Our bodies are designed and capable of doing amazing things!!!!
Are you suffering with neck pain and wondering what can be done about it? Have you tried chiropractic or physical therapy with little benefit? Are you afraid drugs or surgery are your only options?
I just had a patient leave my office. It’s be a few months since I had seen her. Prior to starting to see me, she’d see a chiropractor monthly for an adjustment, otherwise her low back would really start to bother her and prevent her from doing things she needed to get done around her house. When she first came to me, we addressed her low back. In 2-3 visits, I fixed it. Not like ‘oh, it’s 75% better and as long as I don’t do x, y, and z, I’m fine.’ Fixed it, as in, 100% gone. Buh-bye. She even does the stuff around the house she was afraid to do before lest her back go out.
How did I do this? I was able to fix her low back because I also looked at the muscles around the spine- the ones that support it and attach to it- and instead of adjusting the spine (which she had already experienced plenty before walking into my office) I addressed the muscle imbalance. Problem solved and she no longer needs a monthly visit just to keep it at bay.
After not seeing her for a couple of months, she came back, this time with neck pain. Again, I addressed the muscles around and attached to the neck and gave her an exercise to do to support that. That seemed to take care of the issue because she came back in today, after not seeing her most of this winter, and told me,
That exercise you gave me fixed my neck! I haven’t had any neck pain since then!
The exercise I gave her was nothing extraordinary or profound. It was just a simple chin retraction exercise. But it lengthen the muscles in the back of her neck so that her head could rest balanced over the rest of her spine, instead of coming forward of her torso. This was causing an increased load to the muscles like her trapezius and levator scapulae (in the back, these go from the shoulder blade to the top of the neck and help ‘hold’ the neck up). Your head weighs about 12 pounds as it is, and every inch it moves forward, it gets 10 pounds heavier.
Unfortunately, most of us do this all day long. We sit starring at screens, at smartphones and now tablets, with our heads subtly coming forward so we can see better. Then we go to bed at night, stick a pillow under our heads to jack our head & neck in the air and replicate this posture again for the next 6-8 hours. Over time, the muscles in the neck become adapted to this position and there they stay, increasing the loads on your spine and neck musculature, leading to tight shoulders, knotted neck muscles, loss of joint space in the cervical spine and eventually arthritis, even things like stenosis in the neck. In short, this posture over long periods of leads to neck pain.
Why does this happen? Does it happen because there is a ‘joint out of place’ in the neck or does it happen because the way we use our bodies on a daily basis is out of context with the way it was designed to moved?
I work from the premise that it is the later. Just like fast food isn’t truly nourishing food that will allow us to realize our full health potential, unnatural positions & postures (particularly when engaged in for long periods of time), change our underlying movement patterns. If these patterns are out of context with the normal architecture of our musculoskeletal system… well the end result at some point will be pain and degeneration. Neck pain, back pain, knee pain- it doesn’t matter where the pain is because in the end, unless there was a precipitating trauma, it’s just a symptom of dysfunctional movement patterns.
The empowering part of this point of view is that these problems can be fixed! Granted, it may take time. If you spent years in a certain position or using your muscles a certain way, it will take some time to undo that, but it is possible. And it’s more possible the younger you are, before arthritis starts to change the underlying shape of the bones. However, bones are constantly remodeling themselves in response to the forces placed on them, so there’s always the opportunity to change those forces and then change their shape. You are a product of how you move. You change the product by changing how you move!
By changing the way my patient’s neck was functioning, we eliminated her neck pain. She did the daily work of stretching and doing the exercise. My part was simply to spot the dysfunctional movement and give the appropriate correction. I never needed to ‘adjust’ her neck.
If you’re struggling with neck pain and other things you’ve tried aren’t working, feel free to give my office a cal at 845-687-6387. We can chat about how I may be able to help you the same way I helped my patient today.
The Paleo diet has been gaining in popularity. I see many patients come into my office having tried it, but not quite getting the results that they hoped for or expected. Based on their experiences, I wanted to share what I think are the top 5 mistakes people make on the Paleo diet.
