“I’m Exercising…So Why Can’t I Lose Weight!?”

Written by: on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
woman running

You run, therefore you should be losing weight. Not true! There's much more to the weight-loss story than that.

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???

Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?

For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight-loss efforts.

woman standing on a scale

Even if you're an athlete, you cannot eat anything you want and expect to still lose weight.

MYTH You must exercise in order to lose body fat. 

TRUTH To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories. Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”

Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and—as a result—they saw no changes in body fatness. The bottom line: creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed? Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

woman running in race

Just because you're in training for a race doesn't mean you earned those chocolate chip cookies!

MYTH If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. 

TRUTH Wishful thinking. If you’re an endurance athlete who complains:“For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day, found another study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.

TRUTH Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56 to 78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62 percent less active the rest of their day, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

woman doing a lunge stretch

Four workouts a week with cardio, strength (and a bit of stretching) might be better for weight control than six workouts a week.

MYTH You should exercise six days a week to lose weight. 

TRUTH Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. Another study—published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

man and woman running together outdoors

Woman will always lose weight at a slower pace than guys...it's just the way we're built.

MYTH Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.

TRUTH Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss—and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise. In another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at New York’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line

If you’re exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

Copyright©Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

 

 

 

 

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Vitamin D: Are you getting enough of this key nutrient?

Written by: on Friday, March 15th, 2013
woman sitting in the sun

Sitting in the sun helps your body get enough vitamin D, but save your skin—and opt to get your D other ways.

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is actually a hormone produced by the body in response to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods—including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks—and in fortified dairy and grain products. It’s hard, though, to get enough vitamin D through food alone—unless you want to take a tablespoon of cod liver oil every day (it has 1,360 IU of D per tablespoon)! Ummm…no thanks!

But, according to The Mayo Clinic, the major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones—why getting enough calcium is only half of the strong bones equation. But preliminary research also indicates the importance of vitamin D for overall health and wellbeing:

1) It contributes to a healthy heart A recent analysis of research, published in the journal Osteoporosis International, found that there’s a link between low vitamin D levels and “stroke, myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart failure.” Enough reason for me to supplement with D…but if you need more proof, read on.

2) It may lower your risk of cancer Research suggests that vitamin D has an anti-cancer benefit. It may stop the growth and progression of cancer cells and may be beneficial during cancer treatment, too. One study, from the University of San Diego School of Medicine, has also found that higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with an overall reduced risk of cancer.

3) It plays a critical role in youthful skin One study in the journal Dermo-Endocrinology found that vitamin D seems to help regulate aging in many tissues, including the skin. Plus, researchers determined that “laboratory investigations have now convincingly shown that vitamin D compounds protect the skin against the hazardous effects of … ultraviolet (UV) radiation.”

milk in glass

Most milk is fortified with vitamin D3; check the label of yours to be sure.

4) It may help with hormonal problems Vitamin D influences the functions of hormones in body, including insulin, serotonin, and estrogen—hormones involved with health conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.

5) It’s key for healthy iron levels in the blood One study—conducted by Gangnam Severance Hospital and Yonsei University College of Medicine, both in Seoul, Korea—found that vitamin-D-deficient Korean women had a higher risk of anemia.

6) A deficiency of D may contribute to obesity Some research shows that a vitamin D deficiency can interfere with the “fullness” hormone leptin, which signals the brain that you’re full and should stop eating.

7) It may help control inflammation Vitamin D may help control the inflammation involved with periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.

Also, some research suggests that vitamin D may help strengthen the immune system—why I’m sure to take vitamin D during the cold and flu season or when I feel that I might be coming down with something. It’s also critical for breastfeeding moms: A recent review of studies, published in the Journal of Human Lactation, found that “Maternal vitamin D insufficiency during lactation, related to lack of sun exposure and minimal intake of vitamin D from the diet, contributes to low breast milk vitamin D content and, therefore, infant vitamin D deficiency.”

vitamin D supplements

If you’re going to supplement, be sure you’re taking vitamin D3 not vitamin D2.

How do you get enough vitamin D?

