6 Steps to Bathing Suit Confidence

Summer is just around the corner and that means weekends will soon fill up with beach trips, pool days and afternoons in the sun. As a dietitian, I often get asked on what are some slimming secrets and increasing confidence tricks for being in a bathing suit all day. Consider some of these tips the next time you are packing up your sunblock and beach towels and heading outdoors!

Consider some of these slimming secrets for bathing suit confidence next time you are packing up your sunblock and beach towels for some fun in the sun!

1. Don’t Skip Breakfast/Meals.

Nothing good will come from this action so please do not consider it. Skipping meals or going long durations without eating signals your body to prepare for starvation and will slow down your metabolism. Just like your computer, your metabolism will go into “sleep mode” when not being stimulated for an extended period of time. This causes your body to aggressively store calories and will also offset your body’s hunger hormone levels. Basically, you will find yourself extra famished by the end of the day and will be more likely to overeat.

2. Avoid carbonated beverages and salty snacks.

Both carbonated beverages (even sugar-free ones) and salty snacks such as crackers, pretzels, Chex mix and the like can cause water retention and extra bloating. This is definitely not the recipe one wants for feeling svelte and confident all day in a swimsuit.

3. Do pack lean protein sources.

Foods that are high in protein will help you stay fuller longer. This will allow you to spend more time splashing and playing in the water and less time breaking to eat. Protein go-to’s can include eggs, lean meats, protein bars/shakes, low sugar Greek yogurts, unsalted nuts, white cheese varieties. Another perk to frequent protein intake is that it can also help ward off sugar cravings.

4. Focus on water for hydration.

Believe me, I know nothing sounds better than ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day but fueling your body with liquid sugar isn’t the best recipe for staying fit and trim. Confession: I’ll be the first to admit that plain water isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to drink. Take advantage of fresh produce this summer and create natural flavor enhancers by putting fresh cut fruit, herbs or vegetables in your water.

5. Fresh fruit and vegetables make great hydrating snacks.

Fresh produce is naturally high in water, fiber and antioxidants. Choosing fruit and vegetables as snacks help boost your nutrient intake. Natural foods do not have any added chemicals or junk in them, which can often be the culprit for bloated, upset stomachs.  Save yourself some time preparing fruits and vegetables and purchase pre-cut bags and containers from the grocery store to be beach-ready in a snap.

6. Above all- kick back and have fun.

Despite the season of being more active, I understand summer can amplify body image issues with wearing a swimsuit. With constant reminders of magazine covers touting to have the perfect bikini body, even the most confident of women can become over critical of themselves. Try not to let worrying thoughts about how you look overpower the fun you could be having with your friends, family and kids. Summer always comes and goes too fast anyways, so grab your shades, sunblock and let out a big “cowabunga”!

A perfectionist’s guide to New Year’s Resolutions

As we start a new year, we think about setting New Year’s Resolutions and so many of these resolutions focus around “perfecting” ourselves.  Well, let me tell you perfection is quite a funny thing because IT DOESN’T EXIST!!! When we try so very hard to reach the unattainable it can wreak havoc on our bodies and cause anxiety, tension, headaches, depression, etc. Thus, causing a destructive relationship around food.

How many times have you tried diet, after diet, after diet? You lose the weight and then gain the weight back, you know the old adage ‘yo-yo dieter’. We try to be perfectionist on the diet, but find we are trying to reach the unattainable and give up after a while because those food rules and deprivation aren’t working. Then the weight comes back on and the anxiety, tension, depression, etc. accelerates because we couldn’t be PERFECT.

So let’s try this year to let go of the perfectionistic thoughts and regain our relationship with food.

  1. Ask yourself why. Why do I want to fill in the blank?
  • What is the underlying perfectionistic tendency with this question? Is the WHY because of a life transition like children, spouse, marriage, divorce, career/career change, medical diagnosis, friendship, etc.? You can’t always have control over life events, so because of this are you trying to take control somewhere else, such as with food.

2. Embrace your diet imperfections.

  • I know this is hard, I struggle with it too, but I’m giving you permission this year to not be perfect. It’s okay to fail and give in from time to time allowing foods you desire to bring enjoyment and pleasure to eating. When you do this, your relationship with yourself and food will be that much more joyful.

3. Focus on mindful eating.

  • By being mindful of your eating, this allows you to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through your food selections. Using your senses can be both satisfying and nourishing. Thus, acknowledging your response to food without judgment and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to help guide your food decisions.

