Sandwiches are a lunchtime staple and it’s easy to make healthy high-protein versions of your favorites, like turkey or steak. However, deli meat often gets a bad rap for being highly processed (which ups the sodium content). Still, “cold cuts can definitely fit into a well-balanced diet, but the frequency may depend on the type,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of “The Small Change Diet.”
Here, a look at how different cold cuts compare nutritionally, why sodium content matters and how to make a healthy sandwich that helps you reach your health goals.
As you can see, turkey, ham and roast beef run pretty similar in terms of calories, fat and sodium. It’s salami that is markedly higher in fat (including saturated fat) and sodium.
THE SODIUM DILEMMA
“The problem with many deli meats is they are very high in sodium, and for salt-sensitive individuals, this may increase their risk for high blood pressure and heart disease,” says Gans. Even if you’re not particularly worried about salt, think about how you feel after eating a sandwich packed with cold cuts. “For some people, very high-sodium foods can cause bloating, which leads to GI discomfort,” she adds.
Cold cuts are among the top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider that the recommendations are to limit your sodium intake to 2,300mg per day. If you’re eating a sandwich with bread, deli meat, cheese and mustard, you may get 1,500mg of sodium in a single meal, says the CDC — and that’s before sides like chips and a pickle.
ARE PRESERVATIVES A PROBLEM?
Deli meat often contains nitrates or nitrites, which are added as preservatives to keep slices fresh. A report from the American Institute of Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund says there’s evidence consuming processed meats daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer. It’s less clear, however, if it’s the nitrates specifically or because of other factors such as lifestyle. “More research is needed, but, in moderation, deli meat is safe,” says Gans.
TIPS FOR EATING DELI MEAT
If you eat a lot of deli meat, look for those free of added nitrates or nitrites. Applegate is one example; major brands also have lines free of these preservatives, says Gans.
Most people should also opt for cold cuts that are lower in sodium (you can look for low-sodium or reduced-sodium on the label). If you have a sandwich, it’s also a good idea to cut back on saltier foods for the remainder of the day.
Choose wisely: “Turkey, ham or roast beef are better choices than salami, bologna or pastrami, because they are lower in sodium, calories and fat,” says Gans. “Fresh roasted” is another buzzword to look for at the deli counter, she says. “These may include fewer preservatives, and thus, less sodium.”
HOW TO BUILD A HEALTHY SANDWICH
Gans advises using four slices of deli meat, max. “Build bulk by adding veggies, not more meat,” she says. Along with the standard lettuce and tomato, consider piling on cucumbers or sliced carrots for crunch or using grilled veggies as toppings. Avocado or hummus can replace mayo or cheese as a spread, which adds healthy monounsaturated fats.
You can also cut down on sodium by using one piece of bread and making it open-faced. Or, try placing a couple pieces of turkey between two slices of bell peppers as the “bread,” or roll it up in hearty greens like kale or collards.
Sure, standing around isn’t exactly traditional exercise, but research shows it’s got more than a leg up on sitting. After all, long periods of sitting are linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, whereas standing significantly increases your daily caloric expenditure Stand whenever you can, and consider roping in other coworkers to have standing meetings too! Small changes goes along way!
It’s every weight loss enthusiast’s dream to zap belly fat but, far from pure vanity, there’s actually a reason why having a lot of fat in the abdominal region can be dangerous. Fat is stored all over our body, but how does an expanding waistline grow your risk for chronic illness?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Your body’s fat impacts your health differently depending on where it’s stored. While most fat found on other parts of our bodies (think arms, legs, buttocks) are considered “subcutaneous fat,” belly fat is more likely to be “visceral.”
PINCHABLE VERSUS PRESSABLE
“Subcutaneous fat” is the pinchable, squishy fat right between your skin and muscle that helps keep you warm, cushions you against shock, and stores extra calories. “Visceral fat” stores calories too, but isn’t as pinchable because it is located in and around your organs. It’s hidden deep within the belly region, which is what makes it firm (rather than squishy) when you press it.
