Tag Archive | Exercise

The Joys and Surprises of Research

Introduction to My Research on Hair Loss and its winding path.

Have you ever started researching a topic only to find startling information that leads you down a whole other path of investigation? Well, that was me this week. Two summers ago, I had a severe allergic episode that led to me scratching out almost half of my hair. The whole thing was terribly distressing as I’ve always had lustrous, thick hair. It took more than six months to bring my allergies under control and, therefore, the interminable itching of my scalp and face. In the last two years, I have had to change allergy pills three times and have had six more allergic episodes which lasted anywhere from an hour to two days in the last year and a half. Thankfully, I have not had a repeat of the six month ordeal from two years ago, I’d likely be bald if I had. 😦

The Beginning (for me)

Now you may be wondering, if it’s been going on this long, why haven’t I gone to the doctor or done the research necessary to come to a solution to my problem. The way I figured it, my doctor was only going to do what I was already doing and that was changing my allergy pill until we found one that took care of or eliminated my allergy symptoms. I figured I’d save myself the added cost of exam/ visit fees and I eventually found a pill that worked for me. Fexofenadine Hydrocloride (Allergra). It stopped my itchiness like an electrical circuit being cut. Also, I did constant research on allergies and hair loss, but I’m sure you know how research can sometimes go. If you aren’t asking the right questions phrased in just the correct manner, you are likely to hit many “brick walls” in your hunt for answers. Until last week, I hit a LOT of walls, but I did find some halfway helpful information, too. All this last week, I’ve hit link after link of information that I hadn’t even considered and all because I changed my approach in phrasing my search key.

A New Thought Occurs

Many menopausal women are given Biotin (also known as Vitamin H or coenzyme R, but classified like many vitamin-like substances as a B-vitamin) from their doctors to treat their sudden hair loss. I know a lady whose doctor has been steadily increasing her Biotin uptake over the last six months and she’s been satisfied with the results. Even though, I am nowhere menopause, I thought maybe Biotin was the key for anyone suffering sudden, unexplained hair loss. And that is where my research began; Biotin and hair loss.

One article talked about dietary sources of Biotin and its absorption in the intestine. Furthermore, the article talked about how the good bacteria in our guts produced Biotin as well for our benefit. All this made me wonder, what processes or factors could exist that might inhibit the absorption of Biotin? So I did more research and discovered articles that pointed to intestinal parasites and worms as possible preventors of proper nutrient absorption. Another surprising discovery through this avenue of thought was another article which saw a link between hypoglycemia (which I have) and the inefficient uptake of biotin. That same article referred to the imbalance of intestinal flora as Intestinal Dysbiosis and linked a number of conditions in addition to hypoglycemia as being impacted or even developed due to the Dysbiosis.

A Surprising Link Discovered

After that, I researched the impact of supplementing Biotin and what role Magnesium plays in the conditions mentioned in the Dysbiosis article. First, I read that supplemental Biotin taken for long stretches and in high doses can cause liver damage… unless taken in conjunction with Inositol, a vitamin-like substance sometimes called Vitamin B8. This substance acts as a coenzyme to Biotin, buffering it so the liver won’t be taxed by Biotin supplementation. Secondly, I read that Magnesium deficiency can contribute to conditions such as hypoglycemia, fibromyalgia, migraines, insomnia, and many others.

An investigatory paper written by an MIT student in 2007, had a ton of information on Magnesium and Fibromyalgia that I found interesting because my mother was diagnosed with FM almost a decade ago.

A Simple Solution?

Now, I’m going to make a statement that is taking hold in my mind. And you are free to agree or disagree with me. Is it possible that all of these conditions which are plaguing first-world nations, primarily, are a side effect of lifestyles and diets? Most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle and prefer to have fast or convenient foods. So we aren’t moving our bodies as much and eating highly processed foods devoid of real nutrition. Nor are we getting proper rest because of stress, poor diet, too much TV/ computer time. It’s becoming a real problem of epidemic proportions.

Certainly, there is not a single condition cropping up and plaguing us. Perhaps, that is why doctors continue to treat the symptoms associated with these conditions and not getting to the root cause of the condition itself. They don’t realize that all these things are from the same source. Am I simplifying things too much? Making connections where there shouldn’t be?

Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Perhaps, we would do well to live by that adage?

 

I‘ll cover this topic in greater detail in the weeks to come after I’ve done some more research and have collected my thoughts on the subject matter better. Plus, I’m putting into practice some of the advice given to see if it’ll bring my body back into balance. Have a fantastic week all!

Advertisements

My Quest for an Optimal and Healthy Weight

Much of the American populace, and perhaps in other developed nations as well, have become obsessed with weight. Some say it’s a waste of time to worry about it because you can’t change it. Others say you can because it’s a simple math equation of calories in versus calories out. But is it really that simple?

Observations of My Own Journey

Throughout my childhood I was always underweight and petite in frame, partly due to having been born prematurely. At least that’s my summation. It didn’t matter how much I ate or how fatty the food was, I simply could not gain weight. As I became healthier in my teenaged years, I finally began to put on weight which scared me at first. When I hit 100 pounds, I cringed a little. Then I hit 115 pounds and thought, “Okay, this isn’t too bad as long as I don’t look at a scale.” You see, my body was finally taking on some shapeliness other than, well, flat… and I liked that, even if I didn’t like the three-digit number staring back at me from the scale. By the end of high school, I was 128 pounds…. but the clothes I bought were starting to actually fit better so I didn’t mind.

Did I think I looked fat? Not once. Did I do anything to try to lose weight or maintain my weight? Not a single thing, though some accused me in high school of either being anorexic or bulimic. A thought which grossed me out as well as offended because I didn’t understand how someone could look at me and assume the worst without knowing a thing about me other than what they could see. But I ignored it along with other taunts and teases and continued to eat what I wanted when I wanted it. In effect, grazing my way through life.

