Americans love being being sick, fat and miserable. We like the idea of good health but we prefer having someone else to blame for our inability to be healthy. We spend $68 Billion dollars a year on weight loss activities that statistically have a 10% success rate, Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act to ensure all people have access to health care yet 28 million people are uninsured and a vast number of those who have it can’t afford to use it, 45% of all Americans suffer from at least one form of chronic disease and the number is growing. 37.7% of Americans are classified as clinically obese. 100 million people have diabetes. BUT less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Soda is the #1 item purchased at the grocery store and to make us even less accountable, being fat is now officially as of 2012 formally classified as a disease. Why do we love being sick fat and miserable when it couldn’t be easier to be healthy?
Health is easy thanks to the wonders of the digital age! Incredible mission driven millennials, smart devises like Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Pinterest as well as countless instagram and Youtube fitness stars guarantee it if as the consumer we are ready to take responsibility for our health. Do we as the consumer even realize we own our own health? News Flash: YOUR BODY YOUR BUSINESS! We drive the bus regardless of what our doctors might say or think.
As of yesterday I officially ended a three year journey to resolve chronic pain. Finally I can bend over and touch my toes with out pain shooting up my back no thanks to three different insurance plans, three physicians, two physical therapists, two chiropractors and an acupuncturist. For three solid years I sought medical support-traditional and alternative to treat pain in my hip and lower back. And prior to February 2018 all my medical providers said I had to accept pain as a part of aging, that it was in my head, that I needed to further develop core strength and lose weight. None and I repeat NONE ordered an X-ray or an MRI or blood work. As a nutritionist and personal trainer, my diet and core were just fine, what wasn’t fine was my hip and lower back. I am by no means slamming the medical field but spending 10 minutes with me one time doesn’t make my doctor an expert on me but living 40+ years in my body does. I am now pain free thanks in no short order to an awesome app that helped me pinpoint my pain, new insurance, a new doctor, hip surgery and a cross country move. I didn’t give up. Pain was not an option, anything short of great health was a total fail.
I mentioned previously Obesity was officially labeled a disease in the 2012 DSM 5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Classification for Mental Disorders by the Psychiatric Annals. As a nutritionist and the daughter of two psychiatrists, I can assure you being fat isn’t a psychiatric disorder its the outcome or side-effect of the underlying issue such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorders or any number of other equally serious mental health issues. If you’re clinically morbidly obese or obese you are fat not because you’re mentally unwell but because you like it. Because it serves you in some way. No one made you fat but you and if inclined to do the work you can unmake it too. Not everyone needs to be a size zero- I sure as shit am not but our bodies don’t naturally gravitate toward obesity less a serious metabolic or endocrine issue so let’s stop pretending they do. Aside from the huge biological and financial toll all that excess adipose tissue takes on your body like producing excess estrogen, guaranteeing multiple chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, increased health care costs for all of us, lost productivity at work and let’s not forget the social stigma, you get something out of “being” fat or obese. There can’t be any other answer because there is so much support in the world, weight loss is inevitable.
Why as Americans to do we actively choose to be unhealthy when health is so easy?
Enter the digital health platform. The more I research this, the more I believe it is the answer to improving population health, better health care, and lower costs. Sure we fear Russian hackers, reprisals from insurance companies and the idea the Big Brother is always watching but the benefits far outweigh the minus’s. A former client of mine has just recently launched a new consumer health platform called propelhealth.net Her platform is AMAZING! It allows a person to monitor and track key biometrics and share that data with family members or care givers far and wide to monitor for changes in health and well being. This is genius! Although I live in CA, I can monitor my parents health in Pennsylvania and check in accordingly or encourage they seek medical attention when appropriate or intercede when necessary. Tele health is my new favorite form of health care. I can speak to a doctor from my bed for $5 at 6am and avoid a $75 co-pay, parking expense and fighting for an appointment. The Calm App can be downloaded to my smart phone and support stress reduction, sleep and meditation. Thank God for the IPhone, because the iPhone makes health quick and easy! As Americans, we love a good quick fix!
We live in an amazing society where things can be obtained very easily. But anything great and worth having takes effort and sometimes a lot of it. If we gain weight we can take a pill, have the fat sucked out or frozen and subsequently pee it out (yes really for a few grand you can too). By taking these steps, we think we are being proactive if we can just live with the side effects. Western Medicine tells us they work and we believe they will. When they don’t we give up. The truth is, as awesome as western medicine is, the health system isn’t really equipped to eliminate the root cause or heal a problem, it just puts a band aid on it.
