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6 Tips to Keep the Men in Your Life Healthy From New York Registered Nutritionist and Personal Trainer

Celebrate Men’s Health Month

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Last week, we talked about our favorite dads. This week, I want to continue discussing men’s health. June is Men’s Health Month, a month to help all of us understand the health challenges men face and how, through education and lifestyle changes, we can bring those fatality numbers down.

Though more males are born than females (105 to 100), by age 35, women outnumber men. Men have higher rates of suicide, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They are more likely to be overweight. And men are less likely to receive regular physical exams, as they are more likely to be uninsured.

Men’s health doesn’t just affect men. Early deaths can send families into poverty. In fact, more than 50% of widows living in poverty were not poor before the deaths of their husbands. 

Because of these facts, Men’s Health Month strives to educate and raise awareness about the health challenges men face, of all races, ethnicities, and religions. What can we do?

  1. Get an appointment. Give health. Give your favorite guy a checkup with a health practitioner, a community health center, or a registered dietitian. Schedule a time for him to see a personal trainer to learn about how to get moving more. Get him on track to healthier habits.

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  2. Rethink your favorite summer meals. Instead of grilling burgers and dogs on the barbecue, try some delicious, healthier alternatives. Teriyaki portobello burgers, buffalo chicken breast burgers, black bean burgers, or try something exotic like soft shell crab sliders. Finding creative ways to eat your favorite flavors can boost health.
  3. Talk about it. Men die from suicide 3.5 times more than women. And, shockingly, the highest suicide rates are in adults 45 to 54 years old. Men are less likely to talk about depression and seek out help for it. First and foremost, get help from a professional. Call a hotline. And start talking.
  4. Feed your brain for mental health. We really are what we eat. Food affects both the way our brains function and the structure of our brains. So by being mindful of what we eat, we can improve our mental health with good nutrition.  Replace simple carbs with complex carbohydrates. Reduce, or eliminate, refined sugars from our diet. Pump up serotonin with some great ProBiotics. Omega-3, found in salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more can help reduce chances of developing mental health disorders. And finally, drink up! Stay hydrated.

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  5. Change your after-work habits. It’s so tempting to fall into the couch and turn on the TV. Resist! 20% of your resting metabolic rates come from using your brain. As soon as we turn on the TV, we turn off our brains, lower our metabolisms, and put our bodies at risk. Everybody needs a break, but before turning on the TV, try:
    1. Going for a walk with the family or dog!
    2. Going to the park to play.
    3. Sitting on the floor to watch TV, where you won’t be so comfortable and will be more likely to move around.
    4. Charting your TV activity for a week … a “little TV” can be a surprising “lot.”
    5. Reading with your kids, playing a board game, doing a family activity that’s not centered around the TV.
  6. Be a tourist in your own town. How often do you miss local events, concerts, or festivals? Sign up at your local tourism bureau to get information about events that are coming up. Get a library card. Attend local events. Summertime is a great time to check out music festivals, culinary festivals, and sporting events. Most of them are free of charge! 

June is a month to celebrate the men we love – of all ages. Learn about heath risks and ways to make healthy lifestyle choices. Just a few changes can add many years!

Father's Day

Healthy Ways to Celebrate Dads from NYC Registered Nutritionist and Personal Trainer

Give the Gift of Health to the Favorite Men in Your Life

Father's Day

Tie cards, coasters, and hand-printed t-shirts are favorite gift choices for Father’s Day. It’s hard to find the just right gift to bottle up the love we feel in our hearts!

According to a study from The Guardian, 90% of men don’t wear ties to work (though those cards are cute), and according to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death for men in the United States. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, a poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol. 

Why not give your favorite dad, step dad, uncle, grandpa, or big brother in your life something that can last a lifetime? Why not give the gift of health? 

Celebrate Father’s Day with these unique gift ideas.