Fat doesn’t just store calories—it’s a living tissue capable of producing and releasing hormones that affect your other organs. Because visceral fat sits near our organs, its release of these chemicals is poorly situated. Having more visceral fat can raise your LDL (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol) and blood pressure. Visceral fat can also make you less sensitive to insulin, which increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
TELLING BAD BELLY FAT APART
Even if you’re thin, you can still have visceral fat around the abdominal region—being “skinny” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. There’s no sure-fire way to tell visceral from subcutaneous fat short of an expensive CT scan, but it’s important for you to get a rough idea of what your visceral stores are. Here are a few tricks to figure out where your belly stands:
You’re probably wondering, “What does fruit have to do with it?” These two fruits give a quick visual of where most of your fat is stored on the body. Pears tend to store fat in the lower extremities (hips, thighs, buttocks) as subcutaneous fat while apples tend to store fat in the upper region (belly, chest) as visceral fat. It takes a quick inspection, but this is an imperfect way to tell these two fats apart.
WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE (WC)
Feel for the top of your hip bone (it’s at the same level as the top of your belly button) and circle a tape measure around this point. Remember to relax and don’t suck in your gut (be honest!). Take 2-3 measurements and figure out the average. Men should have a WC of less than 40 inches (102 cm) and women should have a WC of less than 35 inches (89 cm).
The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) takes the circumference of your waist (see above) and divides it by the circumference of your hips. To measure your hips, stand in front of a mirror then figure out the widest part of your butt and measure that circumference. Then use this formula: WHR = (Waist circumference) / (Hip circumference). Men should have a WHR of less than 1 while women should have a WHR of less than 0.8.
KNOW YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY HISTORY
If your parents or siblings have insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver, you may be at a greater risk for storing visceral fat. Keeping an eye on your visceral fat may be beneficial, but know that the causes of these chronic diseases are complex. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider.
BANISHING VISCERAL FAT
If you fall in the normal range for WC and WHR, that’s great! Keep working at your weight goals as you see fit. If you’re not there, don’t despair. Because of its proximity to the liver, visceral fat is usually the easier fat to burn. It’s the less risky subcutaneous fat that likes to stick around.
Unfortunately, you can’t forcefully spot reduce fat around your belly no matter how many crunches you do. The next best thing is to live a healthy lifestyle:
Go beyond weight tracking. You can track your waist, hip and even neck circumference in the app. Use this feature to see how your measurements change over time as you lose weight.
Sweat for 30-60 minutes each day. Visceral fat responds well to regular endurance exercises, such as running, biking, rowing, swimming, that elevate your heart rate. As your body uses fat to fuel exercise, it’ll start using up your visceral stores.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Eat a diet high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein with calories set for gradual weight loss (e.g. about 1-2 pounds per week). Cut way back on added sugars and alcohol since these nutrients will more likely end up as visceral fat.
Sleep more, stress less. It’s easier said than done, but in order to take care of your physical body, you have to take care of your mental state. Sleep loss and stress can sabotage your health and fitness goals, so learn more about getting a quality night’s rest and use meditation or yoga to calm your mind. Remember, it’s not just about your health; it’s about your happiness, too.
Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mini Blender Muffins
YIELD: ABOUT 17 MINI MUFFINS
TOTAL TIME:15 MINUTES
PREP TIME:2 MINUTES
COOK TIME:8 TO 9 MINUTES
The fastest and easiest batter I’ve ever made. Combine all ingredients (except the chocolate chips) and blend until smooth. The muffins are gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, and they’re under 100 calories each (66 calories if you omit chocolate chips). For all the health claims you could make about these muffins, the best part is that they taste every bit as good as muffins made with flour, gluten, and lots of added sugar. The peanut butter flavor is pronounced and bold, while the banana disappears almost entirely. I used mini chocolate chips because they’re size-appropriate for the mini muffins.
