Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The HCG Diet

          I’ve wanted to post an article on the HCG diet for some time now but felt I should do a little research first. I have very strong feelings about this diet and wanted some hard facts before I started spewing out what I thought. This post is going to be a little different from those I’ve written previously but I think this is very much worth your time in reading.
HCG is short for human chorionic gonadotropin and is a hormone produced during pregnancy. To make a long story short it aids in the growth of the embryo and placenta. This same HCG hormone is what is used in the HCG diet (obviously, since it bears the name of the hormone it uses). Most HCG diets require a daily injection of HCG (now you can buy drops that you put under your tongue 3 to 6 times per day depending on which company you buy from) and you are placed on a VLCD which is short for Very Low Calorie Diet. This VLCD consists of a mere 500 calories per day and severely limits the variety of foods you are allowed to eat. This diet is sustained for 40 days or until you reach about 30 pounds at which time they will stop your HCG diet for a certain amount of time before letting you go another round. Many doctors will suggest this diet to patients looking to lose large amounts of weight and weight loss clinics will offer this diet to anyone looking for fast results. The claim is that you can lose 1-2 pounds of fat per day without being hungry or irritable.
My goodness that sounds amazing doesn’t it? But let’s stop and think about what we’ve learned. Let’s start with the VLCD. In January’s focus topic we covered nutrition. Food is essential. Yes, it can lead us to gain weight if we eat the wrong things, but the fact remains that we need food to sustain life. Our body has what’s called a basic metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of energy (measured in calories) that your body needs to sustain life in a state of rest. This number is different from person to person but we all have it and if we fail to reach that level, we fail to function. When I say fail to function I don’t mean we have a bad day and try again tomorrow. I mean that basic bodily functions begin to shut down to preserve energy. This means even your brain activity takes a hit.
Our bodies need to have enough energy for our BMR plus some. We don’t all just sit on the couch all day and never move. Even the laziest person has to walk to the kitchen for a snack, or walk to the bathroom, or get out of bed just to make it to the couch. All of this takes energy. Using more energy means needing more calories. The majority of us lead fairly active lives. Mothers are constantly chasing kids around the house/park/store/wherever. Most people have jobs that require them to move around, even if it’s just a little bit. Even thinking burns calories. Again, we use more energy than just what our BMR requires so we have to consume more than our BMR worth of calories to function normally. Eating only 500 calories per day is so dangerous. I cannot impress upon you the seriousness of that. I have no words to describe how dangerous a 500 calorie per day diet can be. Most likely, 500 calories is lower than your BMR which means your body is starting to metabolize muscle along with some fat (causing the muscles in your body to atrophy) because it needs the extra energy and less important bodily functions (but important nonetheless) stop working to preserve energy. Things like digestion, supplying blood which brings heat (a form of energy) to your extremities, and some brain activities are shutting down because your body does not have enough energy to keep them working.
Along with your VLCD that the HCG diet plans, you have your daily injection (or your drops) of human chorionic gonadotropin. Most of us have hormonal imbalances already because our diets are so filled with processed foods and preservatives and most of us haven’t been able to tell that our hormones are out of whack; some, on the other hand, struggle with various issues due to hormonal imbalances. Having a daily injection of yet another hormone that does not belong in your body in those quantities is asking for more hormonal imbalances. People often joke about “hormonally challenged” women PMS, and other things however hormonal imbalances don’t just bring on mood swings. It can cause unexplained weight gain, high blood pressure, inability to lose weight, infertility, and a host of other nasty things that we really don’t want to deal with. Human chorionic gonadotropin does exist naturally in our bodies at a very, very small level. Pregnancy brings on some very high HCG levels and a lot of women are left with serious hormonal imbalances after a pregnancy. Putting hormones into your body that do not belong there (or have not been prescribed to you for medical reasons) is just not a good idea.
Almost everyone who uses this diet sees results. There’s no denying that. People have lost upwards of 60 pounds using a few rounds of the HCG diet. I did not write this article to try to make you believe that the diet does not work. I wrote this to warn you of the serious dangers of this diet. As I’ve said before, I have some very strong feelings towards the HCG diet and those who suggest this method of weight loss. It’s just not safe. The risks involved are not worth it. If you want to lose weight and stay healthy then you need to eat right and exercise. There is no way around it. Sure you can lose 60 pounds on the HCG diet but being left with hormonal imbalances and traumatizing your body is so not worth it. Chances are you’ll be forking out another $700 to go another round of HCG because you didn’t keep it off. I know that the companies report 70% of people have found it easy to keep the weight off but don’t buy it. In order to have permanent weight loss you need to make lifestyle changes. You need to heat healthier (and 500 calories per day is NOT healthy no matter what anyone says) and you need to exercise. Do not fall for the HCG diet or any other diet pill. Hard work pays and hard work will give you the results you want and let you keep the results, and eating healthier and exercising is free.
If you’re having trouble losing weight and you’ve considered the HCG diet or other magical weight loss pills please contact me first and let me help you. Do not endanger your life to lose some pounds.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Focus Topic: Calories...

