10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

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10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

Happy July!  I hope you all are enjoying the summer months.  As an exploration for myself this weekend, I decided to try a ketogenic diet (high fat, adequate protein, very low carbohydrate). I’m one week in and I’d like to give you a day-by-day look at my experience.  But first, why subject yourself to this?  Carbs are so tasty, how have I been able to resist?

A Brief History & Overview of the Diet

There are always new fad diets circulating in popularity, and San Francisco has no shortage of people willing to try them. Ketogenic diets are different, though, because they have then been around for thousands of years. Ketogenic diets have long been present in aboriginal cultures from throughout the world.  Indeed, many native peoples have, sometimes by necessity or circumstance, had to survive on low carbohydrate, high-fat diets. The most recent and memorable introduction of the diet to the west would, of course, be the Atkins Diet.

When first confronted with this diet, I was not very intrigued - eating high amounts of fat simply sounded unpleasant.  And I looove fruit!!!  It was only after I better understood the mechanism by which it affects the body and advantages to the diet itself that I decided to give it a try.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is this: to get the body in a state of “nutritional ketosis” in which the body is safely and effectively producing and utilizing ketones as its energy source.  Ketones are an energy source that comes from fatty acids.  Your body can run on ketones much in the same way it can run on glucose. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it's essentially in fat-burning mode, instead of the usual carbohydrate-burning mode.  Obviously, this can be a great strategy for losing excess body fat, but there are many other benefits, including increased cognitive clarity, better appetite control, increased performance in endurance related events, and the list goes on.

Sounds like a great idea to try.  So why don’t more people experiment with this diet?  Well as it turns out, your body is quite reluctant to go into ketosis!  It varies person to person, but the general consensus is that it takes weeks or more to adapt after weeks of low carbohydrate consumption.  Numbers range, but 20 - 30 grams of net carbs seems to be a general consensus.  And there can be no “cheat days.”  Eating a carbohydrate-laden meal can boot you right out of ketosis and send you back to square one.  Furthermore, one must also limit the amount of protein consumed, as it can be converted into glucose, like carbs. So, your diet must be heavy in fat – somewhere in the range of 75-90% of your daily calories.  That’s a lot of fat!

I am about 10 days into the ketogenic diet.  I’d like to share my observations:

The Good:

  1. The diet has made me very aware of my carbohydrate intake.  This awareness will no doubt allow me to make better decisions about what to eat long after the diet is over.
  2. Overall, I seem to be experiencing less inflammation in my body and less bloating after meals.
  3. There has been a noticeable decrease in fat around my belly and “love handles.”

The Bad:

  1. Eating a high quantity of fat is not enjoyable for me.  I really love the taste of fruit and I wish I could have some peaches or cherries
  2. My energy levels fluctuated a lot for the first week.  Adapting to high fat, low carbohydrate can be a difficult transition, to say the least.

The Ugly:

  1. Working out has been difficult as transitioning from glucose to ketones is a BIG jump.
  2. I could feel an overall higher level of stress in my body over the first 7 days.  I really felt off.

So far, it's been an interesting journey.  The individuals I’ve met that have adopted a ketogenic diet have all raved about its benefits (increased stamina, mental clarity, etc), but have warned me that it takes some time to get there.  So far, I can say with surety that I’m not there.  The last 10 days have been interesting, but overall, not a pleasant experience.  I figure that I’ll stay on the program for another week or so, and then most likely dive headfirst into some carbs.

A final note: everyone is built differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all diet.  

Ketogenic diets are difficult to maintain, but do have some promising benefits.  That being said, it’s not an easy process, and for some, it will not be the right choice. Some people, due to their metabolism or physical routines, will do much better on a diet heavy in carbohydrates. Figuring out what’s best for you is always going to take experimentation, and it will almost always be a dynamic process - the metabolic demands of you today versus you ten years ago are quite different, and the metabolic demands of you when you’re stressed versus not stressed are also quite different.  When it comes to food, no diet book will ever compare to your own food logging and your own observation. I hope this helped clarify ketogenic diets for you all, and gave you all some insight into whether or not they could be beneficial for you!



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What the Coconut?!

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What the Coconut?!

Over the past few years, coconut oil has been all the buzz for its many uses, ranging from cooking to skin care. Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a position paper throwing into question whether or not we should be using coconut oil. While there are many arguments to be made for both sides, Coach Kathleen and I have put together the key facts to leave it up to you to decide if coconut oil will continue to be a staple in your home.

coconut-oil

How are fats classified?

  • Fats are categorized off their molecular structure into saturated or unsaturated fats, however, fats aren’t exclusively composed of one type of fatty acid. For example, beef is 56% saturated fat, 40% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat

  • Within saturated fats, there are over 35 different types of fatty acids that, in combination, form the animal fats and topical oils we consume.


Where does coconut oil fall?

  • Coconut oil is comprised of  91% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat and 3% polyunsaturated fat making is classified as a saturated fat.