1 medium ripe banana, peeled
1 large egg
heaping 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I recommend using classic storebought peanut butter, and not natural or homemade)
3 tablespoons honey (agave or maple syrup may be substituted)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
heaping 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare mini muffin pans by spraying very well with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pans; set aside. If keeping gluten-free for health reasons, simply use cooking spray or grease the pan.
To the canister of a blender, add first 7 ingredients, through optional salt, and blend on high speed until smoothy and creamy, about 1 minute.
Add chocolate chips and stir in by hand; don’t use the blender because it will pulverize them.
Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop that’s been sprayed with cooking spray (helps batter slide off spoon or scoop easily), form rounded 1 tablespoon mounds and place mounds into prepared pans. Each cavity should be filled to a solid 3/4 full.
Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until the tops are set, domed, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Due to their small size and oven variance, make sure to watch your muffins closely, and bake until done. Allow muffins to cool in pans for about 10 minutes, or until they’ve firmed up and are cool enough to handle. Muffins are best fresh, but will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
If your goal is to get your honey to lay off the “honey” and hit the gym, the worst approach you can take is a blunt one. No one wants to be told they need to work out, especially if they’ve put on a few “love” pounds over the years. However, you can motivate your significant other to get more fit without hurting his/her feelings or damaging your relationship.
Take the “let’s get healthy” approach. You want your sweetheart around for the long haul and being out of shape is not only a little unattractive, it can be working against the aging process. Those who infuse cardio and exercise into their lives can help slow down the aging process and prevent chronic and possibly deadly diseases.
Let his/her doctor take the blame. Your significant other’s doctor told him/her some tests were a little off–the cholesterol or sugars were too high, for example. Tell your sweetheart you love him/her and that you want to lower the numbers together in the gym.
He/she is feeling a bit sluggish and tired lately–exercise can help. Rev the engines and increase energy levels by being more physically active. If he/she complains that he/she is exhausted all the time, consider adding a quick walk or run at night. Once your significant other sees the increase in energy he/she may want to hit the gym to achieve that level of pep.
Focus completely on health and not weight. Especially if you are heading into or are already in middle age or beyond, exercise is no longer just to look hot. It keeps the organs healthy and may help your honey avoid the same medications his/her friends have started (i.e. blood pressure pills etc.).
2. Compliment his/her toned physique after one workout. The best way to keep the motivation train running is to start gushing a few days following that initial workout. He/she will love the strokes, which may have him/her continuing with the workouts.
Be sincere and not fake. Don’t tell him/her that after that first workout he/she has certainly lost 20 pounds. However, a compliment like, “Hey, your biceps look firmer or your butt looks pretty good” will take you pretty far.
Don’t deliver a compliment while looking for one in return. Don’t be flexing in the mirror, glance over and then say, “Hey baby, you look hot, what do you think about these guns?” He/she will know it’s a backhanded compliment and see through your ruse.
3. Choose a fitness routine that may not seem like exercise. For example, suggest taking a doubles tennis class together or ballroom dancing. He/she may think it’s a fun way to bond, when in reality you’ll know that you are raising his/her heart rate.
Find something that will interest your mate. Maybe a game of touch football sounds like heaven on earth to you, but to him/her it’s a snooze fest. Consider what he/she would enjoy before you start making plans.
Get friends in on your game. If your friend wants to get his/her spouse or partner to workout too, make it a foursome for added fun (make sure that the spouses are friends before you commit).
Select something he/she can do. Don’t go hard core if your sweetie hasn’t been working out lately or hasn’t worked out at all. Find something you know he/she will find success and enjoy.
Get competitive. Some people are motivated by friendly competition. Consider rolling out a “challenge” where you will see who can be a better golfer, runner etc.
4. Talk about your successful results–without being annoying. Nothing motivates some people more than seeing their partner getting hot and toned while they are still sluggish and doughy (although be careful with this notion as some people may retreat into sloth even more).