- Not eating enough vegetables. Meat & veggies are like yin and yang to each other. There’s evidence that the antioxidant chemicals in vegetables are what helps reduce the potential cancer-causing properties of meats. (Read more in this article I wrote after the WHO linked meat to cancer and nearly broke the internet.) I like the hashtag Stacy Toth at Paleo Parents uses on their Instagram account #morevegetablesthanavegetarian. Could you say the same about your plate?
- Not fully eliminating grains for at least 30 days. I see some folks who say that a Paleo diet didn’t work for them and then upon further investigation, they are still ‘cheating’ with a slice of pizza or having oatmeal for breakfast. Or maybe they are trying, but haven’t checked other foods for hidden gluten-containing ingredients- like sauces and salad dressings. As a functional medicine doc, I use a Paleo protocol as a way to jump start healing of a leaky gut and to reduce inflammation. The interaction of gluten proteins with the lining of the gut is happening on a microscopic, cellular level. This means, any amount of grains is too much. (Certainly if you can see enough of it to put it in your mouth it’s too much!) I support folks experimenting and finding out what works best for them and even finding ways of ‘relaxing’ a bit about food, but this should come after a full elimination period. So if you don’t see the results you want after 30 days on Paleo, but haven’t been honest about grain consumption, well please don’t tell your coworkers that Paleo failed you and is somehow all bunk. Ditto all of the above for dairy.
- Still relying on processed foods. Because of the increased popularity of the Paleo diet, a whole cottage industry as grown up around making Paleo processed foods. It’s a nice convenience, but it can be a reason people don’t achieve the results they want. Paleo bread might not have wheat or other grains in it, but the food has still been processed since it’s original form. As I tell patients- there is no Bread tree or plant that one can simply go and harvest loaves of bread from- Paleo or otherwise. Also, if you’re constantly making treats or using lots of almond flour to ‘bread’ things, you may be very quickly and easily exceeding your needed caloric intake with the fat content of the almonds (Fat is like what your first grade teacher said about glue- “a little dab will do ya!“) The goal is to have most of your food come from WHOLE sources with the most ‘processing’ it having gone through before you put it in your mouth is when you cook it. Beware of any foods that come in any package- but particularly a bag, a box or a can. If it bears a government-mandated nutrition label, that’s another clue that it’s no longer a ‘whole’ food. It’s not that these foods should never be apart of your diet, but the majority of your food intake should be real, whole sources, not processed foods.
- Not finding your best macronutrient ratio. Many folks assume Paleo is “low carb” or just another form of Atkin’s. I think that what sets a Paleo diet apart from just another Atkin’s diet is the emphasis on food quality and vegetable intake and also the emphasis on flexible macronutrient ratios. Though a Paleo diet is “low carb” compared to the S.A.D., the amount of carbohydrate can be flexible and based on an individual’s needs. For example, I think of 100-150g of carb/day as the ‘sweet spot’ that will be effective for most people, while still helping to maintain thyroid and adrenal health. However, in someone who is trying to address blood sugar issues or pre-diabetes, they may have a period where they need to go lower than that with their carb consumption in order to see results. Once they restore insulin sensitivity, they may be able to handle a slightly higher carbohydrate intake. The point is, we see a variety of macronutrient ratios in the diets of healthy, traditional cultures. Do some experimentation (with real, whole foods!) to find the ratio that works for best for you and bear in mind that this ratio may change as your health status or goals change.
- Not giving it enough time/expecting the quick fix. A Paleo diet can do wonders and change lives in very short order. But- usually when it has amazing results it’s because a person is reasonably healthy and still has good metabolic flexibility to begin with. If you have a chronic health condition that you have been trying to address for years, it’s not realistic to expect to see everything to be reversed within the span of a month. Many patients come to me with weight loss as their main goal. If they have had a pattern of chronic inflammation and immune system imbalance, it often happens that they have to heal from that before they can take on weight loss in a healthy way. Fat is the like an energy savings account for the body. If your body is getting constant signals that it is in crisis mode, needing to survive, it’s not going to give up or dip into that critical savings account easily. Be patient. Focus on healing and improving your health. Paleo is not another crash diet to try for short term results, but a sustainable philosophy and way of eating that can have powerful & positive impact on your life.