            Okay everyone, we’ve gone over fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a previous article on good fats vs. bad fats. You’ve got the nutritional basics down. Now let’s talk calories. This is a really complicated subject simply because caloric intake is different for everyone. People assume that 2,000 calories is the magic number that we should shoot for when in reality, some people require less and others require more. For example, an obese individual looking to lose weight should never drop from 4,000+ calories per day to 1,500. While it is true that if you want to lose some weight you need to eat fewer calories, you need to make this a gradual change. If you’re use to a 4,000 calorie diet (you might seem shocked at this crazy high number but you’d be surprised how quickly calories can add up) move down to 3,800 for a few weeks. Once your body is use to that, take it down another 2-300 calories. You can’t shock your body with major calorie changes.
            Everywhere you look people are going to tell you something different but my personal opinion is that no one, under any circumstances, should drop below 1,500 calories per day, even if it’s for a short period of time. (This is one reason why the HCG diet is so bad for you. I’ll be having a post on that one later for sure.) Your body requires a certain amount of energy per day just to survive. If you’re not giving your body the energy it needs in the form of calories, basic bodily functions begin to shut down because there’s not enough energy to do everything that needs to be done. Simple things like digestion are not happening because it’s more important for your body to supply energy to your heart and lungs rather than spending it on digestion.  Everyone’s basic metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories simply by living) is different which is why you won’t find an exact number. However it is safe to say that no one should ever go below 1,500.
            Besides the fact that it’s dangerous to deny your body the calories it needs to function at its lowest level, weight loss needs to happen slowly. I know that sounds crazy and that some of you wish you could drop 20 pounds this week but it’s just not safe. A safe amount of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week (I realize the contestants on The Biggest Loser can sometimes lose up to 10 pounds in a week but please do not use this as an example of a good, normal practice). Slower weight loss means a slower drop in blood pressure. If you are losing too much weight too quickly you risk having your blood pressure drop drastically landing you right in the hospital or even in your very own comfy casket. I’m sure you’ve all heard horror stories about severely obese people having some sort of weight loss surgery and dying several weeks later. Part of that is because of what sudden weight loss does to your blood pressure. I know there are those of us out there who want to lose a lot of weight and that’s okay. Just please, please do it slowly.
            Another reason we want a slow weight loss is because weight loss and weight maintenance require lifestyle changes. It doesn’t do you any good to diet your way to the weight you want to be and then go right back to your old habits. That weight will be back on before you know it. Instead of “dieting” make the choice to change your lifestyle to a healthier one. “Dieting” is a temporary change to induce temporary weight loss. A lifestyle change helps us lose the weight and keep it off.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Focus Topic: Adding It All In

          In a previous post I talked about good fats and bad fats so I'll just refer you to that post so I can spend some time helping you incorporate all this good stuff into your diet. Remember to vote for next month's focus topic. Remember, just because it didn't get voted this month doesn't mean it will never be a focus topic. I promise it will reappear for another month to vote on. And don't forget to leave me some love! I like to know I'm appreciated so feel free to leave a comment or two when you're done!    
          We’ve learned the benefits of adding more fruits, vegetables, (remember, “5 will keep you alive, nine is divine”) and whole grains but the tricky part is adding them into your diet when you’re not use to it. I’ve broken down each meal of the day and given examples of how to add in our super foods. Hopefully this will inspire you to come up with something that fits your likes in foods and that gives you the servings you need.

     - 2 slices of whole wheat/grain toast (or french toast), lightly buttered, with a banana and a glass of orange juice
     - 1 bowl of whole grain cereal with low fat or skim milk (Quaker Life, Cheerios, Quaker oatmeal squares, oatmeal, and soooo much more), a small bowl of cantaloupe
     - make your own parfait by layering granola, low fat yogurt, and your favorite berries (frozen berries work just fine, pop them in the microwave for a bit to thaw them out and you’re good to go!)
     - make your own breakfast burrito by scrambling eggs, low fat cheese, ham, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, a healthy salsa, and any other of your favorite breakfast burrito veggies; roll it all up in a whole grain tortilla

     -Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, loaded with lettuce, tomato, bean sprouts, any other sandwich veggies you enjoy, light mayo, mustard, and low fat cheese. Pair that with a fruit of your choice and a healthy drink (water, low calorie juices, if you have to have a soda, at least make it diet…)
     - Gotta have a burger? Ask for extra lettuce and tomato, ask for light mayo (fast food joints put WAAAAY too much mayo on those burgers…) leave out the cheese and have a single patty burger. Trust me, you don’t need that second patty. Bring a side of fruit or a vegetable to go along with that (no, ketchup and fries do not qualify as a side vegetable).
     - Chicken salad loaded with all different vegetables. Good salad vegetables can include tomato, carrot, green onion, celery, cucumber, avocado (remember, avocados have good fats that you need), bean sprouts, you can even add frozen peas or corn. Use a light salad dressing of your choice.

     - Use as many low fat options as you can while preparing your main dish. If you can use a half pound of ground beef instead of a whole pound, do it. If you can use low fat cream of mushroom soup or whatever, do it. If fat free cheese won’t affect the texture, do it. Cutting out fat and calories wherever possible is always a good thing.
     - Next, always have a side veggie or salad to go with your meal. No room for veggies or salads after your main dish? Switch it up! Eat your salad or veggies first so you make sure you get to eat it. This also keeps you from overeating your main dish which is usually loaded with more calories and fat than your veggie/salad side dishes.
     - Pasta on the menu? Make it whole grain. There isn’t much difference in taste though there is a difference in texture. It’s never bothered me. If rice is on your menu, switch to brown rice. It does taste a little different but not bad at all, just different. I think you’ll love it. ;)
Remember in all things to go as natural as you can. I’m not an organic freak by any means, in fact, I don’t buy organic at all (though I must admit I do buy organic peanut butter from Costco… soooo tasty!) however it is important to buy and eat foods that have not been processed too much. The more it gets processed, the less vitamins and nutrients you get out of it. Take a Twinkie for example. Originally it was made from wheat; however it’s been so over processed that none of those amazing nutrients you get from whole grains are even getting to you. The closer it is to its natural state, the better for you it will be.
            If you eat some of the meal options above and be sure to eat fruits and veggies at each meal, you’ve got at least 3 servings of fruit and vegetables guaranteed. If you ate a salad or had more than a cup of fruits or veggies at that meal then chances are you’ve had five or more servings. By switching to whole grains you’ve done what you need to. If you can’t bear to part with your white bread or white rice, or white pasta, fine. Just make sure that you do switch other things to whole grain and that you only eat the “white” versions occasionally. Shoot for half of your daily grains to be whole.
            Below I’ve listed some healthy snack options that help you get your fruits, vegetables and whole grains in (not to mention a healthy dose of fiber). Enjoy!

