To Scale Or Not To Scale
When I first opened my private practice I knew one thing had to change – there would no longer be a scale in my office.
There are two schools of thought on this issue and for a long time I thought that weighing yourself on a regular basis was a good way to keep you "honest" and "on track" because, let's be real, sometimes we put more food into our mouths in the run of a day than we think we do.
We hear it all of the time “the scale doesn’t lie”… but I began to think – it does lie. It lies because A) SO many things impact the number on the scale that are not related to the food we consume or the exercise we engaged in and B) it does not measure all of the amazing things we did for ourselves and for our health.
For some people (and I commend you – I do not fit into this camp) stepping on the scale and seeing a number looking back at you elicits no emotional response. It is simply a number – a data point – that is forgotten about the moment you leave the room. For others, this number is sitting in your mind for the rest of the day. Every time you put something into your mouth, every time you make a conscious food choice, you think of that number.
I would have clients come into my office and they would talk about how proud they are of themselves that they were consistent with a goal they had for the week. Then they would step on the scale and it might be the same, or MAYBE it even went UP! What the heck!?! *&#%@&$
“I worked SO hard this week. I worked out and EVERYTHING”
The next 5 minutes is a conversation consisting of reminding my client about the things they were so proud of themselves for just moments before and listing all of the things that can make that number on the scale go up that are NOT related to food at all:
And this is just a few – there is so much more that changes that number and those little things, and the resulting inflation of the number on the scale can have such a HUGE impact on our mood throughout the day.
After thinking about this more and more, I began asking my clients how they would feel if they reached all of the goals they verbalized (one of them typically being “feeling awesome in my clothes”) but the number on the scale didn’t change. I got some interesting responses. Usually a pause, some contemplation and most of the time they would tell me that it wouldn’t really matter.
So if we could reach our goals separate from the number on the scale… why will we continue to monitor the number?
The reason we monitor that number is because it gives us a concrete way of saying “good” or “bad” (I try not to use this verbiage) and that we are either moving closer or further away from our goals.
But we KNOW that this is not the case. We know that you can change your body composition drastically without a huge change in the number on the scale.
People would admittedly do things on the day they would come to see me that did not reflect a healthy way of living – skipping meals, restricting water, etc. This was all in hopes of seeing the number on the scale go down.
After experiencing this time and time again, I decided that it was finally time…. I had to ditch the scale for GOOD!
So you might be wondering… if there is no scale how do you know if what you’re suggesting is actually working?
My number one focus with clients is how they feel – their mood, energy levels, digestion, sleep, etc. These are the areas we look at first. And let’s be honest… when our weight changes, we feel it! We can feel it in our clothes regardless of what the number on the scale says!
So why do we need that little tool to measure our progress if we can feel it in SO many different ways… the answer is, we don’t! I give you full permission to BREAK UP WITH YOUR SCALE! Break up with it forever – it serves you no purpose. It cannot define you, it cannot give you an accurate reflection of your eating habits, it cannot tell you whether or not you’re getting closer to your goal, it cannot BE your goal.
Take some time and decide whether or not your scale is contributing positively to your life. Even if your goal is to lose “that last 10 pounds”… you don’t need the scale to tell you when you’ve gotten there.
What do you think? Does your scale positively contribute to your life? Please leave your comments or questions below.
Yours in Health,
If you saw my post on the Grounded Health Facebook page earlier this week (follow me here), you know that changes in our basal metabolic rate (how many calories our body burns at rest) can make a significant difference in whether or not we gain or lose weight over time. So, if we can increase our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and as a result burn more calories throughout the day, we are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. This is great, but how can we do it? The major way we can increase our BMR is to increase the amount of lean muscle we have BUT we can also engage in activities to increase our brown fat to increase our BMR as well (I know, increase fat to burn calories, sounds backwards, right?).
Today I wanted to talk all about this type of fat - where we can find it and how we can possibly increase the amount we have.
Most of us think of fat as the storage tissue made up of any excess food we consume; however this isn’t necessarily the whole truth. White fat is the type of fat that is used to store the extra calories that our bodies don’t use over time. Brown fat is metabolically active, meaning it actually BURNS calories throughout the day. As little as 2 ounces of brown fat is capable of burning up to several hundred calories per day, which is the equivalent of about 30-minutes of jogging.