  1. Join a local hiking club. (Yes, you can make the hand-print stamped t-shirts, matching even, to go with this!). Get your dad outside and moving. Discover your backyard with a weekend hiking group. Most are free, and you can choose the level of aerobic intensity you like.
  2. Cook up some fun. Sign up for father-daughter or father-son cooking classes at your local community center, YMCA, or favorite restaurant. Discover healthy, tasty new ingredients and recipes that are easy to make and share.Planetarium
  3. Don’t count sheep, count stars. Go camping. Take a weekend away from the madness of the city and sleep under the stars. The health benefits of fresh air and being away from artificial lights include improved circadian rhythms (you’ll sleep better! And when you sleep better, you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight). And for those who just are a bit too bug-averse, take your dad to the planetarium and discover the Milky Way. Explore space and time together (without the mosquitoes).Baseball Field
  4. Batter up! What better way to celebrate than with baseball? An afternoon cheering for your favorite team, out in the fresh air, is a great way to celebrate your favorite guy. Being a sports fan has some fantastic side effects including: community, getting inspired to get active, and even improve your brain. (It’s not easy to understand baseball stats!)
  5. Get technological. Some dads just love their video games. So take your dad to an intense laser-tag session at a local gym and blast away. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days/week,  can improve mental health and reduce the risk of chronic disease and cancer. Tag! You’re it.Geocache
  6. Real-world treasure hunting. Download the geocache app and find treasure in your backyard. Wander around your neighborhood, the local park, or even nearby wilderness areas and find what people have cached away. It’s technological. It’s fun. It gets everyone moving, and hunting, and it’s addictive. Pack a healthy lunch or snack and go searching. Don’t forget to sign the log books.
  7. Book it! Reading, thinking, making … your local library has summer-long programming that includes Maker Spaces, read-a-thons, story time and more. Get a library card and share time together. Make it a weekly tradition to discover the programming and world of books your local library has to offer.

One in four men can suffer from heart disease that, with just a few changes in lifestyle can be reduced. So instead of that tie-card (which is lovely, by the way), why not give a gift that opens the door to opportunities to eat healthier, exercise more, and spend time together. 

Time is something we never get back, so fill it with great moments and memories with the favorite dad in your life.

Happy, Healthy Father’s Day!

woman-stress

7 Exercise and Nutrition Tips to Battle Stress and Depression

How Nutrition and Activity Can Help Mental Health

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Stress is a normal part of everyday life. But when stress levels go through the roof, many moms can experience anxiety and depression. Some call it Mommy burnout. Some say it’s just a “phase”. But the reality is many moms, many parents, experience clinical depression and anxiety.

My first recommendation is to consult with your health care professional. Chronic stress not only wears down a parent’s body, physically and mentally, but it also has a direct effect on the way parents relate to their children. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.

May is Mental Health Month, established in 1949 in order to bring awareness to mental health, educate people and organizations about the importance of mental health, and help get rid of the stigma of mental health problems. 

Health, oftentimes, is compartmentalized. We have liver specialists, hormone specialists, brain specialists and more. The reality is, though, we need to begin to look at health holistically, including mental health. Everything in our organism is connected, and if one thing isn’t going well, this causes a chain reaction throughout the whole body. This year’s mental health theme is Fitness #4MIND4BODY. 

So, I’m concluding a month of celebrating mothers to give 7 exercise and nutrition tips to battle stress and depression and improve your mental health.

  1. Less is more: High levels of sodium, sugar, and all the un-pronounceable ingredients found in highly processed foods can bring a body down. Research shows that these kinds of foods actually can increase the chance of depression by up to 60%. Eating clean is a trend that can keep your body healthier. It boils down to ingredient awareness and choosing foods that are whole and/or minimally processed.

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  2. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, dark leafy greens, walnuts, flax and chia seeds should be on your mind when you head for the grocery store. Omega 3 fatty acids are a natural anti-depressant. Nutritionists recommend a minimum of two servings per week. Omega 3 supplements are a good option as well.
  3. Get your B Vitamins! B-group vitamins include folate, folic acid and vitamin B12. They help to regulate neurotransmitters, immune function, and amino acids. People with a diet high in B vitamins lower their risk of developing depression. So time to indulge! Folate and folic acid found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients that. B12 is found in meat-based proteins, eggs and milk. Many breakfast cereals have Vitamin B12 as well, which are a good option for vegetarians.
  4. Take in the sun! Vitamin D is an essential nutrient found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals. It is also found in sunshine! Just 5 – 30 minutes of sunshine each week can fill your body with the Vitamin D. All of this sunshine helps decrease your risk of depression.

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  5. The belly-brain connection. Gut health = mental health. Prebiotics and probiotics keep our intestinal tracts healthy. 95% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our guts. So a healthy GI tract produces more serotonin which lowers anxiety and stress.
  6. Drink away your problems. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of good hydration. Our brains are 80% liquid and need hydration. Dehydration causes fatigue. Fatigue causes stress. Chronic stress wears down our bodies. And we spiral into an unhealthy cycle.

