Sunday, October 24, 2010

Product Review: Gazelle Edge

          From time to time, I will post reviews on my Blog of products that will help you attain your health and fitness goals.   Today I want to tell you about a piece of exercise equipment that has seriously changed the health of my clients. The best thing about this machine is the level of convenience it provides at such a low cost.

          Anyone who has read my book or worked with me as a private client knows just how important cardiovascular exercise is to losing weight.  It truly needs to become a part of your daily routine.  Going to the gym is great, but I can’t say I’ve seen it work long term.  In my 15 years of helping people lose weight, I have run across exactly 1 person who was able to get to the gym on something even close to a daily basis.  You need to make your cardio sessions easy to accomplish.  One of the best ways to do so is to have a piece of equipment in your home.

          Enter the Gazelle Edge.  This is a glider (similar to an elliptical trainer) sold on and I can’t say enough about it.
     #1) It is low impact and very easy on the joints.
     #2) It is light and portable.  It folds up for easy storage against a wall or under your bed.
     #3) It is inexpensive.  You can get it from for under $100 with free shipping!
     #4) It totally works.  I can’t tell you how many of my clients have lost serious weight using nothing more than this for their cardio.  Mind you they are also following my diet and hitting the weights regularly! 
    #5) I have been using one myself for years and love it!

          If you order it from, it comes fast and you put it together yourself in about 15 minutes.  Put it in front of the TV and do your cardio while you are watching the news or your favorite show (A Tivo or DVR makes this even more convenient).  You can chat on the phone while on the Gazelle Edge and when your balance gets really good, you can even read while on it.  The Gazelle Edge, along with some free weights, completely eliminates the need and expense of joining a gym.

          The Gazelle Edge is a great product, for a great price that will make it easier on you to lose weight and improve your health.  What more could you ask for?

Click Here To Learn More About The Gazelle Edge

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Top 5 Reasons People Are Unsuccessful Losing Weight

       I’ve been helping people lose weight for over 15 years.  I’ve studied Exercise Physiology at the Master’s level and Human Nutrition at both the Master’s and Doctoral level.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the vast majority of people who are trying to lose weight are unsuccessful.  These people know they need to lose weight in order to improve their health and appearance; they sincerely want to lose weight, but are unable to do it.  In fact, 95% of people who try to lose weight will be unable to maintain a permanent 5% weight loss. 

          Throughout my years of clinical work with weight loss clients and academic studies, I’ve learned that there are some very good reasons why people are unable to accomplish their weight loss goals.  When they figure these out, weight loss becomes not only possible, but dare I say simple.  Following are, in my opinion, the Top 5 reasons why people are unsuccessful in the weight loss game.

Reason #5: Not initiating a strength training program 
          Once we hit our 25th birthday, we start to lose our muscle mass at the rate of 1% per year.  This is a natural part of the aging process.  Each pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day, whether you exercise or not.  As we go from our 20’s to our 30’s and 40’s, it is very natural to gain weight because we are burning fewer calories each year.  A well designed resistance training program not only stops the loss of muscle, but can add to it, so you burn more calories each and every day.

          Furthermore, we have amazing defense mechanisms to prevent us from losing weight.  You must remember we evolved in times of famine and food scarcity.  Those of us who survived to pass on our genes gained body fat quickly and lost it slowly.   As a defense mechanism, when we lose weight without resistance training, half of the weight we lose is fat while the other half is muscle.  The body does not want to let its fat stores get too low, so it burns muscle to spare the fat.  This results in a lower metabolism and eventually any weight lost is regained.  When you add weight training to your plan, you preserve your lean body mass and lose almost pure fat.  This results in permanent weight loss.

Reason #4: Unrealistic expectations

          Many people have completely unrealistic expectations with regards to their weight loss.  They feel that if they are not losing 2, 3, 4, or even 5 pounds a week that their plan isn’t working and they give up.  Nonsense!  A pound of fat is 3,500 calories.  To lose a pound of fat in a week you have to create a daily deficit of 500 calories.  This is not easy to do at all.  My goal for my female clients is ¾ of a pound a week and for men it is 1 pound a week.  Three quarters of a pound doesn’t sound like much but it adds up to 3 pounds in a month, 18 pounds in 6 months and 36 pounds in a year.  People who are successful losing weight lose it at this rate.

Reason #3: Not getting enough cardiovascular exercise

          Many people who are trying to lose weight hit the treadmill for 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week and expect to lose weight.  It won’t happen.  Both my experience working with weight loss clients and current research suggest that we need to do way more than that to lose weight.  Cardio must become a part of your daily routine if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

Reason #2: Following a low fat diet
          Many who are seeking to manage their weight choose a low fat dietary plan.  Unfortunately, this strategy sets them up for failure.  First of all, low fat diets simply don’t work long term.   In meta-analyses, low fat diets have been found to cause a modest initial weight loss that is completely regained after one year.  There are several reasons for this: #1) Fat provides satiety. #2) Fat helps to stabilize your blood sugar and reduces high insulin levels when consumed with carbohydrates.  Furthermore, since protein levels in our diets remain relatively stable, if you are eating low fat you are eating high carb and that is not the way to lose weight.

Reason #1: Eating the wrong type of carbohydrate

          The #1 reason why people are unsuccessful losing weight is because they are choosing the wrong carbohydrate sources.  Certain carbohydrates spike our blood sugar.  They are known as high glycemic load carbohydrates.  Other carbohydrates have a more modest effect on our blood sugar, these are called low glyemic load carbohydrates. 

          Consuming an abundance of high glycemic load carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels which can promote fat storage, decrease fat breakdown and most importantly, dramatically increase hunger and overeating.  Eating the right type of carbohydrates is pretty much the best thing you can do to aid in the weight loss process.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Feature Article: Artificial Sweeteners: A Lesser Of Two Evils?

          Artificial sweeteners, also known as non-nutritive sweeteners have been the subject of controversy since their inception in 1879.  A variety of myths and misconceptions concerning their health effects have been swirling around for decades.  The subject of this post is to answer some of the most common questions that I receive concerning non-nutritive sweeteners in my nutrition counseling practice. 

What are non-nutritive sweeteners?
            Non nutritive sweeteners are food additives that provide a sweet taste without providing caloric energy.  They have zero grams of carbohydrate, zero fat and zero protein.  The FDA has approved use of 5 non-nutritive sweeteners.
  • Aspartame- found in Equal, Nutrasweet and others.  Aspartame, gram for gram is 180 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Acesulfame-K- found in Sunett, Sweet One, is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Saccharin- found in Sweet’N Low, is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Sucralose- found in Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Neotame- does not have any brand names and is 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Are they safe?
            Despite popular belief, the FDA approved non-nutritive sweeteners are extremely well tested for safety.  These sweeteners have been tested at levels of consumption so high that a person could never attain them in everyday life, yet still produced no negative effects on health.  I recently read a review paper on all of the non-nutritive sweeteners and the summary finding was that they were not associated with any negative health outcome.  After reviewing the literature, I can say with confidence that these additives will not cause brain cancer, strokes, seizures, Alzheimer’s disease or any of the other maladies that people associate with them.

Does this mean I can use them all the time?
            This is where it gets a bit tricky.  I do not recommend the use of these sweeteners on an everyday basis.  Although they won’t cause you to die from cancer like everyone thinks, there are 2 major problems with them.

Problem #1 Non-nutritive sweeteners perpetuate cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates.
            As any one of my clients will tell you, no matter what your health and fitness goals may be, a big part of getting there is to reduce your consumption of refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, white rice and sugar.  The good news is that when you limit these foods in the context of a stable blood sugar, cravings for them disappear after about 2 weeks.   If you are eating non-nutritive sweeteners on a daily basis, you’ll never get over your cravings for the refined carbs.  You will be hungry all the time.  This is a problem because any diet that involves feelings of deprivation and hunger will not work long term.

Problem #2 The Cephalic Response
            The second problem with the non-nutritive sweeteners gets a bit more technical.  We humans have something called the Cephalic Response.   If I was to put your favorite food in front of you, your eyes would see it, your nose would smell it and your body will actually release digestive enzymes before you even put a bite into your mouth!  Your body is anticipating consumption.  This is very likely happening with the non-nutritive sweeteners.  Your body thinks it’s getting something sweet so it releases insulin anyway.  This is the exact situation you are trying to avoid, since the resulting drop in blood sugar following an insulin surge will leave you hungry.  I have seen some papers that showed an association between non-nutritive sweetener use and increased hunger and food consumption.

Take Home Message
            In light of these two problems, I do not recommend non-nutritive sweeteners for everyday use.  However, once or twice a week, I believe that they are far less harmful than sugar.  At the end of the day, I can’t produce a single research paper that shows an association between non-nutritive sweeteners and any chronic disease.  On the other hand, I can produce dozens, if not hundreds of research papers that show an association between high glyemic carbohydrates such as sugar and chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.  In summary, non-nutritive sweeteners appear to be the lesser of two evils, but don’t go overboard.  Have a sugar free treat once or twice a week at the most.  But of course, stay away from sugar all the time!

Additional Questions
What about Stevia?
            Stevia is another non-nutritive sweetener that is produced from the leaves of a plant grown in South and Central America.   While Stevia’s producers say it is safe, the FDA has not done its own evaluation just yet.   The FDA initially agreed to the manufacturer’s safety findings and has allowed it to be used in a variety of products.  More recently, there have been some reports that Stevia may increase cancer risk, so the FDA is requiring more information on the safety of this sweetener.  Personally, I feel that Stevia has not been tested enough for me to recommend it to my clients.  I’d stay away from it until we learn more.

What about Sugar Alcohols?
            Sugar alcohols are compounds that taste sweet like sugar, but are not as easily broken down and absorbed as table sugar.  On food labels, they show up as xylitol, mannitol, erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates and sorbitol.  Sugar alcohols are found in nature in prunes and apricots.  Sugar alcohols generally have 50-70% of the sweetness of sugar.  They are cropping up in all sorts of sugar free items, particularly sugar free candy and ice cream.   The only problem I have seen regarding safety/side effects is that they will have a laxative effect when consumed in large quantities due to the fact that they are not completely absorbed.  Therefore, start with small amounts and see how you tolerate them.  Again, limit consumption of all non-nutritive sweeteners to once or twice per week.