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Be in Control of Emotional Eating – Insight and Tips

Be in Control of Emotional Eating – Insight and Tips

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

We all eat emotionally to some degree, and it’s not necessarily pathological.
Soothing ourselves with treats has roots in childhood. Anyone remember a parent handing you a lollipop after you fell off your bike and scraped your knee? Or making you soup when you were sick? These associations can become firmly rooted for life. After all, certain foods are known as “comfort foods” for a reason.

For some of us, our tendency to reach for snacks whenever we hit a rough patch becomes a concern. This can occur after a string of difficulties, or a personal trauma. In addition, even chronic low-level exposure to stress in our normal daily lives can lead to more snacking than normal. Over time, we may find ourselves reaching almost unconsciously for food in response to any unpleasantness at all. Food distracts us from feeling the pain, the sadness, the loneliness, the irritability, the boredom. One patient told me, “food filled the empty place inside me” following the death of her mother. The emotional eating can then become more and more entrenched over time.

Whatever the reason for over-indulging, the end result is often similar.   

Any soothing effect of food is only temporary, and the negative emotions/stressors are still there for us to face.  Plus we begin to feel guilty or ashamed about setting back our health goals, and then we beat ourselves up.    This is how emotional eating sets us up in a vicious cycle.

Here are some ways to begin to break free:

(1) Start a journal.  You may wish to try tracking what you eat – tracking can increase awareness of both your physical hunger and non-hunger eating triggers.   There are some great apps for this, or even a simple notebook will do.   Tracking can give us a “hunger reality check”.  For example, if you had a full meal 1 hour ago, it’s highly likely that the hunger you have is more emotional than physical.

(2) Practice Mindfulness.  Giving yourself the opportunity to pause for even 5 seconds prior to eating is important.  Try to take one slow deep inhale and exhale before taking a bite.  Notice physical and mental sensations.  Keep breathing slowly as you eat, chewing each bite of food at least 10 times.  Notice how your body feels as your stomach becomes more full with each swallow of food. 

(3) Make it easier on yourself.  Get rid of the foods that lead you astray – don’t buy trigger foods such as sweet or salty snacks, especially from big-box stores that sell them in giant bags.  Nothing is a bargain if it makes you feel angry at yourself for eating it!

(4) Set regular mealtimes.  Due to our hectic lifestyles and tendency to multi task, we rarely sit down to just eat and do nothing else.  This can worsen mindless and emotional eating.  Even committing 15 minutes for a lunch break for example is far better than wolfing down something from the drive-thru while on errands.

(5) Focus on FATS, proteins, and greens – these help us to feel more physically full so the temptation to graze and snack won’t be as strong.  A large tossed salad with a protein of choice and olive oil dressing makes a great lunch, and it’s quick and easy to prepare. 

(6) Watch for boredom.  When that restlessness starts to settle in, keep a list on your phone of things to do to distract yourself so you won’t eat.  Take a quick 10 minute walk, or call a friend, paint your nails, take a shower, etc. – ANYTHING to avoid snacking when you really don’t want to.

(7) Know when to get help.  Consider therapy to help learn better coping skills or to help handle severe stress. A trained psychotherapist can also screen you for an eating disorder such as Binge Eating or Night Eating Disorder. Even if you don’t have one of these though, the road to lifestyle change can be filled with speedbumps and setbacks, so highly qualified support can be critical for your long term success. 

For support and resources right now, the National Eating Disorders Association provides trained helpline volunteers that you can call or text. For community support, join our private Facebook group of ladies supporting and encouraging each other through their individual health journeys. You aren’t alone in this struggle, reach out today!

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Social Eating Tips

SOCIAL EATING TIPS

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

Have you ever struggled to say “NO” at family gatherings and other social events, when you’re offered food that you know is not good for you?

It’s a fact that even when loved ones know you’re trying to lose weight and get healthier, we often feel pressured to make a bad choice, have seconds, or eat dessert.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that others want to sabotage you or ruin your success – it can just be history, culture, and a habit of food being a gift to share with those you love.