I’d love to hear what you think. Have you made one or more of these mistakes yourself? (I know I have!) Is there another mistake you think people more commonly make than one of these 5? Let me know in the comments section!
Low carb diets seem to carry some sort of undeserved apprehension lately, so it was really great to see this article making the rounds on social media this week. Of course, this probably has to do with the fact that “low-carb” and Atkins have unfortunately become synonymous- like using a “Kleenex” instead of a tissue and “Chapstick” as opposed to lip balm. Let’s clear that up right here and now- Atkin’s is a type of low carb diet, but not all low carb diets are Atkin’s. My theory is that the apprehension comes about because most of us know someone who lost a ton of weight on Atkin’s- then gained it all back when they resumed eating “normally” again. The implied assumption then, is that Atkin’s (and by extension all low-carb diets) doesn’t work. This is a logical fallacy and is just plain wrong.
Let’s turn it around for a moment and make the opposite assumption. If eating “normally” is what caused a person to gain excess weight in the first place, doesn’t it make more sense that their return to “normal” eating after a low carb diet is a much better reason for why they gained that weight again?
Obesity rates decline with adoption of high fat, low carb diets
Emerging research is corroborating this assumption. The meteoric rise in obesity rates seems to originate in the late 70s- right around the time that policy recommendations were being implemented that vilified cholesterol, saturated foods and animal products. The 80s were the heyday of the low-fat craze, with new “fat-free” Frankenfoods being developed at an unprecedented rate. Obesity has continued to skyrocket despite our adoption of these policies and low-fat foods. Yet, in Sweden, up to 23% of the population embraces a high fat, low carb diet. And while obesity rates continue to climb steadily elsewhere in the world, Sweden is actual seeing a decline in their obesity rate.
High fat, low carb diets produce less insulin; body fat storage
What we know about the biochemical mechanism underlying this phenomenon also reinforces low carb diets as the answer to lasting weight loss and better overall health. Insulin is a hormone that is released in the presence of carbohydrate and to a lesser extent, protein. (Notice that fat does not provoke an insulin release.) Insulin’s job is to lower blood sugar. It does this in two ways. First, by triggering uptake of digested carbohydrates (glucose) into the cells to be made into energy to fuel them. But it also acts as a storage hormone, causing any excess sugars to be cleared from the blood and stored in the fat tissue as triglycerides for later use. This where many folks run into problems losing weight. They overeat carbohydrates, keeping insulin high and promoting storage of any excess carbohydrates and even calories, as fat. A high fat, low carb diet by contrast reduces the need for insulin. In the short term, this means less excess insulin to promote fat storage. Long-term, less insulin means less stimulus for the development of insulin resistance & type 2 diabetes.
Fat does not cause clogged arteries
The reputation of low carb diets also suffers from mistakenly assuming that saturated fats and cholesterol clog arteries. While it’s true that cholesterol is the main constituent of the arterial plaques, that doesn’t meant cholesterol causes the plaque. The analogy I use is of spackle. You don’t blame the hole in the wall on the spackle just because it is there plugging the hole. The same goes for cholesterol, which did not cause the “hole” in the artery. This damage is more likely to come from elevated blood sugar, elevated insulin or even turbulent blood flow in an area due to poor mobility and a sedentary lifestyle.
Low carb diets can be sustainable & healthy
We are left with the real culprit- the return to so-called “normal eating.” If people return to anything that approximates the Standard American Diet- they are likely returning to a diet full of bread, pasta, and other processed foods. I’ve worked with many patients who think they ‘eat healthy.’ When I investigate this further, they eat oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and often pasta for dinner. They’ve assumed that because their meals were “low-fat” they were healthy. Meanwhile, what they actually ate were carbs, carbs and more carbs. No vegetables, certainly nothing with much color, and they’ve insured that insulin level spiked several times throughout that day (with resultant plunges as well). The S.A.D. averages over 300g of carbohydrate per day. The health benefits of “low-carb” can start with carbohydrate levels as high as 100-150g/day. Atkin’s and ketogenic diets, also known as ‘very low carb’ are often under 75g of carbohydrate/day. If one’s primary carbohydrate sources are from vegetables instead of processed grain products, it can be very easy to sustain a healthy diet of 100-150g/day of carbohydrate. Some can even get by on less by including increased levels of high quality fats in their diet. By finding a healthy level of carbohydrates that works for you, you can achieve lasting weight loss while improving your health!