After high school, my regular pattern of eating got disrupted because I no longer had a school schedule to work around. When I had that schedule to work around, I ate breakfast before school; had lunch at school; then, when I got home I had a sandwich, ramen noodles, sometimes both or something else entirely; dinner with the family at the usual time; and some sort of snack before bed. Basically, I ate five times a day! And if I failed to have that snack before bed, I tended to wake up severely nauseated the next morning. Though, we didn’t know it at the time, that was actually an indication of a blood sugar imbalance. Because of my work schedule in the years following my HS graduation, I typically only ate 3 times a day. It only took a year after high school to realize something was wrong.

The doctors I saw, however, did not agree that something was wrong. And because the second doctor couldn’t find anything, he decided that because I was a woman and he couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with me that I needed to be on antidepressants. Dutifully, I took the pills… until I realized how much worse they were making me. What did he do when I went back after I stopped taking those pills? Why, of course, he prescribed me new ones. Did I take those? No. A year later, with continuing ups and downs in my moods, behaviors, and the way I felt overall, I ended up in the floor at work. Saw a third doctor. His diagnosis? Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This condition is characterized not by a constant state of low levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, but by peaks and valleys in the levels. It is the sudden drops from high to low which cause the problems. But what causes those drastic drops?

The way the doctor explained it at the time was that basically after I ate, first my body would overreact to the nutrients coming in and produce too much insulin. Not only that, but if I didn’t eat the proper balance of nutrients (say too many carbs and not enough fat and/or protein), then a dramatic crash would happen taking me down with a whole host of symptoms. These symptoms include, but are not limited to: external shakes, internal tremors, mood swings, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, anxiety, and faintness. It was horrible, I felt like I was on this crazy roller-coaster and I had no way of getting off or controlling its course… that is until my doctor told me I could control it through food. Now I did have several more ups and downs for the next 2-3 years after my diagnosis because the dietician I saw made a mockery of her profession by first giving me the know-how to care for my condition then concluding our talk by telling me, “But you can eat pretty much anything you want, so don’t worry.” I remember thinking (as perhaps only a 19 or 20 year old can), “What a crock! If I can eat pretty much anything I want, what was the point in telling me all that other stuff?” So what did I do? I continued to eat pretty much anything I wanted, except I cut back on my intake of sweets.

It took a while and some trial & error for me to realize that the talk with the dietician hadn’t been a “crock” after all. Because most all of my symptoms were back in full force nearly three years after my diagnosis, I decided something needed to change because I did not want to continue living like that…. especially since my doctor had told me that if my symptoms were not controlled it could lead to diabetes! So what did I do? I did some research and found this book titled, The Hypoglycemia Healthcare Handbook by Jeraldine Saunders and Dr. Harvey Ross. That book revolutionized not only my cupboards and eating habits, but my life. I was able to bring my body back into balance and once I detoxed from sugar it became easy-peasy to turn down sweet treats. Do I still have sweets? Certainly, just not everyday or every meal for that matter. It makes them all the more enjoyable to have them infrequently, in my opinion.

Couldn’t resist sharing this cartoon that’s been making the rounds for years on Facebook:

Funny Scale Cartoon

Beyond Hypoglycemia to Weight Gain… And Loss

In those younger years, I could have cared less about calories. Now that I’m in my 30s, they mean much more. Not only because I studied them as part of my education toward earning my Associate in Health and Wellness, but because I began to have trouble maintaining a steady weight in my mid-20s and again when I hit 30. But isn’t that normal, you may ask? According to some, “Yes, it is quite normal and to be expected and therefore there’s nothing you can do about it.” Others will tell you, “Yes, it’s normal, but you can do things to keep it in line.” What are those things?

First, be mindful of the calories you are ingesting versus the ones you are expending through your energy output. Second, don’t let a sedentary life drag you down until you are completely inactive! Thirdly, combine the 1st two into your daily life. When you go to the grocery store stick to the outer aisles where more of the whole foods hang out. Also, park farther away from the doors so you have to use more energy to get your shopping done. Compare food labels. While you may be a creature of habit always buying the same brand, you might be surprised to find another brand (including the knock-offs) may have fewer calories, sodium, and/or fat or carbs. Might be easier on your checkbook too. 🙂

What did I do when I put on unwanted pounds? All of the above. Plus, I went for a 30-45mins walks around my neighborhood at least three times a week. The weight I gained in my early-20s and again in my mid-20s took me up to 150 pounds each time and I felt so blah every day while I carried the extra weight. I had no energy, I was depressed, and I snacked constantly. But within five months of starting to watch what and how much I ate, and walking, I was feeling more balanced and not so sluggish… and my body leveled out at 132 pounds each time I lost the weight. (Perhaps, that number doesn’t mean anything without also knowing that I am 5’8” and have a small bone structure.) It happened again though. I put on a LOT of weight while in college these last four years, starting when I was 29. My weight just kept creeping up and I couldn’t seem to make it stop!

By the end of 2012, I weighed 170 pounds! Nearly 40 extra pounds! You want to talk about sluggish and blah feeling! It was way worse for me this time around. But I felt like there wasn’t anything I could do until after graduation because every time I tried I would lose a few pounds then put them right back on and I didn’t like feeling like a failure. So while working in Colorado this summer I worked hard and walked around camp. Before I knew it, I had lost an inch in my waist. Then, two inches. And I thought I must have lost a lot of weight (forgetting that muscle weighs more than fat) and weighed myself only to discover I weighed 165 (I weighed that before I made it to camp!). Once I reminded myself of the fact about muscle weighing more, I was able to placate my self with the fact I had lost two inches of fat. 🙂

As of this morning, I weigh 155 pounds! I continue to watch my calories in versus my calories out, the types of food I’m eating, and making sure to get some exercise. Before too long, I suspect I’ll be balanced out again. 😀 Of course, this much progress has taken almost four months, so I still have a ways to go. But I am determined!

