WHAT IS INSULIN RESISTANCE AND HOW IT CAN AFFECT YOUR WEIGHT

I’ve had my own issues with hormones. I was eating right, exercising regularly, but no matter what, I couldn’t lose weight. I was even gaining weight and looking puffier.

I was doing everything right, but something just wasn’t clicking with my body. The weight just stayed put.

So, I started doing research on my own. A lot of it.

I focused on learning more about leptin (the “starvation hormone”) and insulin and what happens when your body becomes resistant to them.

I needed to discover what could cause my body to stop losing weight when I was working my butt off to lose it. What I discovered completely changed my approach to weight loss. And I now realize just how important hormones are in maintaining and healthy body and a healthy weight.

Here’s what I learned about insulin resistance and weight gain, how it can affect your body, and what you can do to reverse it.

WHAT IS INSULIN RESISTANCE, ANYWAY?

Before we dive into what insulin resistance is, you first need to understand what insulin does.

Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating your body’s blood sugar levels. Insulin moves sugar into your fat cells to protect your body from high blood sugar levels.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in your pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin every time you eat. But, insulin secretion is the highest when you eat food that is full of sugar.

If you’re constantly eating a high amount of sugar, insulin levels will remain high, and your body will eventually become resistant to insulin.

Your body stops responding to insulin and your body cannot burn fat for fuel. Instead, it causes you to store more and more fat, causing you to gain weight.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF INSULIN RESISTANCE

Everyone’s body is different and the way excess insulin impacts you may be different to how it affects your friends.

However, there are some common signs and symptoms that suggest you might have an insulin resistance problem.

YOU CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY

The most obvious and common sign that you have insulin resistance is the inability to lose weight. No matter what you try, you can’t seem to shake those extra pounds. And the weight will mostly be concentrated around your belly.

If a healthy diet and regular exercise routine is not doing the trick, it’s best to see your doctor or naturopath. They’ll be able to test your insulin levels to see if this is the problem. They’ll also be able to see if you’re leptin resistance – the two often go hand in hand.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

When you’re healthy and everything is working right, your blood pressure should be around 120/80. This means your heart is delivering the right amount of pressure to your blood vessels.

If your blood pressure is higher than 120, it means those blood vessels are under a lot of pressure. They’re not built for this and high blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and even stroke.

Insulin resistance creates a sodium imbalance in your bloodstream. This leads to an increase in the volume of blood rushing through your veins. The larger the blood volume is, the more pressure gets put on your blood vessels.

Have your blood pressure checked and if it’s higher than normal, ask your doctor to check your insulin levels.

OTHER SYMPTOMS

Other symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Dizziness when fasting or when you go too long without food
  • Feeling irritable when you are hungry

HIGH TRIGLYCERIDES AND CHOLESTEROL

Triglycerides are the fats that get stored in your body, to use for energy—eventually.  When they’re high, it means that your bloodstream is storing too much fat instead of burning it for fuel.

In most people, this results in both weight gain and higher cholesterol. When your insulin levels aren’t breaking down blood sugar and fats in the bloodstream, they start to build up.

This results in high cholesterol levels and needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Why? Because high cholesterol and high triglycerides increase your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INSULIN RESISTANCE AND WEIGHT

Which comes first, weight gain or insulin resistance?

If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle (eat too much sugary food, don’t exercise, don’t manage your stress properly), your fat levels will increase. Then the fat that your body stores, especially around your abdomen, can trigger insulin resistance.

How so? Well, abdominal fat releases a considerable amount of chemicals called adipokines. And, apparently, those chemicals counter the effect that insulin is supposed to have on your body.

So, your weight gain can cause insulin resistance which then results in insulin resistance causing more weight gain.  One of the best programs I found has been our Ultimate Portion Fix.  This program works to regulate portion sizes, keep blood sugar steady throughout the day and boost your metabolism.  If you are tired of fighting an uphill battle alone, reach out.  I would love to help you!

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5 Myths About Cravings That Might Be Holding You Back

Imagine you’ve been on a healthy-eating kick. Everything is going great. You’re skipping the drive-thru, you’re passing up that second slice of pizza, you’re snacking on apples and adding a side salad to dinner. Then — wham! — out of nowhere a craving strikes and you find yourself elbow-deep in a tub of Rocky Road ice cream. In the moment, it can feel like cravings are this powerful force that can derail any resolution and let your appetites run wild. But in reality, it’s possible to get a grip on a craving’s pull and hold tight to your healthy-eating goals.

“I am a big fan of moderation,” says Traci Mann, PhD, professor of Social and Health Psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of “Secrets From the Eating Lab.” “I believe you will crave your favorite foods less if you know you can have them sometimes.”

It also helps to understand what you’re up against, she says: Hunger hits when your body sends the brain signals that it needs more food, and it’s influenced by things like how full your stomach is, your blood glucose levels, and certain hormones in your body. Appetite, on the other hand, has far less to do with when you last ate. It’s a desire for food that’s often triggered by seeing, smelling or thinking about something tasty, and it can also be influenced by everything from stress levels to medical conditions to certain social situations.

When someone’s appetite centers on a particular food (say, a bucket of popcorn as they walk into a movie theater or a piece of chocolate at the end of a hard workday), they typically call that a craving. And cravings can last for a few fleeting minutes (mmmm, those doughnuts in the breakroom look good) or for days (like when you find you’ve been dreaming of Sunday brunch since Wednesday).

The next time you feel an urge to eat something you’d rather not, you could try to double down on your willpower. But a better idea might be making a tweak, like switching to your go-to snacks or changing your default portions.

Here are five myths about cravings and appetite that might lead you astray, and five expert tips to help you conquer your cravings

Myth #1: A craving is a sign that your body needs something

Does your penchant for double cheeseburgers mean your body’s low on iron? Is that bag of salty pretzels calling your name because your body’s dehydrated and you need the salt? Probably not, says Sarah Haas, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Chicago. “People think a craving for something means they must have it, but that’s rarely the case,” she says. It’s more likely that your penchant for salty, crunchy, fatty, or sweet foods is tied to habit or certain moods and triggers. If you tend to grab a granola bar every afternoon on your drive home from work, you may find yourself craving something crunchy and sweet right on cue when you climb behind the steering wheel.

Things like not getting enough sleep and water may also lead to an appetite uptick. “There’s no question that what’s going on in our lives affects what we eat,” says Haas.

Pro Tip: To tease out appetite (the urge to eat) from hunger (your body’s physiological need to eat), stop thinking enticing foods and start thinking boring snacks. If an apple sounds just as appealing as a bag of chips, you’re probably hungry. If not, those chips are probably calling to your emotional side — not your stomach.

Myth #2: Your body will tell you when it’s full

While many health experts will say that your body is the best source to tell you when you’ve had enough, if you’ve been a overeater for years, your gut feeling may actually be a little off. “Researchers have tried to train people to ‘listen to their gut’ for signs of fullness, but it is not always easy to do,” says Mann. “And feeling full lags behind eating, so once you do notice feelings of fullness, it’s likely too late. You might already be overstuffed.”

Pro Tip: Instead of pausing midmeal to assess their satiety, some people have an easier time paying attention to what portion sizes tend to feel good and then duplicating those at future meals, says Mann. For instance, if one slice of pizza and a small salad tends to leave you feeling satisfied (not stuffed), then that’s probably a good amount to serve yourself. Ditto if a half-cup of cottage cheese and a big bowl of fruit at breakfast tends to tide you over til lunch time. “Using trial and error to figure out what feels just right can also be easier to remember than trying to figure out midmeal how you feel,” she says.

Myth #3: Comfort foods make you feel better

It’s obvious that mac and cheese or a big bowl of ice cream would feel more comforting than, say, a simple salad or a piece of fruit…right? Not so fast. While science has found that pleasing foods can spark the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, Mann’s research suggests that so-called comfort foods don’t actually bring any more comfort than other foods. In a study of 110 college students, some participants were given their chosen comfort food after watching a film that negatively affected their mood, while others were given a different food, or none at all. The comfort-food group did feel better after eating, but no more than the other participants.

Pro Tip: If a banana can lift your spirits just as much as a banana split, use that insight to resist the siren song of the sweeter option.

Myth #4: Dessert is definitely out

It’s time to stop demonizing dessert. “People try to control cravings by denying themselves the foods they crave, but this just makes them crave more,” says Mann. And, worse, when people put foods (or entire food groups) on the no-no list and then slip up and indulge, they tend to go overboard with how much they eat, because they already feel like they blew it.

