Nicki Anderson
Archive for the ‘Processed Foods’ Category

A Different Perspective on Food

By Nicki On June 5, 2013 4 Comments

IMG_1430I had the good fortune of attending an event in Chicago, Farms to Forks which is three days full of lectures and food demonstrations geared to  educate attendees about the power of health-promoting foods and the reality of health-harming foods.

During the course of the weekend I was able to hear Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Doug Lisle and Jeff Novick, R.D.  , Ann Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn

Eating well has become more and more difficult. Our society makes it easier to eat poorly vs. healthy.

Even after 30 years of studying food, at times I still find myself overwhelmed with information. However what I heard over and over with every speaker, (obviously I’m simplifying), is that you can’t dispute that fresh fruits and veggies are better than processed, fried or fast-food. It’s hard to disagree with the fact that whole grains and legumes are better for you than a McDonalds breakfast sandwich or other boxed foods.

With every diet that comes along there’s always a catch, always a list that must be adhered to for proper weight loss. Most often diets are temporary as there’s no autonomy.  Although the speakers at the event have their opinions along with science to back it up, they are all vegans, a strict way to live. However,  I walked away with a different perspective.  I got the impression that education comes first, realization comes second and implementation comes third. A sound approach to healthy eating.

Rip Esselstyn, Host of the event, son of Dr. C. Esselstyn and author of Engine 2 Diet.

Rip Esselstyn, Host of the event, son of Dr. C. Esselstyn and Ann and author of Engine 2 Diet.

When I owned my fitness business, I would tell my clients, “Start with one change, maybe adding breakfast to your diet or stop eating ice cream before you go to bed. As you master that change, add on another.”  I felt the same way after walking away from this conference. I didn’t feel I had to be perfect, I simply had to be aware and then change what made sense for me .

I’m not sure I’ll ever adopt a vegan diet, but I know that I have already made some changes that I know will be permanent. The manufacturing and marketing of bad-for-you food is out of control. I thought it was bad when my kids were young, it seems to be worse now. Young mothers are confused but I simply remind them, “There are no labels to read on fresh, whole foods. Stick with them as much as you can.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was listening to Ann Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn, mother and daughter duo full of enthusiasm and passion for a plant-based diet. Ann(in her latter 70’s) shared her tips on plant-based eating while Jayne shared some fantastic recipes that even a carnivore might consider. I’ll share those recipes in my next blog. But for now, here are some take-aways from the  event. I hope you find them interesting.

 

Ann Esselstyn explaining how to strip kale.

Ann Esselstyn explaining how to strip kale.

1. Chronic disease is a result of a poor diet, period. – Dr. John McDougall

2. There are no adverse effects of clean water and clean food. – Dr. John McDougall

3. Alcohol doesn’t turn in to fat, it simply lowers inhibitions and increases caloric intake. – Dr. John McDougall

4. The U.S. does 1.2 million stents per year and mortality is 2%. – Dr. C. Esselstyn

5. Red meat increases the risk of heart disease. – Dr. C. Esselstyn

6. Carbs- It’s not about glycemic index, it’s about fiber, density and calories. – Jeffrey Novick, R.D.

7. CRAP= Cut, refined and processed foods. – Jeffrey Novick, R.D.

8. If people eliminated liquid calories from their diet, they could lose 40 pounds in a year. (The avg person gets 400 cals from liquids). – Jeffrey Novick, R.D.

9. Never believe anything on the front of any pacakge, EVER! Always read the nutrition facts label AND ingredient list. – Jeffrey Novick, R.D.

Here’s to healthier eating for you and your family!

 

Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.

Nicki

 

 


The Frightening Truth About Obesity

By Nicki On April 1, 2013 No Comments

IMG_1135Last week I attended and lectured at IHRSA(International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) 2013 Trade Show. IHRSA is a trade organization serving the health and fitness club industry with over 14,000 club members from 80 different countries. If you want to know what’s going on in the health and fitness world, you’ll find it here.

I shared the platform with my co-presenter Lisa Taylor. Lisa is from the U.K. and owns an organization called Momenta. Momenta is probably one of the most practical, medical and science based weight management programs I’ve ever seen. It’s not in the U.S.yet, but Momenta plans to seek out pilot sites in the U.S. this fall. (If you’re a fit pro interested in piloting a program, visit their website).

