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Friday, March 30, 2012

Are you tired all the time?

If there was a commonality of all the women I see in my clinic, it would be that they are all tired. Tired from not getting enough sleep, tired from the demands of the kids, tired from working too hard, tired of dealing with their weight and tired of not having enough energy to do all the things that they need and want to do with their day.

This is not surprising. So many of us live frantic lives with long working days and even longer commutes, ever increasing family and relationship commitments and bumper social lives that it is a constant juggle to get through the day, let alone with a reasonable amount of rest and time to get your thoughts together to power on all over again. While the demands of modern life are unlikely to change anytime soon, there are a few key lifestyle changes you can commit to that will at least help maintain your energy levels on a daily basis so you cruise to the end of your day, rather than collapse into it.

Iron Up
If you are a meat eater you need to eat red meat 3-4 times each week. Why? Simply because your body is programmed to absorb the iron it needs to transport oxygen around the body from animal sources of iron, namely red meat and if you do not give your body regular access to it, your stores will gradually be depleted and you will be tired. Vegetarians are different, as they are programmed to absorb their iron from non-meat sources but meat eaters; you need that steak, lamb or pork 3-4 times every single week.

Get into the sun
I know you are not keen to bring on any more wrinkles but the truth is that many Australian’s are simply not getting enough sunlight when we can to ensure we are making enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D has numerous functions in the body and is also known to help prevent a number of diseases including some types of cancer. When it comes to energy levels, low Vitamin D also tends to result in lower mood states and muscle fatigue so if you are not feeling 100% and cannot remember the last time you went into the sun, it may be time to have your Vitamin D checked by your GP.

Fresh is always best
For busy women on the run, grabbing a one off coffee, protein bar or pre made sandwich in place of a home prepared, nutritious snack is not an issue but if your diet is based solely around processed foods and supplements, you will not be doing your energy or immune system any favours. Fresh foods include fruits, grains, vegetables and seeds offer numerous nutritional benefits over any processed foods, which means you need these foods every single day to keep your training body at its best. As a general rule of thumb, the brighter the fresh food, the better it will be for you and we need at least 2-3 cups of brightly coloured vegetables and a couple of pieces of fruit every single day. Easy yet convenient ways to get your vitamin hit each day include grabbing a fresh juice rather than a coffee, keeping quick cook vegetable packs at work and for quick dinners and try snacking on fresh carrots and other cut up vegetables on a daily basis.

Watch the stimulation
The ironic thing about consuming caffeine and other “energy” type drinks to help increase energy is that they are just as likely to leave you feeling even worse than before you consumed them. The reason for this is that even though stimulants, whether they are in the form of caffeine or sugar will give you an initial “hit”, they will also see a subsequent “drop” once the stimulant has been metabolized. For this reason, using caffeine in small amounts regularly and avoiding all sugar based drinks is a much better option than relying on them for an energy hit in times of trouble. Ideally large volumes of water, some herbal tea and a couple of cups of tea or coffee each day are the best types of fluid for you to ingest to keep you optimally hydrated and your energy systems at their best.

Add in your energy superfoods
When energy demands are high, it makes sense to include as many nutrient and energy rich foods into your diet as you can. Often as women try and keep their weight down, they consciously drop carbohydrates from their diet but it should be remembered that wholegrain carbs are a rich source of both essential nutrients required for energy production, including the B group vitamins. If you have been feeling tired, make sure that you are including at least one serve of wholegrain carbs in each of your meals and snacks.

Just as important is to ensure that you are getting plenty of powerful antioxidants from brightly colours fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Add in a fresh vegetable juice and aim for serves of salad or vegetables at both lunch and dinner to give your body every chance of being at its best, day in, day out and fend off fatigue with as much good nutrition as you can.

