How Your Body Image Affects Your Weight & Health

Today I’m going on a slight rant about something that has been on my mind for a while – body image. And because the majority of my clients (all but 1) are male athletes, I don’t run into the overt self-degrading body comments as often as many of my dietitian colleagues who work with women. However, I’ve run into a number of women lately who either put their bodies down, avoid social situations or the beach / pool / bathing suits because they feel “fat”, obsessively cover up their bodies, obsessively diet or exercise (or both) or engage in other self-depreciating comments and related behaviors stemming from how they feel about their body. And I always walk away thinking “one day she is going to look back and think ‘damn I looked good’ and regret wasting so much time and energy hating a body that helped her cross finish lines, hike mountains, pick up small children, build a beautiful garden and do so much more.”

And though I won’t get into the psychology behind body image and self worth or how to improve your body image (you can read more about that in this article), I do want to talk about how this affects a person’s overall health and sense of well-being. First and foremost, the people around you might not notice the subtle behaviors and words you speak (unless you have dietitian or psychologist friends) but your kids will (children, grandchildren, children you teach or coach). Anyone who has spent 5 minutes with a child knows they pick up everything. Now, let’s say you are that female who won’t wear shorts in the summer because you hate the way your legs look. Your little girl will stop wearing shorts and at some point think her legs look bad too. Or maybe you are the grandma who won’t wear a bathing suit to the beach because you can’t fit into the one you wore last year. Your grandkids will wonder why you aren’t going in the water with them. And finally, if you are a coach of young girls, an entire team will learn about how they should be viewing their bodies from what you think of yours.

In addition to affecting the people around you, I’ve noticed that women who don’t love the bodies they live in spend entirely too much time thinking about food and exercise. And by cutting out certain foods, going on cleanses or popular diets or drastically slashing their food intake, they are cutting out a number of nutrients necessary for good health. And the effects might not be obvious at first, but over time they will catch up to you. Cut calories and it will be difficult to get a number of vitamins, minerals and protein in your diet (And when you fall short on protein you will start losing muscle mass. Over time less muscle means you burn a few less calories each day and you won’t be able to exercise as hard in the gym so you burn fewer calories while working out. Both of these make it challenging to keep weight off over time. Plus less muscle means activities of daily living like gardening, picking up kids, or lifting groceries may be tough). Switch to a vegetarian diet and you better really plan on incorporating protein since you will need more total protein to keep and build muscle. Drop dairy and your bones, teeth and nails will suffer over time (yes you can eat kale, spinach and other leafy greens but you will need at least 10 cups of raw leafy greens a day if this is your only source of calcium). I’ve seen women in their 20s with osteopenia (low bone mass, this often comes before the brittle bone disease osteoporosis). And this is just the tip of the iceberg. But, here’s the most important point: your body image affects what you eat (more than just total calories) and don’t eat. And over time I’m going to make a stretch here and say (from observation) that body image-induced changes in diet affect your intake of vitamins and minerals and over time, consistent vitamin and mineral shortages will affect how your body functions and could impair several aspects of health. So, if you feel like you fall into this category of women or men who loathe your body, make the commitment right now to work on this. I promise you that you are wasting time as well as mental and physical energy. Plus, the changes you are making in an effort to keep weight off may be doing more harm than good.

Are You Getting the Nutrients You Need for Maximum Energy & Good Health?

Take one quick peek at dietary survey data and you’ll find many Americans don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals through food alone. How does this impact your health? A nutrient deficiency could affect your energy levels, mood, ability to concentrate, structure of your skin, teeth, nails, bones and more. So, how can you be sure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health? First, focus on consuming foods that are particularly rich in the nutrients many Americans fall short on. Secondly, consider taking a multivitamin to make up for any nutrient gaps. But first, here’s a look at the food groups:

To watch my Talk of Alabama TV segment on this topic, click here.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients including magnesium – which is necessary for a healthy metabolism, good energy and muscle strength – yet many people get very little magnesium in their diet. On average, most women get about ½ of the magnesium they need each day. Nuts & seeds also have zinc for immune system functioning, wound healing, muscle growth and repair and some nuts, like almonds, also contain calcium, which we need for strong bones. If you are worried about the calories in nuts and seeds, stick to the right portion size (about 1/4 cup for nuts) and keep in mind that research shows people who eat nuts regularly tend to weigh less than those who consume nuts infrequently.