Sound Teachings from Informed Authors

So determined in fact, I’ve been scouring the local library near my uncle’s house to find wellness and weight-loss books to help me out further. Two of the eight books I have checked out thus far have proved most helpful and full of sound facts.

Book #1

The American Dietetics Association (ADA) has a book out in its 3rd edition called The ADA’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. The author Roberta Larson Duyff, who holds a range of degrees and credentials, explains how to measure your weight, not just in terms of pounds but also in BMI. The BMI (or body mass index) is a chart used to determine if you are underweight, average, overweight, or obese. It only uses your height and weight to make that determination so it is not entirely an exact tool when you consider a body builder’s measurements. For the normal person though, it can prove a useful tool. It may be more useful to know your body’s fat percentage though, especially where the major fat stores are located. Fat around your midsection is extremely hazardous to your health. The more you have the higher your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Another useful tool in the ADA’s book is how to figure your BMR, that is your basal metabolic rate which is the energy needed to keep your body functioning (the involuntary processes like breathing, digestion, etc.). “For most people, basal metabolism represents about 60% of their energy needs!” (25) To figure your BMR, take your weight in pounds and multiply that by 10 calories in women (11 in men). So a woman weighing 165 pounds would require 1650 calories to take care of her body’s involuntary needs. A body’s total energy use is 60% BMR, 30% physical activity, and 10% digestion & nutrient absorption. Although, the percentage for physical activity can vary depending upon a person’s activity level. An inactive person might only use 10-20%, someone who is moderately active could use 30-40%, and someone heavily active might need up to 60%.

So, using the woman example from above, let’s say that she’s moderately active. To figure energy needs, we would take the 1650 calories x 40%= 660 calories. Then we would take the 1650 + 660 x 10%= 231 calories. Then add that to the previous two numbers, 1650 + 660 + 231= 2541 calories for her total energy needs… and that’s just to maintain her current weight! To lose weight, she would need to reduce her caloric intake and/ or increase her activity level. To gain, the opposite would be true.

Book #2

To build on this further, the second book further expounds on the ADA’s information. In Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard’s School of Nutrition writes, “Three related aspects of weight- how much you weigh in relation to your height, your waist size, and how much weight you gain after your early twenties- strongly influence your chances of having or dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other type of cardiovascular disease… With increasing body mass index-…- the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes all steadily increase, even among those in the healthy weight category” (35). And a BMI over 30 further increases all of those risks, though health difficulties begin to arise around a BMI of 20 or so.

Look around. Our nation’s populace (even children) have been steadily getting fatter and sicker in the last several decades. Sure it’s good for the healthcare industry’s business, but it is detrimental for the people suffering under the multitude of effects excess weight has the tendency to bring as gifts to the party. In Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, Dr. Willett examines the many possible causal factors to our nation’s epidemic. He zeros in on fat intake fairly early on in the book and says,

In the United States, the gradual reduction in the fat content of the average diet, from 40 percent of calories to about 33 percent, has been accompanied by a gradual increase in the average weight and a dramatic increase in obesity (67).

Another factor is the fact that as a nation, we aren’t nearly as active as our grandparents and previous generations were, but have continued to consume tons of calories in a day which our bodies have no use for and simply store away as fat for possible future use.

This book (so far) is the best book on diet and nutrition that I have ever read! I’m only on page 90 at the moment, so I look forward to reading the rest. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this subject as I continue to work on my weight and finish reading the book.

One thing to remember: Just as it took months and years to put on the weight, it will take months of hard work to make it come back off again. So don’t lose heart or hope on your journey. You can do it, no matter your age or where you are on the scale. Just take things one step at a time, don’t try to do it all at once. Pick an activity you like whether it be walking or swimming or some other thing, make sure to protect yourself from injury by not pushing yourself too hard, too far, or too fast too soon into your journey. “Slow and steady wins the race” is good to keep in mind.

Quick fixes and “miracle” drugs are not the answer to your weight woes, your diet and activity levels are. Here are a couple of videos from youtube of people reclaiming their health and vitality through diet and exercise:

First, Amanda lost 88 pounds and her story was covered by yahoo.com: both the video and story can be found HERE.

Then, today I saw a story (also through yahoo.com) on Tory Johnson who lost 60 pounds in a year: Her story can be found HERE.

Here’s my favorite story of all. It’s about Arthur Boorman, who lost 140 pounds with the help of Diamond Dallas Page (the wrestler) and yoga, and I would suspect a change in diet as well.

Thoughts on the National Geographic’s August 2013 Cover Story

I had intended to write a different post today but as I stood in line at the grocery store this morning this month’s issue of National Geographic caught my eye because the cover photo seemed a little out of the norm for them and after reading the article I changed my mind on what I wanted to post.

National Geographic- August 2013

The article intrigued me because I wanted to find out what angle the writer would take with their story, “Sugar: Why We Can’t Resist It”. The author, Rich Cohen, used a lot of concrete data to support his story, a real-life spin by talking about and to a student from Clarksdale, Mississippi, as well as school personnel, and kept my attention completely until he began to use prehistoric apes to illustrate what he was trying to explain about fructose. Overall, his article is well-written and constructed. He faces head on the links of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes with excess sugar consumption, plus details the history of the sugar industry and how it came to be. Fascinating stuff, really.

Mingled throughout the article are charts and pictures with more information about the various forms sugar can come in and how it can be snuck into the human diet.

Cohen does a superb job of explaining how the human body processes sugar through his source in Aurora, Colorado, nephrologist Richard Johnson. In particular, Johnson’s explanation of how glucose and fructose (the two halves of sucrose or table sugar) are processed is telling. Cohen states,

Johnson explained to me that although glucose is metabolized by cells all through your body, fructose is processed primarily in the liver. If you eat too much in quickly digested forms like soft drinks and candy, your liver breaks down the fructose and produces fats called triglycerides.

