Healthy Living for People Who Are Too Busy for It.

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Healthy living can be time consuming. It requires time purchasing food, time preparing meals and time spent exercising. Many healthy meals can even be more time consuming to eat due to the higher fiber and water content (and resulting lower caloric density). For many of us, this can be a challenge when our time is already occupied with other commitments.

Personally, this is something I have struggled with over the past few months as I have been working well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis in addition to other commitments that I have. This has resulted in having to strike a balance between maintaining my overpacked schedule, my health and my sanity.

This has led me to develop a few guidelines that I follow to make healthy choices while working within the parameters of my current day-to-day life.

Diet:

  1. Always hit my essential checklist: Beans, Greens and Omega-3s.
  2. Have at least 1 “real meal” per day: The meal is often as simple as a veggie, grain and bean stir-fry or pasta based dish.
  3. Start the day off strong with a healthy and filling breakfast: For me I usually go with either oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal with fruit, flax seeds and either nuts or peanut butter powder.
  4. Eat enough calories of healthy food earlier in the day to avoid bingeing on junk food at night: I eat around 2300 calories/day. I aim for about 500 calories in both breakfast and lunch in addition to about 400 calories in snacks. This will leave me with another 900 calories when I get home (usually a meal and snack). When I don’t do this I end up bingeing on unhealthier calorie-dense foods like potato chips.
  5. Mentally categorize foods based on the amount of time or effort it takes to make it. I divide my meals into 5 min., 30 min. and 1 hour. I then choose a meal based on how much time I have. This helps when I tell myself I don’t have time to pack lunch and decide to resort to less than ideal choices when it is inevitably time to eat.

Exercise:

The exercise component is a bit harder to manage. I find the best option is to look at my schedule at the start of the week. I figure out which days I will realistically be able to workout and commit to exercising whenever I have the chance. I utilize my days off for longer workouts where I push myself to my limits.

Sometimes this may only end up being 2 workouts per week, sometimes I can get 5 in. But if I have the time I make sure I do something, even if it is just a quick 30 minute workout.

I also follow the rule that if I have time to watch TV, I have time to workout.

The Lesson Learned:

What this all comes down to is doing the best I can with the time and resources I have available. Sometimes this means accepting good enough rather than over stressing myself  to meet my ideals. It is about remembering that the purpose of healthy living isn’t about health in itself, but making healthier choices to improve my quality of life overall.

 

 

Dieters aren’t doomed to a lifetime of obesity.

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Over the past week I have seen a media frenzy of a study of the season 8 contestants of the Biggest Loser. While sharing this study, it has portrayed long term weight loss as a nearly impossible feat and people seeking to do so as doomed from the start.

The study found that in the six years since the show, 13 of the 14 contestants had regained some weight since the show; 4 of whom weighed more than they did on the show. Nearly all of the contestants also had slower metabolisms than they did at their starting weight, even slower than would be expected for their size. Their metabolisms were normal relative to their size at the start of the show.

This has added to the idea that all dieters are doomed to fail and those that do succeed will gain it all back anyways or will only be able to maintain on a miserably low amount of calories. As someone who has gone from being obese to maintaining a healthy weight for 3 years, while eating as much as I want (of healthy foods), I obviously don’t buy that this is an inevitability.

In fact, the National Weight Control Registry has studied over 10,000 individuals who have lost weight and kept it off in a variety of ways. They have people that lost it eating low-fat, others eating low-carb. Some followed diet books, others followed their own path. Almost all modified their diet and increased their physical activity… and continue to do so. Most follow a low-calorie diet and exercise regularly (on average 1 hr. per day).

Personally, I share some factors in common with successful maintainers. I do eat a very healthy diet and I exercise for around an hour about 5 times per week. However, the amount of calories that I eat is a lot more than the average person studied by the NWCR. I eat about 2,300 calories/day. This is the amount the would be predicted for my height, age and activity level by medical organizations. The average woman reported eating about 1,300 calories a day and the average male reported eating about 1,700 calories a day. While this is self-reported and not measured, for people who are so active, this is surprisingly low. Although there are so many factors in play that it is hard to know how much metabolic adaptation comes into play for maintainers, and what exactly leads to people like me managing to lose weight and walk away with a normal metabolism.

When it comes down to it, successful maintainers don’t have some radical secret to weight loss. They just follow the advice health organizations have been saying for years. Long term weight loss is possible. You can lose the weight, keep it off and enjoy life!

 

Read More:

After ‘The Biggest Loser’, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

National Weight Control Registry: Research Findings

Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance 

Chickpeas Are the New Chicken Breast: Why I Love Pulses

PULSES

Since I started eating a plant based diet, pulses have become one of my main staples. I usually have at least 3 servings a day (~ 1 can of beans). When it comes to making new recipes, I often use chickpeas where I would have previously used chicken breast. I use them so often because they are nutritious, satisfying, versatile and one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store.

2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulse by at the 68th UN General Assembly. The reason they decided to promote this food group is because they are healthy, sustainable and affordable.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are a part of the legume family. Legumes are any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod (Pulse Canada). Examples are soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and green beans. A pulse is a type of legume that includes the dried seed. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are just a few examples. Pulses are high in protein, high in fiber and low in fat.

The health benefits of pulses:

  • Low glycemic index – They provide you with the carbs you need to stay energized, but don’t provide the blood sugar spike that white pasta or white rice would. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
  • High in protein – Pulses range from containing about 20-27% of calories from protein. This makes them a good option for people following plant based diets or people who are reducing their meat consumption for various reasons.
  • High in fiber –  Fiber helps keep you fuller longer. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Fiber also helps lower LDL cholesterol, one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • High in iron – Pulses are high in iron. Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron will result in anemia, characterized by not producing enough red blood cells.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Pulses:

  • Water efficiency – 1 kg of lentils requires 50 liters of water, compared to 13,000 liters for 1 kg of beef. 1 kg of 85% lean ground beef contains about 2500 calories, 1 kg of dried lentils contains about 3500 calories. This means beef requires about 502 L/ 100 kcal, whereas lentils require about 1.42 L/ 100 kcal. (This was based on an infographic by the FAO. *They didn’t specify if that was the water used for 1kg dried or cooked lentils.).
  • Soil nitrogen  – Pulses can fix their own nitrogen in their soil. This results in them needing less fertilizer than other crops.
  • Great replacement for meat – Animal agriculture is one of the leading, if not the leading contributor to climate change. It has been cited as contributing anywhere from 18%51% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is also a major contributor to deforestationoverexploitation of marine life and pollution.
  • Lower on the food chain – One of the reasons plant based foods are better for the environment is because they are lower on the food chain. More plants go into feeding the animals for your food than just eating the plants directly.

Affordability:

Pulses have many health and environment benefits, but they are also one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 1 lb. of dried beans costs about $1.50, compared to about $4 for 1 lb. of beef (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 85% lean ground beef contains about 1137 kcal/lb., whereas 1 lb. of dried lentils contains about  1584 kcal/lb. This comes out to $3.50/1000 kcal of beef and $0.95/1000 kcal of lentils.

Their high protein and micronutrient content combined with their low cost makes pulses a great food to promote to fight food insecurity in developing nations.

IYP-Pulses-Facts-infographic

Recipes that Include Pulses:

Chickpeas and Corn Salad

Pesto Hummus

Chickpeas with Mustard and Capers Sauce

Tempeh and Black Beans Fajitas

Buffalo Chickpeas

Chickpeas and sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Chickpeas Avocado Salad

Chickpea Tomato Curry

Southwestern Stir Fry

Black Bean Salad

 

 

Learn More:

What is a Pulse? – Pulse Canada

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Health Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans – Harvard Health Blog

Pulses and Climate Change – FAO

Pulses Contribute to Food Security – FAO

International Year of the Pulse

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance

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After losing 1/3 of my body weight, I thought maintaining it would be a breeze. I thought I would jog off into the sunset and live skinny ever after. While I have managed to stay within a healthy weight range since I have been in maintenance mode, I have had quite a few ups and downs along the way.

