The Root Cause of Many Diseases is Insulin Resistance

I listened to a great podcast featuring Dr. Ben Bikman, a renowned metabolic research scientist and author of the book “Why We Get Sick”. He reveals the groundbreaking evidence linking many major diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, to a common root cause—insulin resistance—and talks about an easy, effective plan to reverse and prevent it. 

Here are the highlights from this 2 hour podcast:

  • Insulin resistance is driving sickness and obesity. Now, even young people are developing insulin resistance. These kids will become sick, overweight, vitamin D deficient, lose muscle mass, and develop hypertension and diabetes in their teens. This will also lead to increased risk for dementia and heart disease as they get older.
  • Dr. Bikman states that the loss of moral foundation and loss of connection increases isolation and does not allow our youth to develop to their full potential. He believes we are getting fatter, sicker and losing the critical social connection.
  • We have a glucose-centric paradigm where blood sugar is the primary metabolic marker. However, the underlying changes in glucose is down to insulin and why is this overlooked? Glucose and A1C can be normal for years so doctors don’t suspect any problems. While glucose levels are normal, insulin could be increasing steadily. So, the fasting insulin biomarker is the earliest sign of metabolic disruption. Insulin may be elevated 10-20 years before glucose starts going up so this needs to be measured.
  • People with Type 2 diabetes with insulin therapy get fatter and die faster; 2X higher from cancer, 3X higher from heart disease, and 2X from Alzheimer’s. These diseases are problems of hyper insulin NOT hyperglycemia.
  • The problem is that there are no firm standards for insulin. Anything under 15 mIU/mL may be considered normal but that’s way too high. Fasting insulin of 6 or lower is optimal as this means you are insulin sensitive. Fasting insulin of 7-15 mIU/mL is a warning sign as this is indicating the path to insulin resistance.
  • However, insulin is not the only marker for insulin resistance. A triglyceride/HDL ratio of 1.5  or lower is a good sign that you are insulin sensitive even if your insulin crept up into the teens.
  • When it comes to weight gain, you need both of these:
    • Insulin must be elevated – this signals growth of the fat cell
    • Calories – you need enough calories to provide sufficient energy to fuel fat cells

  • Dr. Bikman did a lab experiment to prove this out. He grew fat cells in petri dishes and noticed that in the presence of insulin, they grew rapidly. When insulin is added to the medium containing fat cells, the cells are being told by insulin to store the energy and start growing. The hormone insulin is the conductor to the orchestra of cells and tells them to store energy and stimulate appetite.
  • Also, insulin slows metabolic rate. That’s why Type 1 diabetics with no insulin will have 20-30X the metabolic rate of non-diabetics. Type 1 diabetics may choose to eat what they want and skip the insulin injection – so they can remain skinny. This wreaks havoc on their system (called diabulimia) and can be life-threatening.
  • Type 2 diabetics on insulin therapy find they gain weight because their metabolic rate slows due to the added insulin.
  • Genetics matter! A study done with Caucasians and Asians eating a similar diet found that the fasting insulin for Asians is double that of Caucasians. Also the fat cells in Asians are larger than Caucasians. Typically, for Caucasians, they get fat via hyperplasia (the body creates more new fat cells) but for Asians, the number of fat cells are pre-set so existing ones just get bigger.  More important than the mass of fat cells is the SIZE of each individual fat cell.  That’s why there’s an even bigger epidemic of diabetes in Asia.
  • When fat cells get too big, they cannot grow anymore. They can swell to 10-20X their size and start suffocating. This suffocation tells the fat cell to become insulin resistant to inhibit further growth.
  • Fat cells also become hypoxic (inadequate level of oxygen to tissues and cells). And it secretes pro-inflammatory cytokines which promotes new capillaries and stimulates new fat cells. A vicious cycle leading to obesity and sickness…


Now for the solution:

  • Cutting calories and exercising more is NOT the solution! If you cut calories but you are keeping insulin high, HUNGER will always win. Any weight loss strategy built on these principles will not be sustainable – guaranteed!
  • You need to control carbs and eat mostly low-starch fruit and vegetables. It’s important to prioritize protein and DON’T FEAR fat.
  • As your insulin levels come down, your metabolic rate will go up and fat burning will go up. Your brain has sufficient free fatty acids and ketones to fuel the brain. And your brain relies more on ketones than glucose for energy if both are available equally.
  • Lower insulin is the first step to weight loss. When you get to a weight loss plateau – then you need to control the energy coming in. Rather than counting calories, opt for structured fasting.
  • 4 steps to lower insulin to enable the body to use its own energy for fuel: control carbs, eat adequate protein, don’t fear fat and do fasting. This will also generate less hunger because your brain is relying on fat burning and not screaming for food.
  • The studies done on the danger of excess protein and it eliciting an insulin response are dependent on the underlying glycemia and the glucose coming in with the amino acids. So even adequate protein intake will not prevent an insulin response if carbs are included.
  • The beauty of protein is that it is calorically inert. Protein is not a fuel and should not be counted as a caloric load as our bodies don’t rely on amino acids for energy. Our bodies don’t use protein for energy – it’s used as a building block. We use glucose and fat for energy.
  • There is the protein leverage hypothesis developed by scientists that states that humans will only eat until we’ve had enough and then stop (~1g/protein per pound of lean body weight). While the study done on rodents supported this hypothesis, there is not enough human evidence to support this approach. The original intention of this research was to look at longevity but there are flaws in the model when extrapolated to humans. As protein consumption goes up, you start to see problems with fertility.
  • The recommendation is to use protein as a focus (not in excess) AND don’t fear fat.
  • There is such a fear of fat in current society. In nature, protein comes with fat – and there is no exception to this! But in our fear of fat, we eat chicken breasts; our chicken consumption was ~0% in 1909 and now it’s the primary source of meat. Chickens back in the day were raised for their eggs, not for their meat.
  • Don’t fear the fat that comes with the protein. When we eat fat with protein, we digest protein better. Bile acids that are released with the fat intake accelerate protein digestion. So, for example, if a whey protein shake gives you a tummy-ache, try adding a fat source to facilitate protein digestion. You can get your fat from animal sources or vegetarian ones (avocado, nuts, olive oil). If you’re eating chicken breasts, add fat like olive oil to combine them.
  • Anthropologically, humans may have a higher demand for fat – early humans sought the fattiest sources of meat.
  • Be an advocate of whole food! If it comes in a bag or box with a bar code, be careful. Rather than counting calories, control the amount you consume.
  • Dr. Bikman talked about the 5th step to lowering insulin resistance. It’s muscle! Lower skeletal muscle mass is associated with diabetes. Muscle is THE metabolic powerhouse because it’s the majority of our tissue mass. Muscle is a sink for glucose and has a great ability to absorb enormous amount of glucose.
  • 80% of the post prandial glucose removal from blood is going into muscle. So, if we can increase muscle and move that muscle, we can keep blood glucose steady more consistently.
  • Muscle wasting = insulin resistance. A study has shown that 7-10 days of bed rest significantly increases insulin resistance due to muscle wasting.
  • In type 2 diabetics, muscle is broken down because of insulin resistance. The body releases amino acids and muscle wasting happens.
  • Bigger muscle = greater insulin sensitivity. So make sure to incorporate strength training into your exercise regimen. Big muscles will absorb more glucose from your system and help with insulin sensitivity.

