Contributor's Corner

New ideas and thoughts from some of our very favorite health and wellness experts.

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Experience Life Magazine

Can We Trust Most Medical Studies on Health?

Believe it or not, the answer is an unequivocal NO!

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It is well known that studies funded by the industry or conducted by researchers with industry ties tend to favor corporate interests, but it seems to be even worse.

In 2005, a researcher argued quite convincingly in a scientific journal, that most published scientific research is wrong. He based his argument on 49 papers in leading journals that had been cited by more than 1,000 other scientists, in other words, well-regarded research. What he found was that within only a few years, almost a third of the papers had been refuted by other studies.

In 2008, this same author with 2 more researchers proposed why in a study in Public Library of Science (PloS) Medicine, an online journal. They suggest that there are so many scientific papers pursuing very few pages in the most prestigious journals, that the winners could be the ones most likely to oversell themselves–to proclaim impressive results that later turn out to be false. This results in a distorted picture of scientific data, with less dramatic (but more accurate) results either relegated to obscure journals or left unpublished.

According to a review of the paper in the Economist:

“The group’s more general argument is that scientific research is so difficult–the sample sizes must be big and the analysis rigorous–that most research may end up being wrong. And the “hotter” the field, the greater the competition is and the more likely it is that published research in top journals could be wrong…….There also seems to be a bias towards publishing positive results. For instance, a study earlier this year found that among the studies submitted to America’s Food and Drug Administration about the effectiveness of antidepressants, almost all of those with positive results were published, whereas very few of those with negative results were. But negative results are potentially just as informative as positive results, if not as exciting.”

And a couple of months ago I read this great article in the Atlantic, called “Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science.” It is basically a summary and description of the same research that has shown again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. These wrong conclusions are what doctors use when they prescribe antibiotics or blood pressure medication, or when they recommend surgery for back pain or heart disease.

The Bottom Line

You need to take responsibility for your health. We cannot just assume that because something was published in a reputable scientific journal, it is necessarily reliable information. Drug companies are trying to sell their products and therefore the results of their studies are often biased. And as I say over and over, drugs usually just treat the symptoms, they do not address the underlying imbalances or decrease the total load on your body. Be aware of what you put into your body, the thoughts you think, how you nourish your body, how you move, how you relax and sleep, find things that give you meaning etc. These are what will keep you healthy. We don’t need scientific papers to convince us.

Experience Life Magazine

Soy: Blessing or Curse?

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“EATING SOY CAN KILL YOU!” Scan the media reports and surf the Internet, and you’re bound to come across scary claims that would lead you to believe this is true. You may have heard:

  • Soy will give you breast cancer.

  • Soy formula is dangerous to babies.
  • Genetically modified soy foods may modify you.
  • Soy foods block your thyroid function.
  • Soy prevents the absorption of minerals and interferes with digestion.
  • Tofu causes Alzheimer’s disease.

As some of you may be aware, I often recommend soy as part of a whole foods diet. Many people question why I include these foods in light of such startling media coverage on the dangers of soy. The reason is relatively simple.

I have reviewed reams of research and many claims for and against soy foods. From the studies available, I can tell you that soy is neither as good as the proponents say, nor as evil as the critics claim. I wish we had more convincing science to report, but we don’t. The key is to take all the available evidence together and see what shakes out.

In today’s blog I have done that for you. I will review some of the recent data for and against soy, and provide you with a few guidelines and things to remember when choosing soy foods.

What the Data Says about Soy

If you want an excellent, unbiased, scientifically sound review of all the relevant human data on soy, I recommend reading the 100-page report from the Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality entitled, “The Effects of Soy on Health Outcomes“, which reviewed thousands of studies based on rigorous criteria for scientific validity. Its conclusion was this: There is no evidence of significant benefit or harm based on the quality of evidence that exists today.

The dangers of soy are overstated. The benefits may be too.

So what’s a confused consumer to do? Give up on soy until we know for sure? Or chow down on soy nuts? Don’t panic. There are some things we do know about soy, both good and bad.

First, you should be aware that the amount of soy used in many of these studies was much higher than what we normally consume — the average dose of soy was equivalent to one pound of tofu or three soy protein shakes a day. That’s a lot of soy! Most people just don’t eat like that. So when you read negative things about soy, remember that many of those claims are based on poorly designed studies that don’t apply to real-world consumption.

You could apply that thinking to other studies, too — like those that show that broccoli contains natural pesticides or that celery is high in toxins. Sure, those foods might cause you some problems — but not in the amounts that most of us eat. The same is true for soy.

Second, it’s important to recognize that many of the common claims about soy simply don’t pan out when you look at the evidence carefully. Let’s review four of these claims and the science behind them so you can have a better understanding of the real relationships between soy consumption and potential health threats.

