Weighing in on Alcohol

Alcohol is a big, super fun part of our social engagements/lives. However, drinking in excess can lead to serious health issues, such as nutrient deficiency and weight gain. Watch and learn about my personal experience, and why it is important to enjoy alcohol in moderation.

 

To elaborate on the harmful effects of alcohol when consumed in excess--

A number of important functions, like protein synthesis, are inhibited. Even short term alcohol abuse can affect muscle repair and growth (if you want to see gains in the gym, this is especially important).

If you've experienced an epic hangover, you probably noticed that your sleep was pretty crappy. This is because our sleep patterns are impacted by alcohol, and this can have a negative effect on Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which plays an important role in muscle repair. Alcohol can decrease HGH secretion by as much as 70%!

Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages). Which means it dehydrates you. If you think that cup of coffee in the morning is going to cure you...think again. Yep, you're just dehydrating yourself even more. Coffee is not a substitute for water.

Which brings me to...fluid balance. Fluid imbalance in muscles can hamper their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is our body's energy source (makes our muscles contract). Loss of ATP = decrease in physical endurance. To rehydrate we need both water and electrolytes.

Excessive drinking also impairs function of the hippocampus of our brain, which is vital to the foundation of memories.  If you can't form new memories, you can't learn and store new information.

The impact on nutrition is most notable-- alcohol has 7 kcals per-gram (carbohydrates have 4/g, protein has 4/g and fat has 9/g). The reason this is important is because that is all alcohol provides our body-- calories. But in the form of an energy we can't use. Alcohol can't be converted into glycogen, which is our body's main nutrient source of energy.

So what happens to alcohol?

It gets stored as fat. 

Not only is it devoid of macro and micronutrients, it also inhibits our body's ability to absorb these nutrients from food. Our liver treats alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes the absorption of it before anything else. So the more you drink, the less of what you've eaten will actually be utilized by your body for necessary functions, such as those noted above.

Does this mean you should cut out all alcohol from your life? Well, not exactly. I don't mean to be a buzz kill ;) In moderation, a drink here or there is fine. But drinking in excess on a regular basis has consequences. Arming yourself with knowledge about those consequences can help you live a healthier and more balanced life. Which is what I'm all about.

 

 

Why You Gain Weight Back After a Diet...(and how to break the Cycle)

The day after a long holiday weekend (this year the 4th was especially long, right?!) people quickly jump back in to "I've got to get back on track..."vibes. 

Juices cleanses, salads, deprivation...wash, rinse repeat.

Many people, whether they realize it or not, live in a perpetual state of diet mentality. Even if they aren't engaging in the actual behavior of a diet, they're thinking about it. "I ate a burger WITH the bun, that's bad." "My butt looks fat in these jeans...gross." They want to look and feel a certain way but sit somewhere between the realities of daily life, and achieving that goal.

What if I told you that our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for?  If you consider that our bodies are always working towards homeostasis and it's US who throw them out of wack via our choices, it begins to change the focus and conversation. 

According to research articles on Pub Med there is evidence to support the idea of a weight "set point"--the idea that our bodies are programmed to be a certain weight or to store a certain amount of fat and will “fight back” against any attempts to change this predetermined weight.  Genetic and biological adaptations are partly to blame, and are mostly beyond our control. 

While we might not be able to easily sustain goals that live outside of what is healthy or appropriate for us, there are things we CAN and SHOULD do to help our bodies change in a natural way-- possibly resetting what our "normal" range is (which is usually between 10-15 pounds-- yes! That much of a window!). This involves factors we can control, which I'll explain below.

How Does One Find, and Then Maintain, Their Body Weight Set Point?

1). Change Your Environment and Behaviors. Permanently lowering, and maintaining, your set point weight requires changing the habits and behaviors that lead you to overeat/consume more energy than your body needs. The shift in behavior needs to be sustainable to last, so willpower alone isn't enough. You need to reengineer your personal environment in ways that remove unhealthy/unhelpful triggers and cues.

For coaching, I start with food and feelings journaling so clients can start setting a daily habit and intention, plus get in touch with their emotional connection to food.  Understanding our "why" behind choices helps us connect with our bodies in a more intuitive and mindful way. From there, we move on to a daily smoothie once the journaling is successfully completed 90% of the time. The smoothie will generally kick start weight loss (note: fiber helps remove excess fluid and inflammation, so quick early weight loss is mostly fluid, but it sets the tone for ongoing commitment and success).

The process of developing healthy and consistent habits takes time, which is why environment and behavior changes are the most important piece of the puzzle. Jumping straight to weight loss removes the connection to our overall health and wellbeing.

2). Change the composition of your diet. Thanks to the internet and social media, we're inundated with information on what a healthy diet looks like. 

But here's the deal...

There's no secret formula for weight loss. It's just Science-- energy in versus energy out. What each person needs is unique to them, but the results will be the same-- taking in less energy than you expend will lead to weight loss. Carbs, fat, protein...it doesn't matter what you fill your plate with.

The composition of your food is the part that will determine whether or not how you're eating is balanced and healthy, and whether or not it's sustainable. 

In general, maintaining a lower set point range requires adequate protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and fat from mostly plant-based foods. People often think of bread and starchy foods when they think of carbs, but VEGETABLES ARE CARBS. Yes, all vegetables. Some have more, some have less, but you need a variety in your diet in order for it to be balanced. So counting vegetable carbs is not only a waste of time, it's also quite unhealthy in the long run. You can eat animal meat-- heck, I do!  Also fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout contain not only health fats, but also are a good source of protein and water soluble B vitamins.  MOST of your food, though, should come from plants-- think vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. 

3). Improve Your Gut Health. 
One of the key ways to keep your GI Tract healthy is by keeping your gut happy. Aim to eat a variety of cultured foods, probiotics and an adequate amount of fiber from fiber-rich foods (25-35 grams per-day is recommended).

What is fiber? Simply put, fiber is the part of plant foods we can't digest that moves along our digestive track, absorbing water along the way, and aids in healthy bowel movements. IT IS A CARBOHYDRATE. Which is why it's important to eat fiber-rich carbs in the form of plant foods. Whole Grains are one of the best sources of fiber. Fruits and vegetables, as well as seeds (such as chia and flax), contain them as well.  If you follow my Instagram account, you'll notice I front load a lot of my fiber intake for the day in the morning to ensure I get it in.

Fermented and cultured foods, such as Greek yogurt and sauerkraut, should become staples in your diet as well to help nourish the friendly bacteria in your gut. 

4). Exercise. The amount of physical activity you partake in plays a role in determining your body's set point.

Truth: If I didn't work out consistently MOST days, with a variety of activities (variety is key) my body would reside at the higher end of my body's set point range (and it has!)-- less activity means less energy intake requirements, which means lower metabolism.

I like keeping my metabolism super charged and healthy because it makes me feel good AND I get to eat more. In fact, by recompositioning my body slowly over the course of a year, my daily energy needs are roughly 50% more than they were when I was more sedentary.

This means that our metabolism isn't "fixed." We can improve it through our environment, food and exercise choices.

Great news, right?!

I promote body composition goals over weight goals for this reason. Because weight fluctuates day over day. It's also not a measure of overall health or body fat versus muscle mass.  Body composition, on the other hand, is one of the most accurate ways to gauge where you stand health-wise because it's measurable. And things that are measurable can improve over time.

It's generally not weight that people want to change, anyway. It's "toning up" or building muscle...which is tied to body recompositioning PLUS consistency with healthy food habits.

5). Change your body slowly.  If we see weight or body composition goals as some finish line, in which we'll receive a metaphorical trophy for become the skinniest, fittest, most beautiful version of ourselves, we're missing a very big point...that we, as humans, evolve, just as every other living thing does. Our bodies change over time. Science changes over time...the goal then, should be to evolve our lifestyle to coincide with our body's needs over time.

Slow and gradual weight loss can help you avoid the metabolic backlash that rapid weight loss can trigger. It also means that by the time you reach your goal, you have had much more time to master and internalize the healthy habits you’ll need to maintain the healthier you. 

The Power of Venturing Solo

6 years ago I did something that terrified me...

I travelled solo to Europe. At the time, I lived alone in Los Angeles, but traveling alone is something entirely different. Traveling alone--particularly in a country where people are culturally and linguistically different than you--forces you to face parts of yourself you don't necessarily want to (but should). Despite living alone, I kept my life filled with many friends and activities. However, when I'd return to my "sanctuary," I was forced to sit with the person I spent quite a bit of time, energy and planning to avoid... I had an adorable (but baaad) Yorkie, Ziggy. But a dog, it turns out, is not a replacement for human companionship.

I had a hard time being by myself. I often fell victim to bouts of extreme loneliness that found me getting stuck in my thoughts. I'd self-medicate with wine and writing, pretending I was Hemingway...but things were kind of a mess for him, weren't they?! They were for me, too.

To make matters worse, I was caught up on a guy who didn't want to be with me... I didn't even want to be with me, so why would someone else?

I didn't like myself very much and knew something had to change if I was ever going to...so I did the only thing that made sense...I bought a plane ticket to Paris, booked an Airbnb (which was pretty new at the time) and ventured on an Eat, Pray, Love sort of existential, self-exploratory trip. 

I wined and dined myself, visited all the museums, learned the metro system, met up with a dance friend who was working with a dance company in Germany, kissed Oscar Wilde's gravestone, then took a train to London to visit friends there for a few days before heading back home. My trip wasn't entirely solo, but I spent most of the time alone, surrounded by baguettes and a language I only vaguely understand (not conversationally).

Fast forward to 2017. I am married. My life is pretty full and I spend most nights with my husband beside me. Since leaving advertising a month ago, though, to complete nutrition certification (which I just did!) and Dietetics pre-recs, I spend most of my days alone.

As I build a new career and shape what my daily schedule and life outside of marriage will look like (because I firmly believe we need a purpose that's our own to remain complete, whole people with or without a companion), I am spending more time alone than I have in years and it's NOT easy. 

I'm not naturally that social, gregarious person who can network up a storm. I'm not the best at keeping in touch or reaching out first. I also don't like going to things alone. But as I build my new career, I have to. I went to one wellness event with a friend which was awesome, but also a crutch for me. I think it's important to keep our RL friendships separate from work. I created a separate social media account for my wellness pursuits for this reason. Sure there's a little crossover/promotion that needs to happen-- because when you're starting a business, your friends and family are not only your cheerleaders and major source of emotional support...they're also probably going to be your first customers/clients. 

That said, I don't think dragging friends along to wellness events is something good for them, me, or my business. So I'm going to them solo now; revisiting that uncomfortable, but necessary exploration of self, confronting my social insecurities and awkwardness, and talking to people....asking questions about how they started their businesses...asking for advice.

What I've found is that most people are really open, giving, and grateful, especially in the wellness space.

It was mentioned at the Love Beauty Wellness festival I attended yesterday that people rarely land on wellness as a career because they aspired to it. They land on wellness, usually, out of something painful, difficult, or eye opening. 

For me, it was a combination of all three: my history with an eating disorder, my father suffering from, and beating, pancreatic cancer, and the realization that I can change the outcome of my current and future self-- which includes my susceptibility to genetic health issues-- by taking care of myself, through ongoing knowledge and practice.

It seems so simple, right?! Self care...something that should be innate in all of us. Like breathing or going to the bathroom...but it's not. I think many people want to invite self care into their lives but don't know where to start. Or they think it requires a long list of rules and regulations. Or they don't want to give up certain vices that provide them happiness on some level.

People who go into wellness aren't exempt from self-judgement, insecurities and engaging in actions that contradict self care-- we're human. 

I think what separates us is a strong desire, not to be perfect, but to try to take better care of ourselves every day. We develop knowledge and tools that help us achieve this most of the time, and we want to share that with others; to show them that wellness, self-care-- self love, really-- is always available to us. And that we deserve it.

My 27 year old self didn't realize she was embarking on a journey that would serve as a catalyst for a much larger life journey and purpose...one that saw me leaving one job for another...and then another...and so on...learning from this person and that one...growing up a bit (and over crippling road blocks I created for myself)...meeting the man of my dreams who sees more in me than I often do...and finally realizing that what I love most of all is love, in all of its forms. Self care is one very large facet of that-- the better I am to myself, the more open and able I am to be good to others. That's how true love works.

Health and wellness is about so much more than what we put in our bodies. It's about how we treat ourselves. How we talk to and about ourselves. How we handle our fears and insecurities...understanding that we're not alone with them, even if we are.

I still get lonely sometimes. Most of my friends have day jobs, so it's not like I can go grab lunch or do a day hike during the week to break up the day. I'm sure in time, as I meet more people in the wellness space and develop friendships with similar entrepreneurs, that this will change. But I have to confront my fears and insecurities to get there. I have to stay the course and keep marketing my brand on social media, initiating more conversations with people than they're starting with me...this part is the most difficult. It's so easy to get caught in a web of thoughts...why would this person want to talk to me? And you know what, maybe they don't. Maybe I'm too pushy, aggressive...or any of the unfavorable adjectives I often place on myself...but I have to try...every day. I have to try to be kinder to myself. To love myself. To take care of myself. To challenge myself. 

My husband can't do that for me. My family can't do that for me. My friends and adorable (but still baaaad) Yorkie can't do that for me.

I have to do it for myself. So I flip the internal conversation...and make myself a smoothie with all of the healthy things in it...and step inside the simultaneously awkward, lovely and scary world of self acceptance...

And I eat...and I pray...and I love.