Every fall for me is truly a new opportunity to improve every aspect of my life! It must go back to those days of excitement as a student, starting a new grade in school, and then reliving those days when my kids started school, starting with a new beginning each time. Add to that the crisp, cool weather, turning leaves and just thinking about cocooning inside in the fall and coming winter. Below is a picture taken at one of the last standing Ben Franklins in our area, already decked out with fall finery. Always a surefire way to get me in that autumn mood! :
With those seasons comes the warmth of those fragrantly scented candles, a fire burning in the hearth and of course those rib sticking comfy meals. Just thinking about it gets my momentum for improvement in overdrive! And while I have quite a few projects I’m excited about completing, this fall I’m spending a good part of that momentum on getting back to the basics of healthy living. Just think about it, waiting until January 2nd to embark upon a new healthier you is much tougher than starting right now, because:
1) You can still get outside and enjoy the fall-leaf finery while exercising.
2) The incredible bounty of healthy fall foods available, like apples, pumpkin, Brussels Sprouts, kale and butternut squash have unlimited potential for great additions to your fall meals:
See below for Cilantro Butter Trout over Garlic White Bean Puree and Slow Fried Shallot-topped Lemony Brussels Sprouts.
3) You and a great deal of people around you are probably engaged in new fall activities that really get your blood pumping! Below is a recent picture of my Beta sorority sisters and I painting our “Scotland County” Tiger mascot on area business sponsors’ sidewalks to raise money for those community neighbors who need a little help:
There are a couple of reasons I’m embracing a healthy lifestyle with even more zeal this fall. One is I’ve almost totally recovered from an extensive reconstructive foot surgery that had me in a cast for 6 weeks and then another 6 weeks in a boot. It was actually months before the surgery that I was limited because of a ruptured tendon and the consequences that years running through it had brought. This limited me from the exercise that I love AND also led to the need to tune up my healthy eating habits, which have also suffered in this recovery time. I’m just bursting to get back in the healthy groove! Another is feedback I’ve gotten from you all! In the last couple of months I’ve heard about your struggles with: adopting a healthier way of eating to lose weight, decreasing your chronic disease risk while increasing your energy, what types of diet you should adopt to be considered non-inflammatory, how you can eat healthy AND fit exercise into your very busy schedule and how to reduce your gut fat.
Tall order? No, it’s just getting back to those health basics that will have you feeling energized!
1. A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie Metabolism Myth Debunked- I remember taking a nutrition class in college and if you didn’t end up with this familiar calorie motto as your underlying thesis, you flunked the class. Remember the definition of calorie being the of energy in food? Specifically, it’s a measure of the heat needed to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. So while the statement that all calories, regardless of the source are equal, is true, be it protein, fat or carbohydrate, what is NOT true is that all sources of calories are metabolized in the body equally! And the main hormone star (or villain, depends which way you look at it) that effects our metabolism is INSULIN! I am using our guest on “Healthy U” Dr. David Ludwig, Professor of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, author of Always Hungry as our metabolic guide. You see, when we eat fat, the pancreas takes absolutely no notice. Similarly, protein just gets a little glance from the pancreas to produce insulin. Carbohydrates, however, and especially those refined, fast acting ones (yes, like that innocent looking bowl of instant oatmeal you are planning to eat for breakfast this morning) have the effect of being the ultimate fat cell fertilizer by eliciting high insulin production in the pancreas, which results in fat cells hoarding excessive amounts of glucose, fatty acids and other calorie-rich substances that circulate in the blood. It’s like those floor-to-ceiling turnstyles you might see at the ballpark. People can pass freely in one direction, but horizontal crossbars prevent movement in the other way.
So too with insulin, you think you have a mother-in-law that hoards everything? I’ll bet she doesn’t come close to the way insulin can pack away your fat, yet bars the entrance to using that fat as energy.
