Category Archives: Whole Eating

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Breaking news: Butter is back!

For all of you who have given up eating butter thinking 1. it is bad for you and 2. eating it will make you fat, take note: we, the American people , have been fed(pun intended) a whole lot of misinformation about what is good for us and what is unhealthy since around the 1970’s, maybe even earlier. As we have discussed in previous posts, it is just so confusing to know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to healthy eating.  What is someone who needs to , and perhaps loves to , eat to do????

It just gets so confusing sometimes: how to choose healthy foods….

It just gets so confusing sometimes: how to choose healthy foods….

I guess it always comes back to basics, like most things in life. Personally, I have often been quite skeptical that food that comes from a NATURAL source and that is close to that natural state could possibly be bad for us when eaten in moderation. Honestly, how did eggs become so demonized for so long? For a long time, all we heard about in the media was that eating eggs leads to high cholesterol and heart disease. That just never made sense to me. Eggs are loaded with nutrients: one egg contains 75 calories, 5 grams of fat(1.6 grams saturated fat: the good kind, by the way), iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids(believed to prevent macular degeneration). It also contains disease-fighting nutrients and choline, which enhances brain development and memory. Hmmm, now how are eggs bad for you, unless you perhaps are allergic to them? Of course, we always recommend that you consume products that are organically raised and locally produced whenever possible for optimal wellness and a smaller environmental footprint.

So getting back to the butter controversy. I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s when margarine was all the rage. I never liked it personally and couldn’t wait to go to my Ukrainian grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn where she kept unsalted butter on a plate in her kitchen: soft to spread and yummy to eat on her freshly baked loaves of Challah: a little slice of heaven. A far cry from margarine spread on a piece of Wonder bread or a Thomas’s English muffin(delicious but devoid of any real nutritional value). Funny thing is, my grandmother also had Velveeta in her apartment: what is that ‘cheese food product’ even made of that it can sit on a shelf unrefrigerated for years??? I did love it though as a kid: there was something almost magical about it, probably because my mom, who did stock margarine and TV dinners , would never allow us to have it at home.  A little bit of parental wisdom here: if you want your kids to eat something, make it a forbidden food: that will almost always guarantee that they will want it: the old reverse psychology trick.

As soon as I moved out on my own, I was able to make my own choices in terms of food purchases and I made the permanent switch to butter: usually unsalted because I love the flavor that comes through. And I have never given it up, despite all of the so-called research warning us of its link to cardiac disease. Again, I just didn’t buy it: it comes from milk, milk comes from a cow: and cows are animals, real live creatures, not products that are processed, wrapped up tightly and put on a shelf.

Mark Bittman, one of my favorite food writers, published a recent article in the NY Times : “Butter is Back” which does a terrific job of explaining why this is so:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/opinion/bittman-butter-is-back.html?_r=0

So this is great news for all of you foodies out there and those of you need help making healthy eating choices. Of course, as the article states, eat butter in moderation, especially if you are trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  Always buy the best quality of food that you can afford, because quality really does matter. I always like to use Michael Pollan’s quote about who to eat in a health manner as a simple reminder: “Eat food(whole food), not too much, mostly plants”. If you follow this simple rule, not only will you achieve your optimal weight but you will feel fantastic AND know that you are enhancing your health overall.

3 old favorites: back in your diet again

3 old favorites: back in your diet again

Oh, and before I forget: another piece of wonderful news came out this week: Salt is also okay: more about that later. So I am going to feel really good when I eat my favorite TV watching snack: Freshly popped, on the stove of course, popcorn with butter and salt: I always called it my guilty pleasure but I guess I don’t need to feel so guilty about it after all.

Bon appétit!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

Leave a comment

Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

5 days gluten-free, 16 to go

I cannot believe it is already March 6th and I am officially gluten-free, at least for now. So far, it has been way easier than I had imagined, which is great because I often feel a pang of guilt when I recommend trying this style of eating to some of my patients. I always suggest deleting gluten from the diet of patients with Hashimoto’s(an autoimmune version of hypothyroidism) , insulin resistance and diabetes, arthritis, IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diverticulitis, fatigue, weight issues and even mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Those who have followed this advice often report a significant reduction in their symptoms, so much so that they are happy to stay off gluten indefinitely.

For breakfast, I have had either gluten-free toast with peanut butter and homemade jam, rice cakes with hummus,  Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts, eggs with lots of sautéed veggies  or quinoa with cheese. I have not felt deprived at all.

Lunch is usually a salad loaded up with veggies, a source of protein or two and some nuts thrown in for crunch(I am definitely drawn to crunchy, salty and spicy foods over others). Snacks include sliced up apples or pears, a handful of grapes or a small portion of nuts(10 almonds/walnuts, or 40 pistachios is just the right amount).

