Category Archives: Wellness

The Vagus Nerve: Lose “The Last 5 lbs”

Although I’m currently in weight-gain mode (i.e. pregnancy), I’ve found over the last couple years that my body has slowly shed extra pounds without effort. I recognize this sounds obnoxious but trust me, I’ve spent over a decade exercising harder than the average person and putting my body through the gauntlet, so it’s not like I haven’t put in effort for weight loss. But ironically, my body was most willing to let go of those “last 5 pounds” when I stopped working out as much. When I put rest and rejuvenation for my whole system as top priority.

Over the last two years, I’ve slept like I’m a teenager again (minus snoozing until noon). I’ve eaten more intuitively and joyfully, and listened to my body each day for whether I’m in a “tackle-and-conquer-the-world” or “sit-back-and-accept-my-low-energy” kind of mood. I embrace both sides of myself equally and without judgement. This is a new thing for me. Although I’ve always known that stress reduction is positive for weight loss – and coach my clients accordingly – I hadn’t truly experienced this firsthand.

Before getting pregnant again I actually told my husband that it felt like my body wanted to let go of even more weight – but that I was going to work against it to keep my hormones level for the TTC process. It was so fascinating to me; to feel that my body was relinquishing fat stores, no longer in survival mode and depending on them for emergency reserves. It made me wonder…what exactly is the root of this change? Yes, my change in attitude and action, but what physical part of myself is aiding this whole-body physiological response? And how do I communicate about this “source” to others so that they can consider the implications in their own lives?

The answer lies at the root of the parasympathetic nervous system: The Vagus Nerve.

The vagus nerve is responsible for the parasympathetic control of your heart, lungs and digestive system, and is the longest autonomic nerve in the body. This means that the nerve is operating and acting on your body’s systems without your conscious thought, controlling the relaxation responses that calm your heart rate and make you feel like you can take a deep breath. It also helps keep digestive woes like bloating, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome at bay.

We often hear the terms “fight-or-flight” and “rest-and-digest.” The vagus nerve controls the latter, but its impact on our minds and bodies is much more complex and powerful than this simple statement. When we have good “vagal tone” our bodies are operating from a place of better wellness. When we are chronically stressed, our vagus nerve basically gets shut down. Think of it like the nerve is asleep. Not doing its job.

If the vagus nerve is less responsive this is a big problem and is linked with higher levels of inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, loneliness and depression, and more. You see, vagal nerve stimulation and responsiveness triggers the release of a substance called acetylcholine. (Fun fact – the first neurotransmitter ever discovered.) Acetylcholine acts like a tranquilizer for the body and has a major impact on inflammatory responses. Researchers have even found that implanted devices that stimulate the vagus nerve help people with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis!

Numerous studies have also shown that “people with higher vagus nerve activity have lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lower levels of TNF-alpha, the inflammatory immune marker. Studies also show that the vagus nerve regulates inflammation throughout the body, including inflammation associated with obesity.”

We clearly see through all of this evidence that the vagus nerve has a big impact on our bodies and lives…so how do we stimulate it? How do we “keep it awake?” How do we ensure that we’re not chronically stressed and suppressing the benefits this nerve has for our organs, waistline, internal health, and mood?

Methods for Improving “Vagal Tone” and Keeping the Vagus Nerve Alert:

  1. Getting enough rest
  2. Deep breathing
  3. Meditation
  4. Personal time
  5. Enjoyable activities
  6. Positive social connections & relationships
  7. Yoga
  8. Chiropractic adjustments to relieve nerve pressure
  9. Probiotics to assist gut health
  10. Outdoor and nature activities

It’s interesting…none of these things (above) seems particularly aggressive or proactive for weight loss itself, and yet, they’re exactly what our bodies need for it. I’ve seen this countless times with my clients – they don’t have to exercise as hard to achieve weight loss when they begin de-stressing, simplifying, prioritizing self-care, and generally not beating themselves up about “perfection” for their bodies, careers and relationships.

Over the last two years, I’ve found I do a little bit more of everything on this list. I go to a chiropractor once a week, get outside on the regular, started taking a new probiotic (with *prebiotics!*), find time to read and “do me,” attend yoga class once a week, sleep more at night, make time for friends and family, etc. It’s really not anything earth-shattering! These simple things are exactly what my body needed to let go of a little bit of inflammation and a few extra pounds.

I hope this serves you well on your weight loss or wellness journey, too.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

5 Ways Our Bodies Are Connected to The Earth

Funny thing…an uptick in arguments with my husband every Fall led me to wonder if tension was high just because of football season (sad but true) or if there was more to the story. I did a little digging and learned that our hormones are connected to seasonal changes in surprising ways. I also discovered multiple more ways that our bodies are connected to the earth and how we can improve wellness by forming a relationship with Mother Nature herself.

 

 

Seasonal Hormonal Changes

Apparently, like many mammals, we humans have what some scientists call a “mating season.” August and September hold the highest birth rates of any months in the calendar year, meaning that nine months earlier…people are getting busy. That puts November and December as the months with the highest rates of conception. Some evolutionary theorists believe this is because our bodies are fine-tuned to have babies in months where their survival is best…aka, not in the freezing cold temperatures of our prehistoric cave homes.

This “peak” fertility is thanks to a rise in testosterone in the autumn months. And it’s not just men who experience this (just in time for football season, I add with an eye roll), it’s also a phenomenon in women. While I can’t say that the fertility theory has proven true in my life (both my babies started baking in the spring), I will say that I’ve always wondered how and why my clients always seem to have the most energy for their workouts in the Fall months. I guess now I know why…

 

 

Green Space & Mental Health

There’s a theory in psychology called the hedonic treadmill. The theory assumes that each individual is prone to a certain baseline of happiness, to which they routinely return despite positive and negative changes and life circumstances. This theory has been debunked by one study evaluating people’s overall mental health when relocating to spaces with more nature and green space.

Even after accounting for income, employment, education, and more, the study shows that “people in greener areas showed markedly better mental health scores compared to the two years prior to moving. This is a metric that not only includes stress levels and the ability to concentrate, but also the ability to make good decisions, a person’s level of confidence, overall happiness and other factors.”

I can personally say that I feel more zen with some green around me, for sure. But I don’t think you have to move to the country to accomplish this (if you were born to be a city person). Urban green spaces may have the potential to help combat depression and anxiety.

 

 

The Sun Connection

We’ve long heard of the benefits of sun exposure for our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and appears to play a role in preventing Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cardiovascular disease, and more (people living at higher latitudes with less sun exposure have greater incidences of these conditions). Many of us have even heard about how sunlight helps us regulate wake/sleep cycles, especially when we get sunlight in the morning and, as a result, our melatonin production kicks in earlier in the evening to help us with sleep. But there are even more benefits of the sun… (!!!)

