Thursday, October 16, 2014

Decision Fatigue- Make Choices Easier!

Studies show that it is exhausting to make decisions all day.  The greater the number of decisions, and the more complex they are, the more ‘worn out’ we become - we become mentally fatigued. By the end of the day (or even the end of a tough morning) the mental fatigue leads to lower willpower, and poor decision-making. We tend to take ‘the easy decision’ when we’re tired, and if tempted by ‘junk food’ we find ourselves falling for it, with little power to step back and make the healthy choice.  What to do?  Try to simplify choices throughout the day, conserving energy (and willpower.)   Read these interesting excerpts from a New York Times article:

“...studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions”...

We’ve heard that willpower gets stronger the more we use it - but actually, the opposite is true! From the article: “The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation.”.. What gets stronger (easier) with use is not willpower, but instead GOOD HABITS.   What we do NOT want to do is constantly throw off or challenge our good habits - instead, we want to reinforce them, not weaken them with temptations.    Planning ahead to make ‘the good choice the easy choice”, and then practicing the good routine, makes it easier to stay on track.
More from the article:  “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences…. The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing.”...Neither of these outcomes are good for weight management! This concept is crucial: we will do BEST when we decide IN ADVANCE exactly what we’re going to eat throughout the day, and when we’re going to exercise.  This ‘saves’ our mental energy and willpower, so we’ll feel stronger in the evening - and find it easier to make better choices.  We’ll also feel less fatigued at the end of the day - and wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more energy, and feel more relaxed?
Another issue is "blood sugar”:  “Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out.”  Eating a balanced meal or snack which contains protein, every three to four hours during the day, will help keep blood sugar at an optimal range - and help sustain your mental as well as physical energy.  You’ll also find that evening eating is more in control, when you’ve eaten properly all day.
How to implement a plan?  Work with us to help you get over the toughest part - weighing the options (for food and exercise) and MAKING the choices, in advance.  It’s MUCH easier to implement a plan that is ALREADY DECIDED in advance, with specifics.  We can help!  Stock up on healthy choices, so that the healthy choice is the easy choice- both during the day, and when you get home at night.

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Research: Save Your Brain with Lifestyle Change; Alzheimer's cognitive deficits reversed with a comprehensive lifestyle approach

Big news: a Medscape article just announced research from the University of California, Los Angeles:  “A novel, comprehensive lifestyle intervention has shown promise in reversing memory loss related to Alzheimer's disease (AD)...According to investigators, this novel intervention is aimed at "tweaking" the network of imbalances in the brain that contribute to cognitive decline.”   

The study, published in the journal Aging on September 27,  notes that memory problems are due to a loss of brain ‘plasticity’ (the flexible learning abililty that is characteristic of healthy young brains).  Researchers believe that damage is due to a number of  assaults on the brain, including environmental, metabolic, hormonal, and lifestyle factors, which end up tipping the balance toward cell breakdown (neuroclastic signaling) and away from healthy cell communication (neuroblastic signaling.)  The neurodegeneration (breakdown of healthy brain cell function) is the end result of physiologic ‘attacks’ on the brain, including inflammatory mediators.  
The good news is that they were able to reverse this process, and improve cognitive function, with specific, focused, individualized, comprehensive lifestyle strategies. There is no one ‘magic supplement’ or ‘magic pill’ which yielded results; instead, it was a multifactorial approach which included dietary change, exercise change,  targeted supplements, stress management strategies, and ongoing counseling to help patients keep up with the changes.  

According to the article,  strict adherence to a low glycemic index, anti-inflammatory, low grain diet was key (the diet included eating non-farmed fish, avoidance of fatty beef, increased fruit and vegetables, and elimination of ‘simple carbohydrates’). Some patients were advised to fast for 3 hours before bed, for 12 hours total between the last meal and breakfast.  Exercise was another key component (taylored to individuals, but general goal was 30-60 min per day, 4-6 days/wk).   Meditation and/or yoga were used to manage stress.  Sleep was also addressed, with a goal of 8 hours per night (employing ‘sleep hygiene’ techniques, addressing sleep apnea, and utilizing supplements such as melatonin 0.5 mg before bed, and and Trp 500 mg 3 times a week if awakening).  Patients also took individualized supplements which varied depending on the patient, but could include vitamin D, fish oil, coenzyme Q10 (200 mg per day), melatonin (0.5 mg at bedtime as needed),  a form of vitamin B12 called methylcobalamin, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, and for some, pre/probiotics, and curcumin/tumeric, among others. In some cases women were advised to restart hormone replacement therapy.  Medical issues such as prediabetes/diabetes and hypothyroidism were addressed ‘aggressively’ with optimal management and blood levels.  Dental hygiene was addressed, to decrease inflammation. 

The article quoted researcher Dr. Dale Bredesen: "The program is not easy to follow...The important thing here is, we can alter cognitive decline by affecting each of these appears we can correct this network imbalance by tweaking it at multiple sites." Good news - the results were obtained despite the fact that “none of the patients followed the entire protocol.”  In other words, you don’t have to be ‘perfect’ in order to gain significant benefit.  More good news:  the main "side effects" t of this treatment approach: improved BMI and overall health!! I wish more of our therapies had those kinds of side effects!