Dinner has consisted of roasted veggies and goat cheese, tomato sauce over steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese(here is where my Italian roots come out: I just love a hearty tomato sauce and have found it to be quite wonderful served over veggies instead of pasta: another way to lower sugar and gluten consumption), chicken + yams + a salad, seafood and quinoa and veggies: really the possibilities are endless. I went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants last weekend and chose the polenta with sausage: YUM! I avoided the warm crusty Italian bread with olive oil: ouch…but I survived and happily so. I honestly believe this is a good change for me as I am one of those who often fills up on bread if it is there.

I have noticed that 1. I feel great: lots of energy. 2. I am not as hungry between meals( I am quite the grazer usually) 3. My clothes around the waistline feel a little looser.  So these are subtle changes but it has only been 5 days. I will keep you posted throughout the next 2+ weeks.

Bon appétit, sans gluten.

Another fun birthday celebration(they just keep coming, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

Another fun birthday celebration, Melinda’s(they just keep coming for all of us, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

Leave a comment

Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Gluten: what is all the fuss about anyway????

Isn’t it amazing how hard it is to make sustainable changes in your diet and/or exercise program between all of the holidays and celebrations that just seem to keep coming? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE holidays, birthdays, parties for no apparent reason, book club meetings, happy hour, after-work get-togethers, lunches with friends: my point is that there never seems to be a ‘perfect time’ to try to create some new habits. I have been thinking about this long and hard as 2014 has started and is now well under way(almost 1/6 th over, how did that happen???). Lately I have been immersing myself into reading about gluten/wheat/inflammation/belly fat. I am just about done reading the excellent book “Wheat Belly” by cardiologist William Davis, MD. In addition, I recently attended a terrific conference on gluten and I am getting more and more convinced that for some of us, gluten can cause some significant health problems.

My beautiful birthday group: yet another celebration!

My beautiful birthday group: yet another celebration!

Candace and I are both fascinated by the links between diet, hormone balance and weight issues. This has become quite a hot topic in the last few decades.  There is so much information that it can be overwhelming for most of us to sort through: which diet is best?:  low-fat, low carb, high protein, no grains, no sugar, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo: the list is endless and the media is constantly profiling contradictory studies about each of these programs, therefore adding more confusion to the mix.

Obviously, there is not one diet type that fits everyone on this planet. Each of us is born with a certain ‘genotype’, or genetic code, that determines about 30% of who we are and how healthy we will be. The great news, however, is that our ‘phenotype'(how we look and who we are, in terms of personality, health and everything else you can think of) is shaped by our environment and the choices we make. In other words, we have a great deal of say in who we become and what level of health we can reach and maintain. 

Making the right choices when you eat is pivotal to how healthy you look and feel

Making the right choices when you eat is pivotal to how healthy you look and feel

Getting back to gluten and wheat: what we now know is that the wheat that we consume now compared to what we consumed 50 years ago is very different. There has been a push to make the grains that we eat grow faster(leading to greater yields of crops, i.e. more profit for the farmers and all involved in the food supply chain). The wheat we now consume has between 50 and 500% greater gluten content than what was available a mere half century ago. Why is this important? Studies have shown that an individual consuming present-day wheat has a jump in blood glucose(sugar) higher than when then that same person eats white sugar. This is very alarming indeed.

Here is a quick overview of what happens when your blood sugar goes up after eating: Your body can do only 3 things with an elevated blood sugar: use it as energy, store it as glycogen in the liver or store it as fat. Well, guess what? If you are consuming more calories than what you are burning, you don’t need the glucose for energy. In addition, your body can only store so much as glycogen, so the majority gets stored as fat. Insulin is the hormone that is released by the pancreas in response to an elevated blood glucose and allows your body to use the glucose(and store it as fat). Over time, if your body is continually bombarded by a rise in blood sugar, your insulin becomes resistant and you need more of it to utilize the glucose, leading to more fat storage: this becomes quite a vicious cycle! Once your body becomes insulin resistant, it is harder to lose weight, something we hear all the time: “I just don’t eat that much and I cannot seem to lose weight, especially around my middle”. Eventually insulin resistance leads to Type II Diabetes, a road that you would rather not go down if you can avoid it.  And you can: that is the excellent news. By changing your diet and your exercise routine, you can return to the path towards optimal weight and hormone balance.

You can look and feel wonderful when your hormones and diet is balanced

You can look and feel wonderful when your hormones and diet is balanced

So is going gluten-free for you? Honestly, I cannot answer that and I don’t know if it has a huge impact on me. What I DO know is that many of the women that I see as patients have given up gluten, either by my or someone else’s recommendation, and the effect for many has been profound. I am going to ask several of them to write some comments about what happened to them individually, as I think that will be more powerful than hearing it from me. Briefly, they have noticed weight loss, clearer skin and thinking, increased energy, loss of belly fat and an overall sense of well-being. If it sounds too good to be true, it is not. For the millions of people who are gluten intolerant, giving it up can be a game changer. My goal is to go off of gluten completely starting March 1st and stay off for 21 days.  Please feel free to join me, as so many of you have in the past with our ‘consciousness cleanses’. It is nice to have company when embarking on a new way of eating and it will be fun to see what we notice individually and as a group.

