Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Do we “catch” obesity from our neighbors?

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we might “catch” obesity from our neighbors. Researchers focused on 1,300 Army parents and their 1,100 children who were stationed near 38 military bases across the U.S. The Army families relocated based on military requirements rather than personal preference.
Researchers found those families placed near military bases with higher obesity rates were more likely to be overweight or obese themselves. The opposite was also true; families placed near military bases with lower obesity rates reduced the likelihood of their family gaining weight.
Social norms have a large impact on behavior and attitude towards food and exercise habits. Without realizing it, we are often influenced by others around us. Other studies have shown a strong support system of friends and family who encourage healthy eating and exercise habits are powerful motivators for people working on lifestyle change. 
Unfortunately the opposite can be true too. Living in an environment where friends, family members, or coworkers have poor eating and exercise habits can easily rub off on the most well-intentioned person.
Food is a connector. It expresses care, warmth, love, and tradition. Finding the right balance between healthy food for nourishment and small treats for enjoyment is important for overall health. In any  environment staying mindful is helpful. I recommend planning out your week so you can anticipate where challenges might arise. If you go out to eat read the menu ahead of time and stick to the healthy choice you already planned on.
Be firm with food pushers that pressure “treats/cheats” you did not plan for. If they still insist, take a small portion and throw it away after they leave.
If certain friends always influence bad eating behavior find other ways to connect that do not involve food such as going to a concert, hiking, shopping, etc.
Lastly, be the catalyst for change. If everyone always brings junk to the party try something new and healthy. You might be surprised by the positive feedback it brings.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Feeding Fatigue

After a busy day of putting out fires, running around, and dealing with more stress than any one human should endure, how do you cope? Ever find yourself reaching for a cookie, pretzels, chocolate, or some other else!? In a moment of weakness it is so easy to give into temptation. Food  becomes our reward for getting through the day.

Our body is a machine. When we are busy we tend to neglect the most essential part, the power supply; also known as our brain. Our brain obtains power from glucose which comes from carbohydrates. Sufficient glucose supports willpower and sound decision making.

As you start the day you might have great willpower, resisting the urge to eat doughnuts at breakfast and treats around the office at lunch. But as the day progresses each act of resistance challenges your willpower. If you skip meals or go too long without eating your glucose levels can run low and your willpower weakens more, especially late in the day. This explains why people with exceptional willpower in other areas of life might still struggle with weight loss. In order not to eat junk a person needs willpower but in order to have willpower a person needs to eat. 

Fatigue is the biggest enemy when it comes to healthy eating. It increases activity in the brain that seeks out pleasure, while hindering brain function particularly in areas of impulse control and decision making. People who are fatigued or chronically sleep deprived eat more calories and more high-fat and high-sugar foods as a result.

In order to combat fatigue and keep your power supply running strong you need to eat the right food at the right time. Maintaining stable blood glucose will support strong willpower and help you avoid temptations from morning to night.

Start by eating breakfast within 2 hours of waking up. Plan for a mid-morning snack 2-3 hours after breakfast if you wake up early, otherwise aim for lunch about 4 hours after breakfast. Many hours can span between lunch and dinner so a mid-afternoon snack is very important. Eat enough calories early in the day when you are most active. Aim for 2/3 of your calories before dinner, including complex sources of carbohydrates to fuel your brain such as fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.