What we know about weight

This is what we now know about weight management.

1. A calorie is most certainly not a calorie.
2. Fat cells like to stay fat.
3. Genetics can influence success at dieting. We can identify genes to determine if you would have better success on a food plan that’s low-carbohydrate or low-fat or both. And, several other important behavior traits such as snacking, hunger, satiety (feeling full), eating disinhibition, food desire, and sweet tooth.
4. There are people who are skinny fat — skinny on the outside, but fat on the inside.
5. There is no such thing as willpower (see genetics above).
6. Eating behavior traits impact weight loss (see genetics above).
7. Not everyone needs to exercise for weight management.
8. Being sedentary puts on weight.

If you are one of the many individuals who have been on and off diets with success followed by weight gain (often referred to as yo-yo dieters), I strongly suggest that you get a weight management genetic test done. The results can be an invaluable tool to you and your nutrition practitioner in making an achievable food plan.


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Stressed out? Who isn’t?


The functioning of your adrenal glands and your thyroid are intimately connected. Together, these regulate hormones and basal metabolic rate. Add an urban life in the big city, a two-parent working household, the economy, parenting, or almost every other permutation of living and you have a recipe for either stressed and tired or stressed and wired. You know which category you fall under. Generally speaking, women are of the stressed and tired variety. Their thyroids, particularly after childbirth, frequently become under active. Quite often, blood tests of thyroid parameters (see what to test below) reveal normal values. Clinicians who practice functional medicine believe, however, that these women have subclinical hypothyroidism. The clinical picture: normal thyroid values with symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, malaise, constipation, and hair loss.

One way to ameliorate this situation is to support the adrenal glands, rather than going directly to thyroid medication. Of course, if weight gain is dramatic and you cannot get out of bed, a prescription is of utmost importance. In other less extreme cases, you can use adaptogens. As the term implies, adaptogens normalize bodily functions — in either direction. All are plant-based (usually herbals or fungi) with names that are often unfamiliar to consumers and health practitioners alike. Some top adaptogens:

  • Ashwaganda
  • Rhodiola
  • Maca
  • Cordyceps
  • Eleutherococcus
  • Schisandra
Adaptogens are taken in combination under the direction of a healthcare professional. Preparations take the form of pills, tinctures, and teas.
Many standard thyroid blood tests miss a few key values. Ask you doctor to measure all of these if you suspect that your thyroid is working against you.
  • Free T3
  • T3
  • Reverse T3
  • Free T4
  • TSH
  • Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies
  • Antithyroidglobulin Antibodies

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Filed under Stress, Supplements, Thyroid

Natural sleeping aides

Sleep on an Overnight International Flight Is Vital to Stay Awake for Lunch on Land!

Did you know that lack of adequate sleep can prevent weight loss? That’s because too little sleep can increase cortisol levels. Too much cortisol keeps your system hyper vigilant. Think caveman days. You need to stay alert because a lion is running after you. Because you may need to hide from the lion, you need to preserve your body fat to live. That’s a function of cortisol that humans no longer require. It’s he 21st century — there is no lion. We need adequate sleep. Here are a few tips for good sleep.

  • Drink at least  half your weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water daily.
  • Cut down on your alcohol intake.
  • Do not drink caffeine-containing beverages or eat dark chocolate after 3 pm, particularly if you’re a slow metabolizer. A genetic test can determine this.
  • Try camomile tea about an hour before bed. Use 2-3 tea bags per cup.
  • Take a bath with Epsom salts about an hour before bed. Sip your tea while bathing.
  • Mix and drink a powdered magnesium beverage  with water just prior to bed. This will also help your bowels.
  • Turn off all electronics (television, radio, computer, MP3 players, cell phones) at least 2 hours before bed.
  • Charge your cell phone in a different room. Use a real alarm clock, instead of your cell phone.

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Filed under Sleep, Stress

Organic everywhere

Organic gin — that’s one way to reduce your toxic load. Drinking organic alcohol seems somewhat like an oxymoron. Alcohol is, of course, a toxin. If you looking to decrease your toxic load, the first two directives are eliminate alcohol and eat organic. Mixing organic gin in your G&T is a compromise of sort, I suppose. You still get to have your cake and eat it, too. Enjoy the quintessential summer beverage and feel good because it’s organic.

This is not sarcasm. I see this as a moving in the right direction. Distillers are thinking better for your health. Gin is made with herbs. Herbs are loaded with pesticides. I, for one, love the idea of mixing a non high-fructose corn syrup tonic (try Feverfew or Q) with Farmer’s Organic Gin. And, for goodness sake, be sure to top it off with a squeeze of organic lime.

Gin is not the only organic alcohol I’ve spotted. I’ve seen cider and beer, too. And, some of the beers are gluten-free — an added benefit. It all adds up to more choice, which can translate into better choice.

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Do you have GI issues?

Talking about bowel function is a national pastime. Mothers monitor diaper catchings of their children with diligence, frequently keeping logs. Old people obsess abut what comes out or, rather, what doesn’t. Gastrointestinal (GI) function may top weather conversation among the AARP set. And, of course, boys from the time they can speak until, well, death joke about bathroom habits. And all this for apparently good reason — Americans suffer from gastrointestinal distress in a big way. Who doesn’t know someone who doesn’t complain of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, intractable diarrhea, or diverticular disease. GI issues make life miserable.

