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Healthy Monday Tip

May 10, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been asked to participate in a community outreach effort entitled Healthy Monday. In this program, various individuals, news organizations and web sites are working in association with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Newhouse School at Syracuse University to help spread the word about “behaviors and actions that will end preventable disease”. I love this concept and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Obesity is strongly linked to many preventable health conditions. But there’s a great deal of debate about how to best address this national and worldwide health epidemic. Some medical experts advocate specific diet and exercise programs. Others call for more drastic measures such as the use of pharmaceutical and surgical interventions. My own view is that the vast majority of overweight individuals should focus primarily on positive lifestyle modification which includes dietary changes, physical activity and stress management. Can this really work? Indeed it can. I’m a prime example. I recently lost 85 pounds and have kept them off for almost a year.

My “Healthy Monday Tip” for this week is to not to obsess about calories and refrain from reducing your caloric intake more than necessary. A new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reveals that dogmatically calculating calories and/or lowering your daily energy consumption to 1,200 kcal/day elevates the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in dieters. This is likely “deleterious to psychological well-being and biological functioning” according to the authors of the trial. (1)

The concern about excess cortisol goes beyond that of just psychological health. Modern science suggests that higher stress hormone concentrations are related to an increase in appetite, cravings, fat storage and weight gain. Anecdotal experiences and case reports also verify that we tend to make poorer food choices and often pack on the pounds during stressful times. This is why current experiments are looking into the possibility of using stress reducing techniques such as guided imagery to lower cortisol levels in certain at-risk, obese populations. Please refer to the image below. (2)

Guided Imagery Lowers Cortisol in Overweight Adolescents
Source:  J Altern Complement Med. 2009 March; 15(3): 297–303. (link)

I think keeping a food diary is a much better approach than simply tracking calories. That’s what I did. I never counted calories. Never. However, I did take a look at what I was eating to see which foods or combinations supported weight loss and vice versa. That technique, in conjunction with a carbohydrate restricted diet that focused on whole food nutrition was the key to my own success.

You might also want to steer away from eating several meals a day and instead eat fewer meals that are richer in protein. This suggestion is taken directly from a study presented in the March 25th issue of the journal Obesity. Overweight men who consumed 3 protein-rich meals (every 4 hours) experienced “greater daily fullness” as compared to those that ate 6 lower-protein meals (every 2 hours). The higher protein menus were defined as 25% of calories coming from protein. The lower protein meals offered only 14% calories from protein. The satiety changes noted by researchers at the Department of Dietetics & Nutrition at the University of Kansas were likely mediated by beneficial shifts in the levels of the hunger hormones ghrelin and peptide YY. (3)

There’s a fine line between being aware of what you’re eating and obsessively keeping track of every calorie you consume. Awareness adds something of value to your life experience. It allows you to be more cognizant of your behavior and promotes a greater sense of self control. However crunching numbers and tallying up the macro and micro nutrition of food often turns the dieting process into a mental grind. If you’re trying to lose weight using the latter technique, please take a look at how it’s working for you. If it’s not, consider discussing this alternative approach with your health care team. It just may provide the necessary change you’ve been looking for.

Be well!

JP


Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Mental Health

6 Comments & Updates to “Healthy Monday Tip”

  1. anne h Says:

    I recently switched to egg white protein instead of whey (concentrate and isolate.)
    I am so much more energetic….almost to the point of being aggressive.
    I plan to stop as soon as I get to “belligerent.”
    Just kidding, JP! 😀

  2. Mark Says:

    Congrats on your participation.

  3. JP Says:

    Ha! I was wondering what was going on with you, Anne! 🙂

    Seriously though, that’s a very interesting observation. I wonder if it might have something to do with the amino acid composition of the respective protein powders.

    BTW, which egg white protein are you using? I typically use the MRM brand. I think it tastes great and it’s pretty clean (nothing artificial).

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Mark!

    One of my goals is to find creative ways of spreading the word in a responsible manner. Healthy Monday seems to fit the bill. 🙂

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Sai Says:

    Hello JP!

    Congrats on your healthy monday participation! I wanted to bring to your attention about a recent happening. A MD told my close friend during a visit that supplementing protein(via) protein powders may destroy the stomach walls in the long run. My wife(who has been having protein shakes in the morning for a year now)recently developed some easiphagus discomfort and went to MD who ordered endoscopy and found out redness in the stomach(Gastritis). We have been regularly using the JAY ROBB Whey protein and she switched the muscle milk for a month and now back to Jay Robb. Jay Robb does not have anything artificial to my knowledge but is this theory true that supplementing whey protein or any protein powder would destroy stomach wall in the long run? something to think about..may be mix and match and do not have the drink every day..Just a thought..i will share more info as more results come out of endoscopy.

    Best Regards

    Sai.

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Sai!

    I’m unaware of any scientific basis for this doctors claim. I’d be interested to know why this physicians believes this to be so.

    I know it’s possible to develop a sensitivity to foods that are consumed on a regular basis. Many years ago I worked with a client that ate one or more whey-based protein bars daily. This worked out fine for him for many years. However one day he developed odd allergic symptoms. Through careful analysis of his diet and lifestyle, it was determined that he was reacting to one or more ingredients in the protein bars.

    I think the Jay Robb protein powders are high quality. But *if* your wife is having a reaction to the whey protein itself … then switching to a different variety of protein powder may be indicated – brown rice protein, egg white protein, golden pea protein, etc.

    Be well!

    JP

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