The human body is an AMAZING machine capable of endless miracles given the opportunity to thrive. Yet too many of us purposefully deprive ourselves of this opportunity. The solution is not in any one of a number of diets or pills or surgeries which only perpetuates the problem but rather lies within our understanding our individual health and what is driving our choices. Are people truly so hopeless or so completely disconnected from their core self? I find myself asking these very questions as I sit glued to the TV watching My 600lb life on TLC. Maybe so but I am an eternal optimist and believe otherwise. No one wakes up one day and is like today I want to be morbidly obese and be confined to my bed.
Health is sexy, Health is sustainable, Health lets you eat what you want when you want, Health doesn’t require a co-pay or exorbitant deductibles or even a strict organic nonGMO diet filled with wheat grass and kale (though they are delicious.) At what point will poor health become too expensive? When will we choose to stop being complicit? I would argue that good health is only one app away for just $1.99. We as consumers need to change the story, We need to use our power for good. It’s time to choose you, It’s time we own our health.
Not long ago I was asked to give a presentation on any topic I wanted to a panel of interviewers at a national health care company as part of the interview process for a position I was keenly interested in. Having not read the informational email thoroughly in advance of the interview I realized the expectation exactly one hour prior. The email had requested that I send any corresponding power points at least one day in advance. Seeing as I was exactly one hour out this was clearly not an option. So after a brief panic stricken moment I cobbled together a few seminars I had taught in the past and settled on the topic of the Value of Health. With a one page 5 bullet point outline and no handouts I was on my way. A ballsy move for sure I was later told-lecturing a large health insurance company on the value of health-who does that? BUT it was a topic I was massively passionate about and believed with every fiber of my being they were doing all wrong.
How much would you pay for health? I asked. “How much money would you pay to ensure you had great health to live the life you want”. One million dollars I asked? Can you afford the health that you want? Does your health afford you the life you want to live? Would be willing to make 2 small changes in order to answer yes to all these questions I asked. No one answered-Just six pairs of eyes staring straight at me while eating their lunches of diet coke and pretzels. Not possible someone finally said. Then I asked, what if I told you I could guarantee you great health and it was available to everyone-Would you be interested? Not particularly lucrative for an insurer but everyone was interested just the same.
The cold hard truth that the consumer or average American fails to realize or perhaps acknowledge is that health insurance isn’t about health or medical care, its also not about the consumer- its about insurance. Much like insuring a car or driver or a boat, insurance companies are trying to hedge their bets on sick people. The medical industry isn’t about health either by the way. The medical field is about curing disease and there are lots of tests and medications they can offer to treat disease and they would be happy to order them for you if allowed by the insurance company. Health is something entirely different and I often ask myself do people really want to be healthy? Have we become so reliant on physicians and insurance that we believe our health is not our problem but rather someone else’s?
Today nearly 45 % of Americans suffer from chronic disease. What is Chronic Disease? The 5 major forms of chronic disease include:
- Heart Disease
- Diabetes (aver $7900 per year per person)
Let’s not forget
- Obesity- Only recently formally labeled as a disease
All of these are largely preventable and entirely within our own control if we own our health and make three small changes.
We as American’s bitch and complain that our insurance is not affordable, the cost of medical care is crazy expensive and we wine on and on about the need for health care reform. News Flash folks, if you were healthy, you really wouldn’t need expensive medical care less extreme and or emergency situations. You would be cycling a century or climbing the Eiffel tower with your grand child or just walking around the block without being winded. Health is SEXY People and everyone can have it regardless of your lot in life.
What is Health and how to get healthy is all over the news, there are literally 1000’s of books all about how to be healthy, skinny, diet, get strong, get fit, eat, live longer, live happier etc…. But people don’t seem to want to do the work. OR do they? It appears that the vast majority of Americans have adopted the belief that someone else knows more about their health and what is going on in their bodies than they do. As amazing as many physicians out there are, there are limits to what they know. How do I know this… I was reading one of my nutrition texts not long ago on a topic related to anatomy and neurons and one paragraph in the text ended with and I quote “after that we just don’t know why it does what it does.” WTF!
BUT if you are ready to be crazy sexy healthy and live your fullest and best life, making small changes in the following 3 areas will guarantee it:
- Know and own your health! NO one and I mean no one knows your body better than you. If you have a weird scratch in your throat, if your poop suddenly changes in color or frequency or texture, if your stomach just feels off then something is no matter what your doctor says. Be your own Advocate
- Diet: The standard American diet is horrendous. As Americans we vastly over consume and are largely undernourished. Remember these three things and your world will change for sure!
- Carbohydrates are good for you: if it grows in the ground or comes form a tree its a complex carbohydrate, the more color the better- EAT IT!