Collagen has been getting a lot of press lately- and for good reason! It’s an amazing nutrient with a plethora of health benefits. It can improve wrinkles & cellulite by increasing skin elasticity, contributes to hair & nail growth, gut healing and repair, helps maintain muscle mass and even improves sleep.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein that is used in the building of many different types of soft tissues including skin, hair, nails, blood vessels, ligaments & tendons. It’s rich in amino acids glycine and proline. Vitamin C is a key nutrient needed to synthesize collagen.
What are some of the benefits?
- It improves skin elasticity, moisture, wrinkles and roughness.
- It improves the appearance of moderate cellulite in women of normal weight.
- It may improve UV-damaged skin.
- It can improve body composition and muscle mass.
- It helps improve bone density, even in osteoporotic bone tissue.
- It can reduce local as well as systemic inflammation.
- It may help reduce blood pressure.
- It may improve the pain associated with osteoarthritis, particularly in lower limbs.
- Improves sleep.
How do you get it in your diet?
Traditionally, we would have acquired collagen from gelatin-bone broths, chewing the articular ends of bones and using the whole animal including shanks, marrow, skin, cheeks, feet, oxtails and ribs.
A nightly cup of bone broth is an easy way to take in collagen while also helping to get a good night’s sleep. Considering the skin-enhancing properties of collagen, this is really a fantastic way to make the most of your ‘beauty sleep.’
If bone broth isn’t your thing, (though it really should be!) another option is to use powdered collagen hydrolysate and/or gelatin supplements. I find it most convenient to add a tablespoon or so of either of these to my morning coffee. I prefer the collagen peptides only because they don’t gel, potentially creating annoying clean up. I find that when I use them regularly, my hair & nails grow very quickly!
Gelatin, because it does gel, is a natural thickener and can be used in soups, stews, sauces, smoothies, desserts- anything you want to firm up and thicken up really. You can even make healthier “gummie” treats for kids with some fruit juice and gelatin.
The best supplements to use are ones such Vital Proteins, that are made from pastured & grassfed animals.
Hudson Valley Gluten-free folks- are you eating gluten-free but still having symptoms such as joint or muscles aches, headaches, skin rashes, eczema or psoriasis, migraines, peripheral neuropathy, brain fog, inability to focus, hair loss, or weight loss resistance? Are you taking several long-term prescription medications to address any of the above symptoms or other chronic health conditions? Are you looking for a natural way to feel better, without more drugs?
Let’s start by addressing two common conditions that lead people to adopt a gluten-free diet- Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Despite common misconceptions, these are not the same thing. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten causes antibodies to be made. These antibodies then mark & tag the cells of the small intestine for destruction by the immune system. Most of the symptoms of Celiac disease are related to the GI track- chronic diarrhea and or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, even gas.
Gluten sensitivity on the other hand is a genetic predisposition, but not a full-blown autoimmune disease (though it can lead to the development of autoimmune disease!) In this case, ingestion of gluten creates inflammation in the gut. This causes microscopic holes to open in the gut that can let toxins and particles of undigested food cross into the bloodstream, causing more inflammation. And because it has now reached the bloodstream, this inflammatory response can show up in any vulnerable tissue- muscles, joints, thyroid gland, sinuses, even the brain. This is why there can be a such a wide range of symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
A key thing to know is that other grains contain gluten proteins as well. Gluten is a class of proteins as opposed to just one specific one. (The specific problematic protein in wheat is known as gliadin). Because of the similar structure in this class of protein, its common for there to be cross-reactions where the body reacts to other grains in the same way it reacts to the gluten in wheat.
This means that if you are eating gluten-free either because you have Celiac disease or have suspect you have gluten sensitivity, your symptoms will likely improve further by cutting out all grain products from you diet entirely. This can be achieved most readily by adhering to a Paleo diet type diet.
