Episode 048: Leverage Your Genes to Fit Into Your Jeans

Episode 048: Leverage Your Genes to Fit Into Your Jeans

How do your genes impact your weight? Are you destined to be fat? Can you overcome your genetic predispositions? The answer is yes and the power lies within your epigenome. The study of epigenomics and nutrigenomics show us how our diet, lifestyle and environmental choices significantly impact the expression of our genes. In this episode learn about methylation and how it can set us up for a lean life, a healthy life or quite the opposite.

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The Problem: Many people think that their genes are just their lot in life. That’s not true. Yes, your genes are fixed but their expression is not. Not even close. Your diet, lifestyle and environmental choices dictate how your genes are expressed.

The Solution: Understand that the food, stress and toxins can turn on or off the expression of genes. You have the power to determine how your genetic code is expressed. Listen to the full episode for specific strategies!

Practical Implementation:

  • Eat whole foods
  • Limit sugar
  • Emphasize leafy, green vegetables (lightly cooked, not raw)
  • Beets (cooked)
  • Moderate protein intake (do not overconsume)
  • Limit alcohol (or supplement with B vitamins)
  • Use a water filter

Resources:

Ideal forms of B vitamins:

Folate (if not from food sources): methyltetrahydrofolate

B12: methyl-cobalamin

B6: pyridoxal 5-phosphate

Betaine supplementation

Episode 07 on carbs & fat loss

Episode 016 on sleep & fat loss

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Underactive Thyroid? Improve Thyroid Function Naturally

Underactive Thyroid? Improve Thyroid Function Naturally

The thyroid hormones tend to get the most attention from the general public when it comes to weight loss. You hear people say all the time that they struggle with their weight because they have a “slow thyroid” or something to that effect. There is no doubt that the thyroid hormones play a major role in both weight loss and weight gain. They are significantly impacted by insulin, cortisol, leptin and the other metabolic hormones. Fortunately for most of us, there are ways to improve thyroid function naturally via the foods we eat and our lifestyle choices. Before we dive into what we can do, let’s establish a basic understanding of our thyroid hormones.

There are several thyroid hormones and they all function differently. They are produced and released based on signals the thyroid receives from the brain. Your thyroid is extremely sensitive to external inputs such as diet, environment, stress and toxins. Suboptimal diet and lifestyle choices can wreak havoc on your thyroid. If you take away one thing from this post, let it be that last sentence. Your diet and lifestyle have a MAJOR impact on your thyroid hormones. If you want optimal thyroid function, you need to eat and live accordingly!

Let’s talk about several thyroid hormones and how they are different from one another. First up is T3. T3 is the hormone we’re typically referring to when we think about metabolism. It is an active hormone that regulates your body’s fuel usage and temperature. T4 is the precursor to T3. In order to be impactful, T4 must first be successfully converted. Reverse T3 is a completely inactive thyroid hormone. All three of these hormones need to be successfully produced and they need to be produced in the proper ratios. If the overall amounts or the ratios or off, your thyroid function will be impaired.

Producing these hormones in adequate amounts and proper ratios is not all that is required for your thyroid to function optimally. The hormones must be successfully released from the cell and they must successfully attach to the precise receptor on the cell it is targeting. All those factors must be in place or else you’ll impair thyroid function.

Remember that your body is designed for survival. When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your thyroid function slows down, taking your metabolism with it. Why? Because your body senses that fuel intake is limited and it doesn’t want to allow you to burn off your stored energy in case you need it. When you slash your calorie intake, your thyroid hormone production is reduced and much of the thyroid hormone you will produce and release will be the inactive form. This is your body’s way of conserving energy in times of perceived threat.

Similarly, when your leptin levels are low or you are resistant to leptin (due to being overweight or obese or consuming a very high carbohydrate diet), your thyroid function will decrease. Again, your body is either not getting signaled, or cannot properly receive the signal, that there is adequate stored energy in your body so it opts to downshift your metabolism to keep you “safe”.

High levels of estrogen can also slow your overall thyroid function. The presence of excess estrogen increases certain proteins that bind to your thyroid hormones and render them inactive. The thyroid is producing the hormones you need but they aren’t able to do their job because their receptor has been taken.

Finally, cortisol impacts your thyroid function. This relationship is a little more complicated. You’ll remember that in small, intermittent doses, cortisol is a significant fat loss ally. In these small, intermittent doses, cortisol can make your thyroid more efficient. Unfotunately, as is more often the case, excess cortisol inhibits the conversion of T4 (your inactive thyroid hormone) to T3, the active form. Why would we have excess cortisol? Chronic stress. Let it goooooo.

As you can see, there is a lot that can go wrong and impair thyroid function, leading to a slower, less efficient metabolism and an impaired ability to burn fat. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to support the thyroid through diet, lifestyle and exercise.

First of all, proper thyroid function relies on several key nutrients. Here’s the thing – these nutrients MUST be consumed daily because our bodies have no ability to store them. Which nutrients am I talking about? Specifically iodine, zinc and selenium. If you aren’t sure if you are getting enough of these, your best bet is to take a high quality multivitamin. Nutrition is critical for optimal thyroid function.

As has been the case with all the hormones we’ve talked about so far, one of the most impactful changes we can make to maintain metabolic hormone balance is to control our blood sugar. Avoid dramatic peaks and valleys. The most straightforward and effective way to do this is to cut out processed foods and limit wheat and grain products. In fact, avoiding them completely is the ideal. Start by cutting out processed foods and focusing on vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and some fruit. However, as you make this transition be sure you aren’t drastically cutting your calories. Remember that dropping your calories slows your thyroid function. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

Finally, lifting heavy weights and high intensity interval type training improves thyroid function by increasing the sensitivity of the cellular receptors to which your thyroid hormones need to attach to function.

I hope you’re beginning to see a trend as it relates to balancing and optimizing your metabolic hormones. They all work differently but they all impact each other. Not only that, they all benefit significantly from a healthy diet that minimizes the blood sugar spikes that result from processed foods, wheat and grain products.

If you want to know more about hormones and fat loss, check out my free podcast!

Episode 2: Why Hormones Trump Calories
Episode 7: Hormones, Carbohydrates and Fat Loss

There’s also my new ebook! 50 pages of information and specific diet & lifestyle strategies to help you naturally balance your hormones and get into fat burning mode!

The Keys To Fat Loss People Aren’t Talking About

The Keys To Fat Loss People Aren’t Talking About

There is something that is more important than eating clean when it comes to weight loss, fat loss and total body transformation. Yes, cleaning up your diet is important. In fact, you won’t get too far without it. But what is more important is that you understand the motivation behind your unhealthy eating habits.

Here’s the thing, guys. Anyone can get on the clean eating band wagon and stick to veggies, fats and proteins for a few weeks and probably lose weight along the way. But unless you understand what was motivating your less than stellar food choices, you’ll inevitably find yourself falling right back into them. That happened to me for years. I’d focus on following a particular diet plan to the letter but after a few weeks I was right back to where I started – fast food, ice cream and continuous munching and snacking (while thinking about how badly I needed to lose weight & how I shouldn’t be eating the crap I was actively shoveling into my mouth).

If you don’t identify the feelings and factors that trigger you to make less than stellar choices, you’ll find yourself right back in that mode as soon as your motivation wanes and those feelings or factors arise. For me, loneliness and sadness trigger overeating and overindulging. If I feel rejected by something or someone, if I feel isolated (often because I’ve isolated myself) or if I feel a sense of loss, my go-to pattern is to numb those feelings with food. You see, when I’m fist deep in a pint of ice cream, I’m only thinking about the ice cream. I’m not thinking about rejection or loneliness or sadness. I’m just thinking “ice cream” and, for the moment, it feels good. But here’s what happens – as soon as it is gone I start to regret it. “Why did I do that?! Why am I so weak?” Now the problem is compounded. The loneliness isn’t gone. The sadness is still there but now it is compounded by the fact that I punished myself with food. Ugh, such a slippery slope and dangerous cycle!!

So, now that I know what triggers my bad habits, what do I do about it? How do I overcome it? How do you break the cycle? I literally worked on it step by step. I never imagined that I could overcome it in one fell swoop and I didn’t try.

Step 1: Be mindful

It sounds kinda lame, I’ll give you that. There wasn’t any pressure at this phase. In fact, I didn’t attempt to change my behavior at all. If I got overwhelmed or sad and started to have those thoughts of “Whatever. I don’t care. I suck at this. I’m gonna go to the grocery and buy ice cream….and chips. And hell, if I’m gonna blow it, I might as well get pizza on the way home” I would allow myself to do it but not without at least acknowledging the feelings behind it. I would quite literally write in my journal “I am feeling frustrated and like I want to cry because of xyz so I feel like eating crap”. That’s all. Then I’d proceed on to the grocery store. After I did this a couple of times I kind of evolved to the next step naturally. It didn’t feel good, it didn’t make me feel better to eat those feelings. It almost always made me feel worse so acknowledging the rationale allowed me to see that I wasn’t solving my problem at all and I wasn’t even making myself feel better.

Step 2: Consider what would help
Again, this wasn’t aimed at stopping the behavior of making bad food choices or bingeing but addressing the underlying issue. So in the case of feeling the desire to overeat because I’m feeling sad, I took it a step further. I’d sit at my desk with my journal and write out why I was feeling sad and what it might take to fix the problem. Maybe it was a conversation with someone. Maybe the solution was just to give myself a little more grace and not be so hard on myself. Maybe I realized in the moment that I was actually quite overtired and whatever I was feeling sad over was pretty silly and a nap would probably help. This step, in large part, removed the desire to eat. I was not only confronting my feelings but also actively considering solutions. I was aware that food wasn’t a solution but now I was starting to see alternatives.

Step 3: Delay desire

If I went through steps 1 and 2 and still had the desire to overindulge or binge, I began to practice putting it off for 24 hours. I wasn’t saying “no” to whatever I wanted, I was just saying “lets wait it out for 24 hours”. If I still wanted it 24 hours later, I’d go for it. Nine times out of 10 this eliminates the urge. The emotion passes, the craving passes, I come to my senses a little bit.

At the end of the day it comes down to three fundamental things: awareness, honesty and practice.

Awareness

You need to become aware of the feelings behind your actions. What’s going on when you’re not making good choices. What is fueling those decisions? Are you happy with the decisions? Are there common threads that link the occasions on which you overdo it? Pay attention. Be mindful. Stop going through life in a fog without learning about yourself and the way you think. Be a student of your own behavior.

Honesty

Sometimes it kinda sucks but you’ve got to get honest about your feelings. If you boil over because someone cuts you off in traffic and as soon as you get home, in your heightened state, you’re digging through the pantry for something with chocolate, you’ve got to ask what’s really going on there. Why are you upset? Why are you sad? Why are you overweight? Why do you continue to make bad choices when you genuinely want a better life? Stop saying its because its “hard”. Get honest. WHY is it hard? The actual act of buying healthy food and preparing it is not hard so where does this emotional part come from? Get real. Get honest. Do it now because you won’t be successful if you aren’t honest with yourself.

Practice

You aren’t going to get it right your first time out of the gate. The journey to your healthiest self is a long one and it won’t be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. You’ll have bad days and bad weeks. That doesn’t mean you suck. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you can’t do it. It just means that you need more practice. Living a healthy life is a DAILY practice. When we practice regularly, we improve. See challenging situations and circumstances as a great forum for practice. Don’t quit. Keep trying. Show up and practice every single day.

Sure – I want us all to make better food choices. But better food choices is more about YOU and the way you think and less about the food. I can’t emphasize enough just how important it is to become a student of yourself and your motivations. Spend the time. It’s worth it. It is the only way you can truly change.

Do you feel like you need help with this? It’s HARD stuff! Sometimes your head is in the game and you’re willing to do the work and other times its just annoying and you don’t feel like it. That’s why I find value in having a coach. I have had a coach in one form or another for most of my weight loss journey. When my motivation started to slip, they’d see it and help reel me back in. I really think that was a huge part of what made THIS journey successful when all my past attempts had not been. But here’s the thing – those coaches were only involved my story for an hour a week. Our time together was SUPER limited and when I was about to binge, of course they weren’t around. I have put together a totally different coaching program. One that is based on working one-on-one with a VERY small group of women. I won’t put them on a diet. I won’t write them meal plans. I will work incredibly closely with them for a full year to help them identify their own unique fat loss formula. I’ll help them find and practice strategies that work for THEM. We will talk every week. We will email or message as much as they need. They will have unlimited email access to me. I will coach them. I’ll help carry them through the tough times. We’ll troubleshoot together. We’ll celebrate together. I’ll share a TON of critical information related to mindset, motivation, nutrition, hormones, health and fitness. I want to create radical transformations both physically and mentally. And I want to be a huge part of the process. That’s why I won’t work with more than 15 people. In fact, I’m going to insist that folks who are interested complete a short application so I can assess their readiness to change and ensure that I’m working with people who are ready for this journey. I can’t even tell you how freaking excited I am!! If you are ready to make a transformation and create your own success story, I encourage you to read more about the program before you decide to apply. You can find all the info and the application by clicking here. I’m only accepting applications through December 10th and I’ll select up to 15 people and notify them by December 15th. If you’ve got questions, feel free to respond to this email!! I am SOOOO ready to help some of you guys take it to the next level and make 2015 the most amazing year of your life!!

Healthy Halloween? Avoid A Candy Crush

Healthy Halloween? Avoid A Candy Crush

I’m not sure how, but it’s already the end of October! It’s crazy how time flies. Halloween is only a few days away. For some people (including me, for most of my life) Halloween marks the beginning of the downward eating spiral through Christmas. There’s candy in the house for weeks and just when it’s finally cleared out its time for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a massive day of indulgence with a week of leftovers and as soon as you work through those, the holiday parties begin. Between holiday parties and cookie swaps, there’s food everywhere, all the time.

It can be totally overwhelming. You’re in this frenzied tail-spin until you wake up in January feeling exhausted, bloated and 10 lbs heavier than you were before Halloween. Let’s break that cycle, shall we?

I know Halloween can be a tough holiday for parents who, while they certainly don’t want to restrict their child from the fun of the holiday, they dread the constant sugar-induced hyperactivity and attitude problems. I’m all for enjoying tradition, but I believe there are ways to make the most of Halloween traditions without making the focus the candy and treats. It IS possible to have a healthy Halloween and embrace moderation while still enjoying the holiday to the fullest!

Try to switch the focus this year to some of the non-food aspects of the holiday. Have a family pumpkin-carving contest. You can even use oranges and let your kids “crave” a face into the peel with a plastic knife. Emphasize decorating the house or let your kids decorate their rooms in a Halloween theme. Go on a hayride, tour a haunted house or go apple picking. (C’mon, you know you’re impressed by my crazy pumpkin carving skills!! haha. That’s my puppy, Oakley, in pumpkin form)

Don’t keep those bags of candy in the house the week leading up to trick-or-treat. Make fun, healthy holiday treats together like roasted pumpkin seeds, apple crisp or banana ghosts.

Trick or treat is another thing all together. Kids come home with buckets full of more candy than they should optimally eat all year and wolf it down in a matter or days or weeks. There are a ton of strategies out to keep your kids from becoming sugar monsters. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Host a buy back. When your kid comes home with their big bag of treats, assign a monetary value to either the whole haul or to select pieces. When they trade it in, they get the cash.
  • Offer a non-food incentive for their candy. Is there a pair of sneakers your son has been begging for? Offer a swap – candy for sneakers.
  • Let them pick the 5 pieces they want most and take away the rest. Maybe you can let them continue to pick 1-2 pieces per week for the next few weeks.

At the end of the day, letting your child consume an entire bucket of candy, whether its over a few weeks or a few days, is not the best strategy for their health, for their emotional relationship with food and certainly not for their behavior and focus. Get creative; there are tons of awesome ideas out there!

A Fat Kid’s Tips for Raising Healthy Children

A Fat Kid’s Tips for Raising Healthy Children

My weight was the center-focus of my childhood. I was raised to view foods as either “good” or “bad” I was acutely aware that everyone in my life wanted me to lose weight.

We rarely had junk food in the house. I was discouraged from getting seconds at a meal and having any type of sweet was usually frowned upon.

From my mom’s standpoint, she felt that by stocking the fridge with healthy options, discouraging sweets and encouraging exercise, she was helping me to be healthy. Seemingly, she did most things right. From my perspective, however, the constant focus on food and exercise turned it into an unhealthy an obsession.

Fundamentally, food restriction encouraged me to sneak food and it increased the appeal of sugary junk foods. As with most things, knowing that certain things were “off limits” made them larger than life. Sneaking food quickly snowballed into overindulging, food obsession and bingeing.

I’m not a parent but I do understand that you don’t want food to be a free-for-all and you need to set healthy boundaries for kids. However, there’s a fine line between healthy boundaries and an unhealthy focus on food restriction and limitations.

Based on my own personal experiences and my educational and professional background in nutrition and health education, here are my thoughts on walking that fine line and raising healthy, fit kids free of food obsession and unhealthy relationships with food or exercise.

  • As cliché as it is, lead by example. This goes far beyond making good food choices. This is about the way you talk about food, dieting, exercise and body weight. It can be just as damaging for your children to see you restricting, dieting down and stressing as to see you overindulging and constantly making unhealthy choices. Show your children that you choose healthy foods because you enjoy them and they fuel your body best. Show your children that you workout because it makes you feel strong and vibrant. Show your kids that you love your body – show them by how you talk, how you eat and how you move.
  • Don’t use food as a reward. What adult can’t relate to thinking “I’m ordering pizza tonight because it was a long day and I deserve it” or “I’m stressed and the only thing that will make me feel better is ice cream! I deserve it!”. That is food-rewarding at it’s worst. If you want pizza, have pizza. If you want ice cream, enjoy every bite! But teaching kids (or yourself!) that food is comfort or reward is a very slippery slope.
  • Get them involved in food and fitness choices. Encourage them to try new, healthy foods until they find one they really love. Avoid forcing foods on them just because they’re “healthy”. Involve them in cooking, or even better, in growing veggies, herbs or fruits in a garden. The more ownership they feel, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Similarly, let them try out lots of activities until they find one they really enjoy. Try not to force activities on them that they don’t look forward to.
  • Relax a little. Food, fitness and exercise should not be the daily focus of energy and conversation. Kids need to be kids. Yes, they should absolutely understand the value of quality nutrition but let’s not stop the world over the gluten-containing cupcake your kid was served at school. Food is fuel. Can we all agree to please stop attaching strong emotion to it?

I don’t have kids. It makes me nervous. I don’t want my kids to be bullied the way I was. I don’t want them to feel ashamed of their bodies. I don’t want them to feel pressured to diet or lose weight in elementary school. I want them to love and cherish their bodies! I want them to understand that food helps us become strong, fit and capable. I want them to enjoy a cupcake without attaching emotions like guilt, shame or regret to it. It’s sugar and flour and butter. There’s no emotion in the recipe and I want them to keep it that way.