Five steps to weight loss, reversing pre-diabetes and insulin resistance:

  1. Control carbs
  2. Eat adequate protein
  3. Don’t fear fat – combine with protein
  4. Do structured fasting
  5. Grow those muscles 


To listen to the podcast:

7 Hypertension Fighters in Your Kitchen

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of Americans across the country. As we recounted in a recent blog, hypertension is often called the “silent killer,” with many people going unaware of their heightened blood pressure levels until it’s too late—resulting in a stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.

Hypertension, however, isn’t as simple as eating too much salt or fat. Recent studies have shown that a variety of factors contribute to hypertension, including stress, diet, lack of exercise, and more.

Your diet does have a large effect on your blood pressure, and what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat! Below we’ve listed 7 foods you should add to your shopping list that will help decrease your blood pressure and cut hypertension:

Olive Oil

Individuals who regularly consumed olive oil as opposed to vegetable oils and butter were found to have decreased their blood pressure at the end of a 3-month study at the University of Massachusetts.

Similarly, another study following Spanish university students found that the men who consumed more olive oil had significantly lower blood pressure.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should start gulping olive oil. But swap out regular vegetable oil with olive oil. Ideally, extra virgin olive oil! 


Beets are high in something called dietary nitrates, a unique type of compound found in certain vegetables that has a variety of health-promoting properties. In particular, researchers believe that nitrates may be responsible for the blood-pressure-decreasing effects of beets!

Two studies highlight the power of beets when it comes to hypertension.

First, a study from the British Heart Foundation followed 68 patients with high blood pressure; half received about a cup of beet juice daily. Those who received daily beetroot juice saw their blood pressure reduce significantly, while also enjoying other health benefits. Another study found that people who had a diet higher in nitrate-containing veggies had a much lower risk of developing hypertension.

When adding beets to your diet, stick to the whole food instead of the juice, especially if you are struggling to manage blood sugar. Adding a half-cup of roasted beets to a salad is a tasty way to go. Considering that beets have a moderately high sugar content for a vegetable, be mindful of how much you consume.


Garlic is not only delicious, it’s also extremely helpful for folks dealing with high blood pressure! In an Australian study, they found that individuals taking two capsules of garlic extract per day (approximately 480mg) had the largest decrease in their blood pressure as opposed to those taking the placebo. Other studies have shown garlic to rival the effects of common blood pressure medications—without the side effects. Garlic is a safe, tasty, and a simple addition to any meal! Start weaving a few cloves into your lunch and dinner to reap its blood pressure effects. If you are afraid of chasing off those around you with the odor, there are odorless options to try:

Pistachios & Other Nuts!

Nuts are a source of healthy fats that provide long, sustained energy throughout your day. Additionally, many nuts have a variety of nutrients and vitamins that support your immune system, weight management, heart health, and more. When it comes to blood pressure, nuts can be just as helpful.

A variety of studies have shown that nuts can help lower blood pressure. Pistachios were found to be the most helpful in decreasing hypertension and improving overall heart health.

For an afternoon snack, skip out on the sugary granola bar and opt for a handful of nuts. You’ll likely find yourself feeling more satiated throughout the day and notice your blood pressure decrease over time.


Flaxseeds, similar to nuts, have a variety of health benefits. They’re high in omega-3’s and fiber (among other things), and they’ve also been found to decrease blood pressure by multiple studies. In fact, in one study, the researchers found that flaxseed decreased systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg on average. This is one of the greatest responses of blood pressure levels to dietary changes. If there’s one thing you prioritize adding to your diet, try flaxseeds! You can easily add them to salads for a nuttier flavor, or oatmeal for your breakfast.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has also shown strong anti-hypertensive effects. In studies in Greece and India, researchers found that consumption of sesame oil significantly decreased blood pressure within 15 to 45 days, respectively. Consider adding olive oil and sesame oil into your diet to help your hypertension! Please note that the use of olive oil is okay for low-mid temperature cooking (like stir-fry) but sesame oil is more heat sensitive and NOT suitable for cooking.  


Finally, regular intake of cinnamon has been found to decrease blood pressure in about three months. Adding cinnamon to your tea or coffee can go a long way in cutting hypertension (and increasing flavor!)

On your next shopping trip, add a few of these ingredients to your cart! Including them in your diet can help decrease your blood pressure and leave you feeling healthier in the long term. Consider adding olive oil, sesame oil, and garlic to your salad dressing. And try adding some raw beets and flaxseed into a smoothie. The options are endless, and chances are you already have many of these ingredients in your kitchen.

People take ownership of sickness and disease by saying things like MY high blood pressure MY diabetes, MY heart disease, MY depression, MY! MY! MY! Don’t own it because it doesn’t belong to you!

What’s in a Label? What You Need to Know to Make Healthy Food Choices

What’s black, white, and red all over? The nutrition label on a pack of Twizzlers!

Reading a nutrition label is a must-have skill in today’s world of ultra-processed and complex and plentiful additives. If you don’t know what you’re putting in your mouth, how do you manage your health? The label is something we see everyday, but it can be a confusing thing to understand. So in this blog, we’re going to dive into the basics of a nutrition label, and key things to watch out for.

To start, you should know that a nutrition label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your weight, health, age, exercise routine, and more, you may need to eat more or less than 2,000 calories for optimal health. This is a good thing to discuss with your doctor—be sure to give them the specifics of your lifestyle (activity level and exercise are especially important here) when talking about this. Allow me to digress: I personally don’t ‘count’ calories because I realized that I don’t overconsume calories when sticking to a whole foods diet: little/no processed foods and trans fats, some grains, lots of veggies, some fruits, healthy fats and ample protein. It’s hard to overeat broccoli!