Go to bed
Perhaps the most obvious and simplest way of improving your energy levels, preventing
fatigue and feeling better in general is to simply get more sleep. While the average adult averages just 5-6 hours of sleep a night, we need as much as 7-9 hours’ sleep a night to be at our best. So even if you can only get to need early a few nights each week, make this commitment. Remove all electronic equipment from the bedroom including mobile phones near the bed and practice getting into bed by 10 or 11pm and reading before you sleep – just the way nature intended it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I call Bullsh*t

You do not conduct surgery unless you are a qualified medical professional and you
rarely represent someone in court until you have a legal degree but when it
comes to food, weight loss and nutrition, as we all eat, many of us think we are
quite the expert. And indeed, I always tell my clients that no one knows their
own body better than they do BUT when it comes to scientific dietary advice
being given to others, this really should be left to the experts. Over the past
week I have collected some of the pearls of wisdom coming from the mouths of
ex-journos, successful dieters and trainers which is simply wrong.

“Gluten, gluten is like poison for the body”
Hmmm, maybe if you have coeliac disease, but for the other 97% of the population, gluten
is a component of wheat that we are well equipped to deal with. In fact, one
would argue that many gluten free foods including the bread and biscuits are
actually more processed than the non-gluten free varieties and hence do far
worse things to our insulin levels and weight over time than a little grain
based carbs ever will.

Alcohol is fine; there is no sugar in alcohol”
Ok, where do you think the alcohol comes from? Alcohol is fermented carbohydrate
and while some types of alcohol do not contain ‘sugar they do contain
carbohydrate which are simply sugars in a different chemical form which will be
eventually broken down into glucose in the bloodstream – and yes, this is why
many people who drink much wine and beer are fat.

“Fructose, well fructose gets converted straight into fat by the liver’
Maybe you only read a couple of lines from a random biochemistry text book when you were
“searching” for evidence to support your theory. Fructose only gets converted
straight to fat in the liver IF a person’s intake of fructose is exceptionally
high at any one particular meal. Furthermore, recent Australian data suggests
that our intake of fructose is actually declining so again, no cred here. Maybe
you mean processed carbs? Actually, who knows what you mean.

‘Polyunsaturated fats cause cancer’
In case you had not realized it, no one knows exactly what causes cancer; this is
why people are still getting it. You do not need a medical degree to have
worked out that cancer is a complex beast, caused by a range of factors. There
is no more evidence to show that polyunsaturated fats have a specific role in
cancer growth or development than there is a range of other factors related to
the development of different types of cancer. In fact, of all evidence available, the balance of fats in our diet is known to be related to our immune function and in Australia our intake of long
chain polyunsaturated fats is actually low. In order to achieve an optimal
balance we actually need to consume a little less monounsaturated fat from olive
oil and avocado and more poly’s from soy/linseed products, walnuts and oily

“As soon as you finish the glass of apple juice you have in
the morning, the first mouthful has already been converted into fat in your
No, that is not right. As explained before, this will only happen when a
certain level of fructose has been consumed in the diet overall.

"It doesn't matter if it's plain white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar or
castor sugar; they are all exactly the same - all fructose."

Wrong again – sugar; white, brown, raw is actually the chemical
sucrose which is made up of one glucose molecule and one single fructose
molecule. All the sugars will contain some fructose, as many foods do, but not
only fructose, ever. It should also be said that different foods we eat including
fruit contain different amounts of different sugar mixes. For example, an
average sized banana will contain between 4-5g of glucose and 4-5g of fructose.

“Exercise is not important in weight loss”
I cannot believe that I have to explain this one. While calorie restriction will
result in weight loss, one of the only things that will help the body burn
calories more efficiently long term is to exercise. Admittedly there are many
different kinds of exercise and some types (namely high intensity interval
training and resistance training) are much more effective in achieving this
goal but to postulate that exercise is not necessary for weight loss is a
ridiculous, socially irresponsible statement.

I am sure there will be more of these pearls of wisdom to come from those who are
not qualified to be talking about nutrition, weight loss or biochemistry at any level so
will update this blog as those pearls infiltrate our social media portals over
the next few hours, days and weeks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are the weekends making you fat?

Early Saturday morning seems as good a time as any to talk about
the weekend weight gain cycle that many of us find ourselves in come Friday
night. A week of relatively well controlled eating quickly replaced with overeating,
over drinking and basically overindulging until Monday morning. While there is
nothing wrong with enjoying the weekend with plenty of good food, wine and
company, a weekly ritual of consuming many, many more calories than anyone
needs, simply because it is the weekend is a habit that has to be broken.