So you might ask, what the heck does eating those fast acting carbs, like instant oatmeal, sweet baked goods, soda, white rice, white potatoes and white bread have to do with my metabolism, besides the fact I’m packing on pounds? It all goes back again to insulin’s fat hoarding qualities: more calories stored as fat means less available fuel like free fatty acids and blood glucose in our bloodstream to feed our brain and body, transmitting into a hormone, hunger and brain-activated food-craving’s crash (little known fact, even at rest our brains demands 1 out of three calories we ingest just to survive). This in turn not only leads us to seeking a quick fix of more refined carbs, but this diet, over time actually slows down our metabolism, leaving people totally miffed and frustrated as to why they are eating less and failing to lose weight! We all really need to totally rethink the definition of obesity, meaning, it’s not a condition of excess or too many calories but too few calories in the wrong place, actually a matter of starvation to the body!
So what’s the metabolic bottom line of consuming a predominantly refined carbohydrate diet over a long period of time? Extra belly fat, lack of energy, concentration difficulties, extra-challenging weight loss issues and increased risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and Type II diabetes.
Now, let’s get your body back into the fat-burning groove (hey I’m joining you here!):
a. Embark on a two week “no refined carbohydrate” and limited quality carbohydrate eating regimen-I’ve just completed this and it’s really gotten me back on track! I backed off all forms of refined carbs, i.e. weekend desserts, liquid calories (including sweet coffees and alcohol), all grains, sugary fruits (i.e. pineapple, bananas) and bread. Predominantly healthy proteins like fish, skinless chicken and grass-fed beef, good fats like extra virgin (for pestos and salad dressings) and virgin olive oil (for roasting), legumes (my favorite “bean” snack is hummus AND legumes/beans pack a great protein and fiber punch to keep you full) and non-starchy vegetables were the primary stars of most of my meals. This was not a strict diet by any means and easily adaptable to any social or eat-out situation. AND I have been and I’m encouraging you to take the occasion to add fermented foods like kimchi to your diets. Scientific evidence is coming out on an almost daily basis regarding the benefits of re-inoculating your gut bacteria with good bacteria from fermented foods (kimchi, kefir, live active yogurt cultures)! It is estimated that greater than 75% of your immune system resides in your intestinal wall, and the bacteria inside the intestine are in 2-way communication with it! Probiotic foods like asparagus and artichokes are also a good idea to give the gut fertile ground for growing those good gut bacteria. Scientists are also finding a link between compromised gut bacteria, refined carbohydrate diets and host of metabolic problems like Crohn’s disease, depression and obesity. More on this in a future drtobler blog!
So what did I eat?:
Breakfast: Eggs or a chicken sausage with homemade pesto, or occasionally a breakfast “Kind” bar (See Will the Real Breakfast Bar Please Stand Up!, they typically have one of the best profiles of good fats, protein and minimally added sugar) – and berries (berries have the least amount of sugar and pack the biggest wallop of free-radical quenching qualities, see SUPERFOODS: Sweet Endings With Berries for recipes) and coffee with no-sugar coconut milk.
Lunch: Wild caught salmon (readily available in handy foil 2.5 oz. packs by Chicken of the Sea) or sardines in olive oil with cabbage, kimchi, ½ avocado, 5 olives and balsamic dressing. Wild caught salmon and sardines are two real stars that contain those inflammation-fighting Ω-3 fats EPA/DHA that are so lacking in our American diets. Remember inflammation is the beginning of all chronic diseases like Type II diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. See A Healthy Acronym”CYH with EPA”/DHA for a more in depth discussion.
Dinner: One-half to 3/4 plate portion of non-starchy vegetables like cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables, like kale, Brussels Sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and swiss chard have super-hero “sniper” qualities for wiping out cancer. See SUPERFOOD RECIPES-Cruciferous Vegetables for menu ideas. The other one-fourth portion on the plate was a simple protein like skinless chicken breast, some type of fish or for Labor Day, a big serving of ribs (I held back on the sweet barbeque sauce and used a fruity balsamic vinegar for a sauce)! I told you it’s adaptable to your life! I also added a healthy portion of fat, usually cooking the protein and vegetables in olive oil with a finishing butter touch, or added homemade pesto.
b. Slowly add back, in lesser portions, those carbohydrates you love– After that two week carbohydrate “correction” period, I ate one piece of bread with one of my meals and added 1 glass of wine with two of my meals. This week I added back some squares of dark chocolate a couple of times after dinner.