As you look at the label, you’ll see different percentages. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, these are the percentages of your recommended daily fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, proteins, and a few vitamins and minerals. Again, however, it’s important to note that this percentage may be slightly more or less based on your necessary intake.

Now, let’s dive into the diagram from the CDC below:

Starting at point 1: the serving size. This outlines how much of the food the nutrition label accounts for. Oftentimes, this is also the “recommended” portion of the food, but we’ll discuss more on why that’s not always the best route.

For example, let’s say this nutrition label is for granola. The serving size is for ⅔ of a cup of granola, which contains 230 calories, 8 grams of fat, etc. per this label.

At point 2, we see the number of servings per container. In this example, there are 8 servings of granola, and each serving is ⅔ of a cup.

It’s helpful to know: 1) how much is in the package, and 2) what it might mean if you eat more than a single serving.

For instance, let’s say you were munching on the granola while watching some Netflix. You realized you’ve eaten half the bag. Since the bag has 8 servings, half of that is 4. To figure out how many calories are in 4 servings (half the bag), you would multiply 230 times 4, to find that you ate 920 calories.

This math can be especially helpful if you find yourself in binge eating habits—even with ‘allegedly’ healthy foods like granola. Most things in very large quantities lose positive health effects, so knowing the serving size can put that in perspective.

Next, we have point 3: this is about the total carbohydrates in a single serving of the food. It breaks this down further into the amount of fiber, sugar, and added sugars.

First: fiber. A high-fiber content in a food is a good thing. Getting ample fiber in your diet is one of the best things you can do for your health! Here we see that the granola has 4 grams of fiber, which is not too bad. However, we also see that there’s a good chunk of sugar in the granola, too. Let’s break this down.

Total sugar is, understandably, the total amount of sugar in the food. Interestingly, the CDC has not made any official recommendation for the amount of sugar to have each day. Generally, it is good to keep your sugar consumption low, especially if you struggle with diabetes or are pre-diabetic.

However, recently the CDC added a new line to the nutrition label: added sugar. This refers to sugars which have been added through processing, sweeteners, syrups, or juice concentrates. They are not naturally-occurring sugars that might be found in fruits and other whole foods.

For diabetes prevention, you want to keep your consumption of added sugars low. If you see a high amount of added sugar (more than 5-8 grams), that is a good food to avoid or limit your consumption! 

Now, let’s go back to our granola label. We see that there are 12 grams of sugar, in total; however, 10 grams of that are added sugars. For granola—a food we often think of as healthy—that’s actually a lot of sugar in just one serving. The general guidelines for ADDED sugars is a maximum of 50 grams a day—which is still 12 teaspoons of sugar! Digress #2: If you are a non-diabetic, very active and otherwise healthy, that may work but I would opt for much less added sugar. As a pre-diabetic, my goal for added sugar is ZERO, because any time I have a meal out, I know that I’ll have more than enough added sugar. So, when cooking at home, I stay away from any added sugar and use monk fruit, allulose or stevia instead. One serving of granola takes you to the maximum allotment—and that’s for only 2/3 of a cup! You can consider eating less than the recommended amount—potentially only ⅓ of a cup of granola—OR skip the granola altogether and grab some nuts and fresh fruit instead. 

If you struggle with blood sugar levels, understanding the amount of ADDED sugars is a must in determining whether you should eat it or put it back!

Point 4 of the label—look for the fiber and vitamin/minerals breakdown as that indicates the nutritious components of the food. The level of protein is also important—if you are an active person, you should aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  That means that a 165 pound adult should consume at least 60 grams of protein daily. But, if you’re active, you will need more. I started lifting weights three times a week so I upped my protein to about 1 gram/kilogram to build muscle.

Back to the granola example, we see that the granola has a decent amount of iron and fiber – which is good. BUT, it is high in sugar. Digress #3: I personally haven’t found ANY granola that will not make my blood sugar skyrocket so I generally avoid it.

Finally, point 5: the areas you generally want to look out for and avoid in high quantities.

Right below the calories, we see the total fat. First reminder: fat is not bad! For more information on the types of fats that are healthy and those you want to limit, click here for one of our recent blog posts on fats.

In particular, you’ll see that point 5 touches on the amount of saturated fats, which are a type of fat you want to limit. They aren’t inherently bad, but the research on saturated fat’s effects on health are mixed, especially when combined with carbs and sugars.  

Additionally, point 5 touches on added sugars, as well as the number of calories. A high-calorie food isn’t inherently bad; however, if a food is high in calories, high in saturated and trans fats, and has a number of added sugars, that’s a clear sign that you should avoid it!

Next time you head to the grocery store, check out the nutrition label on your foods. It can be shocking the amount of sugar in some foods you thought were “healthy.” Equipping yourself with nutrition label know-how is one of the first steps to managing your blood sugar and chronic disease, as well as improving your overall health and energy through diet!

The Truth about Fat: Less is NOT More

Diet culture has cycled through what feels like hundreds of trends:

“Go keto and lose 10 lbs in a month!”

“Only eat raw, never cooked veggies for optimal health!”

And even the wild, “Eat only Special K to fit into your old jeans again!”

One diet trend has stood the test of time, however: Aim to have a low-fat diet. The idea that all fats are bad is pervasive—many of us have been taught from a young age that fat is unhealthy and we should avoid it at all costs. And that fat makes you FAT! But is that really the case?

Today we’re breaking down the facts behind the war on fat that has been raging for decades. We’ll outline which fats to avoid and which to prioritize for optimal health.

But first… Why do people say fat is bad or unhealthy?

Some fat is unhealthy, but if we take a peek into history, we see where the full-fledged smear campaign on fat began.

Scientists began researching nutrition more intensely following World War II. In initial studies, they found a link between heart disease and foods heavy in saturated fats (red meat, for example). In the ensuing decades, this led to physicians recommending that people limit the amount of fat they ingest. When the national food guidelines were developed in the 70s and 80s (think: the precursor of the ‘My Plate’ you or your kids might have been taught in school), the takeaway message for many was to avoid fat. People weren’t well educated on the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, so the recommendation to avoid specifically saturated fat was heard by many that “fat is bad.”

Let’s clear one thing up first: What is the difference between good fat and bad fat?

First, I encourage you to drop language like “good” and “bad” from any of your food vocabulary. Most foods can be “bad” in too high of a quantity; for example, if you eat seven mangos in a day, your blood sugar will not thank you. On the other hand, even “bad” foods in small amounts can be a net positive. For instance, allowing yourself a cupcake (or—gasp—two!) at your child’s birthday party without any guilt will likely help you feel more present and less stressed about whether or not you should eat the cupcake. Enjoy yourself and allow yourself to enjoy foods in moderation, too!