Our presentation was, Reducing the Global Weight Epidemic: Delivering Successful, Evidence Based Weight Management Programs. The gist of our presentation was to provide insight in to the obesity crisis and what we’re missing. The really interesting thing is although I was co-presenting with Lisa and she’s from the U.K., she shared some of the most startling information about obesity in our country. Below are just a few of the stats she shared. Some may surprise you.

  • 2011- 65% of US citizens overweight or obese, by 2018 -75% of US citizens overweight or obese . The US has the highest rate of overweight and obesity in the world.
  • Obesity is affecting our national security- *Since 1995, the proportion of recruits that failed their physical exams because they were overweight has increased by 70%.
  • *27 percent of 17 to 24-year-olds in the United States are too fat to serve in the military. That’s 9 million potential recruits!
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Ironically, health clubs and diet programs have also grown dramatically.

The bottom line is this, as someone who spent 30 years in the health and fitness industry we don’t seem to be improving the health of our country. In fact, the healthy are getting healthier while the obese are not being properly educated, inspired or invited in to health clubs. Clearly, the health and fitness industry is missing something. Don’t you agree?    IMG_1147

As someone who lost 50 pounds over 30 years ago, I never felt welcome when I walked in to a health club. I still hear that from people today. I have always purported that the health and fitness industry turns away the exact people they need to attract. Again, how can health clubs continue to proliferate right along with obesity? It doesn’t make any sense.

I encourage you to keep an eye on Momenta. It is the first program that takes in to consideration, not only the nutritional and physical aspect of weight loss and weight management, but the psychological component as well. A triage for success.

In my humble estimation, something has got to change and it needs to start with how we’re educating and inspiring those that are not naturally active nor has access to practical, honest education about health. What do you think we’re missing? I have my thoughts but would love to hear yours.

 

Here’s to never wishing for more time rather making the most of it!

Nicki

 

(*Too Fat to Fight- A Report by Mission:Readiness)

 

 

 


No BS Weight Loss Tips

By Nicki On March 27, 2013 6 Comments

IMG_2617When I lost 50 pounds over 35 years ago, it was the first time in my life that I paid attention to the food I was putting in my body. It was also the first time I fell in love with cooking. Thirty-five years later I continue to learn about food, the good, the bad and the ugly. If you continue to lose your way in the maze of unhealthy diets, perhaps this post may help in your journey toward healthy eating.

Healthy eating starts at home

 I have learned over the years that to eat healthy you must have a healthy relationship with food. It really starts with an appreciation of food which is realized when you do your own cooking. I’m not saying you have to become Martha Stewart, I’m simply suggesting that healthy eating begins when you’re up close and personal with food.

When I decided to lose weight all those years ago, shopping, preparing and enjoying my own creations educated me on what foods go together and how to keep all of the flavor while reducing calories, fat and sodium. Had I not learned to cook, I may not have kept my weight off all these years.

There may be some of you who cringe at the idea of having to cook. Even starting with just a few meals a week at home is a start. Keep it simple. But trust me here, the more you learn about the power and flavor of real food, the greater chance of wanting to cook more at home. Cooking at home results in healthier meals and greater nutritional punch.

 

Culinary Confusion

Since losing my weight, food trends are out of control. Lets walk through them and see which ones may sound familiar. When my kids were little, it was low-fat or no-fat. Then Susan Powter hit the world touting high carb and low protein. Then there was the oat bran craze, cabbage soup, food combining, low carb,  Atkins, Paleo and gluten-free. I’m sure I’ve left a few out, but these are the most memorable. Now, what do all of these food trends have in common? They have all been used not for health, but for weight loss. Every time a new food trend hits the media, weight loss is typically the motive behind its success.

I have always believed that there are elements in each one of those diets that are redeeming. However, most of them are nothing more than a fad that helps drop pounds quickly yet rarely if ever is health focused, simply weight focused. Hence why obesity is alive and well.

 

Get Back to Basics

When I was pregnant I was dedicated to feeding myself and my unborn child well. I gave up alcohol, stayed away from foods that might be toxic (fish) and exercised daily. The idea of  dieting was not even a thought. My focus was my unborn child. I believe this is true for most women. So, the question becomes why are we willing to risk our health by doing less than healthy things for our body when we’re not pregnant?

What I have discovered is that you’ve got one shot to make your health a priority. Figuring out the facts and myths surrounding food is next to impossible because there is so much conflicting information out there.