If you are in the Hudson Valley & gluten-free, struggling with Celiac disease or symptoms you believe are related to gluten sensitivity, a grain-free diet may be the solution. If you need help from someone experienced in working with people just like yourself, I invite you to call my office today at 845-687-6387 for your free 15 minutes consultation to learn how I can help you feel better, have more energy and lose weight.
Whole-body wellness for Celiac disease in Kingston, NY
Are you living with Celiac disease in Kingston, NY (or anywhere, really)? Are you frustrated that despite strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet, you still suffer from bouts of diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, bloating or abdominal pain? Do you frequently have other symptoms like constant fatigue, headaches, achey joints, or muscle pain that leave you feeling run down and unable to accomplish what you need to? Do you have trouble getting enough restful & restorative sleep to feel your best each day?
If you’re looking for better solutions to heal from Celiac disease, we can help!
While it’s true that there is no cure for Celiac disease, your body can heal from the damage caused by CD. Once gluten is completely removed from the diet, we know that cells of the small intestine can repair themselves to create a healthier gut, leading to a decrease in symptoms. However, it often takes more than just removing gluten to restore the integrity of the gut lining and limit antibody formation.
Other foods, particularly other grains, can cause cross-reactivity. This is when there is enough overlap between the protein structures that similar antibodies are made, even though gluten itself is not consumed. Therefore, even on a gluten-free diet, chronic inflammation of the gut can continue to be an issue. This often results in continued symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, the imbalance and inflammation in your gut has been occurring for a period of months, probably even years, before you started having the symptoms that lead to your diagnosis. In that time, other changes in gut function may have occurred that are also preventing you from healing from the symptoms of CD, such as gut flora imbalances or SIBO infections (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). While a gluten-free diet is the first step in recovering from such imbalances, more may need to be done, including the removal of other types of foods that may be ‘feeding’ the bad bacteria in your gut.
Another reason why you may still have symptoms is that there is still an immune system imbalance. While removing gluten from your diet helps stop the damage of your intestine, it may not be enough to calm down the chronic inflammation of your immune system. Left unchecked, this chronic inflammation may lead to develop of other autoimmune diseases in the future.
In the meantime, this chronic inflammation can drive hormone imbalances that lead to poor sleep, chronic fatigue and malaise, muscle aches, joint pain, headaches or brain fog. The chronically elevated levels of cortisol in response to chronic inflammation can also cause depletion of hormones like progesterone and testosterone. This may result in low libido, mood swings, increased PMS symptoms or even infertility.
The symptoms and problems caused by Celiac disease can show up in all parts of the body. That’s why it takes a holistic solution to find true wellness. If you’d like to learn more about a functional medicine approach to Celiac disease, please read this article. You can also learn more about why a gluten-free diet may not be enough of a solution here.
If you are suffering with Celiac disease in Kingston, NY there is a better solution. I work with patients regularly just like you, to help them find the diet and lifestyle based solutions to feel better and have more energy. I offer a free 15 minute consultation if you would like to find out more about how I can specifically help you. Call me at 845-687-6387 to find out how I can help you live better with Celiac Disease in Kingston, NY.
Do these symptoms of a hypothyroid sound all too familiar? You’re tired all of the time. You’re hair is thinning or falling out and you don’t know how to make it stop. Despite dieting carefully and watching what you eat, you seem to continue to gain weight- and can’t ever get it off. You absolutely cannot go without a pair of big thick wool socks in the winter because your feet are cold all of the time. You experience brain fog that takes two or three cups of coffee to ‘fix’ and you wonder if that prescription anti-depressant is helping with that at all.
If you’re struggling with hypothyroidism, you’re not alone. And I want you to know that you’ve come to the right place. I work with patients like you everyday. I help them find relief from their hypothyroid symptoms beyond medication.
You see, there’s a couple of important things you need to know about hypothyroidism in order to get real relief from your symptoms.
You need more than just TSH measured to assess symptoms of a hypothyroid.
