So, I am not a nutritionist or a dietician. Heck, I don't even focus on nutrition for weight loss in most cases. I don't count calories or disect my every meal for the proper concentrations of micro and macronutrients. Sure as I eat a grapefruit every day of winter I help my clients food journal and make sure they are not calorie/nutrient deficient, food is incredibly important! I just don't subscribe to any one thing. Mostly for my sanity.
But here is something I just came across and I feel that it needs some hashing out.
I recently tested out a new app on my phone that is stellar at motivation, behavioral change facilitation, health coaching, engagement, calorie and step tracking but there were a few things that were red flags for me. These issues are not only found on this app, I see them in other point system weight loss programs as well, some of which I have zero doubt you've heard of or maybe tried.
The potential problems I came up against:
When calculating my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the amount of energy (calories) we need in a day to sustain life (AKA lounging around in bed all day), I came up with a number that was higher than the system put me on. Ok, that was a mouth full. In other words my calorie intake was set at 1200 cal but according to my calculations the minimum I needed to be in bed all day is actually closer to 1400 calories/day.
Why does this matter? Well, for one, our bodies need to have a certain amount of intake to function properly, that includes functioning in the fat metabolism department so we can lose weight. Second, I'm a pretty active person and much of my weight comes from muscle, not just an oversupply of fat. Muscle requires more calories than fat does so there's a potential that I'm even further in the negative.
My major concern with this is that (particularly as a woman) my body might go into "starvation mode" rather than actually burn the fat like I wanted it to. So, setting calories too low can really backfire on you. Not to mention, since the focus was on calories not on macronutrients, there's no telling if my calorie reduction left any major gaps in my diet; which would also send signals to my body that things are off and send it into a tissy to get it back on track again.
I feel the need to get into this because there are a lot of programs out there that put a really heavy focus on calories or points and for the most part they are great, there are some key situations where they can really trip you up.
For instance, another client of mine was telling me about how bananas were "0" points on the program she was using, which sure makes it seem like they don't have many calories right? So, maybe you could eat a couple in a day or simply not give them a thought. But the average banana is about 105 calories and a lot of that is sugar and if you're honing in on other low point but high calorie foods, you could be spinning your wheels big time and mentally that can do a serious number on your psyche.
So, the moral of the story is make sure you eat ENOUGH food to sustain your daily activities in a healthy way. You can still have a significant daily calorie reduction and be above your BMR. And secondly, be mindful of the healthy foods that might be sneaking in the calories you were trying to leave out. If you are using a point system check on the foods you gravitate towards from time to time just to be sure you are on the right track, or have a buddy, health coach, personal trainer, program mentor double check your work.
Eat lots of colors and enjoy!
Exercise and the Immune System
So today I am going to talk about the Immune System! What on earth does it have to do with exercise though?
Well, as it turns out, a whole lot. The immune system likes to sit at a sort of baseline level. As we move through our days and weeks and are exposed to different things it fights to maintain it's steady balance to remain at your personal baseline.
When you add in exercise into your day you actually DEPRESS the immune system.
*Wait. What???? Why is this stuff being pushed on us all over the place if it depresses my immune system?!*
Don't despair!!!! When we exercise regularly we actually BOOST the baseline of our immune system!!! The trick is to keep it consistent. Working out every other day may be a good sweet spot for you to keep your immune system steady and working on beefing itself up. Similar to cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength training. Consistency is key.
Below is a super simplified, non-scientifically numbered graph. It's meant to give a simplified big picture so you can see what I'm talking about visually.
-Follow the Medium orange line at the bottom to see what happens when you work out once in a while. You drop deep below your baseline and it takes a long time for the immune system to pick back up again.
-Follow the dark orange line to see what baseline is like when you don't exercise and just maintain a similar day to day without any notable exertion.
-Follow the lighter line that starts above baseline to see how your immune system re-regulates to stay above the "normal" or previous baseline. This is where you want to be. Bounce back is faster and you keep your immune system stronger than your non-exercise baseline every day!
Here is a cool article with some more fun images for you.
If you'd like to read a nice review of literature looking at the body's immune response to exercise this one may be of interest to you. They also get into the question of exercise intensity and the immune response. Their findings seem to suggest that high intensity exercise is very beneficial and quite protective!
Moral of the story? Make exercise a regular and consistent part of your lifestyle.
Consistency. There is a word capable of striking fear into even the bravest of people! Or is that just me..?
Well, assuming I’m not alone, let’s just go ahead and validate those feelings. The thought of being consistent in something day in and day out feels really daunting sometimes. I hear you, I’m with you, I completely understand, and I want to run away too.
So, what can we do? Well, first let’s reflect on things we’ve done in the past and observe our actions, reactions, and feelings *WITHOUT JUDGEMENT*. I know that last bit is really really hard but if you allow yourself for observe with our judgement there is no end to the wonderful possibilities and changes coming your way. This, I promise you.
Next up, identify some behaviors you already are consistent in!!! “Wait, what? You think I’m already a consistent person?” Well, yes. Yes, I do.
1- Do you brush your teeth and hair every day?
2- Do you get dressed every day? (unless you have a newborn, then move along to the next one... seriously no need to liver here.)
3- Do you eat when you are hungry/at meal times each day?
4- Do you greet people when you see them in the morning, at work, in the checkout line? (Side note, if you don’t, no worries but I highly recommend you do. It has an uncanny ability to brighten everyone’s day!)
Ok, you get the point right? There are plenty of things we do every day and I probably missed some of the most obvious ones here. But you can add them to the comments!!!
So, now we have reflected, observed, and had the “Ohhhhh, that’s true.... I am a consistent human...” moment. Where can we expand and grow and add in more healthy things consistently?
Here are some pointers and ideas:
-Baby steps. Yup, babies learn a little at a time and they keep at the tiniest things until they master them. (They also take breaks when they are tired, just saying, we can learn a lot from babies...)
-Pick one thing for today or this week that you want to focus on. Maybe you have a list of 50, but for today, pick one.
-Work on one maybe two things a week, with gentle and attainable goals. Then each week reflect back on how you did, how you feel, and what you think might serve you best going into the next week.
-Find some accountability. Maybe you can hold yourself accountable. Maybe you journal to aid in that effort. Maybe you ask a friend to check in with you or start a buddy system. Maybe none of that works for you and you decide to hire a health coach/personal trainer.
-Whatever you decide, make sure it feels right for you!
I am an Exercise Physiologist and mother of two lovely ladies. I love teaching my community about health and wellness and I love helping likeminded people implement natural solutions into their everyday lives.