Saturated vs Unsaturated Fats

Now, when we consider fat, you should know there are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats, at the molecular level, have all of their carbon atoms “saturated” with hydrogens. This basically means they form a neat linear molecule. Saturated fats, because of their structure, can easily build up and “stack” on top of one another.

Unsaturated fats have one to a few of their carbons “unsaturated” with hydrogens. This gives unsaturated fats kinks wherever the carbons aren’t fully saturated with hydrogens, which in turn makes it hard for them to build up and “stack” atop one another.

Both of these fats occur naturally, and to an extent, both should be present in your diet. Because unsaturated fats don’t build up as readily as saturated fats, these are generally healthier fats that give more benefits to your body.

Remember: fats (also called lipids) are one of the four main molecules that make up your entire body, in addition to carbohydrates, DNA, and proteins. You need fats in your diet to help your body with its daily processes, insulation, repair, energy storage, and more! Fats are a vital part of your diet. You need fat for good health.

So, what kinds of fats (and foods) should I focus on?

Fats to include: Unsaturated fats are found in fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and a variety of other natural, non-processed foods. These fats are the most nourishing for the body. Adequate consumption of unsaturated fats leads to improved health!

Fats to have in moderation: Saturated fats occur naturally in red meat, eggs, dairy, coconut and palm oil. The studies on saturated fats are mixed. In high levels, they are believed to contribute to heart disease. Limiting their consumption leads to better health outcomes, but you do not need to cut them out all together. They naturally occur in a variety of foods!

Fats to avoid: Trans fats in processed and fried foods are where we see the worst health effects. Avoiding highly processed foods, fast food, and fried food will help you steer clear of these genuinely unhealthy fats.

Back to our discussion about diet culture though—have you ever opted for low-fat or fat-free options at the grocery store, thinking that was the healthier choice?

Now that we’ve covered that many fats are healthy, I encourage you to think twice before choosing low-fat or fat-free options. Fat packs flavor in foods, so when fat is removed, it’s often replaced with a form of sugar… and a lot of it! Reduced fat options generally are more unhealthy than the normal fat option because of their high sugar levels, so read labels carefully when you’re grocery shopping!

All in all, there are some fats that can boost your health, while others will harm it. Prioritize unsaturated fats, avoid trans fats and processed foods, and enjoy saturated fats in moderation. End the war on fats and include healthy fats in your diet for optimal nutrition!

Breaking the Binge Eating Cycle: Darn it – It’s your hormones

Binge eating plagues a lot of us. The post-meal or late night snack raids of Domino’s pizza, a box of Oreo’s, or a pint (or two) of Jenni’s ice cream has become a secret, shame-ridden ritual for many people, especially in places like the US where heavily processed food is more common and readily available.

For some people, it really is a harmless, occasional late night snack. For others, however, these binge eating habits can snowball into a collection of disorders colloquially referred to as binge, compulsive, or emotional eating, but may formally fall under Binge Eating Disorder.

But what’s behind this desire to binge? Why do 3M Americans struggle with what’s called Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

The underlying factors causing BED are many and varied, and in this series, we’re focusing on two of them: hormonal imbalances and emotions. Today, we’re diving into the hormones that drive binge eating and how you can bring them back into balance.


Which hormones affect binge eating?

Hormones are chemical messengers that move throughout our body, signaling from the brain to various organs what needs to happen, and vice versa. When hormones are out of balance, it’s like they’re sending the wrong messages—eating when not hungry, eating past full, etc.

Dr. Mark Hyman termed the “four hormones of the apocalypse” which contribute to the desire to binge eat. They’re listed below with their various effects:


The body manufactures insulin to process any form of sugar (glucose, sucrose, fructose) that you ingest. When you eat a sugary meal—pancakes with syrup for breakfast, for instance—your insulin will spike (a “sugar rush”), but then crash. That crash makes you hungry for food, even if you just finished a big (sugary) meal.


Leptin is a hormone that signals to your brain when you’re done eating and are satiated. But ingesting high amounts of sugary, processed foods and carbs leads to leptin working less effectively. So even if leptin tells the brain “Hey, I’m full!”, a high-sugar diet makes the brain effectively ignore those messages from leptin. Hence, this leads to more eating without any brakes to control it.


Ghrelin is what tells the brain when we’re hungry and ready to munch. It’s produced in the stomach and highly affected by sleep. Ghrelin imbalances lead to a constant feeling of appetite, even if your body doesn’t actually need food.


Peptide YY
Similar to Leptin, Peptide YY is another hormone which signals that you’re full. If it’s not produced enough or if its messages aren’t received by the brain, then we will likely overeat and constantly snack.


BONUS: Cortisol
We might have mentioned four horsemen earlier, but really, there are five. Cortisol is the hormone that’s produced under stressful conditions to help our body escape stress. The effects of cortisol on the body require more energy, which leads to more hunger and higher blood sugar levels. In part 2 of this series, we’ll talk more about the importance of cortisol in emotional regulation!


These hormones are all here to work for us, not against us. It’s just a matter of getting them back in balance so they can send their messages effectively.


How can I balance my hormones to curb binge eating?

Get enough sleep
Sleep is one of the BIGGEST factors affecting appetite. With decreased sleep, ghrelin production goes up! In other words, your brain is getting signals that your appetite is higher, even if your energetic need for calories hasn’t changed. Unfortunately, peptide YY production also goes down under sleep-deprived conditions, meaning you’re not getting the right signals to stop eating.

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and notice how your appetite changes with adequate sleep!


Eat regularly
The intermittent fasting trend has some people skipping meals and eating within a small window, but the key is eating balanced meals regardless of your eating window to maintain your blood sugar. As a pre-diabetic, I do not do well on intermittent fasting beyond a 14-hour period (if I finish dinner by 7pm, I usually have to eat breakfast around 9am the next day) but this varies widely by individual. I have family members that easily fast for 18 hours and do not even realize it.

If you skip breakfast and feel tired and weak, then make it a goal to start eating a protein-full breakfast each morning. This will make it less likely for your appetite to spike late at night, and will keep your blood sugar steady.


Balance your meals

When you eat, ensure that you’re eating enough fiber, protein and healthy fats (you can read more about which fats to use in our blog post here). The combination of fiber (from veggies and complex carbs like beans), protein and healthy fat keeps your blood sugar steady.

