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We all know that there are two main components to a successful weight loss program… Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. But what happens when you can’t seem to get to the gym? Maybe you don’t have a membership, or maybe you’re full of excuses (pardon my straightforward-ness). Either way, in this post I’ll reveal several easy ways to increase your daily amount of exercise in order to get moving for this week’s Biggest Achiever challenge!

In today’s day and age, we work long hours, most of the time sitting still, we constantly use technology and automation, and are generally not required to move very much. Housekeepers, gardeners, cell phones, computers, remote controls and video games run our households. Our world now produces inactive and nonfunctional people physically molded by furniture, gravity and inactivity, and it’s taking a huge toll on public health. In 1985, the International Obesity Task Force deemed the prevalence of obesity an epidemic. In 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that chronic diseases were responsible for five of the leading six causes of disease. One of them, obesity, leads to other chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Physical activity has been proved to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and disorders related to lifestyle, such as increased triglycerides and cholesterol levels, obesity, glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes. Regular exercise increases blood volume, which allows more blood to get to the cells. This results in greater flow of oxygen, helping the body remove waste and strengthening the heart. If that’s not enough, regular exercise also helps regulate weight, hormones, mood, sleep/wake cycles and improves your self confidence. So what are you waiting for?

For general health benefits, 30 minutes of exercise per day is recommended, 5-7 times per week. It has been shown that three 10 minute bouts of exercise are just as effective as one 30 minute continuous exercise at a moderate intensity. For improved fitness levels, on the other hand, your intensity would need to increase to 60-90% of your heart rate max (HR max) for 20-60 minutes per day, 3-5 times per week. – NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

Click here for some simple ways to include more exercise in your everyday life. Everyone can use these tips, regardless of you don’t currently exercise at all, or if you’re a “workout junkie”, everyone should take advantage of every opportunity to move more often!

Peace, love and movement!

Melissa

Welcome to the second week of our Biggest Achiever Program! Feel free to join in at any time! Each week we announce a new challenge and although I encourage you to participate every week, you can also select which weeks you would like to participate in. Just remember that every tiny change you make for the better, you will eventually realize are huge steps and very pivotal moments in your healthier lifestyle.

Last week, we tracked our calories and nutritional content of the foods and beverages we consumed and learned a lot about where the majority of our calories come from. For many of us, not surprisingly, they come from beverages. Our favorite lattes, sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks contain terrifying amounts of sugar, sodium and dangerous chemicals such as sucralose, phenylalanine, methanol and more. If you look at the ingredients in that seemingly healthy fruit juice your children love so much, you will probably be shocked to see that many of those don’t contain much fruit juice at all! Although we will dive further into fruit juices and unhealthy beverages during our 3 month voyage, this week we will be focusing on soda.

“Twenty-one percent of the sugar in the American diet comes from soft drinks. That’s more than just an unhealthy consumption of empty calories. It is a dangerous overload of caffeine and nutrient-depleting additives.” – Dr. Earl Mindell

 

The side effects of soda (including diet/zero sodas), in short:

  • Cancer, heart disease, kidney damage, depression, asthma, diabetes
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Osteoporosis in adults, high risk of bone fracture in children
  • Tooth loss, erosion of tooth enamel, periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth discoloration
  • Stomach and reproductive issues
  • Increased cravings
  • Inability to detect sweetness in fruits/vegetables
  • Diminished nerve impulse transmission
  • Weakened immune system
  • Adverse reactions with medications such as antibiotics and antacids

This list truly goes on and on. One of the single worst products you can put into your  body is a carbonated beverage. This includes soda, beer and even sparking/carbonated water. Just one 8 ounce carbonated beverage paralyzes the immune system for up to 12 hours! The carbonation in the beverage blocks the uptake of calcium, which is needed for every single metabolic function in your body.

It has been proven that increased soda consumption is a major factor in the development of osteoporosis. Sodas lower calcium levels and increase phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate is high and calcium is low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. This issue is worse for children. Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four times higher than those that do not.

Sodas contain phosphorous and phosphoric acid, which corrode the stomach lining, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys and eat away at your liver. They also contain sodium benzoate, a sodium preservative which reduces the availability of potassium in the body. Some reported reactions to sodium benzoate include rashes, eczema and asthma. Think about it, if you get a rash, you likely run to the dermatologist and they give you some sort of cream for it. Wouldn’t you know it that all along, it’s because you’re drinking soda!

Not only are the carbonation, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, sugar, phosphorus and other ingredients in soda extremely harmful, but the sugar and acid will dissolve tooth enamel too! It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking a “full calorie” Coke, a Diet Coke, or Coke Zero, you are harming your body in more ways than you realize.

“The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.” – Marion Nestle

Many people turn to diet or “zero” sodas in order to avoid the high sugar content and carbohydrates in “regular” sodas. This is quite possibly worse for you than drinking a “regular” soda. Many diet and “zero” sodas contain aspartame, sucralose and other harmful chemicals. Studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. A 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center Study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two servings of diet soda a day. In case gaining weight wasn’t enough, aspartame and sucralose, the artificial sweeteners used in sodas, are tied to cancer and other deadly diseases! Why are you drinking this stuff?! Because it “tastes good”?! Of course it tastes good, people spend countless hours developing products that “taste good” and… wait for it… that you will become addicted to! They are obviously very good at their jobs!

The most commonly  used artificial sweeteners in soda include aspartame and sucralose. These are dangerous ingredients that have the following side effects: depression, birth defects, headaches, weight gain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, rashes, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue and seizures. That’s right, I said weight gain. DIET SODA CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT. Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Sucralose is actually considered a zero-calorie sweetener because the human digestive tract cannot metabolize it.

For more information on aspartame and sucralose, I encourage you to read The Hidden Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners.

As a general note, it is helpful to remember that anything that is fat-free, sugar-free, “anything”-free… they have had to add artificial flavors and other chemicals in order to make that food taste good, without it being made from actual ingredients. Many dieters are unfortunate victims of marketing and product packaging. Just because something is fat-free, sugar-free, low in carbohydrates, etc., does NOT mean it is healthy! An apple is healthier than a sugar-free cookie! That and a sugar-free cookie will NEVER satisfy your appetite, but an apple will. People often gain weight when they consume fat-free and sugar-free foods because they end up consuming more calories. Consuming these foods which are void of nutrients will always leave you hungry and will possibly intensify your cravings. Your brain will not shut off its hunger signals until it gets the nutrients it needs. Therefore, if you’re hungry, and you eat a box of cookies or a loaf of white bread (common “appetizer” before meals at restaurants), you will still be hungry even though your stomach will feel full.

In short, if there is one thing you change in this 3 month program, I urge it to be giving up soda. Your immune system, your heart, your pancreas, your entire body will thank you for it! I can pretty much guarantee you that if you give up sodas entirely, you will lose weight. It’s not rocket science, it’s not magic, it’s just common sense. Sodas are one of the worst things you can put in your body, so give them up, and you will see benefits from it! Although this week’s challenge is to give us soda, I encourage you to give up aspartame, sucralose and other products that contain artificial sweeteners. You will find yourself feeling much better in the end!

With so many beverage choices available to us today, it’s hard to know what to drink and what to stay away from. For the most part, we’ve been taught that there are a lot of sugar and calories in “regular” sodas. Instead, many people have turned to diet and “zero” sodas in order to be able to still consume their favorite beverages, but without all the terrible sugar and calories. However what they don’t know, is that this choice may actually kill them.

What the soda companies don’t tell you (in their fancy commercials with all the beautiful, skinny people consuming their beverages) is that in order to make their sugary beverages taste “delicious” without actually adding sugar, they’ve had to add many dangerous chemicals. Many diet and “zero” sodas contain aspartame, sucralose and other harmful ingredients.

The most commonly  used artificial sweeteners in soda include aspartame and sucralose. These are dangerous ingredients that have the following side effects: depression, birth defects, headaches, weight gain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, rashes, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue and seizures. That’s right, I said weight gain. DIET SODA CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT. Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Sucralose is actually considered a zero-calorie sweetener because the human digestive tract cannot metabolize it.

Are you ready for the worst part? Studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. I know, you’re drinking that low-calorie beverage because you’re trying to lose weight, but, it’s going to have the opposite effect! A 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center Study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two servings of diet soda a day. In case gaining weight wasn’t enough, aspartame and sucralose are tied to cancer and other deadly diseases! Why are you drinking this stuff?! Because it “tastes good”?! Of course it tastes good, people spend countless hours developing products that “taste good” and… wait for it… that you will become addicted to! They are obviously very good at their jobs!

Aspartame

One of the most commonly used low calorie sweeteners, aspartame, is a very dangerous ingredient added to make beverages without sugar taste sweet. At 180 times sweeter than sugar, aspartame is added to “sugar-free” juices like Kool-Aid and other diet drinks like Diet Snapple, as well as desserts, yogurts, jams/jellies and other sweeteners. It is made of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol, none of which sound like “healthy” ingredients to me! Aspartame, which is sold under the names NutraSweet and Equal, has been proven to be associated with the development of cancer and other illnesses and side effects including depression, birth defects, headaches, weight gain, 

rashes, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia and seizures. That’s right, a DIET SODA CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT.

When aspartame was put in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval, (be cautious with this group, for future reference), it was denied eight times. Despite recognizing 92 different symptoms that resulted from ingesting aspartame, the FDA approved it for use without restriction in 1996.

The FDA claims that an intake of 50 mg of aspartame per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day is “acceptable.” I’m not sure that any amount of something that causes cancer is acceptable, but unfortunately, I don’t work for the FDA. By the FDA’s math, If you weigh 150 lbs, you can consume approximately 68 mg of aspartame per day. The amount of aspartame in one 12 oz. can of diet soda is approximately 225 mg. Ruh row!

 

Aspartame has also been deemed an “excitotoxin”. Excitotoxins can cause damage to the appetite center of the brain, also leading to death of neural cells. Think I’m being overdramatic? These are chemicals, people. Not whole, healthy foods! What do you think they do to you? I could go on and on about aspartame. There are a myriad of resources out there proving how dangerous this ingredient truly is. There are even support groups out there for people who have been affected by aspartame! And for those people with a condition called phenylketonuria, or PKU, who cannot metabolize phenylalanine properly, aspartame can lead to mental retardation!

Sucralose

Think you’re safe with Splenda? Join the club! I too, was under the impression that the scientists of the world had finally come up with a safe way to make food sweeter without consuming the calories from table sugar. I have no idea what I was thinking. I have since learned that no food that comes from a scientist is safe! Sucralose was discovered in 1976 when British researchers were creating a new pesticide. Yum!

Your beloved Splenda, sucralose, is 600 times sweeter than sugar, and its actually a zero-calorie sweetener because the human digestive tract cannot metabolize it. There are studies that exist that show that sucralose is safe for human consumption. I will let you make that decision for yourself. I should mention that excess use of artificial products of any kind will alter your taste buds. When you consume artificial sweeteners, it may leave you unable to appreciate or even distinguish the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables.

Side effects of sucralose include: headaches, weight gain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea (remember, your body cannot digest sucralose) and fatigue. Sounds great, huh?

As a general note, it is helpful to remember that anything that is fat-free, sugar-free, “anything”-free… they have had to add artificial flavors and other chemicals in order to make that food taste good, without it being made from actual ingredients. Many dieters are unfortunate victims of marketing and product packaging. Just because something is fat-free, sugar-free, low in carbohydrates, etc., does NOT mean it is healthy! An apple is healthier than a sugar-free cookie! That and a sugar-free cookie will NEVER satisfy your appetite, but an apple will. People often gain weight when they consume fat-free and sugar-free foods because they end up consuming more calories. Consuming these foods which are void of nutrients will always leave you hungry and will possibly intensify your cravings. Your brain will not shut off its hunger signals until it gets the nutrients it needs. Therefore, if you’re hungry, and you eat a box of cookies or a loaf of white bread (common “appetizer” before meals at restaurants), you will still be hungry even though your stomach will feel full. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! All that same great taste, but none of the calories!? Come on guys… think for a second. 🙂

Peace, love and soda-free lives,

Melissa

For more information on soda and it’s effect on our bodies, please read here!

Of the people that struggle with weight loss, the majority don’t understand why they can’t lose weight. That same majority is also unaware of the amount of calories they consume in one day. When you break it down, weight loss is pretty simple. Unless of course, you don’t know how many calories you are consuming to begin with, then you don’t have a starting point.

If you know how many calories you consume in a day, you can take that number, subtract the amount of calories you burn in a day, and you’re left with your net calories. 3500 calories is equivalent to 1 lb. of weight. So if you are trying to lose 1 lb. per week, you would need to cut 500 calories per day from your diet, or burn 500 additional calories.

So as we kick off the Biggest Achiever Program, my challenge to you this week is to figure out how many calories you consume. How many calories are in your favorite foods? How many calories do you consume in one day? By tracking the nutritional information in your food, you will also be able to see how much fat, sugar, protein, salt, etc. you are consuming. It’s possible that you need to limit your intake of sodium or fats, but how would you know, if you don’t know what you’re consuming in the first place?

Regardless if you have goals to lose weight on this three month program or not, I think it’s essential that you know what you’re eating. We’ll get further into ingredients, chemicals, additives and preservatives later, right now we’ll focus on the nutritional content, or lack there of, of the foods we currently consume.

Your challenge this week is to keep a food journal, logging the nutritional information of everything you eat, drink and chew. At a minimum, you should write down everything you put in your body, from glasses of water per day, to gum, to soda, to snacks and meals for one full weekday and one full weekend day. Since what you eat might vary based on where you are, I think it’s important to complete a food journal for one day at the office and one day at home. Tracking this information for 2 days out of 7 is the minimum you should do. This information will be key as you progress throughout this program, so be sure to be accurate. It will do you more harm than good to lie in this journal. Be true to yourself, it is the only way you can truly make progress. If you intentionally leave items consumed off the list… I don’t think you can expect yourself to be successful. Also, the more you track, the better. So if you can, track all of your food every single day this week. Is it time consuming? Maybe a little. But it’s one week of your life, it’s not that much time in the grand scheme of things and it will be eye-opening, regardless of your health/fitness level.

Although this is a week long challenge, I encourage you to track your food throughout the entire program. For those of you that exercise, I encourage you to track this as well! For the past several years, I have been using an online program (there’s also an app for your phone) called myfitnesspal.com. It’s free, easy to follow, has a ton of great tools and when you track your calories, many popular foods are already loaded into the system, reducing the amount of time you’ll spend looking up that information! Bonus! You can set weight loss goals, health goals and much more. They’ll even develop graphs for you to visually chart your progress, which aids in motivation. If you’d like to follow me, my username is megalitz. I too, have health and fitness goals I plan on achieving in the next three months! I encourage you to join, and keep me accountable as well! The more support we have, the better we will do!

I look forward to hearing about what you learned from your food journal. What did you find most shocking? Did you formulate any new goals from what you learned by analyzing what you put in your body? Was it the calorie count or sugar content in one specific item? Or maybe you realized you consume more snacks than you initially thought. MyFitnessPal.com allows you to create six different food categories for easy logging. Mine are breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages and treats. I find these categories helpful, and you might too. It’s interesting to see how many of your daily calories can come from things you drink and not actual meals! Time to cut sodas (hint, hint)!

I look forward to meeting with you all on Friday, and for those of you who are following along online, feel free to leave your thoughts, findings and comments below!

Peace, love and knowledge,

Melissa

For  more on the Biggest Achiever Program, click here!

There are plenty of excuses (some may call them reasons, but I call them excuses) why you can’t get to the gym, can’t make healthier choices, etc. The truth is, they’re all a bunch of crap. If you really, truly want to make a change, you will. All the words you use to explain why you’re justified in not living a healthy lifestyle is just noise to the people that make it happen, day in and day out. So forgive me if the following post seems a bit harsh, but sometimes that’s the only way people will realize that they’re not special, they’re not the exception to the rule and they need put in the work like the rest of us.

1. I’m Far Too Busy

Really? So… you’re just the busiest person on the planet then? Throwing pity parties for yourself about how much you have to do won’t get you anywhere. You may need to take a look at how you’re utilizing your time. Make a journal, and document how much time you spend on different activities during the day. For instance, how many times do you use social media a day? It’s quite possible that if you refrained from updating your facebook status, you could get your work done more quickly, allowing you to leave work sooner and get to the gym before you head home for the day. Maybe it’s not social media that is your time suck. It could be the TV, long lunches, rush hour traffic, the list goes on and on. The point is, take a look at where you could save some time, and figure out a new solution. If you have work commitments, remember that scheduling time to keep yourself healthy is important. If someone thinks it’s selfish, they clearly don’t “get it” and we feel sorry for them. If after assessing your schedule you really, truly do not have time to hit the gym, do the stairs and/or go for a walk during lunch, but do something! Anything is better than nothing.

2. My blank* Hurts

*Insert body part of your choice here. First off, I’m not surprised. You are an adult (or at least you’re old enough to read this blog), so chances are good that at some point in your life thus far, you have sustained some sort of injury. We all have. Rub some dirt on it, and get your butt up off the couch. You’re not the only one. As a GroupX Instructor, many times people assume that I have it easy. I am somehow invincible, I have no injuries and endless amounts of energy. I’m flattered that some view me as a superhero, but sadly, I am not. I am human, just like the rest of the world. I am bruised, broken and I get burnt out. In fact, some would be surprised to know that I actually have 2 herniated discs, an inverted coccyx (tailbone) from a bad fall, I’ve had knee surgery and two ankle surgeries, including a complete reconstruction of my right ankle. They sawed off my heel bone, moved it over 10mm, and put a large screw in it to put it back together. Point being, I’ve had my share of serious injuries, but I managed to recover, and you can too. You just have to want it. No one can do it for you, it’s all you. Also, if you have been sedentary for awhile, chances are good that you are in a lot of pain, not necessarily caused by an isolated incident. The truth is, disuse of your body can actually cause pain. Yikes. Coach potatoes, you’re screwed!

3. I Hate the Gym/I Can’t Afford a Gym Membership

Millions of people hate the gym. They are divided into three categories. Category 1: They go anyways. ‘Nuff said. Category 2: They find somewhere else to work out (outdoors, yoga studio, basement, etc.). Category 3: They do nothing. If you fall into category 3, I want you to remember something — you’re not alone! No one will force you to go to the gym if you don’t want to. Nothing good will come out of that. What you need to do, however, is find another means for staying active, something that you enjoy. There are hundreds of options for exercise. You can do just about everything outdoors: Walk, run, play catch, play frisbee, play with your dog, play with your kids/grandkids, yoga, swimming, the list goes on and on. Try as many things as is takes until you find something that interests you. Try yoga. There are a ton of different kinds of yoga, try them all. There are classes that are mommy and child friendly, where you can bring your child and your stroller and walk with a group of people. Guys… flag football interest you? There are leagues everywhere! Heck google “things to do outside” if you’re out of ideas. Google solves everything!* Keep in mind too, that even if you do hate the gym, giving it a try for a month will be worth your while. You’ll either come out realizing there’s actually quite a few benefits to going to the gym (first day/week jitters will go away, don’t worry) or you’ll come out knowing that you do truly hate the gym, and you will have to resort to option 2, finding a new place to exercise.

*Note: This is not actually true. I’m just being funny.

4. I’m Too Tired

Well, I could take this in quite a few different directions, but I’ll keep it short. What are you eating? Sugar? Caffeine? That will contribute to you being tired. Are you sleeping enough? Maybe not. Many of you reading this have newborns, and are cursing me right now because you’re not sleeping at all. Okay, that might be a legitimate excuse. Still, you will feel better if you get a chance to release some endorphins and relieve some stress. So pump that breast milk ahead of time, arrange for your kids to go with your husband, mother, or a sitter, and go get your sweat on. Even 20 minutes is better than nothing! (Although ideally you should shoot for 60). However, if it’s 20 minutes or zero minutes, I’ll take 20 minutes every time! Those of you without kids… try to get to bed earlier so that you will be better rested for the day ahead of you. It will make a world of difference, I assure you. Try to find out if you’re a morning workout person or an evening workout person. Keep in mind, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so give it a full three weeks before you decide which one you are! Try evenings for 3 weeks, then mornings for 3 weeks, and see which you prefer. Also, have a healthy snack before you hit the gym, it will fuel your body properly and you will feel better before, during and after your workout.

