Kicking Sugar Cravings to the Curb

I Used To Eat Oreos For Breakfast

I love sugar. Eight years ago I used to eat 100 Calories Oreos packs for breakfast. I thought this was relatively healthy after all only 100 calories sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Plus they’re prepackaged; I used to be always running late in the morning and also I had to stop at Starbucks for a mocha before I went to the hospital, so a fast breakfast was essential. Now I eat eggs in the morning, and the transition to breakfast with less sugar has changed my whole life in how much easier it has been for me to cut sugar during the rest of the day.

Why is that?

If you pay attention to it, you will probably notice that if you eat a lot of sugar early in the day, you will crave a lot of sugar all day. This has to do with the way your body regulates sugar. Once you establish a high steady state of glucose in your body, your body will want to maintain that. This is true for most people who have a sweet tooth. If you’re more of a savory or salty person, then this likely doesn’t apply to you.

What should you do?

When I first started cutting sugar in the morning, I felt awful. I’m pretty sure I feel more energetic after I have sugar, even more than if I have caffeine. If this is you too, it can be hard to cut sugar in the morning and still feel awake enough to go to work.

Feel better in the morning

One option I found that worked for me was to move my workout to the morning. Exercise can give you a similar kind of rush as sugar. This is because exercise increases endorphins and enkephalins which are both endogenous opioid peptides. This means they both work with the part of the brain associated with pleasure and pain. Although there’s not a lot of medical data to support this, anecdotally this why you hear people talking about having a runner’s high or being addicted to exercise.

What if you don’t have time to go to the gym in the morning?

Try doing a mini workout like jumping jacks at home and see if this is a good stand in. Alternatively, if you don’t like working out in the morning, you could try meditation as well. In studies, it has been shown to help with depression and anxiety. So if you feel depressed or anxious from not having sugar in the morning, it could help you too.

Or you could try caffeine

Adding some extra caffeine to your morning could work too. Caffeine is a stimulant for your central nervous system, so it will help you feel more alert. You can try adding an extra shot of espresso to your iced latte if you’re a coffee person.  

If you’re a chocolate person like me and are switching from having chocolate related sugar in the morning, you can try switching to dark chocolate which has substantially less sugar than anything with milk chocolate. Usually the higher the percentage of dark chocolate the less sugar and more caffeine is in it. Personally, I find anything over 70% cocoa to be too bitter to enjoy. I initially switched from 100 calorie Oreo packs to a nut mix with dark chocolate covered soy nuts.  Your longer term plan should be to stop all chocolate in the morning eventually as it still has some sugar in it.

Change your habits

I recommend you cut back on sugar gradually, so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself and you’re more like to keep the changes long term. For most people doing something more extreme like a one month sugar detox will work for something short term like getting fit before a wedding or similar event. But then after the wedding, you’ll go back to all the same bad eating habits, and you’ll balloon back up to your previous weight. And the next time you have to go to a wedding you’ll be in the same place all over again. If you learn how to change your habits or even just one habit, what you eat for breakfast, it will make keeping off the weight much easier.

Originally published on Northington Fitness & Nutrition July 17, 2017.

 

Will Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Why does it seem like everyone and their cat is doing yoga?

Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Not surprisingly yoga can help you improve your flexibility and balance. Why is this important? Because improving your flexibility and balance can help you improve your other workouts too. Yoga can also help you improve your strength. One study even showed it can help you increase your deadlift strength.

Yoga usually involves some type of meditation. So it can help you better deal with stress and anxiety. Also, people doing yoga feel like they have a better quality of life versus people who don’t.  This potentially can help you feel better all day. Personally, I had never had much luck with learning how to meditate until I started doing vinyasa yoga. My yoga teacher at the time always spent the last 5 minutes in class on meditation. And that’s how I started getting into meditation too. If you’ve been trying to figure out meditation too, yoga could be your back way into it.

What Can’t Yoga Help You With?

Yoga won’t help you improve your cardiovascular fitness, i.e it won’t help you get heart healthy or lose weight. Sad, I know, I’m a cardiologist. It also won’t help you live longer.

My opinion on why yoga doesn’t help you get heart healthy or lose weight is that most forms of yoga don’t increase your heart rate. However, I think that if your yoga is more rigorous and increases your heart rate it might help you get more heart healthy and help you lose weight. Unfortunately, there’s no great medical data for or against this idea right now.

Ask Again Later

The jury is still out on whether yoga improves your cognitive function, i.e. whether or not it helps improve your memory and focus. Some studies show it does, some studies show it doesn’t.

Part of the problem with knowing the benefits of yoga is that there are a limited number of studies on it. Many aspects of yoga haven’t been studied enough to really know whether or not it helps. Unlike medications which have big pharmaceutical companies funding all of their research, yoga studies don’t seem to have the same level of funding from the yoga industry. Maybe they’re all too busy doing downward dog.

New or New-ish to Yoga?

If you’re new to yoga and afraid of looking stupid in a class, you can try it out at home first. There are a lot of videos on YouTube. I like Tara Stiles’ videos (I have no affiliation with her) because she has a lot of short (15 minutes or less), beginner ones.