So what does this mean? If we can have more brown fat we don’t have to exercise? Not exactly – but it does mean that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
The major role of brown fat is to generate heat, which is why it is found in higher amounts in newborn babies and in hibernating mammals. As we age, the amount of brown fat we have decreases. It is estimated that most adults have only 50-60 grams of brown fat, which is located mostly around the neck, collarbones and along the spine. In addition to increasing our BMR, higher rates of brown fat are also associated with improved insulin sensitivity, making this area promising for future research in blood sugar management.
Aside from burning calories, exercise also helps us convert white fat to brown fat. One study in the Journal of Disease Models and Mechanisms reported that working out triggers the release of the enzyme irisin in mice, which helps turn white fat into brown fat.
Human studies on exercise and brown fat also appear to be promising, suggesting that exercise increased the conversion of white fat into brown fat in men training on an exercise bike over a 12-week training period.
Literally chilling out can help to increase the activity of brown fat in humans. A published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation had 12 men with lower-than-average amounts of brown fat sit in a 63°F room for 2 hours per day over a 6-week period. The men burned an additional 108 calories in the cold compared to normal indoor temperatures. After the 6-week period, the men burned an extra 289 calories in the cold, causing the researchers to hypothesize that the lower temperatures increased the conversion of white fat to brown.
In another study, subjects took part in their normal daily activities but they slept in a private room where the air temperature was controlled. During the first month of the study, the temperatures in the rooms were set at 24º C, which was considered to be the temperature at which the body did not have to work to either gain or lose heat. For the second month, the temperature was decreased to 19º C, for the third month it was increased back to 24º C and for the final month it was increased again to 27º C.
Throughout the entire study, researchers measured the subjects’ brown fat using a cold-stimulated PET/CT scan. This method of measurement allowed them to detect changes in muscle and fat.
Results of the study showed that the cooler temperature (19º C) increased brown fat activity in the subjects by approximately 30-40% and the warmer temperature (27º C) decreased brown fat activity in the subjects below baseline.
If you want to start incorporating some form of “chilling out” in your life, you can lower your thermostat to the mid-60s or below, as this may be enough to stimulate some brown fat activity.
You could also try exercising in a cooler temperature (62-64°F). During this time make sure your skin is exposed to allow sweat to evaporate to help keep you cool. Refrain from turning up the heat when you’re exercising to increase the amount you sweat. Increasing the temperature when exercising will actually decrease brown fat activity.
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Enjoy an ice bath (I use the word “enjoy” very loosely here) after a tough workout to help with muscle recovery and with brown fat activation!
Eat More Apples
Apple peels contain a compound called ursolic acid, which was responsible for boosting brown fat in mice. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, peppermint leaves. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the results of animal studies cannot be transferred directly to humans but they do warrant further research.
Develop A Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting enough high-quality sleep can help to increase the amount of brown fat we have, as proper melatonin production has an influence on the production of brown fat. Do you have a good sleep routine? Learn more about improving your sleep hygiene here.
Refrain From Eating Too Little
According to a study published in the journal Cell, not only does eating too few calories have many undesirable health benefits but it also prevents white fat from turning brown.
The exact impact these activities have on the amount of brown fat we have is impossible to know at this time, however any increase in brown fat activity will increase your caloric burn at rest.
Are you already engaging in some of the behaviors above? Which ones could you easily incorporate in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Do you have questions that you’d like answered? Click here to ask the RD!
Yours in Health,
Part of the reason why people feel so confused when it comes to nutrition and what they should eat for optimal wellness is because there are SO many myths out there that just won't die. Today I want to go through 5 of the top myths I hear in my practice and discuss WHY they must be busted!
This belief has been engrained in us for a long time – too much protein is bad for your kidneys. A high protein diet is only bad for your kidneys IF you already have kidney disease. When our body metabolizes protein there is more waste product that must be filtered through the kidneys (compared to fat and carbohydrate) and this is where the strain on our kidneys comes from. However, if your kidneys are functioning normally you do not need to worry!