5. I’ll Go Tomorrow

“Yesterday you said “tomorrow”” — Nike

6. I Feel Fat

Ummmm… really? Well you’re just going to continue to feel exponentially fatter unless you do something about it, so quit whining and go for a walk! And just a quick fun fact, take a look around at all the “in shape” or “skinny” people around you, and know that a good amount of those people have likely been overweight or struggled with their weight at some point in their lives. Another common misconception, being a GroupX Instructor, is that I couldn’t gain weight if my life depended on it. Wrong-O! I gain weight like the rest of the world, I just know better than to let myself go! I’ve learned from my mistakes and I will never, ever go back! Once you get healthy too, you’ll say the same thing. I guarantee it. You will feel so good, that you will wonder who that person was… that other person… that person you are now… say goodbye to them! And if you’re self-conscious because you know people at the gym, just remember, sitting around thinking about going to the gym burns between zero and zero calories. You have to start somewhere.

7. I Don’t Feel Well

Assuming you don’t have a bacterial infection and/or something contagious or life-threatening, you will feel better after a workout. 99% of the time, after I hit the gym, regardless of my complaint (headache, stomachache, cramps, etc.), I feel like a new person after my workout. Working out, elevating your heart rate and sweating releases endorphins which pretty much make you feel amazing. Your brain actually blocks pain while you workout, so if you have a terrible headache and are looking for some relief, a workout will do you better than any pain medication.

*Note: Please consult your physician before starting a workout program. I am not a Doctor and do not claim to be one.

What I’d like everyone to take away from this post is that regardless of your excuse, you’re not the only one. There is someone out there that is busier, sicker or poorer than you that is able to get to the gym, make healthy choices, etc., so stop the excuses, they are just noise. The moment you stop thinking that you’re the busiest person on the planet, you will have made a step in the right direction. Remember that anything is better than nothing. So make yourself go to the gym, and promise yourself you will give it 5 minutes on the bike/elliptical/treadmill/etc. Chances are good that after 5 minutes, you’ll stay a little bit longer. And if you don’t… remember that 5 minutes is better than zero minutes.

If you do currently go to the gym, but you’re getting tired of your workout routine, I urge you to try something new. Try a Group Exercise (GroupX) class, and try several of them. Each one will vary on the format and the instructor, so find one that you like. Even the same format will be different when taught be a different instructor. If you prefer to workout on your own, try a new routine like Tabata! Regardless, make sure you switch up your workouts every so often as to keep your mind fresh and to keep your body from hitting a plateau. Our bodies are amazing, they will adapt to whatever we do to them. That means we have to constantly push ourselves out of our comfort zones to continue to achieve results.

In closing, remember, if it was easy, everyone would be fit, everyone would be healthy. So it might take a little work and a little commitment, but it will be well worth it.

Peace, love and mental toughness,

Melissa

I just completed 21 days of the CLEAN Program. Wow. That was tough, and wonderful, all at the same time. For those of you that aren’t familiar with CLEAN, it is a program created by Dr. Alejandro Junger, to “restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself.” But it does much more than that. By removing common allergens from your diet for 21 days, you give your body a chance to reset. When 21 days are over, you slowly add those allergens back into your diet, one at a time, with several days in between. Doing this allows you to truly pinpoint which of these allergens effect you personally. This method is actually much more accurate, not to mention less expensive, than typical laboratory/blood allergy tests.

So after 21 days of eating a completely CLEAN diet, I will start by adding wheat back in first. Part of me wants to go crazy and eat wheat all day long, but apparently that’s not necessary. The book makes it clear that just a little bit of wheat will do. Apparently after 3 weeks of eating CLEAN, it won’t take much to notice if you have a sensitivity or not. Now I’m nervous…

Clean book by Dr. JungerThis is the second time I’ve gone through the CLEAN program, but the first time I’ve done it completely and correctly. I started the last time too soon, I hadn’t read enough information and was accidentally eating some of the allergens that were supposed to be eliminated. So this time, I made sure to gather all the information prior to starting. Day 3 was probably the best, at the start of the program. I had so much energy, I was on top of the world. Excited about what was to come and the benefits I would receive, I was going, full force ahead. I started to break out a bit as these toxins were released, but all in all, that first week was great.

Then came the second week. Dun, dun, dun. Things started to get a little tougher. My thoughts switched from “This is awesome, I should do this more often” to “What in the world was I thinking?” Since I eat a pretty clean diet regularly, I felt that I could easily justify quitting early, since I’m “pretty healthy.” However, I started to think about how crappy I was feeling, and that is what really made me realize that I needed to see this through. If I was THAT healthy… this wouldn’t be affecting me as it was. So… on I went.

Days 11-16 were the worst. I had no energy, I would sleep for 12 hours at night and it still didn’t seem like it was enough, had terrible nightmares (many including food), my otherwise awesome drive, motivation, focus and productivity was lacking, I didn’t feel like myself and I was HUNGRY. Like, really, really, hungry. Thankfully I had been tweeting and facebooking about my CLEAN journey, and EVERY SINGLE tweet or post that I made was responded to by at least one member of the CLEAN team. I cannot say enough wonderful things about these people, they are amazing. They truly care about your journey, well-being and outcome, and they are so supportive and responsive. I wasn’t even asking them questions… just posting things like “Gosh, Day 12 sucks…” and they would respond with “You’re doing great, hang in there, this is where the magic happens” kind of thing. It was so uplifting. I didn’t realize it at the beginning, but I realize now how much I really did need their help and support. They pointed me to their web community, where you create a free profile and log your journey, ask questions, join forums, talk to other members, etc., and that was amazing as well. Just when you think you’re the only person struggling or experiencing one side effect or another, you jump online and see that you are most definitely not alone. Hundreds if not thousands of other people are there to help you through it, as they are going through the same things. It’s also interesting to talk to people at different phases of the program. That was helpful, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

If you haven’t heard of this yet, there’s a guy out there, a Personal Trainer, who in the last 5 months, has purposely made himself fat and unhealthy. It looks like he has about one month to go before he tries to get back to “fit.” His reasoning for this, is that he wants to be able to prove to people that you can in fact get healthy if you are overweight. Oh. My. Gosh. Wasn’t the Super Size Me guy enough? I mean, we see people make incredible transformations every day, (watch one season, or just one episode even, of The Biggest Loser), so why does he need to sacrifice HIS health and HIS body to prove that? I don’t think he does. Use others as examples, don’t be a contradiction.

So this guy, Drew Manning, says since he’s never been overweight and out of shape, he wants to see what it’s like and understand what obese people go through. Not only do I think it’s stupid and idiotic to put your body through something like that, but I feel like he is sending the wrong message… saying that it’s okay to let yourself go for awhile. Maybe this is his way of proving to everyone how passionate he is about health and fitness, but I think it’s the wrong approach! If you’re THAT passionate about it, you should never cause this mental and physical harm to yourself. Drew is causing potentially permanent damage to himself.

Maybe I’m not on board with this idea since I’m not exactly in his shoes. I already know what it feels like to be overweight, unhealthy and unhappy, and have absolutely NO desire to ever go back to that dark place. If I had never been there, would I ever consider doing this? Highly doubtful. I work hard to keep the only body I get in the best working order that I can!

People work so hard to rid themselves of the sugar and chemical cravings and addictions that processed foods give them, and here’s a guy who has none of those, and is introducing that crap into his body. I know people who would kill to get rid of these cravings, yet he’s bringing it on himself — on purpose. It boggles my mind. I understand what he’s doing, I really do, I just don’t know that I can say I support him in this because of the mixed signals it sends. It’s kind of like he’s sacrificing his body for science, but not. It’s not like he’s donating a kidney. And now when he dies, if he does donate a kidney, it will be a more damaged kidney than it would have been if he’d never made himself obese!

As I mentioned earlier, plenty of people make miraculous transformations everyday. I wish Drew would have used those people as examples instead of his own, healthy body that he worked so hard for. It’s kind of a shame. Good for him (I guess) that he’ll now be able to tell his overweight clients that he understands, but man, what a price to pay for that understanding. Seems like a great publicity stunt to me, but good luck to you Drew. You can follow him here.

What do you think about this Personal Trainer making himself obese on purpose? Leave your comments, let me know!

I just finished reading Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. All I can really say is… wow… for so many reasons. First, I’ve never read a book this fast in my life. It was an easy read. Maybe because there were so many curse words, I felt like I was at a more comfortable reading level? I can’t say for sure, but it was short, to the point and extremely informative and I appreciated that. It kept me turning pages without even realizing how involved I’d become. I was a little apprehensive during the first couple chapters… there’s a lot of “So, you’re tired of being fat and lazy? Then get off your fat a** and f*ing do something about it.” I’m all for being blunt, but I was definitely taken aback. However, I also feel like some people definitely need this swift kick in the rear-end to make some changes in their lives. There’s no sympathy in this book, that’s for sure, but it is filled with so much great information that my highlighter ran out of ink. Rest in peace pink highlighter.

I’ll try to keep this review short, because I do feel that you should read this book for yourself. I’d say I agree with most everything that this book says. There’s some information the authors give at the end which are their personal opinions on when/how you should eat… for example, they tell you to not eat breakfast until you’re hungry, don’t eat lunch until you’re “ravenous”, etc. I’m not sure I agree with that. I prefer to eat some small, healthy snacks during the day to ensure I don’t get to the point where I’m “ravenous” because let’s face it, if I am in fact ravenous, someone is going to get hurt. Hungry Melissa = Scary Melissa.

The book talks about how you need to give up your unhealthy vices if you want to get “skinny.” I wish the word “skinny” wasn’t used as much as it was, but… the authors did the right things to get people’s attention. Sadly, I can name 10x more people that have told me they’ve read “Skinny Bitch” then have read “Clean.” Anything with “skinny” in the title and you’ve got an immediate audience. I just question people’s motives though. It’s always about getting skinny. Get HEALTHY people! The weight loss will come with being healthier inside and out. Although, this book is more geared towards becoming healthier, they just use the word “skinny” instead. It also discusses carbohydrates, how sugar is the devil (which it is, in processed form… but if you’re talking about the sugar in fruit and things like that, then it’s good). Also discussed is the Atkins Diet and why it’s a terrible idea (thank heavens someone is calling it out, finally) and protein and how Americans get more than double the amount we really need. Lastly, but certainly not least, it discusses meat and why you shouldn’t eat it and how the government cannot be trusted. These two chapters changed my outlook on food more than I thought was possible at this point in my quest to become more knowledgeable.

A few months ago, I cut red meat out of my diet. No real reason. Had nothing to do with the way animals were treated, just sort of lost my appetite for red meat and decided to roll with it. A few weeks ago, I cut out dairy products. I had more of a reason behind this… which came from reading CLEAN, by Dr. Alejandro Junger. Up until this afternoon, I was still eating chicken, fish, and would have the occasional egg. Well, that’s all changed. I got to the chapter where they discuss the way animals are treated and I totally lost it. I’m honestly embarrassed that all this time I have been turning a blind eye to all this talk of animal cruelty. Granted, when possible, I would buy “free range” poultry and beef, but I always had growth hormones and antibiotics on my mind more than I did the treatment of the actual animals. Skinny Bitch has changed all that. The details they go into are pretty disturbing, but I’m glad they wrote about it, and even more glad that I read it. They actually quote workers from some of these slaughter houses and it’s just so sick. I was in tears reading this, while picking the chicken out of my spinach salad and tossing it in the trash. It’s really, really awful. For those that are interested, it’s Chapter 6: You Are What You Eat. I will spare you the details in this blog and let you read it for yourself if you decide you’d like to.

The other chapter that I found mind-boggling was Chapter 9: Have No Faith: Governmental Agencies Don’t Give a Shit About Your Health. And they don’t. I started to get an idea for how political everything is when I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, where they explained how messed up the food pyramid is. The FOOD PYRAMID! Kids learn about the food pyramid at such a young age! Yet, it cannot be trusted. For example, dairy and meat have been linked to all sorts of diseases, but there’s no way it will be removed from the pyramid because there are very “high-up” people from huge dairy companies, for instance, that would never let that happen. Skinny Bitch talks about all the corruption within the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and more.

“According to its web site, now, among other things, the USDA is responsible for “the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products.” Hmm. That’s weird. ‘Cause many high-ranking staff members at the USDA were employed by, or are otherwise affiliated with, the meat and dairy industries. And if the group responsible for “the safety of meat, poultry and egg products” is run by people from the same industries they’re supposed to be protecting us from… well, that would be a conflict of interest. And it is. An enormous, ridiculous, outrageous, catastrophic conflict of interest.” – Skinny Bitch

There are plenty of examples in the book in regards to what terrible things these agencies have pulled, but that’s another post. In short, everyone’s in bed with everyone else. The milk industry is a $19 Billion industry. So… they pretty much have enough money to get what they want, and do what they need to do to ensure people think milk is critical to their survival. Have you ever wondered why school lunches are required to serve milk? Food for thought. Pun intended.

The reviews on this book are definitely mixed, with good reason I believe. The language is strong, so if that’s something that offends you, steer clear of this one. It also advocates a vegan diet, so be prepared for that. They talk a lot about soy products, which I currently believe people should do their own research on before diving head first into… as there are mixed reviews on whether or not soy is good for you. I personally don’t feel I have enough information to make a case for either side at this point in time. One of the reviews I read mentioned that although these tips will work for weight loss, they are too difficult for the average woman. Which may in fact be true. But… even if they take a few key things away from this book… for instance, get rid of those cigarettes and sodas and read the ingredients of what you’re about to eat… then I feel like it’s worth reading.

Baby steps should not be overlooked. Even small successes are worth celebrating, as it’s those small successes that lead to the bigger ones. I didn’t change my eating habits overnight, this has been a LONG, but extremely enjoyable and even more rewarding process. I started years ago, by giving up soda, and stuck with just that for a while. I didn’t realize that I was even on a “journey” until I recently thought about all the changes I’ve made, and started to realize it. I was just living day by day, taking in information and adjusting my diet. Next, I swapped out my typical lunch for a spinach salad everyday, incorporating more veggies into my diet. I’ve made so many changes since kicking that soda, too many to list. Now I’m at the point where I’m learning so much about the impact food and other products have on not just my intestines or my weight, but also on my emotions, that I can’t stop learning! I want to be the best version of “me” that I can be, and that means every day learning more and more and constantly growing and changing. I hope you can take small steps for yourself as well, because you’ll soon notice that they weren’t small at all, that they were pivotal in making you become who you are today. Eating vegan or cutting out dairy isn’t for everyone, but I do hope everyone can have enough knowledge to make their own, informed decisions. It’s your body, it’s your life. Take control. 

 

Key Factors

There are three key factors that differentiate cleanses from one another. (4)

  1. How intensely (consider speed and side effects) does the cleanse switch the body into detox mode?
  2. How much nutritional support does it offer while the detox process is taking place? (Will it remove toxins from circulation?)
  3. Does the program create the conditions for the repair of the gut?

