Friday, December 13, 2013

Can’t Stand the Heat? Stay cool during exercise!

It may seem like an odd topic this time of year - but I’ve had more than one patient admit they don’t work out often enough because they hate feeling overheated, and they HATE TO SWEAT.

This is actually a serious issue, not just an inconvenience (but I do understand it is annoying to have to wash your hair every time you exercise because you are soaked with sweat.)

Studies show that women who are able to keep cool during exercise “reported feeling less fatigued and more energized and having less muscle soreness” and in one study “those who had their venous blood cooled by placing their hands on a cold surface during treadmill walking had significant improvements in exercise performance, exercising heart rate, waist circumference, and blood pressure.”

Other studies show that women in their 40’s and 50’s do not just suffer from ‘hot flashes’ - they also get overheated during exercise and their bodies are less able to “dissipate” (get rid of) heat when they exercise, compared to women in their 20’s.

While this all seems rather unfair (and it IS!), there are a few tricks we can use! When we’re exercising indoors, keep the room temp low, use fans liberally (I just LOVE fans!), drink COLD water before and during exercise, and even consider holding cool water bottles in your hands, and put a cool pack around your neck/shoulders. Wear soft, comfortable layers that can be easily removed as your core body temperature heats up. (But don’t fall off the treadmill when taking off your sweatshirt!)

When exercising outdoors in the winter months, also use layers, and don’t be afraid to take off your gloves and hat if your hands/head actually get hot during a workout. It can actually be dangerous to sweat when doing outdoor activities in cold weather, since you can become chilled quite quickly once you slow down (and when you are hit with cold winds.) As one of my favorite ‘survival experts’, Les Stroud, says, “Sweat is death!” when it comes to being exposed to the elements in harsh conditions. Sweating is not fun, but a cold sweat can be deadly.

From a previous blog of mine:

"It seems that my preference to exercise in cool/cold rooms (often with a fan on) has a scientific basis - and we should be advising our patients that they will get better results from exercise, if they do what they can to keep their core body temperatures from heating up too quickly. I always tell our patients that our fat layer acts a little bit like a down jacket - so it's best to try to keep the room cool when exercising.

This study used special 'hand cooling devices' designed to keep venous blood cool, by having participants keep their hands on a surface that kept a steady 61 degrees. The author admits that holding a frozen water bottle during exercise is not really an ideal substitute, but could be tried; I think that it is not optimal to expose hands to ice during exercise, and think it is safer, healthier, and more practical to just advise patients to keep the room cool. They may also cool their core temperatures by drinking cold water ahead of time, and sipping throughout exercise."

I understand that some people love ‘hot yoga’ and feel relaxed and loose after working out in high heat - and if that works for you, go for it! However, there are a substantial number of people (me included!) who prefer to keep their core body temperatures cooler during a workout. Research supports this approach - so don’t feel guilty about avoiding the sweat room, just keep cool!

Bottom line: studies show that if women keep cool, they’ll exercise longer, and harder - and that can lead to better results. Using fans, drinking COLD water, keeping the temp low in the room during workouts, even holding cold water bottles in your hands - may help you get a BETTER workout. So, stay cool!

  1. Cool Hands Help Heavy Women Exercise More The aim is to slow the rise in core temperature during exercise, which can cause overheating in obese individuals because of the insulating properties of adipose tissue. That results in a lower heat tolerance, greater discomfort, and a decreased likelihood of continuing to exercise....Sims and colleagues evaluated whether the cooling could have beneficial effects in a study of 24 healthy women ages 30 to 45 who had no history of long-term structured exercise. All had a body mass that was 120% to 135% above the ideal or a body mass index of 30 to 34.9 kg/m2.... "During the study, women in the control group abandoned the exercise program sooner than those in the cooling group. In fact, the participation rate was about 98% in the cooling group and only 78% in the control group, even after enrolling more patients because of dropouts. 

  2. Do Older Females Store More Heat than Younger Females during Exercise in the Heat?

  3. "It's gonna be a long week" - Les Stroud "You sweat you die"

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


When we decide to make changes in our lives - to become healthier and happier by starting new life habits - we often assume that the people closest to us will be behind us 100%, rooting for us all the way. It can be quite a shock to realize that friends, family, and coworkers may be resistant to those changes - even if those changes will obviously be good for us. What is going on? Don't these people care about us?