This is an important myth to bust because higher protein diets can be very helpful for people looking to lose weight. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which in my experience with clients is far too low. Protein has the highest thermic effect (meaning we actually BURN calories digesting it) and it has the highest satiety factor (meaning we feel fuller longer). So doesn’t it make sense that we should capitalize on this and increase our protein intake when trying to lose weight (1)?
Current evidence is now suggesting that a range of 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for adults is more of an ideal target in order to achieve optimal health. So unless you have kidney disease, forget about this myth and include a protein-rich food source with all of your meals and snacks to stay full, increase the thermic effect of your food and maintain your lean muscle mass while losing fat (2).
This is a myth that has come into the media spotlight in the last year. We have been brainwashed into thinking that consuming fat in our foods will turn directly into fat on our bodies, however this is not the case at all (so please stop ordering your skim milk latte – see more about dairy fat here).
This war on dietary fat started in the 1960s when a University of Minnesota physiologist named Ancel Keys published an analysis “proving” the link between dietary fat consumption and heart disease. The unfortunate truth about this analysis (that we later learned) was that Keys had selected the data for his study that supported his hypothesis rather than including all the available data (this worked out to be data from 6 countries instead of the 22 countries available).
In terms of fat intake and health we just need to look at the type of fat we are consuming. It is agreed upon by everyone that trans fats are not good for us. Trans fats on the label appear as “partially hydrogenated oil” – and I bet you’ve seen this in your peanut butter (along with icing sugar and some other not-so-healthy ingredients). If you replace your traditional oil and sugar-added peanut butter for natural peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts) you can avoid this nasty trans fat.
Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil have also been demonized in the past, however these fats are perfectly fine and I recommend using coconut oil and butter or clarified butter for cooking regularly.
The healthiest fats are omega-3 fats, which are very anti-inflammatory in our body. Remember – inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases so including foods that can decrease inflammation in the body is extremely helpful (read more about inflammation and food here). Some great sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and trout. Tip: make sure your salmon is wild caught Pacific salmon – these fish are fed their natural diet (including omega-3-rich algae) versus farmed Atlantic salmon, which are often fed fish pellets containing genetically modified corn and soy.
Long story short, fat IS healthy for us and without adequate amounts of dietary fat we would run into many health problems. Dietary fat plays many key roles in our body, including:
I recommend including the right types of fat in every meal for optimal health and getting rid of any and all “fat-free” products in your home.
Weight loss is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise. I recommend that my clients exercise for all of the great benefits exercise has on the body but weight loss is not one of them. Believe it or not, for some of my clients I don’t recommend exercising at all (leisure walks and gentle stretching not included).
Exercise can be helpful for so many people, however if we lead an already stressful lifestyle, exercise can do more harm than good. When we exercise intensely it puts stress on the body. If we are already stressed and our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are high then exercise can just drive our cortisol production even higher!
A chronic low calorie diet also puts stress on the body. Remember, the number one priority our body has is to keep us alive. When we restrict calories far below what our body needs to function optimally, it causes a great deal of stress and this can also raise our cortisol levels leading to more fat storage as a protection mechanism.
So let’s put the two together: let’s eat LESS and exercise MORE to achieve our goal weight. This sounds like a huge cortisol bomb to me. Instead, eat MORE of the good stuff that your body needs to function optimally and make exercise FUN and only do it when you’re in a relaxed state (hint: you are not relaxed at 5 am after 6 hours of sleep – don’t worry – I’ve been there and done that so you don’t have to).
The studies that we’ve heard outlined in popular news headlines are all epidemiological in nature (what the heck does that mean?). These epidemiological studies look at large numbers of people to determine whether or not there is any association between their diet and their risk of dying or developing a health condition after a certain number of years.
Epidemiological studies should only be used to form a hypothesis – they do NOT determine causation. If you were a participant in this study you would receive something that’s called a “food frequency questionnaire” every few months/years to fill out. Food frequency questionnaires look like this:
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember what I ate two days ago so I definitely couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten something in the past 3-6 months or even worse, the last year! We are unable to perform a randomized controlled trial with a group of humans (half fed animal fats and half fed vegetable fats) in order to measure their health status long-term because this is extremely unethical. So at this time this is the best technique for determining whether or not a relationship exists between dietary patterns and various health conditions but it definitely does NOT determine causation.