Similarly, avoid highly processed, sugary foods, especially drinks! Everything in moderation of course—don’t feel like you have to cut out every bit of sugar from your life. Make an effort to decrease your sugar intake, however, as it can become addictive and fuel hormonal imbalances. Starting by cutting out any sugary sodas or coffees can help get your hormones and blood sugar back on track.


Regulate your stress
The stress-hormone cortisol often has a multiplier effect on worsening other parts of your physical health, including appetite and weight. If you find yourself eating when you’re stressed, consider adding more mindfulness into your habits with food. This means asking yourself things like: “Am I actually hungry? What do I feel in my body right now? Why do I want to eat this right now?”

Following that mindfulness moment, see if there’s another stress-reducing action you can take: a few minutes of deep breathing, a short walk, a conversation with a friend. Weave stress-relieving techniques into your daily schedule, too, to decrease your overall stress and better regulate your hormones! Check out our article on stress management here for more research-backed ways you can decrease stress.


Consider supplements
Some supplements can help you balance your hormones and blood sugar as well. Two in particular—Omega-3 fats and Vitamin D—can be especially helpful.

Omega-3 fats, typically found in fish oil supplements, can help fight insulin resistance and decrease erratic appetites. Here’s a high-dose omega 3 supplement that’s been third-party tested:

Vitamin D is another supplement that can work wonders for your health. It regulates hormones and balances insulin. If you find your stress weighing on your mental health, too, Vitamin D is often recommended to increase overall mood.  

Medium dose (2000 IU):

High dose (5000 IU):

Binge eating can feel defeating and shame-ridden, but when you realize that your body and hormones are driving you to overconsume, some of that guilt can be mitigated as you’ll realize it’s not just an issue of willpower. Use these tips to start balancing your hormones, and check back on another post on how to manage the emotional components of overeating!

Your Guide to Fats: Which Vegetable Oils Are Bad?

On the cover of health magazines in the 80s, 90s and even into the 2000s, you would have seen a lot of hullabaloo about how fat was Public Enemy #1 and it was making us all, well…fat. They demonized fat for obesity rates, rise in cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic conditions. The low-fat craze told us how we needed to avoid fat at all costs; then a plethora of reduced fat processed foods hit the store shelves in response to consumer demand.   

Then in 2002 appeared a seminal article written by the science writer, Gary Taubes, “What if it was a big fat lie?” – which started to turn the tide on the evils of fat. Our collective nutrition consciousness has decided that the scientific evidence is not pointing to fat as Health’s Most Wanted. In reality, fat is an essential part of our diet as humans. Fats help fuel our mitochondria, absorb vitamins and minerals, and keep us satiated after a meal. Did you know that our brains are even made up of 60% fat! And oils are some of the best sources of fats that can support our overall health.

However, understanding which oils are healthy and which should be written off of your eating plan is important in creating a balanced diet. In this blog, we’ve reviewed the different types of fat, and which oils to choose or avoid next time you’re at the grocery store or cooking a meal.


Types of Fats

There are three main types of fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fats.

Saturated fats mean that the fat molecule—also called a triglyceride—is completely “saturated” with hydrogen molecules. In the picture below, you’ll see how saturated fat is full of H’s (hydrogens); this allows saturated fats to stack on top of each other and build up easily, causing things like plaque buildup in your arteries. Some of you may remember restaurants transitioning from saturated fat (lard, tallow) to all vegetable oils (corn, soybean) in an attempt to switch to a healthier source. How ironic this is – we all know that saturated fats like lard are less processed and much more stable for cooking or frying. The moral of this lesson is that overall, you only need saturated fats in moderation for health. If I could find a restaurant that serves fried chicken cooked in lard again, I would love to go splurge!

Unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds (=) where the molecule is not saturated with hydrogens. This creates a kink in what would otherwise be a continuous, stackable chain. These kinks created by the unsaturated areas keeps the fat from building up as saturated fat does; as such, unsaturated fats are generally a healthier choice than saturated!

Trans fats: Do you remember when Crisco shortening was a main ingredient in many of the recipes then? Trans fats are formed when unsaturated fats are refined in a process called partial hydrogenation; these are fake oils and should be avoided. Consumption of trans fats has been linked to increases in heart attacks, inflammation in the body, and blood cholesterol levels. The city of New York leading the way with the first ban on trans fats in restaurants has demonstrated improved public health and lower rates of hearts attacks and strokes. Way to go Big Apple!  


Healthy Oils

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to lowering LDL cholesterol and promoting heart health. Olive oil which hasn’t been processed with chemicals is called virgin olive oil, and the highest grade of virgin olive oil is called extra virgin olive oil.

Christine Palumbo, a registered dietician, explains, “[Extra-virgin olive oil] contains more than 30 different phenolic compounds, a group of phytochemicals that include many with anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-expanding actions.” Olive oil is perhaps the most common choice for healthy oil, and it’s a clear example of fat that will actually help your heart health. Unfortunately, not all olive oil is actually olive oil – there are many blends and fakes out there. When the world’s production of olive oil does NOT match what is being sold as ‘olive oil’, there’s plenty of reason for suspicion. We will highlight what to look for in olive oil in a later blog.

2. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is also teeming with monounsaturated fats and all the health benefits that come with them. This oil is especially unique because it retains its nutritional content at high and low temperatures; others, like olive oil, have a low smoke point, so the oil begins to break down sooner while cooking. Avocado oil is a great, neutral tasting option with high health benefits. I tend to use avocado oil for stir-frying as it’s more heat stable than olive oil. 

3. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats, which are also helpful for heart health! Research has reported that sesame oil has anti-inflammatory effects while also providing antioxidant support. Together, these properties help fight heart disease and plaque buildup in the arteries. Sesame oil has been a staple in Asian cooking for centuries, and is a heart-healthy addition to your own pantry. Keep in mind that sesame oil should only be used as a topping or a seasoning oil as it’s not heat stable for long-term cooking or frying.


Oils to Eat In Moderation or Avoid

Although we need fat in our diet for optimal health, there are some oils that we should only consume in moderation or avoid like the plague.  

1. Coconut Oil – Moderation

Coconut oil’s reputation has been up and down in recent years: some dieticians used to claim it was the best fat for your health because of its medium-chain-triglycerides, while others staunchly recommend against it for its high saturated fat content.

The research on coconut oil is mixed, with some studies pointing to it raising your HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), while other research shows that coconut oil might raise your LDL cholesterol (the artery-clogging bad stuff).

