Ah, the New Year! A clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning—365 days of possibilities. Are you one of those folks who sets a slew of New Year’s Resolutions, including losing weight, only to find yourself unable to live up to those very high expectations?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 29, 2022 body positive, body positivity, fad diets, health coach, healthy eating, healthy food, Intermittent fasting, keto diet, ketogenic diet, new years resolution, new years resolutions, resolutions, weight loss, weight management0 comments
Back when I taught fitness classes at various gyms, my classes would be PACKED in January with those dewy-eyed resolutioners who were determined to make a plethora of changes in a very short time. By the end of February, my classes would be back to regular sizes with my tried and true students who were glad things were getting back to normal.
As a Health Coach, I am not a fan of the grandiose expectations attached to the start of a new year. And here is why—we are programmed to revert to our existing habits when life starts to get busy, complicated, or difficult. Instead, I would encourage you as I encourage my clients, to take small, actionable steps that will eventually lead you to create new and healthier habits.
Take a marathon runner for example, they don’t wake up and decide to run 26 miles the first day. Instead, they slowly build up their body’s ability to handle both the physical and the mental aspect of running for an extended period of time. This is the beauty of challenging yourself to take baby steps toward your health and life goals. Just like a house needs a solid foundation to build upon, so does your health.
Let’s be honest, most people can lose weight fairly easily. Fad diets are popular because they are relatively successful in the weight loss aspect! But when you take a deeper look at some of the most popular ones at the moment such as Keto, Paleo, or Intermittent Fasting, you’ll find the issues lie within the principles of the plan.
Take Keto, where at the beginning of the plan you may experience flu-like symptoms as your body starts to adjust to the extreme changes to your diet. Or intermittent fasting where there are basically no parameters to what you eat, only when you can eat.
When attempting these diets, ask yourself these two questions, 1. Can I sustain this for the rest of my life? and 2. What am I learning? This isn’t to say that folks don’t have success on these plans, but it is something to consider when thinking through what you are willing to sacrifice on your journey to lifelong health. If I am being honest with myself, I could never commit to a plan where I will never eat Christmas cookies or birthday cake again. And Keto fat bomb versions of these are not something I am willing to substitute.
This is the beauty of working with a health coach, I am the voice of reason in the swirling vortex that is the health and wellness industry. And I will hold you accountable for the choices you are making while encouraging you along your path to whole health.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 10, 2022 anti-inflammatory diet, anxiety, depression, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, gut health, gut health and mental health, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, mental health, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
In more recent years, studies have been emerging that focus on the possible connection between gut health and mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. The microbiome makes up all microorganisms in the human body. The microbiota encompasses all the microorganisms in a particular location, such as the GI tract. These together are developed while in the womb. During this time, early nutrition can play a role in shaping the developing gut microbiota. This helps with the development of various healthy bacteria.
The Science Behind Gut Health and Mental Health
As solid foods are introduced to infants, the microbiome is exposed to many different energy substrates, creating and developing our metabolism along with new variations of bacteria that make up the gut. It is difficult to determine what a normal microbiome consists of given the environmental, seasonal, and health status of an individual. Although, what we eat can determine what type of bacteria are predominantly present. This can also be directly linked to inflammation of the GI tract, placing stress on the microbiome. This can result in the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. Elevated blood levels of these pro-inflammatory markers increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Their release influences brain function, leading to anxiety and depression.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines are also important stimulators of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). The hypothalamus releases various hormones, one in which stimulates the adrenal release of cortisol, a known stress hormone. Cortisol stimulates a pro-inflammatory response, leading to a dysregulation of the HPA axis, resulting in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When the human microbiome is challenged with dietary changes, coupled by stress, or maybe a course of antibiotics, the physiology of the normal microbiome changes. When there is a loss of beneficial bacteria, this can trigger a pro-inflammatory response and weaken the intestine. This can lead to increased intestinal permeability and allow bacteria to leak through, leading to detrimental effects on our bodies, which can be demonstrated in diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Probiotics, living microorganisms of yeast and bacteria, have been utilized as supplements for aiding in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Primarily, they have been studied in the suppression of cytokines, noting improved intestinal barrier integrity. This promotes a decrease in inflammatory response. As a result, adding a probiotic to your daily regimen could help reduce pro-inflammatory hormones, especially in individuals suffering from chronic inflammation.
Although, there is no FDA regulation pertaining specifically to probiotics, and ultimately, no dosage recommendations. Until more research behind the use of probiotics as therapy for anxiety and depressive disorders is available, probiotics cannot be considered a reliable treatment method as compared to psychiatric medications.