Pull out old clothes that you’d been saving for a “skinny day.” He/she may be green with envy if you can fit back into your old size or better yet—the smallest size ever.
Purchase new clothing that accentuates your new figure. Shopping can be fun when you are able to wear outfits you couldn’t fit into before. He/she may see that and want the same for him or herself.
5. Ask him/her to motivate you to work out. Another way to entice your mate to exercise is to act as though (or maybe it’s true) you can’t get motivated to work out unless you have a partner–your significant other.
Ask him/her to help you devise a fitness plan. This is a sneaky way of getting him/her to perhaps look at a fitness plan for him or herself. Use online apps or fitness websites to help you configure a program that will fit both of your needs.
Tell him/her you can’t get motivated unless he/she joins you. Avoid whining when asking him/her to continue to stick to the program. Be direct but explain that your continued dedication is dependent upon his/her participation.
Click the link below to listen to my Podcast, Fat and Figuring It Out:
Losing weight doesn’t always have to be about deprivation and denial. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Successful, sustainable weight loss is far more attainable when you focus on the quality of food rather than the quantity. Eat wholesome, nutritious, (and even calorie-filled) foods and you’ll be far more satisfied and content on less. Many of the foods people think are off-limits when it comes to losing weight are the very foods that have the ability to actually help us reach our goal. Here are eight foods that cannot only help you reach your weight-loss goal, but help you keep it off for good.
Drink skim and stay slim? Not always so when it comes to dairy. A recent study published in the American Journal of Nutrition found that more than 18,000 women who consumed more higher-fat and whole-milk dairy products had a lower risk of being overweight.
How can this be? Some essential fatty acids are stripped when milk is skimmed — the very component that may help you feel fuller sooner and stay full longer with full fat products. Several studies have found that when people reduce the amount of fat in their diet, they tend to replace it with sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can have a worse effect on overall health.
Bottom line: Eat a variety of dairy and worry less about how much fat it contains. Limit high-sugar ice cream treats, and buy plain yogurt with no added sugars, which tend to pile up in the flavored and fruited varieties.
In addition to healthy fats, nut butters contain an impressive amount of protein and fiber, too. Peanut butter boasts a plentiful 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons along with 2 grams of fiber.
A study from Harvard School of Public Health found that regular nut consumption among a group of more than 51,000 women was associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity. A similar study in the Journal of Nutrition found that weight changed very little among people who consumed a normal versus nut-enhanced diet. In other words: Nuts and nut butters can be a healthy addition to your diet, even when trying to lose weight. Try snacking on nut butters in between meals to sustain your appetite. A 200-calorie cashew or peanut butter snack is far more satisfying and filling than say, 200 calories of crackers or pretzels.
Shopping tip: Skip the reduced-fat versions, which ironically tend to have more calories, sugar, sodium and preservatives than regular nut butter. Buy those that list nuts — and maybe a bit of salt — in the ingredient list, and use them as a way to eat more whole grains, fruits, and veggies. What’s not to love about an apple smeared in almond butter?
Pasta is surprisingly low on the glycemic index — a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100, based on how quickly they raise blood-sugar levels. The lower the number, the longer it takes to digest, leaving you with a steadier source of fuel to support energy levels. Whole-grain pasta falls in the 32–37 range (about half that of white bread), while white pasta averages in the mid-40 range — still much lower than that slice of white bread. And because pasta is traditionally tossed with other wholesome foods like seafood, vegetables and olive oil, a healthy pasta meal is far from off-limits for those concerned about their weight.
Pro tip: Stick to whole-grain varieties, double up on veggies and skip the super cheesy, cream-based sauces.
Rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals, eggs are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense choice when it comes to snacks and meals. At just 70 calories per egg, there’s no reason not to enjoy the entire egg, yolk and white combined. Yes, egg yolks are a source of dietary cholesterol, but recent studies now prove that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than we once thought. The evidence says eating whole eggs in moderation is safe, and some studies even show they may aid in weight loss when eaten in place of refined carbs.