Please know though, I am NOT an advocate of totally eliminating the refined carbohydrates like the desserts and the starches you love! You in the end will feel deprived! No, I’m encouraging you, as I am with myself, to be mindful and enjoy smaller amounts of those foods that you overate in the past.
c. Keep Track of Your Progress– Below is a book I’ve used as a tool for myself and my clients over the years. It’s called “Memory Minder, Personal Health Journal” and is available on Amazon. I weigh myself just once per week, keep track of my food, exercise and probably most importantly, how I feel on a daily basis. Remember if you don’t feel satisfied in body and mind, you aren’t going to stick with any positive health changes.
2. Optical Illusions Can Play with Your Stomach- Constant mindfulness regarding the quantity we eat in all situations is also imperative to stay on the health track! Director of Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, Brian Wansink, Ph.D. author of the book Mindless Eating can help us sort this out. Dr. Wansink has concluded, after hundred of studies, that our stomachs only have three main settings: starving, could eat more and stuffed. The bottom level of starving can be anywhere from 8-18 hours and the ceiling level of stuffed stops you in your food consumption tracks. The middle level, also known as the gray zone is when we all get into trouble. The magic know-how of when to stop eating before your stomach is ticked at you and is definitely calling it quits. Dr. Wansink asked 282 Parisians and Chicagoans to fill out a questionnaire to reveal when they took the cue to finish their meal. The Parisians all reported they stopped eating when they were no longer hungry. However, the Chicagoans took their “full” cue from external cues, they stopped when they ran out of beverage, or when their plate was empty or when the television show they were watching was over. The heavier the American or French were, the more they relied on external cues!
Dr. Wansink gives countless examples of the studies he performed that portrayed the mindlessness we have of our food quantities, Here are just a few examples:
Bottomless Soup Bowl-In a lab turned restaurant, a tube was connected to the bottom of soup bowl and table that had been drilled through. The tube supplied an endless bowl of tomato soup to some of the unknowing patrons. The control group ate a normal 9 oz. portion of soup, however, even when time was called 20 minutes later, some patrons were continuing to eat the unending bowl of soup, some consuming more than a quart!
Optical Illusion Serving Ware– Taking off from the example of the optical illusion of the Gateway Arch, America’s tallest man-made monument, do you think it’s height is the same as it’s width?
It is! It’s 630 feet tall AND 630 feet wide! Our eyes can easily be tricked!
To test this optical illusion theory, this experiment involved optical glass illusions, asking professional bartenders to pour a specified amount in different glasses but this time without measuring cups or pour spouts. The results? They all poured the right amount in the tall skinny glasses, 1.6 oz., however, when given the short fat glasses to pour the same amount, they poured significantly more, in fact 37% more!
What are the take-home nuggets from these experiments?
a. Rescript Your Diet Danger Zones– Eat very slowly and mindfully, savoring each morsel. If you are usually the first to finish your meal, make an effort to slow it down. Set one and only one portion out for your meal. If you have to go back for seconds at a meal, just do that with the non-starchy vegetables. My little trick is to pretty much fill up on non-starchy vegetables first then save the protein and starch for last. This strategy has seen me through many buffets where I allow myself to get up and get seconds of non-starchy vegetables only, before I touch anything else on the plate.
b. Opt for smaller serving ware. Below is a picture of three plates of differing sizes with a chicken sausage on them. Also below are two bowls of differing sizes, each with ½ cup of pistachios. Finally, two wine glasses are shown, each with ½ cup of water in them. You can see the smaller sized serving dishes and glasses just exude the optical illusion of having more food! It’s just part of our DNA folks! If we THINK we are getting a larger portion, our brains buy into that and we end up eating less!
