Category Archives: Diets

Six Steps to Avoid Diabetes

In Monday’s post, I provided an overview of the prevalent diabetes disease.  My aim there was to offer a synopsis, a one-pager that outlines the disease which has unfortunately become a household term these days.  But of what value am I if I describe a problem without proposing a solution, or at least a way to avoid the problem altogether (which happens to be an order of magnitude easier than curing the disease)?

Telling someone how to avoid diabetes is as simple as telling someone how to avoid getting hit by a car while crossing the street – just use common sense.  Diabetes, as we know it today (Type II Diabetes), is a relatively new disease.  Well, at least the prevalence of it is new.  Forty years ago it was virtually unknown.  Today, one in ten Americans has the disease.  And, a new Center for Disease Control report says that, by the year 2050, one out of every three Americans will be diabetic if we continue on our current path to destruction.

Sure, people are living longer and people are being diagnosed earlier, which both lead to higher statistical rates.  But the most significant change we’ve seen in the past forty years is our diets.  We Americans, as well as many other parts of the world, have grown accustomed to the Western Diet, a diet rich in processed foods, refined grains, corn, and gigantic portions.   So, if a change in our eating habits was the cause, then a change in our eating habits is also the solution.

  1. Portion Control – As a rule of thumb, the average adult should eat about 2,000 calories per day, give or take a couple hundred.  If you have no idea, check out a site like Nutrition Data for calorie info.  Eat only when you are hungry and stop eating when you are not hungry.  It’s simple.  How do you do this?  Plan your meals, eat slowly, think about your food, enjoy your food, and stop before you’re full.
  2. Eat Whole Grains Instead of Processed Refined Carbs – Think whole grain bread instead of the classic white bread, brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley.  To keep it simple, go for the brown and avoid the white.
  3. Avoid Soda and Other Sugary Beverages -There are 40 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of Coca Cola.  That’s 10 teaspoons of sugar!  Think you’re avoiding this by drinking Gatorade and other fruity or iced tea beverages?  Think again.  Look at the nutrition facts – those drinks are nothing more than non-carbonated soda.  Drink more water.
  4. Focus on Fiber and Whole Foods – Fiber and whole foods will fill you up and keep you full longer.  You’ll have fewer cravings for sweets and other junk foods.  Winter vegetables and hearty greens such as kale and collard greens are loaded with fiber, so eat up!
  5. Shop the Perimeter of Your Supermarket – You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s worth repeating.  The perimeter is where all the good-for-you foods are – bread, eggs, meats, and produce.  Avoid the middle of the market, which is where thousands of modified corn products reside.
  6. Make Exercise a Part of Your Life – As always, exercise will only help you become a healthier person.  But beware – it’s not a panacea.  You can exercise all day, but if you still overload your body with sugar and refined carbs, you’re still susceptible to diabetes and other problems.  A good friend of mine trains 3-4 days a week and has run a few marathons, but last year he was diagnosed with pre-diabetes because he eats like garbage.  Strive for balance in all areas.

So there you go – six solid tips for avoiding diabetes.  See?  I told you it’s common sense.  If you ask me, you really have to work hard to get diabetes.  You really have to throw caution to the wind and have a wanton disregard for your body and your health.  Don’t make it hard on yourself.  Make it easy on yourself and develop healthy habits now.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Diets, General Health

Diabetes is a Consequence, Not a Disease

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Type 2 Diabetes has become one of the major new afflictions affecting people everywhere.  We fight diabetes, there are diabetes walks every weekend, we search high and low for a cure to this pernicious demon.

But what are we really fighting?  What is this so-called disease that has taken so many peoples’ lives and affected countless others?