#1 “Soy Causes Breast Cancer

Because soy foods contain natural plant compounds (called isoflavones) that appear to work like hormones, some people worry that they could increase hormonally driven conditions like breast cancer. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, research findings (i) suggest just the opposite:

  • All population studies (studies of groups of people) of soy either show reduced breast cancer risk or no effect.

  • The only studies to show increased cancer risk are on mice with no ovaries or damaged immune systems who eat high amounts of processed soy.

  • Studies in mice WITH ovaries and functioning immune systems show inhibition of tumor growth.

  • Mice studies may not reflect the effect of soy on humans (in case you didn’t notice, mice and humans are not the same species).

  • High breast tissue density is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Breast tissue density increases with estrogen replacement, but decreases with isoflavone consumption in postmenopausal women. That’s a good thing.

  • Eating soy foods at an early age (childhood and the teen years) appears to have a significant protective effect against breast cancer.

If you really want to reduce your risk of breast cancer, drink less alcohol and eat less trans and saturated fats — all of these compounds may raise risk in high amounts. If it’s a choice between chicken nuggets and tofu, I recommend tofu!

#2 “Soy Formula Could Harm a Baby’s Development”

Some 20 million infants have used soy formula since the 1960s — but some people are concerned that the isoflavones it contains could affect a child’s growth and reproductive development. Yet the only large, long-term study on humans, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, (ii) found that there were no major health differences in 811 men and women between the ages of 20 and 34 who had been fed either soy or milk formula as infants.

More recently, a report issued by the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction Center concluded that there just isn’t enough human or animal data to say for sure whether soy formula harms a baby’s developmental or reproductive health.

So what should a mother do? First, breastfeed if at all possible, for as long as possible — ideally until your child is one year old. If that’s not possible and you have to use soy- or dairy-based formula, don’t beat yourself up about it. If there are any risks, they are likely to be very small. Hopefully, continuing research will shed more light on this question.

#3 “Soy is a Thyroid Poison”

I think this claim makes a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, there’s no doubt that soy can affect your thyroid gland — the real question is, how much does it take? If you’ve read that soy is bad for your thyroid, you’re probably reading claims based on a few poorly-designed studies that have been blown out of proportion.

Instead, consider this: A review of the research found no significant effects of soy on the thyroid except in people who are iodine deficient — a condition that is rare in this country.

Another well-designed study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (iii) studied the effect of realistic amounts of soy protein on hormones, including thyroid hormone. It found that soy had no significant effects on these hormones.

Based on my assessment of this and other research, I am convinced that normal amounts of traditional soy foods pose no risk to thyroid function.

#4 “Fermented Soy is Better than Non-fermented Soy”

Now here’s a claim that DOES have some basis in fact. That’s because soybeans — along with other beans, nuts, and seeds — contain compounds called phytates, which bind to minerals inside your body and contain some potentially harmful compounds.

The Asian cultures that have traditionally consumed soy typically ferment it first. This process breaks soy down and makes it easier to digest. Plus, fermentation adds extra nutrients and probiotics (“good” bacteria) to soy. For these reasons, I prefer fermented soy foods, like miso, natto, tempeh, tofu and some brands of soy milk.

So, should you eat soy? My answer is YES — but with two very important guidelines:

  1. Say YES to whole, real soy. The Okinawans are the world’s longest-lived people, probably in part because of their diet. For more than five millennia, they’ve eaten whole, organic and fermented soy foods like miso, tempeh, tofu, soy milk, and edamame (young soybeans in the pod). One to two servings a day of any of these foods are fine.

  2. Say NO to processed soy. That includes soy protein isolate and concentrates, genetically engineered soy foods (typically made from Monsanto’s Roundup soybeans), soy supplements, and soy junk foods like soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy oil, and soy burgers. They don’t have the thousands of years of traditional use that whole soy foods do, are processed, and contain unhealthy fats and other compounds. I have real concerns about these types of soy.

In truth, good human studies on soy are limited, but those we do have suggest that soy may help lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, increase bone density, protect the kidneys of people with diabetes, and relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.

When you are considering the media reports about soy, here are some things to remember:

  1. The dangers of soy are overstated (and the benefits may be, too).

  2. We eat far too much processed soy (and processed foods in general). Stay away from those in your diet including soy protein concentrates or isolates, hydrolyzed or textured vegetable protein, hydrogenated soy bean oil, non-organic sources of soy, and soy junk food like soy cheese and ice cream. Don’t eat them.

  3. Whole soy foods can be a source of good quality protein and plant compounds that help promote health.

  4. Eat only organic soy. Stay away from genetically modified versions.

  5. Replace soy oil with olive oil, fish oil, nuts, and seeds.

  6. Breastfeed your child. I prefer that no one feed dairy or soy formula to their babies, but if you have to, try not to worry about it.

  7. Don’t worry about soy’s effect on breast cancer if you eat it in the forms and amounts I recommend. It has even been shown to protect against breast cancer if you start eating it at a young age.