3. Rethink Exercise – As if we needed another medical reason to exercise, but yes, this particular study is extremely compelling because the study pool had 1.44 million people in it! In JAMA’s 6/16 Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity with Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults, an epidemiological study, that is looking at patterns/causes and effects of health and disease conditions in a defined population, discovered that participants (male and female, 19-98 years old) performing moderate exercise had significantly less risk of developing 13 types of cancer than people who were sedentary. This lower risk also includes smokers, overweight and obese patients that performed moderate exercise!! AND a recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in August 2016 examined cerebral blood flow emanating from 50-80 year old master athletes (those people having at least a 15 year history in endurance exercise and who have recently competed in an endurance event) both during their regular training routines and then again after 10 days without exercise. What they found was extremely compelling! They discovered the participant’s cerebral blood flow during the non-exercise time had significantly decreased in eight portions of the brain, including the area of the left and right hippocampus! The hippocampus is the mastermind organ in the brain in charge of learning and memory!!!
Okay, you might say that is all well and good, “but I just don’t have time to exercise” or “I just can’t motivate myself to exercise” or “I’m disabled, I can’t do any exercise” or “why should I bother, there is no hope for me getting in shape.”
Just some tips to help you rethink your exercise regimen:
a. Every little bit helps- For every stage in life there’s challenges. When you’re first starting off in life you are usually working yourself to the bone to get established. Then if you get married and have kids you now have a family and a job (I’m putting outside the home and inside the home working Moms on the same playing field, just different challenges) and you have to balance that paradigm. Then your kids leave and you need to reinvent yourself (like I did) and maybe by this time you have some physical limitations. You need to make time for yourself in the form of exercise, on an almost daily basis for every one of these stages in life. It’s NOT about fitting into a certain size of clothes, it IS about feeling energized, confident, decreasing your risks for chronic disease and having all your brain neurons firing at their maximum potential (See How to Protect Your Brain With Simple Lifestyle Choices for other tips on brain health). It can be cut up into little snippets of time, maybe 10 minutes 2x per day. You also need to accept the fact that not everyday is going to work out perfectly and you have to go with your schedule’s flow. I had a magnum set of exercise tapes when the kids were little. It took a little time on my part but they eventually got it that you don’t bother Mommy when she’s exercising. When my kids had functions, I would drop them off, take a walk for 15 minutes, then watch them in their activity. Later, when I had my business, kid’s functions and of course all the stuff that comes with life, sometimes I had to get up at 4:30 A.M. to get my workout in. But I tell you, because I’ve been in the groove of exercise for so long, I feel almost “naked” without it! I am hooked and I want you to be absolutely hooked too!
b. There’s no right or wrong to YOUR exercise routine– Do the exercise that YOU enjoy! Some routine you can actually look forward to and mix it up! You don’t want to get bored AND you want a variety of aerobic, resistance and core exercises for your well-rounded physical health! Here’s an example of what I’d typically do during the week for exercise: Monday-One hour Yoga tape/ Tuesday-I set my timer for 45 minutes and do alternating sets of 20 aerobic and then 20 floor exercises while watching television in our family room/Wednesday-20 minutes on the stationary bike downstairs (I’m pretty busy today, this is all I have time for)/Thursday-go to the fitness center and do 30 minutes on the elipital, 20 minutes on the rower then 20 minutes of weights/Friday-one mile in the pool/ Saturday-1/2 hour Yoga tape (I didn’t have time for the longer tape today)/Sunday-45 minutes on the stationary bike downstairs and 20 minutes of weights. This is just my routine but I’m just showing you, you can mix it up to make it something you look forward to! You will note that I didn’t list walking in my exercise routine. I absolutely love to get outside and walk, and I encourage you to do the same! However, right now, with my foot recovery, I can’t do long walks just yet, so I have to adapt to that. I also encourage you to adapt to any exercise changes you need to make it work for you!
c. You are setting a good example for everyone around you-I recently talked to two Moms that are busy professionals and they both said their exercise time is almost non-existent. They are just too busy. What I suggested is either get up earlier and set aside time just for Mom to exercise, time when the house is quiet OR, when they get home from work, exercise 20 minutes with their children. At first this is tough, because the kids won’t want to exercise with Mom, however, over time, the kids either join in, or they leave Mom alone to exercise by herself. The best payback for this is that your kids will have you as a exercise model they can follow for life. I’m happy to say all three of my kids exercise on a regular basis now, they caught the “exercise” bug from their Mom, and I couldn’t be prouder!
