Tuesday, 31 May 2016

How your friends make you fat—the social network of weight

One of the big health news stories of 2007 was a study showing that your friends influence the size of your waist (and the rest of your body). Like any study, it raised as many questions as it answered, including whythis happens. A new study from Arizona State University looked into that question by testing three pathways by which friends might influence one another’s body size:
  1. Collaboration. Over time, you might start to share the ideas of the people close to you after talking with them about what the proper body size is. Then you might choose your food and exercise habits in order to reach that body size, whether that means eating more food to look like your plus-sized friends, or less food to look like your thin ones.
  2. Peer pressure. You feel bullied into trying to look like your friends and family members. They make you feel bad about your body, so you go about eating and exercising to look like them.
  3. Monkey see, monkey do. You change your habits to mirror those of your friends without necessarily thinking or talking about an ideal body weight. Alexandra Brewis Slade, PhD, one of the Arizona State researchers, gave an example of this pathway that most of us can relate to: You’re at a restaurant with friends and the waiter brings over the dessert menu. Everyone else decides not to order anything, so you pass, too, even though you were dying for a piece of chocolate mousse cake.
All three of these pathways are based on the idea that loved ones share social norms, the implicit cultural beliefs that make some things okay, others not.
To test which if any of these pathways affect weight, the researchers recruited 112 women between the ages of 18 and 45 years; half of them were overweight or obese. The researchers then contacted male and female friends, spouses, family members, and coworkers of these women, and ended up with 812 pairs. All of the people were asked about their weight and their feelings about and perceptions of body weight.
The results confirmed the 2007 study’s conclusion that if you have heavier friends, family members, and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. The stronger the relationship between the two people, the stronger the link between their weights. But only one of the pathways—number three—explained why people of the same size clustered together. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health on May 9, 2011.
“I was surprised,” Dr. Brewis Slade told me during a phone interview. “I would have thought that pathway number two was the most powerful, since it’s really about your struggle to meet other people’s expectations, but it turns out it’s not the best explanation. The key message is that behavior and what people do together is important. So parents might want to go bicycling with their kids, go to a salad bar with kids, focus on what they do together.”
There are, of course, many reasons why people gain weight, and the Arizona State study provides only one possibility. But it also provides another motivation for each of us to make healthy choices—they help not only our own waistlines, but those of our friends and family, too.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Why your friends don't want you to lose weight

Every group of friends needs a 'fat one'. Craig Morris explains how to make sure it isn't you

The Goonies had Chunk, Take That had Gary Barlow, the college fraternity of Robot House from Futurama had Fat Bot and your mates have, um, you.
Sorry, but it seems to be an unshakeable cliché that every group of friends needs a Fat One; someone to be the lovable, chubby butt of all the pie jokes; to make the other members of the group look and feel slimmer in comparison. So what happens when you decide to lose weight and decide you no longer want to be that person?
The people you work with, live with and socialise with can have a huge impact on your weight loss, because they have the power to inform everything from your diet and fitness regime to your self-esteem. This can be a real positive if they’re cheering you on, but the danger arises when this power is wielded irresponsibly. As Men’s Health Forum editor Martin Tod puts it, “Men are less likely to recognise that they’re overweight than women – and less likely to consider being overweight a risk to their health – so male friends will probably start off less than sympathetic.”
The problem may be that your mates don’t want you to lose weight. This problem tends to manifest itself in one of three ways. The first, and easiest to recognise, is bullying. Because social occasions for groups of male friends tend to revolve around food and alcohol, a positive change in behaviour for one member of the group can serve to highlight the extravagant behaviour of the rest. As Martin Tod says, “Sometimes it's easier to make a joke about someone who's trying to lose weight than to confront that you might need to do it yourself.”
It’s all too easy to chalk this stuff up as friendly banter, but as Tod warns, banter can be harmful and counterproductive. When your mates are mocking you for ordering salad at the steakhouse or struggling to do your first sit-up, they’re bullying you every bit as much as when they used to get you to perform the Truffle Shuffle back in school. As Tod advises, this behaviour stems from a psychology of hierarchy that exists in male peer groups. If the alpha male types become threatened it’s natural to respond to a threat with increased aggression; albeit that tends to be passive aggression rather than pinning you down and scenting you with their urine (if that happens, you definitely need new mates).
The second, slightly less obvious way in which your mates can ruin your diet is misplaced advocacy. This is where your friends, seemingly with their hearts in the right place, belittle your lifestyle choices by insisting that having dessert “won’t kill you”, or telling you with cast-iron certainty that you need to do P90X or you don’t stand a chance.
Registered Dietician Aisling Pigott of the British Dietetic Association explains that in this behaviour stems from social politeness, “It’s the desire to ensure our mates don’t go without,” she says. “It’s the reason we continue to offer that extra lager or bag of chips, even if they are aware that the person is trying to lose weight.”
From Tod’s perspective, the problem is that men tend to prefer to be more proactive than reactive; we prefer to weigh in with our own opinions and be problem-solvers, rather than be supportive good listeners. All well and good when we have expert knowledge of a given subject, but we’re all too happy to blag it when we don’t know what we’re talking about.
The third, manifestation of your mates not supporting you is pure-and-simple apathy. It’s unlikely that your social circle will consciously aim to sabotage your efforts (see the note about urine above if so), but the bottom line is that people don’t like change and will usually do anything to maintain the status quo, so if you find that your mates are ribbing you for the “rabbit food” on your plate, or for cutting down on the lager and pub snacks, or for the way you look in your sweatpants, it’s important that you understand their motives. Once you realise that this behaviour says more about them than it does you, you’ll be able to look at ways to combat it.
So, once you understand the negative effect your friends are having on your weight loss, what can you do about it?