- Fat is your friend: we need fat to burn fat, we need fat for brain function. EAT HEALTHY FAT!
- Protein is the key to life: Eggs won’t kill you but not eating them might. EAT PROTEIN
- We consume through all 5 senses so who we surround ourselves with, listen too, watch, look at all impact our stress and livelihood.
- Move: the less we move, the more we hurt- We gain weight, develop anxiety, heart disease, stress, high cholesterol
- Relax: Whatever that means to you-I Love to cook or take my dog on a walk. What do you enjoy? DO IT REGULARLY!
- Meditate or Dance: Anyone can meditate it is as simple as sitting quietly for 30 seconds or longer. That is all no yoga pants required.
How much money would it take for you to choose illness over health? Is there any amount of money that would compel you to welcome being miserable unhappy and in pain? If there isn’t why does 45% of the population choose it for free? There is no secret to great health, it is available for everyone and it doesn’t require fancy insurance. On that day of my interview I spoke for roughly 45 minutes, delivering what was surely one of the best presentations of my life to date, culminating in an unexpected round of applause. The group manager pulled me aside after the presentation to discuss the opportunity further but not before stating that she initially had been rather concerned that I didn’t have a power point to share but had been so completely captivated by what I was saying she wouldn’t have taken her eyes of me even if there was one. She went on to say it was likely the best presentation she had ever seen in her entire career. I thanked her, truly grateful for the opportunity and for the unexpected accolades and left only to never have heard back from them.
It clearly wasn’t meant to be and that was ok. But what I took away from the experience was huge. Healthy people aren’t profitable. But for the consumer, health is.
Eating Healthy on a Budget-YES YOU CAN!
How far can you stretch a dollar for groceries?
What tips or tricks do you have?
When the budget is tight what fresh foods do you purchase and how do you stock your pantry?
It goes without saying that for some folks, money is just plain tight. And in those instances these folks aren’t shopping at leisure at Whole Foods who some affectionately refer to as Whole Paycheck. No, they are working 2 and 3 jobs to make ends barely meet and in between running to the store to get bare necessities or visiting local food banks.
BUT I love Whole Foods! I love how beautiful the produce looks and all the great products they have and I love how I feel after I shop there with all my organic locally sourced and lovingly raised fruits vegetables, meats and sustainably fished fish-I LOVE IT! But things have been little tight as of late with just finishing school, working through an internship, building a business and looking for a job. SO what’s a Princess to do when her bank account is painfully low? Institute a budget? Implement a code red state of emergency? Call on the Bank of Mom and Dad? Hmmm. I say, GET CREATIVE! There is a lot you can do with a can of beans or bag of lentils and lots of great places to shop.
-It goes without saying but PLAN PLAN PLAN:Plan your menu for the week
-Reuse ingredients to limit waste and maximize nutrients and dollars
-Consider dried, canned or frozen foods
-Be strategic in the fresh foods you purchase
-Cook once eat twice or more
-Cook for the freezer
-Prep for the freezer
Build a SMART Pantry:
Canned Beans: Look for Beans packed in water with NO or low sodium. Some canned goods use seaweed or Kombu to season in lieu of salt. This is a plus. The water and Kombu will break down the phytic acid in the beans causing them to be more easily digested when consumed. Canned beans are quick, easy and inexpensive. In some instances all you have to do is drain, rinse and add to a dish. They are low in saturated fat, high in fiber!! Great options: Chickpeas, Black Beans, Cannelini Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Lentils
Other Canned Foods: Tomatoes (stewed, whole, crushed), olives, artichoke hearts, Lentils, Tuna (in water) *A note on canned tomatoes, avoid tomato sauce, often times there are hidden sugars and you can easily make your own out of stewed or crushed). Canned tomatoes are usually canned at their most ripe and flavorful point so less spices and salt needed. So Delish, rich in antioxidants!!! BINGO!
Dried Beans or Lentils: Like canned Beans dried lentils and beans will last A LONG time in the cabinet and great in a pinch when times are tighter than usual. Be sure to soak your beans or lentils in water for 5 hours-overnight, before cooking. You will want to drain and rinse the beans or lentils and add them to fresh water for cooking. This way you will slightly sprout the bean or lentil releasing healthy live enzymes while at the same time breaking down the phytic acid produced by the beans enabling them to be more easily digested.
Herbs and spices: Garlic/Dried Garlic Powder, Oregano, Sea Salt/Mineral Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Turmeric (great for memory and brain health by the way), Cumin, Cayenne, fresh or dried Ginger ( great for upset stomach-try sliced fresh steeped in hot water). Consider growing Fresh Rosemary and/or Basil and thyme in a small jar or pot in your window or yard. These herbs grow easily and fast- as a side note if your tight on cash at the holiday’s who wouldn’t love to receive a rosemary bush- just plant a clipping in a mason jar, wrap a ribbon around it and waalaaa! Avoid spice blends and make your own.
