Dr. Phil Shares: Menopause Belly: Why Fat Accumulates & How to Tackle It?

 

Many women notice after age 45 that fat seems to accumulate readily at the waist. There are even terms for it, like menopause belly, muffin top, or “meno-pot.” What does the science tell us about menopausal belly fat and how to get rid of it? What are the hormonal drivers and are they amenable to change with personalized lifestyle medicine? Certainly belly fat, specifically subcutaneous and visceral abdominal fat, increases during menopause,1-3 when the changing hormonal environment can bring with it a remodeling of fat storage patterns. Abdominal fat, especially visceral fat, is biochemically different and more metabolically active than fat stored in other areas, secreting more pro-inflammatory cytokines and adipokines.4 That means preventing or reversing belly fat is not just a vanity project, it’s a meaningful step in managing a woman’s overall health, as abdominal fat has been consistently linked with insulin resistance, impaired glucose control, and overall higher cardiometabolic and breast cancer risk. Practitioners are often asked ‘How can I get rid of menopausal belly fat?’, and it is important to remember that effective management is multifaceted – encompassing an understanding how changes in sex steroids interact with other endocrine systems and also with lifestyle choices, and recognizing the best time to implement a lifestyle medicine approach is in the years before a woman’s final menstrual period.

The changing hormonal environment

A robust understanding of the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause can guide women toward effective intervention. Here are the top five hormonal changes associated with the menopausal transition.

  • Changes in estrogen and estrogen dominance: Menopause is often framed simply as the loss of estrogen, but the road from pre- to post-menopausal estrogen levels is not necessarily smooth. Although loss of estrogen itself is linked with increasing abdominal fat,2,3 paradoxically the estrogen dominance that occurs in perimenopause and that may continue into menopause is seen clinically as a culprit in expanding abdominal fat mass.5 Between age 35 and 45, most women are beginning to run low on ripe eggs and experience hormonal changes linked with advancing reproductive age.6 During this time reduced progesterone coupled with high and erratic estrogen occurs.6,7 Estrogen declines but is in relative excess to progesterone. This is the definition of estrogen dominance: having a progesterone level that’s less than 100X the level of estrogen, creating an imbalance in the estrogen-progesterone partnership and essentially an inadequate level of progesterone to keep estrogen in check. Local estrogen production in adipose tissue can also contribute to estrogen dominance during this time. For example, aromatase enzymes, responsible for converting androgens to estrogens, are more active in visceral adipose tissue of post-menopausal women in response to cortisol.8

 

  • Cortisol: Dysregulation of the HPA axis and cortisol excess can manifest as increased central and visceral fat mass and metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance.9,10 Increased production of cortisol,11 and conversion of cortisone (inactive) to cortisol (active) has been described in post-menopausal women,12 indicating that increased cortisol synthesis and conversion could contribute to metabolic dysfunction in these women. Cortisol is regulated in part by sex steroids, and estrogen down-regulates the expression and activity 11β-HSD1, the enzyme involved in converting inactive cortisone to active cortisol13 – so higher estrogen, lower 11β-HSD1 and less active cortisol formed. Declining estrogen levels during menopause can have a knock-on effect on cortisol formation, and 11β-HSD1 has been shown to be upregulated particularly in visceral fat in post-menopausal compared with pre-menopausal women. 1,11,12 As well as contributing directly metabolic dysfunction, higher cortisol can feed back to hormonal environment and contribute to estrogen dominance occurring at this time through cortisol-induced aromatase activity.8,14

 

  • Insulin: Fat cells accumulating in the abdomen is linked with insulin resistance. The pro-inflammatory cytokines produced by abdominal fat interferes with insulin signaling.15 This results in insulin resistance where cell response to insulin is lost, which creates a cycle where greater production of insulin is required to manage blood glucose levels. Insulin is a gatekeeper of metabolism, and rising insulin levels can set off a chain reaction that ultimately leads to a cycle of weight and abdominal fat gain. Insulin can lower production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in the liver.16,17 Lower SHBG results in greater free androgens and estrogens in circulation, and is linked with visceral fat and insulin resistance in menopausal women.18,19 In addition, insulin resistance can have a knock-on effect on leptin, insulin’s cousin.

 

  • Leptin: Leptin is the put-down-your-fork hormone, the one that tells you when you are full.20 Elevated insulin levels eventually lead to elevated leptin, which despite what you may think, does not mean you are more likely to put down your fork and stop eating. Instead, consistently elevated leptin levels lead to a dysfunction of leptin receptors and they stop sending signals to the brain to tell you to stop eating – this is called leptin resistance.21 The mechanisms driving leptin-resistance are complex, but high intakes of refined carbohydrates have linked with its development.22

 

  • Thyroid hormones: Thyroid hormones, which regulate how quickly we burn calories and maintains our metabolism, can becomes unbalanced with age, a trend that has been labeled ‘thyropause’. If the thyroid becomes underactive, this can lead to symptoms including weakness, fatigue, and weight gain.23

What can be done?

One of the biggest myths in women’s health is that once hormones change with menopause, abdominal adiposity is immovable – however addressing modifiable hormones such as cortisol and insulin in the following ways can have an impact.

  • Make foundational changes to dietary intake. When evaluating diet, consider factors that influence insulin levels, such as high carbohydrate intakes or intake of refined carbohydrates which require greater insulin response to manage spikes in plasma glucose. Remove inflammatory or trigger foods, as inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance.31 Add in foods rich in antioxidants which promote detoxification. Eliminate alcohol which robs you of deep sleep and lowers metabolism by more than 70% for 24 hours. Choosing when to eat during the day can also make a positive impact to insulin levels and insulin sensitivity. Time-restricted feeding (TRF) protocols, a type of intermittent fasting, where food is consumed during a limited number of hours per day (often 6 or 8) has been shown to reduce body weight and abdominal fat32 and improve insulin sensitivity even without weight loss.33

 

  • Add more movement to the day. Sitting is like the new smoking. Approximately 35 chronic diseases and conditions are associated with sedentariness, and sedentary behavior makes people more prone to gain body fat.24 High intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective at reducing abdominal and visceral adiposity, as well as improving insulin sensitivity and building muscle.25,26 Studies in post-menopausal women show that HIIT training results in greater abdominal and visceral fat mass loss compared to continuous exercise programs (where heart rate was maintained at a constant level)27,28 showing that HIIT is a time-efficient strategy for improving central obesity in this population. In addition to HIIT programs, practicing yoga can be recommended for menopausal women, showing significant reductions in menopausal symptoms.29 In broader populations, interventions that included yoga asanas were associated with reduced evening and waking cortisol levels, as well as improved metabolic symptoms.30

 