Solution: Cut negative people out of your life
Let’s start with the bullies. The extreme solution would be to cut these people out of your life. It’s like your mum always said, if they were your real friends they would understand and support you. Assuming they have some redeeming characteristics, the answer here would be to accept that support isn’t their strong suit and simply put the worst offenders on the back burner for a while, until your diet is more firmly on course. If you can’t cut them out, dilute them – think of the positive people in your life and drop them a text about a game of squash.

Solution: Understand where they’re coming from
The key to this, as with all bullying, is to recognise that it’s all about self-esteem. When your mates are belting out “Who Ate All the Pies?” the object is not to make you feel bad, but to make themselves feel good. We each carry our own personal feelings of inadequacy and the secret is that we’re all pretty much as crazy as each other and they’ll have their own concerns they don’t want highlighting. When you start to lose weight the bully now begins to fear that the focus will turn to his baldness, shortness, and/or inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’.

Solution: Watch your language
Start talking about your weight loss efforts in a different way. Martin Tod suggests that some of the negative associations men hold with dieting might simply be about the terms we use. “You’re probably more likely to have the piss taken out of you if you say you’re dieting than if you say you’re getting fit. Men aren’t too keen on the ‘D’ word” - perhaps because products like Diet Coke are marketed so squarely at women, making a diet a somewhat emasculating prospect for a bloke.”
Instead, focus on your exercise regime and how much stronger and fitter you’re getting. Focus on the foods that are enabling you to smash through your personal bests. You’re beefing up on protein to increase your lean muscle mass and you’re balancing all the cardio by massively increasing your nutrient intake with vitamin-rich foods. Throw in some impressive-sounding terms and a statistic or two and they’ll be hooked.

Solution: Get honest and explain why you need this to work
Guys who have a healthy relationship with food never understand the rest of us who don’t. The men who claim they can “eat anything and never put on any weight” don’t have some kind of superhuman metabolism; they just don’t know what it means to truly overeat; habitually, without heed. Explain how you feel about it. Tell your mates that you can’t give yourself an inch without taking a mile; that allowing yourself to let the diet slip for a day can set you down a slippery slope. If you decide that placating them is the easier option all round, plan ahead so you can fit the odd treat into your lifestyle without blowing the whole thing and jumping crazed into a Scrooge McDuck-style vault full of chocolate coins.

Solution: Involve your friends in your weight loss
This brings us to the final tactic you can employ to get all of your friends onside, no matter which category they fall into, and that’s getting them involved. Martin Tod says, “Your mates can be a great support - particularly if they decide to join you in tackling their weight and improving their fitness as well.” This could be something as simple as getting them competitive and organising a kick-about before the pub, or it could be something monumental, like training together for an actual marathon and raising a few sovs for a charity close to your hearts.
Aisling Pigott explains that you might also want to find a new HQ. With 1g of alcohol containing almost as many calories as 1g of fat, alcohol is a diet-killer for many reasons. “Despite being very energy dense, alcohol stimulates most peoples’ appetites, leading to feelings of hunger. And because alcohol lowers our inhibitions, this in combination with stimulating appetite often leads to a trip down to the kebab shop.”


Friday, 27 May 2016

The “Friend Diet”: How Your Social Circle Can Help You Lose Weight

Did you know that if your two best friends are fat, you’re 150% more likely to be fat, too?
Obesity spreads like a cold or the flu. The Framingham Heart Study–data on the health and well-being of people in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, spanning three generations back to 1948–shows that people with a friend who became clinically obese were 57 percent more likely to become obese, too.
Astonishingly, you don’t even have to know someone to be influenced by them. In Framingham, people whose friend’s got fat were 20 percent more likely to gain weight, too!
The research–by Harvard’s Nicholas A. Christakis and UC San Diego’s James H. Fowler, authors of “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How they Shape Our Lives”–shows the powerful influence of social networks on our health.
What–if anything–can you do to ensure the social influences shaping you are healthy ones?

