carefully. The most abundant saturated fats in our diet contain the same fatty acids as do fragments of the cell walls of many bacteria. No wonder our immune system sees a bacon cheeseburger as a threat! Limit saturated fats and skip vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fats, such as safflower and corn oils. Opt instead for olive, avocado, or walnut oil. “It might sound tough, but if you think about it, it’s exactly how your grandmother probably told you to eat!” says Sears, and a diet endorsed by your nana? Now that sounds like a plan.

Yes, you might lose some weight

Going AI doesn’t automatically mean you’ll drop pounds, says Angelone, especially if your weight is in a healthy range to begin with. However, research does suggest that an AI diet packed with veggies and low in sugar and refined carbs can help with weight loss goals. “You feel fuller on fewer calories because the high-fiber foods have so much more volume,” she says. The healthy fats in an AI plan may also play a role: A large, five-year study published in 2016 found that people who ate a veggie-and fat-rich Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who went on a low-fat plan.

The 10 best foods for fighting inflammation

These are foods that research has shown to have exceptionally strong effects on inflammation:

• Berries

• Dark green Leafy vegetables (like kale, spinach, Swiss chard)

• Fatty fish

• Garlic and onions

• Green tea

• Ginger

• Turmeric

• Nuts

• Oranges

• Tart cherries

What are your thoughts on an AI diet? Can it transform you from the inside out?

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Cook vegetables in healthy ways that will help bring out their natural flavors, including roasting, grilling, steaming and baking. You’ll need less salt (if any) and may even turn the most anti-veggie kid into a fan!

Daily Inspiration 

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Feeling sated can become a cue to eat more

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When hunger pangs strike, we usually interpret them as a cue to reach for a snack; when we start to feel full, we take it as a sign that we should stop eating. However, new research shows that these associations can be learned the other way around, such that satiety becomes a cue to eat more, not less. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that internal, physical states themselves can serve as contexts that cue specific learned behaviors. “We already know that extreme diets are susceptible to fail. One reason might be that the inhibition of eating learned while dieters are hungry doesn’t transfer well to a non-hungry state,” says psychological scientist Mark E. Bouton of the University of Vermont, one of the authors on the study. “If so, dieters might ‘relapse’ to eating, or perhaps overeating, when they feel full again.”

To test this hypothesis, Bouton and co-author Scott T. Schepers conducted a behavioral conditioning study using 32 female Wistar rats as their participants. Every day for 12 days, the rats, who were already satiated, participated in a 30-minute conditioning session. They were placed in a box that contained a lever and learned that they would receive tasty treats if they pressed that lever. Then, over the next 4 days, the rats were placed in the same box while they were hungry, and they discovered that lever presses no longer produced treats.

Through these two phases, the rats were conditioned to associate satiety with receiving tasty food and hunger with receiving no food. However, what would the rats do if they were placed in the box again? The results were clear: When the rats were tested again, they pressed the lever far more often if they were full than if they were hungry. In other words, they relapsed back to seeking treats. “Rats that learned to respond for highly palatable foods while they were full and then inhibited their behavior while hungry, tended to relapse when they were full again,” Bouton explains.

This relapse pattern emerged even when food was removed from the cage before both the learning and unlearning sessions, indicating that the rats’ internal physical states, and not the presence or absence of food, cued their learned behavior. Findings from three different studies supported the researchers’ hypothesis that hunger and satiety could be learned as contextual cues in a classic ABA¹ (sated-hungry-sated) renewal design. However, the researchers found no evidence that an AB design², in which the rats learned and subsequently inhibited the lever-treat association in a hungry state and were tested in a sated state, had any effect on the rats’ lever pressing. Together, these results show that seeking food and not seeking food are behaviors that are specific to the context in which they are learned.

