Adopting good habits and giving up bad ones

Help for making changes to lose weight

Knowing what causes weight gain and weight loss does not lead to permanent weight loss. That is the sad fact that leaves many hopeless about losing weight. In “Improving Cardiovascular health with Motivational Interviewing” (M. Van Nes and J. Sawatzky, Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 2010, 654-659), it is noted that the traditional method of giving advice to change behavior rarely leads to sustained behavior change. In fact, such advising may actually decrease the changes of behavior changes. This article taps into the wisdom of the Transtheoretical Model for Health Promotion (J. Prochasky and C. DiClemente), in which individuals that need to make behavior changes are classified on a continuum with one end being not even appreciating the need for change, then listening, all the way through wanting to change, doing it and then maintaining the change for good. The article authors note statistics that some two-thirds of people that need to make a behavioral change are in one of the first two stages and often stay there.

In Big Fat Crisis, by Deborah Cohen, M.D. MPH (Philadelphia, PA:  Nation Books, 2014), the barrage of processed foods available at grocery stores, fast food restaurants and numerous other places, overwhelms our self-control. The advertising that promotes these foods is meant to lure us, and avoiding those is also smart. Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance (New York, NY:  Penguin Group, 2012) writes about changing one’s food environment to stop the hormonal abnormalities that drive overeating. He encourages a high fiber diet to increase fullness and satiety, eating breakfast and include protein if possible, avoiding processed foods and especially sugar, and exercising. But, as he wisely notes, don’t look to exercise to lose pounds but to improve your health (and that is hopefully what you are primarily after, right?).

So, this is the what is needed:  decide to make the change (I assume most of the readers of this blog article are at least approaching this point to even be reading this article). Next, plan what you’ll need to do to make the changes such as avoiding restaurant meals, cutting out soft drinks, eating lots of fiber, staying away from processed foods, going to the Farmer’s market for locally grown fruits and vegetables, etc. YOU CAN DO IT. Set a date for starting, and if you trip and fall off your diet/new lifestyle, start back on your healthy diet the next day. One mistake does not equal failure by any means.

If it is easier to make the changes more gradually, do so! And remember that increasing fiber too quickly can create some gastrointestinal problems so introduce it slowly. I recommend oatmeal with ground flax, bran, and berries. Also, vegetables throughout the day. Avoid juice because they have carbohydrates without the essential fiber. And please, please, dear reader, do what you can to decrease stress because this nasty response can lead to high cortisol levels. As Dr. Lustig notes, exercise, even 15 minutes a day of walking, can lower cortisol levels.

All of this is hard work but these changes including regular exercise can go very far in losing weight, keeping it off and avoiding many chronic diseases. And it is worth it, isn’t it? This is not meant to replace the care of your primary health care provider.


10 habits and choices that can help you achieve permanent weight loss

10 habits and choices that can help you achieve permanent weight loss

When most people want to lose weight, they usually go on a diet that restricts calories. These may work, but only temporarily because a return to the person’s normal patterns causes the weight to return. That is frustrating because people try to lose weight with the goal of keeping it off. The key to permanent weight loss is a change in habits. Adopting healthy eating habits and getting rid of bad habits can not only help with lasting weight loss, it can lead to an improvement in health. These are wonderful benefits!

  1. Drink 8 to 10 cups of water each day. Cold water is especially helpful because calories are spent when the body warms it. Tea can aid abdominal fat loss, but it can cause insomnia if consumed after 12:00 p.m. It can also cause some people to urinate too much.
  2. Lift weights at a gym. This helps increase muscle cell size and increase the calories burned even when you are at rest. Muscle burns fifteen times as many calories as fat.
  3. Include some monounsaturated fats in your daily diet. These include walnuts and other nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, plus avocados. These fats decrease hunger, lower cholesterol, and can help decrease cravings. But they are high in calories so limit them to a small amount daily.
  4. Try to exercise every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. This burns some calories, and improves mood.
  5. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, or, to put it another way, eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Each color is made of different nutrients and when you eat a variety, you are most likely to get all those you need to burn fat and stay healthy. During winter, choose frozen produce, not canned. Some fruits and many vegetables have fiber that helps you feel full and is good for the intestines. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are especially good at preventing weight gain.
  6. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and have nutrients to help decrease hunger.
  7. Oatmeal is one of the best grains you can eat! It too helps you to feel full, decreases the cholesterol level, is high in fiber but low in calories, and has many important minerals needed for health. It is easy to add other nutrients to oatmeal such as ground flax, wheat germ and wheat bran, ground nuts and berries.
  8. Beans are excellent sources of protein, as well as fiber to help you stay full. They also have many other nutrients.
  9. Another important type of fat to consume each day is omega-3 fatty acids. This is a type of polyunsaturated fat, fats that are essential fatty acids needed for good health. It is most abundant in fatty fish like sardines and salmon. Flaxseeds and walnuts are other sources. They help burn fat, decrease harmful chronic inflammation, and build muscle.
  10. It is important to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Sleeping less than that increases the hormone ghrelin and that increases hunger feelings. Rest and relaxation also help decrease stress hormones like cortisol that increase the blood sugar level and weight gain.


This blog article isn’t meant to replace your primary health care provider.

The next article will cover foods, drinks and habits to give up to promote weight loss and good health. The following one will give suggestions on how to make the changes like giving up bad habits and making the good practices part of your everyday routine.


The Power of Pumpkin

You really can’t judge a book by its cover, or a food by its outward appearance. Pumpkin may look like a blank canvas of autumn artists or an iconic Thanksgiving star but it deserves better. Here are some of the benefits of pumpkin:

  • High in fiber (5 grams per half cup serving)
  • Low in calories (83 calories in one cup)
  • Rich in alpha- and beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A

The carotenes in pumpkin make it particularly powerful. Beta-carotene has been extensively studied. One benefit of it that

scientists have discovered is that this antioxidant helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol, and this effect keeps arterial plaque from getting larger. Carotenes also have an anti-inflammatory property.

What diseases can the nutrients in pumpkin help prevent?

  • Arterial diseases that lead to a stroke or heart attack
  • Cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin cancer
  • Population studies suggest it may also protect from esophageal, stomach, prostate and laryngeal cancer as well
  • Recent research offers hope that it may support the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, helping to prevent diabetes, or, if its developed, slow the progress of type 2 diabetes

In Jean Carper’s The Food Pharmacy (New York, 1988), pumpkin seeds have also been found to have some cancer-fighting powers. This book includes some interesting information on the correlation between regular pumpkin intake and lower lung cancer rates in smokers and those exposed to cigarette smoking on a regular basis.

Another advantage of pumpkin is that it is inexpensive. Pumpkin season has just ended so fresh pumpkin isn’t as widely available. In Steven Pratt, MD, and Kathy Matthews’ book SuperFoods Rx (New York, 2004), canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh pumpkin. It doesn’t contain the seeds but it is convenient and fairly inexpensive. Avoid canned pumpkin pie filling since it has sugar added to it and that is one food that not only doesn’t prevent disease but can cause it.