  • Join a group of Active People. A walking group, a sports team, even a gardening club–all these are likely to help you build the kinds of friendships that will encourage an active, healthy life. Your local chapter of the Sierra Club will likely have organized physical activities likes hikes, skiing, and camping trips. Just show up–you’re sure to meet people who will encourage you to stay active.

  • Find a Healthy Mentor. Blogger Jeff Goins recommends the following steps: 1. find someone you want to be like; 2. study him to see what his habits are; and 3. take your time before making the request. But it doesn’t stop there–one of the most important steps is to show appreciation for all that your mentor does.

  • Date Someone Active. You mate has a huge effect on your behavior. One study in Israel showed that the wives of men who were participating in a weight loss program lost weight themselves when they learned about the diet—even though they weren’t officially dieting. If you don’t have a partner, find one! Websites like eHarmony.com can be a great resource. If you struggle with dating, hire a coach—someone like Evan Marc Katz 
Turns out that weight gain (or loss) isn’t the only thing we “catch” from our friends.  Smoking, excessive drinking, tendency to divorce and even unhappiness are also contagious.  So, know that your friends impact you–and if you don’t have enough of the good ones, go on a Healthy Friend Diet!


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

6 Awkward New Things You Deal With When Losing Weight

Losing weight is great, especially when you’ve been wishing to do for most of your life and you’ve finally done it! The journey of weight loss and better health is an amazing one to travel, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few bumps along the road. Many of the bumps aren’t so much from the weight loss itself, but from the emotional ups and downs that many people don’t anticipate. Those emotional “downs” aren’t something that we expect to deal with along the weight-loss journey; our assumption is that successful weight loss equals 100 percent pure pleasure… which I found is not so true.

Below are a few of the emotional issues that I dealt with while I was losing my weight:
  1. Analysis of everything you do. No matter where I was or what I was doing, people wanted to know exactly “why” I was doing it. If they saw me at the grocery store, they would examine the cart’s contents and ask why I selected each item. If I was walking, a neighbor would often stop me to ask how far and how fast she had to walk to lose as much weight as me. While dining at a restaurant with relatives, I’d be asked about why I was eating “that,” since it wasn’t what they considered a low calorie item. I can’t even tell you how many comments I get when at a potluck, wedding, birthday party, baby or wedding shower, even funerals about what I eat. Does this bother me? Every single time.
  2. Having to accept snide comments. Boy, did I ever get these often. The list is endless but a couple that come to mind are: “Wow, look how much smaller you are! The last time I saw you, you were this wide!” (As they hold their arms out as extended as they can and demonstrate the width of my backside.) Umm… thanks, I guess. Another one: “You always had such a pretty face. I always told myself that if Jodi lost a ton of weight she would be attractive.” Oh, OK, so I have always been unattractive? Thanks for the boost. Learning to simply smile and not comment on their remarks is the best solution here.
  3. Seeking the approval of others. I’ve finally learned that I don’t need the approval of anyone; it took me a long time to get that. You are becoming healthier, losing your weight FOR YOU and nobody needs to approve your decision. Unfortunately, you’ll encounter some jealousy, hear unpleasant comments and find out who your true friends are (and aren’t). Remember to stay proud of all that you’ve accomplished and avoid any negativity that comes from mouths of others. In their heart, they just wish to be as awesome as you — some just have trouble actually saying it.
  4. Arrogance. Everyone was so happy when they noticed that I was losing weight. Friends told me how much I deserved it since I had struggled all my life, and they constantly reminded me that they were very proud of me. It was absolutely wonderful to hear all these lovely comments, but after listening to them so often, I became used to them. Soon people didn’t want to hear about any of my other accomplishments which I often wanted to share. If I shared them with pride, I’d receive comments like “Yes, you have it all.” That’s not so enjoyable to hear.
  5. Attraction attention that you aren’t used to. Yes, it does happen: You will get plenty of looks, including a few raised eyebrows and smiling faces, from people who notice your new body. I enjoyed the fact that negative words didn’t go along with the looks I received like they did for 25 years. My self-esteem surely went up and I liked the extra attention. I won’t say that everyone in my family enjoyed it as much as I did; yes, many “ups and downs” here too. You will survive it, though; I have.
  6. Artificial concern. This came from the people I least expected. “Oh Jodi, you’re losing weight much too quickly. Are you sure you’re not sick?” Or, “Your eyes look dark, are you certain you’re eating right?” And the one that gets me the most: “Don’t you think you should stop now? You’re looking much thinner than I am used to you looking, it’s not good.” That comment was said before I lost even 100 pounds and was still considered extremely obese. Jealousy does set in quite often. Just remember not to become too upset with these individuals… you were probably there once yourself, right? (Be honest.) Thank them for being concerned and reassure them that you are just fine!
If you’ve lost a lot of weight, how was it for you? Did you experience these issues as well?