When it comes to diet, various components in food can help reduce inflammation. Consider foods that are high in fiber, omega-3s found in fish, oils, and leafy greens, polyphenols (plant chemicals) found in fruits such as berries, and unsaturated fats found in almonds and flaxseeds. All of these foods can be incorporated into your daily diet to help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut and microbiota!
- Yogurt: containing live bacteria cultures, yogurt can help support a healthy gut by keeping the microbiome healthy. The probiotics in yogurt can help reduce inflammation and symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Many yogurt varieties contain added sugar, so look for plain options and add your own flavoring with fruit, nuts, and seeds to avoid excess sugar intake.
- Fermented foods like Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are rich in probiotics. The good bacteria grow during the fermentation process. Add fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Packed full of vitamins like A, K and magnesium, dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, and collards, are crucial for brain function and gut health. Swiss chard is a great example of a food that is loaded with fiber, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, preventing inflammation.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids also support brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods containing fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and support healthy digestion. This can help you feel less bloated and sluggish.
- Healthy Grains: Whole grain foods, such as oatmeal and bulgar wheat, are high in fiber, which plays an important role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. This helps restore a potential imbalance to the gut that can happen when blood sugar levels are challenged. Most whole grain products contain beneficial prebiotics that help increase healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome.
- Berries: Berries are rich in antioxidants, which can help keep your gut healthy by reducing inflammation. They are also a great source of prebiotics, which promotes healthy gut motility. One of the highest vitamin C foods, which can improve the gut barrier and enhance nutrient absorption.
Get Started with Gut Health Nutrition Counseling
Call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below to get started with Nutrition Counseling. Nutrition Counseling is covered by Insurance.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 29, 2022 body positive, body positivity, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, weight management0 comments
In more recent years, society has progressed towards a body positive mindset, inclusivity and loving your body at any size. In turn, the question surrounding food and nutrition is transitioning to “what can my body do,” instead of a detrimental focus on the number on a scale. With this shift, the focus on nutrition and a weight management mindset of restriction is also changing.
Read on for 4 Dietitian-Recommended Ways to Help You Achieve Body Positive Weight Management:
- Utilize other measures of success. For those individuals above a healthy weight, losing weight can improve overall health, reduce risk of certain chronic diseases, and lengthen lifespan. While weight loss is a good thing for most individuals, abandoning body positivity in the process can only hinder your self-esteem and motivation. Utilizing other measures of success, such as energy levels, mindfulness and awareness, and sleep quality, can all provide a positive outlook on the journey to being the best version of yourself.
- Focus on how foods can benefit your body. Allowing one-self to shift and focus on a more positive mindset surrounding how foods can benefit your body by providing energy, satiety, fullness, and completeness can help increase overall self-awareness. This means a focus on whole, complete foods that can create well-rounded meals. For example, think of lean proteins for satiety, high fibrous foods for fullness, and bright colored vegetables that are a good source of both fiber and vitamins/minerals. Think “how can I make my meals better?” Utilizing the foods and meals that you enjoy, think how they can be enhanced with flavorful, nutrient-dense foods that add satiety and fullness, and help your body and mind feel better.
- Honor your hunger and fullness cues. Utilizing fullness sensations and hunger cues to guide eating versus the mindset of restriction can also help create a positive mindset. By focusing on “how do these foods make me feel,” this will help to create an emphasis on what my body can do versus the need to restrict certain foods. It can also help reduce stress eating. Prolonged stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Elevated cortisol levels can lead your body to deposit fat in the midsection. This increase in fat in the belly is shown to increase risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Cortisol can also enhance cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods by making them taste better. Practicing stress-reducing techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply allowing yourself to sit in a quiet space, can all help to calm our bodies down and reduce those cortisol levels.
- Identify stressors to help reduce negative thoughts and improve mental health. Reducing stress, and viewing foods as beneficial additions to help your body be the best it can be for you, can improve your overall mental and physical health. Body positivity is about eating well, creating movement that you can do, and being honest about your needs in the moment.
Get Started with Body Positive Weight Management and Nutrition Counseling
Call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below to get started with Nutrition Counseling. Nutrition Counseling is covered by Insurance.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 18, 2022 dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, keto diet, ketogenic diet, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
When it comes to healthy eating, we all have questions to ask a dietitian—conflicting information is everywhere. Our Registered Dietitian answers some common questions about diet and nutrition.
Q: Is vegetarian (or keto, or…) the best way to eat?
A: There’s not one best way to eat. We are all unique, and some individuals may have various medical conditions that play a role in the way we fuel our bodies and the food choices we make. The best plan for you is that one that meets your medical and nutritional needs. And one that is enjoyable, accessible, and something you are able to stick with for the long term. By meeting with a registered dietitian, they can help you navigate and understand the best possible plan for you.