  • Support reparative sleep. A primary step to losing belly fat is to get enough sleep and to make it quality sleep. Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown links between sleep duration and the risk of obesity and central adiposity.34 People sleeping 7-8 hours/night night have been shown to accumulate less visceral fat mass than those sleeping for ≤6 hours/night.35 Sleep debt leads to changes in leptin and other hormones related to satiety, greater feelings of hunger, dietary indiscretion and poor food choices, as well as reduced physical activity and insulin resistance.34 In other words, getting that solid sleep needs to be a priority. As well as sleep quantity, sleep quality has to be considered, as poorer sleep quality is associated with higher visceral fat mass.36 Subjective poor sleep quality is linked with altered cortisol response37 and insulin resistance in postmenopausal women.38

by Sara Gottfried, MD and Annalouise O’Connor, PhD

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Citations

  1. Yamatani H et al. Association of estrogen with glucocorticoid levels in visceral fat in postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2013;20(4):437-442.
  2. Shen W et al. Sexual dimorphism of adipose tissue distribution across the lifespan: a cross-sectional whole-body magnetic resonance imaging study. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009;6:17.
  3. Lovejoy JC et al. Increased visceral fat and decreased energy expenditure during the menopausal transition. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32(6):949-958.
  4. de Heredia FP et al. Obesity, inflammation and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012;71(2):332-338.
  5. Prior JC. Progesterone for symptomatic perimenopause treatment – progesterone politics, physiology and potential for perimenopause. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2011;3(2):109-120.
  6. Hale GE et al. Hormonal changes and biomarkers in late reproductive age, menopausal transition and menopause. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2009;23(1):7-23.
  7. Hale GE et al. Endocrine features of menstrual cycles in middle and late reproductive age and the menopausal transition classified according to the Staging of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW) staging system. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(8):3060-3067.
  8. McTernan PG et al. Glucocorticoid regulation of p450 aromatase acitivty in human adipose tissue: gender and site differences. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(3):1327-1336.
  9. Paredes S et al. Cortisol: the villain in metabolic syndrome? Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2014;60(1):84-92.
  10. Incollingo Rodriguez AC et al. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and cortisol activity in obesity: a systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015;62:301-318.
  11. Li S et al. Effects of menopause on hepatic 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 actvity and adrenal sensitivity to adrenocorticotropin in healthy non-obese women. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2011;27(10):794-799.
  12. Andersson T et al. Tissue-specific increases in 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 in normal weight postmenopausal women. PLoS One. 2009;4(12):e8475.
  13. Andersson T et al. Estrogen reduces 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 in liver and visceral, but not subcutaneous, adipose tissue in rats. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(3):470-475.
  14. McTernan PG et al. Gender differences in the regulation of P450 aromatase expression and activity in human adipose tissue. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000;24(7):875-881.
  15. Castro AV et al. Obesity, insulin resistance and comorbidities? Mechanisms of association. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2014;58(6):600-609.
  16. Plymate SR et al. Inhibition of sex hormone-binding globulin production in the human hepatoma (Hep G2) cell line by insulin and prolactin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988;67(3):460-464.
  17. Loukovaara M et al. Regulation of production and secretion of sex hormone-binding globulin in HepG2 cell cultures by hormones and growth factors. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1995;80(1):160-164.
  18. Davis SR et al. The contribution of SHBG to the variation in HOMA-IR is not dependent on endogenous oestrogen or androgen levels in postmenopausal women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012;77(4):541-547.
  19. Janssen I et al. Testosterone and visceral fat in midlife women: the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) fat patterning study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(3):604-610.
  20. Klok MD et al. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2007;8(1):21-34.
  21. Engin A. Diet-induced obesity and the mechanism of leptin resistance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;960:381-397.
  22. Harris RBS. Development of leptin resistance in sucrose drinking rats is assocated with consuming carbohydrate-containing solutions and not calorie-free sweet solution. Appetite. 2018;132:114-121.
  23. Diamanti-Kandarakis E et al. Mechanisms in endocrinology: aging and anti-aging: a combo-endocrinology overview Eur J Endocrinol. 2017;176(6):R283-R308.
  24. Levine JA. Sick of sitting. Diabetologia. 2015;58(8):1751-1758.
  25. Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011;2011:868305.
  26. Maillard F et al. Effect of high-intensity interval training on total, abdominal and visceral fat mass: a meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2018;48(2):269-288.
  27. Maillard F et al. High-intensity interval training reduces abdominal fat mass in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab. 2016;42(6):433-441.
  28. Nunes PRP et al. Effect of high-intensity interval training on body composition and inflammatory markers in obese postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2018;Oct 1.
  29. Cramer H et al. Yoga for menopausal symptoms-a systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas. 2018;109:13-25.
  30. Pascoe MC et al. Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: a meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017;86:152-168.
  31. Caputo T et al. From chronic overnutrition to metainflammation and insulin resistance: adipose tissue and liver contributions. FEBS Lett. 2017;591(19):3061-3088.
  32. Gabel K et al. Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: a pilot study. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2018;4(4):345-353.
  33. Sutton EF et al. Early time-restricted feeding improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress even without weight loss in men with prediabetes. Cell Metab. 2018;27(6):1212-1221.e3.
  34. Koren D et al. Role of sleep quality in the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2016;9:281-310.
  35. Chaput JP et al. Change in sleep duration and visceral fat accumulation over 6 years in adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(5):E9-12.
  36. Sweatt SK et al. Sleep quality is differentially related to adiposity in adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018;98:46-51.
  37. Huang T et al. Habitual sleep quality and diurnal rhythms of salivary cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone in postmenopausal women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017;84:172-180.
  38. Kline CE et al. Poor sleep quality is associated with insulin resistance in postmenopausal women with and without metabolic syndrome. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2018;16(4):183-189.

 

Sara Gottfried, MD

Sara Gottfried, MD is a board-certified gynecologist and physician scientist. She graduated from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed residency at the University of California at San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Dr. Gottfried has seen more than 25,000 patients and specializes in identifying the underlying cause of her patients’ conditions to achieve true and lasting health transformations, not just symptom management.

Dr. Gottfried is the President of Metagenics Institute, which is dedicated to transforming healthcare by educating, inspiring, and mobilizing practitioners and patients to learn about and adopt personalized lifestyle medicine. Dr. Gottfried is a global keynote speaker who practices evidence-based integrative, precision, and Functional Medicine. She has written three New York Times bestselling books: The Hormone Cure, The Hormone Reset Diet, and her latest, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.

Annalouise O’Connor, PhD, RD

Dr. Annalouise O’Connor is the R&D Manager for Therapeutic Platforms and Lead for Cardiometabolic and Obesity platforms at Metagenics. Her role involves research coordination, as well as developing formulas for targeted nutrition solutions and programs to assist practitioners in the optimal management of their patients’ health. Annalouise trained as an RD and worked in clinical and public health settings. Dr. O’Connor completed her PhD in the Nutrigenomics Research Group at University College Dublin (Ireland) and postdoctoral work at the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute.

 

Dr. Phil Shares: Staying Keto over the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for those following a diet, the holidays may stir up stress and anxiety around food. The ketogenic diet is not the most “social” diet, but there are ways to stick to it, even in the most daunting of times, such as holiday celebrations.

If you can’t eat keto, at least aim for low-carb

Your holiday party may not be stocked full of keto-friendly foods, but there is a high probability that you can nibble on some low-carb options. The cheese platter is, more often than not, a pretty safe bet for cheese (of course!), but also for other low-carb foods such as nuts and meats. Just stay clear of candy-coated nuts, dried fruits, and cured meats you suspect may have added sugar!