Sunshine may help autoimmune diseases thanks to immunosuppressive effects following exposure. It also helps limit oxidative DNA damage while increasing gene repair. As if that’s not fascinating enough, get this –  UV Radiation can increase blood levels of natural opiates (aka. endorphins, those feel-good hormones)! Pretty compelling evidence to find a balance between protecting oneself from sun damage and getting enough exposure to it!

 

 

Brain Waves & Nature Sounds

There are many scientists who believe that our brain wave patterns evolved in response to the natural world’s frequencies and electromagnetic fields. In many studies, brain waves respond positively to nature sounds (ex: a babbling brook, ocean waves, rain fall, etc.), demonstrating an increase in waves associated with rest and digestion. In one particular study, researchers found that natural sounds elicited an “outward-directed focus of attention” for people’s brains whereas artificial sounds caused an “inward-directed focus of attention,” similar to a rise of in anxiety/depression or the experience of post-traumatic stress. Perhaps most interesting is that researchers found that people with higher anxiety or depression showed the strongest positive response to nature sounds. In short, if you’re feeling blue, reconnect with the world around you. Pause and listen. Relax and release.

 

 

The Practice of Grounding

Grounding is the practice of letting your body be in touch with nature. This may include sitting on the ground under a tree, walking barefoot through the grass or sand, or sleeping outdoors. There are many examples. Some people even say that walking barefoot on ceramic tile and concrete counts since these are made from natural materials. In short, grounding is connecting ourselves with the earth and its electron flow. Feeling skeptical? Just wait, there’s evidence this helps our health…

People who “ground themselves” often report feelings of well-being, citing that they feel less stressed and more strong. Outside of this subjective feedback, several scientific studies have been conducted to test these “grounding theories.” It has been scientifically proven that grounding can improve circulation, reduce pain, and improve sleep by helping normalize diurnal rhythms of the stress hormone cortisol! Time to ditch the shoes! 

 

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The point is simple: We are bound to this earth in more ways than one. When we embrace these connections we can achieve higher wellness.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

 

Europe’s Eco-friendly Fitness Phenomenon

If your workouts are feeling stale or you’re in need of something to shake up the end of the season, might I suggest the latest exercise phenomenon spreading overseas? It’s a great way to stay active AND do right by Mother Nature. Curious? The workout is called plogging.

That’s right, I said plogging.

(Sounds kind of like jogging, doesn’t it?)

What on earth is plogging?!?

 

 

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about then your time has come. You’ve gotta check out this eco-friendly form of exercise that involves exercise and recycling. Here are my thoughts and safety tips for plogging shared with the Aaptiv team (link below). Aaptiv is a workout app that connects you with trainers who guide you through music-led workouts. (Think Peloton for yoga, running, boxing, weight loss and more!)

 

The inside scoop on plogging:

Plogging Is the Latest Workout Trend to

Benefit You and the Earth

 

PS – Here’s a fun, not-so-fun fact: Cigarette butts are the #1 littered item. (Ew.) And it can take up to 10 years for the plastics in cigarettes to degrade. So think about that before you flick yours to the ground. Or better yet, don’t light up at all. Cool. Thanks. 

 

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

Authenticity in an Image-Focused World

Authenticity is a word that has been tossed around a lot in the media. Probably because we live in a world where we have to discern between fake and real news. Where air brushing apps are within everyone’s reach, not just professional photographers’. And where Instagram and Facebook algorithms dig their hooks in and glue us to devices. Ever heard the saying “If there isn’t a picture, it didn’t happen”…? Sometimes I wonder if people remember that I’m an exercise professional since I don’t take very many photos while working out like some fitness pros and exercise fans do. *Sigh.*

 

 

Summer is the second-most photographed time of year to the holidays. It’s natural to want pictures to hold on to memories, to tell a story, and to capture the feeling of the moment. After all, holidays and summer vacations are special times of the year. But what about when picture-taking becomes more about being seen and fitting a mold than about embracing who you are and enjoying life? This is where we come into problems. And it’s not a problem exclusive to frequent picture-taking, it’s also a challenge for many people who embark on fitness goals. People come into exercise with an idea of what they want to look like and try hard to force their bodies to change shape. Like if they don’t look a certain way by a designated point in time then they’ve failed.

I get really disappointed when I see personal training clients struggle. There are so many positives to be gained from exercise, even if your results don’t make you feel like snapping selfies in your bikini left and right. (Many of those who do are feeling proud for fitting into a mold – a toned physique, chiseled abs, plump booty, etc.) In my opinion, exercise isn’t supposed to make us all look alike. It’s about helping us live our individual, unique lives to the fullest.

 

 

The definition of authenticity is “made to be or look like an original.” Blogger on PsychCentral, Margartia Tartakovsky, explains how she lost touch with her own voice and originality when she struggled with body image and exercise:

“Sure, it may seem obvious but when you’re deeply entrenched in a negative body image and someone – a weight loss or diet company, women’s magazine – offers you a solution, you hold onto it with all your might. You grip the rope tighter and tighter, hoping that your hips being smaller will give you something you’re seriously missing. Hoping that happiness will come through the door.”

I see what Margartia describes happen a lot. People exercise rigorously thinking it will build up their confidence and fill the void of whatever troubles them. The second that results slip or they get sick or injured, that entire facade comes crashing down. They realize their worth wasn’t all that secure after all. They pinned it on something temporary and fleeting – physical achievement.

 

 

So how does one chase after their fitness goals (and even snap and post pictures) while remaining authentic? 

Psychology Today explains the following qualities of inauthentic people:

  1. Are self-deceptive and unrealistic in their perceptions of reality.
  2. Look to others for approval and to feel valued.
  3. Are judgmental of other people.
  4. Do not think things through clearly.
  5. Have a hostile sense of humor.
  6. Are unable to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  7. Are not open to learning from their mistakes.
  8. Do not understand their motivations.

Conversely, these are the qualities of authentic people:

  1. Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  2. Are accepting of themselves and of other people.
  3. Are thoughtful.
  4. Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
  5. Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  6. Are open to learning from their mistakes.
  7. Understand their motivations.

 

While we may not identify with every quality on each list, there’s a strong chance we identify with some on both. For example, I’ve gone through periods in my life when I looked to others for approval, was less apt to learn from my mistakes, and made quick, emotionally-charged decisions that weren’t well thought through. We all live, learn and grow. But what’s important is not that we’re perfectly authentic each and every day but that we’re self-aware enough to move our lives in that direction. To understand the heart of what motivates us and to ensure it aligns with our original selves. To be careful that we don’t lose ourselves to false, image-driven virtual realities or to working hard to fit into a mold.

Everything changes when the motivation behind exercise and fitness goals shifts. For example, someone who wants to get skinny because they want “revenge” on an ex, to prove how special they are, to attract more outside attention, or to look more like their friends, isn’t exercising from a place of motivation that can last. (And it if does endure then they’re likely setting themselves up for other personal obstacles.) Someone who exercises because they want to feel their best, stay healthy, be more energized, etc. is going to better handle the ups and downs that life and shifting exercise schedules dole out.