Well, being in sunlight is the best way to get enough vitamin D. The sun’s energy turns a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3, which is carried to your liver and then to your kidneys to transform it to active vitamin D. But no one should sit unprotected in the sun because doing so speeds up premature aging of the skin and can cause skin cancer.

The next best option is to eat plenty of foods with vitamin D, including mushrooms, salmon, eggs, and fortified milk. But most experts agree that it’s hard to get enough D from food alone. (For adults under age 50, the U.S. National Osteoporosis Foundation [NOF] recommends 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D and 800 to 1,000 IU for adults age 50 and older. And for children, it’s generally recommended that infants and children get 400 to 600 IU daily.)

So the next step is usually to take a supplement.  Most multivitamins contain vitamin D—but you can also take a separate D supplement particularly if you’re deficient, as I am (in which case, your doctor may recommend you take a much higher dosage of D than what’s recommended by the NOF to bring up your levels). But this is key: Opt for vitamin D3 over D2, because research shows that D3 is 87 percent more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations. (If you’re vegan, though, know that most vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol comes from animal sources, but vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol comes from plant sources.)

An important note: you can take vitamin D supplements with or without food. While your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, you do not need to take vitamin D at the same time as a calcium supplement.

Vitamin D for the Skin

Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin D Oil

This serum helps improve skin elasticity and hydration—and minimizes the appearance of pores.

Because we know that vitamin D is so important for the skin (see point #3, above), you definitely want to be using a D serum on your skin. One of my favorites is created by Manhattan board-certified dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D.: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Active Vitamin D Serum ($65; dgskincare.com).

So be sure to get enough vitamin D daily. It’s a simple, easy way to do your body—and your health—a huge favor.

 

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What an incredible lesson….

Written by: on Friday, March 15th, 2013

Another video that I absolutely love. So simple, yet so important in its message.

http://wp.me/p1AotE-K9

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5 Best Foods for Moms—and Kids

Written by: on Friday, March 8th, 2013
Fresh blueberries

Eat more than three servings of fresh (or frozen) blueberries or strawberries a week, and you’ll have a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack than those who eat less.

As a mom of three, I try…really, really try, to make sure my kids eat the right foods. But let’s just say that “yucky!!” is a common response to the good foods that I like to cook: veggies (like sweet peppers), quinoa, and beans (no surprise, right?).

But, after some very frustrating trial and error, I’ve found that there are some good-for-you foods that my kids will eat. Try these superfoods—for you and your kids!

1) Salmon This low-mercury fish is high in DHA (which also stands for something called docosahexaenoic acid, which is an essential fat called omega-3) and niacin or vitamin B3. Study after study shows that DHA is critical for the developing brains of babies (if you’re breastfeeding) and kids. One study even showed that it helped kids concentrate better. But it’s also a crucial nutrient for us moms trying to juggle it all! The vitamin B3 helps keep your energy up—a definite must as, like most moms, I struggle with fatigue from nighttime kid wakings. (If you’re pregnant or nursing, though, don’t eat too much salmon in one week because it does contain some mercury; two or three 2-ounce servings per week should be your max.)

chewable omega-3 supplements for kids

My kids love to chew on these...so they must taste pretty good!

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: there’s no way my kids are going to eat fish!! Ah…I thought exactly the same thing, but then I discovered that cutting up the salmon and breading it makes it look like kid-acceptable chicken nuggets—and it actually tastes yummy. My kids love them…and sometimes even dip them in ketchup!

If you want to steer clear of fish altogether, though, you can take fish-oil supplements. My kids love Nordic Naturals Nordic Omega-3 chewable Fishies in Tangerine flavor (you can get them for about $30 from omega-direct.com). I take the Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega supplements ($23.75 for 60; also from omega-direct.com).

2) Kale I know what you’re thinking: is she crazy?! There’s no way I’m going to get my kids to eat kale! I thought the same thing until I tried kale chips (see recipe below). My kids love them! But truth be told: if I try to sauté some kale in a pan with olive oil and seasoning, they literally gag on it and beg and plead with me to not eat it. Same stuff. Go figure!