Although our body may drive food seeking behavior according to physiological needs, this research suggests that food-related behaviors can become associated with internal physical cues in ways that are divorced from our physiological needs. “A wide variety of stimuli can come to guide and promote specific behaviors through learning. For example, the sights, sounds, and the smell of your favorite restaurant might signal the availability of your favorite food, causing your mouth to water and ultimately guiding you to eat,” say Schepers and Bouton. “Like sights, sounds, and smells, internal sensations can also come to guide behavior, usually in adaptive and useful ways: We learn to eat when we feel hunger, and learn to drink when we feel thirst. However, internal stimuli such as hunger or satiety may also promote behavior in ways that are not so adaptive.”

¹A-B-A design involves establishing a baseline condition (the “A” phase), introducing a treatment or intervention to effect some sort of change (the “B” phase), and then removing the treatment to see if it returns to the baseline (“A”).

²An AB design is a two part or phase design composed of a baseline (“A” phase) with no changes, and a treatment or intervention (“B”) phase.

Adapted from: Scott T. Schepers, Mark E. Bouton. Hunger as a Context: Food Seeking That Is Inhibited During Hunger Can Renew in the Context of Satiety. Psychological Science, 2017; 095679761771908 DOI: 10.1177/0956797617719084

Nutrtition Tip of the Day

Package your own healthy snacks! Put cut-up veggies and fruits in portion-sized containers for easy, healthy snacking on the go, without the added sugars and sodium.

Daily Inspiration 

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The Best Way To Help Your Child With Their Weight & Body Image + Chaos

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If you have kids in your life, you’re probably already aware that body image challenges start early. Numerous studies have shown that even elementary school children, especially girls, believe they need to change something about their body, whether it’s their weight, their hair, their freckles, or something else. It can be heartbreaking to watch the children we care about struggling with these issues, and so many grown-ups want to know what they can do to help. As it turns out, there IS one thing that we, as adults, can do to create an environment that truly supports our kids’ development of a healthy, positive body image. It’s something we actually have a lot of control over, and best of all, when we start doing this, it will immediately make our own lives better, too.

I would like to share my thoughts on the best way to help children with their weight and their body image. Though I do not have credentials behind my name….yet (another six months and I will!), I have struggled with anorexia nervosa for almost 20 years. I have been in recovery for four years so I give myself a bit of credibility when it comes to this subject. I also do a ton of research!

We live in a time when so many people, young and old, are experiencing an epidemic of body hate and body dissatisfaction. You can read the statistics. Nine out of 10 women polled are hitting on their bodies, and 40% of girls, three to six years old, are already dieting. They’re hating on their body. They’re wanting to change their body parts.

This is crazy! This is the kind of challenge that cuts me to the core….and I hope yours as well.

Hating our body, judging it, and believing that it’s unlovable in some way is the royal road to misery and an unhappy life.

Think about it. When we’re born into this world, watch a baby. They’re not sitting there worried about how they’re looking or running around naked or if they’ve got little bits of body fat here and there. Babies and infants are in love with their physiology. It’s just all one. It’s pleasure. It’s play. However, so many people are struggling in silence with self-defeating thoughts about their own physical form. We’ve got to change that.

An unhappy and unresolved body image keeps us small in our sense of self. It limits our personal growth. It stops our best creativity, and it leaves us far short of the beautiful potential that we are born with. Body hate shuts down the soul. It ruins us. It’s a soul crusher!

If you’re a parent or you have kids in your life and you really want to help the child, especially if you’re a parent, then you want to give them the best chance of a loving relationship with their body….OR at least I hope you do! An unhappy body image these days often starts at a young age. However, there is one strategy that will help you succeed in such a brilliant and beautiful way:

Heal your own relationship with your body!

That’s it. Work on you. Work on your relationship with your body. Get to a place, please, as fast as you can where you forgive your own imperfections and where you let go of your own self-criticism. Stop the fight. Just stop the war because your children, our children pick up on who we are. Children are brilliant observers. They’re not good interpreters, but they’re brilliant observers. They will observe mommy, daddy hating on their own body. They’ll feel it. They’ll absorb it through the airwaves.