Another low-carb holiday party go-to is the veggie platter. Lucky for you, this usually gets the least attention by guests, thereby giving you full access to it. Stick to the low-carb vegetables options such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and cucumber. If your event is serving dinner, opt for the meats or any salads (without sugar-loaded dressings), and low-carb vegetables. Things to stay away from are the mashed potatoes, any bread/pastry-like foods, sauces, and, of course, the sweets. Sticking with low-carb as opposed to ditching the diet completely will make transitioning back into ketosis much easier.

Prepare for success and give yourself options

If you are uncomfortable not knowing what food options will be available at your holiday gathering, prepare some food in advance. Better yet, prepare a keto-friendly dish to share with everyone! Take a high-fat dip to pair with that veggie platter and a salad dressing you can pour on any dry salads to avoid sugary dressings. You can also pack some snacks such as high-fat nuts (e.g. macadamia nuts) to graze on throughout the evening. Additionally, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a great tool for ketogenic living. Fill a small jar with MCT oil to take with you and use on any dish or in beverages. MCTs are highly ketogenic and have even been shown to increase ketone production without carbohydrate restriction.1

The popularity of the ketogenic diet has made it simple to find recipes that anyone can enjoy. Consider making a ketogenic dessert to bring and share so you can “indulge” too, while also preventing you from caving into the temptations of sugar-laden treats.

Stay positive and remember your “why”

It can be difficult to gain the support of those around you when your dietary choices are perceived as something as radical as a ketogenic diet may seem to some. You may even be tempted to ditch the diet for the sake of your peers or those family members who just won’t back down from having you try “just one bite.” Be prepared to explain to others what the ketogenic diet is and why you follow it. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, and it is perfectly fine to have different views from others. Just stay true to yourself, remember your “why,” and stay positive, because there is nothing worse than engaging in a debate over food choices!

Tips for alcohol

Alcohol isn’t generally conducive to living a ketogenic lifestyle, and if you have no problem abstaining from it completely, that is your best option. If having a drink in your hand makes you feel more comfortable in a crowd, take club soda and sliced lemon with you; this will help you feel less segregated. With all this said, celebrations may be times when you can make exceptions (within reason). There are ways to enjoy a drink or two and stick to your goals; you just have to know what to look out for. For wines, opt for the driest you can find, white or red, and avoid sweet wines such as rosé. Most liquors are acceptable on their own or enjoyed with club soda or sugar-free beverages. Beers typically contain more carbohydrates, and they should probably be limited to one. If nutrition labels are available, check to see what the lowest-carbohydrate beer options are. Coolers and ciders are to be avoided due to their high sugar content.

Be kind to yourself and don’t overthink it

If you take into consideration all of the recommendations above, there is no reason to be stressed or anxious about your diet as you enter into the holidays. You are following a ketogenic diet to improve your health, right? Well, being kind to yourself is part of healthy living, and sometimes that means accepting that your diet can’t always be perfect. Also, keep in mind that you can always jump right back into the swing of things; a few days of indulging does not mean you have “failed.” There is more to health than simply what you put in your mouth, so do the best you can, be prepared, but most importantly, don’t get down on yourself if things don’t go as planned. Instead of focusing on your food options, focus on enjoying your time with loved ones over this holiday season.

As we said, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, and your diet shouldn’t change that for you.

General Wellness, Ketogenic

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Resources:

  1. McCarty MF et al. Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity. Open Heart. 2016;3(2):e000467.

Dr. Phil Shares: 8 Great Things About Exercising at Lunch

8 Great Things About Exercising at Lunch

Between work, social obligations and general life responsibilities, it can be difficult to fit everything into one day. That often leads to healthy activities like working out being relegated to extracurricular status and never becoming part of your routine.

Given all that, squeezing in a lunchtime workout might seem impossible. And yet … below we’ve got eight reasons to do exactly that. Once you start reaping the physical and mental benefits of midday exercise, you might never go back.

1
IT WILL DE-STRESS YOUR DAY

Nothing wards off stress quicker than a good sweat session. Per Harvard Medical School, exercise “has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.” It’s been successfully used to treat anxiety disorders and even clinical depression, so it can help you cope with a day full of meetings or that big presentation.

2
YOUR WORKOUTS WILL BE MORE EFFICIENT

If you’ve got nowhere to be, it’s easy to move slowly through a workout, taking time to check your phone, scroll through your playlist or just sit and relax on a weight bench. But when you’re due back in the office, you’ve got extra incentive to make the most of your time. And fortunately, between cardio, weight circuits and HIIT classes, you don’t need more than 30–40 minutes to get in a great workout.

3
YOU’LL UNDO DESK-RELATED DAMAGE

It’s just not healthy to sit all day. Over the years, studies have shown sedentary behavior is associated with obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and poor circulation. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 61% increase in mortality rates in those who sit and watch TV for seven hours or more per day. So getting up from your desk to stretch or walk around is a great start. Getting up from your desk to exercise for 30–45 minutes is even better.

4
IT FREES UP YOUR EVENINGS

If you’re tired of choosing between the gym and dinner with friends, well, now you won’t have to. Exercise during lunch and your night will be free to spend as you please, without the guilt of knowing you’ve missed yet another workout.

5
YOU’LL BEAT THE CROWDS

Sure, this article could cause everyone to make a mad dash to the gym. But the reality is that, on weekdays, most people work out in the morning or in the evening. That leaves the gym less crowded for lunchtime exercisers like you, so you can nab a coveted bike in that popular spin class or knock out a quick gym session without waiting on machines.

6
YOU’LL MAKE BETTER FOOD CHOICES

Even though you may feel hungry after working out, studies show exercise can help to regulate appetite and even promote satiety. It does this by releasing hormones that help the body better recognize when it’s full. So if you work out during the day, you’re not only getting the healthy benefits of exercise, but you’re more likely to make smart choices at lunch and dinner.

7
YOU’LL FEEL MORE ENERGIZED

A good workout gets the endorphins flowing, and endorphins contribute to that feeling of euphoria, often referred to as a “runner’s high.” That good feeling doesn’t stop the second you stop moving. Instead, the increased heart rate and blood flow can be accompanied by improved mood and energy for several hours after a workout, which means you’ll have the energy you need to tackle the rest of your afternoon.

8
IT’LL BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

In addition to improving your physical energy, exercise can also increase mental alertness and creative thinking. According to British researchers, workers who spent 30–60 minutes exercising at lunch reported an average performance boost of 15%. And 60% of workers saw improved time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines on days they exercised.

With all those reasons to work out during lunch, you might as well give it a try. And if your boss gives you a hard time about leaving in the middle of the day, just say (diplomatically) that you’re exercising because you care about your job and want to perform at your best.

 

by Kevin Gray

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Laura’s Veggie Wraps

Veggie Wraps: Easy Quick and Simple Lunch

 The collard greens make great wraps, warm or cold.

Ingredients:

Sprouted Mung beans, cooked according to package.

Quinoa, cooked according to package

2 tbsp olive oil.

Collard leaf greens

Cooking Quinoa:

Generally quinoa needs twice the amount of water to cook. You bring it to a boil without the lid, then turn it down to a simmer, add the olive oil, cover the pot and give it 15 min or so.