TSH simply measures the brain’s ability to stimulate the thyroid gland. However, to truly know what is causing an under-functioning thyroid, a full thyroid panel must be done and considered, including TSH, Total T4, Total T3, Free T4, Free T3, T3 Uptake, Reverse T3 and TPO antibodies. It is totally possible to have ‘normal’ TSH and still have hypothyroid symptoms! If T4 is normal for example, the brain will think there is plenty of thyroid hormone and not make as much TSH. But if there is inflammation in the body, which can inhibit the conversion of T4 to the active form T3, then not enough T3 can get into the cells where it has it’s effect. Thus, leading to signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, even though TSH and T4 are within normal ranges!
80% of hypothyroid cases in the U.S. are attributable to Hashimoto’s hypothyroid
Many cases of hypothyroidism in the U.S. are actually the result of an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the cells of thyroid gland. This results in a decreased ability to produce adequate thyroid hormone over time. These folks often have to keep increasing their dose of thyroid medication in order to feel normal. In others, the right dose for them seems to be all over the map, fluctuating frequently. The only way to confirm Hashimoto’s is to do a blood test for antibodies to the thyroid gland. Thyroid peroxidase antibodies are the most common, but Thyroglobulin antibodies may be present too.
Cases of Hashimoto’s hypothyroid are autoimmune diseases- the immune system needs to be addressed too!
The sad fact is that many hypothyroid patients are giving prescriptions for replacement hormone and told that’s it; that’s all they can do and they will be on the medications for life. However, there is so much more that can be done! Implementing an anti-inflammatory diet and beginning to balance the immune system can retard it’s attacks on the thyroid gland. Focusing on a nutritious diet that decreases the inflammation can also help with stubborn weight loss and even help to regrow thinning hair. More importantly, correcting the immune system imbalance early can help prevent other autoimmune disease from developing in the future.
If you live in the Hudson Valley, have hypothyroidism and want to learn about holistic solutions for your symptoms, I invite you to call my office and learn more about how I can help you. I offer a risk-free, complimentary 15 minute consultation so you learn about how I can help you. Call me today at 845-687-6387.
This time of year, many people aspire to lose weight and get in shape in the coming year. When they say “lose weight,” almost all of us mean fat loss. Unfortunately, there is so much conflicting and just plain wrong information out there, that most people will start a program, see little if any results, and give up before February rolls around. So how do you break the cycle and find a leaner, fitter you?
- Fat loss is 80% diet. If you’re killing yourself with an hour a day on the treadmill or elliptical, then coming home and diving into pile of junk food because ‘you earned it,’ then the point is being missed. You’ve probably seen the popular meme “you can’t out run a bad diet.” It’s true. You can drop 10 or 15 pounds and still have terrible blood lipid or sugar numbers because of what you are eating. Isn’t the whole point of doing all that exercise in the first place to be healthier?
- Instead of calories in, think about calories stored. This is a concept Mark Sisson talks about on his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. Part of the problem with trying to increase your caloric expenditure (exercising) while simultaneously decreasing your caloric intake (dieting) is that this sends signals to the body that it is in danger. In the interest of your survival, several hormonal mechanisms are activated. First, cortisol is raised to increase your blood sugar levels. If you don’t immediately use this sugar for energy, it’s then stored as fat, under the influence of insulin. The hypothalamus, a control center in your brain, will send out signals to down-regulate (decrease) your metabolism, while simultaneously increasing your appetite in order to save energy and ensure your continued survival. So instead of trying to decrease your calories, to optimize for fat loss, focus on feeding your body high quality, nutrient dense foods like meat, fish, fowl, eggs, plenty of vegetables, a few fruits, nuts and seeds. (They contain fewer calories then processed foods anyway.) Also, make sure you get plenty of high quality fat in your diet. Fat DOES NOT make you fat! Repeat after me: FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT! Fat is the only macronutrient that does not provoke an insulin release when digested. Carbohydrates do (and proteins to a lesser extent) and the more processed the carbohydrates, the more insulin is secreted. Under the influence of insulin, any excess carbohydrates in the body are stored for later use as fat. This was a very handy adaptation when our species was evolving and living as hunter-gatherers. It helped us survive in times of famine and food scarcity. Unfortunately, these days, with food always being plentiful, we just keep eating- particularly carbs and processed foods- and never signal to our bodies to dip into those stored fats. So, if you are currently overweight and trying to lose fat, you will have better success by limiting carbohydrate intake to just vegetables and increasing your intake of high-quality dietary fats in order to encourage your body to use fat as its primary fuel source. (High quality fats include coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, animal fats from pastured & grassfed animals, occasional use of pure extra virgin olive oil, avocado or walnut oils. Do NOT increase consumption of processed trans and polyunsaturated fats like corn, soybean, canola or vegetable oils. These introduce dangerous free radicals into the body that actually make atherosclerosis worse! Eliminate them at all costs!)