Monday, 23 May 2016

New Life After Losing Weight – Dealing With a New Slim Body

When you lose weight, you may (and probably will) have different likes in certain things than you ever did before you lost the weight. These different likes mostly pertain to certain clothing, or even certain lifestyle activities such as going out to bars and drinking, or going out to fast food restaurants. All of these new changes can take a toll on your life and can even cause you to forget who you are. But that’s okay, and it’s nothing out of the ordinary. All you have to do is just start over again, basically from square one, and it may seem hard at first, but it is doable.
In reality, you are a brand new person. People who lose weight might forget who they are sometimes because they’re now able to dress differently, and even wear anything they want, unlike before they lost the weight when their choices were more limited. They may get compliments they never heard before, and may or may not know what to do with them, or how to take them. Most importantly, they’re now making healthychoices that they never did before. So, this in itself takes a big toll. But, it’s a good toll!
You have to learn how to handle it. It takes time and practice of course, but eventually you get there, and you learn how to find your old self in your new skin, just with different likes than you had before. It’s important not to lose yourself completely after you lose weight, because that can happen. I know that can happen because it almost happened to me. When I lost weight, (going from 225 pounds down to 159 pounds) I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was finally skinny for once, and could wear whatever I wanted! So with that being said, I thought I was able to BE anyone I wanted! Anyone but my old self at that. Why would I ever want to be her again? That was my one mistake when I lost the weight.
So, what does this all mean? Well, all my life before my weight loss I was always kind of hidden from the crowd. I never wanted to be seen either, because I was never confident in my body size, or even my looks. I was always that girl who was “friends” with the popular and beautiful girls, but I was never ONE of them. No one really knew who I was. So when I finally lost the weight, and the attention was all on me for once, I didn’t handle it in the best way. I actually didn’t know how to handle it at all. I acted like someone who I wasn’t, just because I never had the chance to be that kind of person.
For some reason, I thought I was supposed to act that way since I was now one of the thin girls. I thought my personality was supposed to match my looks, but it didn’t. And that way of thinking is really stupid actually, but at the time, that is what I thought. Later on, I did realize that’s not how I was supposed to live, and I am lucky that I figured it out. For a while, I was being the girl I thought everyone expected and wanted me to be. I was now pretty and looked good, so I thought I was supposed to “act the part” and play “hard to get” with all the guys. In reality, I’m actually not even into guys but that’s another matter in itself!
It was a stupid idea to act in that way and I was miserable doing it. I didn’t understand when I was out at the bar and looking GREAT, why I was feeling so miserable inside. This happened for a while and even though I was LOOKING great, I wasn’t FEELING great at all. That was the one thing I needed to fix. I also thought I was supposed to dress how everyone expected me to dress, instead of wearing what I liked. I guess I went through a lot with my weight loss, and maybe not everyone necessarily deals with hardships like what I’ve been through but I’m sure some people do and that I’m not the only one.
Who I really am is a person who was never into any of that girly stuff, or looking girly either. I was always the tomboy and the sporty girl. I’m fun and I make people laugh but when I had my new body, I thought all of these other things were unattractive, or “unfit” for the new person that I was, so I tried to do away with them.
In losing the weight I almost lost myself and that was one of the scariest things ever. I don’t want that happening to anyone else out there and if it does, then I just hope that this article can provide some help to keep the perspective on your old self, as well as dealing with your new one. It’s important to know that it is completely normal if this does happen to you. But luckily, I did re-find myself. Now I am more comfortable and confident than ever! I just want people to know that no matter how sexy the clothes you wear, how hot you look, how beautiful you are, or how many compliments and attention you get, make sure to never lose that special person who was in your old skin, before you lost all the weight, because THAT person is so very special!


Saturday, 21 May 2016

What’s So Healthy About Avocado Oil?

It doesn’t take much digging to figure out that most of the oils we eat in this country are fantastically poor choices. There’s the heavy processing to consider as well as the GMO sourcing, the rancidity, and dramatic omega fatty acid imbalance to name a few unsavory points. 

Sure, we make different choices in our own kitchens, but sometimes we find ourselves wishing we could recreate a certain taste in a Primal version of an old favorite recipe or just find a better flavor in one of our new favorite Primal meals. As a result, even the most Primally devout among us are on the lookout for the healthiest choices with the right practical adaptability. (And, oh yeah, good taste…) In the interest of relishing our food while respecting our bodies, we hunt down lesser appreciated alternatives. Plus, there’s just something fun about undermining the status quo to support worthy culinary underdogs. One of the great “finds” of my Primal journey has undoubtedly been avocado oil – a little recognized healthy fat with big versatility.