Bonus: Eggs are super cheap and cook quickly — a perfect solution for busy, time-crunched mornings. Cook your eggs in olive oil and use them as a vessel for sautéed greens and vegetables, then serve them over whole-grain toast for a complete, well-balanced, weight-conscious meal.
What most people fail to realize is that per ounce, dark meat chicken or turkey (from the leg and thigh) only has about 5 extra calories and 1g of fat more than white breast meat. The skin is where most of the fat lies — skip that on any part of the bird for a far more calorie-conscious choice. Dark meat poultry tends to be more tender, juicy and rich in flavor than white meat — requiring not only less butter and oil to cook with, but also less sauce or creamy condiments to make it palatable than breast meat. It’s a great source of lean protein that may leave you more satisfied at meal time, and less likely to overeat later.
Dark meat contains more myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein that gives it a gray-reddish color, as well as more iron and zinc — two immune-boosting minerals.
Portion tip: Thighs are about half the size of the breast, making them a far more portion-savvy option than today’s 9- and 10-ounce breast halves. Double bonus: They’re cheaper, too.
When it comes to weight loss, limiting liquid calories can be the key to success. Alcohol carries 7 calories per gram, which not only adds up quickly, but goes down quickly, too. But giving up our occasional cocktail at the end of a long day is non-negotiable for some.
Red wine may be more beneficial than white, according to one study from Washington State University, which found the polyphenols in red wine (including resveratrol) may even prevent obesity by aiding in metabolism. The heftiest boost of polyphenols comes from whole grapes, but wine certainly carries a portion of those benefits.
Bottom line: Alcoholic beverages won’t necessarily aid in weight loss, but they do help us relax and wind down from stressful days. In moderation, alcohol is good for the heart, too. Drink responsibly (not on an empty stomach), limit your intake and choose a 120-calorie glass of wine over sugar-loaded cocktails and carbohydrate-dense beer for better weight-loss success.
Your daily cup of joe may do more than just help you roll out of bed each morning. It stimulates the brain and nervous system, and contains antioxidants that may help improve glucose metabolism — which not only helps suppress the appetite, but also lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Caffeinated coffee may also stimulate thermogenesis, and the body’s ability to burn more fat stores, improving performance in endurance exercises like running and biking.
While the effects of coffee on weight loss are likely minimal, the overall health benefits are reason enough to enjoy a cup or two each morning as part of your daily routine. A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 studies found those who drank their morning cups of coffee were actually at the lowest risk for heart problems.
A cup of advice: Not all coffee is created equal — most of the benefits associated with coffee are singular to black coffee — not the cream and sugar-filled coffee beverages from drive-thrus and coffee boutiques. Limit the flavored (and over-priced) lattes to a rare treat.
Just one or two bites of rich, satisfying chocolate can not only reduce stress levels, but help curb cravings for other sugar-loaded treats, too. High stress levels can lead to cortisol hormone spikes, which increase the appetite and emotional eating behaviors.
The benefits of chocolate are specific to the concentration of cocoa flavonoids, which have been shown in studies to have multiple health benefits, such as improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefits.
Buying tip: Skip the convenience store and check-out lane chocolate bars, which contain a lot of added fats and sugars — which can counteract some of cocoa’s health benefits. Look for bars with at least 70% cacao or higher, with a short, simple ingredient list … and indulge in just an ounce or two. Eating too much will work against you.
-7 Tips Surviving Thanksgiving-
If you’ve worked hard all year to build healthy eating habits you might be dreading the holidays! Buttery mashed potatoes, cinnamon and spice pumpkin pies, Rich gravy drench turkey legs, until you realize just how far a holiday overindulgence can set you back in your weight loss progress.
While we certainly don’t think you should deprive yourself of your favorite holiday treats, but put together a plan to prevent yourself from overdosing can make sure you keep the body been working hard on through the holidays.