- apples
- carrots (you can dip them in light ranch if you want, I do!)
- celery dipped in peanut butter
- whole grain toast or bagel
- bell pepper slices
- oranges
- mangos
- kiwis
- natural fruit leather
- whole grain crackers (Nabisco Multi-Grain Club Crackers are awesome!)
- cherry or grape tomatoes
- grapes
- whole grain Goldfish (I promise they even taste the same!)
- fruit cups with light syrup
- applesauce
- light, real fruit yogurt
- banana
- pears
- plums
- cantaloupe
- cherries
- whole grain granola bars (make sure they’ve actually got good stuff in them… not just crap)
- frozen berries (the beauty about these is that you can take them to work/school frozen and by the time you’re ready to snack on them they’re still nice and chilled)
- Many more! This list is just to get you started. ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Focus Topic: Whole Grains

            Not gonna lie, it makes me so happy to see that as of right now, while I’m writing this post, 17 people have voted on the poll! That means at least 17 people have read my blog at least a few times and I feel a lot better about the time and effort I put into it. :) I forgot to mention after the last post, but your homework is to find ways to put more fruits and veggies into your daily eating habits and leave a comment about it. (Please don’t just leave a comment, make it a permanent habit!) Now, onto today’s food group… whole grains!
            We all know whole grains are good for us and that we’re suppose to eat them and that somehow, even with the extra calories and what not, they’re suppose to help us maintain a healthy body weight. How many of us who don’t understand what whole grains really do actually believe that? Not many. I’m going to shed a little light on whole grains in hopes that you’ll understand their importance and become more willing to make the change to whole grains!
            Cereal grains have three parts to them. There’s the shell (the fiber or the bran of the grain), the inner starch or the flour, and the germ. All are important parts of the grain and important for us to eat. During the processing of wheat into while flower, the fiber or bran, and the germ are removed and all that’s left is the starch or flour. When we eat white bread or bleached white flour in any other food, we’re only eating a third of the original grain. White rice is simply brown rice with the outer shell (the fibrous bran part) removed. The more processed these grains are, the less nutritional value they have.
            So, why do we care? One of the biggest things removed from these grains is fiber. And we all know what fiber does right? It helps… move things along… if you know what I mean. But that’s not all it does. Studies have revealed that consuming just 10 grams of fiber a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 14%. Holy cow! There are a lot of whole grain cereals out there containing fiber (not to mention our super food group fruits and vegetables that also contain fiber). Switching to a whole grain cereal or eating 2 slices of whole grain bread with some fruit in the morning can easily give us 10 grams of fiber. Add whole grains in other places throughout the day and you’re set! (And if I may be so bold, you’ll be pleased at how well things move along. Yes, it’s pleasant because white flour tends to keep us more constipated and whole grains remedy that.)
            Okay, so not only are we having happy bathroom experiences and lowering our risk for heart disease, we’re also protecting our bodies from other major health risks when we eat whole grains. Like fruits and veggies, whole grains protect against certain types of cancer. *Gasp!* Really? Yes! It’s amazing what a proper diet can do for you! Once again, studies were conducted to determine the relationship between whole grains and cancer. Eating whole grains can reduce the risk of contracting the following cancers: breast, ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, stomach, and others. And guess what? That’s not all. Whole grains can help reduce the risk of becoming a diabetic. White flour is very quickly digested and put into the bloodstream very quickly which causes a dramatic increase in insulin. Whole grains, however, are released slowly over time which causes a slow increase in insulin (and keeps you fuller longer).
            Here’s a tip to finding out whether or not your foods contain whole grains. Find the ingredient list near the nutrition facts label. If the very first ingredient listed is “whole wheat” or some other type of whole grain, you’re good to go. If it’s listed as the second or third ingredient, the whole grain is not the main ingredient and therefore it’s not really a “whole grain” product. (They like to claim it is, but it’s really not.) So remember, just because the package says its whole grain doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Check that ingredient list for a whole grain as the first ingredient.
            So, how much should we eat? Well, ideally we should be eating all whole grains but that’s not always possible. Sadly, whole grain products are a little harder to find and are often times more expensive that processed and refined foods. Your homework is to make a switch in your diet to allow you to eat at least half of your normal grains as whole grains. For example, if you average 6 servings of grains per day (a serving is a slice of bread or a cup of cereal, something like that), make at least 3 of those servings whole grains. Once you’ve made the change, leave a comment about it! (And don't forget to cast your vote on the poll if you haven't already!)