Health Benefits

Aside from the chip and guacamole spread, avocado just doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Consider the fact that an avocado is over 75% fat. For a plant, this is a small and glorious miracle. What this fruit lacks in sweetness, it overachieves in satiety. But let’s look at the fat breakdown.
From an omega standpoint, avocado oil gives you a nutritional profile similar to olive oil. Nearly 70% of avocado oil is oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Aside from the significant monounsaturated content, avocado oil is about 16% saturated fatty acids and 14% polyunsaturated. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is about 13:1. While it’s not an outstanding ratio, the PUFA content itself is small enough (14%) that we’re only talking about a small portion of the total oil. In the grand scheme, it’s as solid as olive oil, with arguably a better taste profile. To boot, the other benefits of avocado oil definitely compensate.
The fats aren’t only healthy in and of themselves but make other nutrients, particularly carotenoids, in the avocado much more bioavailable. Research has shown that avocado or avocado oil increased the absorption of carotenoids in a meal anywhere from 2.6 times to 15.3 times depending on carotenoid.
Speaking of micronutrients, an avocado itself has an impressive nutritional breakdown. A mere half of your average Hass avocado offers goodies such as 345 mg of potassium (that’s more than a banana), 185 μg of lutein/zeaxanthin per one-half fruit, 19.5 mg magnesium, 60 μg folate, 10 mg choline, 19 mg of glutathione, and 57 mg phytosterols including the potent lipid influencer beta-sitosterol.
With their high levels of multiple antioxidants (e.g. polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, tocopherols, and carotenoids), avocados deserve accolades far beyond their usual attention, and research shows that avocado oil confer their nutritional health benefits. Several studies conclude that avocado consumption (again, which is mostly fat/oil) can support everything from good cardiovascular function to healthy aging, better eye health (likely because of enhanced lutein/carotenoid absorption) to easier weight loss (due to satiety), healthier lipid profiles (by lowering LDL and triglycerides) to lower risk for certain cancers (a potential result of glutathione and carotenoid benefits). Avocado oil has also shown benefit for the control of metabolic disorder and liver function.
And free radicals – they meet their match apparently when up against avocado oil. While antioxidants from plenty of other fruits and vegetables are known to neutralize free radicals, research suggests avocado oil’s power might have an extra potent benefit in (unlike most other antioxidant sources) being able to enter mitochondria, our seats of energy production and key factors in aging trajectory.
And while we’re on the subject of aging, avocado oil’s polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, have been shown to reduce skin damage and inflammation that result from ultraviolet light exposure. These unique lipid molecules in addition to avocado oil’s effect on carotenoid absorption mean potent protection for the skin cell integrity and overall skin health.

Adaptability and Taste

Avocado oil is pressed from the pulp of the fruit rather than the seed. Because of its particular fat ratios, extra virgin avocado oil has a high smoke point of 400°F (204°C). This makes it extremely adaptable in the kitchen for anything from sautéing to stir-fry, baking to salads.
Unlike the sometimes bitter taste and pungent scent of olive oil, avocado oil has a mild smell, a creamy texture and rich, lingering taste that’s both naturally buttery and slightly nutty. (To my nose, the oil smells like a soft, ripe avocado with maybe a very faint hint of artichoke.) It’s become my favorite oil for fish, grilled vegetables and a lot of salad recipes.
Because of the higher smoke point, you can use avocado oil in cooking marinades as well as finishing sauces. I know people who avoid all dairy and use this oil in lieu of butter (or even ghee) for most of their cooking. Oh, and I’ve also heard the mild, neutral taste and high monounsaturated profile make it the perfect oil for Paleo mayo… (wink).
And while I don’t do much baking, I’ve heard from many who have come to appreciate avocado oil in recipes, particularly when they’re not looking for the strong aroma that unrefined coconut oil inevitably adds.
The only “con” you could say is the relative rarity of avocado oil. While you may not find it in every mainstream grocery store in the Crisco aisle, many if not most co-ops as well as specialty or higher-end grocers carry it. There are also many online markets that offer avocado oil at a reasonable price – and (of course) Primal Kitchen™ Mayo from my favorite, Thrive Market.

Hey guys, I cam across this avocado oil that I've been absolutely loving; adding it my salads as a dressing or using it in my dips, etc. Check it out this product!
Avocado Oil - 3 Pack

Have you used avocado oil? Share your thoughts below in the comment section below.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

20 Tips that Could Help You Lose Weight for Your Wedding

There's nothing like an engagement ring to motivate a woman to get serious about weight loss. The dress. The photos. The honeymoon! You're dropping lots of cash for a fabulous event and will be standing with your butt—er, back—to dozens, maybe even hundreds of guests during your ceremony. With so many wonderful things happening on your special day, who wants to worry about their rear view?

It's no wonder women go to great strides to look their best on their wedding day. And if your upcoming wedding is serving as inspiration for you to tackle your weight or fitness issues, that's great. We all need to find our motivation, and a wedding has a deadline that can inspire you to take action.

Problem is, many brides-to-be resort to extreme measures and quick fixes to drop the pounds quickly. Some of those methods may work a little (even if they're not so safe or healthy), but often times they fail—miserably. That's because quick fixes, diet pills, and extreme exercise plans don't usually deliver, especially in the long term. When countless studies show that marriage itself tends to pack on the pounds, wouldn't you rather make smart, reasonable and sustainable changes to your current diet and fitness plan to help prevent the "inevitable" weight gain of wedded bliss? Ones that will not only help you look great by your wedding, but help you stay healthy, fit and svelte as you celebrate your first, second, and 22nd anniversaries? I hope you answered yes.