Because of its mixed reviews and high saturated fat content, the Cleveland Clinic and many others recommend you use coconut oil in moderation. I like coconut oil when making popcorn but due to the strong flavor, it’s usually reserved for a snack or a dessert dish.

2. Palm Oil – Moderation

Check the label of any jar of peanut butter and you’ll likely find palm oil listed; it’s a popular ingredient in many processed foods. With roughly a half and half makeup of saturated and unsaturated fats, palm oil isn’t as bad as some other options, as long as you’re not eating a lot of it. To me, the bigger issue is that extracting palm oil has been shown to have negative effects on the environment; the World Wildlife Fund reports that it increases deforestation and unethical working conditions. Opt for all natural peanut butter and avoid palm oil next time you’re at the grocery store. Read labels carefully because palm oil is hidden in a lot of snacks and otherwise healthy foods.

3. Vegetable Oils – Avoid

Vegetable oils include corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, rice bran oil, and rapeseed (Canola) oil.

New York Times best selling author and family physician Cate Shanahan, MD, notes how the high level of refinement needed for these oils in combination with their high content of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) makes them a poor choice. The refinement process makes the PUFAs more unstable, less nutrient dense, and more likely to lead to inflammation in the body.

Shanahan recommends opting for oils that are less refined and closer to whole foods, whether that might be a cold-pressed olive oil or avocado oil as mentioned earlier.

I love how fats give me energy throughout the day without needing to raid the fridge every several hours. It also gives me mental clarity. It’s necessary to have fat in your diet, and when you opt for healthy oils like olive, avocado, and sesame oil, your body and brain will thank you.  It may be time to clean out your cupboard and re-prioritize your vegetable oil shelf!

Let them eat cake? Merci, Non!

I listened to another great podcast featuring Dr. Steven Gundry, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and New York Times bestselling author of The Plant Paradox and Plant Paradox Cookbook

Dr. Gundry explains what sugar is, why it’s harmful and some options for substituting it.  

Here are the highlights:

  • The average American eats around 153 pounds of sugar a year which is the size of a baby giraffe!
  • There are multiple forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, lactose are all sugar molecules.
  • Table sugar is sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrups are ~45% glucose and 55% fructose.
  • Many studies have been conducted indicating that fructose is worse than glucose and is the culprit in causing a fatty liver and elevated cholesterol levels. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar is sugar.
  • Most people do not realize the effect that sugar has on the gut microbiome. Bad bacteria and fungal species like candida yeast thrive on sugar. Good bacteria prefer complex sugar molecules with fiber as it’s easier to ferment.
  • Gundry believes that rationing sugar and flour during WWII was one of the reasons why diabetes and heart disease plummeted around the world during that period.
  • When you grind up whole products like wheat into flour, your body more readily absorbs them; that is why the glycemic index of white flour (85) is higher than white table sugar (58)!
  • Sugar takes a toll on our immune system. Research conducted by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Laureate showed that any type of sugar consumption (including orange juice) suppresses white blood cell function by 70% for up to 6 hours.
  • Everyone knows about the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol BUT most cholesterol is manufactured in our body. And elevated cholesterol comes from sugar consumption. How? Sugar is converted into the first form of fat which is triglycerides (TG). TG in turn are carried by cholesterol. Hence, the more sugar you eat, the more TG you make and the higher your cholesterol level.
  • Gundry says that TG is one of the most important markers of coronary heart disease. And NO – having TG levels of 150 is NOT normal contrary to what the lab reference ranges indicate. You need TG levels of 40-50 to be optimal. Go get your TG checked!
  • Sugar is an incredibly addictive substance: Did you know that rats will choose sugar over cocaine if given a choice?
  • Why is getting off sugar so difficult? Because two-thirds of the human tongue’s surface is dedicated to tasting sweets and this was for survival reasons – to gain weight in the summer to store fat for the winter.
  • Gundry is not a fan of fruit either – modern fruit has been hybridized to be bigger and sweeter. And now fruit is available 365 days a year when it is meant to be eaten only in season
  • If you are eating fruit out of season, he recommends “reverse juicing”: buy organic fruit, juice it and throw away the juice! Just eat the pulp which has fiber and rich polyphenols and nutrients. You can mix the pulp in yogurts or put it in shakes.
  • Sugar is hiding everywhere – brown rice syrup, glucose, fructose, agave are all other words for sugar, so don’t be fooled by what’s on the label.
  • Here’s a shocking metric to see how much sugar you may be consuming in a serving:
    • Take the total carbohydrates per serving and subtract the fiber = number of net carbohydrates
    • 1 tsp of sugar has 4 grams of carbs
    • So a slice of bread with 21 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber (16g net) is like eating 4 tsps of table sugar! Making a sandwich? That’s 8 tsps!
  • It is best to retreat from sweets – sugar is hidden in products that don’t even taste sweet.
  • Here’s the skinny on sugar alternatives and why Dr. Gundry says you can have your cake and eat it too:
    • Sucralose (Splenda) is a must avoid. A study conducted at Duke University showed that one packet of Splenda killed 50% of the gut microbiome (the good kind)
    • Honey, coconut sugar, agave are all sugars. If substituting with honey, have only several teaspoons a day – and stick to local or Manuka honey
    • Allulose, monk fruit and stevia are good sweetener alternatives that do not spike glucose.
    • Allulose also contain prebiotic fiber which feeds the gut. Look for non-GMO allulose at the market or online.
    • Stevia is a good substitute but has some bitterness. You can try the Sweet Leaf brand Stevia which is blended with inulin (the sugar in chicory and a great prebiotic).
    • Yacon syrup is another option but has been known to raise triglyceride levels so best not to consume much

What I took away from this podcast? Remember Marie Antoinette’s famous quote: “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake”? I say neither!

Here is the podcast:

Let Food Be Thy Medicine – What I Eat (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1 of my blog, I try to live by Hippocrates’ famous quote: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. In the busy world we live in, all of this takes advance planning. Although I am known as the ultimate planner, I often use up all my planning points for work and family so I have to keep things simple when it comes to meals.

Here are some dinner ideas that are part of my regimen.

Dinner at Home

My dinner menus are on the simple side and rarely contain more than 8 ingredients. I know that spices are some of the best additives to create a superfood meal but I am pretty lazy so don’t work with many – probably on my list to improve!

Tofu Steaks

Here is my sister’s recipe for Asian-style tofu steaks. It’s a great meatless dinner option and delicious with a side salad.