A few of my favorites based on nutrient content (including magnesium): pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts.

Grains

Grains provide approximately 43% of the fiber in an average American diet. Fiber aids digestion, helping prevent constipation and it adds bulk to your diet helping increase feelings of fullness, which makes it easier to control your weight. Whole and enriched grains also naturally contain a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals. For instance, grains provide about 2/3 of the folic acid in an average American diet. Folic acid makes healthy new cells. And, it is a nutrient of concern for women of childbearing age because inadequate folate (folic acid) intake during pregnancy increases one’s risk of having premature and low birth weight babies or babies with certain types of birth defects in the brain or spine. Here in the U.S., grains such as bread, cereal, flour, and pasta are enriched with folic acid (gluten free products might not be enriched).

Beans

Beans count as both a vegetable and protein-rich food. Not only are they packed with fiber but they also contain iron, magnesium and potassium. And diets higher in potassium may help lower blood pressure, especially if you consume too much sodium. Plus potassium supports muscle functioning and higher potassium diets may also decrease risk of kidney stones.

Here are 3 you should focus on based on nutrient content and versatility: black beans, lima beans and white beans.

Seafood

Seafood is another rich source of nutrients. For instance, oysters have more zinc than any other food and more iron than red meat (a 3 oz. serving provides almost half of the daily value for iron). Try canned oysters to save time and money. Canned sardines with the bones are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D – you need both of these for strong bones. But, chew those bones carefully! And, if you are concerned about mercury (and small children, pregnant and lactating women should consume only low mercury fish), check out this guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which categorizes fish based on mercury content.

While eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, the reality is that most Americans don’t get enough through food alone, especially those on lower calorie diets or adults over the age of 50. So, consider a multivitamin. Multivitamins are a great solution to fill dietary gaps.

I partnered with Centrum and the Wheat Foods Council for this segment though I wrote the content of this post and the segment based on the latest scientific research.

 

 

Back to School Begins with Breakfast

When it comes to learning, breakfast may be just as important as taking notes in class and completing assigned homework. A good diet actually changes the brain by creating more brain cells, strengthening communication between cells, and improving blood flow which leads to more glucose and oxygen delivery to the brain. What does this mean for students? A growing body of research shows kids who eat breakfast have:

  • more energy
  • better memory
  • improved problem-solving skills
  • improved mathematics skills
  • better scores on standardized tests

Yet statistics show up to 40% of kids and teens skip this meal. How can you serve a nutritious meal in a hurry? Check out my tips from today’s segment on Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live

Simple Ingredient Substitutions for a Healthier 2013

Looking for a lighter start to 2013 and a way to recover from weeks of overeating during the holiday season? I shared my favorite ingredient substitutions with Tracye Hutchins of CBS Better Mornings Atlanta on January 2nd:

Simple food substitutions for healthier 2013.

 

CBS Better Mornings Atlanta

And, here are the recipes featured in this segment:

Turkey Meatloaf
Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
4 large egg whites or 2 whole eggs
4 oz. uncooked Old Fashioned oats (measure on a scale)
Vegetable soup mix
1 cup chopped onions
8 oz. mild salsa
2 cloves minced garlic

Directions:
Mix turkey meat and egg whites until mixed throughout. Add salsa, onions and garlic. In a separate bowl mix vegetable soup mix with oatmeal. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients into a loaf pan and cook for 45 minutes at 375°F, midway through cooking, top with aluminum foil if top of meatloaf is cooked.