Rethink those 2,000 calories

I have quite a few patients asking for a calorie amount to follow, but I rarely give an actual calorie count to a patient. Instead, I teach patients about the different macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and how to portion meals and snacks so nutrient needs are being met. Although I do not give calorie amounts often, it is important to be aware of calorie content in the grand scheme of things when trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain a healthy weight. 2,000 calories/day has been set as the average need of an adult. However, this number varies greatly depending on sex, activity level, genetics and so on. Let’s say that 2,000 calories per day is accurate for you; do you know what this actually looks like?

A 2014, New York Times’ article, “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like”, provides examples of a 2,000 calorie meals. I’ve selected a few examples of meals from the article that you can find here in restaurants in our area. Click here to view the full article.

  1. Chipotle

This meal combo meal comes in at just under 2,000 calories!

18UP-Food-slide-LQSH-jumbo

  1. Olive Garden

This includes the “Tour of Italy Sampler”, 2 bread sticks, side salad, and a glass of red wine for 2,020 calories!

18UP-Food-slide-93IG-jumbo

  1. IHOP

 “Classic Skillet” with orange juice is 2,000 calories.

18UP-Food-slide-81GI-jumbo

Many of these meals (or equivalents) are eaten 2-3 times a day, meaning calorie intake can be far in excess of needs! Calories are generally controlled better at home. I use the #plategoals method to educate patients on food groups and portion control. Cooking at home decreases processed food intake, which in turn decreases calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium—all good things to keep in moderation when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Lastly is an example of a day’s worth of food prepared at home, filled with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein!

  1. Home

Breakfast: Yogurt with fruit and nuts, 1 slice of toast with jam, and coffee. Lunch: beef stir-fry with farro, pretzels, a pear, and diet soda. Dinner: chicken with arugula, Brussels sprouts and squash, 2 small cookies, 1 glass of wine and water. All of this is 2,000 calories!

18UP-Food-slide-6CJS-superJumbo

 

Alana Scopel

Enjoy the Holidays Guilt Free

This is not going to be your average holiday blog on how to make a healthy, low-calorie, festive feast. In fact, I tell my patients it’s perfectly fine to relax and enjoy a cookie or two this holiday season. While many of us are concerned with weight gain this time of year, the holiday meals are usually not the blame for those extra pounds. Weight gain is more related to our daily habits that we have surrounding the holiday festivities. Before you drastically cut calories and miss out on Nana’s famous apple pie, consider some of these unhealthy habits that could be affecting your metabolism.  

Enjoy the Holidays Guilt Free

#1 You’re skipping meals.

Missing a feeding (or going longer than 4 hours without eating) is a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism. When you don’t feed your body often enough, it begins to feel deprived and starts working against you, rather than for you. I know it’s easy to skip meals for the sake of saving calories later on in the day, but unfortunately, this works at your disadvantage. Your body is more likely to store calories (both good and not-so-good calorie choices) with frequent meal skipping habits. For persons with pre-diabetes and diabetes, meal skipping actually worsens blood sugar control. Planning ahead is the best approach to assure you feed your body often enough. This is easily accomplished by packing your lunch the night before, throwing an extra protein bar in your purse or creating enough time in the morning routine to allow for a well-balanced breakfast. Don’t forget about the importance of eating regularly on the weekends and with traveling in addition to the routine of the workweek. 

#2 Your breakfast is too high in carbs.

It’s no secret that America loves her carbs. In fact, when you walk down the “breakfast aisle” at the grocery store, carbohydrates are the only food source available: cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, pancake and waffle mixes, muffins, bagels, pastries, poptarts and granola. We even find ways to eat dessert for breakfast in the form of cinnamon rolls, donuts, coffee cakes, banana breads and believe it or not, most Greek yogurts have the same amount of sugar in them as a scoop of ice cream. Additional sources from carbohydrates in the AM can come from your juice, milk, fruit, syrup and jelly.  Carbohydrates are not bad for you; however, consuming them in excessive amounts with your first meal tends to send your blood sugar and insulin levels on a rollercoaster ride for the remainder of the day. When your blood sugar and insulin levels hit a low point, your irritability tends to go up and guess what, you crave the very thing that will help those levels spike again…carbs and sugar.

#3 You drink too much caffeine.