 

 

Inauthentic Reasons to Exercise:

  • Desire for more outside attention
  • Desire to look better for pictures and social media approval
  • Seeking “revenge” on an ex; “look how great I look now that we’re not together”
  • To look better than one’s friends
  • To look similar to one’s friends
  • To fit the mold of a particular body type or physique
  • To look good for the opposite sex
  • To gain followers or fans
  • Self-inflicted punishment for shame and guilt
  • Because someone said “you have to exercise”

Authentic Reasons to Exercise:  

  • To improve quality of life
  • To better enjoy one’s body
  • To improve both internal and external health
  • To see what one is capable of
  • To improve the body’s quality of movement
  • To look one’s personal best
  • To improve posture and body language
  • Desire to gain confidence and improve body image
  • Desire to prevent and improve injuries
  • Desire to improve at and enjoy a sport

If you can think of more examples for either list I would love to hear them!

 

Being authentic can change your health and elevate your fitness results thanks to giving you a solid platform from which to jump. One you can return to when you need a breather and to feel reassured before jumping forward again. And again. And again. Being inauthentic will simply leave you treading water. What motivates you to exercise?

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

8 Bad Health Habits I’ve Had to Shake

No one’s perfect and health professionals are no different – I’m certainly not perfect! Far from it. But through the years I’ve awakened to my bad health habits and have refined them through trial and error. In the spirit of keeping things real, here are the habits I’ve had to shake. Maybe they’ll make you feel less guilty for having a few of your own. 

 

 

To Do Lists

Alas, I’m ashamed to admit that my obsession with daily “To Do Lists” wasn’t given a firm kick in the pants until I became a mom. I’m not saying it’s bad to have daily goals and lists but what I would do is obsess over every last detail, staying up way too late to ensure every single little thing was checked off my list. I would run errands even though I was dizzy with fatigue. I would wake up in the middle of the night running through the things I needed to get done the next day. I’m telling ya: CRAY CRAY. Yet I’m astonished at how common this behavior is. 

When my son was born, I was due for a startling realization: I can’t do it all. There were lots of tears. I slowly relinquished control and loosened my grip on life’s minute details. As a result, I can now complete a mere fraction of my lofty “To Do” lists without freaking out. I can officially handle living “imperfectly.” I put my sanity over my task lists. (It feels good.) 

 

Overeating

I never thought that I overate until it hit me like a brick wall one day. I was fresh out of college and working to earn a commission-based living at the height of the recession. I was sitting in a side chair in my dining room stuffing my face with handfuls from a bag of Chex Mix even though I wasn’t hungry. I realized in that moment that I was emotionally eating and that it wasn’t all that different from overeating at dinnertime and finding it soothing.

I was able to “get away” with eating a lot while growing up (probably thanks to having a teenager’s metabolism and playing lots of sports). Even as a kid I didn’t feel like dinner was over until I was overstuffed. I ignorantly equated that overstuffed feeling to being full, even though it was overeating. Fast-forward to my 20s, when I got stressed about the responsibilities of the real world, and I craved to have that familiar feeling of fullness from my childhood. As though it made me feel more centered in life’s whirlwind. But I was wrong. I soon discovered that when I stopped overeating and started eating more intuitively that I had loads more energy and far less inflammation in my body.

 

 

Veggies, What Veggies?

I always ate veggies growing up (thanks mom!) but in college it was all too easy to forget about them. And then life as a recent graduate was a lot of buying veggies with the intention of cooking them before ultimately tossing them in the trash after they spoiled. It took me a solid few years to slowly integrate veggies into every lunch and dinner, but I soon found that it was worth the effort (and pretty darn yummy). Filling up my plate most lunches and dinners with a solid heap of veggies keeps me full for longer, doesn’t over-stuff me, and packs in nutrients that energize me and keep my immune system trucking along. I strongly encourage everyone out there to get creative with veggies and find options they can stay motivated to eat and enjoy on a regular basis.

 

No Time to Snooze

I’ve always valued sleep. Even my former college roommates can attest to this. And so can my husband. I’m pretty grumpy and blah without it. Even armed with this knowledge, I tried to convince myself that I could get by on 7 hours of sleep a night; 7-9 hours is the healthy range so I should be good on 7, right? One would think…but my body disagreed.

I spent a few years getting between 6-7.5 hours of sleep most nights and it just about killed me. I’ve never had a more bleary-eyed, exhausted, mentally unstable period of my life. When I finally respected my body’s screams for more rest, everything fell into order. I felt WAY better and acted like a human again. I’m officially an 8-hour girl. And 9 feels like a slice of heaven.

 

 

‘Twas a Nail Biter 

After my Junior year in college I traveled to Sedona, AZ for the summer to work as a fitness instructor and personal trainer at Mii Amo Spa. (Sedona is known for its positive energy and healing qualities.) When I ended the summer there, I noticed with surprise that I hadn’t bitten my nails all summer, something I had done my entire life! It made me realize that I would bite my nails out of nervous anxiety over nothing in particular, and that the habit never made me feel better – only served to kind of reinforce the stress. So, I don’t bite them anymore. Yay! Small victories are everything. 

 

Sit Up Straight

Mom – this one’s for you! Remember how you always told me to sit up straight as girl? “Don’t slouch!” was the exact wording, I believe. Well, you were right. Sitting and standing with better posture helps my whole body feel better. And I’ve noticed that slouching doesn’t just happen during the daytime – it happens at night, too! I notice that I feel better when I sleep straight instead of tucked into a ball. Give it a try!

 

 

Color Me Cardio

Once upon a time I was the cardio exercise queen. It was my mojo. I did cardio all the time. And I loved it. But to be honest, only doing cardio was kiiiinda a bad habit. It might not sound like it initially but constant endurance exercise can deplete your muscle mass and make certain parts of your body weaker. When I first became a personal trainer I had to adjust my mentality. I couldn’t only do cardio and coach other people to lift weights, could I? I had to start cross-training and weight training more regularly and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy at first. I can still remember the day when foam rolling felt difficult because I lacked upper body strength. I can still remember feeling like planks must be the devil’s favorite form of torture. And I can still remember the time when doing anything other than cardio felt forced. But that all slowly changed in an epic way. I’m pretty darn strong now and I love doing a huge variety of exercises. So, it’s okay if getting started with cross-training or weights feels like a chore. You may feel differently one day. Stick to it.