After thirty-five years I have learned the real truth behind healthy eating and healthy weight:

 

  1. Trust yourself. Deep down inside you know a good choice from a bad one. Green beans good, French fries not so much.
  2. Don’t jump on the latest food trends, they will be temporary and if they have staying power, read more about it. Look at the research and educate yourself.
  3. The healthier the food, the fewer ingredients. Have you ever seen fresh fruits or veggies with an ingredient list?   No, because its straight up good for you, solid nutrition.
  4. Get back to basics. Eating too much is not good for you. Fried foods, processed foods, high sugar and salty foods are not good for you. Less is more when it comes to meat, saturated fat, sodium and portions.
  5. Eat for yourself, not for weight loss. You’ll likely choose more wisely. Further, a byproduct of healthier eating is weight loss.

    Fresh fruits and veggies should be eaten all the time, not as a diet strategy, but as a health strategy.

    Fresh fruits and veggies should be eaten all the time, not as a diet strategy, but as a health strategy.

 

Don’t choose food for weight, choose it for health.

If there’s one tried and true “secret” that I’ve learned over the years it is, eating for health vs. weight. This approach is actually the best way to lose or manage weight. Think about it, if you’re able to focus on the foods that are naturally good for you, you will weed out the less healthy foods that caused the excess weight to begin with. Sticking with whole, fresh foods is the surest way to a healthier you.

Trust yourself to make the right choices. Focus on your health and understand its a process. I learn something new everyday. I also seek to learn as much as I can so I can make the best decisions for my health. Isn’t your health worth it?

Two of my favorite new reads include: Julieanna Hever’s- The Complete Idiots Guide to Plant Based Nutrition and David Grotto’s Book, The Best Things You Can Eat.

 

Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it!

Nicki


Why We Overeat and Why Obesity Won’t Go Away

By Nicki On August 2, 2012 3 Comments

While I was traveling last month I was sitting in an airport and watched a family finish off hamburgers and fries. One of the younger kids about 5 or 6 asked his Mom, “Do I have to eat all of it?” She responded, “Just eat it and be quiet.”  Hmm, my heart sank for 2 reasons. One, she really never answered his question and two, how will he ever learn what good food tastes like and how enjoy it? My hunch is that   more people simply eat for satiety while dismissing  flavor, nourishment, and enjoyment.
We can all agree that family dinners are not like they used to be. When I was a kid, unless my folks were going out to eat, we always ate together. When my kids were growing up, I tried to do most of our meals as a family, but when sports season rolled around that became tough. The bottom line is that we grab and go never thinking about what’s actually going in to our body, and how it may positively or negatively affect our health.
I read t his quote recently and it sums up my thoughts, “If we looked at eating as an activity to relish rather than as an invitation to gluttony, we’d all be not only healthier but happier.” –  Michelle Stacey
I have to admit, I have not always been passionate about food. When I was 50 pounds overweight, I ate for satiety, nothing more. But once I realized the way I was living wasn’t serving me well, I not only set out to change my habits, I set out to educate myself.  Learning has been a process. There’s rarely a day that passes, that I don’t learn something new about nutrition and the foods that serve to fuel positive health vs. foods that take away from health.
 Diets, weight loss pills and drinks are not the secret to anything healthy, including weight loss. I have always believed that a healthy weight is the result of a healthy diet, and I mean diet in the sense that it’s what you put in your body. Simply acknowledging that nature provides everything we need to be healthy and strong. Solid, whole nutrition can’t be found in a box or in a fast-food restaurant. The closer your food is to natural, the less you have to worry about fat, sodium and calories. Most “natural” foods are impossible to overeat, and are naturally balanced when it comes to fat, sodium and calories.
The next time you feel dissatisfied with your weight, look beyond that and instead address what you’re eating. What percentage of the foods you eat are natural, whole foods, veggies, fruits and grains? How much of what you’re eating is processed? Boxed? Fast-food? By simply making small changes each week, perhaps start with including 1 extra whole veggie per day in your diet. Once that happens, add another and so on. Instead of fries, experiment with grains, brown rice, couscous, etc.  It takes time, and changing your palette is often the hardest part of it. But you can do it.
Why is obesity such an issue? Because we ignore body signals (disease, bloating, indigestion, etc.) and continue  our addiction (fat, sodium and sugar) which takes over and rules food choices. As long as we continue to overfeed our body the wrong foods, we will never gain control over our weight, pure and simple.
Remember that just one small change today can be the positive difference in your health tomorrow.
Here’s to your health!
Nicki

Wanna Lose Weight? Check Out Your Local Farmers Market

By Nicki On June 5, 2012 No Comments

How I love the first Farmer's Market of summer!