Before you read any further, heed my advice that coffee is not bad for you! However, caffeine is a very powerful stimulant and can dull the body’s natural hunger cues. Suppressing one’s appetite with caffeine can lead to long periods of time without eating or even meal-skipping altogether. Finally, when you sit down to have a good meal in the evening, rather than use your food for fuel, your body is aggressively storing it as fat as a consequence to being deprived of nutrients throughout the day.

#4 Your snacks lack protein.

Some of the most common snack choices include crackers, chips, popcorn, granola bars, pretzels and desserts. While these foods may taste great, they offer little to no nutrient benefit once chewed and swallowed. They are all very poor sources of vitamins, minerals and protein. Their lack of protein specifically, will leave your hunger pains unsatisfied and not to mention, cause a sharp rise in your blood sugar and insulin levels from the excessive carbohydrate content. For more balanced snack choices, incorporate protein-rich foods such as eggs, meats, cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butters or protein bars/shakes if desired.

#5. You’re skipping the weights at the gym.

Any form of exercise is better than no exercise, but strength-training specifically has the greatest potential for increasing one’s metabolism. Unlike cardio, lifting weights and even doing body weight exercises can stimulate both muscle retention and muscle growth. Your muscle is the wonderful calorie-burning blanket that wraps around your body. The higher your muscle mass percentage is, the more calories your body burns at rest.

Overindulging on food with family and friends on special occasions should not promote weeklong restrictive eating and guilt. It should be a time you look back and cherish with fond memories. I want you to be able to enjoy all the festivities this holiday season has to bring. Be consistent with your healthy habits and don’t be afraid to partake in some of the joyful delights this winter has to bring!

Amanda  Figge

Calorie counting got you down?

Calorie counting can be a big debate nowadays. In fact, I have started this blog several times only to delete it due to many diverse viewpoints—as well as my own mixed feelings on the topic.

Traditionally, the gold standard for weight loss is to eat less and move more. To ensure that you are not eating too much, many people begin tracking calories and, thanks to technology, calorie counting is no longer a tedious pencil and paper task. Today, tracking dietary intake is as easy as scanning a bar code with your smart phone. There are labels on everything, books on “eat this not that” and even your restaurant menu items’ nutrition info is within a click of a button’s reach. Calories are everywhere. But are they really the thing we should be focusing on?

Calories are everywhere. But are they really the thing we should be focusing on?

Here are a few reasons why we shouldn’t:

Quality #1

In many scenarios, people sacrifice quality, wholesome food for the sake of eating something lower in calories. Real food has calories and sometimes a lot of them! You know what doesn’t have calories? Chemicals. When you choose low-fat or reduced-calorie products, you actually are now choosing an item that is more chemical-based than one made with natural ingredients. Keep in mind that we were created to digest and metabolize  real food, not man-made chemicals. Over the past several decades, our food has become more and more processed and you know what else has happened in that time frame? We have become more obese and more diabetic as a nation. While correlation does not prove causation, that’s some great “food for thought” to digest.

Quality #2

You know what else is magical about counting calories? In theory, you can still eat whatever you want as long as you are within your calorie goal for the day. For example, you can consume a McDonald’s Big Mac and fries for lunch but by only eating 75% of the meal, you stay within your total calories allotted for the day. In this particular example, counting calories did not change the fact that you still ate a crappy lunch. The scary thing is that counting calories still doesn’t necessarily teach people how to eat more nutritious food; it simply encourages individuals to reduce the portion sizes of their current dietary choices.

Counting can often lead to consuming too few calories.

I have had several encounters with patients who are highly motivated to lose weight. In fact, they are often already counting calories, following 1,200 calorie meal plans and exercising 6 days a week. They come to me asking what else they need to cut out of the diet to lose weight. Cutting more calories is not the solution. You see, you cannot continue to starve a burned-out metabolism. Consuming too little calories, skipping snacks and over-exercising all can cause the metabolism to down-regulate. At this point, it literally does not matter how healthy you eat, your body will only store that energy rather than burn it up as a fuel source. This is why it is so important to properly fuel your metabolism when losing weight rather than send it down a starvation spiral.

It can sometimes lead to an unhealthy obsession.

Losing weight can be a thrilling experience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to feel instant gratification for their hard work and efforts? But there is a very fine line drawn when calorie counting becomes an obsession. Soon, foods become “forbidden” because they are not healthy enough or too high in calories. Some individuals may bypass social interactions if they’re unsure if healthy food will be offered. Others may try to burn off excess calories by adding extra workouts to their day. Mealtimes should still be pleasurable, not a constant math exam of adding and subtracting calories from eating and exercising.