Here are some things you can say at social gatherings to stay on track with your wellness goals, when you’re offered something you don’t want to eat:

“I sure wish I could have some!  But I’m so full, from all the other delicious food right now.  Maybe a little later.”

“Thanks, I’ll pass and just keep you company while you enjoy!”

“No, thank you” (firmly, without explanation at all).

When offered seconds: “No, thank you, it was delicious.  Can I have the recipe?”

“No thanks.  Hey, how are your kids doing – I haven’t seen them lately!” (diversion tactic!)

“You know, I realized that my stomach doesn’t feel good when I eat _____, so now I try to avoid feeling like that.”

“I have _____ (high cholesterol, prediabetes, etc.) so I’m making changes in what I eat to improve my health.”

“My doctor told me I can’t eat that, but it smells amazing!”

If you feel a need to explain, or are pushed further, you can say “Sorry, that just doesn’t agree with me” or “Sorry, I need to choose what I eat more carefully for my health.”

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How to Survive Cold and Flu Season on a Low-Carb Diet

How to Survive Cold and Flu Season on a Low-Carb Diet

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

Have you noticed everyone around you is starting to sniffle and sneeze?  Here are some tips to prevent getting sick, and what to do if you do end up with a bug.

1. Prevention is key! Keep your water intake up. If you aren’t getting the minimum 64oz. of water per day start with that as your goal. Then add more water until you are drinking 1⁄2 your body weight in ounces of water every day! Drinking lots of fluids, water, unsweetened tea, clear broths, & rehydration solutions like Powerade Zero may help.

2. Wash your hands frequently and wipe down your keyboards, door handles and phones.  Carry hand sanitizer wherever you go and use it frequently.

3. Medications & Remedies: If you do get sick, look out for carbs and sugars in over-the-counter medications and treatments.   Always read the labels on medications and look for the ones that are sugar-free or low in sugar. Did you know 1 pack of Emergen C has 5 carb grams including 4 grams of sugar. A cough drop has 3 or 4g of carbs – so popping 10+ a day will add 30g of carbs or more. Nyquil liquid has 19g of carbs per serving!  When in doubt, ask your pharmacist whether a medication is sugar-free and alcohol-free.

4. Brands to try: Hyland’s DEFENSE Cough & Cold (sugar free, dye free, alcohol free) OR Theraflu Sugar Free Nighttime Severe Cold & Cough, OR Nyquil capsules- not liquid form.  There’s also Hall’s Sugar Free Honey and Lemon (no aspartame!).  Remember, while these may be sugar free, you should still limit them as much as possible. Compare labels of all brands and look for carbs and sugars hidden in the medications! Tylenol, aspirin, and ibuprofen can also be helpful if needed.  One of the simple solutions to relieving throat symptoms rather than purchasing these medications is by gargling salt-water solution. Simply mix 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water. What’s more, you’ll save money.

5. Foods to eat: Try plain chicken broth, soft boiled eggs and unsweetened hot tea.  Stevia-sweetened electrolyte drinks like Vitamin Water Zero can help keep up your hydration and soothe sore throats.

6. Rest! You’ve heard it before but getting enough rest and sleep every day will help in your recovery. When the body is sleeping, it’s healing!

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Can I drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?

Can I Drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

The short answer:  yes, but…

First, discuss with your doctor whether the use of alcohol may negatively impact your health.  Potential dangers include interacting with medications you may be taking and/or worsening certain chronic conditions you may have such as fatty liver, gout, and hypertension.

Should you and your doctor feel that occasional alcohol is safe for you, it can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a low carb lifestyle.  For example, there are lower-carb alcohol options that you can choose such as dry wines and spirits.  You can also use sugar-free mixers to enjoy low-carb variations of your favorite drinks like a rum and diet coke or a Moscow Mule made with diet ginger beer.

Remember however, that even if your doctor feels moderate alcohol is safe for you, it still can stall or greatly slow weight loss.   

General rules for alcohol use with low-carb diets:

  1. Choose dry wines (cabernet, pinot noir, chardonnay, Chablis, zinfandel), champagnes, spirits and (very) low carb beer if any beer at all. Remember to only combine with sugar-free mixers.