If you feel stuck in a rut and have no idea how to get back on track with your fitness and nutrition goals, you’re not alone. I totally get you, and I know it’s a hard spot to be in when you desperately want change. Rationally, you know you need to get back on track, but it feels too overwhelming or that “everything else” is getting in the way of you feeling good again.
Shifting your mindset when you are feeling unmotivated and in a fitness or weight loss plateau is tough, and it may just take some soul searching mixed with a little strategery to get you back on track. Here are our best tips for getting unstuck and making fitness and nutrition a priority, again.
LOSE THE JUDGMENT
Saying “I am” is a powerful phrase and can be used for good or bad. This is because “I am” is linked to your identity. It’s important first and foremost to separate any negative unhealthy behaviors from “I am” statements that define you. No, you are not lazy, unmotivated, stuck or a slacker. Maybe your actions are resulting in you feeling these things, but making that mindset shift to separate actions from identity can be a powerful tool. You feel stuck, you feel lazy, you feel unmotivated, you feel like a slacker. You absolutely have the power to change those feelings — and they do not define you.
We’re talking about giving yourself space for soul searching. Maybe that’s going on a walk or sitting outside or at a coffee shop to clear your head enough to ask yourself questions about where you are on your health journey. Maybe start with “I feel unmotivated or stuck (or fill in the blank) because … “ and see what comes up for you.
Take this a step further and journal it on paper. Allow yourself to write freely without judgment or overthinking. Free writing doesn’t even have to make sense, but truly the answers to whatever problem you are facing with your motivation are within you. You just need to create enough space to ask the right questions. What would it look like to make your change? What would happen if you didn’t do it? Does it provide a breath of fresh air, create clarity or make you more inspired?
DEFINE YOUR WHY
Do you have kids or grandkids? Setting a healthy example is a big priority for many parents as well as living a long and healthy life to enjoy your little ones and their little ones. Handed a few bad genes? Many people eat well and exercise regularly because they want to reverse or prevent diseases that could be influenced by lifestyle factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, depression and the list goes on.
Know the reason why you want to make a change (and write it down, save it to your phone’s lock screen or tape it to your mirror or fridge) to keep you centered and channel those positive vibes and motivation.
This is a great strategy for those who need routine and thrive on daily schedules. Plan your week on a Sunday to determine when, where and how you can get movement in, or make a list of simple dinner ideas for the week. Go ahead and pre-book your workouts if you have to check in at a studio or group fitness class. To create that routine and build momentum, you may find it’s easier to stick to if you set time aside every day for your health, by either committing to the routine of “sweating daily” in any form or by carving out time, at the same time, every day. Maybe you set aside two hours on a Sunday to grocery shop or meal prep. Developing a pattern builds a healthy momentum and flow to help your habits stick.
NAME YOUR TOP 3
In the morning, or even better the night before, look at your “to do’s” for the next day and pull out your top 3, making 1–2 of them personal dos that accomplish your health priorities. Ask yourself, if nothing else gets done today/tomorrow, what would make me feel proud of myself? Put at least one of those responses in your top 3 list and at the end of the day when you’ve checked it off, your confidence will get a nice boost.
TAKE A SANITY BREAK
We all need sanity breaks in our day, so take time to sit outside to eat your lunch or go to that barre class during your lunch break. Maybe you’re a morning person and working out first thing and refueling with a balanced breakfast sets the tone for your entire day. If nighttime is more your style (or fits your schedule better), get that workout in before you head home or prioritize it for after you tuck the kids into bed. Eating well and moving daily influences mental health — when we take care of our body we feel less anxious, more confident and better overall.