The reality is that many people fear change - even if it is positive change. There are many different reasons for this fear, some rational, some irrational. People may be afraid that if you change some of your lifestyle and habits, that their relationship with you will be changed. A spouse might fear that you won't care for them the same way; a coworker may fear that you will out-compete them at work. A friend might be afraid that you will no longer share common interests.

Whatever their reasons, you must keep in mind that YOU are making changes to have the HEALTHIEST, HAPPIEST, most COMPLETE LIFE possible. How can that be a threat to anyone who truly cares for you? Reassure those close to you that you are making healthy changes, and that these changes are recommended by your doctor. They are welcome to join you in making healthier changes to their lives as well, but that decision is entirely up to them; what you are doing is in no way a judgment or criticism of their behavior. We are all adults in a free country; we alone can decide how to live our lives. Don't let the problems of other people get in the way of your quest for a better life. Watch out for people who may be negative, jealous, insecure, possessive, ignorant, or controlling - don't let THEIR problems become YOUR problem.

Some people may be completely unaware that their behavior is sabotaging you; other times, we can't be sure. The important thing is for you to recognize when it is happening, and learn how to handle sabotage effectively. Here are some examples of sabotage, and ideas how to counter them:
  1. A friend/coworker says "you don't need to lose weight." Answer: "Oh, thank you. I'm not really on a diet, I'm just trying to eat in a healthier way, and get more exercise."
  2. A family member says "You're the one on a diet; why does the rest of the house have to suffer?" Answer: "Healthy eating is good for everyone in the house; how is that suffering? I plan to fill the house with plenty of healthy, tasty food. If you want to continue to eat junk food, lets keep it in a separate cabinet so I'm not tempted by the sight of it."
  3. A coworker says "I made these brownies especially for you, you can just have a few, since I know you're on a diet." Answer: "Thanks for thinking of me. I DO love your brownies, so much in fact that I can't stop at just a few, so I'm going to have to pass. Let's pack these up for the kids/my mom/the sweet old man down the street. They're just so good!"
  4. A family member says "it's selfish for you to take time exercising/going to the gym. You don't spend enough time with me or the family." Answer: "If I don't take care of myself, how can I take care of you or the family? Would you like to exercise with me? We all could get in shape!"
  5. A friend says "You were so good on your diet all week, you deserve a treat. Let's go out and celebrate with ice cream!" Answer: "Thanks for noticing, but I'm afraid a hot fudge sundae would be the beginning of the end! Let's go out to a movie/go shopping/see a show instead."
The bottom line is, people CAN and DO change their lives for the better, even if they've tried many times before without fully succeeding. In fact, MOST people have tried to change their habits many, many times before finally achieving success. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't succeed; don't let anyone get in your way. Be polite, but be firm. Remember, its your life that we're talking about here! You have the right, and the responsibility, to be as healthy and happy as possible.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Seasonal Eating Challenges

If you are finding yourself nibbling before dinner, and craving sweets after dinner, you are not alone!  The short days and long nights can lead to what we call ‘Seasonal Eating Disorder’ - you can feel like a bear packing on the weight to get ready for hibernation!  Researchers believe the cravings are tied to a drop in serotonin levels, due to the decreased daylight.  You can feel tired, cranky, and out-of-control, and all that extra snacking can add up to hundreds of extra calories, and “weight creep.”

In addition to appetite changes, holiday meals and treats make the challenge even tougher.  If you are in charge of preparing a holiday meal, or even tonight’s dinner, you probably know how easy it is to taste and snack while you are cooking.  You can end up eating  hundreds of extra calories before you even start the official meal.  Even worse, if you are hungry while preparing the meal, and try to hold off on snacking, you may find you are starving and ‘out of control’ by the time you serve dinner, and end up eating FAR more than you meant to!  Fortunately, there is an easy fix for both of these problems.  