  8. The effects on the thyroid are not significant or relevant unless you are deficient in iodine (which you can easily get from eating fish, seaweed or sea vegetables, or iodized salt).

I’m eager to see more research on the effects of soy on our health. But as we wait for more studies, there’s no need to pass up this healthful and delicious food. It can be safely included as part of a whole foods diet — which is one of the most important keys to lifelong vibrant health.

Have you experienced any health problem because of eating soy?

Have you experienced any health benefits from consuming soy?

Do you agree or disagree with any of the arguments about this controversial subject that I’ve listed?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

References

(i) Messina, M. 2010. A brief historical overview of the past two decades of soy and isoflavone research. J Nutr. 140(7): 1350S-4S.

(ii) Strom, B.L., Schinnar, R., Ziegler, E.E. et al. 2001. Exposure to soy-based formula in infancy and endocrinological and reproductive outcomes in young adulthood. JAMA. 286(7): 807-14.

(iii) Persky, V.W., Turyk, M.E., Wang, L. et al. 2002. Effect of soy protein on endogenous hormones in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 75(1): 145-53.

Mark Hyman, MD is family physician, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field.

Reposted from http://drhyman.com/how-soy-can-kill-you-and-save-your-life-1815/

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Experience Life Magazine

Tame Your Inner Critic

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Most of us give our inner critic far too much airtime. We swirl in our mistakes wondering how we could have been so stupid. We replay conversations wishing we’d been more understanding. And we measure ourselves against others to see where we come up short.

This negative internal dialog starts at such a young age that it’s hard to even hear the distortion as an adult. We simply continue to tell ourselves that we could (and should) be so much more, until we deeply ingrain all kinds of limiting beliefs.

What we fail to realize is that these thoughts, judgments and emotional states are actively creating patterns, pathways and programs that train our brain to keep creating more of the same. To top it off, they also drain our energy, dampened our spirits and kill our motivation.

Clearly, it’s time to get a grip and awaken our humanity toward ourselves.

The truth is that we all have natural talents and strengths that we don’t fully acknowledge. We accomplish far more than we give ourselves credit for. And we do several small acts each day that bring happiness, support and meaning into the lives we touch. We simply need to learn to consciously see, appreciate and value what makes us great. This is how we break free from the unconscious thought patterns that pull us down.

Through a daily reflection practice, we can learn to still those provoking thoughts that spin us off our center. We can disarm them through observation, reflection and insight. And we can even get to a place where we clearly see our talent, strengths and accomplishments in action every day.

It starts by actively tracking our experiences. In the Live Dynamite program, we use the daily log to track progress and dive deeper. It’s an easy reflection practice that’s proven to work. When we actively witness our lives and we see the impact of our actions. We strengthen our sense of self-awareness and practice mindfulness. We learn to observe experiences without judgment and see our progress.

The daily log is designed to be quick, insightful and fun! (Yes, fun.) As you keep track of your experiences, you’ll see how much you already have going for you. The more you look the more you see. Over time, you’ll reprogram your brain to see all that’s good in your life and the world around you.

Pause & Reflect

The key to taming your inner critic is to learn how to pay attention in a positive way. Carve out 15 minutes to pause and reflect each day. Capture the day’s highlights as you intentionally direct your thoughts toward all that’s good. Next, look for personal insights as you dive a bit deeper into what you’re experiencing.

Know that as you develop this skill, you actively develop your sense of optimism and train your brain to see the best in each experience. You’ll find that bad moments no longer become bad days. You’ll begin to see that problems are temporary and that life has a way of working out.

Highlights
– Start looking for all that’s good in each day. Find at least three ideas for each area below. Then write it down to anchor it in your brain.

• What are you grateful for?

• What have you accomplished?

• What makes you happy, excited and inspired?

Insights
– The ability to make bold shifts starts with personal insights. Use this series of questions to look into your experiences. Pick one or use all three.

• What are you learning through your experiences?

• What needs more attention in your life?

• How do you want to be experiencing life?

When you make time to pause and reflect you stay connected to your life. You gain clarity, perspective and wisdom. You learn to bring the best of who you are to everything you do. And this is what it means to Get good at living™!

Be well,

Maryanne

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Download the Daily Log

Maryanne O’Brien is the founder of Live Dynamite, a life skills program that inspires, empowers and supports people to consciously create the life they want.

Experience Life Magazine

Three Methods of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting – it is definitely one of the fastest (no pun intended) growing nutrition topics right now. While it is something I am familiar with, I haven’t talked about it before, except in my interview with Brad Pilon which you can find here.

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I don’t think intermittent fasting is a quick-fix for all your diet woes, but I do think it’s a great method that can be sustained long term. You can definitely use intermittent fasting as a lifestyle approach for nutrition, health, performance, and body composition goals.

