It’s Getting Harder To Lose Weight

It seems like a large percentage of our population is trying to lose weight – and it seems to get harder and harder. In fact, a study in the Journal of Obesity Research & Clinical Practice compared diet and exercise data over 4 decades and discovered that adults in 2006 had a higher BMI than those of the same age, diet, and activity patterns as those in 1988. Basically,  it seems that it is more challenging to maintain a healthy body weight today than a generation ago. This is  most likely because weight management is more complicated than just caloric intake and expenditure and involves environmental factors. For example, sleep, medications,  hormones, chemicals, and pesticides may also be impacting our weight. It is very important to examine your entire lifestyle to manage your weight, and not just what you eat and how much you exercise.

Sleep and Exercise Affect Your Weight

According to research presented at the Food and Nutrition Conference (FNCE) of the Academy of Nutrition and  Dietetics, people who sleep less have a higher risk of weighing more. This is because the lack of sleep causes disruption to the hormones that regulate appetite. Additionally, when you are tired, you may not have the energy to exercise, and you are more likely to make poor food choices and snack more often. It is important to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal  health.  Exercise is also important to maintain weight, and not just because you are burning calories. Exercise helps regulate metabolism and control your appetite. Weight loss is not just about dieting; remember to sleep and exercise in order to get the body you want!

Beware of the Type of Supplement You Take!

Not all dietary supplements are created equal! The supplement industry is unregulated, and many of these supplements have inadequate levels of important active ingredients. Additionally, many herbal and dietary supplements contain harmful ingredients and chemicals that may or may not be printed on the label. In fact, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, more than 23,000 people went to the ER last year after ingesting dietary supplements, with symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, and choking. Last week, Lamar Odom from the LA Lakers took an herbal Viagra pill called “Reload” and now is on life support. There are more than 55,000 supplements on the market. Make sure to use a reputable company;  physician-grade supplements, such as Metagenics, Designs for Health, Thorne, and Xymogen, are recommended.

Mindfulness to achieve peak performance

If I could mange distractions during my sports performance, I’d be able to achieve my peak potential! Distraction and losing focus are very common experiences that athletes find challenging to manage. For example: A tennis player lost the last four games and, during the changeover, he starts having uncontrollable negative thoughts. Elizabeth is bound to shoot her best round of golf and, as she is about to tee off, she pays too much attention to the out of bounce on the right. Tom missed his first free throw and now must make the second one to tie the basketball game with one second left.

Regardless of how much we practiced, athletes are bound to feel the emotion of the game, especially when a significant achievement is on the line. Even top athletes feel the nervousness of the moment. A professional golf player will feel his knees shaking when playing in the Ryder Cup because he is representing his own country. Serena Williams succumbed to the pressure of wanting to win the Grand Slam when facing a fairly unknown rival. The wanting to win as well as the fear of losing is felt in our bones, muscles and skin. As much as we would like to control the external factors that are part of competition, it is the internal distractions that lead our minds into wandering.

When the mind is distracted, it follows scattered thoughts, negative scenarios or blank stares. The body responds by tensing up, sweating or shaking. Commonly executed shots, throws or pitches become so much more difficult to do well. Regardless of our competitive level, we are bound to experience pressure situations. In fact, it is the effects of our emotions that we feel while playing the sport that we love that makes its mastery so much more challenging, fun, and frustrating.

It is common that we find ourselves giving “orders” to our thinking brain so it avoids troubles. “Don’t double-fault now” or “don’t hit it into the water.” Unfortunately, the brain interprets such instructions by becoming even more aware of double-faulting and water. Contrary to our well intended message, the brain is channeling even more attention to either situation as they are both perceived as threats. On the other hand, if we said, “serve well,” or “hit it over the water,” the thinking brain is unable to consistently control all the multiple body parts necessary to always meet such an expectation.

So, how do we learn to manage distractions? Learning to master distractions rests on focusing in the present moment without judgment. Being mindful helps us to see the behaviors that create our discomfort rather than impulsively react out control. Rather than being overwhelmed by an unpleasant result or clinging on the highs that come from achieving a successful outcome, being mindful helps us to be less concerned with the final outcome and more present with the efforts that we put into achieving our goals. The experience of mindful acceptance helps us to enjoy the present moment where the critical mind is a brief episode rather than a permanent feature.

Novak Djokovic wrote, “Now, when I blow a serve or shank a backhand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt, but I know how to handle them. Mindfulness helps me process pain and emotions. It lets me focus on what’s really important. It helps me turn down the volume in my brain. Imagine how handy that is for me in the middle of a grand slam championship match.”

Mindfulness promotes resiliency. When consistently practiced for about 15 minutes on a daily basis, the right side of the brain, which is more connected with emotions, becomes less active. Meditation helps to contain emotional peaks and valleys. Whereas non-experienced meditators would emotionally quickly respond to adverse situation by losing focus and getting distracted, meditators would have a greater ability to emotionally contain such distractions. In a recent study conducted by Yale University, it was found that meditation lessens mind wandering and enhances emotional regulation.