Even amid the stress of wedding planning, it is possible to stick with or even start a healthy diet and fitness program and lose weight. How? Commit to your plan. You just have to choose to stay in control, one day at a time, no matter what life and wedding planners may throw at you.

1. Track your food. That means all of it, from the spoonful of soup you sampled for your reception menu to the little bites of cake you taste. These "hidden" calories are easy to gloss over but can really add up. Plus, research shows that the simple act of tracking your food can help you lose twice as much weight than if you don't track at all (mental tracking does not count). If you do nothing else during the final days and weeks before your wedding, track your food diligently every day.


2. Sample smart. A continuation of tip #1, if you know you're going to be sampling a variety of foods in a short period of time, keep the portions small. Just one or two bites of cake or your caterer's signature fish dish should be sufficient for taste testing. And if you know you're going to sample a variety of sweets one day, cut back on sugary foods for the next few days to get back on track. Decide which foods you'll have (and how much) and use SparkPeople's free Nutrition Tracker to stay within your calorie range.

3. Eat breakfast. Breakfast is the easiest meal to prepare and it sets the stage for your day. Eat a healthful breakfast to get your metabolism fired up, and then you'll be more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day—like ordering a smart lunch and swinging by the gym after work. Even better: Eating breakfast can help you lose weight, as studies have shown breakfast eaters tend to consume fewer total calories during the day than people who don't eat a morning meal.

4. Make fitness a priority. I like to remind people that food is only one part of the equation that determines whether you'll lose or gain weight. Fitness is just as important. Don't let your workouts go by the wayside. If anything, you should be trying to work out more than before if you really want to drop a few pounds, especially around the days that you're sampling all of that rich and delicious food. With a hectic schedule, how will you fit it in? That's what this next tip is for.

5. Treat your workouts like an appointmentYou wouldn't miss your cake tasting, pre-marriage counseling session or dress fitting, would you? Add your workouts to your calendar so that other obligations don't get in the way of your gym time. When meeting to discuss plans with your fiancé, parents, bridal party or wedding planner, head out for a walk (or pace around the room if you're on the phone) for a little multitasking. And when your bridal party wants to schedule your bachelorette party, tell them you'll be there, but not until after Pilates class lets out.

6. Get support. It can be tough to stay strong and accountable to your goals if you don't have anyone else cheering you on. It can be even more difficult to do so when people are trying to sabotage your efforts, perhaps unknowingly. The best way to get support is to tell someone—anyone—about your weight and fitness goals and ask for their support. If you feel too uncomfortable to share those details with someone you know, the SparkPeople community is great for that. You can connect with people who have similar goals and get tips, motivation and your own personal cheerleading squad.

7. Limit alcohol. It lowers inhibitions, making it more likely that you'll forget about your nutrition plan and overindulge. Plus, alcohol alone is pretty high in calories. If you can relax and de-stress without drinking at all, you'll be better off. If you must drink, nurse your glass slowly, choose diet-friendly drinks, and limit the number of servings. Oh and yes, alcohol does contain calories, so add every drink to your Nutrition Tracker.

8. Pick healthy venues for pre-wedding festivities. There will be showers, parties, and outings galore as your wedding gets closer. If you have any say in how these happen, pick a healthful restaurant where you know you can get a good, nutritious meal without going overboard. Focus on your friends and family while you're there, enjoying the good conversation and activities instead of hovering around the appetizers. Create lasting memories that don't revolve around eating, and you won't feel like you're missing out.

9. Catch your zzz's. Your mind and calendar may be full of to-dos, but is "plenty of sleep" on your agenda each day? It should be. Too little shuteye can hinder your weight-loss efforts, increasing cravings and leading to poor choices. Staying organized will help, but do you best to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for at least 7-8 hour hours per night—including weekends.

10. Don't make mountains out of molehills. It's easy to go over your calories one day and feel like a failure. But remember that it takes much more than one day of overeating to thwart your progress. Accept your slip-ups, learn from them and move on. 

11. Steer clear of fads. When someone is desperate to lose weight quickly, she'll usually turn to some questionable measures. Be on the lookout for fad diets and don't fall for fitness gimmicks either. How do you spot them? By their too-good-to-be-true claims. Fad diets don't work and their results are fleeting. Rather than risk an approach like that, stick with simple, healthy habits that you know make a difference, like the items on this list.

12. Maintain an active lifestyle. Remember that "running" errands as you plan your wedding isn't the same as actually running—or exercising for that matter. Don't confuse busyness with fitness. The more physical activity you can add to your days (in addition to planned fitness) the better off you'll be. 

