Healthy Byte: Special New Year Edition

Going out to welcoming the new year with alcohol? You may want to read this first.

Credit: iStock/Jennifer Bui

Starks or Lannisters? Boxers or briefs? Life is full of so many painful choices, and for many, “stay skinny or drink beer” is one of them.

But that’s not a choice you necessarily have to make – enjoying beer doesn’t require a beer belly. I would know. Drinking does make things more challenging, but not because of anything inherently fattening about alcohol. All you need to do is follow the three rules below.

Credit: Shutterstock

Rule #1: When drinking, swap protein for fat

To explain this rule, let’s start off with a primer on macronutrients. Every food that you consume is made up of one or more of the following macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These macronutrients have specific properties, such as the number of calories they contain, their impact on your levels of hunger and fullness, and so on, and the only other substance that provides calories is alcohol.

Of these four, fat is probably the most misunderstood. There’s a misconception that dietary fat (fat that you consume) makes you fat, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you’re expending more calories than you consume, then dietary fat is readily used by your body, even if you consume a diet high in fat. However, drinking alcohol confounds this process somewhat.

Alcohol is toxic and cannot be stored by your body. Because of this, Mother Nature has thankfully blessed us (and other animals) with the ability to prioritize alcohol as a source of energy over all other macronutrients. This means that your wild buzzed dancing and subsequent poor decisions are, quite literally, fueled by alcohol. But this also means that your body’s ability to utilize fat as fuel (also known as fat oxidation) takes a back seat. As a consequence, any fat that you consumed earlier is readily stored as adipose tissue.

To counteract this, opt for low-fat foods on days you know you’ll be drinking. Additionally, consume a copious amount of lean protein. While your body might not be able to use all the fat you eat that day, the protein will keep you fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to undo your work with a late-night IHOP session… which brings us to our next rule.

Credit: Shutterstock

Rule #2: Avoid binge food

When it comes to gaining weight, alcohol gets a worse rap than it deserves. Nutrition researcher Alan Aragon who, despite looking like the lovechild of Bruce Lee and The Hulk, has been known to kick back a beer (or four), took a look at the evidence to see how alcohol contributes to weight gain.

“One study found that men consuming an average of 56 grams of ethanol per day (four beers) took in 16 percent more total calories than a matched group of non-drinkers. The two groups – drinkers and non-drinkers – had identical amounts of physical activity. So, logically, you’d think that the drinkers packed on some pounds. They didn’t. Both groups had the same body-mass index, despite all those excess calories for the drinkers.”

As it turns out, the reason that alcohol seems to make people fat is the good ol’ phenomenon of correlation-not-causation. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and many people simply blame alcohol for any weight gain. But they’re probably forgetting the late-night kebabs and burger runs that came with the booze. And those are the real culprit.

Let’s say that you need 10 shots to get you through a Saturday night, which, whoa, but no judgment. That’s less than 1,000 calories, much of which you’ll probably expend thanks to the aforementioned questionable dancing. In contrast, the double quarter pounder meal that you consume afterwards might contain somewhere around 1,600 calories.

Realistically, even the most committed can (and probably will) make this mistake. You’ll probably be out with friends, and despite bragging about your bench press and your “nearly there” abs, you might be peer pressured into a late-night feed. And just like that, a minor case of the munchies sabotages your quest for a six-pack.

I handle this common scenario using two two practical tips. First, steer your posse towards a diner. Diners are a great option, because while others can indulge in greasy, fatty food, there will always be a relatively lean, high-protein option – chicken breast and fish, for example, are fair game.

Second, while you’re still sober, write future-you a note telling you exactly what you’re going to do at the end of the night: “We’re going to go to Denny’s and get the grilled chicken breast with a side salad instead of mashed potatoes.” Yes, this might seem silly, but it works; reading this message will remind you of your overall goals when you’re more prone to making bad decisions.

Credit: Shutterstock

Rule #3: Pick drinks with a higher alcohol-to-calorie ratio

Sticking to our 10-drink example, you can probably see how certain kinds of beverages would rack up the calories to absurd levels pretty quickly. Ten whiskeys will be less than 1,000 calories, whereas the equivalent in piña coladas may be three times that amount due to all the sugar and coconut milk mixed in.

Which drinks contain the highest alcohol-to-calorie ratio? You can’t go wrong if you choose from the following: liquor, red or white wine (the drier the better), Champagne, or light beer.

Anything with a B- rating or higher from this incredibly helpful list should get you where you need to go without doing excessive damage to your waistband.

But if you really, really want that strawberry daiquiri, order it at the start of the night when you’re likely to be present enough to enjoy it most, then switch to drinks that are more fitness-friendly.

Sticking to the rules above might be challenging at first. You will mess up, but you’ll get better with practice. Don’t focus on being perfect when it comes to adherence. Instead, focus on adhering as best as you can and improving a little bit more each time. Look on the bright side: when else can you use the words “practice” and “drinking” together in a sentence that’s related to self-improvement?


Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

Wednesday Wisdom

2015 12-30 F
“Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”
~ Calvin Coolidge, 30th US president

Healthy Byte: Day 1080 / 1090


On this Christmas eve, I acknowledge that In four days it will be three years to the nose when I received the shocking results of a much overdue annual physical that ignited a fear in me to finally take action on my health over vanity.

No more quick fixes with diet supplements. No more special expensive home-delivered pre-prepared meals. No more blind reliance on gym fitness groups or trainers. No more eating one meal a day. No more excuses of maintaining a gym membership but never go because the hubs won’t go with me. No more wishful thinking while sitting on my bum eating my second Burger King double stacker for the third time in the same week.

No. This time I had to make a change not because I wanted to be a size 2 from a size 14 (at 4’10”). Rather, this time I had to make a change or I would have to face the dire consequences of the years of neglecting my body and solely depending on youth to counter my poor eating choices. I was facing Type 2 Diabetes which is one of the few preventable diseases for most people and I was petrified of the wide array of complications associated with Type 2 Diabetes. Much more petrified than any anticipated initial inconveniences to changing the way I lived.

I downloaded the food/exercise tracking mobile app MyFitnessPal and I invested a vast amount of time researching how to lose weight for the rest of my life. From the beginning I never set out to lose X lbs by X date for X event. It was always about getting my blood glucose & BMI back into the normal range which afforded me with the luxury of time – taking the pressure off.

But where to start? WHAT:  I started with finding a modest goal. I took the median weight of a healthy BMI for my age and height and that was my initial goal. HOW: I borrowed the concept of long term behavioral modification from the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. In order for this change to be permanent I had to condition myself to a new set of habits which will lead to a new set of behavior all in hopes to ultimately lead to a new set of priorities & way of thinking. RESULTS: If I had to appoint one factor to my continued success in losing weight & keeping it off, I’d undoubtedly have to attribute it to committing to making small incremental changes to both my diet and physical activity regimen. Not that I am struggle free 100% of the time by any means, but I can say that most of the time choosing nutritionally rich foods over nutritionally poorer options and regular exercise is by & large my life now.

I thought it would be a fun reflection to share my top 10 incremental changes, the level of difficulties, and if I still miss it. So here goes!




White Bread to Whole Wheat


Diss It

High Calorie Drinks (Homemade Lemonade, Starbucks, Strawberry Milkshakes, Cherry Icee) to Water or Tea

Low – limiting my calorie intake from what I drink has also helped the next one

Diss It

Sugar Reduction

Low – reducing the sources of sugary drinks and generally sugar intake has not only helped my calorie intake but also cleared up persistent cystic acne I’ve had for years

Diss It

Free Reign Gluttony

Moderate – LOL I know this sounds absurd but sometimes I do ‘miss’ eating mindlessly and without regard. Although on the 90/10 Rule I can indulge I still indulge mindfully 99% of the time. And the reason I adhere to staying on track more than not is because the few times I did eat mindlessly I was so lethargic, bloated, and generally feel like crap for days after that I just rather not. hahahaha

Miss It … Sometimes

Total Cardio to Cardio w/Strength Training

Moderate – once I got over the fear of re-gaining weight I was able to slowly decrease the duration of cardio & incorporate more regular strength training Also understanding that strength training doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting has made a tremendous difference in my willingness to continue


Regular Exercise

Moderate – had to get over counting on other people to ‘motivate’ me to go to the gym because I had to accept that I needed to exercise for myself, for my health Transitioned over the course of 6 months from 15 minutes twice a week to 45 – 60 minutes 6-7 days a week



Moderate – I have no self control when it comes to any sort of corn chips, Doritos, or BBQ Fritos

Miss It – I don’t buy it or have it in the house EVER!