Meditation can be practiced in many different ways. One of the most common techniques is that of paying attention to the breath. Start by choosing to either keep your eyes opened or closed. Sit in a comfortable seat where your back is straight and both feet on the ground or legs crossed. Then, pay attention to each breath by either noticing the colder air coming in and the slightly warmer air being exhaled through your nose or push your belly out with each inhale and down with each exhale. Continue to be aware of the breath, one cycle at the time. You may notice that thoughts are likely to enter the mind. Just notice and give them permission to move on. If you became distracted by the many thoughts that came in, you have just become mindful of that new experience. Rather than taking your mind to those thoughts, bring your awareness back to the breath. After 15 minutes, slowly bring back your awareness to where you are sitting, the space around you and your body.

As we gain awareness of our mind and breath, the external distractions will occupy less attention from us. We cannot avoid being distracted from everything around us, but we can gain the ability to bring our attention back to our present moment experience. Present focus is what really matters to any athletes.

Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge

7-Keto-DHEA

What is 7-keto and where is it found?

7-keto is metabolized from DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is a chemical formed in the body. DHEA is converted to steroid hormones, while 7-keto is non-hormonal and does not affect sex hormone levels in the body. 7-keto is currently sold as a dietary supplement.

What are the benefits?

7-keto is used to increase metabolism, promote lean body mass, build muscle boost immune function, reduce aging, and increase memory. By speeding up metabolism and heat production, It may decrease body weight and fat.

Are there interactions with food or medications?

None known

Are there side effects?

Taking 7-keto may decrease hemoglobin and hematocrit.

No Caffeine At Night

It is common knowledge that consuming caffeine close to bedtime may interfere with sleep patterns and keep you awake. A new study published in Science Translational Medicine found that caffeine may further impact our sleeping patterns by effecting our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are 24 hour oscillating cycles that regulate  physiological processes, such as telling our body when to sleep. Disruptions of this body clock my cause problems with eating and sleeping and cause adverse health effects such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. It seems that caffeine has an effect in the release of melatonin, which effects our circadian rhythm and our ability to  sleep. The bottom line? Save the caffeine for the morning hours to ensure your biological clock continues to work properly.

The Dangers of Stress

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of physical, emotional, or mental demand. It is a real or perceived threat to your mind and body which can wreak havoc both physically and mentally. When the body perceives stress, it commands the sympathetic nervous system to slow down. This results in increased hunger, decreased metabolism, and fat storage.

When your body perceives any kind of demand or threat –whether life threatening or not – it reacts as if you are actually in a life or death situation. It releases chemicals to give you added strength and energy to protect yourself. This is widely known as the “fight or flight” response. In the proper situation, this response can help your body meet challenges by staying more alert, energetic, and focused. However, if you experience the fight or flight response on a daily basis, the heightened stress can damage your quality of life by suppressing the immune system, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, enhancing the aging process, and promoting mental and emotional issues.

In order to reduce the harmful effects of stress, it is important to recognize the signs of stress overload. Some of the major external causes of stress are work, school, relationship problems, financial issues, children, family, major life events/changes, and an overly busy schedule. Common internal causes of stress are pessimism, chronic worry, lack of flexibility, unrealistic expectations, and an all-or-nothing attitude.

Everyone tolerate stress differently. Stress management is dependent on many factors including the quality of your relationships, your life experiences, your genetics, and your emotional intelligence. Individuals with strong support networks of friends and family often deal with stress better than those who are lonely and isolated. People who have a sense of control and confidence seem to persevere through life’s challenges better than those who are all over the place. Those who are optimistic and capable of dealing with their emotions tend to manage their stress better than those who get overwhelmed easily and cannot calm and sooth themselves. Stressful situations are easier to cope with when a person is more knowledgeable and realistic about the specific event.

It is important to learn how to manage stress and cope with stressors. Many people cope by drinking too much, eating excessively, taking pills, or lashing out at others. This is unhealthy and unproductive. To take care of oneself, one must learn how to rest and relax. Exercise is extremely effective in managing stress. Additionally, yoga, meditation, prayer, hypnosis, saunas, steam baths, massage, acupuncture, and breathing techniques are all proven relaxation methods. It is also important to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet. Some dietary changes to help alleviate stress are to avoid refined sugars, increase fiber intake, and increase omega 3 fatty acids. Supplements shown to decrease stress levels are B complex vitamins, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, ginseng, licorice, rhodiola, and aswagandha.

Don’t let stress overwhelm you and take over your life. Learn to manage it so you can live every day with a glass half full attitude!

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Men Gain Weight When They Become Dads

A new study has found that women are not the only ones with weight issues when they become parents! The American Journal of Men’s Health published an article showing that men who became dads showed an increase in weight gain and BMI, while men who didn’t become dads actually lost weight. This gain may be due to new responsibilities, less time for yourself, and other life stressors. Both parents need to remember to take care of their health – both mentally and physically. This will enable them to live health productive lives and be better parents!

MSM

What is MSM?

MSM (Methylsulfonulmethane) is a chemical naturally found in plants and animals which can be taken orally or topically for pain management. MSM may work because it supplies sulfur which is used to make other chemicals in the body.

What are the benefits?

MSM is used to treat chronic pain, osteoarthritis, inflammation, and muscles cramps. It has been shown to be effective in treating hemorrhoids, rosacea, and exercise-induced stress. Some people take it to eliminate scar tissues, stretch marks, hair loss, and wrinkles. It is also used for wound healing. Others use MSM to treat snoring, allergies, chronic constipation, PMS, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer.

Are there interactions with food or medications?

None known.

Are there side effects?

Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, bloating, headache, fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult a physician before taking MSM.