Quinoa is high in protein and, for most, very easy to digest. Gluten free quinoa grown in Canada is available at Costco and most local grocery stores.

Cooking Mung Beans:

Sprouted mung beans should be rinsed in a sieve with water, placed in the pot and then covered with three times the amount of water than beans. Bring them to a boil with out the lid, then turn down and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse again.

Mung beans are a cooler neutral food with a sweet flavour. Mung beans detoxify, improve digestion and alleviate inflammation in the body. They are also useful in the treatment of edema (swelling) of the lower extremities, high blood pressure, impatience and restlessness. I found sprouted mung beans by the Sasha Bread Co. at Longo’s in Guelph, and they are commonly available at most local grocery stores.

The quinoa and mung beans may be mixed, then placed into small jars like the one pictured above. these can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month. Easy to grab and go for lunch.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are a part of the cabbage family and therefore are helpful to detoxify. They help both phase I and II liver detoxification and provide a good source of fiber. It’s a dark leafy green so a good source of magnesium as well. Break off the end and eat it or tuck it up into the quinoa and mung bean mix and make your wrap. They can be eaten raw, or lightly steamed. To steam, rinse then place on a plate and put in microwave for 30 seconds.

Plastic Free Beeswax Wrap

I make wraps travel well in a beeswax dipped cotton cloth. It’s a bit sticky so it sticks when you fold it. Mine was a gift. I’ve seen them at Goodness Me! and Stone Store in Guelph, and also found a great recipe to make your own plastic free food wrap.

From the heart and kitchen of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

Dr. Laura: A Valentine’s KISS Recipe

Valentine’s Day Dessert- a KISS Recipe!

Keep It Simple Sweetie!

Don’t you just love simple desserts? This won’t take long to make. There is no baking. It is free of gluten, dairy, egg, corn & soy! haha – It’s just fruit. So it’s vegan too.

How easy to please  any squeeze.

All you need is a heart shape cookie cutter, a knife and some fruit. Any melon will do. To cut the kiwi fruit, just peel it, then carve out a little notch along the oblong. Then sliver off a little along either side to make it shaped like a heart. Then cut across to make slices.

Voila!

Spread a little love!  It keeps you young & vibrant.

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

Dr. Phil Shares: What To Eat To Shed The Pounds

 There’s no getting around it — if you want to lose weight, your nutrition game needs to be on point. As the saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet.

But, there’s nothing worse than suffering through a diet that makes you miserable — especially when you still don’t see the results you want. Many fad diets are based on rules that are easy to memorize — No starchy carbs! Fast for 16 hours every day! — but are impossible to sustain.

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Eating healthy isn’t supposed to be a temporary blip. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, it takes commitment.

If that sounds daunting, it’s probably because you’re used to diets that kind of suck. But they don’t have to. Eating healthy isn’t about swearing off your favorite foods and nibbling on kale leaves all day. It’s about learning to fuel your body the right way and understand how to eat so you can lose weight without feeling deprived.

One of the most important lessons you can learn from losing weight successfully is how to eat healthfully. For the rest of your life.

We favor nutritionally balanced, long-term approaches to weight loss, but the truth of the matter is that counting calories, calculating macros, monitoring portion sizes, or even cleansing may or may not help you lose weight for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with sustainability.

So, we’re not going to provide you with a list of 25 foods to eat that are “good” for weight loss. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out the detailed recommended food and beverage lists in the Beachbody Portion Fix Eating Plan or any Beachbody program nutrition guide.

But keep in mind that these are just places to start your healthy eating education. We want to drive home the facts that it’s your weight to lose, it’s your preferences, and it’s your life that should help guide you to what you should eat — not only to lose weight, but also to live a more vivacious life.

This isn’t to say that you won’t need to retrain your palate to accept whole foods without much adornment (ie., lots of added salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats), or that you won’t need to sacrifice the richness of some of your favorite comfort foods (we’re looking at you, mac and cheese) for healthier, slimmed-down versions, or that you won’t need to trim back on portion sizes. You will likely need to do all of these things in order to lose weight.

But, the key mindset to embrace is that you do have choices. You ultimately get to determine what will and won’t go into your weekly meal plans. What you eat to lose weight shouldn’t be all that different from what you eat to maintain your health after you shed the excess pounds. So, yes, you’ll likely need to cut calories to lose weight, but you’ll also need to learn how to eat differently to maintain your results.

No matter which way you prefer to cut calories, you should focus on improving the quality of the calories you do ingest first and foremost. We’ve reduced it to three simple steps you can start today to maximize the calories you do consume when you want to lose weight.

3 STEPS TO
SHED POUNDS

 and Eat Healthy
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 1. Drink water first and most.

When you’re trying to lose weight, cleaning up your diet also means watching what you drink. If done right, juices or shakes can be healthy weight-loss tools to enhance your nutrition plan, and Shakeology is a good way to assure you’re getting plenty of nutrients when eating at a deficit (or anytime!). Just try to keep your calories from beverages to a minimum (most Shakeology varieties contain about 160 calories per scoop).

Of course, water is calorie-free and incredibly good for you. Beachbody recommends you drink your body weight, divided by two, in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds — that would be 150 divided by 2, which equals 75. That’s 75 ounces of water you should be drinking every day. To a die-hard soda drinker (even a diet soda drinker) or someone who doesn’t think about hydration much at all, this might seem like a lot of extra trips to the bathroom. To make all that plain water more palatable, try:

4a-1
  • Carbonated water. Try flavored varieties without added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and caloriesUnsweetened tea. Use caffeine-free tea if desired, and spruce up the flavor with lemon or lime slices, or muddled fruit
  • Adding sliced citrus, cucumbers, strawberries, pineapples, or fresh mint leaves
  • Adding citrus peels
  • Flavoring with natural combos: ginger + cucumber + mint, or pineapples + orange peel, or strawberries + kiwi + basil.

Your mom may have told you as a 5-year-old not to fill your belly with liquid so you’d eat some dinner, but feel free to defy that rule as an adult. In fact, one study published in the journal Obesity asked 84 obese adults to either drink two cups of plain water before their main meals every day for three months, or to imagine the feeling of being full. Those who drank water before their meals lost about 2.6 pounds more than those who didn’t. These findings suggest that drinking water before your meals may be an easy way to take the edge off hunger, and possibly stop you from eating too much.

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2. Replace refined, processed foods with whole ones.

It may seem obvious that in order to lose weight and eat healthier, you need to cut way back on fried foods, creamy casseroles, and sugary confections, but it may seem less obvious what to eat instead.

As much as possible, try to cut back on highly processed foods, such as frozen meals, packaged snacks, sugar-laden cereals, bottled sauces, meats with added preservatives, etc. Instead, choose whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, lean proteins (ie., chicken, turkey, eggs, tempeh), healthy fats (ie., avocados, hummus, extra-virgin olive oil, nut butters), and whole grains (ie., oatmeal, barley, whole-grain bread, brown rice).

Whole foods provide nutrient-dense fuel that contribute to greater satiety (when compared to processed foods).

The naturally occurring fiber, water (in foods like fruits and vegetables), or protein in these foods can contribute to an increased feeling of satisfaction — often with less food (read: fewer calories).

Protein can help you feel satiated longer than carbohydrates or fat. This may be due to increased thermogenesis (the metabolic process of your body burning calories), which influences that physiological “I’m satisfied” feeling you have after consuming higher amounts of protein.

Fiber, a form of carbohydrate found in plants that humans lack the enzyme to digest, helps us feel fuller on fewer calories. A food diary analysis of successful MyFitnessPal (MFP) users (defined as those who came within five percent of their goal weights) revealed the faithful food trackers who came closest to their goals ate 30 percent more fiber. That may seem like a lot, but really the difference was only three grams per day more than other MFP users — the equivalent of having one small apple or swapping a traditional English muffin for a whole wheat one.

3. Add volume with vegetables.

Volumetrics is a way of eating that may help you feel satisfied by consuming foods with low calorie density, or less calories for any given amount. It’s essentially a fancy way of telling people to eat the majority of their calories from mostly vegetables and fruits.

Low calorie density foods such as apples are higher in fiber and water, so you’re able to eat more in volume for a similar amount of calories (compared to a higher calorie density food such as apple pie). There’s evidence to say that fiber helps you feel fuller faster, and keeps you satiated long after you eat. A small study did find that water incorporated into food (as in the case of soup) did help subjects eat less, but not if that same amount of water was served in a glass on the side.

One study confirms that when people eat foods low in energy density, their total daily calories are significantly less than when they eat foods high in energy density.

If you’re hoping that eating more whole foods will help you lose weight, you’ll want to eat these foods in lieu of processed foods, not in addition to them. Because, in the end, weight loss generally boils down to eating fewer calories.

Dr. Phil Shares: How to Reduce Holiday Stress!

How to Reduce Holiday Stress

The topic I’m going to address today is how to handle holiday stress with greater ease.

If you think about it, we could make “holiday stress” a great opportunity to teach us how to manage “any time” stress. A great place to start is having our priorities straight so you’re clear on what matters and what doesn’t.

5 Tips for Holiday Stress Relief:

1. Write in your journal

Now is a good time to sit down, take a deep breath, and write in your journal to help you get organized and remember what the holidays are really about.

First, write down everything that needs to be handled. Then identify things that you can let go of or delegate to someone else. Even if you need to handle everything, taking the time to write it all down will help you feel less overwhelmed.

Now that you have written down and organized your to-do list, think to yourself, “What will be my state of ‘being’ while I’m doing all of these things? Will I be joyful or stressed, grateful or overwhelmed?” And, write a paragraph on this topic. Asking these questions is really important if you want the holidays to be something you actually enjoy. The busyness of the holidays doesn’t have to cause stress if you choose a calm and joyful way of being as you check off tasks from your to-do list.

Next, let’s get more specific. Write down how you would like certain aspects of the holidays to go. How would you like to experience cooking the holiday meal or having people over? While cooking, will you feel angry that you have to cook such a big meal, or curious and excited about making a new dish for your family? Or, while shopping, will you feel obligated or resentful that you have to buy for so many people, or grateful that you have the means to buy presents to begin with?

Now, make two columns in your journal. In one column, write the names of the people you are buying gifts for. In the second column, write what you are grateful for about this person. Leave out all the things they have or haven’t done, or what they’ve said or didn’t say – all of that ultimately doesn’t mean anything. Instead, write how they contribute positively to your life. Then take this list with you shopping so that the present you purchase is an expression of your appreciation for them. This can help you remember what the holidays are really about: celebration and gratitude for our friends and family.

2. Keep things in perspective

Rather than truly celebrating family and friends, we often get caught up in how things “look.” We worry about the holiday cards, or whether our hair and outfits look alright, or if we ordered enough pies for everyone. When you start to spiral into worry, go back to your shopping list of names and why you’re grateful for these people – does it really matter if your hair looks perfect that day?

I’m not saying to show up to your holiday events in your pajamas, but by choosing what you focus on, you can allow whether a certain situation will create stress or joy within you. Are you going to focus on whether your outfit looks perfect or focus on the joy you experience with your cousin who you haven’t seen in a while? You have a choice. Consciously choosing gratitude and joy will create positive situations and bring you closer to those you love.

And, if you’ve mastered this level of focused decision-making during the holidays, you can easily apply it throughout the year when there are less distractions.

3. Consider the past

Here is another topic to write about in your journal: What are the memories that get stirred up during the holidays? Which memories create a clenching in the pit of your stomach, or a fear-based emotion, or that feeling of “here we go again.” What creates that in you? Write them all down, be very real about it. Don’t let your mind take hold of the negative emotion and spiral you down into the same old pattern – nothing will change that way.

So write these memories down in your journal and what they stir up in you, then write whether they really matter in the grand scheme of things – get some perspective. And then consider whether you should communicate with someone so that this pattern doesn’t happen again, or just let it go. In either case, make that change internally to change that pattern. Do it now before it’s too late and suddenly it’s Christmas Eve and the same situation occurs. Also, write down enjoyable holiday memories and prioritize doing those activities again this year.

4. Learn to say “no”

If you have always lived the holidays with great stress, but have not done anything about it (as if the outside world will suddenly shift for you and make it all good), then nothing will change because at the end of the day nothing and nobody makes you feel in any way other than how you choose to feel, what you choose to allow in your field. That is very important to remember.

Because there are so many challenges, the holidays present so many amazing opportunities to take control of your life and to empower yourself. Let’s say you’ve cooked the turkey for your family for 30 years but never enjoyed the task, this is your opportunity to finally say “no.” You’re not a victim, you don’t owe anything, so don’t disempower yourself. If you don’t like having 50 people over every Hanukkah, but you allow it to happen because you’re not willing to experience the consequences of saying “no,” then you are allowing resentment to exist in you, once again. Am I saying that changing a pattern is easy? Of course not, but you must always remember that your life is under your control.

If spending quality time with your husband and children during the holidays is important to you, then make the time. Be more organized about the shopping, start way ahead as opposed to waiting to the last minute. Choose the events that you want to attend, and say “no” to the rest. Be empowered in what you are deciding to celebrate this year.

5. Make it a holiday for YOU

It is crucial for your well-being to learn what is important to you, and to prioritizing these things during the chaotic holiday season. It’s important to be very real and honest about the things that you never enjoy doing and yet, you still do them over and over again. You allow these situations to destroy your peace every single year. What is up with that? What would happen if you spoke up and said, “stop”? Make the holidays something different this year; make it a holiday for you, for how you feel.

Every day of this celebration, actually celebrate by having the courage to eliminate that which is not important to you. This allows a clearing for what does bring you joy. For example, if you’re not spending days in the kitchen preparing a meal for 50 people, you’ll have more time to play games with your children.

Try it and do your best not to feel obligated. If you feel guilty, engage with that experience with compassion and kindness for yourself. Remember, everybody is caught in the whirlwind of the holidays and the guilt of it all. We are all doing the best we can, so it’s nobody’s fault. But, you are in charge of what this holiday season could be for you and your family.

So, I invite you to be in a state of celebration for yourself this holiday season. In your journal, write: “What if this holiday was exactly what I wanted it to be. What would that look like? What if I had the courage to sit down with my family and discuss what we wanted to do and what we did not want to do this year?” Wouldn’t that be nice?

With these intentional actions – which are ultimately actions of love for yourself and the people who are important to you – you can make this year a true celebration, a true holiday, a true honoring of each other, peace, joy, and well-being. I hope this was helpful, thank you.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares:6 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain at Holiday Parties

6 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain at Holiday Parties

First, remember that there’s no better time of year to remind yourself of why you want to lose weight in the first place. Your friends and family care about you and want you to succeed. They want you to be happy, healthy, and on your way to becoming the person you want to be in 2018!

Also, seeing your loved ones at these gatherings is a great reminder that the holidays are about so much more than the food. Those delicious dishes and desserts are just tokens of the love you share among the most important people in your life. When you focus on what really matters, it’s not so hard to let a treat or two pass you by.

In fact, there’s no reason you can’t successfully lose weight (or at least maintain your weight) during the holidays. But it helps to have the right mindset — and a plan — for getting through holiday meals and parties keeping your weight-loss goals intact.

6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain:

1. Eat a filling breakfast and lunch

Don’t starve yourself before the big meal! You may think you’re “saving up calories,” but the hungrier you are when you arrive, the more likely you are to make poor food choices and wind up eating more than you might have otherwise. Start the day with a healthy, satisfying breakfast and a reasonable lunch, so you won’t be ravenous by the time the holiday meal is served.

2. Avoid “grazing” before and after the meal

Whatever time your family typically sits down at the table to eat (our holiday mealtime is around 4pm) — hors d’oeuvres, snacks, cocktails, and even desserts are often passed around before and after the meal for guests to “graze” on. To avoid overindulging, I set the time when I plan to start eating, as well as the time when I will stop. Then, once I get up and leave the table, I move on to other activities, such as reminiscing with grandma or playing with the kids. Just like I tell my clients — “Dinner and done… find other fun!”

3. Prioritize your treats

We all look forward to treating ourselves during the holidays, but all those temptations can quickly become overwhelming! When I’m at a holiday party, I scan the entire table of food first, and then choose the two or three that I want the most — the ones that are most likely to make the night feel extra-special. Then, I take my time and savor each bite!

4. How do you want to feel as you’re leaving?

Before even arriving at the party (and perhaps once again before taking your first bite), imagine how you want to feel when it’s time to leave. Stuffed like a turkey? Or happy, satisfied, and proud of yourself for keeping your goals on track? You’ll be amazed at how powerful this mental exercise can be in allowing you to enjoy the gathering to the fullest without overindulging.

5. Be active

Try building a healthy activity into your day, whether it’s a hike or a neighborhood game of touch football. Last year, my family and I laced up our hiking boots and hit the trail before dinner! If you’re giving gifts, think about toys and games that promote an active lifestyle. If you’re too old for toys (is anyone too old for toys?), then get out there and play with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or even your pet.

6. Incorporate healthy food swaps

If I’m hosting the party — or even contributing a dish for the table — I like to share traditional dishes made using healthy food swaps designed to be every bit as filling and delicious as the originals. Greek yogurt makes a creamy stand-in for mayo in dressings and pasta salads. Mashed cauliflower rather than potatoes for a healthy swap that still tastes delicious (for the skeptics, try half-and-half cauliflower and potatoes). “Noodles” made with veggies are another big hit in our house. And for dessert, I serve cinnamon-spiced baked apples, either by themselves or topped with a little dollop of whipped cream, to satisfy apple-pie cravings.

Most of all, be sure to stay positive! If things don’t go exactly as planned, don’t beat yourself up. Just stay focused on your goal and the weight loss will follow. There are plenty of weight-loss days ahead in 2018! And I’ll have lots more helpful advice to share with you when the 2B Mindset launches. Meanwhile, together with the entire Beachbody community, I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Do you find that the scale moves up a few pounds during this time of the year? During summertime, we’re focused on our bodies, given we know we’ll be wearing the revealing clothing that goes with the season. But when fall and winter come around, that mindset falls away like autumn leaves. Maybe it’s our primitive instinct to bulk up when the weather gets colder; it probably also has a lot to do with our busy holiday shopping and social schedules interfering with our regular workouts, and with all the tasty holiday treats lying in wait to tempt us everywhere we turn, regardless. But don’t let the layers of clothing become layers of fat. These tips can help you avoid holiday weight gain this season.

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain With These 10 Simple Tips

Staying healthy and fit during the holidays isn’t impossible. You just need the right tools! With convenient workouts you can do at home on Beachbody On Demand, and a craving-crushing drink like Shakeology, it will be easier than ever to end the year on a healthy high note.

1. Travel smart

Many people find themselves traveling during the holiday season, but that’s not an excuse to eat unhealthily and avoid exercise. Plan your meals in advance, and pack snacks when you are either on the road or in the air. Good travel snacks can include nuts or dried fruit. To help you be a happier traveler, get a good night sleep before you leave to increase your mood and alertness. Eating a heavy meal before traveling can make you sleepy, so eat a small, low-fat meal before you head out the door.

2. Get enough sleep

Try to keep a regular sleep schedule and get a full night’s rest as often as you can. If you fail to get a good night sleep, it can make you grumpy the next day and make it harder to focus on your healthy goals. No one wants to travel with a grouchy person, so do everyone a favor and get some shut eye. Sleeping well can also help you reduce your calorie consumption, because it inhibits the release of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin while promoting the release of leptin, another hormone that limits hunger. And keeping that hunger in check is a good idea when you find yourself surrounded by holiday goodies. Check out these natural sleep remedies to help you get some shut-eye.

3. Drink enough water

You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll say it again: drink water! During the busy holiday season it can be easy to forget to fill up enough cups with H2O, but it can do wonders with keeping you healthy. It helps regulate your body temperature, helps with the digestion of food, and it can help you limit your caloric intake. How? Try drinking a glass of water before each meal, and you’ll likely feel more satisfied on less food because your stomach already has some liquid in there. And if you alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water, you’ll slow down your consumption of high-calorie beverages. If you don’t think a glass of plain old H2O is appetizing enough, here are 10 tasty ways to add flavor to your water.

4. Approach cocktails with caution

We’re not telling you to avoid alcohol completely – wine is allowed in Portion Fix after all! But do pace yourself by having at least one glass of water in between each drink (see tip #3). Remember that one gram of alcohol contains seven calories, and yet it yields virtually no energy or health benefits. Calories from alcohol can add up quickly, so be mindful of how much you are drinking. Also, drinking may reduce inhibitions at the dessert buffet, which can lead to a few too many sugar cookies. If you do indulge in eggnog, which is super-high in calories in its traditional form, try this lighter version that clocks in under 150 calories.

5. Get an accountability partner

The holidays are filled with temptation, and it’s your job to stop it in its tracks. But…that can be really tough to do on your own. If you need some assistance in fighting the temptation of cookies and cocktails and candies (oh my!), don’t be afraid to ask for help. An accountability partner can help you stick to your goals when your willpower gets a little shaky. Tell a family member that you’re trying to eat healthier, so they can give you a gentle reminder when you’re eyeing that second slice of cake. Or, get a group of friends and do morning workouts together. You’ll probably find that power in numbers is a key part in avoiding holiday weight gain. And if you can’t confide in someone in person, then try reaching out to a Team Beachbody Coach, who can help you stay on track even from afar.

6. Use screen time wisely

Who says the TV can only be used to watch classic holiday movies and rivalry sports games? Take over the screen for a few minutes and turn on one of your favorite Beachbody On Demand workouts. Don’t worry, you won’t have to be using precious TV time for hours at a time, there are plenty of workout that are less than 30 minutes! You can even get the whole family involved with the kid-friendly Double Time program, or the fun dance routines in Country Heat. And you don’t have to hog the TV. You can also cue up Beachbody On Demand on your computer, tablet, or phone. And when you you do decide to cozy up for a made-for-TV holiday film, encourage your family to get up in between commercials for some jumping jacks or push-ups. Make it a competition to see who can do the most during the break and watch the sibling rivalry do some good for once.

7. Make recipes healthier

Most recipes can be made healthier without compromising the recipe. Just check out how Autumn and Bobby Calabrese do it on FIXATE, Beachbody’s healthy cooking show. With a few substitutions, you can limit unnecessary salt, sugar, and fat in some of your favorite holiday recipes…and we doubt that your guests will notice. Here are some of our personal favorite holiday recipes made healthier, like Gingerbread Protein Pancakes and Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin.

8. Avoid serving food family-style

When food is placed right on the dining table, it’s much easier to grab a second helping. So make it harder: Keep the extra food away from the dining room. If you leave it in the kitchen, out of sight, it forces everyone to think about getting up to grab another helping. Here’s a tip: If you still feel hungry after your first plate, wait for 15 minutes and drink a full glass of water, then decide whether you want more food.

9. Eat smaller amounts more often

Instead of starving yourself all day so you can overindulge in that one, giant meal, have smaller meals throughout the day. At family holiday gatherings in particular, it’s asking too much to resist the lavish aromas of the kitchen, so being mindful of your portion sizes is important. You can still enjoy all your family-favorite recipes – just enjoy them in moderation. You’ll likely feel much better at the end of the meal that way.

10. Stay active

Whether you cue up a workout on Beachbody On Demand or gather up the troops for a walk around the block, regular exercise can help with so many of the challenges you face during the holiday season. It can help you cope with the stress of traveling by releasing endorphins that help boost your mood and energy. At the airport, if you have time, walk beside those moving sidewalks instead of standing and letting them carry you to your terminal. If you’re traveling by car, take frequent breaks, get out of the car, walk around, and get some fresh air. If you’re staying home for the holidays, get the family involved! Depending on the climate, go ice skating, hiking, sledding, skiing, biking, or walk the dog. And go for a walk together after your big meal—it’ll help you all digest better.

Wrapping Up

We’re not asking you to deprive yourself of any holiday cheer. Just be aware of your body and the temptations and pitfalls it faces this season. Because the holidays have a way of testing your self-control, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place well in advance for dealing with them. That way, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding holiday weight gain and remaining on your regular regimen of exercise and dieting. You can even make it your New Year’s resolution to keep a healthy lifestyle and continue working toward your goals.

Shared By Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 7 Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes

7 Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes

 

There’s an equal amount of confusion and hype surrounding a low-carb diet.

Research shows low-carb diets can be an effective way to shed pounds — although not necessarily superior to weight-reduction results achieved by other diets, such as a low-fat or reduced-calorie diets.

But a low-carb diet plan isn’t as straightforward as the name might have you believe.

“A low-carbohydrate diet can have a wide, unclear definition,” says Holly Klamer, M.S., R.D., “but in general terms, it means following a diet that has less than 45–65 percent of [total daily] calories from carbohydrates.”

(For reference, the recommended carbohydrate range for adults, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 45–65 percent of total daily calories.)

Some low-carb diets, like the modern Atkins diet, for example, limits trans fat and sugar in addition to carbs, while a ketogenic diet drastically reduces carbs and replaces them with fats.

In general, however, most low-carb diets focus on limiting refined grains and starches (like white bread, pasta, and potatoes) in favor of lean protein, whole grains, non-starchy veggies, and low-glycemic fruits.

But with so much varying information out there, it can be easy to misinterpret a low-carb diet or to implement its principles in an extreme or unsustainable way.

The intention behind the diet — to reduce the amount of unhealthy carbs you consume on a regular basis — isn’t inherently a bad idea, but you need to be smart about how you execute it. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid.

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7 Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes

1. Ignoring the nutritional value of carbs

Carbs aren’t the enemy. There are plenty of nutritious and super yummy carbohydrates you can and should be eating in moderation. Think: fruit, whole grainsbeans, and vegetables, to name a few.

These foods provide our bodies with the natural, sustained energy we need to function and stay active. “A carbohydrate-dense fruit such as a banana can give you the fuel you need to increase the intensity of your workout; [you might] burn more calories [as a result],” says Klamer.

High-quality carbs are also chockful of vital nutrients like B vitamins, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Klamer says reducing your carbohydrate intake to super low levels puts you at risk for deficiencies in these areas.

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2. Eating too much unhealthy fat

Eating low-carb isn’t an excuse to go nuts on beef, pork, eggs, butter, cheese, and other foods with high trans or saturated fat content.

Eating a diet high in trans fat isn’t heart-healthy, says Sharon George, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Consuming high levels of trans fat may cause your liver to produce more LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.

According to the American Heart Association, too much “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and not enough “good” cholesterol (HDL) may put you at risk for certain types of disease.

In fact, one study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a low-carb diet high in animal protein (dairy and meat) was associated with higher all-cause mortality, while a low-carb diet high in plant protein (veggies, tofu, lentils, etc.) and lower in trans fat was associated with lower all-cause mortality rates.

Monitoring saturated fat intake is also an approach to maintaining good cardiovascular health. One review of research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the issue of what to replace saturated fat with in the diet.

Researchers found that substituting saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates may be beneficial for overall health.

The overall takeaway: Cut back on trans and saturated fat consumption, while also reducing refined carbs (think: white bread, pasta, rice, sugary pastries, cookies, etc.).

Instead, eat healthy fats, such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Great sources of these types of fats include salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, seeds, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil.

low carb diet, diet mistakes, lose weight, weight loss diet

3. Misunderstanding portion sizes

If you don’t have a basic idea of portion sizes — say, what a single portion of brown rice or steel-cut oats actually looks like — you’re likely to either over- or underestimate how much food you need.

Understanding portion sizes can help prevent overeating while also ensuring you consume enough nutrients to fuel your body properly.

(Pro tip: For a crash course in proper portion sizes, Portion Fix’s color-coded containers make it super easy to meal plan and lose weight.)

Denis Faye, M.S. and Beachbody’s executive director of nutrition, says the Portion Fix plan advocates for a healthy balance of macronutrients: 30 percent of your total daily calories from protein, 30 percent from healthy fats, and 40 percent from carbs — the majority of which should be unprocessed and unrefined.

“By going with 40 percent carbs, we’re able to make the majority of carbs [in the plan] produce-based without crushing people [who are] new to healthy eating under a kale, broccoli, and mixed-berry avalanche,” says Faye.

There are three containers for carbs in the system: Purple is for fruits, green is for veggies, and yellow is for other carbs like whole grains. You fill each one up with its corresponding foods anywhere from two to six times a day, depending on your predetermined calorie target range; no measuring or overthinking necessary.

Faye also notes that the 40 percent carbs guideline isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: “Starting your diet at 40 percent carbs allows you to experiment and increase your carbs to a level that best works for you, which is much easier than trying to slowly reduce carbs to find your sweet spot,” he explains.

4. Eating too much protein

“Getting enough protein is hugely important for both health reasons and because it aids muscle recovery,” says Faye. (Protein breaks down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle.)

Eating less carbs certainly means you’ll need to eat more protein (especially if you want to crush your workouts), but it’s important not to go overboard.

“When [your] carbohydrate intake is significantly decreased, the body starts breaking down stored carbohydrate sources [glycogen, for energy],” says Klamer. “When these stores get depleted, the body will start altering fat and protein to make carbohydrates.”

Gluconeogenesis (which means “creating new sugar”) is the metabolic process by which the liver converts non-carbohydrate sources (like fats, amino acids, and lactate) into glucose to regulate blood sugar levels.

Gluconeogenesis usually occurs when your body doesn’t have sufficient carbohydrates to properly fuel your brain and muscles.

Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can’t be stored for long-term energy, which means the body has to convert this excess protein into either glucose or fat storage, possibly negating the effect of eating low-carb and making it more difficult to lose weight.

To avoid getting too much of a good thing, aim for protein to make up a solid 30 percent of your diet, not half. For ideas, check out these healthy, high-protein snacks for when you’re on the go.

5. Not considering activity level when determining carb intake

“Carbs are fuel. They’re massively important and the body is super efficient at processing them, which is a blessing and a curse,” says Faye. “If you get the right amount [of carbs], they’re the ideal fuel for exercise, health — even for fueling your brain.”

But what’s the ideal amount? That depends, in part, on your level of activity and how much weight you want to lose. If you exercise a few times a week and make a point to move often throughout the day, you probably don’t need more than 40 percent of your daily calories from carbs. This amount ensures you get enough carbs to energize and fuel your body, but not so many that you can’t burn them off through regular exercise and your daily 10,000 steps.

Just remember, the carbs you eat should be of the clean, whole-grain variety: fruit, vegetables, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or wild rice, for example.

6. Eating too many carbs

Just as it’s possible to eat too few carbs when starting a low-carb diet, it’s also possible to eat too many.

What constitutes an excess of carbs varies for each individual depending on metabolism and activity level, but in general, consuming more than 45 percent of your total daily calories from carbs isn’t technically a low-carb diet plan, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

If carbs make up half or the majority of your food consumption, you may be missing out on other essential macronutrients like lean protein and healthy fats. Protein is necessary for building muscle, and healthy fats provide our bodies with energy, aid in nutrient absorption, and facilitate cell growth and function.

7. Eating too many processed low-carb foods

Just because a food is low-carb doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Highly processed foods like bacon, certain deli meats, and low-carb snack bars don’t have many carbohydrates, but they’re often loaded with excess sodium, trans fats, and other additives.

Eating low-carb foods with refined and processed ingredients may not provide you with the nutrients you need to feel satisfied and energized. Before you load your shopping cart or plate with any item that has a low-carb label, consider the quality of the food in front of you.

If a food contains refined grains, artificial additives, added sugar, or ingredients you can’t pronounce or wouldn’t cook with at home, it’s probably highly processed.

Whenever possible, choose whole or minimally processed carbs. “Naturally occurring carbohydrates like the ones found in whole foods such as whole grains, dairy like yogurt and milk, and fruits and vegetables, provide important nutrients,” says Gorin.

How to Reduce Your Carb Intake in a Healthy Way

Go slow

Adopting new eating habits takes time and patience, which is why it’s important to go slowly and be realistic about your expectations for weight loss.

“Many people get discouraged when starting a low-carb diet because it can take weeks to see results [from actual fat loss],” says George. Though you might see a lower number on the scale in the first week of eating low-carb, this change is probably a result of losing water weight.

The process of shedding fat and gaining muscle, however, might be more gradual. If that’s the case, remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Cut back on less-healthy carbs first

“If you’re looking to reduce carbohydrate intake,” says Gorin, “I recommend reducing the types of carbs that aren’t beneficial — [like] processed foods that contain added sugars and refined [grains].”

Items such as soda, candy, desserts, chips, and other processed foods don’t supply your body with enough vital nutrients. You don’t need to completely nix these foods from your diet, though (unless you want to!).

Instead, aim to enjoy them sparingly and with smart modifications. With Beachbody’s Portion Fix Eating Plan, for example, you can indulge in the occasional treat made at home using whole foods and natural ingredients, such as unsweetened applesauce, pure maple syrup, or extra-virgin coconut oil, to make treats like peanut butter chocolate chip cookiesstrawberry lemonade bars, or red velvet cupcakes.

Eat carbs with more nutritional value

“If you are choosing to eat less carbs, it is important to make the carbs you do eat as nutritious as possible,” says Klamer. Try to eat low-glycemic, high-fiber carbs whenever you can.

Low-glycemic carbs such as legumesnutssweet potatoes, berries, and green apples help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide longer-lasting energy, says Klamer.

For more fiber and nutrients, Klamer recommends whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, and brown or wild rice. Other fiber-rich foods include black beans, lentilsbroccolibarley, artichokes, and raspberries.

(Pro tip: Need ideas on how to lose weight and get fit? Download our free “100 Ways to Lose Weight” guide here!)

High-Quality, Nutrient-Rich Carbs

Not sure which carbs to enjoy? Here are some examples of totally delicious and Portion Fix-approved carbs to add to your diet:

*Yellow container:

  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa
  • Beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, white, lima, fava, etc.)
  • Lentils
  • Edamame
  • Peas
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Potato, mashed or ½ medium
  • Corn on the cob, 1 ear
  • Oatmeal, rolled
  • Pasta, whole-grain
  • Couscous, whole wheat
  • Bread, whole-grain, 1 slice
  • Pita bread, whole wheat, 1 small slice (4-inch)
  • Bagel, whole-grain, ½ small bagel (3-inch)
  • Tortilla, whole wheat, 1 small (6-inch)

*Green and purple containers:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers (sweet)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Winter squash
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Orange
  • Mango
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Figs

The 20-Second Takeaway

Many people who start low-carb diets take them to extreme measures, and can end up drastically reducing their carb intake, consuming large amounts of unhealthy fats, or not incorporating enough nutrient-rich carb sources into their meals.

That doesn’t mean low-carb diets are bad, though — they can be an effective weight-loss strategy, but you need to be thoughtful about the approach you take.

In general, focus on limiting processed and refined carbs, and eating more high-quality carbs from whole grains, fruits, and veggies. You’ll gradually lose weight and get all the nutrients you body needs to thrive.

BY:

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health Guelph