13. Keep an emergency snack on hand. Stashing some healthy and portable foods in your car, purse, and desk drawer can help satisfy your cravings and prevent you from going overboard on all the wrong foods. This is a good idea when you're hungry at work and cookies sound tempting, or when you're out all day and see the glowing fast food signs beckoning you.

14. Don't let yourself get to hungry. Between smart snacking and balanced meals, keeping your body properly fueled can help you keep hunger at bay. Eating too little, on the other hand, creates monstrous cravings that are too hard to ignore. When you let yourself become ravenous, you'll grab anything, and usually a lot of it, to quell your discomfort. Keep hunger at bay with proper planning. Bring snacks with you. Keep healthy options on hand. And never go more than 4 hours without eating.

15. Manage stress. What future bride isn't worried about the details, the planning, and even fit of her dress? Life doesn't stop just because you're planning a wedding, and all that stress can do a number on your mental health—and your waistline. It's no secret that chronic stress can contribute to weight issues, especially if you're prone to emotional eating. Make sure a little R&R makes it into your day, even if it's as simple as a 1-minute breathing exercise or an extra couple of minutes in a hot shower. Of course, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and help you reach your goal weight.

16. Drink your water. Recent studies found that when people drink more water throughout the day, they end up eating fewer total calories. Another new study found that drinking water before each meal resulted in greater weight loss. Water and water-rich foods can help fill you up longer. Keep a cup of water in hand at parties, sip water between bites, and meet your daily quota to help prevent overeating.

17. Wake up with exercise. People who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to exercise regularly than those who exercise later in the day. Even if you're not a morning exerciser yet, a.m. workouts might be the best way to squeeze fitness into your days before other things come up. Plus, when you exercise first, you're less likely to overindulge with food later.

18. Slow down. Savor your food and the experience of eating. You'll eat less, feel more satisfied, and recognize feelings of hunger before it's too late.

19. Keep your eye on the prize. Before you take a bite or hit snooze instead of hitting the gym, remember your goals. It's going to take work to reach your goals, and it won't always be easy. Before you act, ask yourself, "Will this help me achieve my goal by my wedding day?" If not, make another decision. And remember that YOU are in control of your life and your choices.

20. Use SparkPeople. When it comes to weight loss, we know what works—and we offer all the tools, resources, tips, menus, trackers and support you need to take off the weight by the big day. Explore all that our site has to offer for daily motivation and real-world solutions. Don't worry: It's free, so you can save your money for the honeymoon! 

Here's to staying fit, looking great, and reaching your wedding weight-loss goals!


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Lose Weight Before You Date? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

If you’re holding off on dating until you’ve lost the weight,
bought better clothes, or are a brilliant future version of
yourself, you’ve set the worst goal ever. Because it’s not a goal.
It’s a slippery slope defined by — what? An arbitrary number on
the scale? The day your bangs grow out? Until you’ve achieved
an unassailable state of self-love?

In the immortal words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got
time for that.

You’re not an Apple product set to launch sometime next year.
You may think you’ll be shinier, cooler, or more desirable in the
future, but really what you’re saying is that you don’t think
anyone could like you now. You think you’re planning. But you’re
really just procrastinating.

A woman named Jen wrote to ask me if she should stop dating
until she achieved her goal weight. She was admittedly on the
heavy side but had never kept it a secret or masked it in her
online profile. She didn’t mince words, and neither did some
of her respondents. She got some messages and went on a few
dates, but a few of the men she met would be more interested,
they said, if she’d been a few pounds lighter.

I’m sure that wasn’t easy to hear. In fact, ouch. She was ready to quit
until she could wear a size 6. She was already taking strides to live
healthier, and she figured she’d just... wait.

But I told her no. Here’s why: Because if she waited for this, she’d likely
come up with another excuse later for deferring. I reminded her that
there is no set height and weight requirement here. It’s dating. Not
the fucking Rockettes.

Does that mean she should abandon her weight loss goal? Nope. But her
efforts to change her life and body are not mutually exclusive from efforts
to meet people, nor do they have to be sequential.

In other words, there is no official start date. Dating is
a process and it’s ongoing, and there’s no better time
to start than now. No matter what size you are.

The idea that you should “work on yourself” before you
start dating is what I call living in the future perfect tense.
Tense being the operative word here. This notion that
you’ll be perfect in the future is crazy — and confers a ton
of pressure on you to be the perfect weight, to look a
certain way, before you endeavor to connect with another

Then, when the Future Perfect You — ideal weight, great
haircut, designer jeans — steps out for the first time and
gets rejected (which happens to EVERYONE, by the way),
what then? It’ll hurt even more because you’ll think, “If no
one wants me now, after all this, how could anyone ever?”

