There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep, right? Eight hours of zzz’s helps you face the day energized and ready to work, study or tend to chores. It helps you tackle the stress of daily life head-on. Plus, studies show that getting a good night’s sleep helps boost immunity and improve brain function, according to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine.
Now a new study shows that we are in the middle of an “epidemic” of sleep apnea, in which you have frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. When these pauses occur, your sleep becomes shallow and sleep quality is poor. It’s the deep sleep you need to maintain optimum health, and that’s in short supply when you suffer from apnea. You may be drowsy the next day – maybe even dangerously so, while driving or on the job. Not to mention that your sleeping partner may be roused by your snoring, having his or her rest disrupted, too.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, where the study was conducted, link sleep apnea with another epidemic in this country – obesity. The number of those experiencing sleep apnea – much like the numbers of obese individuals – has steadily risen, and 80 to 90 percent of the increase can be attributed to obesity. Men are more at risk than women, and risk increases with age.
There are many sleep disorder medical clinics out there – I noticed a new one on my way to the office yesterday. People spend valuable time and long hours in sleep studies, trying to figure out why their rest is disrupted and they feel so exhausted all the time. One big reason may actually be in plain sight – an increase in your waistline.
So when your doctor or nutritionist advises you to lose weight, here’s another reason to follow her guidance – you may sleep more soundly, feeling more refreshed and alert, and boost your body’s natural ability to fight off chronic disease.
Here’s to sleeping like a baby!
I just got back from the National Association of Nutrition Professionals annual conference in San Diego, Calif., and I feel jazzed to pass along what I learned there to my clients and colleagues. NANP is the premier organization for holistic nutrition professionals.
One thing driven home again and again at the conference was how vastly different getting holistic nutrition counseling is from going to a doctor or registered dietitian. What holistic practitioners like myself do is focus on the underlying causes of disease rather than on “symptom relief.” As one of the conference speakers, Reed Davis, put it, holistic practitioners look for “healing opportunities” rather than dispense “treatment.” So, for example, we try to uncover why are you having persistent digestive problems or migraines or whatever your symptom is, rather than just handing you a pill that will mask your pain – and may eventually lead to other health problems.
Of course, many people do indeed just want to mask their pain. After his first meeting with me, one of my clients said on his way out the door, “You know, I was hoping you’d just tell me there was a pill for this.” So many people don’t want to look at how diet or lifestyle is impacting their health. They want a quick fix for the weight they’ve put on … or the acid reflux they’ve had for years … or the anxiety they feel, rather than look at and remedy the underlying problems with their food choices.
But here’s the thing: As Davis put it so well, “You’ve got to opt in to a self-care model or you will be forced into a disease-care model.” In short, if you don’t address the way you’re living – the processed food you’re putting into your body, for example, or your lack of physical movement day after day – the you-know-what is eventually going to hit the fan. You will develop health problems down the road … if you haven’t already.
Your genetic makeup might determine what those problems are, but genes aren’t destiny. Consider, for example, that about 90% of all cases of high blood pressure can be reversed with dietary measures. 90%! Consider the other chronic medical conditions – all of which doctors treat with medication – that can be reversed or managed with lifestyle modifications, like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
What’s one thing you can do today to opt in to self-care? Maybe it’s starting a walking regimen, or getting your bike out of storage. Maybe it’s giving up soda. Maybe it’s checking the nutrition labels to see what’s really in the food products in your pantry… and then tossing a few of them out. Maybe it’s shopping exclusively in the produce and meat departments of the store and steering your cart out of the deadly middle, where all the baked goods, cookies, chips, and other faux-food killers are.
Maybe it’s picking up the phone and calling a holistic nutrition counselor.
Whatever your step is today, I congratulate you for taking it … and for opting in to self-care.
Chain restaurant-goers, take note: the Center for Science in the Public Interest just released a study on the lack of nutrition in kids’ meals at chain restaurants. A whopping 97% of these meals flunked Nutrition 101.
It’s not that the meals are vaguely “not good” for kids — a weak statement that justifies parents giving in to them. Actually, they are astoundingly, amazingly bad for kids, with almost as many calories in some meals as youngsters need in an entire day. They are also loaded with fat and salt, two real killers that, in excess, can lead to early deterioration of your children’s health. Read: heart disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes in their young adult years, instead of in old age (which would be bad enough).
Don’t fool yourself into thinking Applebee’s is a “healthier” alternative to McDonalds. It isn’t. Neither is Denny’s. They’re in the report, too:
Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2 Percent Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62 grams of total fat (46 percent of calories), 21 grams of saturated fat (16 percent), and 2,340 milligrams of sodium. That meal has nearly three times as many calories, and three times as much sodium, as CSPI’s criteria for four-to eight-year-olds allow.