- Focus on aerobic exercise. During aerobic exercise, we are able to take in enough oxygen to preferentially burn fat for fuel, the holy grail for fat loss. This discovery is what lead to the ‘aerobics’ craze in the 80s. (Remember Jane Fonda and all that Lyrca?) The thing is, we’ve gotten so focused now on “burning off” all those offending calories that we’ve missed what constitutes ‘aerobic exercise.’ We think “no pain, no gain” (another terrible T-shirt from the 80s) and work harder. Except once you’re working at pace where you can no longer breath through your nose easily, you’ve exceeded this aerobic threshold. Said another way, you are no longer burning fat. Regular old walking is great aerobic exercise for fat loss. If you’re an endurance athlete, get a heart rate monitor and use the Maffetone method to calculate your aerobic threshold and then train only below that heart rate until you see fat loss.
- Strength train. The rate of your metabolism is primarily determined by the amount of lean muscle mass you have. More lean muscle tissue = a speeder metabolism. Also, we have some good data that shows that strength training and building muscle helps ‘partition’ your weight loss to make sure that it comes preferentially from fat tissue instead of muscle tissue. If you’ve experienced the pain of yo-yo dieting- where you lost the weight only to gain it back and again (and then some) this is your best strategy to prevent this from ever happening again! By strength training, you will keep your lean muscle tissue and therefore keep your metabolism revved up while getting rid of excess fat tissue. The best strength training to do is to lift heavy a couple of times a week in the big compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, press and pull-up. If you don’t know how to do these lifts safely, please seek qualified instruction from a certified and credential trainer or strength coach. For women, please do not worry about getting bulky from lifting heavy. If you lift heavy, for a short set of 4-6 reps and then give yourself a rest of 3-5 minutes between sets, you will signal increased strength without increased bulk (hypertrophy). Conversely, the best way to increase the size of the muscle is to do light weight and high reps. Also for the ladies, it is so empowering to lift heavy and see how strong and capable your body is! Strength training is a veritable fountain of youth for both men and women as its keeps joints strong and healthy while keeping metabolism high so as to prevent those extra pounds from creeping on each year.
- Exercise really hard on occasion. Once you’ve got all that down- eating an appropriate diet, walking or slow running (or whatever exercise method floats your boat) and strength training, then its time to add in a few bouts of sprinting. This only needs to be and should only be done 1-2 times a week and doesn’t have to be very long. One study found that women who sprinted hard on a bicycle for 8 seconds, followed by 12 seconds of rest for a total of 20 minutes, over 15 weeks, had lost 3 times as much body fat as their counterparts who cycled at a steady pace for 40 minutes. (Most of this fat was from their thighs and buttocks too!) Research shows that high intensity interval training has the ability to decrease insulin signaling (decrease fat storage), decrease blood glucose and increase fat oxidation- all in way less time than steady-state cardio. And it doesn’t take much. One or two, short high-intensity session as week is all you need.
So there you have it- 5 simple steps toward obtainable and sustainable fat loss that will also help you become healthier in the process. Sure, there are other ways to lose fat- like crash dieting or becoming a cardio junkie, but those methods ruin your hormone balance and/or increase your level of inflammation and chronic disease risk. And if you’re just going to ruin your health in the end, what’s the point of doing all that hard work in the first place?
If you’d like to start a journey towards losing fat and getting healthier in the coming year, but are unsure about how to start or need help staying on track, you may want to check out the New Year, New You! whole-food based cleanse that I am offering starting in January. You can learn more about the program here.
Paleo. Some call it a “fad diet.” Many associate it with uber-lean, muscle-bound Crossfit-types. It’s been confused with Atkins and the low-carb craze. It’s philosophical underpinnings have been the subject of TED talks and scathing critiques throughout the media. Maligned by vegetarians and vegans, this juggernaut diet trend isn’t going anywhere.
