Stop Late Night Snacking!!!

Since I started this blog in January, I have been focused on trying to solve the mystery of why 95% of people who have lost weight, including myself, have gained it back over the next 2 years. I do not claim to have all the answers but I can share with you the some if things I know I did wrong in the past and that I am determined not to repeat this time. The first in this series on unhealthy habits is late night snacking. I cannot tell you how many nights I stayed up late catching up my electronic medical charts nibbling on large quantities of Skinny Pop or baked gluten free chips. Even something as “healthy” as skinny pop eaten right before going to bed can be hazardous your quest for good health.

Effects of Eating at Bedtime

The 24/7 availability of food in this country has created an unhealthy mindset toward food. We no longer eat to fuel our bodies, we often eat out of habit or just for fun. Aside from derailing your attempts to maintain a healthy weight, late night eating can lead to multiple other health problems.

1. Trouble sleeping. Eating late at night can keep you awake as your body tries to digest the food. This can make it not only difficult to fall asleep but to stay asleep as well. We established in an earlier blog that poor sleep causes imbalances in your hunger and fullness hormones which can lead to weight gain.

2. Acid reflux and heartburn are more common in late night eaters. Acid reflux can become severe causing inflammation in the esophagus as well as significant pain. This can lead to long term complications such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.

3. Pre-diabetes and diabetes are worsened by late night eating, especially when eating simple carbs. Those foods cause a sharp rise in insulin which drives down your blood sugar making you hungry for more. We have all experienced this after eating a simple carbohydrate packed meal of Chinese food. Insulin is a fat storage hormone and that encourages your body to store fat.

4. Late night eating makes you hungrier the next morning which could trigger you to overeat at breakfast. I noticed years ago that if I go to bed full I will invariably wake up stomach growling hungry. This is because late night eating triggers the release of the hormone ghrelin which is responsible for triggering hunger after an overnight fast. Late night eating shortens the normal overnight fast that allows the ghrelin to rise as slowly as it should while we are asleep.

Breaking the Habit

It might not be as easy as you think to break the habit of late night eating. It definitely takes time, especially if you have been doing it for many years as I had. Here are a few of the strategies that have helped me.

1. Vow not to eat within 3-4 hours of bedtime. Figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to get 7-8 hours of sleep and close your kitchen 3-4 hours before that time. If this sounds suspiciously like intermittent fasting, I will address that in a future blog.

2. After your evening meal take a walk or do some other form of physical activity to promote digestion. I would not recommend anything too vigorous that might keep you awake. Yoga, pilates or a simple stretching routine work just fine. Take breaks from the tv or computer to do a household chore or two (not in the kitchen).

3. Purge your kitchen of your favorite late night foods. (See the blog on taking the junk food challenge). If junk food is not readily available, you are less likely to eat it. Healthy eating decisions start in the grocery store. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it.

4. Make it a habit to eat a satisfying dinner that will keep you from getting hungry later. When tempted to go foraging for a snack, stop and ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Listen to your stomach and not your head when it comes to eating.

5. Brush your teeth right after dinner to symbolize the end of your eating day. If the urge to eat is still strong, try sugar free gum or strong mints to squelch that urge.

6. If all else fails, go to bed a little earlier if it will keep you out of the kitchen.

The strategies to avoid late night eating that have worked for me might not work for you so try to find tricks that work for you! We are all in this struggle together to find our healthiest selves.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)

New Month, New Challenge

Happy First Day of National Nutrition Month!! Congratulations in those if us who completed last month’s Junk Food Challenge. I am entering month 5 of my controlled carbohydrate, no junk food lifestyle. I am down a total of 20 lbs and have never felt better!! This month let’s take it to the next level by not only ditching the junk food but by limiting caffeine and alcohol, intentionally eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and water, water, water!! Who is with me???

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 (NLT)

Stress and Your Health

Since February is American Heart Month, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on some of the factors that affect our heart health. Stress is certainly at the top of that list. God designed our bodies to protect us from perceived threats by making our adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This is known as the fight or flight stress response. We have all felt this when we have almost had an accident while driving. In the split second that we see that accident about to happen the adrenals spring into action. The adrenaline increases our heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. The cortisol increases glucose, enhances brain use of glucose and curbs nonessential body functions. We may feel so shaken that we pull over to calm down once disaster is averted. Fortunately this stress response is self-limited and our heart rate, respirations and blood pressure return to normal.

What if the stressors in our lives happen too frequently or last too long or when the stressors are always present? Chronic stress occurs when the stress response stays turned on all the time. This chronic stress leads to prolonged exposure to stress hormones and can have adverse effects on almost every system in our bodies placing us at increased risk for multiple medical problems, including heart disease.

There are numerous sources of chronic stress in our daily lives. Examples of such stress include:

  • Stress related to the pressures of the demands of work, school, finances and other daily responsibilities.
  • Stress brought on by a negative life change like losing a loved one, a divorce, losing a job or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
  • Stress related to a traumatic experience like a major accident, assault, war or a natural disaster.

Some of the many health effects of chronic stress are outlined in this illustration. The same stress response that might be life saving in a crisis, can suppress our immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems when it persists over time.  In addition to medical problems, chronic stress can also lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.

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We are all different in how we respond to stress. Some of us, myself included, experience gastrointestinal problems when stressed. Others experience headaches, sleeplessness, sadness anger or irritability. Still others turn to food for comfort and subsequently put on excess weight.

When the stress is routine like job stress, it might go unnoticed as just a way of life. Over time, the continued strain on our bodies leads to serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.  If you want to see an outstanding depiction of what chronic job stress can do, watch the recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which high-powered surgeon Miranda Bailey suffers a heart attack (Season 14, Episode 11). The combination of a stressful job, poor lifestyle choices and a genetic predisposition form the perfect storm for the development of heart disease. As an African American woman over 60 who has high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, I so related to the truth of this storyline.

Ways to Reduce Stress

The good news in all of this is that there are ways to manage chronic stress to reduce or prevent these adverse effects.

  1. Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your own body. Difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol use, being easily angered, having a lack of energy or feeling depressed might all be signs that you are stressed.
  2. Set goals and priorities by deciding what can be done and what can wait in any given day. Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority over “doing it all.” If you are feeling overwhelmed on your job, seek out ways to reduce your workload.
  3. Get regular exercise!!! I cannot emphasize this point enough. A mere 30 minutes a day of exercise can have a profound impact on your mood and reduce stress.
  4. Find something that relaxes you and make it a regular part of your life. It might be prayer and meditation, yoga, tai chi or a massage. Take time for hobbies, reading a good book, or listening to music.
  5. Learn how to enjoy a good laugh. Laughter really is good medicine.
  6. Stay connected with family members and friends who can provide emotional support. There is strength and healing in community!

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)

#MoveWithHeart

February is American Heart Month sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This year’s campaign, #MoveWithHeart, encourages us to pledge 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (150 minutes per week) to physical activity that “gets your heart pumping and leaves you a little breathless.” Take the pledge, your heart will love you for it! #Ymoore4Health

Junk Food Challenge Update for February

Today marks 3 weeks since I first posted the “Junk Food Challenge.” How is everyone doing? Since today starts a new month, I am inviting others to join in and take it to the next level by avoiding the processed “white carbs” altogether (white rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) as well as CORNBREAD! These foods just turn to sugar once you eat them! Who is with me?

#ymoore4health

Sleep and Your Health

One of the most important aspects of healthy living that is often overlooked is the significance of getting an adequate amount of sleep. When the good Lord made our bodies to require that we spend almost one third of our lives doing one thing, you know it must be important. Having spent most of my adult life in a career that has often left me sleep deprived, I have personally seen the adverse impact it has had on my overall health. For those of us striving to achieve a healthy weight and an overall healthy life, getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to those efforts. Here are some of the many ways that not getting sufficient sleep can impact our lives and our health.

Brain Function

Sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night can lead us to have trouble with thinking, concentration, memory and can even impact our mood. During sleep the brain forms new neural connections that help us to process information and to remember new things we have learned. Sleep deprivation can lead to impairment of all of our mental functions, including delaying our reaction times and putting us at an increased risk for accidents. In addition, being tired and sleepy contribute to poor decision making when it comes to selecting healthy foods to fuel our bodies.

Cardiovascular System

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased blood pressure. It also leads to higher levels of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body.  Both high blood pressure and inflammation are risk factors for heart disease. Research has shown there to be a link between insomnia and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Immune System

While we are sleeping, our bodies produce cytokines which help us to fight off infection. If we do not get enough sleep, our levels of these chemicals will be impaired leading to a decreased ability to fight off illnesses, particularly viral and bacterial infections. Not only that, but this impaired immunity can make it take longer to recover from illnesses.

Weight Management and Hormones

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not simply a matter of calories in versus calories out. We now know that sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for becoming overweight and for obesity. Two hormones that control hunger and and fullness, leptin and ghrelin are directly affected by the amount of sleep we get. Leptin tells our brains to stop eating when we are full and ghrelin is an appetite stimulant. With sleep deprivation, we produce less leptin and more ghrelin. The imbalance in these hormones is thought to be responsible for late night snacking. The longer we are awake into the night, the more opportunities we have to overeat. An additional effect that poor sleep has on our weight loss efforts is to make it us too tired to exercise.

Another substance that is adversely affected by sleep deprivation is the stress hormone cortisol. Heightened cortisol levels prompt the body to store more fat (especially in our middle section) and to use muscle as an energy source. Cortisol can have the effect of increasing blood sugar levels which causes increased insulin production which in turn increases our cravings. This effect has been linked not only to obesity but an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Here are a few tips for improving your sleep which will lead to improvements in your health:

1. Sleep in complete darkness with no television, night lights or LED lights in the room.

2. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

3. Decrease or eliminate caffeine and alcohol late in the day.

4. GO TO BED early enough to insure that you can get 7-9 hours of sleep.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Skinny on Exercise for Weight Loss

Make no mistake about it, regular exercise offers many benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:

1. Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management if many diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, some types of cancer and joint problems. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week goes a long way toward keeping us healthy.

2. Exercise lifts mood. Ever heard of runner’s high? Believe me, it is real!

3. Exercise improves your energy level, promotes better sleep and improves your overall sense of well being.

4. Exercise can be a great tool to help prevent regaining weight after weight loss.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that exercise ALONE is not a very good weight loss tool. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come in requesting to have their thyroid function tested because they have been diligently exercising but unable to see the numbers on the scale go down. I have even had this happen to fitness instructors! As I shared in a previous blog, I managed to gain weight while training for and run/walking a half marathon a month over the last couple of years. The truth of the matter is that you cannot outrun your fork with exercise alone.

Here is the skinny on exercising for weight loss.

Let’s say you burn 700 calories in a 1 hour spin class. Later that day you go out with your girls to a birthday celebration. Surely it should be ok to have a margarita or two after that hard workout, right? As this illustration shows, those two drinks alone will replace those calories before you even order dinner. It will be as if you never worked out at all.

Here’s another illustration for my running friends:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one speaks volumes. In reality, exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of our energy expediture in a given day. If the workout has been particularly strenuous, it is likely to decrease our activity for the rest of the day because we are so tired. The other factor that makes strenuous exercise ineffective for weight loss is that it makes us hungrier!!! We are notoriously bad at over estimating how much more we should eat after exercise. In addition, our bodies adapt to our level of physical activity through metabolic compensation and the same amount of effort causes you to burn fewer calories over time.

It is well documented that those 10% of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year did so by initially restricting their caloric intake and exercising moderately and that they continued to do both over the long run. We have to keep in mind that as we get smaller, our Basic Metabolic Rate (the calories we burn at rest) decreases by at least 100 calories for every 10 pounds we lose. That means that if you lost down from 200 lbs to 150, you cannot go back to eating the number of calories it took to keep you at 200! This is key to weight regain. This is where continuing to exercise once we have lost weight becomes important. If we return to our pre-weight loss eating habits and stop exercising, we are destined to regain the weight and may even gain more!

Successful lifetime weight management is not one size fits all. Those who are successful at keeping weight off long term have found a way to limit their caloric intake in a way that allows them to enjoy healthy foods over the highly processed, high carbohydrate, high fat and salty foods that make us overweight in the first place. They also continue to exercise at least moderately most days of the week. It is those who are willing to adopt this as a forever lifestyle who ultimately win in the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Emotional Eating

I was channel surfing the other day and came across an episode of Meet the Browns. In this episode Cora, a plus sized character, wanted to fit into a particular dress so she started power walking and restricting what she ate. After a few days she tried on the dress and found that it was still too small and became infuriated that all of her “hard work was for nothing.” She then proceeded to scarf down an entire box of candy! The portrayal really touched me because it reminded me of the many times I have turned to food to soothe an emotion. I, like millions of others who struggle with their weight, am an emotional eater.

Although we often are not conscious of it, emotional eating is very common. We eat when we are lonely or bored, we eat when we are frustrated, we eat when we are stressed, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are angry – the list goes on and on. Emotional eating is not just about eating when we are down.  We also eat when we are happy or have something to celebrate. By definition, anytime we eat for any reason other than true physiological hunger we are probably eating in response to an emotion.

I have been an emotional eater since childhood. I was a latch key kid who was left alone from the time I got home from school until my Grandmother got home from work at close to midnight. I did not recognize it then, but food became my best friend when I was lonely and bored. I taught myself how to cook and became quite fond of my own cooking. I got into the habit of eating alone and as my weight ballooned I starting eating in secret – one of the most common attributes of the emotional eater. When you give in to getting that candy bar in the grocery checkout line and eat it in the car before you get home – you too might be an emotional eater.

If we are ever to overcome emotional eating, we must seek to understand why we have this love affair with food. It is a love affair with a lover who not only does not love us back but abuses our bodies. There is a reason why certain foods are referred to as comfort foods. Foods high in fat, sugar or salt activate the brain’s reward system. We actually get an increased sense of well being when we eat certain foods. Chocolate, for example, has a strong effect on mood by increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension. If the food makes us feel better then the next time we have an intense emotion, we are more likely to turn to food again. The reality of course is that the fix is only temporary and that the guilt and the weight gain give us more problems to stress over which leads to more overeating. We need to find ways to break that cycle if we are ever to be in control of our eating in our pursuit of our healthiest selves.

One of the best ways to overcome emotional eating is to get re-acquainted with true physiological hunger and make that the only reason to eat. Observe the overage 2 year old. Most of them will let you know when they are hungry and often eat a very small amount and tell you that they are full. We get disconnected from that God given mechanism of hunger and fullness when our well meaning parents demand that we “clean our plates.” Each time that we have the urge to eat we need to pause and ask ourselves if we are truly stomach growling hungry or do we just want to eat for some other reason. If we determine that we are not physically hungry, we need to find other ways to satisfy the urge to use food to handle our emotions. This concept is known as mindful or intuitive eating. When you eat mindfully you only eat when physically hungry and you do not continue to eat once you are physically full. Mindful eating takes practice but over time it can help tremendously in our weight loss efforts. Eating should not be a recreational activity. It should be a means to get fuel for the body.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Take the Challenge

Nothing like a diagnosis of prediabetes and gaining weight while wogging half marathons to straighten a sister right up. This is basically what has become my lifestyle since November 1st. I purposely did it through the holidays! I am down 13.5 lbs, my sugar cravings are GONE and I did not die. Take the challenge! #locarblife #eatrealfood #moreveggies #ymoore4health

The Lies that Stand Between Us and Good Health

I recently saw a young woman in my office who is in her early 40’s and weighs over 300 lbs. We talked about how her weight was increasing her risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. We then started to brainstorm about ways to turn that around. This is a little of our conversation:

Me: What sorts things are you doing to try to get your weight under control?

Patient: I was doing really great last summer and lost a lot of weight when I gave up my “drug of choice,” Dr Pepper, and backed away from the carbs. I know what to do to lose weight, but then I fall off the wagon and gain it all back.

Me: What happens to get you off track?

Patient: It’s like being an alcoholic. Unless I stay away from Dr Peppers altogether, I can’t do it. After I have been good for a while I feel like I deserve to celebrate so have just one and the next thing you know I am drinking  them again.

Me: Are there other family members who struggle with their weight?

Patient: Yes, but I do have one cousin who lost 80 lbs several years ago and has kept it off. I can’t do it because am the best cook in our family. Everyone brags on what a good cook I am and I feel like I would be letting everyone down if I stopped cooking  and inviting them over to eat big meals. Besides, my primary physician told me that some people are just going to be fat no matter what they do! (I did not make up that last part, that is exactly what she said).

Me: I imagine that your cousin was likely told the same thing before she lost that 80 pounds.

Does any if this sound familiar to you? It certainly did to me. What are the lies you are telling yourself that are standing between you and a healthy weight? It is these lies that have placed us among the 85 to 90% of those who have lost a significant amount of weight only to gain it back within 2 years. I am trying to figure out through my research for this blog the secret to being in the 10 to 15% who not only lose weight and keep it off but have found the path to living a healthy life.  I am convinced that one of the keys to success is to rid ourselves of the lies that hold us back and to replace them with positive self talk and truth. The battle for good health begins in the mind.

Take my patient, for example. In just a brief conversation we discovered at least 3 deceptions that are holding her back.

1. We can’t achieve good health because we are addicted to junk food.

The biology behind sugar cravings is pretty straight forward. Simple carbs rapidly raise the blood sugar and signals the pancreas to produce insulin to move sugar from the blood into our cells. This causes a rapid dip in blood sugar level that leaves us craving more sugar. The brain sees sugar as a reward which makes you want more of it. The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you will want. The same is true for starchy foods like white bread, pasta, white potatoes and white rice. The way to get rid of sugar cravings is not to try go “cold  turkey”  but to replace those simple carbs with complex carbs which can avoid the extreme sugar spikes. We can gradually train our brains and taste buds to be satisfied with foods that are not as sweet by dropping one sweet food per week and putting less sugar in our coffee and on our cereal. Telling ourselves that we are hopelessly addicted to junk food allows us to play the victim of our own behavior. If we tell ourselves that we are powerless to change – we never will.

2. Cooking high calorie comfort foods is how we show our love to our families.

I grew up in one of those families of good cooks who cooked delicious calorie laden foods and were actually offended if you did not ask for seconds. My patient even expressed that her family members will be angry with her if she switches to cooking healthy meals. Often we think that obesity and related problems run in our families when the truth is what really runs in our families is poor eating habits! The people in our lives who love us should want us to be healthy, even if it means they can no longer come to our house to pig out. Encouraging and reinforcing poor eating habits is a selfish kind of love. Don’t fall for it. Love yourself and your family enough to prepare foods that promote good health.

3. Some people are just going to be fat no matter what they do.

This last lie is the defeatest attitude of a quitter. We believe it because even though we want to be healthy, we are not willing to do what it takes to get there. If we allow ourselves to believe that getting to a healthy weight is simply not possible for some people we give ourselves a license to eat whatever tastes good and to be sedentary. What difference does it make if a healthy weight is not possible for me? Shame on ANY health professional who would tell a patient this lie. It is our responsibility not to just treat disease but to counsel our patients in ways that promote good health and disease prevention.

So as we move forward in pursuit of good health, let us be careful to monitor our thoughts. Let’s take  “can’t “ out of our internal dialogue. Everything that we have ever accomplished in life required effort and started with a belief that we could do it. If we believe in ourselves and stop listening to lies, good health is available to us all.

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