Frozen: Frozen fruits and vegetables are terrific and will last a few months if closed tightly. Consider fruit like blueberries, pineapple, strawberries and Vegetables think Spinach, Peas, Carrots or whatever is your favorite and on sale. Frozen fruits are prefect baked into desserts, or breads or baked goods. Frozen vegetables are well suited to be cooked into soups, casseroles, and stews
Dry goods: Oatmeal!!!!!, Brown Rice, Quinoa, There are a bazillion things one can do with Oatmeal. It’s gluten free too. You can use it as a breakfast cereal, you can grind it to make flour and mix into cookies for a healthier version, you can make granola, you can bake into bars or you can use it as a topping for a fruit crumble-just to name a few. And oh by the way you can do the same with rice and quinoa.
Fresh Must Haves:
Onions (Rockin cancer fighter!)
Garlic (basically a nutritional powerhouse!)
Eggs (A perfect protein and only 70 Kcal per egg-eat the yolk)
Any form of Dark leafy green if you can.
So you planned out your menu, shopped accordingly and are good to go What next?
If chicken is on the menu, buy a whole chicken, cut up the pieces or have the butcher do it, when you get home, repackage according to what you will eat together. After cooking, remove the meat from the bones and keep the bones. Store in an airtight container in the freezer not much longer than a few days then use chicken carcass, onion, garlic, celery and carrots if you have them and make a chicken broth. The broth can be frozen for months in air tight containers and pulled out when needed. This will save $2-3 per container of broth at the store. And beside, bone broth is the “in” thing right now, if you make your own your trend setter!
Try to repurpose your left overs into new meals. Left over Salmon from Sunday could be made into Salmon burgers for Tuesday. Make one large pot of Chickpeas, make three different kinds of hummus and keep in the freezer until your ready to eat.
Its no secret that if you eat less you will lose weight right? WRONG!!!
Here is the 411 short and sweet -If you eat too little your body will hold on to the adipose tissue, you will not lose the weight you are hoping for and will instead burn muscle for energy. YES it goes a lot deeper and gets more complicated i.e. Ketogenic diets, Paleo, South Beach-But do you really care or do you JUST want to know what to eat and how much? One major truth is undeniable-the quality of your calories matters! For weight loss think healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. You need fat to burn fat. DRINK LOTS OF WATER and limit sugar.
Have a healthy meal 3x a day, drink water, workout (the higher the intensity the more water you will need and consider following your tough workouts with a protein shake or meal), avoid snacking (snacking throughout the day will spike your insulin levels and force your body to burn sugar for energy and not fat). Protein will help the body repair the muscle after a workout in a leaner more efficient way. Weight lifting or strength training is important because it helps build and maintain bone density which is especially important as we age. Go easy on the weight if your just looking for general health and weight loss but enough that you feel like you worked out when you wake up the next day. Think 2-3 sets of each exercise with 15-20 repetitions plus 30-45 min of cardio (daily cardio is even better). This type of program will build bone density, lean you out and provide some muscle definition. No you won’t end up looking like a body builder-promise- you will however start to feel better.
When you start your fitness routine, remember, muscle is heavier than fat so you may not see a change in the number on the scale but you will notice how you feel and how your clothes fit. Remember, choose those types of exercise that you enjoy and are passionate about-Walk, Swim, Yoga, Bike, Strength Train, Dance, Pilates, take the stairs. Bring a friend, its much more fun!
How do you know how much to eat-well its far more simple than you would think. While I am not one for counting calories, total caloric intake is important especially when portion control is not a concept you are familiar with, you have a particular goal in mind or you regularly consume the typical standard American diet. We all have a basic amount of calories that we need to consume just to sustain life-its called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) this is the amount of calories that your body burns at rest-like when you wake up in the morning and are lying in bed, you need this much.
Here is how you calculate it using the Harris Benedict equation:
BMR (Basil Metabolic Rate): The # of calories your body burns at rest.