And here’s another news flash for parents — your entrees don’t fare any better, and they are bad for you, too. For example, although some of Applebee’s meals are Weight Watchers-approved for caloric and fat content, the sodium numbers are through the roof — the Grilled Jalapeno Shrimp, for example, weighs in with 2,110 mg of sodium, which is just 190 shy of your sodium recommendation for the day if you are under 50, and 610 mg over your limit if you’re 50+ or already have hypertension.
Set a healthy example for your kids and eat at home, with very occasional trips to restaurants as a treat. The grilled cheese or chicken nuggets you make at home, controlling the ingredients and cooking methods, are going to taste better and be nutritionally superior to anything you can get at a chain.
I often get asked how many calories we burn in everyday activities, and the answers may surprise you. Now the smart folks at Neomammalian Studios, a UK-based infographics agency, have shared with me a colorful infographic they created that looks at how many calories you can burn in just 10 minutes. Apparently, Joey Chesnut, the “competitive eater,” ate 68 hot dogs in that time on July 4, 2009, which equates to 8 days’ worth of food.
The graphic looks at a range of calorie-burning activities, including (amazingly) reading, standing and talking, as well as more conventional exercises such as weight lifting and running. All of those sound infinitely better to me than speed-eating hot dogs. The graphic also takes a look at groups of low-calorie and high-calorie food types.
It’s a fun way to look at the topic of calorie-burning. So here’s the link. Enjoy!
Having trouble falling asleep at night? Or do you snap awake at 2 a.m. and watch anxiously as minutes slip away on the clock? Six out of 10 Americans have difficulty sleeping a few nights a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While chronic sleep disorders may require a physician’s or mental health professional’s care, you may be able to avoid the occasional restless night with a few nutritional tricks.
1. Eat a bedtime snack. If your pattern is to wake up in the middle of the night, your blood sugar may be low. Try a protein- and fiber-rich snack that will get you through the night, like an apple or pear with nut butter. Or substitute a slice of whole-grain bread for the fruit – whole grains are high in magnesium, a naturally relaxing mineral.
2. Go nuts. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and cashews are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps encourage calm and restfulness. Since these tasty nuts are also high in fat and calories, keep your serving to 1/4 cup, and skip the salted and flavor-added varieties.
3. Boost your calcium. In a study published in the “European Neurology Journal,” researchers linked a lack of REM, or deep, sleep to a calcium deficiency – suggesting there might be something to the old trick of a glass of warm milk before bed. If milk doesn’t appeal, try some plain yogurt with berries and nuts. If you take a daily calcium-magnesium supplement, consider having it before bed.
4. Brew a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root and passionflower are famous for their relaxing properties. Sip a cup before bed to help ease you gently into sleep.
In addition to being an occasion to get together with family and friends, Thanksgiving also gives us license – or so it seems! – to eat whatever we want. And there’s usually plenty of food to go around, including many things that can wreak havoc with your good intentions to “eat healthy,” shed pounds or maintain your weight.
As with most things in life, the key to getting through the holidays without gaining 5 pounds or making your blood glucose levels shoot through the roof is something many of us have problems with – moderation. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those fabulous foods that only come around a few times a year. Depriving yourself of what you love to eat – and everyone else at the table is enjoying – is a sure-fire way to break whatever good intentions you have about your diet. Don’t do it!
Instead, here are a few simple tips for enjoying yourself while keeping on a healthy track this Thanksgiving:
1. Skip or skimp on the hors d’oeuvres. These are usually things you can live without, like cheese and crackers or chips and dip. If there’s something on the hors d’oeuvres table you just can’t live without, take a couple of small samples and then hand in your plate.
2. Forgo the sugary drinks. This is a big time of year for sparkling beverages, which are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Try a glass of mineral water instead and add a splash of lemon or lime juice if you want something more festive.
3. Avoid taking seconds. Help yourself to a portion of each of the tasty foods you love, but make that your only go-around. The second helping of stuffing or mashed potatoes never tastes as good as the first, and is bound to have you tugging at your waistband before long.
4. Eat slowly. Taste each bite, and make the meal last. If you finish before your stomach knows it’s full (usually about 20 minutes), you’ll go foraging for more.
5. By all means, save room for dessert. In my family, pumpkin pie is what Thanksgiving is all about! So have a small slice and savor the taste of this beautiful fall dessert. Either skip the whipped cream or indulge in just a small dollop.
Remember, drinking a glass of water right before your meal helps fill you up so that you take smaller portions at the table. Try some of these tricks and you won’t wake up on Black Friday with a guilty “too much Thanksgiving dinner” nausea. Enjoy!