  • 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (if using regular soy sauce, reduce to 1/8 cup)
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 TBSP honey or maple syrup 
  • 1 TBSP Worcester sauce
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste

Cut tofu lengthwise into four equal slabs and put into a baking dish or a bowl. Mix all the other ingredients to make the marinade and pour over tofu and let it sit for 30 minutes. Remove tofu from marinade and fry it in a greased hot pan (olive oil or avocado oil) for about 2-3 mins on each side until browned. Place on serving dish. Then add the marinade to the pan, heat until boiling and pour over the fried tofu steaks. You can garnish with scallions if you’d like.

Simple Salmon

This is so easy I can do it in my sleep. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. To salmon filets, sprinkle some olive oil and salt and add to a heated skillet (make sure it’s oven safe). Cook with skin side up (so it’s easier to flip in the oven) on stovetop for 2 minutes then put skillet in oven and bake 5 minutes per side. It’s crispy on the outside and delicious! Here’s another simple recipe that you may want to try that uses butter:

Cod, Sea Bass, Grouper or other white flaky fish

For each pound, make a mixture of 2 tablespoons of miso, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, dash of garlic powder, juice of half lemon, 2 TBSPs olive oil and some water to dilute. Marinate the fish in the mixture (you can do this overnight if you plan ahead) and throw in oven at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes (this will vary based on size of filet and thickness). If you want to make it a bit richer, you can top it off with a knob of butter towards the end.

Broccoli Salad

Buy bagged broccoli florets in produce aisle as they are similar in size and cook evenly. Steam (5-8 minutes) or boil (3-5 minutes) the broccoli florets, add some garlic powder, minced shallots (or red onion), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss together and it can be served warm or cold.

3-Bean Salad

You can use any three beans you like for this. I use chick peas, kidney, northern, limas or whatever I have in the house. To the three cans of beans (15 oz.), add ¼ cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp of oregano, ¼ cup chopped yellow/red pepper, ¼ cup chopped red onion (or green onion) and ¼ cup chopped celery.  Toss with white or red wine vinegar (1/8-1/4 cup), olive oil (1/2 cup) and then add salt to taste. This tastes better the longer it sits so you can make a big batch and have it throughout the week.

Kale Salad

I prefer to chop up my own kale as the bagged ones have too many stems which make it difficult to digest. To one bunch of kale de-stemmed and chopped, add ~¼ cup pomegranate seeds, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 TBSP red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Massage kale and dressing to release the pomegranate juice and soften the kale. You can top off with ¼ cup nuts (pine, walnut) or some pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Another simple dish to add to any protein source. To a bag/pound of brussels sprouts (cut in half and tops cut off), add ¼ cup olive oil, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tsp Rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake in 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until garlic and brussels sprouts are golden brown.

Collard Greens

These are widely available and easy to prepare. Wash one large bunch of collard greens, de-stem and chop into small pieces. In a stockpot,  add ½ cup of bacon or ham bits and cook with just enough water to get it browned. Throw in collard greens, ½ chopped onion, 1-2 cups of water and cook until soft. Add soy sauce to taste and finish off with some apple cider vinegar (~1/8 cup or to taste). We have collard greens in our garden that will NOT die no matter what the weather is or how much we neglect it so are enjoying them year-round.

Stir-Fried Zucchini/Squash or Mushrooms

This is a super easy side dish to add to any meal. Cut zucchini or yellow squash into rings and saute them in a tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter). Add salt to taste. You can do the same with mushrooms – the buttery goodness makes the veggies pop!

Sous Vide Chicken

Have you heard of the term sous vide? In French, it means “under vacuum” and in sous vide cooking, the food is sealed in an airtight container and submerged in a hot water bath. The temperature of the water bath determines the temperature of the food so it’s easy to cook foods without over or under cooking. Chicken is a perfect meat for sous vide as it cooks evenly without turning it into cardboard (especially chicken breasts). You will need to invest in a sous vide cooker which are widely available now.

To several chicken breasts or thighs, add salt, pepper, olive oil and whatever herbs you’d like (Herbs de Provence or Mrs. Dash). Mix well and put them in the sous vide bags. Immerse in water that’s come up to 145 degrees (for chicken). It should be done in around 2 hours but you can keep it on as it will not overcook. I usually start them sometime in the afternoon and it will often sit in the bath for 4 hours before I’m ready to make dinner. Take them out of the sous vide bag, put them on a pan and brown the skins on the broiler to get a nice crust.  Serve with the juice from the sous vide bag as gravy. 

Here’s a simple sous vide to buy.

And I only use re-usable silicone bags to minimize plastic contamination in the food.

Salad Dressing

This is my friend’s staple – she makes them in huge batches and gives them away as gifts in pretty bottles. It stores nicely in the fridge if you make more than you need.

To 2 TBSP of red wine or balsamic vinegar, add 1 TSP of Dijon mustard and ½ TSP salt. Whisk to dissolve the salt. Add 1 clove of finely minced garlic, and 6 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil and mix well. Black pepper can be added to taste. This dressing goes with any type of salad – arugula, spring greens, fennel, cabbage, radicchio, etc.

Dinner Out

  • Try to stay away from heavy sauces as it’s most likely laden with unhealthy fats and sugars (Chinese food is a big culprit). It’s difficult to know what’s in them and it’s likely no one will tell you.

  • It’s important to remember that food diversity is good for our gut. We are not designed to eat the same thing over and over. So when dining out, expand the variety by ordering foods that you wouldn’t normally have at home (especially the plant foods). For me, this includes lots of varieties of veggies and greens, pasta/bread (I rarely make this at home), fish of the day (I have a limited repertoire but restaurants offer more options), sushi, meats like lamb, duck or game. I actually enjoy cooking with game meats like venison but my meat supplier (my husband) hasn’t gone hunting in a while so off to a restaurant I go.    

5 Tips to Starting Off the New Year in a Healthy Fashion

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions every year until I realized that making promises at the beginning of the year which inevitably get broken within 90 days was not a sustainable habit. So, in light of the New Year, I’ll share some things you can do to take control of your health without a calendar to dictate your actions.

Cut the Carbs, Sugar & Bad Fats

One of the first things we can do is control what goes into our mouth. We as a society eat way too many carbs, sugar and bad fats. As you may be aware, chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity are all tied to our over-reliance on what has become the standard American diet. Have you noticed how having a high-carb/high-sugar meal makes you crave more snacks several hours later? These high-carb foods (breads, cereals, pastas, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cakes, pies) cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to incessant carb cravings thereafter. So, what to do after weeks of eggnog, wine (of course – alcohol is formed from sugar), grandma’s pumpkin pie and that holiday feast with turkey, stuffing, and mac and cheese?