Women BMR = (4.35 x_______ wt (lbs)) + (4.7 x _______Ht (in)) – (4.7 x _____Age (yrs)) + 655
Men BMR= (6.23 x______wt (lbs))+ (12.7 x_______Ht (in)) – (6.76 x ______Age (yrs)) + 66
Activity Factor: __________ (see below for multiplier)
Little to no exercise: 1.375
Light Exercise 1-3 days per week: 1.55
Moderate Exercise 3-5 days per week: 1.725
Heavy Exercise 6-7 days per week: 1.9
Total Calories needed to maintain weight: (Total BMR x Activity Factor) = ____________
Subtract 300-500 from that number above to come up with total calories to consume each day for weight loss of 1.5-2 lbs per week. This would not apply if you are pregnant or have special nutritional needs due to a particular illness or medical condition in which case please consult your doctor or medical professional.
Protein needs are determined by multiplying your weight in Kg by a multiplier (this is total grams of protein not weight of protein)
Adults 19+: .85g/Kg
Pregnant and lactating: 1.1g/Kg
Endurance or Strength Training Athlete: 1.2-1.8 g/Kg
Moderate to Severe Stress: 2.0-2.2 g/Kg
Once you determine the amount of protein you need think 1 Tbsp of healthy fat per meal such as olive oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. (Stay tuned for more intel on Fat in another post because we need fat to burn fat not to mention convert much needed vitamins.) Everything else should be vegetables and more importantly not the starchy ones (think roughly 50-60% or 2 cups). Make sense? Initially the number might surprise you but remember that is per day not per meal. The number will change as you change. Definitely, absolutely don’t forget to give yourself a treat meal once a week. (NOT a treat day-JUST a meal) That’s right if you want chocolate cake for breakfast with a side of ice cream, so be it. You will feel awful later but ENJOY!. If you know you can eat what you want when you want you will be less inclined to feel as if your diet is restrictive and want to binge on food that doesn’t serve you. Eat with your goals in mind. Trust your body, its smarter than you think
Nutrition as a field of study is evolving at record speed. Friends and strangers alike tell me all the time that I am on the cutting edge of a new industry and it’s so exciting. It is, it really is, I love the study of nutrition and am passionate about sharing with others how minor “tweaks” in diet can profoundly improve one’s health. But with so much information available to us on the internet, on TV and in magazines and so much of it unsubstantiated and over inflated by the latest craze some important facts are lost or just plain left out of the equation. For example, today’s topic of discussion The Egg.
As a personal trainer many of my colleagues are insistent that they and their clients need only to consume several egg whites for breakfast in order to get the necessary protein to build muscle and drop fat. TRUTH folks, don’t fear the yolk!!! Its true, there is lots of protein in the white but do yourself a favor, do your client’s a favor- Eat the YOLK!
The Egg in it’s entirety is a perfect protein containing ALL amino acids required by the body. One egg is 6g of protein and is ONLY 70Kcal! I gather folks fear the yolk due to it being rich in cholesterol. Here is the thing though, we NEED, ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE cholesterol to survive-our bodies in their infinitely perfect design manufactures it. There is a wonderful book written by Dr. David Perlmutter called Grain Brain (2013) in which he provides recent and compelling research supporting the value of cholesterol to support brain health which is becoming increasingly important with Alzheimers overwhelmingly on the rise. The Yolk is rich in Choline which is terrific for brain health and the egg in total is an excellent source of Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin D, B6 and B12 not to mention rich in Antioxidants and very good for eye health.
DON’T fear the egg, maybe consider a 2 egg breakfast with 2 cups of dark leafy greens and fried onions-leave out the bacon, sausage or toast. This will get you loads of calcium minus the dairy, lots of fiber not to mention Vitamin C and K and all those great cancer fighters. Current research shows that cholesterol in food does not raise blood serum cholesterol levels (SUGAR DOES! shhhh) contrary to what your doc might say. Oh and for the record, brown eggs and white eggs are both the same, the chickens are a different color. Opt for organic pasture raised over conventional when possible-the Yolks will be a richer more beautiful golden yellow.
PS: To my trainer friends who I love and admire, the nutrients in eggs are more bioavailable when cooked vs consumed Rocky style (aka raw)-Scrambled, over easy, poached, fried- you choose!
Rong, Y., Chen, L., Zhu, T., Song, Y., Yu, M., Shan, Z., … Liu, L. (2013). Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. The BMJ, 346, e8539. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539
Fuller, N., Caterson, I, Sainsbury, A., Denyer, G., Fong, M., Gerofi, J., Baqleh, K., Williams, K., Lau, N., Markovic, T. (2015). The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study—a 3-mo randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 101(4) 705-713 doi: 10.3945/ ajcn.114.096925
Fuller, N. R., Sainsbury, A., Caterson, I. D., & Markovic, T. P. (2015). Egg Consumption and Human Cardio-Metabolic Health in People with and without Diabetes. Nutrients, 7(9), 7399–7420. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7095344
Perlmutter, D., (2013) Grain Brain. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company.