Some of these fats stay in the liver, which over long exposure can turn fatty and dysfunctional. But a lot of the triglycerides are pushed out into the blood too. Over time, blood pressure goes up, and tissues become progressively more resistant to insulin. The pancreas responds by pouring out more insulin, trying to keep things in check. Eventually a condition known as metabolic syndrome kicks in, characterized by obesity, especially around the waist; high blood pressure; and other metabolic changes that, if not checked, can lead to type 2 diabetes, with a heightened danger of heart attack thrown in for good measure (96).

In summation, too much fructose and not enough physical activity to burn off the excess calories lead to a fatty liver, high blood pressure, and a fast track toward having metabolic syndrome develop and later Type 2 Diabetes. Cohen goes on to state, “As much as a third of the American adult population could meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome set by the National Institutes of Health” which he unfortunately does not go on to detail (96). But after googling the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I found the info I sought. There are five conditions which the NIH uses to describe Metabolic Syndrome and they are as follows:

    • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.

    • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

    • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.

    • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.

    • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes. (online)

Also, “You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome” (Web). According to the site, metabolic syndrome is on the rise because obesity is also on the rise and a lifestyle change is the best way to prevent or delay the onset of this syndrome and its subsequent after effects of diabetes and possible heart attack.

Current estimates show the average American consumes 22.7 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar per day! To give you an idea of equivalents the charts and diagrams on pages 84 & 85 says, “22.7 tsp equal the natural sugar contained in each of the following: 7 red apples ~ 454 eggs ~ 1,135 cups of rice ~ 27 ears of corn”. Could you imagine eating that much of any of those food items in a single day?! And yet many of us drink that in a day! Wowza!

In terms of your liver, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is more taxing because it is 55% Fructose and 45% Glucose. So try to cut out as much excess fructose out of your diet as you possibly can because that will help your body to balance out a little better. Granted some of the cheapest foods (the ones we often reach for) contain the most HFCS and other forms of fructose, so that means spending a little more to have higher quality foods. But if you switch to more whole foods and less processed foods, then you may not even notice too much of a difference to your pocket-book. I know people say produce and other whole foods are more expensive and that’s why they buy more of the processed stuff, but if you buy your produce while it’s in season and store it yourself (whether through canning or freezing) then it’s actually pretty inexpensive.

Okay, I know this ones a little shorter than normal, but that’s all I’ve got for now as I’m under a time crunch today. Best wishes to your health and wellness! Have a fantastic week! See you in another week or two as time allows. 😀

I digress again. Here’s a look at Ha Ha Tonka State Park….

Just last year I’d heard about the castle-like ruins up at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, here in Missouri, and decided to go see it with a couple of my friends and their children. These two ladies and myself have been friends for almost 25 years now. We had a great day exploring the park!

The following pictures are from the park:

 HaHaTonka State Park

 After stopping at the visitor center, we left armed with a map and direction on which trails are stroller friendly. 😀 Here are the pics we took:

HaHaTonka 4

And the views were breathtaking!

HaHaTonka 1

HaHaTonka 9

HaHaTonka 26

And the ruins were something else too:

HaHaTonka 14

HaHaTonka 16

HaHaTonka 18

HaHaTonka 23

There’s a story behind the property too. For a more in-depth look, click HERE.

HaHaTonka 6

And after this excitement, we decided to try one other trail but it turned out to be too challenging for the stroller and we had to turn back just after the going under the natural bridge. 😦

HaHaTonka 36

HaHaTonka 34

100_3744

100_3746

I did find this lovely little flower with its vines clinging to the rock-face beyond the natural bridge, though. 😀

HaHaTonka- Flower

And I would have loved to have climbed up this trail, but it didn’t look safe for the kids. Maybe one day! 🙂

HaHaTonka 40

Here’s a link to the Missouri Department of Conservation for information on this park. Well, that’s all for now. Get out doors when and where you can and experience nature!

Have a great summer!!! 😀

Stress Eating~ Part FIVE

Physical vs. Emotional Hunger

When we think of hunger, do we rate the level of our hunger?

Hunger ComicStrip

Do we politicize it when thinking about others?

Politicalizing Hunger

However we look at it, hunger is a fairly serious matter the world over. I plan to leave politics out of this posting though.

In this section, I plan to talk about the different driving forces behind hunger and include a bit of scientific talk about the reactions which trigger hunger and thirst in the human body.

Honestly, what drives us to eat what we eat when we eat?

Under normal conditions, we become hungry because our body needs the food to provide our body with energy to meet physical demands. But under high stress conditions? When we’re experiencing stress (in any of its many forms, including happy or positive stress called eustress), we tend to want comfort foods. Often, we learn at an early age that some foods actually make us feel better… at least temporarily.

Emotional eating is actually a learned habit. Posner and Hlivka go further with this thought, “Emotional eating is habit-forming and most people do it at one time or another” (emphasis mine 29). So… Where physical hunger is a chemical signaling in the brain alerting you to the body’s need for more energy, emotional hunger is triggered by a stressor that tells us “Hey! You know when you’re stressed and eat that bowl of ice cream you feel better. So, come on! Make us feel better!”

I think the important thing to keep in mind is to pause for a moment to examine what is pushing us toward food at any given moment. Once a person becomes aware of what’s behind their hunger, it becomes easier to manage the excess snacking. However, just because you’re aware of the reasoning, does that mean you’re going to stop all stress eating in the beginning? No. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. And yet, there’s still hope.