 

Sunday Fun Day 

This phrase is so common that it’s even a little sticker for Instagram stories! There’s something to be said about taking one day a week to truly relax – and I mean no chores, no work emails, no obligations, and for me, no exercise. I used to push myself hard all seven days a week and wondered why I never felt rejuvenated. Isn’t that just so ridiculous? I’ve really come to embrace the concept of “the sabbath” being a day of rest and encourage you to do the same, even if you’re not religious. We aren’t meant to go-go-go, ever pressing life’s accelerator down harder. What’s the point? Why are you doing it? Ask yourself these questions and the consequences of them. And then ask yourself the consequences of NOT resting. If you value your health, you’ll find that the consequences of not resting far outweigh anything else. We’ve all got one body to get through this life in. Let’s learn to honor it.

 

Life’s not about perfection. It’s about progress.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

The Shocking Risks of Being Skinny

As a culture, we fall into a pattern of focusing on the dangers of being overweight. Supplement companies and exercise brands play on heartstrings as they dangle images of lean, fit individuals in trendy fitness apparel racing down the street or pleasantly sipping a shake. Many people (women AND men) quest after that “fit” look and think the skinnier, the better. But this is a delusion. There are some major pitfalls of being really skinny, both for people who have achieved this through diet and exercise and for people who are naturally slender.

 

 

When a woman’s BMI is less than 18.5 she is at a heightened risk for numerous ailments and chronic conditions…we’re even talking death. Skinny isn’t always healthy! So think again the next time you’re feeling envy monsters growling and baring their teeth inside you when your super skinny friend constantly eats junk food or skips the gym “without consequence.” I’m telling you, there’s more to the story underneath. It will eventually show up.

Oh – another kind-of-crazy note is that those friends of yours who can eat a ton and never exercise (while staying rail thin) might have a genetic deviation from the general population that makes it harder for them to absorb nutrients. In other words, they’re eating a ton and their body isn’t gleaning the stuff it needs from all that food, putting them in a position of greater susceptibility to internal health problems. Suddenly, those friends aren’t as enviable. Am I right?

 

Here are the top (very serious) risks of being too thin:

 

Osteoporosis

Low-calorie diets are associated with bone loss because of a lack of nutrients to support estrogen. When estrogen takes a major dive, bones can become brittle and experience density loss. Also, if someone is on a low-calorie diet because of the desire to be skinny then they’re less likely to be incorporating healthy weight training out of the misplaced fear of being “bulky.” Weight training can help prevent some bone less plus it won’t make women bulky.

 

 

Fertility

Women at a low BMI are more prone to amenorrhea or irregular cycles which means they’re either not ovulating regularly or may have trouble with their uterine lining. Additionally, they may be more likely to experience miscarriage. Science Daily says, “Women who have a low body mass index before they become pregnant are 72 percent more likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, but can reduce their risk significantly by taking supplements and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.”

This is pretty upsetting stuff. As a woman who has one child and in the process of trying for a second has suffered a miscarriage, I wouldn’t wish this loss on anyone. It’s extremely devastating even though the vast majority of cases of early pregnancy loss are for reasons that can’t be identified. One doctor explains, “The majority of the time miscarriage is a random, isolated event and we can’t pinpoint a cause.” That said, if you know that you have a risk factor while TTC (including low BMI, an immunologic disorder, uterine or cervix abnormalities, current smoker and/or PCOS, to name a few), it’s worth speaking to a health professional about how you can help your body and reduce your risks.

If you think fertility at a low BMI is only a female challenge then you’re mistaken – men with low BMIs are 22x more likely to have a sexual dysfuntion than their healthy-weight peers. Eeerr…you can read here about more of those details.

 

Anemia

When someone isn’t consuming enough nutrients they become more susceptible to anemia, a condition of red blood cell and/or hemoglobin deficiency. When the red blood cells don’t have enough iron, B-12 and folate to do their thing (i.e., support oxygen transport throughout the body and carbon dioxide transport to the lungs), a person’s entire body suffers. For obvious reasons. Anemia is marked by low energy and fatigue and routinely goes hand in hand with amenhorrea. Making sure your body is getting REAL nutrition is key no matter what weight you are.

 

Lowered Immune System

A lack of nutrients due to low-calorie diets and/or inadequate absorption means that a person is more likely to become immune compromised. A steady, strong supply of nutrients helps support gut health and immune function. People with lowered immune systems are more likely to contract seasonal viruses and bacteria and may also be at a heightened risk for serious illnesses such as cancer.

NOTE: People can also overeat but still have poor nutrient density in their diets – so lowered immune function isn’t just a consequence for people who are too skinny. This applies to everyone making poor dietary choices. Our bodies need fresh, nutritious, quality foods to thrive!

 

 

Heart Disease & Diabetes

Kind of surprising that the risk for heart disease and diabetes is high for really skinny people in addition to obese individuals, right? The tricky thing about being thin is that it can give people a false sense of confidence in their health, especially in cases where they’re not taking care of themselves through a healthy lifestyle. Some skinny people may assume they’re healthy thanks to their weight and continue to eat unhealthy foods, skip medical checkups and opt out of the gym. All of this can make for a silent, raging storm under the surface.

Also, there’s a genetic variant that causes some lean people to store more fat directly around their organs, giving them the appearance of being healthy while hiding their heightened risk for heart and organ issues:

“A new study hints that being lean doesn’t get you entirely off the health hook either. In a genetic analysis involving more than 75,000 people, an international group of scientists led by Ruth Loos at the Medical Research Council in the U.K. found that lean people with a specific genetic variant were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease despite their lower body fat.”

 

As you can see, being too skinny can carry some risks with it. What’s important is that we’re tuned into our internal health instead of relying on our external health as the only indicator of what’s going on in our bodies. Our weight is only a piece of the puzzle. Only a fraction of what makes us truly healthy.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

You Had Me at Namaste

It’s a very simple scene.

Me: Shopping for some curtain rods in Bed, Bath and Beyond over the weekend.

Two Women: One pushing a shopping cart alongside the other. 

Woman #1: “What does namaste mean?”

Woman #2: “I think it’s something like ‘the light in me honors the light in you.'”

*Long Pause*

Two Women: Laughing insecurely and hysterically.

Here’s why this scene knotted my insides. And here’s what namaste means and why it’s not really a laughing matter…

 

 

When I studied yoga in India, I found it fascinating that people would greet one another with the phrase “Hari Om.” The direct translation of this Sanskrit is broken into two parts: Hari relates to the Hindu God Vishnu who is considered “a remover of sins or bad karma,” and Om is considered a sacred syllable that encompasses the entirety of creation from start to finish. As yoga teachers-in-training we were told simply that the phrase loosely means “remember God.” And so, every asana practice (physical poses of yoga) began and ended with this phrase, reminding students from all around the globe and of various belief systems that the divine exists within the physical.

“God” doesn’t seem like a topic that has to do with fitness and wellness but that’s actually a false notion. One of the six branches of wellness is spiritual wellness. It’s as fundamental to our overall well-being as physical and emotional wellness. Just as important as our careers. As essential to our vitality as having a healthy network of friends and family to lean on. In my opinion, even though I consider myself a Christian and could preach on the merits of Christ, not every person has to share similar beliefs to access higher spiritual energy and fulfillment. By keeping our spiritual dimensions awake – whatever they are – we pave the way for better health and improved healing, patience, gratitude and joy.

