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

My Story

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