I’ll go ahead and say this first – I think everyone can use a form of intermittent fasting for body composition changes. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I suggest doing what works best for you.

No two people are the same, and therefore there is not one universal approach to nutrition or strength training that will work for everyone. However, if you want to give intermittent fasting a try, I believe there is an approach that can work for you, and I’ll share them below.

One more thing – keep in mind that I will be sharing my personal experiences with each method discussed; you may experience something completely different when it comes to intermittent fasting.

What Led Me to Intermittent Fasting?

When I got serious about strength training and improving my body composition many years ago, I succumbed to the typical “you must eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day” methodology. I mean, it was (and still is, to an extent) touted as the one and only way to build a lean and healthy body. Naturally I thought that’s what had to be done, and so I did it fervently.

After following that obsessive compulsive strategy for a year or so, I finally got fed up with the whole thing. I was annoyed with having to prepare so many meals, clean up afterward, and carry around Tupperware.

But for me, that wasn’t the worst of it – I never felt full, I was constantly thinking about food and my next meal, and going out to eat with family and friends was a struggle.

So one day out of total annoyance and frustration, I just gave it up. I stopped preparing meals in advance. I stopped worrying about the next time I had to eat. I didn’t follow an eating schedule.

Instead I just ate whenever I was hungry and stopped eating when I was full. I generally went about 14-18 hours between my last meal of the day and my first meal the following day (I usually ate dinner around 6pm and then would eat my first meal around 11am or so the next day). This all came naturally to me and I felt great with my new eating habits. There was no more stress because I didn’t have to eat on a schedule or carry around food wherever I went.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later, however, that I realized this style of eating had a name – intermittent fasting.

Please note – while I don’t personally do the whole “5-6 small meals” throughout the day thing, I acknowledge that it does work for some people. Just as I greatly prefer to follow some form of intermittent fasting to achieve my goals, numerous others prefer to eat small meals throughout the day because they enjoy it and it allows them to achieve their goals.

Again, I encourage you to do what works for you and do what you enjoy – whether that means employing a method of intermittent fasting or eating several small meals throughout the day. I don’t care what you do as long as it makes your life easier, simpler, and leads you to your goals.

I encourage you to read the following information with an open mind. You just may stumble upon something that makes your life easier.

There are several forms of intermittent fasting, but I will only be discussing the three methods I have tried personally.

  • 24 hour fasts one to two times per week
  • Daily 14-16 hour fasts
  • Daily partial fasts for 20 hours with one big meal

We’ll tackle these methods one at a time.

Fasting for 24 Hours Once or Twice a Week

This is the method promoted by my friend, Brad Pilon. I did an interview with him a couple of years ago which you can find here => Fasting for Weight Loss.

To keep things simple, I’ll outline the main points and my experience with this method:

  • To give an oversimplified explanation – you go 24 hours without food. That means if your last meal was at 6pm today, then you wouldn’t eat until 6pm tomorrow.
  • Incredibly simple to use – you just don’t eat anything for about 24 hours once or twice a week. You can freely drink water and other non-caloric beverages during the fast, but no food. After the 24 hour fast, you eat a regular meal. As Brad explains, “The best way to eat after fasting is to act as if you didn’t fast”. Don’t overeat because you haven’t eaten in 24 hours; just eat a regular meal.
  • It’s effective – I have tried it, many of my clients have done it, and those who use Brad’s Eat Stop Eat and get phenomenal results are way too many to list. It works.
  • It’s flexible – For those who prefer this method of intermittent fasting, it is recommended that they fast on their busiest days. This way you don’t focus on not eating food and potential hunger, but instead you can be very productive. Also, if you know you have a family event or other social gathering planned, you can adjust your fasting days accordingly.
  • Numerous health benefits – Brad discusses these in his book, so I won’t go over them here. Simply put, fasting provides numerous health benefits beyond fat loss, and that is always a good thing.
  • Did I mention it’s really simple? I am all about keeping things as simple as possible, especially when it comes to eating and losing body fat. With Brad’s method of fasting you don’t have to count calories, weigh food, or even restrict your favorite foods.
  • Brad’s system in particular is very “freeing” for many people who use it. They are no longer required to count calories or even restrict their favorite foods. Many people who have been OCD with dieting in the past can’t believe how easy this method is and the amazing results it produces without any stress.
  • This method may be too difficult for some people – some individuals simply struggle with going extended periods of time without eating. Some people get headaches, fatigued, cranky, or just too anxious. In my experience, however, many people “grow out” of this after a few fasts.
  • For some people following a 24 hour fast leads to binge eating – even though you should eat a normal meal after the fast, some people think they are entitled to eat anything and everything they want as a “reward” for fasting for 24 hours. This can be remedied with some self control, but some people are just apt to binging after abstaining from food for too long.

Daily 14 – 16 Hour Fast

This form of intermittent fasting is used and promoted by Martin Berkhan. He has done an incredible amount of research on the topic as well, and his results and those of his clients speak the truth of his system.

  • Men fast for 16 hours each day and women for 14 hours.
  • Oversimplified explanation – if your last meal is at 8pm tonight, you wouldn’t eat again until 10am (women) or 12pm (men) tomorrow. Personally, I have no issues going the whole 16 hours and occasionally go to even 19 hours depending on my work and training schedule.
  • As with the previously discussed method of intermittent fasting, you don’t consume any food or caloric beverages during the fasting period. Water, sugar free gum, and other non-caloric beverages are okay.
  • This method, in my experience, is incredibly easy to sustain long term and to follow every day as it’s very simple to implement.
  • This form generally means you’ll be skipping breakfast. For some people this could be quite difficult at first, especially if they buy into the whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” mindset.
  • Martin suggests eating three meals a day without any snacks in between. Since you’ll only be eating three times per day, you’ll be eating larger meals, and that means you’ll actually feel full. This is a huge plus for me.
  • Having a social life is much easier than with other dieting methods (as was the case for me with eating 5-6 small meals each day). Because you can eat larger meals, it’s easier to go to restaurants and social gatherings without having to stress about what you’re going to eat.
  • This type of intermittent fasting can be used for fat loss, building muscle, and even maintenance

Daily 20ish Hour Partial Fast

This style of intermittent fasting is known as The Warrior Diet and was created by Ori Hofmekler. Basically you perform a 20-ish hour partial fast every day, and then have one large meal at night.

  • During the fasting part of the day, you can consume a few servings of raw fruits and vegetables, fresh fruit/veggie juices, and a few servings of protein (protein shake, some nuts, boiled eggs, etc) if desired. These are kept quite small.
  • You eat your main meal at night. Ori has guidelines for what to eat, and in what order to eat certain foods (veggies first, then meat, etc).
  • Some of his recommendations are quite rigid and can be difficult to follow long term
  • I don’t personally believe this is the best method for someone who is very physically active; especially one who participates in heavy weight lifting.
  • Having to eat such a large meal at night doesn’t work for everyone. For example, I personally don’t like how full I feel after eating such a large meal. Then again, some people absolutely love it.
  • It can be difficult to get in all of your fruits, veggies, and protein with just one large meal
  • It can lead to binging on the wrong foods. Some people will inevitably think, “Well, I haven’t eaten hardly anything all day, so I can eat anything I want”. Then they end up eating nothing but pizza, wings, and cookies every night.
  • You don’t have to worry about food all day. For many people, this is the greatest benefit of the Warrior Diet. Since you do the vast majority of your eating at night, you don’t have to worry about preparing food during the day.
  • It saves money. You won’t be eating as much as you usually do, so you’ll likely save some money on your food bill.
  • Increased energy levels – many people, myself included, tend to experience greater energy levels when fasting. This was the case, for me personally, with all three of the intermittent fasting methods I’ve used.
  • This method is probably best suited for fat loss and not building muscle mass. Again, others may have a different experience.
  • Can be difficult to work around social gatherings that take place during the day.

I should also mention that my friend, Molly Galbraith, is part of the force behind the Modified Warrior Diet approach. This won’t be available for a while (the author of the original Warrior Diet is not involved), but I think this is much more manageable for most people who prefer the “warrior” style of intermittent fasting, and definitely more effective for individuals who engage in serious strength training. I’ll share more about this approach in the future.

So Which Method Should You Try?

I think it all comes down to some personal experimentation. You may prefer one method over the other, or you may prefer to use each method at different times just for the sake of variety and to change things up (I’ve done this).

And, please, don’t think you have to “convert” to intermittent fasting just because it’s potentially the next big thing. Intermittent fasting works, no doubt about it, but I still suggest you do whatever works for you and your lifestyle. Whether that means eating 5-6 small meals per day or adopting a form of intermittent fasting – just do what works for you.

No method/nutrition approach will produce the results you want if you’re constantly stressed out and miserable. You need to find a method you enjoy and that you can sustain long term. In my experience and opinion, intermittent fasting is an excellent method that you can tailor to your life.

I’m Interested . . . Now What?

If you are interested in trying one of the methods of intermittent fasting discussed above, I strongly advise you to read the author’s own words and apply the method in the way he provides. The information above is based on my experience and only scratches the surface of each author’s method. All too often people half-ass apply what they read or tweak things from the beginning, and then after they don’t get results they write the program/method off as a complete failure.

Don’t do that. Do what the author says and apply as written.

  • Brad Pilon’s method (once or twice a week 24 hour fast) can be found here.
  • Martin Berkhan’s method (daily 14-16 hour fast) can be found here.
  • Ori Hofmekler’s method (daily 20ish hour partial fast) can be found here:

The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body

Nia Shanks is a personal trainer and author of Fat Loss Detour and Beautiful Badass.