 

 

When I heard the two women shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond, laughing at the meaning of “namaste,” a part of my heart broke for them. The fact that they scoffed at a word that means spiritual and mutual respect for other humans and the places within ourselves that are deeper, truer, and purer than the surface, is upsetting to me. Not because I was offended by these women but because I see how much more one can gain in health when these deeper layers within can be unearthed. Looked at without fear and insecurity. These women both appeared to be suffering from various physical ailments and I wondered if they opened themselves up to being vulnerable with a higher power if their health might begin to move in a new direction.

Other rough translations and interpretations of the word “namaste” include:

“I honor and appreciate you”

“The divine in me honors the divine in you”

“I bow to you in respect”

“We are equals”

“Whatever is beautiful in me honors whatever is precious and beautiful in you”

 

In Western cultures, namaste has become synonymous with a feeling of relief at the conclusion of yoga class, a feeling of appreciation for the teacher or gratitude for the brief span of time carved out from life’s busyness to exercise and stretch. The word has become so popular and, at times, generic, that word-play t-shirts are now sold with phrases like “Namaste in bed today” and “You had me at Namaste.” It’s cool that the phrase is becoming less obscure but, as we all know, anything that becomes mainstream can lose a bit of its origins. And namaste’s origins start and end with something intangible and within. The invisible lines that connect us. That level the playing field of our bodily struggles, making us all the same.

 

 

Let’s not forget these lessons in our haste or quest for higher physical beauty and fitness.

Namaste to you.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

Balancing Female Hormones with Food

Perhaps it’s TMI…but this past summer after weaning my son, my hormones went bonkers. Not just for a month or two. For a while. And it drove me INSANE. Per usual, frustrating experiences with my health cause me to dig my feet into the ground a little harder and push like a bull-headed Taurus (which I am) to find information and natural remedies to help my body. The experience catapulted my understanding about several female hormones and how we can help them normalize.

Upon opening up about my own experiences, I discovered a trove of women dealing with equally pesky ups and downs with female hormones. And not all of them were moms who had recently stopped breastfeeding. Some of these women were trying to conceive and others were simply adjusting to new norms as they inched closer to 40 or 50 years old. Still others were feeling the uncomfortable symptoms of severe menstrual cramps, bloating and acne every month, or extremely long and heavy menstrual cycles. All of these women, in different walks of life, made me realize that very few of us actually know how to help our bodies find hormonal balance and wellness. While it’s true that we can’t control every aspect of our hormones, there’s still a lot we can do to take over the reigns. (Frequently, this kind of holistic advice isn’t readily available or discussed. We have to go hunting for it.)  

So, here are the three hormones that can cause us woes and foods we can eat to help them find balance in our bodies:

 

Prostaglandins

These hormones play a major role “in a wide range of body functions such as the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.” Prostaglandins are also involved in the start of labor for pregnant women, causing the uterus to contract. In fact, semen contains a lot of prostaglandins in it and may be one of the reasons that sex around the timing of one’s due date is said to jump start labor for some women. Forgive me, I had to throw out that weird but interesting factoid. Lastly, prostaglandins play a major role in inflammation in the pelvic region, especially. An imbalance of the different types of prostaglandins (PgE1, Pg E2 & PgE3) can lead to increased local inflammation and heavy menstrual cramps.

Prostaglandins can become out of balance and cause pesky, painful PMS symptoms when fatty acid supplies are too low. Essential fatty acids include both Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids, and they operate best in our bodies when they’re in balance with one another. When fatty acids are available within the body, The Center of Genetics, Nutrition and Health (based in Washington, DC) has found additional benefits for the reduction of breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma! This is pretty mind-blowing and awesome (to me). So, even if your menstrual cycles are pain free and regular, there are still many benefits to eating a diet with plenty of fatty acids of both kinds. But note: Most people are deficient in Omega-3s and need to eat more foods chocked full of them. This begs the next question; Where can we find these foods?

 

Omega-6 Fatty Acid Foods

  • Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal
  • Hempseed oil, hempseeds
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Seeds such pumpkin seeds and raw sunflower seeds
  • Nuts, including pignolia (pine) nuts and pistachios
  • Borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant see oil
  • Acai
  • Corn
  • Sunflower
  • Soybean
  • Cottonseed oil

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods

  • Salmon Fish Oil and Alaskan Salmon (wild-caught)
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Ground Flaxseeds
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Hemp Seeds
  • White Fish
  • Anchioves
  • Egg Yolks

If you’re hesitant about adding any of these important Omega-3 foods to your grocery list then you can check out one of two convenient options for an Omega-3 boost to your system:

  1. Oatmega – a protein/snack bar full of fish oils that comes in a variety of flavors (don’t worry, you can’t taste the fish oil)
  2. Daily Harvest – a monthly, smoothie-delivery company that has creative, delicious and healthy ingredients, and several smoothie flavors that include omega-rich foods (I’m debating stocking my freezer full of these yum-yums)

 

 

Estrogen

For a long time women have naturally assumed that the aging process is accompanied by a precipitous decline in estrogen as we creep towards menopause (or sometimes fall headfirst into it). We hear that the older we get the less estrogen we have. In fact, by about 50 years old, women have approximately 35% less estrogen than they did in their “younger years.” But that’s not the full picture of what’s happening in our bodies…

As the female aging process begins around 35 years old (i.e., when fertility shifts due to changing hormones), women experience a much more dramatic dip in progesterone than estrogen. Progesterone actually drops by approximately 75% (!!!!!!) in the same amount of time that estrogen drops by 35%. This creates an imbalance in the two hormones that unfortunately leads to estrogen dominance. And “ED” isn’t any fun. Trust me, after weaning my son my hormones swung hard one direction (low estrogen) and then right back the other way (high estrogen). Both ends of the spectrum feel pretty crappy. Let’s just be honest.

You see, estrogen is kept in check by progesterone, especially in the latter half of our menstrual cycles. When estrogen is allowed to “run rampant” it likes to take our bodies on a wild ride. Large spikes in estrogen (both right before ovulation and a handful of days after) can leave us experiencing all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms.

*Some* Signs of Estrogen Dominance:

  • PMS
  • Hot Flashes
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased libido
  • Increased weight gain, especially around the middle
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headaches
  • Excessive/heavy/long menstruation
  • Thyroid problems
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

*Other Conditions That Science Suggests May Be Caused (in part) by Estrogen Dominance: Endometriosis, Fibroids, Fibrocystic Breasts, Cervical Dysplasia, Breast/Uterine/Ovarian Cancer.

