Tag Archive | Hypoglycemia

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!

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.

Stress Eating~ PART Seven~ the finale

Who knew that when I began this series it would take nearly five months to complete? Life certainly has a way of getting in the way sometimes. Well, here we are at the conclusion of the Stress Eater Series (finally) and I truly hope you’ve gleaned some useful information to apply to your life.

What exactly is a Stress Eater?

Compulsive Eating

A person who consumes excess food (usually junk food) during periods of extreme stress (whether it be in the form of physical, mental, or emotional) as a means to bring comfort or alleviate the feelings of stress.

Do certain foods actually reduce stress and stress-induced cravings?

Veggies1

Yes, there are many foods which help reduce stress. For the most part, these are whole, fresh foods. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and certain meats and dairy products are good selections to make instead of junk foods like cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

Also, foods containing tryptophan, B-vitamins, Magnesium, and Selenium all aid the human body in recovering from and managing periods of high stress.

And remember to select produce from a wide range of colors. Variety is key.

Why shouldn’t I give in to my body’s sugar cravings when I’m feeling stressed?

The simplest answer is this: That extra sugar being consumed when you’re under stress is a piece of the puzzle to weight gain and maintenance. When the human body is under stress it produces a hormone called cortisol which has been linked to unhealthy weight gain in the abdomen. According to Posner and Hlivka, “Not only will less sugar help you lose weight, but it will also break the cycle of stress eating and craving more sugar” (82). Excess sugar during times of stress has a negative impact on the body’s metabolism as well.

Why shouldn’t I eat a low-fat or fat-free diet when I feel like I’m fat and need to lose weight?

Because the human body needs a certain amount of fats to do certain things and to complete processes which require essential fatty acids (EFAs). By the by, it is much better to get your EFAs through food sources rather than buying a supplement.

What is the difference between physical and emotional hunger?

Physical hunger is created through chemical processes and communication between the digestive system and the brain. It is how the body knows when it needs more raw materials to keep all systems running smoothly. Conversely, emotional hunger is created by cravings instigated by high stress levels. It is habit-forming and reactionary, not from actual hunger.

How can I reduce my cravings for junk food and hunger in general?

Dehydration the silent killer

Drink more water. In fact, try drinking a glass of water prior to meals and you may be surprised to find you eat a more sensible portion of food.

Eat more consciously. Focus on what you are eating when you are eating it, so that you won’t be mindlessly consuming. This will help prevent overeating.

Eat less man-made sugars. Consuming less sugar will help with weight-loss. This will also, in the words of Posner and Hlivka, “break the cycles of stress eating and craving more sugar” (182).

Find other, possibly more active, ways to handle and process your stress. If your first reaction to a stressor is to visit the refrigerator, pause and evaluate why you are reaching for food. Ask yourself: Am I genuinely hungry in this moment?

Waistline Wasteland

In Conclusion:

Be more active. Drink more water. Eat more nutrient-dense foods that help alleviate stress instead of sugar laden foods. Be mindful of why you are eating. Find activities to help you manage your stress (i.e. yoga, pilates, swimming, running, bicycling, deep breathing exercises, stroll through a park, and many more).

An important thing to remember, you didn’t get to where you are in a single day so just try to take things a day at a time. Once you break the cycle of bad habits, it will become easier to make better food choices. We only get our one body, so instead of filling up on nutrient deprived foods load up on the good stuff that is packed full of vitamins, minerals, and the macronutrients which the body truly needs for fuel. You can take control of your health!

This concludes the Stress Eater Series, but there will be future blogs which relate to topics brought up throughout this series. Have a fabulous week! And I wish you all the best with your future endeavors!

Important Note about this blog’s author:

While I do, indeed, have my Associate Degree in Health & Wellness since 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.

Here’s a Recommended Reading List:

~ Take Control of Your Health by Dr. Joseph Mercola

~ The Maker’s Diet by Jordan S. Rubin

~ The Completely Revised and Updated Hypoglycemia Healthcare Handbook by Jeraldine Saunders and Dr. Harvey M. Ross

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

~ Books on the fundamentals of cellular biology, human biology and physiology, and human anatomy are all good places to start learning the hows and whys of body processes. The book we used in Intro to Cell Biology was surprisingly easy to read and understand for a textbook. If you can find a used book on any or all three of these topics that is no more than 3-5 years old, they would hold more up-to-date information than older ones.