Answer:  We’re fighting ourselves.  Type 2 Diabetes is a modern, “Western,” unnecessary “disease” that we as human beings have brought upon ourselves.  That’s the bad part. The good part is that, since we’ve brought it upon ourselves, we can also banish it just as easily.  Let me explain…

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of related diseases in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells become resistant to insulin.  The consequence of either state is high blood sugar, due to excess glucose in the blood that isn’t delivered to the body’s cells.  So what does all of this mean, in English?  Our bodies use food for energy.  When we eat, our bodies break down food into glucose, which is a simple sugar that our cells use for energy.  However, by itself, glucose is useless.  It needs a method of transportation to get to the cells.  The method of transportation is a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is produced naturally in our pancreas and hooks up with glucose in the blood stream to deliver glucose safely to our cells.  The cells are then able to use the glucose for energy.  And when cells have no fuel, things really start to go downhill.

Type I Diabetes is a natural condition (usually inherited) in which the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells.  The result is that the body doesn’t produce insulin and, consequently, the body’s cells don’t receive energy and there is an overwhelming amount of glucose floating around in the bloodstream.  The solution is constant blood sugar monitoring and daily manual insulin injections.  This is usually a lifelong affliction and usually happens during childhood, which is why Type I is also known as juvenile or child-onset diabetes.

Type II Diabetes, on the other hand, is not a natural condition, but rather one that we bring upon ourselves as a result of atrocious diets, lack of exercise, and overall unhealthy lifestyles.  Here’s what happens:  We eat way too much food and way too many refined carbohydrates.  These refined carbs are immediately converted to glucose in our blood.  The glucose calls upon the pancreas to produce a lot of insulin to carry all of that glucose to the cells.  Together, the insulin and the glucose travel to the cells and completely overwhelm the cells with their volume.  This isn’t horrible in isolation, but when it becomes the body’s default way of operating, that’s when we get into trouble.  We do this too many times to our pancreas and eventually the pancreas becomes so overwhelmed that it either stops producing insulin or gets so beat up that it can only produce small amounts of insulin.  At the same time, the cells are sick of getting bombarded with so much glucose and insulin that the cells themselves become resistant to it (insulin-resistance).  Type II represents 90% of all diabetes cases.  Type II used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it was more common for adults to get in middle age, due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles.  However, sadly, it’s no longer known as adult-onset because now our children are so fat and unhealthy that they now bring Type II diabetes upon themselves at a very young age.

Realize that the current rates of diabetes are unprecedented in human history.  Currently, one in ten Americans has diabetes.  A new CDC Study notes that in 2050, one in three will have diabetes if we continue on the current trajectory of unhealthy eating and not taking care of ourselves.

What’s astonishing is that Type II diabetes is (almost) completely avoidable!  We have the power to change this.  This is why I don’t have sympathy for people with Type II (except young kids who don’t yet know better).  It’s also why I’ll never participate in an event to raise money to find a “cure” for Type II.  Guess what?  I already know a cure – take care of yourself and stop being such a fat slob.

I should wrap this post up before I get too fired up.  But the reason I get fired up is that I want to help people live healthier lives so they avoid this “non-reversible” affliction.  So in my follow-up post tomorrow, I’ll tell you how, not to fight diabetes, but to avoid diabetes.  Big difference.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Diets, General Health

Do You Have Hunger? The Answer to This Question Will Save Your Life.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to catch author Michael Pollan on his New Jersey stop of his current speaking tour.  Most people haven’t heard of Pollan, but he’s an incredibly popular and successful author, professor, and food activist.  In addition to writing for popular newspapers and magazines, giving inspiring TED talks, and lecturing at the University of California, Berkeley, Pollan has penned seven books to date.  If I had to summarize his philosophy into one long, run-on sentence, it would be this:  He describes the modern industrial food system that has become a cornerstone of human life, he explains how this system evolved and why it is unsustainable, and he aims to educate us all on a different way of living and a better way of eating.

The Rutgers Gymnasium was packed with about 1,500 guests, two-thirds of which were students.  There was much anticipation about what Pollan’s topic would be.  After all, it’s impossible to cover in detail approximately thirty years of writing and research in an hour and a half.  Well, he ended up doing a brief overview of his philosophy and beliefs with specific studies, anecdotes, and facts sprinkled throughout.  I thought it was a great route to take.  He’s trying to educate as many people as possible, and giving a broad overview helped the majority of the audience to connect.