But this veggie is probably one of the single healthiest foods we can eat. It’s rich in so many nutrients—beta-carotene, iron (critical to give fatigued moms energy), immune-boosting vitamin C, calcium, potassium, folic acid, and

Kale

Try to eat kale as fresh as possible; the longer it's stored, the more bitter it becomes.

disease-busting antioxidants. An interesting study from Tufts University in Boston also found that folic acid (so important for developing fetuses) helps reduce depression—why this is particularly important for moms post-partum.

Kid-friendly recipe: Kale chips I got this recipe from Rachael Ray. First, buy a bunch of kale with smaller leaves, which have a milder flavor than larger bunches. (Otherwise, this veggie can be a bit bitter.) Wash and dry the leaves, then chop them into 2-inch pieces. (You want them to be a little larger than the size of a potato chip.) Toss with olive oil (and if you want, a bit of nutmeg). Then place on a parchment paper-lined cookie tray, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 350°F for about 8 to 10 minutes. But—let’s be honest here—whatever you do, don’t tell your kids they’re kale chips…just call them homemade potato chips and they’re more likely to take that first bite!

3) Blueberries These fruits are super high in disease-busting antioxidants—as well as immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K (important for blood clotting and for building strong bones). But my advice to you: if you

My Super Snack

My kids love to snack on these new, all-natural snacks! (They're also available in Chocolate Chip and Apple Raisin.)

buy nothing else organic, always buy organic berries. The reason: more than 52 pesticides (which are carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors…the long horrible list goes on!) have been detected on the skin of these berries— and it’s hard to get them all off through washing (http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/food.jsp?food=BB).

Some studies have also found that organic blueberries have higher concentrations of antioxidants than the conventional kind. But if you can’t find organic blueberries or they’re too expensive (as they often are in the off season), opt for frozen organic blueberries (which are just about as healthy as fresh).

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that the blueberries that come in many cereals, muffin mixes, and snack bars are good for you. Many of these so-called “blueberries” are made from artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, and sugar. Look for real blueberries on the product label before buying. My fave new kids’ snack with real blueberries: nutrient-rich MySuperSnack Blueberry Banana Acai Granola Bites, with 17 essential vitamins and minerals—and no artificial anything ($3 a pouch; mysuperfoods.com)!

No-Sugar Added Sophie Greek yogurt

The mom who developed this yogurt is passionate about healthy eating!

4) Yogurt Not only is yogurt high in bone-building calcium and vitamin D (so important for nursing moms, women, and growing kids), but it also contains probiotics. Studies have shown that these healthy bacteria are important for digestion, as well as for the immune system. Just steer clear of the yogurt with fruit already in it; these products are high in sugar. Instead, opt for plain yogurt and add in the fruit and other toppings (like granola) that your kids like. My kids and I love Greek yogurt; it’s thick, creamy, and yummy!

But I recently had the opportunity to talk with fellow mom Sophie Anne Pachella; she’s a nutritionist, founder of EatStrong.com, and the founder of Sophie Yogurt (sophieyogurt.com)—a yummy brand of Greek yogurt that has no added sugar. It was Sophie who alerted me to the fact that some Greek yogurt—while seemingly all healthy—does have added sugars. (Be sure to check the label before buying.) That’s why she developed her own healthier product line (go Sophie!).

5) Dark chocolate I lovethis stuff because it’s super high in antioxidants, which help prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer. Plus, studies have shown that it helps reduce high blood pressure. I also find that when I eat dark chocolate, I’m satisfied after just a little bit (unlike milk chocolate, which I can literally not stop eating!).

Vita Chocolate Cacao Minis

This chocolate is probably the tastiest and healthiest around!

Just know that many kids can’t really tell the difference between milk and dark chocolate unless you tell them, which of course I don’t! To them, it’s just chocolate. Some of my other favorite snacks: dark chocolate-covered almonds, dark chocolate-covered goji berries (super high in antioxidants!), and Vita Raw Organic Chocolate Bars—amazing stuff! Try the Cacao Minis, which are rich in antioxidants; ($28 for half a case; vitachocolates.com). You can also find healthy, kid-friendly dark chocolates at naturalcandystore.com: they sell so many varieties (allergy free, vegan, fair trade, you name it!).

If you can try to incorporate these foods into your—and your kids’—diets, you’ll be on the path to a healthier family!

 

 

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