At the beginning of this series, we learned about naturally stress-reducing foods that are more filling and healthier for us than the junk and convenience foods we normally reach for… so if we begin substituting the nutrient-dense foods in for the empty-calorie junk, we should start to see a difference in how we feel overall and how our body processes our stress. “Your stress eating may be triggered when a conversation or situation unleashes intense feelings, like being lonely, frustrated, angry, trapped, helpless, or not in control, sometimes hours before you take your first bite. Understanding what prompts your eating can be a key to freedom from food and weight problems” (Posner 67).

Do I really know what it’s like to be hungry?

Authors Posner and Hlivka have this to say on the issue of hunger: “At the most basic level, hunger is the body’s way of telling you that it’s time to eat again. But most people in the U.S. rarely if ever experience the actual sensation of physical hunger. As a result, they don’t know what it really feels like and therefore confuse it with cravings for high fat/ high carb foods” (59). Some signs of physical hunger include headache (which also is a sign of dehydration, so try a glass of water first), irritability (people with blood-sugar issues are familiar with this sensation when their blood-sugar levels drop), difficulty concentrating on regular tasks like talking, nausea, and a feeling of emptiness in your midsection. Granted some people associate the gurgling in their belly as a sign of hunger, but that is not always an accurate indicator. More often than not, the gurgling is just noisy digestion and not a sign you need food.

The Stress in “Stress Eating”

Stress eating is generally connected with unwelcome weight gain, but so is inactivity. And stress in and of itself is too. Stress, especially the bad or negative kind, increases the body’s production of a hormone which actually signals the body to store fat! Guess where it likes to store this fat?! The belly!

Chronic (long-term or continual for long stretches of time) stress elevates blood pressure, decreases energy or even the desire to be active, lowers immune system response, disrupts regular (healthy) sleep patterns, can cause a loss in appetite, and a whole host of other health concerns.

What is the Stress Eater Diet?

The authors designed this diet as a lifestyle change for the express purpose of living a healthier way by empowering individuals to take control of their health. The four elements of the diet are: “Nutrition, Stress-relieving exercise, Calming techniques, and Serotonin-boosting foods” (43). Furthermore, the diet encompasses “three basic principles: Eat meals regularly throughout the day, Eat consciously and in moderation, and Stop eating when you are full” (44). Proper (balanced) nutrition and exercise are two major keys to this diet. (I hate calling it a diet because that word has gotten such a bad rap in the last couple of decades! Diet simply means the foods which a person habitually eats, so if you mainly eat unhealthy or empty foods then you’re on a junk-food diet.)

I’m going to shift gears (only slightly) here:

Emotional Eating Book1

Recently, there was a book fair and I picked up a wonderful little book called Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth. I’ve just started to read it but I believe it has something to add to this series on Stress Eating as well. Her book is conversational in tone with catchy chapter titles (“Being Hungry is Like Being in Love: If You Don’t Know You’re Probably Not” and “On Sexuality: Men Use Sex the Way Women Use Food”).

In the very first chapter, I think she nails it on the head why “diet” has gotten a bad rap. The plethora of diets at people’s disposal are staggering and what’s worse is the fact that they all provide “so many contrasting bits of information about food” making it difficult for consumers to make sense of it all. But here’s the kicker… Roth goes on to say that “dieting” teaches us to not trust our “body’s messages” conditioning dieters to forget eating has anything to do with hunger. (Roth 3)

Although, in truth, I think that’s only half of the equation because in first world nations, we have plenty of food (well most of us at any rate) so we just go about our routines of life including regular mealtimes.

I’ve done so much stress eating and snacking in the last four years that I came to the realization about a month ago that I had forgotten what it felt like to actually be hungry hungry. The type of hungry where I feel empty in the abdomen and have a slight queasiness going on at the same time. What’s more is that I forgot that while those sensations aren’t always a comfortable feeling, they are not harmful. So now I make the effort to not eat just because the clock says it’s time to and instead continue with whatever I’m doing whether that be reading, writing, crocheting, exercising, or whatever. Then I find often when I’ve completed my task that it’s the next meal time. I just have to continually be mindful of my body’s signals because of my hypoglycemia, but other than that it’s no big deal to let myself feel hunger.

Now, let’s move on to thirst.

Dehydration the silent killer

Water and the Thirst Mechanism

How does the thirst mechanism work? The hypothalamus (a part of the brain) keeps tabs on the blood balance, which is mainly water. It does this by sensing “the concentrated blood particles, low blood volume, or low blood pressure” initiating “nerve impulses” which the brain registers as thirst (Sizer 280).

Here’s where I’m gonna get a little technical: The hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland (also in the brain) to release a hormone that will basically recycle the water from the fluid destined to become urine. This helps to balance the mineral levels in the blood. At the same time the kidneys also secrete “regulatory substances” in response to the elevated sodium concentrations in the blood filtering through them. (Sizer 280)

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on…. The human body is roughly 2/3 water weight (depending on which type of medical person you’re talking to, they say anywhere from 60-75% of a person’s weight is water).

Importance of Water: Because water is vital (that is it’s extremely important) to homeostasis (the perfect balance) of the human body, a signal to let us know when we are needing more fluids is necessary. If we didn’t know when to rehydrate, we would be in for a world of hurt. As discussed in previous installments, water is needed to cushion our joints, our organs and cells from one another thereby preventing damage. Furthermore, because the blood is primarily water, as water is lost blood becomes more viscous or sticky and syrup-like which slows blood flow and makes it more difficult for nutrients and oxygen to be effectively spread throughout the body. When a body doesn’t have enough water it becomes dehydrated and if ignored can become life-threatening.

Ways Body Loses Water: Through Perspiration (Sweat), Exhalation, and Urination. (Oh! And through bleeding and crying, too!) A dry mouth and tissues is a result of the body pulling moisture from where it can when we aren’t drinking enough water. In many ways, the body can be parasitic. Or maybe cannibalistic is a more suited term? When homeostasis cannot be achieved with what we have ingested the body will pull what it needs from wherever it can. If calcium is needed to balance blood minerals, the body leaches it from the bones. The body will do whatever is necessary to keep running until it cannot do so anymore.

Dehydration Facts: Dehydration is when the body has lost too much water. Mild dehydration occurs when ≤5% of a person’s body weight in water is lost (ex. a 170-lb person contains roughly 100 lbs of water. To have lost even 3% would mean a loss of 3 lbs of water which is 6 cups!). Severe dehydration occurs when over 5% of water is lost. Beware! If you fall under the “severe” category, GET yourself to the hospital IMMEDIATELY!!! You may require an IV drip to reestablish the proper balance of minerals in your blood along with the water. This is not something to mess around with!

According to my Nutrition book, “A first sign of dehydration is thirst, the signal that the body has already lost up to 2 cups of its total fluid and that the need to obtain fluid is urgent” (280). In the example above, the loss of 2 cups is equal to the loss of 1% or one pound! Ignoring the thirst signals is not good. Eat some watermelon or another food with a high water content to help. And if you don’t like the taste of water, use fruits high in water content like citrus to flavor your water!

The old belief that everyone needs 64 ounces (or 8 glasses) of water a day isn’t entirely accurate because as our waistlines have grown so has the percentage of our weight that is water. So most medical professionals have switched to saying half of your body weight in ounces (ex. a person who’s around 130 lbs would need 64oz per day, but a 200-lb person would need 100oz). Word of caution: Please do not attempt to get all of you day’s worth of water in one sitting as this can lead to “water intoxication”. It’s not the same as becoming intoxicated from alcohol either. While it is a rare occurrence, it frequently happens in adults who “have consumed several gallons of plain water in a few hours’ time” (280). A gallon of water is about 128 ounces!

Dehydration Facts

Symptoms of Dehydration (Sizer 281, Table 8-1)

Mild: Thirst, Sudden Weight Loss, Rough and Dry Skin, Rapid Pulse, Low Blood Pressure, Lack of Energy; Weakness, Impaired Kidney Function, Reduced Quantity of Urine; Concentrated Urine, Decreased Mental Functioning, Decreased Muscular Work and Athletic Performance, Fever or Increased Internal Temperature, Fainting, and Dry Mouth, Throat, Body Linings.

Severe: Pale Skin, Bluish Lips and Fingertips, Confusion; Disorientation, Rapid and Shallow Breathing, Thickening of Blood, Shock; Seizures, Coma; Death. Also, a Weak, Rapid, Irregular Pulse.

Chronic Low Fluid Intake: Cardiac Arrest (heart attack) and other heart problems, Constipation, Dental Disease, Gallstones, Glaucoma (elevated pressure in the eye), Hypertension, Kidney Stones, Pregnancy/ Childbirth Problems, Stroke, and UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections).

Need more reason to drink more water? According to Posner and Hlivka, “Cold water increases your metabolism by about 3 percent. Your body expends more calories warming it up. Drinking the right amount of water can [also] help you burn more calories” (91). 😀

I just had to share this simple chart from Tubbs Pike’s blog:

Simple Hydration Chart

Important Note about this blog’s author:

While I will, indeed, have my Associate Degree in Health & Wellness in May 2013, I am not a doctor, nor am I aware of your medical issues. The health, nutrition, and wellness statements made in this blog should be taken in conjunction with advice from your healthcare professional. This is especially important if you are under constant supervision by a physician for a chronic health condition.

So again, if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, please avoid those foods which you already know to cause you issues. There should be plenty of options to select from each category that Posner and Hlivka cited in their book, which I have taken verbatim from the pages of Stress Eater Diet.

Part FOUR~ Surprising Fat Facts

Perhaps your first thought is “Okay, let’s hear all about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats.” But that’s not going to be our focus here… I don’t agree with the cut and dry approach of this variety of fat is good for me and that variety is bad for me. The issue of fats is so much more complex than that. For instance, coconut oil is a saturated fat (you can tell because it’s a solid at room temperature), but it has also been found to have health benefits in the form of its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. (Check this link for specific facts.) But definitely stay away from trans-fats which are the hydrogenated (hydrogen added to an otherwise healthy polyunsaturated oil) spreads (i.e. margarine).

“Compared with the risk to heart health posed by saturated fat, the risk from trans fats is similar or slightly greater” (Sizer, 173).

Fat Facts Blurb

Fats have gotten a bad rap. Not only are they all not bad for you, but your body actually needs some! In particular, essential fatty acids (EFAs) like those found in nuts and many different types of fish. EFAs “serve as raw materials” or building blocks that the body uses to create other things it requires (Sizer, 151). Believe it or not, but fats are what helps tell our brains when we have had our fill of food or are satiated which is “the satisfaction of feeling full after a meal” (Sizer, 152).

Have you noticed that since the 1980s, when low-fat dieting became a craze, that people have just continued to get bigger and bigger? There are so many factors that have gone into the weight issue, but I believe this could be one of the big contributors along with a sedentary lifestyle and too many empty calories. We, Americans, still eat like we physically work hard and play hard when the reality for most of us is that we… Sit. All. Day. Long. We sit in our cars on our way to and from work, sit at our desks for seven hours or more a day, and then sit in front of our T.V.s to unwind from our mentally taxing day. Then go to bed.

And yet, many people still believe fat consumption is equal to fat accumulation in their body; that fats are the enemy to weight control. It’s simply not true! Empty calories, on the other hand, are a different story.

Here’s another thought: Some important nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning that fat is a vital component in the body’s ability to absorb and assimilate the given element. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble. So if you’re consuming a diet with little to no fat or have liver disease, you may be deficient in these vitamins. Though, it can be just as bad to consume an abundance of these vitamins.  The normal (safe) ranges for each as well as some food sources are as follows:

Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene (its precursor)- 500-3,000 micrograms (Îźg) per day. The Daily Recommended Intakes (DRIs) are 700 Îźg for women and 900 Îźg for men. And 3,000 Îźg is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adults, but this is only for Vitamin A and not Beta-Carotene.

Food Examples: 1/2 cup Carrots (cooked), Spinach(cooked), and Sweet Potato (baked) provides 671 Îźg, 472 Îźg, and 961 Îźg (respectively).

Vitamin D- 10-50 micrograms (μg) per day. The DRIs are 5 μg for 19-50 year olds, 10 μg for 51-70 year olds, and 15 μg for over 70 years of age (no matter gender). The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 50 μg (or 2,000 International Units (IU)) per day, but “[s]ome experts are calling for significant increases on both the target …. and in the Tolerable Upper Intakes” (Sizer, 237). They believe it should be raised to no more than 125 μg per day; a substantial increase.

Food Examples: “Vitamin D is unique among nutrients in that the body can synthesize all it needs with the help of sunlight” (Sizer, 235). 3 oz. of Salmon (15.3 Îźg) and a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil (11 Îźg) are the best food sources though, if you aren’t getting enough sun.

Vitamin E- The DRI is 15 milligrams (mg) per day for adults. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 1,000 mg per day. Because it’s an antioxidant, it fights “unstable molecules known as free radicals.” Here’s a fun fact: “Free radicals, left unchecked, cause inflammation that may contribute to some cancers, heart disease, or other diseases” (Sizer, 239).

Food Examples: 1 oz. Wheat Germ and 2 Tablespoons of Sunflower Seeds provide 4.5 mg and 5.8 mg, respectively.

Vitamin K- The DRIs are 90 Îźg for women and 120 Îźg for men. Because toxicity is so rare in healthy adults, a Tolerable Upper Intake Level has not been set. However, extreme caution should be used with synthetic, supplemental forms. In case, you’ve never heard of Vitamin K, it is a necessary part of blood clotting.

Food Examples: Dark green leafy vegetables (or dark GLVs) are the best and richest sources of Vitamin K, providing “an average of 300 Îźg per 1/2 cup serving” (Sizer, 242). So eat your leafy greens!!!

{Fat-free and low-fat diets are often harmful because they prevent the proper uptake/ absorption of these essential nutrients. I’m thinking, now that I’ve done this overview, a more thorough post on each may be smart because I’ve realized in recent years that not everybody knows this stuff. Not everyone has taken the time to learn about it or take a class on it. So a weekly post on different nutrients will be a definite sometime in the future. :D}

The Difference in Fat Cell Size

Since taking both the nutrition and anatomy/ physiology classes at university, I have been turning a thought around in my head and pondering its meaning. When most people think of fat storage in their body, they imagine a collection of excess fat cells. (Or at least, that’s how I used to see it.) In reality, when our bodies store fat, we don’t gain fat cells, our fat cells simply expand and grow. My nutrition book put is this way, “These fat cells seem able to expand almost indefinitely– the more fat they store, the larger they grow. An obese person’s fat cells may be many times the size of a thin person’s” (Sizer, 150). So the thought, I’ve come to think about stems from seeing an advertising flier for liposuction… If a person’s body has the exact same number of fat cells as the day they were born, no matter how much excess has been stored, then once a person has had liposuction would their body become misshapen if/when they lose weight naturally? Liposuction is often done on the midsection and/or hindquarters. I don’t know, but I’m thinking liposuction may not be a good thing for body image in the long run.

NOW…. On to some points from Posner and Hlivka:

Cortisol is a stress hormone that our bodies produce when we are under stress and it is connected with the retention of abdominal fat. There have been commercials in recent years of diet pills that supposedly block cortisol production. Honestly, I don’t know if any of those work or not.

~ “[S]tudies have shown: A connection between stress, weight gain, and increased ‘belly fat,’even among lean women with no propensity towards obesity” (Posner, 56). Stress impacts the body in a myriad of ways beyond this, but not all have to do with fats.

The following excerpt from pages 114-115 of The Stress Eater Diet concurs with my Nutrition textbook:

“The Skinny on Fat

 “Since 1980, the amount of fat in the average American diet has decreased from 40 percent of total calories to 33 percent. Although this is a positive trend, people have more than made up for lower fat intakes with larger portion sizes of other types of foods. Larger portion sizes equal more calories and more calories lead to weight gain, regardles of whether it’s fat, protein, or carbohydrates.

“Fat provides a feeling of fullness, which can help control overeating [emphasis mine]. By cutting fat out of their diets, people may lose the ‘satiation’ signal. In addition, many ‘low fat’ and ‘no fat’ foods can be just as high in calories compared to the regular versions, since fat is replaced with sugars or high calorie sweeteners to add back flavor. So when losing or maintaining your weight, pay attention to calorie counts to decide which product to use. Along with fewer calories, the ‘real’ version may have a better balance of nutrients, and you’ll feel fuller faster without sacrificing taste.”

{Isn’t that crazy?! How did people buy so easily and readily into the fat-free craze? I don’t know if you have this problem where you live or not, but there are certain grocery stores here that only give the option of fat-free and low-fat. I find it frustrating! Especially when I’m looking for plain yogurt; I only like the regular version. Look closer the next time you go grocery shopping, see if you’re even offered the regular versions.} One thing which I have not focused on in this talk about fats is the impact the excess weight has on the body, but I will be sure to cover that in the near future! I’ll also do a more detailed blog on EFAs in the future. 🙂

SO… Remember the rule of calories in and calories out when selecting your foods:

Caloric Balance

Important Note about this blog’s author:

While I will, indeed, have my Associate Degree in Health & Wellness in May 2013, I am not a doctor, nor am I aware of your medical issues. The health, nutrition, and wellness statements made in this blog should be taken in conjunction with advice from your healthcare professional. This is especially important if you are under constant supervision by a physician for a chronic health condition.