Whether it is programming imprinted in our brain when we are
small, or that we are overly restrictive with our diets in the week and feel
that we need to reward ourselves on weekends, straying too far from our calorie
controlled meal plans simply because it is the weekend is a recipe for disaster
â research has proven this. The US Weight Control Registry, a research group
that tracks the progress of those who have lost significant amounts of weight
and kept it off for longer than 5 years has shown that people who control their
weight keep their food intake stable MOST of the time. What this means in
relation to the weekend is that while they many enjoy a meal wth more calories
than they usually would for special weekend occasions this does not equate to
an addition two coffees a day, a bottle of wine on Friday and Saturday nights as
well as Sunday afternoon, some extra cake with coffee as well as dessert simply
because it is the weekend.

My observation is that clients get things wrong on the weekend due
to three main factors; too much alcohol, café style eating and high calorie restaurant
or takeaway meals. These extra calories, combined with far less physical activity
mean that you can easily gain a kg or two, just over the weekend and find
yourself starting each week behind the eight ball when it comes to controlling
your weight long term. The good news is that just a few simple tricks will help
you to balance your caloric intake over the weekend to ensure you can still
enjoy your weekend minus the extra few kg to match.

Café breakfasts are a lovely way to enjoy the weekend with friends
and family, but heavy banana breads, Turkish toasts, large juices and jumbo
coffees are far too many calories for the average person. Instead focus on your
protein rich options of eggs, ricotta, smoked salmon or even lean bacon and aim
for just 1 slice of grain or sourdough toast to balance the calories. Remember
your mantra of ‘no one needs a large coffee’ and keep the freshly baked goods
to special occasions only. Order extra vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach
and tomatoes to give your café breakie plenty of bulk and remember that you are
unlikely to need to snack if your breakfast is much larger than it usually
would be.

When it comes to the alcohol, self-control is the key. A highly
controlled intake of wine and beer during the week is pointless if you then
down 2-3 bottles of wine or 10-15 beers in a sitting over the weekend. Try and
shift this binge drinking mentality to a more moderate approach in which you
can enjoy a few alcoholic drinks without feeling the need to drink for the sake
of it. Be mindful of spending time socially with people who encourage binge
drinking and if you can limit heavier drinking occasions to just once or twice
each week. Alcohol tends to be a habit rather than an enjoyable addition to
life and for this reason can be managed.

Finally watch those calories from higher fat fast and restaurant
style meals. The average fast food or restaurant meal will have at least 200
calories more than a meal you prepare for yourself at home simply because of
the extra sauces, breads, oil and dressings and larger serving sizes. Have a
substantial protein or vegetable based snack an hour or two before you venture
out so you do not put a food order in while you are starving. Share meals where
possible, especially dessert as portion sizes tend to be large and again try
and avoid overeating simply because you are out. Training ourselves to not eat
extra simply because we are ‘going out for dinner’ is a key way that you are
able to enjoy eating out regularly without associated weight gain.

Aside from these tricks and tips for specific weekend eating occasions,
another simple way of keeping your own weekend under control when it comes to
your food intake is to follow as normal a food routine as possible and if you
do have breakfast or lunch out, compensate with a light soup or salad the
following meal. If you find that you have a number of heavier meals over the
weekend, then have a lighter day or two of eating earlier in the week. We live
in a world of constant calorie overloading and minimal activity and for this
reason we cannot wipe out two entire days of the week if we want to maintain
let alone lose weight, so identify your food rules and stick to them, even on
the weekends.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

To sushi or not to sushi?

Fresh sushi seems like such a healthy option, but is it? While fresh
sashimi has numerous positive nutritional properties including being low in
calories and rich in omega 3 fats, some of the popular rolls of choice contain
much carbohydrate and plenty of calories. For this reason, if you do enjoy
sushi you are best to choose sashimi and really enjoy it with the beans and
seaweed salad to really get the low calorie benefits of Japanese food.

Sushi (Per roll) Calories Total Carbohydrates (g) Protein (g)
Teriyaki chicken 170 27 7
Tuna 210 24 7
Avocado 180 30 3
Bento Box 640 65 40
Sashimi 150 <1 18
Seaweed salad 25 3 2