My argument is not stating that counting calories doesn’t work. I am merely shedding an opposing light on the topic. And as you can tell, it’s certainly not my first preference to recommend for individuals seeking weight loss advice. The reason is because most people need to first repair their metabolism. This can be accomplished by eating frequently, choosing whole forms of food over processed versions, reducing sugar intake and cooking in the kitchen. Once these issues are addressed, then I am happy to discuss calories and/or types of calories for weight loss. And believe me, I will not be putting anyone on a 1,200 calorie diet.

Remember, eating healthy should be about abundance, not deprivation.

 

Amanda Figge

 

Do your eating habits need a check-up?

Check-Ups. Our bodies need them, our eyes and teeth need them and even our cars need them. You know what else needs a nice check-up from time to time? Your diet.

Check-Ups. Our bodies need them, our eyes and teeth need them and even our cars need them. You know what else needs a nice check-up from time to time? Your diet.

If you are unsure of where to start, keep a food diary for 3 days and include at least one weekend day. Once completed, evaluate what your typical routine looks like and see where improvements can be made. Questions that you can ask yourself can include:

  • Do I eat too much fast food?
  • Do I not cook enough at home?
  • Can I increase how many fruits and vegetables I am eating?
  • Am I skipping breakfast too often?
  • Do I eat too much bread?

Do what works best for you and if you can, incorporate a friend on your challenge so the two of you can continue to motivate each other all month long. Eating healthier never has to be complicated. It can be as simple as choosing to eat something green every day or trying out a new vegetable with every grocery trip. Hopefully, you will come out of your challenge with some new tools to assist with living a healthier lifestyle. You may just surprise yourself how easy eating healthy can be!

For the past several months, my body has been enjoying the benefits of an increased metabolism from being a new mom and breastfeeding. While my overall eating habits have been good, my sugar intake had gone way up. For example, most mornings I would have scrambled eggs with ham, cheese and veggies paired with a delicious Mel-o-Cream donut. With the stress of being a new mom, I found myself also consuming cookies and almond milk literally every night. And I don’t mean 1-2 cookies…I’m talking more like 5-6 cookies at a time. One morning I thought to myself, “Gee it would be really great to just skip the eggs and have two donuts instead.” That’s when I knew my sugar intake was getting out of control and I needed to do something about it.

See, I am also a sugar junkie just like the vast majority of Americans. Sugar is very addicting regardless of the form it comes in such as bread, pasta, cookies, granola bars, pretzels, crackers or chips. When excess carbohydrates are consumed, your body releases large amounts of insulin to shuttle this extra glucose into storage. These large shifts in insulin levels can actually make you crave more carbohydrates and more calories! Additionally, large amounts of carbohydrates (particularly processed forms) can upset your GI system and affect your sleep patterns.

After I finished my last homemade chocolate chip cookie, I knew my eating habits needed a re-boot. I decided to take on a 30-day challenge and of course, incorporated the help of my husband. We have done this in the past and always come out of our month-long food adventure happier and healthier. The purpose of a 30-day challenge is to adopt habits that hopefully will become lifelong behaviors. The first time we took on a challenge, we cut out processed foods by doing the Whole30, and you know what? It forced me to become a cook and now I love making meals for my family every week! Staying away from processed foods for 30 days pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to utilize cooking techniques, vegetables, spices and a variety of proteins we previously had never had before.

My husband and I evaluated our eating habits and each chose an area to work on. My problem was my sugar intake and his was chips and sweets. Let me remind you that the occasional cookie, donut or bag of chips from time to time is perfectly fine! However, my sugar intake had gotten out of control since I was consuming these types of items every single day. I didn’t embark on anything too complicated given the fact that I am breastfeeding and would also have a little extra stress of returning to work. For my challenge, I simply chose to go a whole month without cookies. It was as simple as that! Now, fast forward 30 days.

You’ll be happy to hear that I survived my month without cookies! I swapped my morning donuts for a serving of sweet potatoes and choose protein bars or an apple with peanut butter instead of cookies as a bedtime snack. My goal was not to lose weight but rather help my body wean itself away from daily high-sugar intake. I can say that I feel great, my gut feels amazing and my body is back to craving much more wholesome foods such as fruit, peanut butter, nuts and veggies. It is so refreshing to remind my body how good it feels when it’s not craving processed sugars.

 

Amanda  Figge