~ Scientists are discovering new things about the workings of the human body every year, but it takes time for doctors and healthcare professionals to catch up. Subscribe to a scientific health journal if you want to keep abreast of developments in the health field.

~ Another book, which I picked up at a used book sale, is The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Robert Young, Ph.D. and Shelley Redford Young. (I haven’t read it yet, but it seemed like a promising title at least.)

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 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

Part THREE- The Sweet Facts

For this week’s post, I’m going to post in two parts because the original is so long. Also, I’m going to stray a bit from the Stress Eater Diet book that has been our primary focus. While the book doesn’t extensively cover this topic, it does discuss “empty” calories (pgs. 76-77) and sugar facts (pgs. 180-183) to some degree (which I will go over momentarily). So let’s begin….

Sugars (hidden and obvious):

When we start talking about hidden and obvious sugars, we also need to start thinking about total daily caloric intake. All foods, processed and/or whole, provide the body with calories in the form of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. I’m going to take a minute to get a little technical here because each of these three macronutrients delivers a different amount of calories per gram.

There are four (4) calories for every gram of carbohydrates and each gram of protein. While there are nine (9) calories for every gram of fat (also called lipids). You’ll find though that food manufacturers aren’t the best at math, so when you look at the Nutrition Label you can do a quick check of their math. For example, the knock-off brand of peanut butter I have in the cupboard says a serving size is two (2) tablespoons and that there are 200 calories per serving. For Carbs, we have 6g x 4= 24. For Fats, 16g x 9= 144. For Proteins, 9g x 4= 36. (24+144+36= 204) But wait! The label said 200 calories, didn’t it? It sure did. See here’s the thing with the way the FDA manages the law regarding the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (which passed in 1966), manufacturers can round up or down. It’s their choice. In the Nutrition class I took a few semesters ago, our teacher provided a more startling example where the calorie total was off by nearly twenty. I don’t recall the exact numbers and I’ve misplaced my notebook from that class, but basically the manufacturer decided since the calorie amount was closer to an even 200 (or something) as opposed to 250 they’d call it 200 instead of the 230 that it really was. That’s just one example of hidden calories. Though, not the kind I originally had in mind when I started writing this. Lol. There’s tangent one!

NOW….

Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of sugar(s) you ingest in a single day? You might be surprised. The many forms that sugar and sweeteners take can make it difficult to gauge just how much is consumed. Any ingredient ending in -ose is also some form of sugar, so don’t just be on the lookout for the usual suspects. Start reading food and drink labels, the results may shock you.

Sugar Shock

Furthermore, you may actually be addicted to the sugary things you’re consuming. But if you are dissatisfied with your weight or with your lack of success with weight-loss, you may get an additional jolt to know that those foods and drinks may be what’s standing in your way of achieving success and a balanced weight. And switching to a low-fat diet is NOT the answer! (More on this in Part Four’s post.)

What I mean by a balanced weight is this: We usually define our weight in terms of the number which appears on our scale every time we step on it, but weight is so much more complex. Our body’s bone structure, height, and muscle tone do more to helping figure out a good weight for ourselves than the number on the scale alone ever could.

Home Scale

I actually believe the scale is just a tool to measure progress in a quantifiable way, not as the end all, be all to weight-loss. Our bodies are amazing things. So much goes on to regulate and balance things that we don’t even have to think about for it to happen! Homeostasis is the perfect balance which the human body continually strives for, but most of us don’t consume an adequately nutrient-dense diet to feed our body’s cells what’s needed to achieve its goal. BUT when we start eating a balanced diet, free of excess sugars, processing, and synthetic additives, our bodies can more efficiently manage the resources we send via the foods we eat. {Also, and most people don’t know or think about this, the body’s pH level is highly important to helping your body reach homeostasis. Because of a diet lacking in proper nutrients and sitting around letting the digesting food to ferment in our bodies, many people are highly acidic. Diabetics frequently become so acidic that they have what is called acidosis. Though, some people can go the other direction and be so alkaline that they have what is called alkalosis. Neither condition is healthy for the body in long-term (chronic) settings. There is so much information on this that I will do a blog in the future on it.}

Caloric BalanceA caloric balance maintains weight, but a shift either way will result in change. More intake with less output (or at least not an increase as well) will lead to weight gain. While more output with less intake (or at least not an increase as well) will lead to weight loss. The following pic is based on a 2,500 Calorie Diet:

Weightloss Made Simple

Having a set eating time frame of say 7am-7pm for 5-7 days a week is one way to help level out weight issues. Though, if you work the night shift that may prove problematic. So instead it might be easier to remember to eat within 1/2 – 1 hour from the time you get up and have your last meal/ snack 2-3 hours prior to going to sleep. Another thing is to cut out “diet” products such as diet soda because all that those products do is temporarily trick your brain into thinking you’ve sent in some good energy supplying substance and once your body has processed the item it gets a serious let down and demands more of you because you didn’t give it what it needed. This leads to over eating at meals, extra snacking (usually on junk foods), and more empty calories which just feed the cycle. You feel stressed, sluggish, just blah, and watch as the pounds pack on over the course of days, weeks, months, and years. (I know, I fell into that trap since starting college. I put on 40 Lbs. in my first 2 1/2 years of school! It was my snacking and late evening meals that did it, and lack of adequate physical activity. But I am working to get back to a balanced weight. So far, I’ve lost 10 Lbs. and that’s with better dietary choices/ modifications and some light to moderate exercise 2-5 times a week. If I step it up, I should start seeing more results.) Tangent two. Lol. I couldn’t resist sharing these good tips! 😀

What exactly are “empty” calories?

A.K.A. Junk foods! Basically, any food that’s serving size is high in calories, but low in hunger satisfaction.

So, please Stop the insanity! Diet foods and drinks are not the answer! A balanced diet of fresh and cooked foods IS, plus a regular dose of moderate exercise (the kind that gets your heart rate up a bit; it’s good for you) will go a long way to bringing your body to a balanced state of well-being. Your body will find its own natural weight zone. AND you’ll know when you’ve gotten there because not only will you like what you see in the mirror, you will have more energy and feel freer! (Yes, I am speaking from experience. I stopped the insanity at 170 lbs., though no one ever could guess/believe that’s how much I weighed because my body likes to semi-evenly distribute the “wealth” of excess calories that have been stored.)

{To be continued on Thursday.}

Balance and Fitness….

I’ve given a considerable amount of thought to my overall health in the last few years, but especially in the last year. It’s partly due to the changes I see occurring in my hair and skin, though more recently because the nutrition class I’m taking has made me aware of a few things. It’s funny, when I was younger I didn’t give a second thought to the foods I ate or the “exercise” I got. Now that I’m in my early 30s, I’ve come to realize the importance of both. Of course, looking back I can see that I got plenty of exercise without realizing it, yet I didn’t always make the best food choices.

Between walking to and from school (approximately a 3-4 mile trek round-trip), rollerblading, or bike riding around town; I was physically fit. My diet was anything but balanced, however. I consumed untold amounts of junk food any time it was available to me (mainly because there wasn’t much of it in my house). That’s not to say I never made good food decisions, but making better decisions has become a way of life since being diagnosed as having Reactive Hypoglycemia about 13 years ago.

During my high school days, I generally ate four and a half meals a day. Breakfast before school, lunch at school, an early dinner after school, dinner with the family, and a bedtime snack; all of which gives testament to my voracious appetite. Since graduating high school, it has been difficult maintaining a balance. I’ve had highs and lows in my blood sugar, plus, fluctuations in my weight (sometimes gaining 30 lbs. before getting things back under control). My goal this year is to reclaim my balance and to continuously remain aware of my eating and activity habits.

Out of curiosity, which breakfast would you choose to eat if you found both of the following 500 calorie meals set before you? The one on the left or the one on the right?

In the few weeks since classes began, I have gleaned some interesting facts from my nutrition class. For instance, 8 out of 10 Americans experience some level of dehydration daily! Dehydration, even just slightly so, affects many of the body’s processes because cells cease to work at their optimal levels. Many people who experience frequent headaches are simply needing to consume larger quantities of water! Reach for a glass of water before the pain reliever and see what happens. Also, the average American consumes too much meat and refined grains, but not enough fruits and vegetables. There are essential nutrients that can only be found in fruits and vegetables. Oh sure, you can take a supplement, but that isn’t as effective as simply eating more whole foods!

Wow! I was on such a roll while typing that before I knew it I had over a thousand words! (I cut it in half for this blog.) And I haven’t even begun to focus on the fitness aspect of things! I think I may end up making nutrition and wellness the topical focus of my blogs. The area of nutrition consumes me a lot of the time. I find it deeply fascinating how intertwined our health is with the foods we consume!