Experience Life Magazine

Be a Bargainista

Nutritious, whole, organic food can cost a pretty penny, especially if you’re not committed to investing time and energy into becoming a savvy shopper and proactive consumer. I’ve encountered every excuse and complaint in the book and believe me – I hear ya! Family, work and exhaustion are tough demons to tame when you’re staring at an empty dinner table, but let’s face it … Would you rather cut corners and save some money in the short term or spend more time planning, eating consciously, and shopping smart to ward off future hospital bills, prescription costs and long-term health issues? We all slip sometimes and that’s okay! But if you put forth the effort 80 to 90 percent of the time, you’re setting yourself up for increased energy, self-esteem, and happiness for you and your family on a daily basis.

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I’m not saying you should run to the nearest health food store and spend your whole paycheck. But before I dive into a bevy of cash saving tips, I’ve got a news flash. This diet and lifestyle wasn’t created for sissies. We’re warriors! That means that you’re not going to see savings unless you stick with the program. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and join this burning hot revolution. Easy-peasy food that you can scarf down in two seconds flat usually equals cheap and unhealthy. Like most things in life, the good stuff takes a little more TLC. I’m not saying that you have to give up your social life, you just might have to cut back on half an hour of Facebook stalking or the latest episode of The Bachelor. A little planning and effort goes a long way.

Now for the dirt. Over the past decade, I’ve been collecting my own tricks of the thrift (I’ve always loved a good haggling), and I’ve picked up loads of cost cutting strategies from my peeps at Crazysexylife.com and my online community posse at my.crazysexylife.com. Please, for the love of unicorns everywhere, add your own killer advice in the comments section. If we keep swapping knowledge, nothing can stop us. Not even 15-dollar raw organic almond butter!

1. Buy bulk. Sure, those bins aren’t as sexy as the pretty packaging on the shelves, but they’re a hell of a lot cheaper! While you’re scooping your millet, get chummy with the grocer and clerks. Your new buddies may be willing to order certain other items in bulk for you. Costco or BJ’s is also a prime destination for large quantity, low cost items.

2. Join your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. Some may be intimidated by this option because of the commitment and quantity. You’ll usually have a variety of veggies to choose from each week and if a half share is still too much too handle, see if a friend or family member wants to go in on it with you. There’s always the trusty freezer for preserving what you can’t consume that week. Hello strawberries in December! Here are some handy websites: Local Harvest, Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Rodale Institute Farm Locator, Wilson College Database, Eat Well Guide, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, and Just Food (NYC Region).

3. Shop your local farmers markets.
Take advantage of the local bounty by perusing veggie stands with a critical eye. There are usually a variety of farmers offering an array of prices, so compare prices, bargain and make friends with your favorite farmer. Be open minded about your weekly menu, too. Take advantage of the lower priced veggies and fruits by designing your meals around their deliciousness (they taste even better when they’re a bargain). Find a market near you: Farmers Market, USDA Farmers Market Directory, Farmer’s Market Online and Local Harvest.

4. Budget and plan. Before we even get to the heart of this tip, make sure you aren’t famished when you walk through the entrance of the grocery store or farmers market. That’s the quickest way to derail your well-laid plans to be a smart, healthy shopping minx. Set a comfortable budget for your weekly or bi-weekly shopping excursions and then get to whipping up a list. First, examine your fridge and cupboards. What can you build on? You might start saving right away if you get into this mindset and stop building meals from scratch every time you touch a shopping cart. If planning a whole week’s worth of meals is overwhelming, bite off few days at a time. Need inspiration? Dust off your cookbooks and get creative. You’ll find a list of my go-to recipe books in this Love List.

5. Clean and organize your fridge and cupboards, then stock up on the essentials. The kitchen is no longer a prison. It’s your playground and your personal pharmacy. Would you let a carton of almond milk get moldy in your blessed new sanctuary? In order to know what you really need, your kitchen should stay relatively clean and organized. Then, get the good stuff in there and keep the fresh and perishable items at eye level. It’s easy to forget about that poor bunch of kale when it’s sitting in the back of your crisper. Once you’ve stocked your pantry with non-perishables, you’ll have the building blocks for countless meals and going to the grocery store is less likely to break the bank.

6. Learn the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: Organic can be pricey!
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s lists to determine your priorities for organic purchases. They even created an iPhone app!

7. Grow indoor greens. It is exponentially more economical to grow your own food. Whether you live in a tiny Brooklyn apartment or a McMansion, there’s room for a few pots of greens. Your choices are infinite and the how-to is at your fingertips! Start greening your thumb today by reading “Urban Gardening for the Everyday Person.” You Grow Girl is also a fantastic resource. And don’t forget to join the Crazy Sexy Gardening group at my.crazysexylife.com! Want more? Check out Garden Girl TV, Urban Homestead, and Four Season Farm.

8. Be flexible. I know it sounds like I’m giving you mixed messages, but if you arrive at the supermarket and there’s a big sale on bananas, snag those babies! They may not have been on your list, but you can cut them up, freeze, and pop them in your smoothies or soft serve ice cream later. This goes for most fruits and veggies and we all know that staples like quinoa or brown rice aren’t going to go bad in your pantry, so stock up when the prices are low!

9. Skip restaurants.
This gets a lot easier when you’re planning meals at least a day or two ahead of time and your fridge/pantry is stocked. Let’s get real. Those restaurant bills pile up and there’s something about the low lighting and aromas coming from the kitchen that makes you forget that you don’t need a bottle of wine plus a five-course meal. I’m not saying that you should never step foot in your beloved establishment again, just try to limit your visits to a couple times a month rather than twice a week. It’s more special that way and meals at home will become a delight rather than a drag once you get into the swing of things.

10. Make your food last: When you arrive home from the market or grocery, wash and store your fruits and veggies so that they’re organized and super accessible (Debbie Meyer Green Bags extend life expectancy!). If you’re a juicing king or queen, divide your produce into individual packs that you can pull from the fridge at a moment’s notice. Smoothie lover? Pop your packs in the freezer. Finally, if you’ve slipped a little and your goodies are going south, rescue them in a delicious soup or smoothie. Your leftovers are not second-class citizens. It’s easy to shrug them off the next day for lunch or dinner, but with a little TLC, you can whip yesterday’s meal into today’s treasure. Your fridge is not a graveyard!

11. Buy used or barter: Buying a new juicer or blender may not be in your budget right now, but what about a used one? Craigslist, eBay, not to mention your friends and family, might have an affordable gently used model. Heck, your pal might be willing to barter if you’ve got something in the house that they’ve been eyeing. In the meantime, you can still juice with any old blender and strainer (cheese cloth or nut milk bags work great!). Just blend your veggies and send them through the strainer for a tall glass of green goodness.

12. Skip the bells and whistles. Do you really need that bag of raw organic cashew butter? Once in a while, go ahead and splurge, but if you are looking for somewhere to cut corners, the specialty foods are a good place to start. You could probably satisfy that craving with something reasonably priced, you might just have to use some elbow grease to make it from scratch.

Kris Carr
is a New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker and wellness coach.

(more…)

Experience Life Magazine

Online Shopping: The Faster, Cheaper and Easier Way to Buy Food

I’ll be honest – this is a blog post I never thought I’d write; mainly, because the origin story is a bit embarrassing.

You see, I started doing my grocery shopping online for one simple reason: I’m lazy. Not because I wanted to save money, not because I’m “too busy.” I’m just too lazy.

As you probably know, I happen to like healthy, organic foods and high quality meats…which means I can’t shop at “just any” super market. To find the stuff that I feel necessary to fuel my body and keep me healthy, I would normally go to a health food store.

“Going to the store” in NYC basically means walking there.

Well, the closest Whole Foods is about 26 blocks away from my apartment. Or really, 23 blocks and 3 avenues (avenues are much longer). According to the AroundMe app on my iPhone, that places Whole Foods about 1.4 miles from my house.

Not a bad walk, and one that I’ve taken. Ha! My mistake.

The first time I walked to Whole Foods, I failed to realize that I’d have to WALK BACK — with 6 bags of groceries.

Well, I’ll never make that mistake again. It was just plain inconvenient.

Of course, there are other methods of transport. While there is no subway near my place, I could take a cab to the store which would basically mean I’d be spending about $8.00 each way — and I just refuse to do that.

And so my options were to either deal with the walk or find an alternative. And since I was definitely done with 3 miles of walking, half of which was laden with baggage, I did just that. And that alternative was to simply buy my groceries online.

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As I said, I turned to online grocery shopping out of laziness. However, once I found the right sites, I basically fell in love.

For those who haven’t tried it, let me regale you with reasons why I love online grocery shopping.

(and trust me, there are A LOT)

First and foremost, there is the ease and the speed.

Without question, shopping online is about five times faster — and I can’t even tell you how much that means. Everyone knows that “time is money” but energy is also a hot commodity. Let me tell you, grocery shopping at a New York City supermarket can be like going into battle — it’s not just time consuming, it’s also exhausting. Chalk one up for online shopping: it’s much faster to navigate between aisles virtually than it is to deal with cart traffic in the stores.

Of course, there is also the convenience.

The “stores” are never closed, and I can shop in my underwear. That’s great. Not to mention I can get my shopping done from bed, at work, or in front of the television and relax while doing so. And the benefits keep going.

Speaking generally, you also it also makes you more organized by default. You never “run out” of things, because if you shop 1-2 times per week, you wind up ordering stuff that you’re not out of stock on.

In addition to other things, you have the benefit of technology.

That is, the site basically takes certain things out of your hands. If you shop at the same site consistently, not only are past orders saved (and easy to repeat with just one click), most sites allow you to mark favorites–which pretty much eliminated the need to keep a shopping list. I no longer wrack my brain trying to figure out what item I’m forgetting and I don’t randomly buy items to compensate for what I’ve forgotten.

Along these lines, shopping online helps me save money in all SORTS of ways.

Firstly, items on sale are highlighted and categorized. I can browse the sales category and the “buy one, get one free” offers before I do anything else.

Another benefit: I’ve found that it’s easier to identify and compare cost per unit online.

Most online retailers allow you to compare products against one another right in the store.

And with my handy-dandy calculator, I can figure out if it’s a better value to buy one or two units, or order a whole case of something.

Order totals are calculated as I go, helping me stick to my budget and avoid the embarrassment of asking the clerk to put items back in store.

This once happened to me in college — I was shopping with my roommate Nick, and when we were checking out, we realized we were short on cash. This was embarrassing for a number of reasons. Mainly, we had to figure out which items to return to the shelf. But, that’s a story for another day…

A final note on saving money: in keeping with the thought above, I don’t buy stuff I don’t need.

Impulse buying (which has ALWAYS been an issue for me) is a lot less prominent online.

Not only because you don’t have the temptation of actually seeing or smelling it, but also because you literally see the total in front of you at all times. In a supermarket, you only see the total when you’re getting rung up. Online, ever time you add something to your cart, you see the total increase–and not surprisingly, I wind up adding a lot less junk to my cart because, let’s face it, I don’t want to pay for crap I didn’t really want in the first place.

Now, we’ve got all the benefits for YOU covered.

But did you know that shopping online can also be beneficial for the environment?

Yea, like, for real. In fact, a study conducted by the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute in 2009 suggested that shopping online could reduce our environmental impact up to 66 percent.

Pretty crazy, right?

Yeah: save time, save cash, save the planet. Not bad.

Okay, okay, so WHERE do you do it?

Now, there are a lot of online shopping services, many of which may be specific to your local area. For example, on of the most popular here in NYC is Fresh Direct. It’s very good, but not available everywhere. For example, FD doesn’t deliver to Long Island, where Momma Roman lives. Figure out all the local issues is a pain.

And so, since I don’t want to make recommendations that are only applicable to just a few people or a few areas, I’ll just swing for the fences and give you the Big Boy.

For all around online grocery awesomeness, I’d say go with True Foods Market.

Firstly, they deliver just about anywhere, so right there they win. If you’re trying to eat healthy and organic, but you live in a small town, you can still have access to great food.

(Side note – it pisses me off that large chains like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods preach “local goodness” but won’t open up in a town with a small population. From a business perspective it makes sense, but it rankles me.)

Anyway, no matter where you live, True Foods will hook you up. Plus, they have the one of the largest selections of organic food that I’ve seen.

You can find just about anything there (deodorant, toothpaste, granola, almond flour) but some of the more delicate items (like eggs) are not there. I assume this is because they don’t ship well. Thankfully for me, you can get organic eggs just about anywhere (including 7-11).

I’ll say, though, that I usually buy my meat online at US Wellness Meats.

So, do I buy EVERYTHING online? No, of course not. I still walk to my local market (about 6 blocks away) and buy fresh produce–I like to get my hands on that stuff right away. Also, I happen to be very, very picky about my fruit, so I like to pick them out by hand…and I am dynamite with my squeeze test.

Other than that, I buy it all online — usually at True Foods.

Okay guys, time for you to talk — what is your opinion of online grocery shopping? Do you do this?

Love the idea? Hate it? Do you shop online?

John Romaniello is a New York City based personal trainer, coach and author.

Experience Life Magazine

More Suggestions for Eating by the Rainbow

This is a follow-up to my prior blog on eating a rainbow of produce and reaping the benefits that phytonutrients have to offer.
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Goal: add at least two different colors everyday to your meals.

Red
Naturally occurring red foods are colored by the pigment lycopene. Lycopene may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer.

  • Red apples
  • Beets
  • Red cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Red grapes
  • Red peppers
  • Pomegranates
  • Red potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Yellow
Carotenoids are responsible for the orange/yellow pigment found in fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is found in sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots which is then converted by the body to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is responsible for healthy eyes, while a carotenoid rich diet reduces risk of cancer, heart disease, and can improve immune system function. Citrus foods that fall under this category are rich in Vitamin C and folate.

  • Yellow apples
  • Apricots
  • Butternut squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Yellow peppers
  • Persimmons
  • Pineapple
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabagas
  • Yellow summer or winter squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tangerines
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon

Enjoy!

Sara Snow is a mom, TV host, anchor, author, and guru trying to help you live a greener, healthier, more natural life.