My advice to Jen was to keep doing what she was doing:
Staying active, eating well, and reaching out, setting up
dates, meeting people wherever she goes. The best
relationships in the world must grow and evolve — they
don’t start and remain perfect. The same goes for you
and your relationship with yourself. Embrace the process
of growth and change with a forgiving spirit and you set
the stage not just for personal satisfaction, but for the
kind of intimate relationship that can evolve along with you.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Why Your Friends Can Be Bad For Your Weight

Being overweight is often viewed as a failure of personal responsibility.

“She just hasn’t tried hard enough.”

“He eats too much sugar and he knows it’s bad, but he won’t give it up.”

“Gosh, she’s reeeeally let herself go.”

While personal habits are part of the weight-loss equation, the idea that they’re the only factor is misguided.

“The notion that we are somehow islands when it comes to our weight simply isn’t true,” write Walter Willett and Malissa Wood in Thinfluence: The Powerful and Surprising Effect Friends, Family, Work, and Environment Have on Weight.

As hormonal and other physiological changes in midlife make unwanted pounds easier to put on than take off, it is important to remember that many other factors come into play, including how much money you make, local and national politics, the ubiquity of fast (and often unhealthy) foods, even the design of many homes (think of how many contemporary dining areas are outfitted with, or adjacent to, a television — a distraction that can cause you to unwittingly eat more than you think you have).

“We encounter influences like these and more every day,” the authors write. “They are often so commonplace and subtle, they have become invisible — until they hit our waistlines, that is. These ‘blind spots’ affect our efforts to lose or maintain our weight. And their impact is considerable.”

One of the major factors — and the emphasis of Willett's and Wood’s book — is who you hang out with. Social networks, their research says, play a significant role in weight.
Wood is a clinical cardiologist, staff physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Harvard Medical School. I talked with her about the power of "thinfluence" and what everyone needs know about maintaining a healthy weight in midlife.

Next Avenue: What is Thinfluence?

Wood: It is very hard to be the one person making a healthy change in a group of heavy people who like to eat and don’t like to exercise. But losing weight is isolating if you don’t engage other people in the process.

If you want to lose weight, you need to find people who support that behavior. Most often, the friends you have who are overweight are not going to want to change. If you decide to break the norm, you will be isolated. You need to find even just one person in your circle who wants to do what you’re doing  — or find someone else outside that circle.

What hurdles do people face when they’re looking to surround themselves with more health-motivated friends?

Stigma deeply affects weight loss efforts because people are embarrassed to go out in public. I love when I see a really heavy person racing in an event; it takes a lot of strength to do that. I did a triathlon a few weeks ago and the last finisher was a 350-pound woman. To surround yourself with people so different is hard.

That is the basis of our book: We surround ourselves with people who are like us. So if people want to lose weight, they have to hang out with people different than themselves in order to get to a better place.

Some people say, “Sure, social networks might affect some people, but not me. Obesity just runs in my family.” What do you tell them?

Plenty of people have a family history of obesity and are not obese. The biggest thing is recognizing you have that risk and you have to work harder to avoid the downstream effect.
Epigenetics [the ability to influence gene expression through behavior and lifestyle modification] affects genes and weight. So it’s important to recognize that you’re at risk and change your behavior. You could consult an obesity specialist and say, ‘What are my options?’

What is unique about weight gain and weight loss in midlife?

I’m the perfect person to ask. I’m 51, and once you pass age 40, your body biology changes. And what worked in past — say, skipping a meal or two — doesn’t work. You have to eat regular meals and exercise.

Most people coast through their 40s; I recommend treating the 40s as a bootcamp for midlife. Start minimizing sugars and ramp up exercise because it will be easier when the 50s come. Eat a little less bread and fewer French fries. These small changes can have a huge impact, and a gradual change in your 40s is much easier than making a drastic change when you hit 50.

If you find you’ve put on pounds in midlife, you need to be more aggressive about exercise. Look at each day and say, ‘Where do I have fifteen or twenty minutes today to fit in exercise?’

What you do ninety percent of the time affects your health; what you do ten percent of the time doesn’t. If you have a business dinner, you may think, ‘All bets are off.' No. Those things matter. If you stick with it most of the time, you will see the benefits, and those small changes will have a long lasting effect.

How can people find new social networks that support weight loss?

Whatever poor choices you make, you will gravitate toward people who make those same bad choices. But all it takes to change is one person. You just have to find one person.
Look at your friends: If they support better health, stick with them. If they’re keeping you from achieving better health or encouraging you to make choices that don’t support your health, then find new groups. Go to a race, bump into someone from your past, go walk the track in the morning.

You don’t have to abandon friends and family; you just need to have more support during change so you can achieve success.

Here’s an example: I went to do a race, but I hadn’t been exercising a lot before then. I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years. She hadn’t been exercising regularly much either. So we were like, ‘Let’s eat healthier and exercise together.’ It’s important to realize that people who will support you are out there; you just need to find them.

What one thing would you want everyone to walk away from this interview knowing?

It is never too late to change. One little step at time makes a huge difference, and within a year you can make substantial changes.