Pro Tip: “Instead of denying yourself, the best way to keep cravings at bay is actually to allow yourself to have those foods in reasonably sized portions,” Mann says. And if you worry that a sometimes treat can quickly slide into a daily habit, it’s OK to set up parameters for yourself, says Mann — like saving desserts for the weekends or having red meat only at restaurants or ball games.

Myth #5: A good diet is no defense

Appetite and hunger don’t have to go hand in hand, but when they do overlap they can create more intense or specific food cravings, says Mann. Let’s say you’re trying to break a midmorning-muffin habit. If you skip breakfast and then walk past a platter of muffins, you could crave those buttery baked goods even more than you might on a morning when you started the day with a balanced breakfast.

Pro Tip: Try to make most meals balanced and varied, says Haas. She recommends focusing on whole grains and lean proteins, both of which can help you feel fuller longer. “It’s a combo that provides sustainable energy,” she says, so you’re less likely to be ravenous (and vulnerable!) when a craving strikes.

Cravings happen to all of us. But they don’t have to control us. Sometimes it’s the things you do when your appetite isn’t raging that can help you keep those cravings in check.

4 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Vegetables

Pop quiz: How many vegetables do you eat in a day? If you’re well below the two to three cups that doctors recommend, well, you’re in a very crowded club. A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nine out of 10 American adults are missing the mark, when it comes to eating their veggies.

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That’s an especially hard stat to swallow when you consider that “vegetables are the most nutrition-packed food group,” said Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, a registered dietician in Chicago and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs. “They have fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical plant compounds that can protect us against all kinds of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Does eating salad feels like a chore? Chomping on carrot sticks feel like a snore? Instead, try adding vegetables to dishes you already eat regularly, suggests Wendy Bazilian, PH, RD, a San Diego-based nutritionist and author of The Superfood Rx Diet“This approach is kind of like playing a game: finding new ways to put together a dish so you can have a delicious meal — and well-lived life.” And as you eat more vegetables in familiar dishes, you may grow to love their tastes and textures — and eat them even more, she says.

Be a Sneak! Think your fave foods can’t be veggified? Try these 4 tips:

1. You crave: fried rice. Reach for: cauliflower.

Any trip through the grocery store will confirm that, when it comes to subbing in veggies, cauliflower is king. The versatile veg is easy to mash, roast and — yes — even rice. After washing and drying the head of cauliflower, simply chop it up either by hand or pulse in a food processor until it resembles rice, says Blatner. Every serving of this cruciferous vegetable packs almost half of your daily value of Vitamin C, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and protein.

Recipe inspiration: Fried cauliflower rice with carrots, cashews and corn or rainbow cauliflower rice bowl recipe

2. You crave: burgers. Reach for: mushrooms.

You’ve seen mushroom burgers on plenty of menus, but did you know that you could put diced mushrooms directly into the meat patty? “Even the heartiest meat lovers rarely notice the difference,” says Bazilian, because the mushrooms add both moisture and umami. For most recipes, you can swap about one-third of the meat for diced mushrooms without having to make any major changes, Bazilian says. And that sneak will lower the burger’s saturated fat and calories, while upping its fiber.

Recipe inspiration: Beef and mushroom burgers

3. You crave: pasta. Reach for: zucchini.

Zoodles are all the rage these days — with reason, says Blatner. Spiralized zucchini has a spaghetti-like quality that’s versatile enough for most pasta dishes. Yet it’s less calorically dense than traditional pasta and won’t give you the usual blood sugar spike, says Bazilian. It also boasts a good amount of potassium, which can help control blood pressure and may lessen your risk of stroke. You can find zoodles in the freezer aisle at the grocery store or, to make the shape at home,  use a mandolin or spiral vegetable slicer to cut the squash into ribbon-like strips.

Recipe inspiration: Asian sesame zucchini noodles or zoodles and turkey meatballs

4. You crave: mac and cheese. Reach for: butternut squash.

This comfort dish usually gets its richness from a double whammy of cheese and butter. But subbing in some pureed butternut squash can add a similar silky creaminess — with far fewer calories and less saturated fat, says Blatner. Butternut squash is also high in fiber and potassium, and it lends a subtle sweetness to the dish. “It’s really phenomenal,” she says. Subbing in some pasta made from chickpea, lentils, or black beans can add some fiber and protein.

Our latest program, The Ultimate Portion Fix, has over 300 pages of recipes to incorporate your favorite foods and healthy alternatives the entire family will enjoy.  Send us a message if you are ready to change your nutrition!

Healthy Summer Snacks

Summer time is a fun filled time with barbecues, baseball games, pool time, and beach fun.  Grabbing a bunch of processed snacks to hit the road is less than healthy and can get expensive.  Here are some great snacks for the whole family to enjoy without feeling guilty.

Cucumber and Apples

I love to chop up pink lady apples and cucumbers and store them in a baggie or container so the flavors mix together.  It gives a great compliment to both fruits.

 

Greek Yogurt PB Dip and Apples 

Combine your favorite greek yogurt with either Peanut Butter or PB Powder and serve with red and green apple slices.

  • 1 6 oz. container of Greek Yogurt (plain, honey, or vanilla is best)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of natural Peanut Butter, plain or crunchy
  • If you want to add a little more flavor: add honey, vanilla, or cinnamon.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad

My family loves this dip and we eat with celery, bell peppers or pita chips.  Mix all together and enjoy!

  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 (15-ounce) cans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Zest of 1 lime and juice of 4 limes
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (for less heat, remove the seeds)
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 avocado, coarsely chopped

 

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 110 g
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal I prefer Arrowhead Mills brand which you can find at most health food stores for about $3/bag., 20 g
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chopped almonds 80 g
  • 1/2 cup roasted and unsalted pumpkin seeds 80 g
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup medjool dates packed, (9-10 dates 195 g) , pitted
  • 1/3 cup honey 60 ml
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter 100 g
  • 1 TB pure vanilla extract homemade

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: rolled oats, puffed brown rice, chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Place the pitted dates in a food processor bowl, or you can do this step with a knife but it will require more time. Slowly pulse the dates, pausing between pulses, until the dates are chopped into pieces. Ideally the dates shouldn’t form a ball, but if this happens you can separate the dates into smaller pieces with your hands. Add the dates to the dry ingredients, and then combine the ingredients with your hands (it helps to wet your hands first!). The mixture should feel sticky once the dates are incorporated in the dry mixture.
  3. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the honey and peanut butter. Stir the honey and peanut butter until smooth and creamy. You may need to use a whisk to combine the ingredients. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract (yes, 1 tablespoon).
  4. Pour the sticky honey and peanut butter over the dry ingredients. Stir to combine the ingredients, making sure the honey and peanut butter covers all the dry ingredients.
  5. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. Press the granola down into the pan. I like to use the back of a measuring cup (you’ll want to wet the back of the measuring cup first) to level the top of the granola and make sure it’s packed tight in the baking dish.
  6. Freeze the granola bars for 30 minutes. Remove the granola bars from the freezer and cut into even bars. Place the bars in a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze the granola bars until you’re ready to enjoy. I like to pull a granola bar from the freezer, and let it warm up at room temperature for about 1 minute before enjoying.

Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies 

Ingredients

  • 8 TB butter softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose einkorn flour whole wheat pastry flour may work for a substitute.
  • 1 cup shredded carrots about 2 medium-large carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped apples I like sweet apples: Fuji, Gala, Jonagold., about 1 large apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand-mixer (you can also use a large bowl and wooden spoon), on medium speed with the paddle attachment, beat together the honey and butter until creamy. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, until the eggs are incorporated into the butter/honey mixture.
  3. Now it’s time to add the remaining ingredients: rolled oats, einkorn flour, shredded carrots, chopped apple, chopped pecans, shredded coconut, ground cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Over low speed, combine the ingredients until the dough is wet and sticky.
  4. Scoop the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. I use an ice cream scooper to create the perfect size cookies. Dust the back of a spoon with flour or grease with coconut oil or butter. Flatten the cookies (versus just a round ball of dough) with the back of the spoon.
  5. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with extra shredded coconut, if desired. Allow to cool before serving.

 

Fruits and Sliced Veggies are always a huge hit and can be taken pretty much anywhere.  Have fun and let your kids make kabobs for easy carrying and quick projects to keep little ones busy.

Hope you enjoy these and would love to know your thoughts on what your favorite go to snack is in the summer.