If you’re trying a class for the first time, start out with room temperature yoga. Usually, this will be a yoga class that doesn’t have Bikram in the title. The first time I tried Bikram yoga I had muscle spasms for the next few days, despite drinking lots of electrolytes and water. In my experience, the least crowded classes are usually mid-morning on weekdays. If you can, try to make it to one of those classes so you can get more one on one help from the teacher.

Although yoga probably won’t help you get your revenge body, it’s worth checking out because the balance, flexibility, and strength benefits should help you with your other workouts. The mental benefits can help you with your head game at work and in your personal life.

Originally published on Thrive Global June 23, 2017.

Your Friends Are Making You Fat

 

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It’s Friday night, and you’re supposed to be grabbing dinner with your friends at that new pizza place. You know the one that’s supposed to be so cool you’d think you were in Brooklyn but the pizza is so authentic you’d think you were in Italy. Which makes you wonder – is there New York style pizza in Italy? Probably not, Italians are pizza snobs.

And then you remember – aren’t you supposed to be trying to lose weight? You already have three weddings and a long weekend at the beach on the schedule. Should you really be going out for another carb heavy dinner? You’re just going to spend half the night thinking “How many hours will I have to go to the gym to work off all these calories?” or “How little will I have to eat for the rest of the week to make up for all the damage I’m doing tonight?” But what else can you do? Skip out on dinner with your friends? It’s like no matter what you do you can’t win.

Whenever you go out to eat there’s always some cool new dish to try, like three layer pizza cake. Ok maybe not that, but other cool things. Or your friend just got a new job and orders a round of shots to celebrate; you can’t say no to that, can you? Pizza, ramen, dumplings and who wants to skip out on doughnuts? Not me, not you.

So how do you enjoy going out to eat with your friends and still lose weight when your friends want to try every cool new Korean BBQ place that opens up. The requirement to be a cool new place seems to be to have two options on the menu – dishes that will make you fat and dishes that will make you really fat. Is the restaurant industry plotting against you? Probably. Does it seem like they don’t want you to lose weight? They don’t; it’s not good for business.

You’re not going to stop hanging out with your friends. Your friends like going out to eat. You like going out to eat. And you’re definitely not skipping out on boozy brunch. You don’t have to. This is what you’re going to do instead – pick the right foods at the right time.

Let’s say you’re going out for pizza. This is what you order:
Alcohol
  • Start the night with the least sweet options.
  • Bone Dry wines are your best option because they have less sugar.
  • Red Wine – cabernet, pinot noir, syrah.
  • White Wine – sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay.
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Appetizers
  • Order one appetizer per person. Most people order fewer appetizers because they think they won’t have room to eat the main but that’s actually good at a pizza place because the main is higher in carbs than the appetizers you’re going to pick.
  • Cold – olives, salumi, and cheeses.
  • Salads – salads with vegetables over fruit as fruits as a group have more sugar than vegetables.
  • Hot – brussel sprouts, meatballs, and artichokes.

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Pizza

Pick a pizza with at least 3 toppings – 1 cheese, 1 vegetable and 1 meat. The more toppings you put on your pizza, the more full you will be from each slice of pizza. The goal is to end up eating fewer pizza slices total so fewer carbs total.

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Dessert

Any and all – the goal is to be so full from Appetizers and Pizza that you only have room for a few bites.

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I know what you’re thinking, who wants to be that really lame friend that says no to ordering garlic knots? I don’t want you to be that really lame friend. This is what you do instead:

Use The Judge Judy Script:

To be used to stop your friends from judging you for trying to get hotter.

Friend (the one that seems to eat half their weight in food every time you go out but still has a better body than you do): “Let’s order the garlic knots, the Yelp reviews say they’re supposed to be really good here.”

You: “Work was really busy, I just ate lunch an hour ago. Let’s order the [insert complicated name of artisanal salad of your choice] instead.”

Try this out the next time you’re out with friends and let me know what works and what doesn’t in the comments below.
Bagels, breweries, burgers – your friends are making you fat.
Sign up and I’ll teach you everything you need to know to lose weight and live happily ever after.
Ok maybe not everything, but I’ll get you one step closer.

Why You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

My sister Anishi’s birthday, she’s the adorable one front and center. I’m the one on the right with the really cool glasses.
My sister’s birthday, she’s the adorable one front and center. I’m on the right with the really cool glasses.

If you’re trying to lose weight what can seem like one of the biggest obstacles to your goal is a celebration. Celebrations involve cake. Birthday cake, wedding cake, anniversary cake, I just lost 10 pounds cake.

You’re trying to lose weight. Can you eat cake? Is there an “I can still lose weight even if I eat this” serving size of cake? Is there an all cake diet?

Conventional advice would say no to cake. I would say cake is fine, if you’ve already established healthy eating habits. So if you’re craving and eating sugary foods everyday then no cake for you. You’ve turned foods like cake into a habit, like brushing your teeth, when it’s really meant to be for special occasions. When you get to that moment that you’re passing on sugary foods with every meal, then having a celebratory slice of cake won’t derail all of your hard work. Because you will already have the process in place to get back to your “I’m going to have a hot body” self the next day. So go ahead and order that tuxedo cheesecake for your birthday (my cake of choice), just don’t make it a habit.