I thought I would share my experiences with weight maintenance as well as some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy weight for those that are still on their weight loss journeys.

It takes time to find your balance:

When I started to maintain I was around 150 lbs., although I went down to about 145 lbs. at one point. In the first 6 months of “maintenance mode” I gained about 20 lbs., with my weight peaking at 170 lbs. This is at the upper end of my healthy weight range. I think part of the initial weight gain was because I got too relaxed. I thought because I wasn’t dieting anymore and had more calories to spare, I could getaway with more than I really could.

Following those six months, I started to experiment with different kinds of eating approaches with varying results. I experimented with grain free diets, a miserable attempt at a vegan diet, higher fat diets, and finally finding my balance with a more thought out vegan diet.

For me a plant-based diet has worked really well. I have been vegan for about a year and I was eating mostly plant based for several months before that. My weight has stabilized and been slowly going down. I currently am fluctuating between 160 and 165 lbs. I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat. I also haven’t had an issue with binge eating like I did with many other eating approaches I tried.

Body image issues won’t disappear.

I still have fat days. I still have those days when I base my outfit on which one makes me look the skinniest. I have days when I won’t wear shorts because I don’t like how my thighs look. I know it is not rational and that I am healthy and fit. Those days are in the minority, but they still happen.

I also feel a lot of pressure to maintain my weight. My weight loss is not a secret. The difference in my appearance from when I weighed 225 lbs. is not subtle. Many people have complimented me on my weight loss, I blog about my experiences with healthy living and physically feel better at a healthy weight. I don’t want to be another statistic of losing weight and gaining it all back again.

You have to stay vigilant.

When I say I don’t count calories or restrict the quantity of food I eat, that doesn’t mean I am not very mindful about my weight and food choices. The reason I don’t have to count calories is because I eat foods that I know are more satiating per calorie.

I get about 85% of my calories from whole plant foods. The other 15% being small amounts of oil in my cooking and small treats here and there. I average over 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I make sure I have a good source of protein, healthy fat and plenty of fiber in each meal. I am very careful of the amount of refined carbohydrates, sugar and added fats I eat. When I do this, I eat about 2300-2400 calories per day, which is what most medical guidelines say is appropriate for my height, age and activity level (I ate around 1700-1800 calories/day to lose the weight).

But how do I manage to always eat plant based, and almost all of it from whole foods? I plan ahead. I make large batches of staples like quinoa and hummus on the weekends that I can throw into any meal throughout the week. I use convenient healthy foods like low sodium canned beans and frozen vegetables that I can quickly microwave. When I make dinner, I make enough for lunch the next day. I have back up plans for quick but healthy meals like almond butter sandwiches or hummus and veggie wraps. If I am going to be out for a while, I make sure I eat a large nutritious meal beforehand. I also keep healthy snacks like nuts on hand at all times in case I get hungry and am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t. I am very careful about how much junk food I have in the house, because I know with certain foods, I struggle to eat responsibly. I have also learned to accept the social discomfort of sticking to a healthy diet, and a vegan one at that.

In addition to being very careful about my food choices, I exercise about 5 times a week incorporating both strength and cardio. I also weigh myself regularly to keep myself accountable.

The times where I haven’t been this vigilant have resulted in me gaining weight. It is very easy for me to get back into the habit of not exercising or allowing a daily treat from the convenience store. At first it would be just a drink or a candy bar, but before I knew it I would be bingeing on the same amount of junk food that resulted in me weighing 225 lbs. My wake-up call to get my act together has always  been whenever I hit 170 lbs, since it is close to the upper end of my healthy weight range and when I start feeling uncomfortable with my size.

Maintaining weight loss is not easy, but it is possible.

If you were obese and lost weight or are in the process of doing so, you will likely have to be vigilant about your habits for the rest of your life. Just because you get down to a normal weight does not mean you can take the same approach to weight maintenance as someone who was never overweight to begin with. I wish I could say you can relax and live skinny ever after once you hit your goal weight, but losing the weight is only the first step in a lifelong process of living a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight long term. You don’t have to overly restrict food or over exercise. You just have to continue to maintain the habits that got you there.