* All studies and facts can be found in Steven Aldana’s book, The Culprit and the Cure which you can pick up at the Turbo Fit Store.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Focus Topic: Fruits and Vegetables

            I’ve decided to do something new this year and have a focus topic every month to help you stay focused. (And I’ll be honest, it’s to help me stay focused too.) Each month I’ll announce the focus topic and I’ll try my best to cover as much as I can on that topic during the month. I’ll be sure to write on several subjects but mainly on the focus topic. Check the sides of my blog for polls on future focus topics. Thanks!
            This month’s focus topic is nutrition! Why, might you ask, did I chose this as the first focus topic? Because nutrition is an essential building block for having a healthy body. Giving our body the proper nutrition in needs gives us energy, helps us keep up a strong immune system, helps us to build muscle (yes, nutrition plays a part in muscle building), helps us to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and so much more! Good nutrition helps us feel good. Plain and simple.
            So let’s start off with talking about something we all need but most of us don’t get enough of. Fruits and Vegetables!
            In 1996 a study was conducted (on humans as well as animals) to find out if there was a relationship between diet and cancer. At the end of the study they found that eating fruits and vegetables can help protect against cancers of the stomach, esophagus, lung, oral cavity, pharynx, endometrium, pancreas, and colon. A big deal? I think so. After further review it was proved that if Americans consumed 5 or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables, the prevalence of cancer would be cut in half. Doesn’t that make you want to start eating your fruits and veggies already? Um, yeah.
            Another interesting study shows that the skins of your fruits and vegetables are just as important as what’s inside the skins. The skins have important phytochemicals (among other things) that help to fight off free-radicals (free radicals are thought to be one of the causes of aging, Alzheimer’s, cancer and other things, and our bodies are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of them every day!). These important phytochemicals appear to be concentrated in the skins, so eat up!
            Eating fruits and vegetables can also help us reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower our blood pressure, and once again, the amazing phytochemicals help to repair the cloudiness in our eyes called cataracts before they ever become a problem. I’m tempted to call this amazing food group a super food. :) Couple that with antioxidants and various vitamins and you’ll be hooked on the benefits of this food group for life!
            So the big question is, how much should I eat per day? Well the study above specifies 5 servings a day but how many of us really know what a serving is? A safe assumption is that about a cup of a fruit or vegetable is a serving. Usual it’s a whole apple, orange, banana, tomato, you know, things of that size. Dr. Ken Cooper from the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Texas frequently says this about servings per day, “Eating five will keep you alive, but nine is divine.” That being said, 5 servings per day at least, nine servings per day would be amazingly good.
            Before you start thinking, “I wish there were a pill that would give me all the benefits without actually eating fruits and vegetables” you should know that pills are not always a good thing. I’m very against a lot of types of supplementation (with proper daily nutrition you don’t need them) and I’ll explain why later this month but for the time being, here are a few things to help you understand a little bit. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytochemical and an antioxidant. It has amazing properties, like all phytochemicals and antioxidants; however it only works in conjunction with all the other things contained in a tomato. That lycopene pill you take? You know, the one that’s supposed to prevent cancer? Guess what? It’s not doing anything for you. In fact, top researchers in the world say that lycopene pills should not be marketed because they don’t know enough about lycopene by itself to feel comfortable selling it to the public as a healthy supplement because the reality is, they don’t know what it does on its own yet. Health supplement companies have relatively few FDA guidelines to follow so they took that research, told the scientists “we don’t care,” and sold it to us anyway. The stink of it is, they know the majority of the public won’t know they’re taking a pill that doesn’t work and they’ll keep on buying it.
            Here’s a tip. You want the benefits of fruits and vegetables? All the benefits? Ones that work? Just eat your fruits and veggies. Don’t cut corners.
          Check back soon for posts on how to incorporate 5 or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables into your diet as well as learning about the awesomeness of whole grain foods.

* You can find all of the information I've used along with citations in Steven Aldana's book "The Culprit and the Cure" also found in the Turbo Fit Store.