INVOLVE THE KIDS
Hey, maybe you feel stuck because you simply have no “me time.” If you are a stay at home or work from home parent, or work too many hours at the office and you find yourself choosing to workout or spend time with your kiddos, maybe you just need to involve the kids in your workout. If you have little ones, push them in the jogging stroller or go to a park and they can sit in the stroller while you do your weights workout, or use them as the weights while you do squats or push press. The whole family will benefit from involving the kids in your workout. Same goes for healthy eating, you may feel that it’s hard to eat well because the kids won’t eat the same healthy meal. Get them involved in the grocery shopping and meal prep because eventually (with practice and patience) they will catch on to your family’s new style of eating.
PUT MONEY ON THE LINE
Spa day, vacation, new outfit? Pick something that you’d like to work towards, and save 5, 10 or 20 dollars every time you do a workout. If you and your partner want to plan a little getaway, instead of booking it right way, create a challenge to work together by working out toward that vacation.
COMMIT TO THE FIRST STEP
Think about the first thing you have to do to achieve your health goal. With working out, commit to putting on your workout clothes, shoes and filling up your water bottle. Rarely do you do these things and then sit on the sofa. With healthy eating, commit to putting dinner in the crockpot in the morning, making smoothie bags or overnight oats for faster breakfasts, or going to the grocery store to have healthy ingredients on hand to eat well all week long.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
From social media challenges and healthy living groups, health challenge groups in apps and group fitness classes, to following healthy living influencers on social — there are ways to stay motivated and inspired all around us.
If hormones were people, they’d be pretty boring. See, hormones prefer the status quo, and they’re always trying to maintain homeostasis and keep your body the same.
But, like the friend who you can always manage to coax into trying a new restaurant, you can work with hormones and use them to help you lose weight.
Here are three hormones that play a role in weight regulation and how you can get them to work with you.
Produced by fat cells, leptin signals to the brain how much fat is in the body, explains Dr. Scott Isaacs, medical director of Atlanta Endocrine Associates. When leptin levels are low, you tend to feel hungry, and when leptin levels are high, you tend to feel full.
But it’s more complicated than that, Isaacs adds. “As you start to develop obesity, you start to become resistant to leptin,” he explains. “So you may have high levels of leptin, but the brain isn’t registering that.” This can put you at risk for heart problems and diabetes, adds Susan Carnell, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Hormone hack: Some research suggests physical activity can help manage leptin levels. Although any exercise may help, resistance training appears to be more efficient at reducing leptin levels, according to a recent review of studies on overweight and obese middle-aged adults published in PLOS One. As a bonus, being more active can also help you lose weight.
Sleep is also key. “Leptin is made in your sleep. That’s one reason people with sleep deprivation are hungrier,” Isaacs explains. Research has demonstrated both acute and chronic sleep deprivation decrease leptin levels, so make good sleep habits a priority.
The ying to leptin’s yang, ghrelin is produced by the stomach and often referred to as the hunger hormone. It’s highest when your stomach is empty and decreases after you eat. “It does many useful things in the body, like getting the stomach ready to process food,” Carnell explains. “We also know that if ghrelin increases, people are spurred to seek out food, and that stress can produce an increase in ghrelin.”
The combination of stress and increased ghrelin can be especially hard later in the day, according to a small recent study by Carnell and other researchers. “The evening may be a biological ‘high-risk period’ for overeating, particularly when paired with the experience of stress and if you’re prone to binge eating,” she says.
Hormone hack: Again, managing stress is key, as is making sleep a priority since deprivation can increase ghrelin levels. Additionally, Isaacs recommends eating high-fiber, high-protein foods, which will help keep you fuller longer.
Although it’s thought of as a stress hormone because it’s secreted to help us decide whether to fight or flight, cortisol also promotes insulin secretion. “This makes us store fat on our bodies, particularly around our waists, which is not good for our health,” Carnell explains. “And it can increase our appetite.”
Hormone hack: Managing stress and how you cope with it is key to losing weight, Carnell says. Find what works for you, whether that’s making a cup of tea when you reach your mental boiling point, going for a daily jog or enjoying some time in nature. If you tend to stress eat, it may help to keep your go-to foods out of the house, Carnell adds.