  • 48% of the saturated fat in coconut oil comes from lauric acid. Lauric acid has been shown to increase high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) in the body. While an increase in HDL levels may be a good thing, an individual can also see an increase in their overall cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, leading to a higher LDL:HDL ratio. Higher LDL:HDL ratios have been found to have a correlation with CVD (cardiovascular disease)


What is recent AHA position paper suggesting?

  • Reducing saturated fat intake may help reduce the CVD risk for those consuming above a certain amount.

  • Replacing consumption of saturated fats (such as coconut oil) with unsaturated vegetable oils like olive, canola, and safflower oil will likely reduce CVD risk. The reduced CVD risk comes from the reduced LDL cholesterol seen in response to this altered fat consumption.


Final Thoughts

Bottom line is that some amount of coconut oil can be consumed in the context of an overall healthy diet, but intentionally ingesting a high intake is ill-advised.



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Hiking Your Way to Happiness

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Hiking Your Way to Happiness

About a month ago I went on the trip of a lifetime to Banff National Park in Canada with my best friend. I had no idea that this trip would end up being the highlight of my life thus far. Prior to this trip, neither my friend nor I had ever been out of the country, yet alone had a passport. It’s a wonder what a small book of paper can do for you.

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Well, what made this adventure so special anyway? This trip was probably one of the most important pieces of self-care I could have possibly given myself. The reason why it was so necessary is because I specifically took time away for myself, unplugged from the internet for a couple of days and immersed myself in nature. Granted, I wish I was better at taking time for myself on a daily basis, but those ten days helped more than you can imagine. I came back from my trip refreshed, more appreciative of those around me, and focused on what lies ahead.

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Here are some takeaways from my trip that I hope to pass on:

  1. You don’t have to go on a trip to take time for yourself. It can be as easy as turning your phone off for 10 minutes as you get ready for bed. If you can’t be bothered with turning off your phone, just put it on do not disturb.

  2. Get a hobby! Whether that’s photography, cooking, hiking, or even card making (I like to dabble in all four). We’re all workaholics here in SF and deserve to enjoy more than just work.

  3. Say no. This is probably the hardest of the three recommendations thus far but is also the most rewarding, in my opinion. unless you have FOMO (fear of missing out), then maybe tread lightly on this one. If you don’t feel like going to your co-workers friend’s sister’s birthday dinner because you would rather stay at home and rewatch Friends for the fifth time, then don’t be afraid to do it! You know better than anyone what you do and don’t want to do, so let that be the deciding factor - do what you want to do, not what others pressure you to do. Don’t let FOMO run your life. :)

  4. Lastly, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.  Taking time for yourself takes real persistence and actual effort. Start small: take a couple minutes out of your day for you and you only, and do something that you love to do. Even just something relaxing, something that helps you wind down - watching your favorite show, painting your nails, listening to music, dancing! - can have a beneficial effect. Once you’ve mastered a couple of minutes of you-time, the options are really endless.

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Now, I can’t teach you how to take time for yourself. I can only share what has helped me and hope you find yours. Taking time for yourself can be very daunting at first, but once you find balance, the reward will be well worth it.



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What Grocery Store Buzzwords Really Mean

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What Grocery Store Buzzwords Really Mean

Part I : What does this label actually mean?

Over the past few years, the rise in popularity of eating local, organic and/or sustainable is leading grocery stores to provide more detailed information about the selections of produce, dairy, seafood and meat they offer. If you’re like me, the extra details on labels at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s can more confusing than informative. Not knowing where to start when picking up my groceries was one of the big influencing factors for me to learn more about nutrition. I knew if I was struggling with this, then my friends, family, and clients likely were, too. Over time, I’ve found my passion for nutrition to be rooted around coaching people to make educated decisions and changes in their day-to-day lives. Navigating your way through the store to select the most nutrient dense foods to put in your body shouldn’t be an obstacle on your health and wellness journey.  

Photo Credit : ThruTheEyesOfEmily

Photo Credit : ThruTheEyesOfEmily

Learning what labels mean is the first step in navigating through selecting your food. Let’s start with reviewing the key terms you’ll see while shopping.

Sustainable: An approach to agriculture where raising food is healthy for both the animals and consumers, safe for the environment, is humane for the workers, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports rural communities.

Pasture-Raised: A traditional approach to farming that involves animals being raised outdoors on a pasture in a humane manner, where they eat foods that are consistent with their diets intended by nature.

Photo Credit : Tookapic

Photo Credit : Tookapic

Cage-Free: Applies to the environment specific to egg-laying hens. While the hens aren’t restricted to cages they are generally raised inside barns or warehouse.

Organic: Farmers that sell more than $5,000 of organic products are required to obtain a certification from the USDA National Organic Program specific to production and handling standards. The USDA standards limit the use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, however, it doesn’t have specific standards about production practices such as outdoor access.  

Natural:  Refers only to how meat or livestock products are processed after being slaughtered. *There are no national guidelines that cover how animals are cared for, fed, or raised.