A whole lot of GI distress can be alleviated with a few simple lifestyle changes. Of course, these won’t work for every issue or every person, but many Americans can feel a whole lot better.

  • Cut down on caffeine-containing beverages. Think about how coffee is the last thing you want when you have a stomach ache.
  • Cut out the alcohol and the cigarettes. You knew this already, didn’t you?
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep as an adult, 10 as a teen, and 12 as a child. Unfortunately many people do not follow these guidelines, which are especially important for teens.
  • Drink water, just water. Measure out half your weight in ounces at the beginning of the day and drink throughout the day.
  • Eat more produce, mostly vegetables. Work your way up to 11 servings daily.
  • Reduce or eliminate gluten. Gluten can aggravate inflammatory issues, especially those that involve GI function. Gluten-free diets are not just for celiacs.
  • Take a high-quality probiotic daily. The good bacteria in your GI tract is vital to well-being.


Filed under Constipation, GI Issues, Gluten, IBS

Going gluten free

Going gluten free is a big deal for most people. I’ll go out on a limb with zero substantiation (other than the looks of panic from my clients) and say that it’s a big deal for all people. Gluten is pervasive in the US food supply and in the American diet. And we really enjoy eating gluten-containing foods. You meet it first thing in the morning in cereal, muffins, toast, and bagels. On weekends, it rears its ugly head in waffles and pancakes and you’re hungry again in a couple of hours. Lunchtime it comes to you in the form of a sandwich. It’s not always around at dinner, but when it is it’s the mainstay of the meal as pizza or pasta. It’s unavoidable on those detestable kids’ menus as macaroni and cheese and at restaurants as the bread basket. And there are the snacks and desserts – pretzels, crackers, cookies, cakes, pies. This is a lot of food to remove from your diet. And what about the government recommendation in the form of the food guide pyramid, which shows grains and grain products as the foundation of the diet? Maybe it’s not the best advice.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other lesser-known grains. The gluten content of wheat grown in America is higher than that grown in Europe. Hard wheat means high-gluten wheat. Gluten is what holds baked goods together. It’s the bite our teeth feel when, well, biting into a chewy piece of French bread. It’s also a protein that many people cannot tolerate. Yes, the obvious are the celiacs. People with celiac disease are allergic to gluten, meaning that they produce antibodies against gluten. The “classic” symptoms are gastrointestinal in nature and ultimately result in nutrient malabsorption and serious illness. Many people, however, have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. These people suffer from autoimmune disorders such as thyroid issues, asthma, and infertility, as well as brain fog and ADHD.

I believe that thinking about going gluten free is far worse than going gluten free. The anxiety! This I know from personal experience. We have a daughter who has learning issues. And a son who had asthma. And another daughter who had eczema. And I was loaded with autoimmune disease. I knew that living a gluten-free life was what my family needed. I knew this because I’m a registered dietitian who has immersed herself in learning about the impact of gluten on health. And I also knew how difficult it would be to make sure that my children would follow a gluten-free diet. Or so I thought.

It was not really that difficult. First of all, the entire family was going gluten-free, not just a select few. I replaced everything in our household with gluten-free counterparts. So we had gluten-free bagels (a poor substitute for this Brooklyn girl) and gluten-free pasta (a somewhat better substitute for this Italian-American). And there were gluten-free cookies, pretzels, and breads (need for improvement). And who can forget the chips, both corn and rice. My kids were eating a ridiculous amount of chips. At about month six, I stopped buying the bagels and the bread. The taste was not worth the calories. And my kids seemed to eating more grains than before and less protein and produce. We tried every single gluten-free macaroni product on the market and narrowed it down to two plus buckwheat soba noodles, which I only like. And, I only offered chips in a blue moon and the rule was you could never eat them alone. When you eat less and less grain-based products, you eat more of something else. That something is supposed to be primarily vegetables and fruit. That’s what a gluten-free diet is about, not substituting every available gluten-free product. Gradually, I began baking gluten free. I was frightened at first, but then began to enjoy it. My kids needed to bring gluten-free cupcakes to school and I wanted a gluten-free biscotti. We never tell anyone that our baked offerings are gluten-free and no one is the wiser. It has been fun (at least for me) with really not that much anxiety.

Oh, and most significantly, my daughter’s school keeps asking me what I’ve done because of her dramatic improvement; my son does not have asthma; and my other daughter’s skin looks beautiful. As for me, I haven’t felt this good since…since forever.

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Filed under ADHD, Celiac, Gluten

Health resolutions for the new year

Post holidays at the beginning of the year is a typical time for resolutions — a time to change our lives for the better. January only competes with pre bathing suit season for getting in shape. It’s the time of the year that clients ask me about weight loss and eating better. Here are a few concrete ways to start you on the path to health and a better-looking body.

  1. Eat until you are 80% full.
  2. Drink half of your weight (pounds) in ounces of water daily.
  3. Eat fruit either 20 minutes before a meal or 2 hours after.
  4. Eat 9 to 11 servings of mostly vegetables and fruit daily.
  5. Cut down on gluten-containing foods.
  6. Eat protein in the morning.
  7. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.
  8. Walk everywhere and use the stairs regularly.
  9. Take a good quality probiotic daily.
  10. Cut processed foods from you diet…please.

Of course, there are many more things that you can do to get fit. These are general guidelines and are not individualized. Nevertheless, this is a good start.

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Filed under Gluten, Supplements