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  7. Walk it off. One step at a time can improve your mental health and decrease your chances of depression. Sedentary lifestyles and depression are bed partners. Exercise increases blood circulation to your brain, helping improve your mood. Depression and anxiety are a vacuum for energy. So oftentimes someone experiencing depression doesn’t exercise because, truthfully, her energy levels hit rock bottom. The only way to climb up from this abyss is by taking it one step at a time.

We’re ending a month of Moms. I hope I helped you discover ways to keep up your energy levels, spirits, and find healthy-eating short cuts while carving out time for exercise. Motherhood is tough, and so often in the madness we forget to take care of ourselves.

Being mindful of our needs is a great way to improve our mental and physical health.

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7 Tips to Eat for Energy from NYC Registered Dietitian

Energy Packed Snacks for Busy Moms

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In our month of celebrating moms, I want to address something we all feel: tired. I remember talking to one client who said, after her child turned two, she sat and cried for an hour because of constantly being tired. She’d felt like she hit a wall. She wondered when the tired would go away.

There are gimmicks and ads for energy boosters. I read them all the time. The bad news? There are no magic formulas to get un-tired.

The good news? Boosting your energy levels is possible. And it’s all about what’s on your plate. So, in a way, there is a magic formula for energizing yourself. 

Here are 7 nutrition tips for busy moms. Try these easy-to-follow ideas to boost your energy levels.

  1. Don’t skip breakfast! That old adage of breakfast being the most important meal of the day … is true! It’s hard to get up, get organized, get the kids organized, and get out the door on time for school or work. That said, your body needs breakfast, and skipping out on it is a surefire way to start off the day sluggish. Harvard Health has some great energy-boosting breakfast tips.
    1. Choose whole grains. Skip the white bread, and choose a nutty, grain bread. Cut up an avocado and top with cheese, olive oil, and ground pepper. If you like cereals, try bran or steel cut oats. 
    2. Include protein, whether it be cheese, yogurt, or eggs. Protein at breakfast helps you balance out proteins during the day and helps keep you fuller longer.
    3. Try a smoothie. Freeze your favorite fruits in individual serving-size smoothies. Blend with yogurt, add some wheat germ or chia seeds, and drink a delicious breakfast. 
  2. Stop. Sit. Be mindful of what is on your plate. It’s not always what you eat but how you eat. Don’t eat in the car or on the run. Don’t make a habit of helping with homework while organizing the next PTA meeting while you rush through dinner. Sit at the table and give yourself the minutes you need to really nourish yourself. Turn off the TV. Turn off your phone. Your children learn from you and how you take care of yourself. Teach them the importance of sitting down, enjoying a meal, and making every bite count.water with lemon and lime
  3. Drink water! Keep water next to your desk. Keep water tempting with cut up lemons or strawberries, ice-cold in the fridge. Dehydration leads to fatigue, which wears down other body functions. Water is the miracle drink as it helps with healthy bowel function, helps your liver weed out toxins, keeps your skin healthy among thousands of other things.
  4. Time to snack. Steer clear of potato chips and those tempting quick-fix solutions. They’ll end up clogging your system. Choose energy-boosting snacks, like peanuts and dried fruit. Cut up fruit and veggies. Dip them in yogurt, peanut butter, or hummus. If you don’t have time to prepare a snack, buy pre-made hummus or avocado at the grocery store. Read labels and choose snacks that have the most natural ingredients as possible.healthy snack
  5. Don’t ditch the carbs. With the carb-free trend, many people are running on empty. Choose whole-grain, whole-wheat options. Oatmeal, brown rice, and wheat pasta are great options. Make a pasta salad with olives, olive oil, your favorite fresh veggies, and cut up cheese. What a great lunch or afternoon snack option!
  6. Eat often. Every three to four hours, your body needs a boost. If you’re waiting too long between meals, you might overeat later, which will end up making you feel worse. Set an alarm to eat snacks. Make it a habit to pack fresh fruit and diced cheese.

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  7. Sweeten your day. Enjoy a scoop of ice cream with fresh berries, a chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk, dark chocolate and nuts. Indulge in your grandma’s apple pie with a slice of cheese. You don’t have to cut sweets out of your diet. Eating and energy is so much about the experience of it. Too many sweets and high-sugar treats, though, will have the opposite effect and bring you down. But don’t miss out on those flavors that bring you joy! 

Like I said, there’s no magic one-shot energy booster. But by making a habit out of choosing healthy options, being mindful of what you’re eating, and taking the minutes necessary to nourish yourself, you’re giving yourself a lifetime of energy, not a quick-fix moment.

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7 Postpartum Exercise Tips from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

How to Know When Your Body is Ready

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40 weeks of pregnancy, childbirth, and what women’s bodies go through during this time is nothing short of phenomenal. I ask many clients to count how many doctor’s visits they had during their pregnancy. Some as many as twenty or more (including visits to nutritionists, the pediatrician of choice etc.), depending on whether they had a high-risk pregnancy or not.

Now, how many postpartum doctor visits do women have? Oftentimes one or two. One, ten days after the birth. Another visit might be scheduled as the doctor deems necessary.

That’s it.

Yet the majority of women, postpartum, experience a myriad of physical changes. Over half experience pelvic injury or dysfunction.  In France, all women are prescribed at least ten sessions with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Yet, in the United States, most people don’t talk about it except for the occasional joke between women.

Women’s health is sorely under-studied and definitely not talked about enough. Many are eager to get back to exercise, and I don’t blame them. That said, before going to a physical therapist, it’s critical to get the green light from your OBGyn or health care provider. 

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Once you get the go-ahead, here are some great postpartum exercise tips.

  1. Listen to your body. Some women are up and running after six weeks. Some might take longer. Your body has been through a lot. Though it’s important to be active, planning your next Iron Man probably isn’t best during your postpartum recovery period. 
  2. Pelvic floor exercises are easy, and they can be done practically anywhere. Pelvic floor muscles run from your pubic bone, at the front, to the base of your spine. They support the bladder and sphincter.  During and after pregnancy your pelvic region takes a blow. In turn, you might experience mild stress incontinence, discomfort, and feel … loose.  Kegel exercises are the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They don’t get stronger on their own, so it’s important to work on this muscle area.
    1. Find your pelvic floor muscles. The easiest way to do so is stopping your pee mid-stream. Those are your pelvic floor muscles. (Don’t continue to do this while you’re urinating. It’s just a way to find them.)
    2. Begin by contracting your muscles for three to five seconds. Do a series of ten. It’s hard at first. But just like any exercise, you’ll get stronger.
    3. Build up to ten-second Kegels. The goal is to do three sets of ten Kegels every day.
    4. Schedule a time to do Kegels, like every evening while watching TV. 
  3. Aerobic workouts. Don’t rush into aerobic exercise. Keep in mind your muscles and joints loosened up during pregnancy. Initially begin walking twenty or thirty minutes each day. What a great excuse to get that stroller out and explore the neighborhood. As soon as your doctor gives you the thumbs up, you can start building up to more moderate to high-intensity workouts. Always, always, though, listen to your body. 
  4. Dynamic stretching can help improve range of motion or just help eek out the tension. That’s a good enough reason for anybody!
  5. Yoga is a phenomenal postpartum exercise choice. Most women experience a large separation between abdominals after birth. After mastering the Kegel exercises, working yoga into your workout can help strengthen abs, which will help alleviate that lower back pain. Positions like the Warrior I and Locust with Shoulder Bind are great to reduce neck and shoulder pain (all that looking down!). And finally, the Bridge Pose is a great way to battle anxiety, which is incredibly common after having a child. It’s got the added bonus of strengthening your hamstrings and gluts.
  6. Swimming, once you get the okay from your health care professional, is one of the best ways to get your postpartum body moving. It’s non-impact, it’s great to build muscle, core, and strengthening the pelvic floor. It’s one of the best exercise choices for all pre-natal and postpartum moms!
  7. Rest. Once you start exercising, find time to rest post-exercise. Your body really needs it. A common thing moms hear is, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Ahhh … but there are bottles to be sterilized, clothes to be washed, dishes in the sink. Very few moms do that, but finding spaces to rest, breathe, and have moments of restoration, especially after exercise, is more important now than ever.

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Give yourself time. You’re waking up every two hours for feedings. You probably can’t remember the last time you showered. And everything, undoubtedly, feels overwhelming. Your body needs to recover. It’s okay to not dive into an exercise routine right away. It’s okay to stumble through these first several weeks wondering where you left your toothbrush. 

Take care of yourself so you can take care of that baby.

Mom & Baby

6 Postpartum Nutrition Tips from New York City Registered Dietitian

Think Health, Health, Health

Mom & Baby

In May, we’re celebrating a month of motherhood, everything from pre-natal and post-partum care, to mindful eating and energizing foods. Yes, that last one is pretty popular. 

As Dayna M. Kurtz says, “Millions of mothers are born each year.” Nature shifts its focus, always, to the baby, which makes sense. But with this shift comes millions of women who forget to take care of themselves.

To begin, many of you might be celebrating your first Mother’s Day this upcoming weekend. And it might be … confusing. Everybody has the best advice on how you should be eating, sleeping, feeding the baby. And you’re, most likely, a mixture of elated, overwhelmed, and definitely exhausted.

And, let’s be frank. Kate Middleton does not help matters. (I have yet to meet a real human mother that looks like that after giving birth.)

Nature has a funny way of sweeping down and getting rid of all of those great hormones in one swoop just when your body most needs them. Because of the radical physical changes after birth, the body has a lot of adjusting to do that can take weeks, even months, to adapt. None of these issues, I recognize, are ever addressed at baby showers or in a greeting card.

Congratulations! Welcome to the land of fatigue and weird things happening to your body!

Being a new mom, taking care of a new person, can be the most exhausting thing on the planet. Whether you’re breastfeeding, breastfeeding and bottle feeding, or bottle feeding, you need to nourish your body. This motherhood thing is new to you, too. And just as you focus your attention on your baby, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

It’s easy to lose track of meals and let nutrition slip during the first phase of post-partum. But now, more than ever, your body needs to be cared for.

Here are 6 nutrition tips to keep healthy postpartum. 

  1. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! I’d venture to say all new moms are dehydrated. During labor, a woman loses an incredible amount of liquid. At night, you might experience night sweats, as the body is working overtime to get rid of all the extra fluid it took on during pregnancy. Set an alarm to remind you to drink water. You’ll need more water than you normally do (at least 10 glasses a day). Keep water next to you while breast feeding. Keep water interesting with citric fruits cut up. Hydration will also help with constipation.water w lime and mint
  2. Time to save time. New moms are so busy and so tired, it’s impossible to imagine cooking and kitchen time. Don’t even mention a grocery store! Buy prepared foods from Amazon or Fresh Direct. Look for frozen meals that have low sodium content and use more natural, less processed ingredients. Pre-prepared meals aren’t unhealthy if you choose well. And these short cuts can make a huge difference in a new mom’s life.
  3. Think ahead. So much time is spent preparing for the baby’s arrival – the baby room, crib, the car seat, that many completely forget about the grown-ups. Make easy-to-freeze meals in the weeks before the baby is going to come. Make turkey chili in the crock pot and divide in personal-sized portions to keep in the freezer. Make large amounts of lasagna, pasta sauce, and hearty soups. All of these can be frozen and easy to access. 
  4. It’s time to get healthy. So many women jump from giving birth to the mindset of losing pregnancy weight. During pregnancy, women gain weight, lose muscle tone, all over a period of 40 weeks. Right after birth is not the time to stand on the scale. Instead, think health, nourishment, and healing. Your body needs good food and high-energy snacks. Moreover, if you’re breastfeeding, according to the Mayo clinic you might need 300 – 400 extra calories/day.  If you’re breast feeding twins, you need an extra 500 calories/day. So you’ll need to be eating, depending on the number of children, 2700 – 3200 calories/day. It’s not the time to count calories.
    1. Your body needs protein. 20 – 25% of your calories should come from lean protein (chicken, eggs, lentils, dairy, and seafood low in mercury). Have protein at every snack, every meal. Bake chicken, let it cool, and cube it to keep in the refrigerator for salads and snacks. Cut up hard-boiled eggs, and have them with whole-grain toast, drizzled with olive oil and pepper.chickpeas
    2. Healthy fats. 30% of your diet should be of healthy fats. Snack on nuts, cut up avocados to put on your egg toast or as a side. High-fat fish is good, too, however you need to watch for mercury content.
    3. High-fiber, whole-grain carbs can be part of the rest of your diet. Steer clear of simple carbs. Choose whole-grain products, steel oats, quinoa, and barley. Fruits and vegetables – include them in every meal as well for their high-fiber content.
  5. Get on an eating schedule. Put on an alarm for eating. You’ll need it, because in the fog of tired, you are likely to forget. Your body needs nourishment.
  6. Treat yourself! Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy alternatives. But treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream, dark chocolate with nuts, and other temptations. Everything in moderation.

Motherhood is here! It’s exhausting, overwhelming, and in those moments of tired, there are glimmers of complete bliss. Most moms say the first year is a blur of late night feedings and groggy pre-dawn wakeups. Nature is magical that way … after leaving the wake of fatigue, we only remember those good bits. 

In the meantime, stay healthy, eat well, rest when you can (yes … lots to ask for), and take care of your body. Happy Mother’s Day!


Recommended reading:

MOTHER MATTERS: A HOLISTIC GUIDE TO BEING A HEALTHY, HAPPY MOM
by Dayne M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT

Mother Matters by Dayna Kurtz

 

Kale

4 Nutrition Myths Busted by NYC Registered Dietitian

Time to Let Go of the Lore

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As we tackled exercise and stretching myths last week, this week, it’s time to take a look at all that nutrition lore that drives our decision-making when it comes to shopping. The health industry is a billion-dollar business – everything from protein shakes to the magical properties of kale. Many of my clients are aghast to find out that after spending hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on the latest fads that kale and blueberries won’t save the world. 

Much of what we believe to be true about nutrition, many of the decisions we make about what to eat, is based on hearsay, trends, and brilliant campaigns. Consider the billions of dollars that go into pushing agendas. To end a month of fools and follies, let’s take a critical look at some of those nutrition trends.

  1. Kale will save the world! Yes. We’re on a kale craze. And why not? It’s high in calcium, rich in Vitamin C to give our immune systems a boost, and holds a bundle of antioxidants to help protect against cancer. Plus, add the fact it’s high in iron and fiber, who doesn’t love kale? Everything in excess, though, is toxic. Even kale. Kale is in the cruciferous family like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, bok choy, arugula … among others. All cruciferous veggies are jam-packed with wonderful things. That said, with the kale craze and juice cleanse craze, doctors are seeing a spike in thyroid problems. If you have a family history of thyroid issues, eat a lot of raw cruciferous vegetables (or have jumped on the juice cleanse bandwagon), and have a diet lacking iodine, you might be setting your body up for a toxic surprise. So … be moderate. Add iodine-rich foods to your diet (navy beans, cranberries, a dash of salt), cook or steam your cruciferous veggies (as they release fewer goitrins when cooked), and keep your diet filled with variety. I’m not telling you to not eat kale and other cruciferous veggies. Just eat a little bit of everything to keep balance!

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  2. Vegetarians and vegans are depriving their bodies of much-need proteins. Some regions, and generations, struggle with vegetarianism. Lack of support from family and friends make being a vegan and/or vegetarian even more challenging. Changing from a meat-based diet to a vegetable-based diet has challenges simply because we live in a meat-centered world. As a registered dietitian, I’d say we all have dietary challenges. Vegetarians simply need to educate themselves to meet dietary recommendations. And many who do are healthier than my regular clients because they have to be so intentional about what they eat.
  3. Beware of soy! Soy has been on many women’s blacklist ever since a study came out that claimed it would change a woman’s breast density, leaving her more at-risk for developing breast cancer. These studies were ingrained in our mindset, even though they were debunked in 2013. In fact, soy, a mainstay of many Asian diets, has proven to be a defense against breast cancer. Soy is an incredible source of protein, good fats, calcium and iron. So, let’s put soy back on the table

    Nuts and Seeds

  4. Go carb-free (or fat-free, or sugar-free or or or). Diet trends tend to be radical, cutting entire food groups out of our diets. Our bodies need a little bit of everything. I’m not talking highly-processed foods (chips, crackers, processed meats) or refined sugars. I’m talking about heathy grains, fruits and vegetables, and the good fats you find in olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and avocados. Our bodies need a little bit of everything – a lot of variety – to get all essential nutrients to function.

Many people make decisions about what they eat based on a single article, study, or information a friend of a friend received from somebody else. So much of our energy is focused on what we should or shouldn’t eat, when our energy can be focused on eating what makes our bodies feel good, enjoying each bite for how it nourishes us, and letting go of the guilt. It’s about changing our mindsets. And, when in doubt, consult with a registered dietitian. It’s our job to keep up with the latest trends, fads, and information to best advise you on how to eat better.

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New York City Personal Trainer Tackles 6 Exercise Myths That Just Won’t Let Go

Myths Die Hard!

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Everybody’s an expert. We all have Google, right? Simply googling ‘best exercises for abs’ gives over 21,000,000 results. It’s safe to bet not all of them are reputable. 

We all love our mythology, and letting go of ideas that have seemingly been etched in our brains is hard to do. Alas, in a month of fools and follies – celebrating April Fools, health, and nutrition – I can’t not do a post about exercise myths that just keep on keepin’ on. 

  1. “No pain, no gain.” We’re a nation of people who’ve forgotten the importance of listening to our bodies. Super-sizing, “finishing everything on our plates”, and portion distortion aren’t the only guilty ones here. “No pain, no gain,” has been an exercise mantra for years now. And it’s completely false. It can be not only unsafe for your body but completely demoralizing. Remember, soreness ≠ pain. Discomfort is normal, pain is not. Pain is the body’s way to tell you something is wrong. So pushing yourself to exercise to the point of pain opens you up for injury and can turn you off from exercise all together!

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  2. It only matters if I exercise the right amount. Certainly, doctors recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for adults, and 300 minutes of exercise each week for kids. That said, any amount of exercise is better than no amount of exercise. Every step counts. So find ways to make movement part of your life. The more you move, the more you’ll want to move. 
  3. Overweight people don’t exercise. (Or, the opposite: Thin people are in the best shape.) This is absolutely not true. There’s no one-size-fits-all body type even though that idea is being crammed down our throats by every TV ad, Hollywood movie, and magazine we pick up. Not every healthy body has six-pack abs. In fact, most don’t. Health isn’t a size. Health isn’t a number. Health is a lifetime of good eating and exercise habits. 
  4. Lean over. Grab your ankles. Hold it. Repeat. Oh dear. *Exhale*. Stretching myths abound. Stretching doesn’t replace a warm up. Stretch only after the muscles are warm (10 – 15 minutes) or after exercising. Stretching should never be painful. Stretch for a purpose, and be consistent. Finally, try dynamic stretching: walking lunges, high knee jobs, swinging arms – focusing on movement instead of a static lengthening of muscle (which can often cause injury when done with cold muscles).senior.exercise
  5. Seniors shouldn’t exercise. They’ll break a hip! Some of my favorite clients are seniors! The four pillars of a successful senior fitness program include cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. The more active you are as a person, regardless of age, the more likely you’ll have better balance (avoiding those broken hips), better range of motion (critical for driving and reaching those top cabinets, helping with arthritis and joints) and remain independent. Moreover, studies show seniors who exercise enjoy better mental health, experience less depression and anxiety, and have better memory. 
  6. Exercise to lose weight. This one breaks my heart. For any of you who have followed my blog, you’ll know that the only reason we should exercise is quality of life. Movement is critical for mental health. Exercise gives us more energy to enjoy life and do the things that matter, like play with our kids, travel, go out dancing with friends and more. Exercise helps prevent cancer, depression, chronic disease and more. All of this improves everyone’s quality of life.

There are more myths. But these six are ones I tackle on a daily basis, re-educating clients and people in my life. What exercise myths have you encountered? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Celebrate Food

Diet Fads that Drive Nutritionists Mad

A Month of Nutrition Fools and Follies

Celebrate Food

This decade it’s all about getting in touch with our inner caveman – the Paleo. If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you. (Goodbye breads, pastas, grains and sugars!).  We’re just going gathering and hunting now. 

Last decade it was all about the South Beach diet. What will be next?

People love diets. They’re just too appealing of a quick-fix to ignore! Go to a bookstore or library and stand in front of the health and wellness section. Literally thousands of books line the shelves, hundreds published each year, all with the magic formula to help us lose weight, keep us trim, fit, and fabulous.

The LA Times published a  timeline of a brief history of diet fads that includes everything from the Atkins and South Beach to an Inuit (yes, Inuit – eat all the whale blubber and caribou you want) and a high-fiber Graham Cracker diet. And as silly as some of them seem, when we buy into a Keto diet or Paleo diet, we’re really just substituting one bit of insanity for another, latching onto an idea that one “diet” will be our panacea.

So why do we fall, time and again, for the “diet craze”? Why do they seem to work, at least in the beginning?

Fad diets and radical changes in our diets do seem to work. The pounds melt away. But this success can bounce back at us as well as fall into the familiar yo-yo dieting cycle. 

Love Your Body

It’s important to understand that anytime we restrict calories and/or begin a high-intensity exercise regime, our bodies will respond. And oftentimes that response is what we’re looking for: weight loss. But we’ve learned from studies published that followed The Biggest Loser contestants that our bodies are determined to not keep weight off. Once our metabolisms slow down, they don’t bounce back. Our bodies, in fact, work double-time to gain back that weight.

This, of course, is not a good sales pitch in a dieting book. But dieting goes way beyond weight loss. Americans, consistently, view food as the enemy (or prize), instead of something to bring family together, celebrate tradition, and enjoy. In a world of dieting books and fads, food has become our number one enemy.

Most importantly, 99.9% of health books out there don’t address something fundamental: people come in all shapes and sizes and colors and ethnicities and genders and dis/abilities and backgrounds and religions. Each and every one of us is beautiful – as the person we are. 

Where’s that diet book? (It exists, and I link to it here at the end of the post.) But the thing is, when we start dieting, we’re missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. Because, at the end of the day, there is no “ideal weight” or “size” for anybody. There’s no magic BMI number or number on a scale. 

Body Respect There’s just us. And once we get past society’s distorted expectations and our own body hate, we’re opening the door to celebrating health, food, and our beautiful bodies. So, let’s forego the whale blubber and cabbage soup. Make room on our plates for high quality foods that include Grandma’s baklava. That sounds like a diet fad we could all go for!

I invite you to read Dr. Linda Bacon and Dr. Lucy Aphramore’s work:

BODY RESPECT: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight

 

prenatal exercise

New York City Registered Personal Trainer Debunks Exercise and Pregnancy Myths

Taking on Exercise and Nutrition Myths in a Month of April Fools

“All aerobic exercise is out.”

“Stretching is dangerous.”

“If you don’t usually exercise, don’t start while you’re pregnant.”

“The only real reason to exercise while pregnant is to help lose baby weight.”

Basically, for the next 40 weeks, you’re a petri dish and should eat a lot, take vitamins, and stay still … very very still. If it were up to those meddling grandmas (sounding very Scooby Doo here), most women during pregnancy would be bubble wrapped. We can’t blame them. They’re excited to spoil those babies.

Pregnancy, though not without its ups and downs and excitement and discomfort, is a time where most women are vital, healthy, and free to exercise, move, stretch and more.  In fact, physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for early mortality worldwide.

With a few exceptions, then, for a healthier pregnancy, birth, and post-partum period, exercise is recommended! Here’s a list of the most common exercise myths that limit the lives of women while pregnant.

prenatal.exercise

  1. Keep exercise non-aerobic while pregnant. It’s perfectly fine to get your heart rate up while pregnant. Many high-performance athletes continue with their exercise regimes. That said, it’s vital to be mindful of your body while exercising and not push yourself to a point of fatigue as this could affect the fetus (perhaps now isn’t the time to train for a triathlon).
  2. If you exercise, you’ll overheat your body and hurt the baby. Overheating, especially during the first term, can be dangerous for a fetus and its development. Take the necessary precautions to keep you and your baby safe:
    1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While pregnant, you need more hydration. During pregnancy, you need to boost your water intake to 12-13 glasses/day, even more to reduce core temperature during exercise and replace fluid lost during exercise.
    2. Dress well: Wear loose, breathable clothing while exercising to keep your body temperature down.
    3. Be mindful of your body and its temperature. If it’s hot and muggy outside, exercise early in the morning or late in the evening. Stop if you feel dizzy, pain, or shortness of breath.
  3. Everything should be non-impact. During pregnancy, a woman’s body changes. Loosening ligaments and joints can make a woman more vulnerable to injury. Extra weight can be uncomfortable. Plus, there’s a shift in the point of gravity that women are working to adjust to. The key to safe exercise, then, is often balance. A fall could really hurt a baby. If you’re an avid runner, try to stick to more level terrain.  Consider alternating runs with low-impact exercises (swimming, the elliptical, yoga).  And in your last term, take it down a notch. And always, always listen to your body.
  4. Don’t start an exercise program while pregnant. Why not? Just like everybody else, health professionals recommend pregnant women get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This could be walking 30 minutes/day, going to swim class, doing yoga. Exercise is healthy … for everybody. And what better moment to start taking better care of your body than while pregnant?
  5. The only reason to exercise while pregnant is to lose weight faster after the baby is born. Your body is growing another human being. This is pretty phenomenal. Though exercising while pregnant can help manage weight, it should not be an end goal.

prenatal exercise

I love working with women, helping them navigate those rough waters of pregnancy. There are MANY benefits of exercising while pregnant. Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise eases the ache of your lower back. Most women have lower back pain while pregnant. Water workouts and weight training can alleviate back pain.
  2. Exercise helps with bowel health One of the most common discomforts during pregnancy is constipation because of the boost in progesterone and growing uterus. Exercise, hydration, and a high-fiber diet, keep your digestive track on track.
  3. Exercise boosts energy levels. Pregnancy can be an energy vacuum for some. Exercise, even just ten minutes of brisk walking, can put a spring back into your step and help you push through the long afternoon.
  4. Exercise can help control gestational diabetes. Diabetes is when blood glucose levels run higher than they normally would. One way to lower blood glucose levels is to exercise.

Pregnancy is one of the most fantastic, mysterious, intimidating times in a woman’s life. Myths abound. Always, always consult with your OB/GYN before starting on any new exercise program. Go to your regular prenatal checkups. And when the opinionmeter hits a high, telling you not to do something, nod, smile, and say, “Thank you. I will keep that in mind.”