So again, if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, please avoid those foods which you already know to cause you issues. There should be plenty of options to select from each category that Posner and Hlivka cited in their book, which I have taken verbatim from the pages of Stress Eater Diet.

Information from The Stress Eater Diet book as well as:

~ Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies by Frances Sizer and Ellie Whitney (We used this book in our Nutrition class at school.)

I got to looking at the resource pages in the back of Posner and Hlivka’s book and found these two links:

www.stresseaterdiet.com (Book support website)

www.stresseaterdiet.com/blog (The author’s blog offering new studies, research, tips, and advice)

One final thought, I love the little things that Vitacost puts on their Facebook page; sometimes they’re funny and other times merely informative:

Waistline Wasteland

Part THREE- The Sweet Facts Continued

What we consume yearly

Many people (not just Americans) consume way more calories than their body needs in a single day. This is a major factor in weight retention and gains. The following meal calorie totals are over HALF of the daily 2,000 calorie diet. (Let’s put this in perspective: Men’s average is 2,500 per day and Women’s average is 1,700 per day.)

Fast Food Facts

Now, those french fries you ate, what will it take to work those calories off? A heavy person expends more effort because of their excess weight than a lighter person, that’s why the time frames for the 150 lb person is longer.

Exercise Needed to Burn Off Fries

The bottom line about sugars and “empty” calories in general? Pay attention to your foods each day. Limit excesses. Cut back on sodas if that’s where you find most of your empty calories coming from and switch to more water (flavored water, if you don’t like it plain).

Water is THE most essential nutrient to the human body! (Well… aside from oxygen, that is. Lol.) It cushions our cells from each other and our organs as well; it is inside and outside every cell inside our bodies; it flushes out the toxins and waste products we don’t want/need accumulating in our tissues and organs. So please drink more, you may be surprised if your headaches disappear. Oftentimes, those little headaches we get are just a sign of mild dehydration. Your body will thank you for giving it what it needs when it needs it.

{Oh! And if your argument for not drinking more water is because you’ve tried in the past and it made you pee more… I learned in my nutrition class that happens because your body took advantage of the opportunity to flush out the toxins it had been storing. Once your body has finished with that (depending on how toxic your system is, can take up to a week of drinking the recommended 64 oz. daily), it will level off to a more normal and acceptable amount of bathroom visits.}

For other tips to cut calories and still satisfy thirst, visit HERE.

Remember: It’s better to get your sugars from whole foods than from processed, lifeless foods. BUT always be mindful of how many carbs you are consuming compared to protein and fats. Strive for a balance.

Time to focus a little on what Posner and Hlivka say about sugars:

“On average, Americans consume 156 pounds of sugar a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For those who are chronically stressed and stress eaters, it can be MUCH more” (emphasis mine, 181).

“Only 29 pounds come from naturally occurring sugar, or sucrose [defined as table sugar], according to the Sugar Association, a trade group of sugar manufacturers” (emphasis mine, 181). Neither fresh produce nor High Fructose Corn Syrup fall under this category as they aren’t backed by the Sugar Association. So, if you factor that in, it’s probably between 50-75 pounds. (Though that is a total guesstimation on my part!)

In a ten year span, “consumption of added sugar in the United States grew 20 percent.” A trend now gaining a foothold in the developing world “according to the World Health Organization (WHO)” and WHO guidelines released in 2003 state that “no more than 10 percent of daily calories” should come from sugars. (pg. 182) To put that in perspective, if you consume 2,200 calories a day then 10% is 220 calories. Now look at the nutrition label of your favorite beverage and snack to see how many calories you go over the 10% recommendation.

Here’s the kicker, to rephrase it from my ranting in Tuesday’s part one:

“Obviously, the less sugar you consume, the better your health. Not only will less sugar help you lose weight, but it will also break the cycle of stress eating and craving more sugar” (182).

One thing which the authors advocate on page 183, which I do not agree with, is supplementing real sugar with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda (discovered while developing rat poison) and NutraSweet (if I remember correctly from nutrition class, discovered in a similar way as Splenda). However, they do list Stevia as an alternative too. Stevia is a plant native to western North America down to South America in tropical and subtropical climates. Its sweetness is so concentrated that it takes personal experimentation to find what is just the right amount of sweetness for you. Make sure to read labels though, if it says a bunch of other stuff other than Stevia or the scientific name of the plant… put it back on the shelf because then you may be getting something with an artificial sweetener added. (I’ll try to add a blog about this sometime in the future because there is so much information out there about it. But for now try http://www.stevia.com/, to find out pertinent facts. And here’s another blogger’s discoveries about Stevia as a substitute: http://holisticsquid.com/is-stevia-healthy/) Sugar names ending in -ol are sugar alcohols which are also another topic.

Stevia Extract PureStevia Plant

Please check out the recommended food guidelines HERE.

Chronic diseases have increased exponentially over the past few decades due in part to diet and lifestyle. As our sugar consumption increases and our activity levels decrease, heart disease and diabetes (among other chronic/ lifestyle diseases) have increased. Is it really any wonder why our waistlines are growing and chronic diseases like diabetes are on the rise, too?

Important Note about this blog’s author:

While I will, indeed, have my Associate Degree in Health & Wellness in May 2013, I am not a doctor, nor am I aware of your medical issues. The health, nutrition, and wellness statements made in this blog should be taken in conjunction with advice from your healthcare professional. This is especially important if you are under constant supervision by a physician for a chronic health condition.

So again, if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, please avoid those foods which you already know to cause you issues. There should be plenty of options to select from each category that Posner and Hlivka cited in their book, which I have taken verbatim from the pages of Stress Eater Diet.

Still to Come in This Series:

Part FOUR= Surprising Fat Facts

Part FIVE= Physical Hunger Vs. Emotional Hunger

Part SIX= Tricks to Reducing Hunger and Cravings

Part SEVEN= Conclusion and Encouragement