One of the most memorable parts of his talk was Pollan offering his insight as to why Americans, members of one of the most developed groups of people in history, are so much more overweight and have such poorer health than populations of people from all over the world, including, notably, populations of much less “developed” nations.  Think about the French Paradox, for example:  The French have a reputation for eating bread, pastry, cheese, foie gras, drinking wine, and smoking cigarettes.  Yet they are statistically healthier than Americans, which is to say that they have fewer incidences of heart disease and lower obesity rates.  Among other things, the French are able to stay so thin and healthy because they don’t stuff themselves at every meal like most Americans do.  The French (and many other cultures throughout the world) actually stop eating when they’ve had enough.  They have a phrase for this:

“Je n’ai plus faim”

This translates to, “I no longer have hunger.”  Fascinating!  Contrast this phrase with what most Americans say: “I’m full.”  Pause and think about that for a second.  How different are those two simple statements?  There’s a huge difference.  The French stop eating when they no longer have hunger.  Americans eat right through the hunger / no hunger threshold until they can sit back in their chairs and proudly boast, “Whew, I’m stuffed!”  Sure, eating until you’re full once in a while isn’t going to kill you. But when this becomes your default way of eating, you’re in trouble.

For the record, the Spanish phrase is very similar:  “No tengo hambre” which translates into “I don’t have hunger.”

Think about this next time you’re eating and try to be cognizant of it at every meal.  Eat slowly, enjoy your food, and stop when you no longer have hunger ;-).

5 Comments

Filed under Diets, Food, General Health, Healthy Habits

Is Fast Food the Same as Heroin?

Every once in a while I read an article or watch a video online that inspires me to write about it and share it immediately.  Today is one of those instances.  This video, an Australian advertisement, compares feeding fast food to your child to injecting your child with heroin.  A bold statement, for sure.  Too bold?  Too abrasive?  Unnecessary?  Some people may think so.  But I think it’s just what we need.  To me, this is powerful.  It’s eye-opening.  And it’s necessary.

Since when are ordinary, run-of-the-mill, “safe” advertisements effective?  We are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements every single day.  You think a G-Rated advertisement that appeals to everyone is going to stick in your mind?  No way.  This is something you will remember and hopefully something that will have an effect on you.

It’s unfortunate that America is too prude to ever allow something like this to be broadcast.  The irony is that we Americans need to see things like this more than anyone else.  We’re the fattest, most obese, most unhealthy species ever to inhabit this planet.  Feel-good, warm and fuzzy messages aren’t going to work.  We need more boldness.  We need more messages like this.  We need more rude awakenings.

What do you think, is this ad too aggressive or do you think it’s necessary?

1 Comment

Filed under Diets, Food, General Health

The KFC Double Down: A Gamble With Your Life


This artery-clogging behemoth of a “sandwich” has been out for about a year, but since I don’t watch much television and certainly don’t eat fast food, I just found out about it today during a commercial while watching the Giants game yesterday.

What the heck is it?  It’s two pieces of fried chicken with two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese, and the Colonel’s special sauce piled high in between.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Two pieces of deep-fried extra crispy chicken make up the “roll”.  A quick ingredient search (right on KFC’s website) lists the 16 ingredients in KFC’s extra crispy chicken.  Sixteen ingredients in a piece of fried chicken?  That’s barely food.  Add two slices of bacon (only 7 ingredients), two slices of cheese (4 ingredients), and of course the Colonel’s special sauce, a glorious concoction of 23 different ingredients, about half a dozen of which I can pronounce.  What do you get when you add all of that up?  A widow-maker of a sandwich that clocks in at 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1,380 mg of sodium.  You say 540 calories isn’t so bad?  You’re right, 540 calories is a good amount of calories to eat for lunch for most people.  But two things:  1.  These aren’t food calories and therefore certainly aren’t healthy.  Every single one of these ingredients is produced in a factory.  There’s nothing natural here.  And 2.  I’m willing to bet that fewer than 5% of all people who eat this sandwich eat just the sandwich.  An overwhelming majority, I bet, eat this with a side of fries and a soda, which will push them up into the 4-digit calorie range for sure.