What we have to remember is that the QUALITY of the animal fat matters and this adds another level of complexity to this nutrition myth. The saying “you are what you eat” really comes into play with the animals we eat. Animals are only as nutritious as the food they eat – meaning if the cows we eat are fed a feed of genetically modified corn it is not going to be nearly as nutritious as would be a cow fed its natural diet of grass. We will talk more about grass-fed versus grain-fed in a future post but for now just remember, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised animals are much healthier than conventionally farmed animals. Tip: If you are eating a good quality meat from a grass-fed cow, eating the fat is absolutely fine and healthy for us. If you're eating a piece of meat from a grain-fed cow, I recommend trimming off some of the fat. Again, we will discuss why in a future post.
It is true that eggs contain cholesterol, but the impact of the dietary cholesterol in eggs on our blood cholesterol is negligible and there is no legitimate link between dietary cholesterol and the incidence of heart disease.
The truth is, our liver makes 3-6 times more cholesterol than we can get from eating eggs.
Cholesterol has been demonized for so long and the reality of the situation is that we NEED cholesterol for optimal health.
Some of the major roles of cholesterol in the body include:
Worried about your blood cholesterol levels? Instead of worrying about eggs, take these steps to improve your blood work:
I hope our discussion today helps you bust some of these popular nutrition myths and you can make some changes in your diet today to start optimizing your health.
Yours in Health,
Earlier this week we talked about using food as medicine to help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression (see that post here). Today we will continue the discussion by touching on foods that can increase anxiety/depression and lifestyle changes we can make to help decrease these feelings. Remember, food affects SO much more than we often give it credit for. We can become overly reliant on medications to "cure" us of these ailments but looking to diet and lifestyle FIRST is always going to be our best bet.
Caffeine has been shown to decrease levels of serotonin in the brain, causing us to become irritable and depressed. If that wasn’t enough, caffeine can also disrupt our sleep cycles, putting more stress on the body and affecting our gut bacteria balance.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it causes more frequent urination and as a result, we can become dehydrated. Dehydration, no matter how little, can cause depression so it is important to ensure we maintain a good hydration status.
Not only does refined sugar affect our balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut but it also causes our blood sugar levels to look like a roller coaster with high highs and low lows. Refined sugar is absorbed quickly into the blood stream and causes a temporary surge in energy levels by elevating our blood sugar. Remember: what goes up comes down just as fast and we are left feeling fatigued and irritable.
When we are anxious it can seem as though alcohol eases stress but unfortunately this is not the case long term. Alcohol is a depressant as well as a diuretic, which makes it a double whammy on our mood.
Tip: If you are drinking, be sure to stay well hydrated and consume lots of foods containing B vitamins (see here for my post on B vitamins) to help combat the negative effects of alcohol consumption on mood. Drinking alcohol leaches B vitamins from our body and they come out in our urine. To help prevent low levels of B vitamins in the body, be sure to replenish regularly using good food sources.
Exposure to bright light has the ability to increase our serotonin levels without using any drugs. This is especially useful in people who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder (which is defined as "depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light").
"Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.
Light therapy entails sitting close to a special “light box” for 30 minutes a day, usually as soon after waking up as possible. These boxes provide 10,000 lux (“lux” is a measure of light intensity). That’s about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more. You need to have your eyes open, but don’t look at the light. Many people use the time to read a newspaper, book, or magazine, or catch up on work.” (1)
Check out this link for some light box devices that you can incorporate into your day from October to April when the amount of daylight we are exposed to is diminished significantly.
Exercise is probably one of the last things you want to do when you’re feeling anxious or depressed however 15 to 20 minutes of moderate exercise (think: dancing to the radio or going for a walk) can do wonders for mood enhancement.
I challenge you all this week to give up white refined starches (white bread, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes, etc.) and perform 15 minutes of walking daily. Doing this will help to stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent those highs and lows that we can experience when we consume simple carbohydrates and live a sedentary life.
If you decide to adopt these two changes, at the end of the week I want you to take note of how you’re feeling. This is a very valuable challenge, especially at this time of year, as Canadian and Northern U.S. winters can be long and dark.
This concludes Part 2. I hope you've found these tips helpful and you are able to apply them to your day-to-day life.
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Thanks so much again for reading!
Yours in Health,