Healthy Monday TipMay 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)
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.
Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Mental Health