It’s worth repeating:  this is NOT food.  It’s processed garbage made in factories.  If your chicken has 16 different ingredients, there’s a problem.  But the more serious problem is that people think a sandwich like this is okay.  This sandwich, in a way, represents what is wrong with our society and represents exactly the type of food and type of eating that we have to get away from.

If the problem is a sandwich like this, then the solution is education.  Educating people about what real food is, educating people about what fast food really is, educating people about the decisions they are able to make and the decisions they should make.  Michael Pollan is doing it.  So are Eric Schlosser and Dan Buettner.  Get on board.

This is my goal, my passion, and the reason I got into the health coaching business.  I want to educate as many people as possible.  I want to help people live healthier lives.  Healthier lives lead to better lives.  I want to better people.

So what can you do?  For starters, prevent your friends and loved ones from eating things like the Double Down.  And not just the Double Down, but anything like it.  Anything that doesn’t resemble real food.  Anything with multiple ingredients that you can’t pronounce.  Tell your friends to examine their eating choices and help them make better decisions.

There is an endless sea of information out there from which we can all learn.  Let’s help each other during this process.  Let’s help each other live healthier lives.  What do you say?

2 Comments

Filed under Diets, Food, General Health

Trade in Your Diets for Healthy Habits

Photo Credit: New York Times

We’re in the middle of a hot summer.  We’ve all got a lot going on – barbecues, summer vacations, camps, concerts, and so on.  When we’re busy, it becomes difficult to stick to healthy eating habits and it becomes all too easy to make excuses or rationalizations.  Dieting sucks during the summer.  There’s so much good food (and drink) around you calling your name.  You give in.  It’s only natural.  What if there was a way to enjoy all of the culinary treats of summer and still stay on the healthy track?  Well, there is and it’s easy.  Let me explain…

Ditch Your Diets
Diets don’t work.  Sure, they can help you lose a few pounds quickly, but they’re not sustainable for the long-term.  If you go on a diet, you will probably lose a few (or many) pounds.  The problem is, the day you stop that diet and resume your normal habits, you’ll put that weight right back on – a heck of a lot more quickly than you lost it.  Why don’t diets work?  Because every single one of them is, in some way, based on deprivation.  Whether it’s low-carb, high-protein, all-juice, or severely cutting calories, you’re depriving your body, and yourself, of something.  Naturally, you can only deprive yourself of something for so long before you cave in and indulge.  It’s just human nature, and it’s the body’s way of telling you it needs something, whether it is carbs, fat, or anything else.

A related observation is that depriving yourself of a particular macronutrient (carbs, proteins, fats) or a particular group of foods is not healthy.  A major component of our functioning bodies is balance.  When you completely eliminate something from your diet, your body’s balance grows askew and it’s ultimately unhealthy for you.

Develop Healthy Habits
Instead of dieting, I believe in developing healthy habits.  Human beings are creatures of habit.  Everything we do today is the result, whether directly or indirectly, of a life habit.  I’ve learned a ton about habits from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits.  When we sleep, how much we sleep, when and how much we eat, what we do in our waking hours, what we do to relax – all of it is shaped by the habits we develop over time.  Specifically, what we eat today is the result of habits that we’ve formed over time.  So it follows that if we want to eat more healthily, we have to change our life habits.  We have to develop new, sustainable, healthy, and fulfilling habits if we want to see lasting results.

This takes time.  Various resources indicate that that it takes 30 days of consistency to develop a new habit.

This is not easy.  Habits die hard.  New ones are difficult to implement and to get used to.

But it’s worth it.  Investing in yourself for just 30 days right now will lead to healthy habits for life.  Once you get past the first 30 days, you’re on cruise control.  You won’t look back.  In fact, you’ll only look forward because you’ll be so excited to further develop your new habits.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will expand on the process of forming healthy habits and what exactly you should do to start being healthy.  If there are any specific topics you’d like me to touch upon, let me know in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Diets, Food, Healthy Habits