Blueberry Muffins
Ingredients:
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
1 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup all purpose flour)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp. melted light soft spread (butter substitute)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners. Mix ¼ cup oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. melted soft spread and 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and set aside (streusel topping). Combine all wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Blend wet and dry ingredients together until just moistened, do not over mix. Add 1 cup frozen blueberries. Let sit for 5 minutes.Top with streusel topping. Fill muffin cups until 2/3 full and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Creamy Light Mac n Cheese
Recipe modified from: Sidney Fry, RD, Cooking Light September 2011

Ingredients:
3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp. plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) Cabot 50% light Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Cabot Light Cheddar, Pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Krista Ackerbloom Montgomery, Cooking Light 
September 2007

Ingredients:
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-oz.) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-oz.) package baked tortilla chips or whole grain crackers (about 16 cups)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.


Healthy Hash Brown Casserole
Recipe courtesy of Aimee Fortney, Not the Perfect Cook
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
4 Russet potatoes, about 2 pounds total, peeled and cut in half
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut in half
8 ounces Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar or Sharp Extra Light Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups), divided
1 cup Cabot 2% Plain Greek-Style Yogurt or Plain Greek-Style Yogurt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 9-inch square or similar baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In food processor fitted with grater blade, grate potatoes and one onion half; transfer to large bowl.
3. With hand grater, grate remaining onion half directly over bowl, scraping all juice and onion from inside grater into bowl.
4. Add 1 cup of cheese and yogurt, black pepper, red pepper and salt; stir until potatoes are coated. Spread mixture in prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.

Disclosure: Cabot Cooperative Creamery Spokesperson

 


 

Stay Warm with Comfort Foods

Everyone has at least one favorite dish they fall back on when the weather gets cold and they crave warm foods and the comfort of family dishes passed down from generation to generation. And though they satisfy your taste buds, traditional comfort foods aren’t always good for your waistline. Savory meatloaf, creamy mac n’ cheese, hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and lamb stew are all notoriously high and fat in calories. However, I had the pleasure of stopping by CBS this morning in Washington DC to share my 3 favorite tips for choosing lower calorie comfort foods that will keep you warm all winter long.

Here’s the video:

1. Choose Comfort from Classic Dishes

Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese is a household favorite for both kids and adults alike. But, your grandma’s recipe is probably packed with butter and full-fat cheese topped enriched macaroni noodles. You can lighten this up, make it seasonal and make it taste so much better at a fraction of the cost by using either whole wheat noodles or better yet, cubed butternut squash with a mix of cheeses including 50% reduced fat Cabot Cheddar and grated Pecorino Romano cheese – both of these are full flavor cheeses so you need less to achieve incredible taste. For a little crunch (and extra fiber), top your mac n’ cheese with whole wheat Panko.

2. Set it and Forget it

If you don’t have a slow cooker, ask for one this holiday season. Lower cost ones are just $25 and work very well. The beauty of a slow cooker is that you can throw everything in, set it and forget it until you come home to the wonderful smell of dinner in the air. Though there are several single dish meals you can make, this delicious easy black bean soup is both high in fiber and protein plus it’s budget friendly at just about $1.65 per serving.

3. Ring the New Year a Little Early

Southerners often turn to blackeyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day for good luck. Well, why not take this Southern tradition and improve your luck all winter long with this low cost comfort dish?  At just $1.65 per serving, this Black-eyed Peas and Greens dish from myrecipes.com combines high fiber, nutrient rich black-eyed peas with turnip greens and flavor from vinegar, low sodium chicken broth and turkey bacon for an award winning, easy-to-make meal.