Simple Carbs to Vegetables as ‘Fillers’

High – took me a long time to slowly phasing out simple carb fillers like pasta, rice, bread for a wider variety of vegetables. Figuring out that I have a FODMAP sensitivity has been a godsend in consuming healthy items which doesn’t make me physically ill

Diss It

After Dinner Snack

High – had to transition through a few snacks diminishing quantities before I was able to go without most of the time

Miss It – when I do hanker for an after dinner snack I choose healthier options than what I instinctively go to (chips, milk chocolate)

Pasta/White Rice to Quinoa to no or low carbs for dinner

High – this was my last item to transition because it was the most difficult to let go of & I had to transition over the course of a year

Miss It – so I avoid it like the plague





Vicious Cycle of Eating Junk Food

Type 2 Diabetes Complications

80/20 Rule

Nonceliac  Gluten Sensitivity (Intolerance)

Tips For Keeping the Weight Off for Good

Wednesday Wisdom

2015 12-23 f

“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”

~ D.M. Dellinger

Healthy Byte: Improve Job Performance with Diet & Exercise

When you’re up against it at work with meetings, deadlines and overflowing inboxes, it can be easy for everything else to slip. (Photo: Getty Images)

Your exercise regime is reduced to an expensive direct debit for the gym that you regularly toy with cancelling. Meal decisions, something you may have once pondered over, become determined by speed, convenience and proximity to the office. Stress drives the cravings for sugary foods that give you an instant (albeit temporary) fix.

The Consequences…

By compromising your diet, fitness and general well-being for the sake of more hours at work, you may believe that you’re making the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goal — whether that be a promotion, a pay raise or simply proving your dedication to the job. However, research suggests that leading an unhealthy lifestyle may actually be detrimental to your productivity at work.

In a study conducted with 19,803 employees, those with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to experience a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, employees who only exercised occasionally were 50% more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers.

When it comes to food and fitness, making decisions that seemingly give you more time and improve efficiency in the short term may actually have a long-term detrimental effect to your overall work game. But how do you juggle it all?

Boosting Work Performance With Exercise

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, boost self-esteem, improve mental clarity and increase motivation, all of which are positive attributes for improved work performance.

In fact, a study at Stockholm University found that employees who devoted 2.5 of their work hours a week to exercise got as much done with their time as those employees who didn’t work out in their regular hours. They were also absent from work through sickness less, and self-assessed their productivity as higher.

So with this in mind, here are just a few ways to incorporate exercise into your busy working week…

  • Use high-intensity interval training methods to sharply reduce the time needed to get the full benefit of a workout.
  • Get a personal trainer so that the few hours you are able to spend exercising are as efficient as they can be.
  • Turn your commute into a workout by cycling, running, getting off the train or bus a stop earlier or even just parking your car farther away from work to increase your walking time.
  • Buy a pedometer, and use every opportunity to move about more, setting yourself weekly targets. For example phone meetings can be conducted whilst pacing up and down the office.
  • Choose something over nothing; even 7 minutes of high-intensity exercise a day can make a difference to your physical and mental well being.

Boosting Work Performance With Diet

Taking time (or more specifically lack of it) out of the equation, finding the energy and motivation to exercise is still largely dependent on how you fuel your body through diet. Food choices and eating patterns are known to influence cognitive function, mental clarity and concentration levels, all of which directly impact on work performance.

But the work environment can be a haven to a plethora of unhealthy food options, and whilst you may know what you should avoid intuitively, stress, hunger and lack of time can all drive poor decision-making when it comes to food. Here are some top dietary tips to boost work productivity…

Plan ahead: By taking your own, ready-prepared lunch and snacks to work, you can make well thought-out choices rather than be driven by hunger. The hormone ghrelin, released by the stomach when you’re hungry, is thought to activate the brain’s reward system and draw us to high-calorie junk food. So planning ahead will help prevent this temptation.

Load up on fruits & veggies: This advice in itself is by no means revolutionary, but a recent 2015 study found that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged and more creative they tended to be.