First, reduce your carb and sugar intake. This does not mean you have to go on a ketogenic diet as moderation is key as you transition from all the holiday festivities.

  • Get most of your carbs from plant-based sources, primarily non-starchy vegetables like greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). You can add some fruit like apples and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets to up your carb intake but the key is to make greens and veggies the mainstay of your daily plate. And no need to count calories – eat until you are satisfied as these veggies are high in fiber and volume and low in calories. Also, eating a naturally fiber-rich diet will help with elimination and keep you ‘regular’.

  • Eliminate bad fats and add good ones.
    • Man-made fats that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils like margarine should be avoided like the plague. If nature intended for humans to consume them, they would be naturally available. Also, vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, grapeseed, peanut, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower) are HIGHLY processed and READILY oxidized when exposed to light, air or heat. Oxidized or ‘rancid’ oils are NOT healthy for humans so it’s best to avoid them.
    • Healthy fats should be added to the diet – it sounds counter-intuitive for losing weight but healthy fats are necessary building blocks for cell membranes and for keeping hormones in balance. Non-animal sources of fat include avocados, avocado oil, nuts and nut butters, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil. Animal sources include lard, grass-fed butter/ghee, grass-fed/wild-caught/pasture-raised meats and fish. 

Good Health Begins in the Gut

Good health = healthy gut = good intestinal bacteria. The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion micro-organisms and contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body. Recent studies suggest the role that the gut microbiome plays in regulating the risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer AND the importance of diet in altering the gut’s microbial composition. So to keep your gut flora healthy:

Manage stress levels as studies have shown that prolonged stress can negatively alter intestinal microbiota composition

Get Moving!

If you don’t have time to exercise, how about starting off with a daily 7-minute workout? This free app called 7M offers exercises for a variety of body parts and they are only 7 minutes long. They have options with weights or without so no need to invest in equipment to get going.

Here are two 7-minute high-intensity interval training workouts to try without downloading the app:

Take Time to Meditate/Reflect

You don’t need a 30-minute meditation or yoga practice to get your mindfulness quotient in. Upon waking, try a 5-minute breathing or meditation exercise. Here are a couple to try:

And before bed, try to reflect on the happenings of the day – what went well and what could be improved. This raises awareness of the positive things achieved in the day along with areas for improvement. Continuous improvement and learning is key to keeping us youthful and vibrant!

Practice Good Sleep Habits

And last but not least, establish a sleep rhythm that works for YOU as we all have different sleep clocks. I have tried to be an early riser (before 6:30am) SO many times but it’s not my optimal sleep clock and ends up making me more tired and run down. Against my better judgment, I woke up REALLY early (5:30am) over Thanksgiving holiday to go walking with my sister – although I got my steps in, I ended up with a head cold which lasted for weeks.

If you are an early morning person, you can do a lot of the important tasks early in the day. But if you’re like me and cannot get going until around 7am after a stiff cup of coffee, you may be more prone to get some productive work done well into the evening.

So, in addition to when you sleep, determine how much sleep you need to feel optimal – some feel fantastic after just six hours but if you’re like me, you will need at least 7-8 hours to survive the next day.

So, how about a New Year’s plan of consistency, moderation and steady improvement to keep you going and going? Happy Holidays!

Your Gut & Weight Loss Connection

Have you heard all the buzz lately about the role that your gut microbiome has on your weight? There’s an ever-growing body of research around this with plenty of evidence for the association between gut bacteria and obesity in both infants and adults. In fact, the microbial changes in your gut can be considered a factor involved in obesity development as modifications to the bacteria in the digestive tract can reshape the metabolic profile. So, if that has you thinking about popping bottles of probiotics or even a fecal transplant to lose that extra baggage, read on…

Awesome bacteria

We have many hundreds of different species of bacteria in our gut and while some are harmful and cause illness, most are necessary for human health. They produce vitamins (like vitamin K) and can help your body fight off invaders. They determine how the foods you eat are digested and can promote satiety. So, having a lot of varied, beneficial bacteria is clearly good for you. This study conducted on human twin subjects showed that the obese twin had lower bacterial diversity compared to the non-obese twin.

The bacteria in your gut can even impact how fats from foods are absorbed and stored in the body. I envision these bacteria running around my gut doing aerobics to burn off the dietary fat I consume so it’s not stored in my thighs.

Sharing awesome bacteria

I am definitely not advocating sharing any fecal matter with anybody (unless you absolutely need a transplant) but this research is part of a growing body of evidence that your gut CAN shape your weight. A fecal microbiota transplant, also known as a stool transplant, is the process of transferring fecal bacteria and other microbes from a healthy individual into another individual. FMT is an effective treatment for C. difficile infection. This study showed that the sharing of thin mice fecal matter prevented the development of increased body mass and obesity-related markers in obese mice mates.

So, how do we cultivate awesome bacteria? As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

  • Fiber

One of the reasons why the whole foods-based approach to eating is recommended is due to its high fiber content. So, it should come as no surprise that studies are showing that people eating a high fiber diet have lower weight. This is not just due to the fact that fiber lowers insulin levels and promotes satiety but also the role that the gut bacteria has in digesting that fiber. This review shows how fermentation of dietary fiber by gut microbiota leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate and acetate) which suppresses inflammation, carcinogenesis and maintains a healthy balance of the digestive tract.

Remember, processed food = no good fiber (cardboard has fiber but your gut won’t process it)

Whole food = good fiber

Eating a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables and fruits will keep the bacteria in your GI tract busy and happy and help you achieve a thin-person gut microbiome. 

If you feel like you need some help as no one has a perfect diet, you can try supplementing with probiotics. There are numerous studies done on various strains of probiotics and its impact on weight loss. Here are a couple for you to check out:

Strains containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have the most evidence for assisting with weight loss – here are ones that have been independently tested for strength and quality:



  • Flavonoids

Did you know that your gut likes to digest antioxidants commonly found in plants called flavonoids? And that studies have shown that flavonoids can prevent weight gain? Flavonoids are a class of compounds (with six different subtypes) that are rich in antioxidant activity to help ward off inflammation, rid toxins and keep you svelte.

Here is a list of foods rich in flavonoids:
  • Fruits – apples, all berries, peaches, grapefruit, lemons, limes, red and purple grapes
  • Vegetables – broccoli, kale, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, celery, red peppers
  • Herbs/tea – chamomile, parsley, peppermint, white/green/oolong/black tea
  • And don’t forget dark chocolate!