In a way, this is the beauty of our young ones. They want to be like us, and they will be like us. Therefore, it is best to look in the mirror and start to work on SELF. It is going to save your kids so much heartache and unnecessary waste of life energy as they get older.

SO AGAIN!!…….the greatest gift you can give your kids is to do your own work and do it now and stop the nonsense in your own head! Here’s how you start: Call a cease-fire on self-attack, and mean it! Just wake up and say cease-fire! Consciously choose to begin to love yourself in small ways. It’s a practice. You’ve got to practice every day.

Every day practice gratitude in some way, shape, or form, for the body that you’ve been given. I know you’ve got complaints about it and this and that and all that. However, balance out all those crazy complaints with some gratitude. Find ways every day to affirm love for your body.

Honestly, it is as simple as that because when you do work on yourself, you save future generations from pain and suffering. However, I know for some…..it isn’t that simple. Your “leading by example” will uplift them in ways that they’ll never know, and when you do that, when you do your work on self so your kids don’t have to finish up that work, we create such a better planet and such a better environment for all of us to thrive in. This is the magic of the world!

 

Chaos: Emily Rosen

 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Enjoy fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and albacore tuna are good choices!

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Our weight tells how we assess food

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A new study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods, such as apples with their sensory characteristics, such as sweetness or softness. On the other hand, processed foods, such as pizzas are generally associated with their function or the context in which they are eaten, such as parties or picnics. “It can be considered an instance of ’embodiment’ in which our brain interacts with our body.” This is the comment made by Raffaella Rumiati, neuroscientist at the International School for Advanced Studies — SISSA in Trieste, on the results of research carried out by her group which reveals that the way we process different foods changes in accordance with our body mass index. The studies included two behavioral and electroencephalographic experiments

“The results are in line with the theory according to which sensory characteristics and the functions of items are processed differently by the brain,” comments Giulio Pergola, the work’s primary author. “They represent an important step forward in our understanding of the mechanisms at the basis of the assessments we make of food.” But that’s not all. Recently published in the Biological Psychology journal, the research also highlighted the ways in which underweight people pay greater attention to natural foods and overweight people to processed foods. Even when subjected to the same stimuli, these two groups show different electroencephalography signals. These results show once again the importance of cognitive neuroscience in the understanding of extremely topical clinical fields, such as dietary disorders.

Adapted from: Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati. (2017, September 22). Our weight tells how we assess food: A new study reveals that our body mass index interacts with our appreciation of food characteristics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 15, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170922111714.htm

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Share a meal! Try ordering your own appetizer but split the main dish with a friend.

Daily Inspiration 

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Why “Only Eat When You’re Hungry” Is Terrible Diet Advice

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Many of us have tried desperately to eat healthier and/or lose weight but willpower or the lack of often keep us from accomplishing our health goals. You may have referred to the quote  “I try to eat only when I’m hungry, but I just can’t seem to keep my hands out of the snack bowl at work…..”or the cracker box before dinner or the peanut butter at night. Afterwards, you are left with a side helping of guilt and self-loathing.

If you only eat when you’re hungry then you should be providing yourself just enough fuel to be healthy without overdoing it on calories, right? Well, unlike a vehicle, fuel is not the only reason we eat and the longer you pretend that’s an achievable goal, the longer you will suffer. Humans eat for many reasons. Hunger is obviously a big one, but there are several others.

Here’s a shortlist:

Pleasure: Food is delicious and can be deeply rewarding on a sensual level. Sometimes we eat because we straight up like a particular food. This is a feature, not a bug.

Emotions: The experience of eating can be both distracting (from painful thoughts or feelings) and comforting. It isn’t uncommon for some people to get strong urges to eat in response to stress, anxiety, shame, and other negative emotions. On the flip side, food can also be part of joy and celebration.

Habit: I’m not always hungry when I first wake up in the morning, but I almost always eat breakfast at home before I leave the house so that I don’t eat something I regret later. One benefit of having strong and consistent healthy eating habits is that your brain learns to moderate your hunger levels according to the rhythms you set. This can also work against you if you develop unhealthy eating habits.

Socializing: Sometimes we eat because we are supposed to. Culture (our collective habits) plays a large role in determining what, when, where and why we eat. For most of history this helped us make healthy food choices, but it has broken down in the era of industrial and convenience foods.

Nutrient deficiency: Your belly may be full, but if you are not getting adequate nutrition from the food you’re eating you may still experience cravings to eat.

Many of these may seem like bad reasons to eat, because they often result in poor food choices and/or overeating. However, the underlying needs behind all these motivations are perfectly valid. It’s okay to eat something because it tastes good or enjoy a meal with your friends. These are a normal and wonderful part of the human experience, no matter your size. It is even okay to comfort yourself from distress with a familiar meal now and then.

More important, even if you put morality aside, you can’t simply will these needs away. Try as you might salty, sugary and fatty foods will probably still taste good, and eating with your friends will still be fun. And you’ve probably noticed that your brain does not allow you to neglect these needs indefinitely.

In fact, repressing or ignoring your urges to eat for any reason is far more likely to result in bingeing than in better food choices long-term. So a strategy that requires you to “only eat when hungry” is innately impractical, as it is at odds with your biology and undermines your ultimate goal of better health. It doesn’t work and nobody actually does it.

It is also distracting you from a strategy that actually helps you make better choices. Imagine trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Even if you believed it were possible, would you have the same motivation on Day 2,347 as you did on Day 1? Or would you start to doubt yourself, feel like a failure, and find it harder and harder to muster the effort to keep trying?

When you try so hard at something and don’t succeed it feels like you are personally failing at the task–that if you weren’t so weak you could triumph. However, if you’ve been trying to do something that’s impossible it isn’t you that’s failing, it’s the strategy. Once you see that the task is futile, you can drop the notion that the problem is you, put down the hammer, and start to look for a real solution.

To come up with a better strategy to reach your health goals you must first accept that there is a valid reason behind all of your urges to eat. That doesn’t mean that following your every impulse is the best course of action, but it does mean that the underlying needs shouldn’t be ignored and must be handled in some way. Wishing for them to just disappear won’t work.

If you can accept that you need a break from work–even if there’s still much work to be done–then you can find an activity that rejuvenates your energy rather than procrastinating on Facebook with a bag of pretzels. If you can accept that your mom’s amazing spaghetti might be the only thing that can lift your spirits after a bad breakup–even if you vowed to avoid pasta until you’ve reached your goal weight–then you might be able to sit and enjoy it mindfully and actually feel better, rather than overeating something less rewarding and feeling even worse afterward. If you can accept that it’s okay to eat something because it tastes good–even if you still have a weight loss goal–it’ll be much easier for you to recognize when your curiosity is satisfied and you’ve had enough. You might even find that whatever it was you wanted to eat isn’t as good as you hoped and walk away after one bite.

That may be hard to believe if you’ve never experienced it, but ask yourself what happens when you deny yourself anything that you consider “unhealthy” or “fattening.” What are the odds that you’ll binge on something you know for certain isn’t worth it when your willpower is weakened? In the first case you may eat a few calories more than you had planned for, but in the second case you’ll eat astronomically more and almost certainly won’t enjoy it as much. If you’d like the first case to be your new normal, it requires accepting that pleasure is a valid reason to eat.

Healthy eating is a fantastic personal value and when life is humming along normally it is wonderful to strive for habits that meet your hunger needs with Real Food and avoid impulsively eating processed foods. However, connecting with loved ones, taking care of your emotional needs, and even enjoying life’s pleasures are also important values. Food is such a significant part of life that it is relevant to all of your values, not just health. Once you accept this, it is much easier to get the balance right. You can do it!!

Adapted from: Darya Rose Summer Tomato Upgrade Your Health Style

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Combine Your Food! Combining foods is so important for increasing your metabolism and controlling hunger better. When you combine foods such as a carbohydrate and protein, you will feel more full and satisfied than if you just ate one of the foods by itself. For example, have you ever eaten a fruit and still felt hungry? Add some peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, cheese, or yogurt to the fruit and you are a happy camper. When it comes to food combinations, an easy rule of thumb is to remember to eat at least 2 food groups for a hearty, satisfying snack. Double the pleasure. Double the benefits.