Stay hydrated: If you’re feeling sluggish and fuzzy headed, try a glass of water before you instinctively default to caffeine. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of fatigue, and water is a hugely underestimated energy booster. Your brain is comprised of about 85% water, so to stay alert with mental clarity, you need to be hydrating steadily throughout the day.

Brain foods: There is a growing list of foods that have been shown to help improve cognitive function. As one example, a study published earlier this year found that eating walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory and concentration.

Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: Day 1070

Despite what some may think I purposely delayed this particular post in order to gather some real world practical approaches to surviving the office holiday festivities by being my own guinea pig … you’re welcome.

Since last week, I’ve had a total of not one, not two, but THREE holiday luncheons! If I was the sort to keep tally, that’s a cumulative over 2,000 calories at each meal which I could have easily consumed. As one MFP pal quite pointedly said, it was very much just like a calorie “minefield.”


Menu: Lettuce Salad w/choice of Ranch, Italian, Thousand Island dressing, Salmon or Chicken Marsala, Pesto, Rice, Mashed Potato, Dinner Rolls, Butter

Dessert: Mini Cheesecake, Mini Brownie, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Lemon Squares

My Strategy: Had an extra large heavy protein breakfast. Drank as much water as I could possibly stomach before lunch.

Reality: Under 500 Calories Feeling rather full, I opted for the salmon and very little rice. The rice was dreadfully plain so I didn’t even finish it. And skipped the dessert all together.

Do Differently: Not-a-thing!

Day 1070 emo1


Menu: Previewed lunch menu online & Pre-selected entree from the ‘light menu’

My Strategy: Drank more than usual amount of water.

Reality:  Planned on 520 Ended at 625 I snacked on 2 small pieces of bread without the olive oil dipping sauce – it was fresh & warm so I couldn’t resist. I had the fire-grilled chicken breast with corkscrew pasta. We stayed after the actual meal chit-chatting and in between bits of conversation mindlessly snacked on the dang bread!

Do Differently: Ask the waitress to remove the bread after initial planned snacking

Day 1070 emo2


Menu: Fruit Tray w/Fruit Dip, Veggie Tray w/Veggie Dip, Artichoke & Spinach Dip w/Corn Chips, Salsa w/Tostitos Scoop Chips, Cheeseball w/assorted Crackers, Mini Weenies in BBQ Sauce, Meatballs in BBQ Sauce, Cheesy Potato, Sandwich Wrap, Crack Chicken,

Dessert: Brownie, Mini Red Velvet Cupcake, Mini Vanilla Cupcake w/Vanilla or Chocolate Frosting

My Strategy: Planned on loading up on water but work was crazy busy so I didn’t have the time to drink as much as I had hoped. A little heavier breakfast than usual.  

Reality: Planned on 700 Ended at 940 I brought my own main course – my usual veggie loaded turkey sandwich. I had a few corn chips, a few scoop chips, two mini weenies, two meatballs, one Mini Red Velvet Cupcake, one Mini Vanilla Cupcake w/Vanilla Frosting. Had I stopped there I would have done really well but they put the massive leftovers in our work room so every time I went in to get printout from the printer I grabbed a handful of chips. LOL So an epic fail because chips is my kryptonite.

Do Differently: Avoid where the leftovers are being stored like the plague! ha-ha

Day 1070 emo3


Planning, Planning, Planning! Not only does planning help minimize over indulgence but it also prepared me emotionally for when the reality didn’t quite match up to the plan

Being mentally prepared that I probably won’t be 100% successful helped me to enjoy all three luncheons whether I was successful or not so much in eating outside of my original strategy

Jedi Mind Trick: Water. Such a simple thing but helps so much! Not only does it make me feel fuller but I continue to binge on water after because it seems to help my body to process things more efficiently & shortening the time of my weight flux.

Hazards: Grazing adds up ridiculously quick. I went from a nice .5 of an oz of chips to about 1.5 oz. And I know that it may not sound like a lot but calorie wise it was a difference between 80 calories to 240! BOOM – just like that! lol

Setting: I tend to be more successful when I know well in advance what will be available. (The Potluck menu kept expanding because some of the ladies was worried about not having enough food lol). I also tend to be more successful when the food is no longer accessible once its over.