Free Range: Refers only to poultry meat and requires the producer to show the USDA that animals have access to the outdoors. While access has to be demonstrated, the type of outdoor environment or if the animals go outdoors isn’t regulated.

Photo Credit : Skitterphoto

Photo Credit : Skitterphoto

Grass Fed: Refers to the diets for cattle, sheep, goats, and bison. Currently, there are USDA grassfed label standards that only stipulate the diet itself and not whether the animals are given access to a pasture or given supplements, antibiotics and/or synthetic hormones. The American Grassfed Association (AGA) has higher standards for ranchers, which include being a 100% forage diet, raised on a pasture, no confinement along with no antibiotics or hormones given to the animals.


Part II : Putting It Together

To help you become a grocery shopping pro, I’ve created this quick and easy chart to cross-reference next time you find yourself stuck in the aisles, confused about what to buy. Ideally, it would be great if your food ranked in the first row of 5-star quality food, but I understand that time, money, and a lack of information can all be obstacles. The important thing is that if you’re reading this article, you’re already taking steps forward in your journey to wellness - so high five to you!

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Stay tuned for the next installment of "Navigating Through The Grocery Store" for more education and practical tools for you to use. If you can’t wait, I’d love to offer you a complimentary 15- minute consultation to see what changes we can make to your nutrition routine to improve the results you’re getting.

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References:

  1. http://www.eatwild.com
  2. http://www.sustainabletable.org

 

     

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    Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

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    Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

    I started my foray into exercise like many of you: in response to frustration with body image. I was around 210 lbs. at the age of 15, and this discontent resulted in dieting and exercising my way to about 160 pounds. Unfortunately, after settling into my first real relationship, the good habits didn't stick. Luckily, I was able to keep the weight off despite my lack of motivation once I reached this goal. As research suggests, and many of you can attest to, regaining lost weight is very common.

    Now let's look at my second attempt at structured exercise a couple years later. I decided that I really enjoyed getting stronger, which was something I experienced in a resistance training class in high school. I made my mind up to focus on that aspect of self-improvement this time around. I had found something somewhat disconnected with my body image, yet with time my confidence was improved to a new level. As well, this time it stuck, and I have been regularly exercising for nearly 15 years now. 

    I have worked with a lot of clients over the years, and everyone finds different things to ignite that passion for activity. I would say that it is a slim minority who find long-term results who only focus on training for looks, weight, and body composition. For everyone else, performance does more for motivation and confidence. The most trainable physical quality we have is strength. It is not uncommon for people to double or triple their strength with proper training. Furthermore, if you really train to improve this quality, body composition is very likely to improve as well.

    One of the major downsides to training for looks is the subjectivity of your self-perception. Have you ever “felt fat?” This feeling doesn't only exist for folks who are obese, it is something that folks with healthy body fat levels also experience.

    Our body image is incredibly fickle, and trying to set yourself up for a lifetime of success with exercise built on a foundation so volatile is a recipe for disaster for most of us.

    Another advantage to training for strength is that it promotes regular progressive overload. You have to continually challenge yourself to pick up heavier weights to spur adaptation. Once again, this practice is very likely to lead to improvements in body composition. This basic tenet of exercise science is often ignored but is certainly one of the most important components of a successful exercise program.

    I know it's hard to care about strength for some of you, but I'm willing to bet you will encounter moments in your life where you truly appreciate it. I have heard tons of client stories about being empowered by their newfound performance capabilities. Often times I hear stories of things people did with their children, how they were confident enough to try something they wouldn't have otherwise tried, or simply how many things they notice in everyday life seem easy when it used to be hard.

    I'll share with you the first moment I truly appreciated my increased strength. I was on the island of Capri in Italy. My grandmother, who was terminally ill, sold her house and used some of the money to take one final dream vacation. Thankfully, I was included on this wonderful journey. Beyond her illness, she also had serious arthritis problems and a fairly recent hip replacement. When we finally got to the Blue Grotto, which was the central activity around which she planned this trip, she was crushed. There was a set of what seemed to be a couple hundred stairs to get down to the boat that would take us inside. She couldn't do it and told us to go on without her.

    Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

    Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

    I wouldn't accept this; I picked her up and carried her down and up those stairs so she could realize her dream. The folks waiting at the bottom even clapped for us when we made it down. She must've told that story 100 times before she died. It was one of her most memorable experiences, and one of her most proud moments as a grandmother.

    Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

    Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

    If I had never started trying to improve my strength, I would not have had the confidence to even attempt this, let alone the physical capacity to do so. This is the kind of thing that provides a lifetime of motivation to continue exercising. I have days where I feel like skipping my workouts too, but recalling this moment, among many others, can be very powerful for keeping consistent. 

    I urge you to experiment with this mindset. It may not be for you, but as stated, a ton of my clients have found a lot of joy, pride, and confidence by focusing on this aspect of their transformation rather than body composition. Sometimes viewing things through a new lens can lead to an appreciation that wasn't there initially. Now go: be strong, and be beautiful.



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