For years, I’ve been telling people that weight loss is a byproduct of lifestyle, period. Yet many continue to jump on the latest diet trend in hopes of finding the miracle that once and for all melts unwanted fat and delivers the ideal body. Though intellectually people know that’s never going to happen, emotionally it’s a wish many still make every day.

I have always touted whole foods as the secret to a healthy weight. Even with my first book over 10 years ago, I gave the same advice then as I do today; in order to achieve a healthy weight,  you need to consider moderate portions of whole, REAL foods.

We have discovered through many studies and personal experience, that excess weight comes from so much of the processed foods we eat. Folks continue to be sucked in by confusing labels that promote, “All natural, gluten-free, fat-free, calorie-free,” it doesn’t matter, they’re likely garbage.

One of the great things about dabbling in the world of health and wellness is that there is always something new, and very often fleeting. For example, remember oats back in the 90’s as being the secret to weight loss? Fat-free in the 80’s? Yet here we are, still battling with our weight and hoping that the miracle that comes along will be fast, easy, painless and permanent.

Will something like that ever happen? As a  matter of fact, it’s something that’s been around forever, it’s just that diets are far more glamorous and make the truth far less attractive. The truth, real food. Yep, whole, natural food. No boxes no wrappers, no nothin’, simply whole, real foods. And there’s no better time than summer to experiment, and check out the vast selection of these amazing, natural foods that are kind to your body and your waistline.

As summer kicks in, Farmers Markets are opening and gaining in popularity. Farmers Markets are a wonderful way for small family farms to connect with their community, share their bounty of beautiful, fresh and in some instances, organic produce. I can promise you that the moment you choose to exchange your processed, diet foods for the real thing, change will happen. Your body will thank you for giving it what it needs by losing extra weight and operating in a more energetic way.

Nothing more beautiful than summer harvest!

However, no matter how healthy food is, quantity is still to be noted. I like to follow my Q2 rule, quality and quantity. Just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean I should eat enough to feed 2 families. Part of being healthy is being kind to your body which includes not overeating.

If you’ve struggled with achieving a weight you’re happy with, why not support your local farmers while supporting your health? There’s nothing better than a meal full of fresh vegetables to make your body love you.  And the best part of all, you’ll likely love your body back.

 

Here’s to your health!

Nicki


A Personal Trainer’s 2012 Wish List

By Nicki On December 30, 2011 6 Comments

As the new year approaches,  gyms start gearing up for the onslaught of seasonal exercisers, while diet programs click their heels in glee, the money season is upon them, CHA-CHING! They are grateful for the over-imbibing, procrastinating, excuse-making, will-powerless customer.

Magazines hope for record breaking sales as the latest fad diet or successful weight loss story graces their cover. But at the end of it all, what will people get out of the money and energy they put in to their weight loss efforts? Unfortunately, all but 1-2% of those desperately seeking miracles will realize there are no miracles and the only thing left is hard work and dedication. But for some, that’s not what they bought.  So, come February they walk away, back to the lifestyle that hasn’t served them well, but seems significantly easier. By March, they’re regretting they gave up and by May, the cycle starts all over again.

I’ve seen this yo-yo pattern for years, so I decided to create my 2012 Wish List.

1. I wish diet companies would add to all of their commercials, brochures, and any other advertising the following:  “Look, this takes a lot of hard work. Sure, you see the success stories in our ads that makes it look easy, but the truth is that our program only works if you’re willing to work- hard. You in?”  That’s just honest sales.

2. I wish gyms would offer an incentive program at the beginning of the year as their way of increasing retention vs. making their money and running. I wish those “regular” exercisers and members would be more welcoming of newbies rather than rolling their eyes and saying, “God, I can’t wait til January is over so I can get my gym back.”  I wish gyms would offer a mandatory program in January that would serve as inspiration to keep people coming to the gym long after their resolutions have passed.

3. I wish magazines would stop putting on the front of their magazines – “6 Ways to flatten your belly, NOW!”  “How you can whittle your waist by the weekend!” “How you can lose 5 pounds in just one week!” None of these do anything to focus on ways to build esteem, self-acceptance or reality. I can flatten my abs right now by laying on my back on the floor, BINGO, flat! I can whittle my waist by wearing spanks and I can lose 5 pounds in a week by taking up a liquid diet for a day or two. But where is the long-term benefit? I wish for more education, REAL education that promotes women’s self-worth, talent, and beauty for REAL people not just the 20 something models that those of us over 40 will never look like (I’m speaking for myself of course).

4. I wish for women and men to rethink weight loss. In that I mean, don’t lose weight because of societal pressure, lose it because your health is at risk. Lose it because your quality of life is being limited by the things you can’t or don’t want to do because you’re carrying around extra weight. Believe that your health is the most important thing in the world and something as basic as walking most days of the week and focusing on whole foods more often can make a radical difference in your life. I so want that for you.

5. I wish health and fitness professionals would come together and STOP making claims that they can melt away fat, or shrink someone’s body. My job as a trainer is not to melt anyone or shrink anyone. My job is to educate. And the more that trainers perpetuate weight loss myths, the more our clients will expect unrealistic results. Speak the truth, healthy weight is a choice (I know, there are some medical issues, but work with me here), and they’re either in or out. I’ve seen too many trainers put people on ridiculous programs where they lose a ton of weight quickly, only to put it back on within the year, or worse yet get injured. My job as a trainer is to motivate and educate, not to perform miracles.

These are just a few of my favorite wishes.

Here’s to your good health in 2012!

Nicki


Herbs Offer Much More Than Flavor!!

By Nicki On July 28, 2011 No Comments

My Herb Garden

(Reprinted from Sun-Times Media, Naperville Sun 7-20-11)

When I was in elementary school, I planted my first flower, a marigold. As a third-grader, the evolution from seed to flower was amazing to watch. Ever since then, I have always appreciated those who had the patience and talent to grow a garden. Lucky for me, I married an avid gardener, and year after year, my garden grows along with my love and appreciation for home-grown herbs and vegetables. Although my garden overflows with veggies, it seems that herbs are the unsung heros of nutritional value.

I’m Portuguese and love to cook, which means I never shy away from using popular Portuguese herbs, including parsley, oregano and rosemary. Although I have always loved the amazing taste of fresh herbs, I’ve often wondered what if any nutritional value they had. So, I decided to do a little research and find out just how nutrient-loaded herbs are. Once I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised to see my passion for herbs offers plenty of healthy rewards. So, I wanted to pass along what I learned to you.

Basil

Who doesn’t love a Caprese salad or a wonderful pesto? Any excuse I have to include basil in my meals, I do. Not only does basil taste great, it has a generous dose of vitamin K along with iron, calcium, fiber, manganese, vitamin C and potassium. It also offers some anti-inflammatory properties. Basil tastes great and is good for you, too. Talk about a win-win!

Oregano

How I love Oregano! Oregano is actually known, not only for it’s culinary use, but its medicinal value. In fact, it is recognized as a “functional food” because of its nutritional, antioxidant and disease-preventing properties. Oregano contains a notable list of plant derived chemical compounds known to have disease-preventing and health-promoting properties. Oregano is also a source of dietary fiber, which can play a role in controlling blood cholesterol levels. I make a killer oregano pesto that rivals basil.

Cilantro

If you love Mexican food, you’ve surely tasted this herb. Cilantro has been compared to dill in that both the plant leaves and seeds can be used as a seasoning condiment. Cilantro includes fiber, manganese, iron and magnesium. It is rich in antioxidants and folic acid, along with riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin C, which helps to protect the body from infectious agents while offering some anti-inflammatory properties.

Flat leaf parsley

As a kid, I used to call parsley leaves — the ones they’d place on your plates at restaurants — trees. Later, I learned that parsley was put on your plate because it helps aid in digestion. Beyond that, parsley is also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, which again, helps control blood cholesterol levels. Fresh parsley leaves are also rich in many essential vitamins such as riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1). Parsley also might prevent constipation.

Rosemary

If I had to choose, this herb is probably one of my favorites. It’s potent flavor compliments many dishes, grilled chicken or fish — a favorite. Rosemary is full of B-complex vitamins. Whether fresh or dried, rosemary leaves are a rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Rosemary also is a source of iron.

So there you have it, the unsung heroes of many meals, herbs. Next time you enjoy a meal and you taste great flavor, don’t overlook the nutritional punch you may be getting from herbs. Who knows, it just may inspire you to start your own herb garden!


Conscience Eating

By Nicki On July 11, 2011 No Comments

There is a great article written by Craig Harper, “How to Become a Conscious Eater.” In the article he says, “Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Re-actively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. ‘If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner’.  Awesome parenting. They fantasize about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.”

When I read this article the first time, I could relate to so much of what he wrote.  There were some things that hit me hard as at one point in my life, I did bribe and cajole my kids….. I used M&M’s for potty training. O.K., I admit it,  but my kids are no worse for the wear, but I get the point that he is making. We use food for all of the wrong reasons, and if I’m using food as a tool to bribe, it’s lost its true value.

What I love most about his article is that he hits the nail on the head when he says, “We eat on autopilot.”  He’s right, I see it in my clients every day and during my dieting days, I too was guilty.  I just put food in my mouth and ate it without even questioning it’s benefits. Sure, I counted calories here and there (when I was trying to lose weight) but quality of the food? Who cares? It was low in calories and I was taught that was all that mattered. So sad.

Fortunately, since that time, I have learned and read so much more.  I have had the good fortune of knowing people who are every bit a conscious eater. I have also encountered those that are completely disconnected from the food they’re putting in their body.  I have observed and learned from watching both practices and find 30 years after losing 50 pounds, being a conscious eater is vital.  When I can “feel”  how the foods I eat allow me to be stronger and more focused, I’m grateful. When I used to snarf down a candy bar, I never gave a second thought as to how it made me feel.

In my opinion, food isn’t the culprit in obesity, it is the lack of knowledge about food and the disrespect of food that has taken obesity to the level it is at today.

Let me give you an example. When I struggled with weight, every day I counted my calories. Sure, I knew that vegetables and fruit were good for me but I was more interested in what was good for the scale, so I rarely paid attention to quality only quantity. I was sucked in to the “diet food” that promised to help whittle my waist down. So, I lived on diet food and I continued to feel lousy and deprived. During that time,  nothing ever really tasted good, but that was the price to pay for a svelte figure. Or so I thought.  Even as a young Mom, I would live on Rice Cakes (because they were low in fat) and skip meals in order to pig out at a big event. Ugh! It was what I knew and at the time what magazines told me, so I believed it!

Fast forward 30 years. Whenever I prepare a meal, I never put anything in my mouth (O.K., almost never) without thinking about the benefits derived from my food choices.  I have come to understand that the more I eat whole, nutrient dense foods, the better I feel, without question. I love learning about the benefits of fresh herbs and green leafy veggies. I love playing with new recipes and feeding it to my family and watching them enjoy every last bite. I love pulling that first leaf of lettuce out of my garden and tasting it completely. I love the first raspberries of summer, and popping them in my mouth right from the bush. Nothing tastes better.

I haven’t counted calories in 20 years. I haven’t counted calories because I realized I wasn’t learning anything about food other than which had the least amount of calories. Once I started learning about the quality of foods, and the benefits of eating “real” food, I was no longer worried about calories. You’ll find it’s very hard to overeat “real” food because it’s typically high in fiber and satiety.When’s the last time you ate 5 oranges in one sitting? But, I bet you’ve knocked off a whole bag of chips.  Get my  point?

Craig Harper defines conscious eating as follows,“Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Eating is about giving your body what is needs to operate optimally. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, good-for-you foods were given a bad rap in that many believe healthy foods are typically bland. The truth is there is no better tasting food than that food that is fresh and nutrient rich. It’s just that so many people are used to the crazy amount of salt and fat often found in fast food. As a side note, you can season food with some unbelievable herbs and create far tastier meals than any fast food restaurant can offer.

If we continue to ignore the foods our bodies so desperately need and continue to buy packaged, processed foods, or jump onto the next crazy diet, we may never realize the benefits of eating really great foods. Once you are able to make the distinction between “diet” foods and really good-for-you foods, you will never diet again, yet you’ll be healthier than you’ve ever been. That’s my hope anyway.

In health,

Nicki


Perfect Body or Money? Where’s Option C?

By Nicki On May 28, 2011 2 Comments

This past week, USA Today came out with a story that polled about 1000 people asking if they would rather have a million dollars or a great body. 1 out of 4 would rather have a perfect body than a million dollars. I don’t know about you, but I was wondering about health. Why wasn’t there an option that asked if people would like to be in great health?  In my humble estimation, that’s a two-fer. If you’ve got your health, you’ve likely got a healthy body. Would it be perfect? There is no perfect, whereas health offers a number of benefits!

There is no doubt that we live in a time when validation is often based on the external, what you have, what you look like, etc.  Have you seen the new show, The Voice? It goes against the norm of judging based on looks, etc.  The premise of the show is that singers seeking stardom audition for judges that can’t see them, they only hear them.  The idea is if they are less than attractive or super hot, it might skew the judges vote. So, they are initially judged on talent alone, (what a concept).  This is a great illustration of not judging a book by it’s cover, because we may think we know what we’re going to get, but that is not always the case.

I know for me, when I lost all my weight, people were nicer to me. The same thing happens with someone with new found fame or money, suddenly it’s cool to be associated with you. What’s wrong with that shallow picture? I’m convinced that’s why the diet industry is so incredibly successful. Each and every day people are striving to be accepted and that often comes with a visual perception. “If you’re pretty or thin or rich, you’ll have it all.”

Remember the show, The Swan ? A select group of women, down on their luck, worked with a group of experts including, a therapist, dentist and plastic surgeon to overcome their issues. Not sure how the plastic surgeon factors in, well I do, but it’s just so ridiculous.  Then there’s the show, Bridalplasty in which girls compete before their wedding day for plastic surgery. Huh? Wha? I wonder how long the marriage lasts after so much plastic surgery?  Something tells me those men wanted to marry the girl they met, not the girl that was created.  Likely, they think that perfection equates to happiness or success. I know some beautiful people and they have just as many troubles as those not viewed as “beautiful” (beautiful is relative, don’t you think?). The best advice I ever got was from my Grandmother, she always used to tell me, “It may be shiny and new on the outside, but you need to dig a little deeper to find out what condition it’s really in.”

The sad thing is many of these folks on these shows as well as people that watch them believe that, “If I only looked like that I’d be so much more successful! If I could lose weight like the people on that show, I’d finally get that job or get that guy or girl, etc.”  The Biggest Loser is a good example. Sure, they lose weight, a lot of weight, however, once they’re off  the show,  they go back home to the same stresses, the same issues sans the chef, trainer and therapist.  The only thing that’s changed is what’s on the outside. (Yes, I know, their vitals have changed) But, if it’s not permanent, and they’re not maintaining healthy patterns, then what really changed? Only the outside.

I tell my clients all the time, change has GOT to start from the inside out, period. The truth is that if you want to change your life, there has to be a major mental shift. Just because you look great, how is that going to translate to the ideal job? Get you out of financial trouble? One needs to shift the way they think and feel internally and start conveying that externally. If you wake up tomorrow and you’re an ideal size, the “upkeep” will likely throw you and you’ll be back where you started. If you win a million dollars tomorrow, it might help you pay off some bills and buy some things you’ve always wanted, but does it change the core of who you are, bring about bliss and utopia in your life? Probably not.  If you didn’t have it before, you’re not likely to have it when circumstances change, unless you realize change is an inside out process.  You can’t project what isn’t there.

No matter how great someone’s body is, you really have to come back to self, i.e., values, character, integrity and the things that really, really matter. To me, my health is what matters because having my health allows me to do all the things I really want to do. Having my health allows me to feel great and project that energy. Focusing on my health every day gets me a lot further than focusing on my 6-pack. So, I ask you, if you had to choose between a million dollars, a “great” body or excellent health, which would you choose?

 

Here’s to your health!

Nicki

 


The Food Puzzle

By Nicki On May 15, 2011 No Comments

After close to 30 years of studying nutrition, I find we are no closer to a clear understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet. So many agendas, so much money to be made, so many opinions, it makes it rather tough for the average American to clearly understand what the truth is when it comes to a healthy diet.  I had a couple new clients this week and all of them echoed the same concerns, “I’m so confused about what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, what’s the truth?”  Given that I am not an R.D. I’m mindful of how much information I feel comfortable sharing with my clients, so I often provide websites for clients to visit. That way, they can form their own opinions about what makes sense to them and their lifestyle. But in my years as a fitness professional, I have learned a lot and here of some of the lessons I have learned.

1. We eat too much, period. Further, we eat too much of the wrong things. We have gotten away from whole, fresh foods as the norm and ended up with boxed, processed foods as the new norm. Our foods are loaded with ingredients we can’t pronounce, along with a surplus of sugar, fat and sodium.  With the explosion of “diet food” and trends, we are led to believe that something like “100 calorie packs” are healthy for us, when it fact, it’s simply a smaller amount of processed food and questionable ingredients.  The goal should be to get as close to natural and whole food as we possibly can. It’s supply and demand, the more we seek out whole foods, the greater the likelihood of them being more readily available.Unfortunately, there is far more money to be made in processed foods that have a long shelf life.

2. All too often people confuse dieting with eating healthy, that’s not always the case. Some diets offer pre-prepared boxed foods. Weight loss programs don’t focus on quality of food, simply quantity. The truth is anyone can lose weight if they cut down the amount of food they’re eating, but if you’re eating a snickers bar because it has less calories than an avocado, you’re missing the point. Sustainable weight loss comes from focusing on quality and quantity. Reassessing what you’re eating, how you can improve the quality of the food you’re eating while reducing the quantity. It’s a common held belief that if food is “healthy” you don’t have to worry about how much you eat. Our country has become obsessed with “how much can I get away with eating without gaining weight?”  Not a good approach. The better approach is “How can I learn to eat well, feel well and sustain those healthy habits?”  But diets perpetuate the misconceptions and as long as people are losing weight (even though it’s often temporary), they don’t question it.

3. We are a powerhouse country, we are well-educated yet our country is suffering from staggering numbers of health maladies as a result of poor nutrition and inactivity.  Even worse, for the lower income families their options of fresh fruits and veggies are limited. We make it easier and more affordable to go to McD’s and get a happy meal than to receive education on how to make great, healthy meals on a shoestring budget. It’s possible, but it’s not a money making proposition for large food manufacturers that mass produce “carbage.”  We are led to believe that with busier lives and less money, the only food we can afford (both in time and money is junk food), I beg to differ. Perhaps we need to spend more money on developing programs that teach options for healthy nutrition. ”

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

4. Parents think they’re doing their kids a favor by buying in to the highly commercialized boxed, processed foods. The truth is….I did it. I shudder to think that at one time I bought my kids junk snacks masked as “natural” including those fruit roll-ups things which barely pass as food. It wasn’t until I really started studying nutrition that I came to know that the fruit roll-ups were  made up of:  corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil and a variety of artificial colors and o.k. pear concentrate. When I finally started studying what I was putting in to my child’s body, I stopped. My kids were not happy, but I certainly knew that in the long-run, it was what I needed to do to give my kids the best start possible. Just as we educate our kids about the dangers of smoking and drinking, so should we focus on educating them on healthy eating.

5. So much information so little time. Here’s the way I look at it, you can’t go wrong with whole foods, you just can’t. Granted there is the debate about organic vs. non-organic, I won’t go in to my thoughts on that now, but the bottom line is that the closer you can get to natural food, the better off you’re going to be, period. If I buy anything that is boxed or wrapped, I read the ingredients. If it has more than 3 ingredients that I can’t pronounce, I take a pass. We can take control of our health by taking control of what we put in our mouth. I don’t want my nutrition information coming from organizations that are funded by Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, General Mills, Mars, etc. how can the information be objective? Um, it’s not.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s no shortage of nutrition information out there. It’s hard to research because links often take you to places that are trying to pedal their wares. As stated earlier, I’m not an RD, I am simply passionate about seeing  the health of our country improve by educating kids and families properly. The sad truth is that if we don’t get a handle on this obesity issue due to poor nutrition and inactivity(nutrition being the biggest contributor), the future of our country will be weak at best.

Following are just a few of the websites I recommend.

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Dave Grotto, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life!

Teri Gentes a Whole Self Health Lifestyle Wellness and Natural Nutrition Educator

Michael Pollan – Author of Omnivores Dilemma

How to find sustainable fruits and veggies in your community

Mark Bittman – Author of Food Matters, Food Matters Cookbook

Eric Schlosser- Author of Fast Food Nation

Morgan Spurlock – Author of  Don’t Eat This Book – Fast Food and the Super Sizing of America

Dr. Mark Occhipinti -President of American Fitness Professionals and Associates

Movies to check out – Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, Super Size Me

 

Here’s to Your Good Health,

Nicki