RECAP OF FALL IS THE BEST SEASON TO REHARGE YOUR HEALTH!:
1. A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie Metabolism Myth Debunked.
a. Embark on a two week “no refined carbohydrate” and limited quality carbohydrate eating regimen.
b. Slowly add back, in lesser portions, those carbohydrates you love.
c. Keep Track of Your Progress.
2. Optical Illusions Can Play with Your Stomach.
a. Rescript Your Diet Danger Zones
b. Opt for smaller serving ware.
3. Rethink Exercise
a. Every little bit helps.
b. There’s no right or wrong to YOUR exercise routine.
c. You are setting a good example for everyone around you.
Finally, with this busy season of fall and the coming holiday season, PLEASE TAKE TIME TO “JUST BE………”
But what would the fall season be without good food (that also happens to also be good for you)? This is a recipe you could easily serve your guests for an intimate dinner party, or just make it a special meal for the ones you love. Please try the Slow Fried Shallots Over Lemony Brussels Sprouts, ESPECIALLY if you’re not a fan of Brussels Sprouts for I promise, this recipe will make you one!
CILANTRO BUTTER TROUT OVER
GARLIC WHITE BEAN PUREE AND
SLOW FRIED SHALLOTS OVER
LEMONY BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Garlic White Bean Puree
2 (15 oz.) cans of Cannelloni Beans
4 garlic cloves minced
1 T and 1 tsp. tomato paste
2 T. and 1 tsp. lemon juice
1 T. smoked paprika
Cayenne to taste
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
- Combine beans, garlic, tomato paste, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne and water in a food processor. Process to a smooth paste.
- With processor running, pour in olive oil in a thin stream.
- Puree should have fairly thick consistency.
*Adapted from Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen
Shredded Brussels Sprouts With Slow Fried Shallots
½ cup + 2T olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots, separated into rings
¾ tsp. kosher salt
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 T. fresh lemon juice
- Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add ½ cup oil; heat until oil is shimmering and oil bubbles around a shallot piece that’s dropped in.
- Add shallots to pan; slow-fry 10 minutes or until browned and crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove shallots with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towel. Sprinkle shallots with 1/8 tsp. of salt
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 T oil; swirl to coat.
- Add brussels sprouts; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt, sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned on edges. Reduce heat tolow; cook 2 minutes to until tender. Stir in lemon juice; sprinkle with shallots.
- Adapted from Cooking Light
Trout With Cilantro Butter Sauce
¼ cup butter
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T Chopped fresh cilantro
1 lb. trout fillets- 4- 4 oz. pieces with skin on
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sprinkle tops of trout fillets with kosher salt and pepper.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until a drop of water evaporates quickly with dropped on it.
- Add oil to a pan; swirl to coat.
- Add trout fillets, skin side down; cook, without turning for 3 minutes. Place pan in over (trout should be skin side down); cook 7 minutes or until a thermometer registers 130 degrees and salmon is still medium-rare within.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan until butter smells toasted and golden brown. Turn off heat until right before service
- Right before service, return pan to high heat and stir in cilantro and lemon juice, bringing butter sauce to a boil, whisking to combine.
- Spoon a large serving of Brussels Sprouts on one side of plate. Sprinkle slow-fried shallots on top.
- Put a serving a garlic white bean puree on the other side of the plate.
- Lay the trout fillet on top (skin side up).
- Ladle a small amount of cilantro butter on the fillet.