Read More: 

My Weight Loss Journey

Weight Maintenance: Expectations vs Reality

Former Fat Person Disorder (FFPD)

How to Annoy Someone Who Has Lost Weight/ Is Losing Weight

National Weight Control Registry

7 Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

The Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off

5 Secrets of the 5%: What You Can Learn from Successful Dieters

 

 

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Last

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I think New Year’s can be a good tool for mentally have a fresh start at a goal. That said, it’s no secret that majority of people who make a New Year’s Resolution don’t stick with it. Anyone who belongs to a gym has probably witnessed the difference in how crowded the gym is in January vs February. 

Here are some of the methods I have used to change my own habits.

  1. Make small and manageable changes gradually. Rather than completely overhauling your diet, going on a juice cleanse or going to the gym every day, try something more manageable. For example, adding vegetables in to what you already eat or going to the gym 3 times a week.
  2. Focus on the process. Focus on the steps you have to take rather than the destination. If your goal is weight loss, rather than focusing on losing weight, focus on eating healthier and exercising regularly.
  3. Don’t quit the second things don’t go your way. Slip-ups are bound to happen. The key is to move on and keep working towards your goal.
  4. Focus on the progress you’ve made. It can be frustrating when you aren’t being as successful at your lifestyle change as you want. Maybe you aren’t losing weight as fast as you want or haven’t been going to the gym as frequently as you planned. Rather than focusing on your perceived shortcomings, focus on whatever progress you have made and work from there.

 

Happy New Years!

 

Read More:

Making Lifestyle Changes that Last – American Psychological Association

Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying. – Harvard Health Publication

Chickpea Avocado Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups of Chickpeas (cooked)
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1/3 Cup of Lemon Juice
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Black Pepper

*Makes 4 servings

Directions:

  1. Cook chickpeas as instructed (or use canned chickpeas).
  2. Partially mash chickpeas in mixing bowl.
  3. Add lemon juice
  4. Add Avocado.
  5. Chop tomato and onion and add to mixing bowl.
  6. Add spices.
  7. Mix ingredients until evenly distributed.
  8. Eat and enjoy.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein?: The Best Plant Based Sources of Protein

Usually when people think of protein, they think of meat. Because of this, protein is a nutrient of concern for many people when it comes to plant based diets.  According to the CDC, we should get about 10-35% of our daily calories from protein. 50 g of protein is 200 calories. If a person is eating 2,000 calories/ day, that is about 10% of calories. Getting this amount of protein on a plant based diet should be easy as long as you eat enough calories. Here are some examples of high protein plant foods.

1. Black Beans

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Black beans have 15 g of protein per cup. This comes out to about 23% of calories from protein.

2. Pinto Beans

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1 cup of pinto beans contains 15 g protein, which is 22% of calories.

3. Peanuts

PEANUTS IN SHELLS SOFT LIGHT. Image shot 06/2007. Exact date unknown.

1 oz. of peanuts contains 8 g protein or 16% of calories.

4. Hemp Seeds

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3 tbsp of hemp seeds contain 11 g of protein or about 25% of calories.

5. Almonds

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1 oz. of almonds contains 6 g of protein, which is about 13% of calories.

6. Lentils

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1 cup of lentils contains 18 g of protein, or 27% of calories.

7. Spinach 

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100 g of spinach contains 3 g of protein or 30% of calories.

8. Chickpeas

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1 cup of chickpeas contains 15 g of protein or 19% of calories.

9. Quinoa

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1 cup of quinoa contains 8 g of protein or 15% of calories.

10. Broccoli

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1 cup of broccoli contains 3 g of protein or 20% of calories.

These are just some of the many higher protein plant foods. The bottom line is that as long as you eat real food, and eat enough calories, getting enough protein probably isn’t going to be an issue.

Nutrition Facts: Self Nutrition Data