A high-protein, tasty, low calorie snack can really ‘save the day’ while you are cooking or  waiting for the big meal.  Studies show that protein can calm your appetite, quell your cravings, and put you back in control. Protein can actually raise your metabolism slightly, and help you eat fewer calories at dinner and afterward (and studies show that eating snacks with liquid volume such as soup before dinner can result in the consumption of 20 % fewer calories.) Try pairing 'finger fruits' and vegetables such as red grapes, cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, with a good high protein/low fat complement, such as low fat cheese (try Cabot 75 % fat free, or low fat cheese sticks) or 0% fat Greek yogurt turned into a 'dip'. We also have a variety of easy, delicious treats that meet the requirement - with  only 80 calories and 15 grams of protein.  Our special  high-protein (low sodium) soups, hot chocolate, and high-protein decaf cappuccinos, are simple ways to meet the need. Sip while you cook, before dinner. If you're interested you can see some options on .

The same tactics are also useful to stop after-dinner cravings. With the short days, and long nights, many people notice that they find themselves wandering around the kitchen looking for something sweet or ‘carby’ after they’ve finished supper.  They try to fight the urge, but end up eating hundreds of calories of sweet treats.  What to do?   When it comes to cravings: “Don’t join them, beat them!”  You can still treat yourself to a snack and not sabotage all of your hard work.  Satisfy your ‘need for sweet’, while giving yourself the boost of protein (studies show it has a mental stimulant effect, as well as a metabolic stimulant effect), and save yourself calories. Instead of binging on Double Stuff Oreos, choose one of our delicious, sweet, high-protein lower calorie bars or snacks.  We have had many creative suggestions and recipes from our patients - read on for ideas.

1. Cut a protein bar into bite-sized pieces (cookie-sized, instead of cookies!)
2. Try one of our new fun snacks - Protein Party Mix (like Chex mix - only low calorie, and high protein), crispy Pizza snacks, and our new Cinnamon Swirls and Chocolate Bites!  So delicious, fun, and healthful.
3. Cut one of your protein bars into bite size pieces, then crumble it, and mix with air popped popcorn.
4. Pair our delicious high-protein hot chocolate with air-popped popcorn  - satisfying, fun, and it takes a while to eat and drink!

Other evening tips:  try to keep yourself busy, instead of eating!  Try a short exercise session before or after dinner.  Find a new hobby to occupy yourself (it’s hard to eat while knitting.)  Remove any tempting junk food from the house, or at least hide it on a top shelf, out of reach. Try reading a book with a nice cup of herbal tea. Find something creative to do with your partner.  And if all else fails, post a note on your refrigerator which says:  “Go to Bed, Instead!” (Beth’s quote!)
You can also try these easy, satisfying, tasty treats on Snow Days.  After playing outdoors with kids or friends, treat yourself to Protein Hot Chocolate, or Protein Cappuccino, or our delicious low-sodium high-protein soups.  A warm and tasty way to meet your nutritional and taste needs.

1.   N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1007137. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. “ In this large European study, a modest increase in protein content and a modest reduction in the glycemic index led to an improvement in study completion and maintenance of weight loss.”  (Funded by the European Commission; number, NCT00390637.).

2.. 1990;39 Suppl 3:49-52. Carbohydrate craving. Relationship between carbohydrate intake and disorders of mood. The brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, seems to be involved in the abnormal regulation of mood and food intake that underlies diet failures or weight gain in individuals who suffer from carbohydrate craving obesity (CCO), premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). All 3 syndromes are characterized by episodic bouts of increased carbohydrate consumption and depressed mood.”
3.. American Society for Nutrition, Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men1,2,3,4Belinda S Lennerz, et al “Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal...increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial (after-meal) period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal.” This trial was registered at as NCT01064778.
4.Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Mar;33(3):296-304. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.278. Epub 2009 Jan 20.  Claessens M, van Baak MA, Monsheimer S, Saris WH.

The effect of a low-fat, high-protein or high-carbohydrate ad libitum diet on weight loss maintenance and metabolic risk factors.  “These results show that low-fat, high-casein or whey protein weight maintenance diets are more effective for weight control than low-fat, HC (high carb) diets and do not adversely affect metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors in weight-reduced moderately obese subjects without metabolic or cardiovascular complications.”

5. Eating Soup Will Help Cut Calories At Meals Science Daily, May 2, 2007"Consuming a first-course of low-calorie soup, in a variety of forms, can help with managing weight, as is shown in this research and earlier studies.”

6. Cara B. Ebbeling et al. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance.JAMA, June 27, 2012 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2012.6607