Foods That Can Boost Estrogen

(*remember, this is typically the opposite of what people need)

  • Farm-raised, non-organic eggs, meat, fish and dairy products
  • Sugary and processed foods – caloric overload in our diets increases fat mass in the body which leads to estrogen overload (same applies to overeating any foods but sugar and processed foods often have “empty calories” that add up quickly)
  • Produce that has been sprayed with heavy pesticides
  • Soy products, especially when processed
  • Drinking from plastic water bottles – a recent widespread study was conducted investigating major brands like Aquafina, Dasani and Nestle, and found on average 15 free-floating plastic particles in each bottle (I don’t want to drink plastic! If only I could find a crying emoji to put in here…)

For foods that help keep estrogen in check, read on to the next section…

 

 

Progesterone

If you read the section about estrogen, it becomes glaringly apparent why progesterone is so important for women’s health. You’ll also remember that we discussed how much progesterone drops at a ridiculous rate as we women age. Why must every stage of life be complicated as a woman? Seriously. But the good news is that there are LOTS of foods that can help boost progesterone – and they come with a plethora of other health benefits, too.

Please note that progesterone can be too high for some women, although this is a bit less common than estrogen dominance which afflicts many women who are overweight, over-stressed and/or between the ages of 35-60.

A few signs of progesterone dominance include:

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Sleepiness
  • Bloating
  • Dizziness
  • Waking up feeling groggy
  • Not feeling like you

Foods that Boost Progesterone:

*Note: None of these foods contain progesterone per say, but they have the nutrients required for supporting the hormone’s production in the body, and many of us could use MORE of this particular hormone.

Meats:

  • Red Meat
  • Turkey
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Shellfish

Fats:

  • Olive oil & olives
  • Coconut oil or butter
  • Eggs
  • Avocado – also on fruit list

Veggies:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Russet potatoes

Fruits:

  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
  • Banana
  • Prunes
  • Lemon

Nuts, Legumes & Seeds:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Grains:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet

Misc:

  • Cacao
  • Yogurt

 

I hope this is helpful information for you whether you’re a woman hoping to be expecting some day or a woman trying to understand the yo-yo of hormones that IS perimenopause. Godspeed to us all! 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Health Doesn’t Exist

I opened my email inbox the other month and had a newsletter from a health professional in my network. I clicked through to read what she had to say about the germ-infused winter season and immediately felt my insides prickle. She said that we need to start pointing the finger of blame back at ourselves when we’re sick, citing that our immune systems aren’t doing their jobs because of physical and mental stresses that we aren’t keeping in check. I like this health professional and trust her a lot. I get her point. But I can’t agree with her.

Yes, it’s true that our immune systems are the foundation for our health. And we have a lot of control over how resilient (or not) our gut health is based on what we eat and how healthfully we live. But it’s also true that there are quite a few things out of our control from one season of life to the next. Take me as an example…

This past winter I cut way down on alcohol and caffeine, started sleeping longer every night, and replaced lots of household products with plant-based, plastic-free, fragrance-and-dye-free alternatives. I also dialed down my high-stress workouts and replaced them with some yoga and plenty of quality strength training for hormonal balance. Lastly, I’ve stuck to my routine of eating plenty of fruits/veggies, whole grains and lean protein, but added a boost of healthy fats to balance out omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in my diet. All of these lifestyle choices would suggest that my immune system should be fairly strong. Maybe even ironclad. Right? Wellll…

 

 

Ironically, winter 2017-2018 was not just a miserable flu season in America but also a miserable time in my household. I got sick more in the last few months than in the last 10 years combined. Three stomach bugs, countless colds and sore throats, and hormones responding to the inflammation by bouncing all over the place. Needless to say, my complexion went down the tank, too. I’ve been looking like I just hit puberty lately. Lol.

But I’m trying so hard to be healthy!” my mind has been screaming. “This isn’t fair!” Sometimes, it’s not enough. Sometimes, toddlers aren’t good about covering their sneezes and you end up with projectile snot literally in your mouth. Enjoy that visual. Sometimes, stressful life events occur like family deaths, job changes, seasons of travel, and physical injury. The list goes on. Sometimes, life just isn’t under our control. And that’s okay. Because nature didn’t intend for our bodies to be perfect. It intended for them to be flexible and resilient.

(Random aside: I took strange comfort in Lindsey Vonn’s reaction to falling short of the podium in the 2018 Olympics; she reflected on how one moment in life you’re on top and then things can change quickly. The fact that even the most impressive athletes in the world are not removed from struggle demonstrates how connected we are as humans in our plight. It’s nothing to badger ourselves over or feel shameful about.)

The idea that our health should be perfect sets us up for false expectations and failure. It’s the reason why people come into the gym and think they have to hold themselves to a lofty standard of exercising every day or else they’re falling short. And then they quit because of the fear of failure. If perfect health is as easy as following “all the right steps” then why do healthy and active individuals get cancer? Why do we get sick when we’re actually eating healthier than ever before? Why are we more prone to injuries and wrinkles as we age? We can eat all the health-food-junkie products on the planet and exercise every day, and we will STILL fall ill at times. We will still have moments of weakness and pain. And that’s okay, too. This is normal. I’m telling you: THIS IS NORMAL. Because perfect health doesn’t exist.

 

 

Our DNA isn’t stagnant. I’ve talked about this before. It ebbs and flows just like our gut health does. In this way, Mother Nature designed us to be able to respond to life’s inevitable challenges on a cellular level. You see, our DNA expresses itself differently under varying degrees of inflammation and stress. Sometimes, there’s little we can do to control the way that certain genes express themselves because we may be more predisposed to a health condition according to our genetics. While it’s true that there are lots of gene-testing services out there, many people are still unaware of their own situation and what they are more (or less) predisposed to. But we don’t necessarily have to know all the answers up front… if we’re willing to live in wellness.

When we’re dedicated to being flexible in body, mind and spirit, we open ourselves up to transformation throughout the lifespan. Staying active about self-care is all we can control. We get the privilege of choice in our lives! And I like to think that makes us a lot more powerful than perfectly-designed, stagnant beings.

One of my favorite quotes of all time by Michael J. Fox:

 

 

Choose a healthy lifestyle because it will help you through the inevitable challenges ahead, not because you think it will clear your path of all obstacles.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Want to Know and More

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Nicole Dell’Aquila. Nicole has been a Registered Dietitian for 14 years and is here today to share her insights and resources on intermittent fasting (IF). Intermittent fasting has become a hot topic in the health and wellness space recently, but it’s surprising how few people know what’s really involved with it (including yours truly).

I decided it was time to bring in a professional to answer all of our burning questions. And WOW – I’m amazed by everything she has to share on the topic! I’ve never been a fan of saying everyone should adhere to the same workout or nutrition plan, but I always thought of intermittent fasting as a trend, and a bit dangerous. But my eyes have been opened! And truth be told, I will definitely consider giving this a try at some point.

 

 

1) What is intermittent fasting? Are there different kinds?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a way of eating that alternates windows of fasting (not eating) and feeding (taking in nutrition).  It’s not a diet or a trend, but a lifestyle.  There are no lists of foods to avoid; no measuring points or portions, and no counting calories.  It’s not about WHAT you eat but more about WHEN you eat!

If you think about it, all of us “fast” every single day – you do sleep… don’t you? Intermittent fasting just means extending that fasting window and making your nutrition count during your feeding/eating window. There are a few different methods of incorporating IF into you lifestyle.  No one way is right for everyone and a combination of methods actually becomes rather easy when you restore the ability to listen to and recognize bodily cues.  All of the methods combine splitting days and weeks into fasting and feeding windows.  During your fasting window, you are not eating or drinking anything that contains calories or induces an insulin response.  During your eating window, you are not tied to a list of forbidden foods but are encouraged to focus on good quality nutrition.

You may be wondering… Is this the same as starvation?  Absolutely not.  Fasting is a completely voluntary restriction of nutrition for spiritual, health, and/or other reasons.  Starvation, on the other hand, is not voluntary, controlled or deliberate.  There is a lack of available food with starvation versus our 24/7 access to plentiful calories in modern day, developed countries.

 

2) How is intermittent fasting done?

There are a number of methods to IF but today we will discuss the three most common: The 16:8 Method, The OMAD Method, and The 5:2 Method.

16:8 Method:

The 16:8 Method requires you to fast 16 hours out of a 24 hour day, leaving an 8-hour feeding window. Most people find this method the easiest to incorporate into their initial introduction to IF. For example, you finish eating dinner by 8 pm, skip breakfast the next morning, and have your first meal after 12 pm the next day. Based on your lifestyle needs, you can move the window earlier or later but need to maintain that 16:8 pattern. If 16 hours is too difficult at first, push the window to 12-hour fasting and 12-hour feeding windows.

The OMAD Method or “One Meal A Day”:

With this method,  you eat dinner (or any meal of your choosing) and then start your fasting window for a full 24 hours, ending your fast with dinner the next day. Some refer to it as the 23:1 method. It’s simple; you eat all your calories in one setting. No fancy meal plan or confusing dietary advice, just eat one meal a day, 24 hours apart.

You’re probably wondering how you could get through a whole day without eating… I mean, where will you get your energy? In fact, many OMAD participants report feeling more energized and focused on their tasks, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. They don’t find themselves slumped over their desk at 2 pm craving coffee and cookies (sound familiar?). For the fasting period, hydration is very important. You can drink water, black coffee, tea, mineral water, and bone broths.

*Avoid diet soda, tonic water, coconut water, or fruit juice to make your OMAD fast a success. These beverages contain sugar and will void your fast.

5:2 method:

This method requires some planning and measuring. You eat 500-600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days of the week and eat your normal diet the remaining 5 days. I don’t recommend this method often since it involves calorie counting; most people tend to underestimate the calories they eat and drink.

You are probably wondering what you could eat when restricted to 500-600 calories for the day. Well, in theory, you can have whatever you’d like, as long as you don’t go over the calorie limit.  To prevent those pesky hunger pangs, we suggest you eat foods that are high in fiber and water, and which are lower in calories. Pick foods like green leafy veggies; salads with vinegar or lemon juice dressings, soups with a heavy vegetable base, small portions of lean proteins like chicken/salmon, and/or eggs. Avoid highly processed carbohydrates and sugary foods to reduce insulin spikes and intense cravings. If you need something sweet on your fasting days, have a small bowl of berries. Just like the other fasting methods mentioned, hydration is very important.

 

3) What are the benefits to intermittent fasting? Is there any research that currently supports this?

One major benefit of IF includes a simplified lifestyle. Imagine waking up for work, drinking your coffee or tea, and leaving without scrambling around looking for something to eat before you get stuck in rush hour traffic. Not focusing on the clock to schedule your “6 smalls meals a day” can be liberating for some people.

Another benefit is that IF is more biologically how we are supposed to eat rather than the 3-4+ meals we have become accustomed to. This style of eating can result in effortless weight loss, improved brain health, reduced chronic inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and even longevity benefits.

The most common reason people are interested in fasting is for the weight loss benefits.  Because of the fasting windows, you naturally take in less calories overall. In addition to taking in fewer calories on average, your hormone levels begin to normalize. This contributes to weight loss, too. IF can decrease insulin levels and allow more stored fat to be mobilized and converted to ketone bodies for energy use. IF can also increase your human growth hormone or HGH. The levels of HGH skyrocket, increasing as much as 5 times during intermittent fasting. This benefits both muscle growth and fat loss, and has a favorable effect on metabolism; increasing it anywhere from 3.6-14%!

Intermittent Fasting can have a profound impact on the health of your brain, too. We once believed that we were stuck with the brain we had… Once brain cells died…well, that’s it…  Through science, we now know that the brain CAN repair itself through a process called neuroplasticity. Decreasing your energy intake by fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood through an increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.  When your brain senses ketones being used for energy, an increase in BDNF takes place. Ketone production has been shown to improve memory in people with early signs of dementia in as soon as 6 weeks.

As you are likely aware, chronic inflammation, often a result of poor lifestyle choices, is the cornerstone of many preventable diseases. It’s believed fasting may assist in managing inflammation by changing how certain compounds and proteins interact with each other, inhibiting inflammatory pathways. We see a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, homocysteine and cholesterol ratios. There’s also increasing research supporting the effectiveness of fasting in helping to manage inflammatory conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune conditions such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis.

The head of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience laboratory, Mark Mattson, says the mild stress that intermittent fasting puts on the body provides a constant threat. This increases the body’s powerful cellular defenses against potential molecular damage. Intermittent fasting also stimulates the body to maintain and repair tissues. Its anti-aging benefits keep every organ and cell functioning effectively and efficiently.

 

 

4) Are there any risks to intermittent fasting? If so, what are they?

While getting used to this way of eating, you may initially experience some not-so-pleasant symptoms, namely hunger… or what you initially think is hunger. You may feel a little sluggish, irritable, weak, or even sense a lack of brain power. These symptoms are all common when starting IF, but they will pass. Your body has been programmed for so long to eat breakfast at 8 am, so by 9 am the entire room can hear your belly growling. Just like you adapt to a new workout or even a time zone change, your body gets used to being nourished on a different schedule. Work at it until it becomes natural!

With that being said, there are a few problems that occur with fasting, though. The most common are constipation, headaches and hunger pangs. There are strategies to deal with these symptoms. For example, I recommend initiating a low-carbohydrate diet leading up to your fasting window and using your feeding windows to consume fiber-rich foods that reduce the risk of constipation and hunger pangs.

There are also a number of medications that need to be taken with food and need to be discussed with your physician. For those with Type 2 diabetes, who are taking medications to control blood sugar levels, intermittent fasting of any kind will increase risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Working with your physician or dietitian on safely reducing medications and receiving proper education significantly reduces the risk of hypoglycemic episodes. Anything more serious than that is not part of normal fasting and should be discussed with your physician or dietitian.

 

5) Who is intermittent fasting appropriate for? Why?

IF can safely be done by most healthy people.  It is biologically how we were designed to receive nutrition.

It’s also great for people with a busy schedule, freeing up time for more productive things in your life. You can take the focus away from constantly planning for meals and snacks, and make more time for exercise (that you can also do in a fasted state… wink wink). Remember, IF isn’t a diet but a way of life! It’s not a fad or a trend, and has been around for as long as humankind has existed. If you’ve tried other methods of weight loss without much success, IF may be right for you.

 

6) Who should NOT do intermittent fasting? Why?

There are situations in which you should not partake in IF.  Those include:

  • If you are underweight or malnourished. In those with a BMI <20 or with suspected malnutrition, it is more important to correct nutrient deficiencies and maintain/attain a healthy weight. Lifestyle changes that include better nutrition take time and coaching. It is important to understand the body’s need for good quality nutrition, and not think of fasting as a magic cure.
  • Have a history of an eating disorder. IF may trigger negative behaviors in individuals with a history of unhealthy calorie restriction (anorexia), over eating, binge/purge cycles (bulemia) or body dysmorphia.
  • Take certain medications like those to lower your blood glucose. IF can be done with these types of medications but you need to be closely monitored for potentially dangerous hypoglycemic episodes.
  • Are pregnant, trying to conceive, or nursing. Your body needs regular consistent calorie intake to support a growing fetus and the demands of nursing. Women also react differently to IF when their hormones are not is a state of homeostasis. It would be unethical to conduct research of the effects of fasting on pregnant women so there is limited information on the effects fasting has on the fetus.
  • If you are a female with amenorrhea. In this case, it is imperative you get to the root cause of the loss of menstruation before any intermittent fasting can be done safely.

 

 

7) Why is intermittent fasting becoming so popular? Why now?

I think we once looked at fasting as something we only did for religious reasons or if our doctors told us to fast after midnight before surgery or blood work. Thankfully there are some forward-thinking physicians out there who challenged conventional medicine and said… “What if there’s a way to reverse chronic diseases, promote effortless weight loss, and improve brain health – and do it without a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical industry pill? What if the answer is not only FREE, but also easy to follow? AND puts money back into our wallets??” Dr. Jason Fung once said of intermittent fasting: “It is perhaps the oldest and most powerful dietary intervention imaginable. Yet somehow we have forgotten its awesome power and ignored its therapeutic potential.”

I truly believe IF is becoming more popular simply because we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and demand better!  We are not afraid to try something new and when it gives us incredible results, we share it like crazy on social media! Who doesn’t love a good before and after? The power of social media has helped bring these “unconventional” approaches to health and wellness to the masses, and then Registered Dietitians (like me) help people implement these easy-to-follow plans to achieve their health goals.

 

8) What is the historical context of fasting? What can we learn from its evolution in history?

Fasting has been around as long as humans have been on this earth; the absence of food during our sleep cycles; extended fasts related to food scarcity; refraining from eating when sick. We survived as a species because we were able to use our bodies’ stored food (fat or adipose tissue) to provide energy for our brain and other parts of our body. Paracelsus, the founder of toxicology, wrote “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.” Plutarch, an ancient Greek writer and historian, wrote, “Instead of using medicine, better fast today.” Ancient Greek thinkers like Plato and Aristotle embraced the ritual of fasting and wrote about how clear, sharp and focused they were when abstaining from nutrition.

Humans, like most animals, don’t eat when they become sick. This natural desire to not eat is certainly familiar to everyone. Think about the last time you were in bed with a cold or the flu. I bet the last thing you wanted to do was eat, right? So, therefore, fasting is a natural human instinct to protect and heal from multiple forms of illness. Even Benjamin Franklin, known for his broad knowledge in many areas, once wrote of fasting, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”

 

 

9) Do you find that intermittent fasting is a spiritual experience in addition to a physical one?

Fasting has deep-rooted traditions in most cultures throughout the centuries. Those who partake in it claim that it brings both physical and spiritual resilience. It remains a part of religious traditions even today and is believed to be beneficial to both the body and the spirit! For example. it is common in Buddhism to eat a morning meal and fast from noon until the next morning, in addition to many water fasts for days or even weeks on end. In the Greek Orthodox religion, many followers fast for as much as 200 days in a year! Muslims often fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, a holy month. Ramadan is actually one of the most widely studies fasting periods.

Two studies in particular, from 2007 and 2012, assessed people during a month of Ramadan fasting. The researchers compared the study participants taking part in the spiritual Ramadan fasting to a control group eating 3 meals a day. Both studies found that the individuals who were fasting had significant reductions in inflammation markers including interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and homocysteine. In simpler terms, by participating in fasting they ultimately reduced inflammation in their body. One important piece to note when reviewing these studies: There was no difference in the energy intake between the two groups.  When the fasting group ate, they consumed as many calories as the group eating three meals a day, leading us to conclude that it was the changes seen during the fasting window that prompted the improved inflammation markers.

 

A HUGE THANK YOU TO NICOLE!! I’ve learned a lot about intermittent fasting that I never knew and I’m excited to try it once I’m out of my childbearing years. Nicole, thanks for giving us all guidance and an excellent foundation of understanding about intermittent fasting!

(Ahem…and if you’re interested in learning more about Nicole and/or her services then please see her bio and contact info below.)

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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Meet our guest Registered Dietitian, Nicole:

My name is Nicole Dell’Aquila and I have been a Registered Dietitian for close to 14 years. My health was not always a good as it is now. I suffered from many GI troubles that I sought medical care from doctors. Never once did anyone ask me “What are you eating?” and never once was diet thought to be the cause of my digestive woes. I was given a nonspecific diagnosis and a prescription to treat my symptoms. No investigation into the root cause of WHY my body was fighting against itself. I took my health into my own hands, challenged the conventional medical model, and used food as my medicine (or lack of food). I had a wake-up call one day and knew I needed to switch my focus as a dietitian from reactionary care to preventative care, using my own personal struggles and triumph as a motivation to help others feel as great as I do now. That’s when I found Simplex Health! We believe the path to better health, effortless weight loss, reversing ‘dis-ease’ and igniting your energy levels must move beyond conventional thinking. SIMPLEX HEALTH unites a fresh approach applying our doctor-approved, integrative programs to re-balance and harmonize the whole person. Take a look at our website to learn more! www.simplexhealthcorp.com

For more information, call or email us at 484-450-8488 and info@simplexhealthcorp.com

We take most major insurance plans and offer both in person and virtual appointments.