The Paleo Diet is here to stay.
You may be curious about it yourself. You have a coworker or neighbor or fifth cousin-twice removed who lost a ton of weight and swears by it. Or maybe you are thinking that any diet where bacon is heartily embraced is your kind of diet. Perhaps you are enticed by the idea of not having to count calories and still losing weight.
Is The Paleo Diet the right choice for you?
Despite what the detractors say, the Paleo diet is not about trying to recreate the life of a caveman. We can, however, gain some important insights into how our bodies function best by looking to our past. The fact is there is a lot of very modern scientific research that backs up this intuitive & ancestral approach to eating. That’s why having my patients adopt a Paleo-type diet is one of the first steps in their nutritional treatment protocol. It’s about more than just rock hard abs. Here’s why I recommend it and why I think you should do it too:
- Nutrient-density. The Paleo Diet is the most nutrient dense diet on the planet. A paper published by Mat LaLonde, a chemistry professor at Harvard, showed that for the same number of calories, a Paleo Diet contained more vitamins, minerals and essential fats than the SAD (Standard American Diet.) Not especially surprising, but what was enlightening is that even when he tried to add dairy or whole grains, he could not come up with more vitamins & minerals without adding more calories. This raw data for this came straight from the USDA’s own database of the nutritional content of foods. When you give the body the nutrients it needs, it doesn’t crave more empty calories in a misguided attempt to get them. While eating a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet, most people spontaneously lower their calorie consumption, without trying or having to resort to willpower.
- Anti-inflammatory. Wheat, dairy, soy and peanuts (a legume) are common allergens, yet are absent from a typical Paleo diet. Gluten in particular has been shown to increase the amount of an inflammatory protein in the gut called zonulin. This protein opens up spaces between cells of the gut lining called tight junctions. When these tight junctions are opened up, it leads to a leaky gut. (In the scientific literature this is referred to as ‘increased intestinal permeability.) Pieces of undigested proteins than cross the gut lining where they meet the GALT- Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. Made up of the same white blood cells as the rest of your immune system, its estimated that up 70% of your immune system is hanging out in your gut. When the GALT starts having to react to pieces of undigested protein, it creates inflammation, both in the gut itself as well as the rest of your body. If you have aches or pains, brain fog or memory loss, depression or hormone imbalances (all of which can be caused by inflammation), you really should give the Paleo diet a try.
- Whole-foods based. We can argue all day long about what cavemen did or didn’t eat and whether those foods still really exist, but at the end of the day I think we can all agree that whole-foods are way better and more nutritious for you than anything processed. Fresh meats and eggs from pastured and grassfed animals, wild seafood, plenty of vegetables in an array of colors and some fruits. Nuts and seeds. These are not controversial health foods, they’re just common sense.
- Sustainability. Diets that leave you hungry and starved are not sustainable. For sustained fat loss and long-term recovery from inflammatory conditions, a diet has to be one that you can follow over the long haul. There are so many resources now; the number of Paleo cookbooks has exploded in recent years and the number of Paleo recipe blogs has grown exponentially. There really is no legitimate reason for getting bored on the Paleo Diet.
- Lifestyle Factors. There’s more to health & fitness than just food, yet so many ‘diets’ fail to account for this. Many people will say that Paleo isn’t just a diet, it’s lifestyle. What that means is that food is just the start. Beyond diet, a healthy lifestyle should also include plenty of quality, restorative sleep, stress management, frequent movement & exercise, good posture & alignment, relaxation and time in nature. To heal from a chronic disease, all of these factors must be addressed.
Is Paleo the right choice for you? I think it happens to be the right choice for anyone who wants to build or maintain their health. Want some help getting started on your journey to more energy, less fatigue, clearer skin and less pain? Call my office today at 845-687-6387. I help people like you implement and tailor a Paleo approach to meet their health goals.
January is just around the corner. If you have been thinking of starting a Paleo diet as part of your commitment to get healthier in the coming year, but are a bit overwhelmed or unsure how to get started, check out my New Year, New You! whole-foods based cleanse program. To learn more, click here.