  2. Limit your consumption. Too many drinks can not only add up in calories from the alcohol but also limit your ability to steer clear of the dessert tray or reaching for snacks when you’re not hungry. Know the size of your pour and be aware of your limit!  We generally advise patients to stay under 1 drink per day.

  3. Try to avoid dessert wines like ports and sherries due to high sugar content. Likewise, avoid fruit-flavored cocktail mixers and dark beers. 

 

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Magnesium: A Mineral that Matters

Magnesium: A Mineral that Matters

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

You may know magnesium as a mineral that is important for the function of all our muscles:  low magnesium levels may cause painful cramps in our arms and legs, particularly after we’ve done very intense exercise.  Magnesium is also critical for the function of our heart muscle, and when our levels get too low, serious arrhythmias may result. 

Magnesium is also critical for over 300 other metabolic and enzymatic reactions in the body.   In particular, the relationship of magnesium to blood sugar levels is an area of active study.  As a part of glucose metabolism, magnesium drives many of the reactions in the process of breaking down blood sugar.  

Magnesium deficiency is known to aggravate insulin resistance, because without magnesium, more insulin is required to metabolize blood sugar.  The pancreas pumps out more insulin, driving fat storage and increased hunger, leading to increased food intake.   When an individual is insulin resistant to begin with, the presence of low magnesium levels can feed an ongoing vicious cycle of worsening insulin resistance.

Some smaller studies have shown that giving individuals who are insulin resistant magnesium supplements improves insulin sensitivity and improves blood sugar control.  Whether magnesium can outright prevent diabetes or cause weight loss on its own is not completely clear.  While they don’t quite recommend supplements to prevent diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes consume increased quantities of magnesium-rich foods.  These include vegetables and legumes, for example.

If you eat a lower carb or ketogenic diet, you may experience increased urination which means that you will lose extra water-soluble minerals including Magnesium.  So, remember the importance of this vital mineral.  You’ll be doing your muscles and your heart a favor, and maybe even put a damper on the cycle of metabolic syndrome that previously blocked your weight loss efforts. 

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Low Carb Travel Tips

Low Carb Travel Tips

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

Travel can be exhausting, even more so when you are committed to a healthier lifestyle. Even with careful planning, the unexpected can throw a wrench into things.  Canceled flights, traffic delays, and schedule changes are just a few of the things that can play havoc with your dietary plans.

Here are the best ways to set yourself up for success:

  1. Be Prepared

No matter how big or small the trip, having on-the-go food options will relieve a lot of stress.  Have a meal before leaving home, bring backup snacks, and seek out low-carb options.  Sticking to the basics can help you stay on plan and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Most restaurants and grocery stores will have healthy protein choices and vegetables available.

Look for a bun-less burger with salads, or a grilled protein with veggies and olive oil – it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Remember, proper trip preparation takes practice, but it will get easier over time.

  1. Do your food recon beforehand

Before leaving for your trip, scope out the food scene where you’re going.  Websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp are great resources for this!  And most restaurants have their menus available online.  You can even call a restaurant ahead of time to inform them of your dietary needs.  Most chefs will appreciate the opportunity to be better prepared to serve you, and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications.    

  1. Assert your needs – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

Traveling with family or colleagues can be especially challenging.  It can be helpful to explain beforehand why you’re committed to a low-carb lifestyle.  The more people understand why you’re making the choices you are, the more likely they’ll be to support you and they may even give it a try themselves.  Another tip: try grocery shopping together for what you want when you arrive.

  1. Move past slips

Even when we try our best, sometimes we go a bit off plan. If you do, it’s important not to spend time beating yourself up. Show yourself some compassion – acknowledge you did the best you could under the circumstances, and then determine to make the next good choice to help you get back on track.

  1. Most of all – enjoy yourself!

At the end of it all, trips and vacations are meant to be enjoyed. Brainstorm ahead of time all the ways to have a good time there that don’t involve food. Go on a hike or walk to explore your new area. If you’re visiting loved ones, focus on spending time with them.  Try not to be obsessed about every meal…just do your best. 

Happy Travels!

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How to Read Food Labels

How to Read Food Labels

Any time you pick up a jar or container of food, you’re sure to see a complex-looking label on the back. It’s the nutrition label, describing the ingredients and nutritional information for the product, which is required by law to inform consumers. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how to read the label correctly, the provided information will be of little use.

Nutritional labels on food offer helpful information about what you’re eating. Whether you’re on a diet, have food allergies, or are just paying closer attention to what you’re eating, knowing how to read food labels is a must.

Here’s everything you should know about a nutritional label, from top to bottom.

Serving information

The first thing you’ll see at the top of a nutritional label is the serving information. This tells you what the average serving size is, as well as how many servings are in the container.

Serving sizes vary based on the product. For cooked pasta, it might be one cup, but for sweets, it might be two cookies or pieces of candy. These sizes are loosely based on the average amount people eat of that particular food item.  It’s important to pay attention to serving size, because the rest of the nutritional information is almost always based on one serving, not the entire container. So, if you eat two servings in one sitting, you’ll be getting twice the nutrient content and calories listed on the label.

Some packages include nutritional information based on the full container in addition to or instead of a single serving. Each label will state whether its information is based on a serving or the whole container.

Calories

Below serving size, you’ll find calorie information. This provides the total calorie count per serving. This section may also show how many calories are from fat, which is important if you’re monitoring your fat intake.

Nutrient breakdown

Next, you’ll find a breakdown of the nutrients present in the food. This includes macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  The fats and carbohydrates sections may also list out the types of each, such as saturated fat or fiber and added sugar. Knowing the difference between these types of macronutrients and what they do is important.

Sodium and cholesterol are also usually included alongside fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Micronutrients are listed below the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

The total amount of each nutrient per serving, calculated in grams, is listed next to the nutrient. Next to that, there’s a percentage. This is the Percent Daily Value (%DV) for the nutrient.  Percent DV tells you what percentage one serving of that food provides of the recommended daily intake based on the government’s nutritional recommendations. For example, if the %DV for protein is 10 percent, it means one serving makes up 10 percent of the protein you should be eating each day.  A low %DV is five percent, and a high % DV is 20 or more. “Low” or “high” could be good or bad, depending on the nutrient and your general dietary choices.

It’s usually recommended you do not exceed 100 percent daily intake of some nutrients, like saturated fats. However, you should aim to reach 100 percent or more of other nutrients, such as vitamin D and fiber.

Percent DV is based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet and the average recommended value of each nutrient so if you eat fewer or more calories each day these percentages won’t be correct.

Ingredients

Finally, the nutritional label may contain an ingredients list. All food products containing more than one ingredient are required to have an ingredients list.

Ingredients are listed in descending order based on weight. Usually, the first ingredients listed are the most prevalent. Take a close look at the first few ingredients, since these make up the majority of what you’re eating.

It’s also helpful to know how to recognize the “sneaky” names for things like added sugar, which may appear several times in an ingredients list. There are at least 56 different names for sugar that appear frequently in ingredient lists.  Here are a few of the more common ones…barley malt, corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, lactose, fructose, maltose, mannitol, maltodextrin, maple syrup.

Careful observation goes hand-in-hand with education

Understanding how to read nutritional labels means little if you don’t understand how different macronutrients and micronutrients affect your body. Consult your doctor or a dietician to understand what amount of fats, proteins, carbs, and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

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Staying on track with Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Staying on track with Intermittent Fasting (IF)

There are a lot of diet and eating plans out there. One of the most popular and successful is intermittent fasting (IF), but it’s not a traditional diet. Instead, it’s considered an eating plan or “eating pattern,” because it focuses on when you eat instead of what or how much you eat.

IF can be tricky to navigate if you’re new to the idea. Fortunately, once you get the hang of the pattern and find tips and tricks that work for you, you can easily make it part of your daily health routine.

What is intermittent fasting?

IF is an eating plan that revolves around periods of fasting, or not eating, followed by specific periods of eating. During periods of fasting, you’ll eat nothing or just a very small amount of food. IF is often simple, healthy, and sustainable in the long term—which is why we recommend IF as part of the LOVIDIA Way.

There are many ways to do IF, but the most common method is fasting for 16 hours, followed by eating within a period of eight hours, known as the 16:8 method.

The goal of IF is to force your body to rely on stored energy (like fat) for certain parts of the day. This helps promote weight loss and more.

When you follow an IF plan, your body undergoes a few changes. Your stored body fat becomes more easily accessible, meaning it’s burned off faster. Your cells also begin a cycle of intense repair.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

The biggest benefit of IF is weight loss, for a few reasons. First, IF can help you reduce your caloric intake because you are not eating at all times of the day. When you reduce calories, you naturally reduce the amount of weight you can gain. Second, the changes your body goes through make it easier to burn off stored fat for energy. This means that your fat stores deplete faster, resulting in weight loss.

Beyond weight loss, research shows IF may have many other health benefits that promote life-long health. For example, it may help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve heart and brain health.

Staying on track with IF

Although IF is relatively simple, sticking to the eating plan can be challenging. Hunger pains and tempting snacks offered outside of your eating period may force you to break your fast. And, once it’s broken, getting back into the routine can be even more difficult. LOVIDIA can help you succeed with IF by taking the edge off hunger during fasting periods.  Here are some other useful tips to help you stick with IF:

  • Plan ahead: IF is much easier if you take time to plan ahead and work around your fasting windows. Plan to fast when you are most likely to not eat (like when you are sleeping). Many people eat from 1-9 p.m. and fast through the night and into the morning. This period allows you to eat a late lunch and normal dinner, which can accommodate social plans.
  • Plan around your lifestyle: You can also adjust your fasting window to match your lifestyle. If you’re an early riser, you may want to make the eating period earlier to accommodate when you will be awake. Or, if you go to the gym at a certain time, you can plan to break your fast before then, so you have energy.
  • Adjust the method: You also have the freedom to adjust the length of fasting and eating periods to match your needs. If the 16:8 method doesn’t work for you, another IF method like 12-hour fasts or alternating days might work better. Starting small and working your way up to longer fasting periods may be easier if you’re new to the eating plan.
  • Remember to drink: Fasting does not extend to non-caloric or low-calorie beverages like water, coffee and tea. If you’re feeling hungry, try drinking a cup of something. Just make sure you’re not adding sugar or creamer that contains calories!
  • Distract yourself: If you’re starting to feel hunger settling in, you might be more likely to focus on the hunger and even break your fast. To help keep your mind off food, find things to distract you, such as work, a hobby, a brief walk, or light exercise. Some people find meditation beneficial in clearing the mind and pushing off feelings of hunger.
  • Make healthy choices: Some people give up on IF early on because they aren’t seeing results just from fasting. Remember, making healthy food choices is still an important part of IF. Loading up on junk food and lots of calories during your eating period may cause you to keep weight on and feel worse. Eat nutrient-dense foods to keep you fuller for longer and prevent nutrient deficiencies during your fasting period.

Fasting is a great way to get your health back on track in more ways than one. Just make sure you’re sticking to a fasting schedule and being smart about what you eat. Keep yourself accountable and your dedication is bound to pay off!

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Jennifer R.

Jennifer R.

My relationship with food is still a work in progress, but I am beginning to take control of how I feel on the inside. I recently began meditating, making conscious food choices, listening to audio books, but since starting Lovidia, it has helped as a catalyst and assistant with my self-control. With Lovidia, I can say I am growing on so many internal levels that it’s impacting me externally, and it shows!

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Danielle G.

Danielle G.

Our health and wellness journeys are unique but at the core of every successful transformation is a loving relationship with our minds and bodies! Lovidia has supported my wellness journey by providing me with the time and space to really connect with my hunger cues – it lets me recognize when I need to fuel my body with food or when I’m in need of a few moments of purposeful reflection because I’m confusing hunger with an emotion, like boredom.

@healthygypsyfw