In the previous blog post, Why Cleanse? we discussed the reasons why it is important to not only release toxins, but to neutralize and eliminate them as well. Some of the cleanses listed below will release toxins quickly, others more slowly, but they vary in how successfully they neutralize and eliminate those toxins from the body. The safety of the cleanse is determined by how fast/slow and the amount of side effects that are encountered when the body enters detox mode as well as the intensity of liver detoxification. Please note, you should always consult your doctor before initiating a cleanse on your own. I recommend finding a doctor in your area that practices Functional Medicine.

Water Fasting

Definitely the most intense and least pleasant form of detoxification, this is usually done for spiritual reasons, and in my opinion is pretty unsafe. You just drink water. That’s it. Note, I am not a doctor, but I think most would agree with me here. Back when this cleanse was used more widely, there weren’t as many chemicals or toxins in the environment and in the body, so maybe it wasn’t so bad back then. However, many more toxins are released from our bodies today, and with minimal nutrient support for liver detoxification, this becomes a dangerous cleanse.

Alejandro Junger, M.D., author of CLEAN notes, “I witnessed many people try this method (water fasting) over the years. They all got very weak and sleepy and could not go on for long. Many water fasters suffered nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and other symptoms.”

The Master Cleanse

You may have heard of this one before, this is a liquid-only detox program where only drink this one specific “cocktail” of water with lemon, grade-B maple syrup and cayenne pepper, for as long as you can. “This method enhances elimination of toxins by the irritation that the cayenne pepper causes on the intestinal mucosa, not by “binding” fiber to the toxins to prevent reabsorption and pulling them out.” – Dr. Junger. This cleanse probably better suits people cleansing for spiritual reasons rather than physical. The Master Cleanse is not one of the best options in terms of a nutritionally-supportive cleanse goes, since it does not do a good job of eliminating toxins from circulation.

Juice Fasting

The juice fast is exactly what it sounds like. You consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juices, water and/or herbal teas. This fast is not as intense as the water fast, but it’s still tough mentally because you’re not consuming any food. You’d be amazed how much you miss chewing after just one day! Juice fasting is good because the juices provide the nutrients the liver requires for detoxification, but the juices should be mostly green (ie: kale, spinach, celery, etc.). Since liquids digest faster than solid foods, detoxification happens quickly with this cleanse. 

What is Cleansing?

A cleanse is a program done for a specific amount of time that puts the body in a more intense detox mode than it encounters on a regular day-to-day basis. Although a scary word to some, cleansing can actually be a very enjoyable and eye-opening process. You feel renewed, like a better version of yourself. Your thoughts are more clear, decisions are easier, relationships strengthen and digestion woes disappear. Even serious illnesses such as diabetes can be reversed in time. What may surprise you about cleansing, however, is that it is not a new concept.

Why Cleanse?

In ancient times, it was common knowledge that our bodies needed to periodically allowed to enter a deeper state of detoxification and that resting your digestive system was integral to life. This must occur in order for the body to handle the accumulation of toxins that build up everyday, but especially during times of excess eating, activity and stress. Human beings’ genetic evolution—the way our bodies work best—has been shaped by the fasting that was imposed on us by the hunter-gatherer way of life. For millennia, humans experienced periods of feasting followed by periods of imposed famine. (4).

“A focused period of detoxifying is a reset for the whole physical and mental body. It delivers an all-access pass to boundless reserves of energy you didn’t know you had. You find that every part of your body works better, imbalances are rectified, and irritating symptoms get a chance to melt away on their own—all by simply “switching on” a system that you were born with and that has been patiently waiting to server you.” – Alejandro Junger, M.D.

Today, people cleanse to remove fog and to regain energy, but more importantly, people are often very eager to simplify their lives and rid themselves of old habits. A cleanse gives people the opportunity to start fresh, create new, healthier habits, and leave their old habits behind. According to Dr. Junger, “There is an inevitable awakening in the mind and emotions, even if the stated goal of the cleanse is more physical, such as to enhance beauty, encourage weight loss, or look younger.”

It is also a way to boost healing systems when systems are taxed and are beginning to show signs of stress. With the digestive system resting, more energy can be diverted toward defense and healing.

How it Works

The detoxification process kicks in 8 hours after your last meal and needs 4 hours to function optimally. It is after that 8 hour mark that your body has finished processing the last meal you ate. Once digestion is completed, accumulated toxins from the tissues are released into the bloodstream so that they can eventually be neutralized and eliminated with the help of nutrients. If the toxins are not eliminated, not only can they be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, but the free radicals that they contain corrode tissues and damage cells on contact. This is one reason why late night eating is discouraged. If your body never finishes processing your food before you eat again, it doesn’t have the chance to release other accumulated toxins. The reason we call that first meal of the day “breakfast” is because that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re breaking the fast that has occurred overnight.

In short, we are human. We accumulate stress, we are active, we eat in excess and we build up waste. With that, we also need to ensure that we alleviate that stress at some point, because if we don’t, that’s when things like fatigue and illness come knocking down our defense-wall doors. For a comparison of today’s most popular cleanses, please read Cleanses Compared.