Stay tuned: more info to come on what you can and cannot eat. But don’t worry: there is still an amazing selection of food out there that is without gluten. We will eat well and hopefully we will notice some significant differences in how we look and feel.

That's me inside of a 1000 year old plus tree: now that's sustainable living!

That’s me inside of a 1000 year old plus tree: now that’s sustainable living!

4 Comments

Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Are you nuts???? the good news about them(and us!)

Holiday parties are in full swing and with that comes the risk of adding on extra pounds. I mentioned in one of my recent posts that the average American gains 14 pounds(yikes!) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That is just not acceptable.

So what can YOU do to  avoid this? Nuts have been getting quite a lot of attention these past few years:  they are full of fiber, unsaturated fats, nutrients that help your brain and immune system work better, loaded with flavor and best of all, when eaten in moderation, they may help you actually lose weight.

What??? How can that be? Nuts are fattening, right? Well, they are nutrient and calorie dense foods but recent studies have shown that they may in fact stave off your appetite when eaten early in the day and help you eat less as the day goes on.

Here is a recent article in the NY Times. Do click on the video in the article as well. It is a fascinating subject.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/dining/are-nuts-a-weight-loss-aid.html?ref=health

Throughout the years we have all been bombarded with a barrage of weight loss programs: low fat/ high carb, high fat/low carb, Atkins, Skillman, Paleo, vegan, South Beach: it gets very confusing. How does someone know which diet is right for them and which foods are best to eat? Michael Pollan has seven simple words that he uses to distill it all down: Eat food(whole), not too much, mostly plants.

Nuts grow on trees, as do avocados and fruits. It just makes sense that they are good for us, doesn’t it? Candace and I will continue to tackle this complex topic in the coming months but for now, grab a handful of nuts in the morning and perhaps for a mid-afternoon snack and know that you are doing something wonderful for your body and your brain.

Happy holidays to you and your families.

1 Comment

Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

At the finish line: day 10

Wow, well that went by pretty fast,  in retrospect anyway. Here it is, day 10 of the fall consciousness cleanse and I made it: phew! There were some challenges, some moments, when I almost caved in….. but just knowing that I am accountable to all of you kept me going when my own will/wantpower wasn’t quite enough.

This last weekend was probably the hardest for me in terms of not having that evening glass of wine so I purposely kept my days(evenings) clear of extra social gatherings. I did go to one party last week and then out with my friend Chris(who also successfully has made it through: today is her day 11!). Instead of wine, I had some perrier and water and it felt great.

So what have I noticed after 10 days without caffeine, alcohol, sugar and the whites? First of all,  my sleep was deep, filled with dreams and I woke up refreshed each morning(sometimes I was wide awake 20 minutes before my alarm clock and could just enjoy those last stolen minutes before getting out of bed). Second, my energy was more even throughout the day and particularly in the early and late afternoon. Previously, I often would reach for a cup of coffee at around 2 pm to fight the urge to take a nap, which doesn’t fit into my work schedule, imagine that! Third, I felt more satisfied and full after a meal filled with clean foods, each one a bundle of powerful nutrients. I stopped craving anything sweet after a few days, although by day seven I could have snarfed down some lovely rich chocolate. Instead I tried a new fruit, a persimmon: wow, is that one sweet and yummy fruit. Fourth, although I consider myself somewhat of a foodie, I pushed myself to try new things: quince, persimmons, carrot chips for starters. I also discovered some new teas for my collection:  sugar cookie sleigh ride(sounds decadent: it’s not!),sugar plum spice, pumpkin spice and several new green teas.  Fifth, my clothes are looser as my weight dropped between 3 and 4 pounds, which I really noticed around my middle: that dreaded menopot!

Overall, my mood was even, my energy great and my body feels strong and ready to gear up for the holidays. Most of all, I feel empowered in knowing that I CAN DO THIS when I set my mind and soul to it. I have heard from quite a few of you who went all for the ride, some of you the entire way, some for just a portion. However much you did, congratulations for even thinking about it, as thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions lead to results. Remember that small changes cause big shifts, in your thinking, in your eating and drinking patterns, in your hormone balance, in you and in your life.  Thanks for all of your feedback(sometimes people prefer to email rather than comment on the blog: soon we will have a Facebook page which many find easier to communicate through). We love hearing from you and sharing our knowledge and experiences back and forth.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, delicious food and beverages, relaxation and much to be grateful for. Take a few minutes to think of all that you are grateful for: the list is often endless and it helps to remember all of the blessings in our lives and to be present and grateful. That is the magic of Thanksgiving: a day with no gifts, no cards, just a day to share and enjoy one another.

My beautiful family: of whom I am most grateful

My beautiful family: of whom I am most grateful

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness