Why I Started this Blog: My Story

What follows is a repost of my very first blog post for those who have asked why I started this blog. Once you read this, scroll all the way to the last post listed to find the next post and so on.  Here’s to our good health!

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was raised by a single grandmother who was a great cook. Weekend breakfasts often included homemade biscuits with ham and red eye gravy and rice. That has to be at least a zillion carbs! I was a book worm from an early age so the only exercise I got was in gym class. One of the more painful memories of my childhood was of having to order special gym clothes because I was too big for the standard sizes.

By the time I was 14 I tipped the scales at 185 lbs and wore a women’s size 18-20! By then my mother had moved to the DC area to escape an abusive relationship and met the man who was soon to become my stepfather. I rarely saw my biological father and really wanted my mother to get married to someone nice. They told me that if I lost 20 lbs, they would get married. They may have been just teasing me but I took the notion seriously. That was the moment when I went on the first of many diets.

That diet was self made and simple: no breakfast, a green salad and a diet soda for lunch and a single serving of whatever we had for dinner (as opposed to the seconds and thirds I usually had). I don’t remember how long it took but I lost that 20 pounds and got myself a new stepfather in the bargain! I was down to a junior size 15 and my grandmother no longer had to struggle to find age appropriate clothes for me.

The summer before I was to enter 10th grade in a new school, I spent in DC with my mom and stepfather. I experimented with different diets and exercise regimens and lost another 20lbs. By the time school started I was a size 10/12 and many of my friends did not recognize me! What a great feeling that was! In the process of losing the weight, however, I had become a diet junkie. You name the diet and I have done it all out of fear of going back to being that 185 pound girl again.

People in my life who have only know me as an adult think that I have always been the size that I am now. Few know of the many many diets and exercise programs or how many times I have gained and lost the same 15 pounds. All through high school, college, medical training, two pregnancies and raising my children I was either on a diet or putting on the weight that made me need the next one. I am the queen of the yo yo dieters.

In the early nineties I became a facilitator for a popular Faith based weight loss plan and taught weekly classes on the use of its methods. I had lost weight by learning to eat tiny amounts of food only when I was physically hungry and stoping when I was full and wanted to share that message with others. I loved it because you could eat whatever you wanted! You see I really LOVE food! I learned over time that, while I could keep my weight down with these strategies (basically portion control), I have not been blessed with genes that will allow me to ignore the content of my food. So at the age of 57 and after hundreds of diets I found myself with the diagnoses of not only hypertension but pre-diabetes as well.

In an effort to “run” from the diseases that were chasing me, I joined a local fitness group, Sisters in Motion, and started walking and running on a regular basis. I became more conscious about what I ate and continued to practice portion control but the more I exercised, the bigger the portions got. I started doing races and fell in love with the half marathon distance and started doing several of them a year as an interval walker/jogger (which I call wogging). Training to do all those races and averaging one half marathon a month emboldened me to eat foods that had forbidden myself in my less active years. So even with all that activity I started gaining weight again! At the same time I had family members and patients looking to me as a role model. Some role model!

I started this blog to share my current journey of seeking to find my way toward the healthiest me I can be, for the rest of my life. I desire that not only for myself but for those of you who choose to come along. I will seek to share healthy lifestyle tips not only about achieving a healthy weight but about all of the aspects of healthy living. In this blog I am not offering medical advice so much as offering information, encouragement and coaching to those of you are seeking to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. I am looking for partners in the struggle.

Yvonne Moore

#ymoore4health

“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

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

What follows is the second in the series, “What I Did Wrong.” A quick look at my home bookshelves or inside my Kindle would tell you that I have been a lifelong professional dieter. As I said in an earlier post, I have lived my entire adult life in fear of returning to that obese teenager who was ridiculed in gym class. You name the weight loss strategy, I have tried it. As a medical student and resident I received little to no training in nutrition. There was no google back then so the bulk of what I learned about weight loss came from books and magazines. Whenever I committed to a plan, I would lose weight. Most of us can lose weight regardless of which diet we choose. But just like the contestants on The Biggest Loser – almost all of us gain it back!

As Dr. Jason Fung explains in his book, The Obesity Code, most calorie restriction diets are doomed because our bodies try to protect us from completely wasting away by lowering our basal metabolic rates and making us hungrier. It takes fewer calories to move a smaller body so even our exercising becomes less effective. Along comes the dreaded plateau and we become disenchanted with the diet and go back to the eating patterns that made us overweight in the first place! At this lower metabolic rate we often end up gaining even more weight when we return to our previous eating patterns. Unless you have chosen a plan that you can continue to live with over the long run, weight regain is practically inevitable. This fact lets us yoyo dieters off the hook. It is not our fault, we have been sabotaged by our own bodies!

News flash! DIETS DON’T WORK. For example, most of us have ingrained in our psyche to avoid fat and have tried a low fat diet. Go down the aisle of any grocery store and you will see product after product of low fat processed foods. If you look closely, however, you will see that the makers of most of those products have taken out the fat and replaced it with sugar. Ironically, since all of these low fat foods have been available, we as a nation have gotten fatter and fatter. We have been deceived by the food industry into thinking that fats makes us fat when it is actually sugar (and those foods that turn into sugar) that makes us fat. Sugar in all its forms triggers the release of insulin which not only works to keep our blood sugar from getting too high, but also encourages our bodies to store the excess sugar as fat! Many of us who have spent years eating “diet” foods have damaged our bodies response to insulin and have to produce more and more of this fat storage hormone to keep our blood sugar at normal levels. This is known as insulin resistance. Those of us who have this insulin resistance have a harder time losing weight.  There is much controversy about the multifactorial causes of obesity but there is no disagreement that long term weight control involves keeping insulin levels low.

So rather than going on diet after fad diet, why don’t we seek out a lifestyle that will keep our insulin levels low on a long term basis. As a Pre-diabetic, I have come to understand that my struggles like many of yours came down to the effects of high insulin levels triggered by low fat diets, too much sugar and other starches and what I like to call recreational eating. I was able to keep my weight barely in the normal range with exercise and portion control. However, it was not until I made changes in my lifestyle to keep my insulin levels down that I was finally able to see a significant change in not only my weight but my overall health and sense of well being. At the age of 64 I am fitter than I have ever been and my energy level has markedly increased! It is never too late to turn the page on an unhealthy lifestyle!

After 6 months of tweaking my own behaviors, this is now my forever lifestyle.

Dr. Moore’s Lifestyle Tips to Promote Wellness and Avoid Disease

1. Avoid added sugars, white bread, potatoes, pasta, and deep fried foods as well as ALL junk food. There is a reason it is called junk! Ditch sugary drinks and fruit juices and drink more water! You are better off eating an orange with its fiber than drinking the orange juice.

2. Increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables and green salads. Make berries your preferred fruits. These are less likely to spike insulin levels. Insulin is a fat storage hormone.

3. Include a small amount of lean protein (fish, shellfish, lean meats, poultry, nuts and eggs) at each meal.

4. Incorporate foods containing healthy fats into your meals.  Some examples of such foods are salmon, avocados, olive oil, olives, flax seeds, eggs and nuts. Healthy fats are important to satiety and controlling hunger. Healthy fats at mealtimes will help you to stop snacking in between meals.

5. Time restricted eating – stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime and eat breakfast only when physically hungry.  Your first meal of the day is still breakfast (breaking your fast), regardless of how late you choose it eat it. These periods without food result in lower levels of insulin which will help prevent fat storage. This is a very gentle form of intermittent fasting.

6. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, preferably BEFORE eating. This allows your body to rely on your stored fat to fuel your exercise. This can be as simple as taking a brisk walk.

7. Eat intuitively rather than recreationally. Eat only when you are physically hungry and stop when you are full. Practice portion control.

8. Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Proper rest is important to control not only your insulin levels but also your hunger and fullness hormones.

9. Move around more during the day. Do not sit when you can stand. Take the stairs over elevators and escalators. Just there is a people mover or moving sidewalk available does not mean you have to use it! Get an activity tracker and aim for 10,000 steps a day.

10. EAT REAL FOOD!! When eating out choose whole unprocessed foods and ask that your food be prepared simply and in a healthy way. Better yet, whenever possible, try preparing healthy meals at home. This way you know EXACTLY what you are eating.

I make no claims that the course I have chosen is applicable to everyone reading this post. However, if you have been struggling to get healthy like I was you might consider giving it a try. What have you got to lose?

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)

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)

Get Off Your Butt!

I saw this slogan printed on the back of someone’s shirt at a race a few months ago. It so perfectly summed up my advice to my patients that I came right home and ordered it on a T shirt!

As American Heart Month draws to a close, I wanted to talk to you about the importance of movement to keeping our hearts strong as well as keeping us at a healthy weight. We established in an earlier blog that formal, scheduled exercise is good for overall health and disease prevention but may be far less important than we have previously thought when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Let me explain what I mean by that. Suppose you spend an hour a day 7 days a week hitting it hard at the gym (or with any other strenuous exercise). If you get your recommended 8 hours of sleep each night, you still have 105 waking hours per week during which many of us live pretty sedentary lives. 50 years ago, before our current obesity epidemic, we were much more active in our everyday lives and much less likely to be overweight. Even if we spent our after work hours watching tv, we at least had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel! Now technology has turned us into video game playing, social media addicted, binge watching sloths. Combine that with far too many readily available high calorie processed foods and there is little wonder why more than two thirds of us are overweight or obese!

Since our formal workouts take up such a small percentage of our waking hours, we have to learn to incorporate more movement into our daily lives. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has developed the concept of NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). NEAT refers to the daily movement we perform outside of formal exercise. The more active we are during the rest of our waking hours, the more fit we are likely to be. The biggest enemy to our NEAT levels is sitting! If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet and moving around all day, consider that a blessing. If, however, your job chains you to a desk or to a computer, you have to develop strategies to incorporate more movement into your day.

I am sure you have seen ads for the standing desk. This invention has become popular because research has shown that we burn 3 times more calories standing than sitting. We all should make a conscious effort to stand more. You don’t have to invest in a pricey gadget to do this, however. This is the makeshift standing desk in my home office that I am using as I am writing this post. I’m not really cheap but I am frugal!

Here are just a few suggestions for incorporating more NEAT into your days. These are some of the ones that I use and suggest to my patients all the time. Some of them may sound silly but every calorie burned counts toward a fitter you.

1. Brush your teeth for a full two minutes twice a day and march in place while you do it.

2. Instead of standing in front of the microwave or toaster waiting for the timer to go off, walk around your kitchen.

3. NEVER park in the closest parking spot you can find! Trade in the elevator for the stairs.

4. Set a timer on your phone or use your Fitbit to remind you to stand 5 minutes out of every hour. There are even phone apps for this purpose. Use your fitness tracker or pedometer to track your steps and aim for 10,000 steps per day.

5. Go to the bathroom that’s farthest from your work station.

6. Consider organizing a 5 minute “Instant Recess” with your co-workers. Here is an example I found on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/tMuZ0_-Y7n4

7. If your child has a sports practice or game, stroll a few laps around the perimeter of the field instead of just sitting.

8. For those of us who are social media junkies: make it a rule to only be on social media while standing.

9. Pack a lunch and use half your lunch time taking a walk outside or up and down the stairs in your building.

10. Clean your own house. Make its seem like fun by blasting your favorite music and dancing between tasks.

11. Practice yoga poses, pilates and stretches while watching tv.

12. If you have children or grandchildren, teach them to play the games you played as a child and play with them.

These are just a few of the hundreds of ways we can all become more active. If you have others you would like to share, please leave them in the comments. Remember, we are all in this journey toward our healthiest selves together!

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