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3 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough

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With so much discussion about health problems related to being overweight or obese, the topic of undereating may not appear to a huge concern, but believe me, it is. Often, when individuals are working on weight loss, fitness gain or performance optimization, the issue of undereating comes up just as frequently as overeating does. We all know why it’s so easy to eat too much: portion sizes have expanded dramatically, bulk buying habits encourage us to keep more food around at all times, we’ve been encouraged to snack in between meals with little regard for hunger cues, and so many of our modern foods are less satiating than fresh, wholesome food we ate just a generation or two ago (low in fiber and protein, high in refined carbohydrates).

It’s not so easy to understand why so many people are chronically undereating for their health, but a major contributor is the emphasis on calorie math that leads so many people into risky dieting patterns. Don’t get me wrong, managing calories appropriately is critical for weight loss and body composition management. However, if we’re not careful, a calorie math-focused mindset can be a risk factor for a number of negative adaptations.

Logically, chopping a couple hundred calories out of your daily intake can seem like a no-brainer way to encourage your body to burn extra energy from fat stores. And it will probably work for most people – at least temporarily. As many internet calorie calculators would have you believe, if you want faster results you can choose a larger energy deficit and get a faster linear path to weight loss. So if eliminating 300 Calories from your normal day is good, dropping 500 or 1000 Calories is even better, right?

It’s just not that easy! Our physiology is smart. It likes balance and homeostasis. We’re wired for survival, not for six-pack abs. If you’ve found yourself in a place where you’ve followed “diets” below your true caloric needs for any length of time, you’ve probably begun to experience at least some of the negative consequences of not eating enough.

It takes a trained eye to spot the main indications of not eating enough. But once you learn these main signals, you’ll be more likely to enjoy continued progress towards your goals through more ideal eating patterns. Note: the downfalls of “not eating enough” discussed below are in the context of persistent or prolonged undereating (longer than a few weeks), not necessarily indicative of missing a single meal or eating too little for a couple of days.

Your diet changes who you are.

Irritable, anxious, mentally exhausted, foggy-brained, unable to focus, or mildly obsessed with or fixated on food? Sounds like what happens when you go on a diet, right? Most of us have experienced episodes of “hanger” or mustered through periods of difficult concentration on our mission to lose a few pounds of pudge.

It is not wise to take these mood or cognitive changes lightly though. They are serious signs that your metabolism is beginning to make negative adaptations to the caloric deficit you’re experiencing. Our brains consume about 20% of our total energy expenditure, which is why when you go on a lower-calorie diet by restricting total intake by 20 to 50%, you become a fundamentally different person. Whether it’s the frank energy shortage or insufficient intake of nutrients your brain depends on to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels, undereating leads to significant brain changes.

If your brain is chronically deprived of energy to operate at full capacity, you’re eventually going to experience cognitive deficits including memory changes, impaired alertness, judgement or concentration. If the energy deficit is extreme enough – like the restriction experienced by subjects of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of the 1940’s – the mental and cognitive changes can border on psychosis and perhaps even be permanent. Those subjects were fed an average of 1600 calories per day during the six month “starvation” phase of the experiment.

This was a 50% calorie reduction from their baseline, which sounds extreme, but compared to many persons, this is not an unrealistic difference between “normal” eating and their “dieting” intakes. The effects of “starvation” on these subjects were profound, and included changes in sense of humor, increased self-criticism, and altogether negative changes to social affect. Even without cutting calorie intake in half, conscious calorie monitoring or restriction increases cortisol output and perceived stress. In other words, consciously not eating “enough” automatically makes you less resilient against the stresses of daily life.

This shows us how important it is to complement any “dieting” efforts with a healthy amount of monitoring of our mental and social well-being through strong social support systems and consistent self-reflection or gratitude. Calories are not more important than character. If you sense your mood, cognition or personality changing, it may be one of the first indicators that your “diet” is leading to negative adaptations.

Your physical health suffers.

Often times, we ignore the first negative signs of not eating enough (brain changes) because we’re motivated by aesthetically-focused outcomes. So, we press on and suffer through the next set of negative adaptations that can arise from chronic under-feeding; physical breakdown. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if these changes are completely negative or just part of the process of improving fitness. Because experiencing soreness, lowering resting pulse and blood pressure, and some fatigue are to be expected as we go through a training or weight loss program. However, one must continually evaluate their physical resilience to make sure their calorie intake is sufficient to maintain their health as their physique changes.

To lose weight the right way, you can’t just monitor your scale weight. You must measure other indicators of physical change such as body fat changes, lean mass levels, physical performance and physical health. Are your skin, hair, and nails looking healthier and are you feeling younger as you trim down or are you noticing visual and sensory signs of premature aging?

For example, if you’re losing more muscle than fat, you’re not eating enough. If you’re not gaining or maintaining your physical strength or abilities week to week, you’re probably not eating enough. If you’re noticing extended soreness after workouts, prolonged healing time, or your hair is falling out more easily, you’re definitely not feeding your body enough to positively adapt to your program.

Evidence suggests that eating enough calories to support progressively harder physical training (as opposed to cutting calories to induce weight loss) is the better way to promote physical health and physique changes (loss of body fat and gain of lean tissue). At least one study showed significantly poorer exercise performance capacity when subjects restricted their calories by an average of 12% from their baseline. The subjects experienced dramatic decreases in VO2, muscle size and muscle strength over the course of twelve months.

It’s commonly assumed that maximizing fat loss is often accompanied by performance plateaus and/or mild decreases, but this study suggested energy deficits created through smart training rather than dietary restriction ultimately results in both fat loss and performance improvement. That’s the holy grail of health improvement, and it happens when we’re fed well enough to physically repair from the exercise stress we encounter. Unfortunately, many people try to chronically diet and exercise to double up on the calorie math advantage. What happens after more than a couple weeks of this?

Your hormonal ‘soup’ sours.

The longer your body experiences under-nourishment, the more severely it will adapt. The adaptations are aimed at survival, so any system that’s not absolutely necessary to survival gets down-regulated. As mentioned above, our stress hormones elevate mainly to support the energy needs of our vital organs (at the expense of all other tissues like muscle).

Chronic elevations in cortisol can cause the hormones that control our metabolic rate to decrease significantly, sometimes in as little as a few weeks of being on an energy restricted diet. This decrease results in a decrease in our body temperature, brain activity, heart rate, digestive processes and just about every other system in our body. Reproductive hormones often plummet (mainly testosterone in men and progesterone in women) so much that libido, affect and reproductive cycles become severely or even permanently deranged.

It’s quite unfortunate, but the repeated cycles of dieting and weight re-gain often lead to significant alterations in hormonal balance, which are often combatted by even more extreme dieting patterns. It’s a vicious cycle.

What to do

You may not like this advice, but in order to optimize your fat loss and fitness, you probably need to abandon hopes of quick success and focus on the (slower) road to prolonged health. Ditch the use of internet-based calorie calculators that only account for your age, gender, height and weight. These calculators do not account for your dieting or exercise history, so they can only apply an overly-simplified calorie math equation that cannot predictably help you optimize your physiology. Consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can provide an individual assessment of you metabolism and physiology needs. Happy Healthy!!

Adapted from: Paul Kriegler, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Find Time To Sleep! No amount of multivitamins, super foods or juices can help you if you are neglecting your REM cycle. Sleeping seven plus hours per night is required in order for the body to detoxify, repair and rebuild for the next day. When you are tired you will oftentimes opt for food that is high in sugar and caffeine to give you that temporary energy boost. Failing to ignore your body’s silent cries for sleep can result in potential health issues, as well as weight gain.

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