 

Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meal Ideas

You’ve seen them. The people who faithfully go to the gym day after day and spend quality time on the cardio equipment and in the weight room. Yet their bodies never seem to make any visible changes. They are training. But they aren’t training smart with a plan that is specifically designed to meet their goals, lifestyle and current state of conditioning. A plan that helps them progress and not just maintain. But, even with the best training program, a person’s progress will be limited if they don’t eat a diet that provides the energy they need while also facilitating training adaptations and helping improve recovery. And though eating well means choosing nutrient-dense foods 90 – 95% of the time, the most important meals for an athlete are pre- and post-workout:

Pre-workout:

In order to sustain your energy levels through your workouts, your body needs food. If you have just 2 hours before you hit the gym, track or field, opt for a lighter snack. Four hours beforehand, opt for meal that is higher in carbohydrate, contains some protein for staying power and is low in fiber and fat (both slow digestion and who wants their stomach busy digesting food when they are about to run sprints?). Lastly, don’t try something new before workouts that may make you a little queasy. For example, spicy food can give you heartburn and greasy food may make you sick to your stomach. Think familiar and easy-to-digest.

Half a cantaloupe with cottage cheese

Snack examples:

  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Banana spread lightly with almond butter or peanut butter
  • Yogurt
  • Granola bar
  • Pancakes or waffles

Post-workout:

The main purpose of eating after you workout is to turn a catabolic environment into an anabolic one. In other words – your post-workout meal will facilitate the processes underlying muscle growth, re-hydrate, help curb excess inflammation and restore muscle glycogen. In addition to improving recovery, your post workout meal will help you make training gains.

Post-workout meal ideas:

  • Protein pancakes (Simply pancake mix with added protein powder.)
  • Protein shake
  • Low fat chocolate milk (you’ll need more protein than this if you are lifting weights)
  • Bagel, bread or pita with melted cheese
  • Tunafish or turkey sandwich

Eat so you can train well, don’t hit the gym or run a few extra miles as an excuse to eat more food that doesn’t fit in your training program.

Written by: Rachel Rosenthal & Marie Spano

You Booze, You Lose. How Alcohol Can Wreck Your Athletic Performance

It’s called a beer gut for a reason. But, over drinking will do more than just cover up those abs you’ve been working so hard for. Take a close look at how it will wreck your athletic performance:

Athletic Performance & Recovery

Alcohol has a number of effects on the body that can impair performance and delay recovery by:

  • Impairing muscle growth in the short-term – decreasing gains you’ve worked for in the weight room and on the field
  • Disrupting your sleep cycle, which impairs how you learn and retain/recall information (slowed reaction time on the field several days after consumption)
  • Decreasing blood testosterone levels for up to 24 hours after consumption which decreases aggression, lean muscle mass, recovery and overall athletic performance
  • Causing nausea, vomiting and drowsiness for several days after consumption

Body Fat

  • Alcohol interrupts your sleep cycle, which decreases your body’s production of HGH (human growth hormone). HGH promotes muscle mass while decreasing fat mass, is critical for recovery (by stimulating protein synthesis) and is important for immune system functioning.
  • Alcohol suppresses testosterone production.
  • Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and metabolized first, before food so extra calories from food are stored as body fat. Because your liver is busy processing alcohol, fat metabolism is delayed.
  • Alcohol also inhibits your body’s absorption of vitamins B1, B12, folic acid and zinc.

Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic that leads to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. And, dehydration can increase one’s risk of muscle cramps and other muscle injuries.

For all of the younger athletes reading this who feel peer pressure about drinking, think about this, the effects of 3 drinks will last a few days. Drink on Thursday and your reaction time on Saturday will still be impaired (and it may be impaired on Sunday too). Need an out? You just got one. Need another out? Use my all time favorite response when someone asks if you want a drink, “That’s a Clown Question, Bro.”

References:

  • J Clin Endocrin & Metab 1980;51:759-764.
  • Firth G. Manzo LG. For the Athlete: Alcohol and Athletic Performance. University of Notre Dame; 2004.
  • J Am Acad Dermatol 43(1 Pt 1):1-16.