Q: How many glasses of water should I consume daily?
A: Staying hydrated is very important for many reasons related to our bodily functions, such as maintaining a normal body temperature and removing waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. So it is essential to make sure we are consuming enough water throughout the day. Consider your thirst sensation as being the best indicator that you need to drink. Make sure to keep beverages visible so you remember to take a sip throughout the day. Although there is not a static number of ounces for everyone, aim to consume water with each meal and snack.
Q: Is food labeled “organic” more nutritious?
A: There are a plethora of marketing claims on products all throughout the grocery stores and markets. When a product or food is labeled as “organic”, this is referring to the method of farming, not the nutritional value of the product. An organic logo does not reflect the nutritional contents of the food, such as calories, fat, salt, or sugar. Nutritious foods, whether conventionally or organically grown, are those that provide a good source of fiber, protein, and are low in salt and saturated fat.
Q: Should I avoid fruit because it has too much sugar?
A: The number one source of added sugar for Americans in their diet is from sweetened beverages, such as soda and energy drinks. Fruit provides about 1% of the added sugars individuals consume. Of note, health advice to limit “added sugar” does not apply to the natural sugar in fruit. Even if Americans consumed the recommended daily amount of 1-2 cups per day, it wouldn’t come close to the volume of sugar from ultra-processed foods and beverages. Bottomline, keep enjoying fruit, especially those with skins and seeds, as these are great sources of fiber.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic or Keto diet for short is a buzzword now, but it’s not new! Decades ago, it was used primarily to treat epilepsy in children whose seizures were uncontrolled. Research found that those with epilepsy had fewer seizures when in a state of ketosis vs. being glucose dependent. Today, there are many more applications for this diet that show promise to continue researching for more potential benefits. But, let’s take a deeper dive into what being in ketosis really means!
Being in ketosis means that the primary fuel source in the diet is fat, instead of carbohydrates. When you become fat adapted and burn fat over glucose, the body makes byproducts called ketones which the brain used for fuel. This spares glucose, the primary fuel source for the red blood cells, endocrine system and muscles. Traditionally, carbs make up 45-65% of our daily intake, protein makes up 10-35% and fat makes up 20-35%. On the keto diet, one might be consuming as much as 70% fat, 20% protein with a mere 10% coming from carbohydrates. One a standard 2,000 calorie diet that is only 50 grams coming from carbohydrates. A very strict approach to this diet might allow only 20 grams of carbohydrates, while a more moderate approach may allow between 40-60 grams depending on goals and taking into account each individuals therapeutic need.
So, what are some reasons to pursue a very low carbohydrate diet like this? Evidence is suggesting that the ketogenic diet is a great way to spark weight loss. Since it’s very low carbohydrate, this keeps insulin (our fat storage hormone) low. This means that fat stores can be unlocked and used for fuel. Additionally, prevention and improvement of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease have been seen with high fat diets. The brain seems to do very well when using ketones for fuel instead of glucose. These applications are very relevant for Americans today, as neurodegenerative diseases and obesity are on the rise. Maybe even more important, are the applications for cancer. Cancer cells love sugar (glucose). Starving the cancer cells on a ketogenic diet shows promise in slowing cancer progression.
One drawback to the keto diet is that it is usually low in fiber since fiber is found in carbohydrate rich foods. GI issues like constipation, cramping or acid reflux may occur. One way around this is to count only net carbohydrates. That is, total carbohydrates minus the total fiber. This is usually a more moderate approach, but still confers the benefits of a traditional diet and keeps carbohydrate intake low.
The long term effects of the ketogenic diet are still being studied, but it shows much promise for short term use. Pregnant or nursing women, those with gallbladder disease or insulin dependent diabetics should use caution and discuss with their health care or dietary professional before implementing and keto changes into their diet.
If you want to learn more about this diet, book an appointment with Liz or check out “The Keto Diet”, a great comprehensive read on those curious about whether a high fat diet might be right for them. Remember that every body is different and diets should be tailored to what works best for your health and wellness goals.
Here is an example of the satiating kinds of meal plan a person can enjoy on the Keto Diet!
For breakfast you might have scrambled eggs and add in heavy cream, chives, and up to 4 slices of your favorite nitrate free bacon. With so much dense nourishment, you will hardly notice that you skipped the bread!
For lunch, put your favorite protein on a bed of baby salad greens, add a vinegar or cream based dressing.
For dinner: Go all out with a generously cut Ribeye that can be enjoyed with mushroom cream sauce and several ounces of broccoli.
Health and Wellness,
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDNLearn More