OH, THAT FEAR OF FAT!

In the good ole days, if you were up a few pounds, all you needed to do was cut calories and, voila, the weight would come off. This method worked every time. Then, one day it stopped working. HOW COME? 

Well, let’s just add this to the list of the “cons of aging”. I’m seeing this happen more and more with my clients over fifty, where cutting calories no longer promotes weight loss. This leads to A LOT of frustration. The solution?  Instead of cutting calories, you need to reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar and add healthy fat.

As you age, you can become more sensitive to carbohydrates. This sensitivity starts a domino effect: Too much sugar leads to chronic inflammation; chronic inflammation can lead to becoming insulin resistant; both of these factors prevent you from losing weight because you become much more efficient at storing fat.

Here’s something fascinating: When I encourage my clients to add more healthy fat to their diets, most of them BLANCH at the idea. I can even see the fear and panic through their masks! This is probably because we came of age in the “low-fat era”. We were told that fat was bad.  Product after product proudly displayed “low-fat” or “fat-free” disclaimers. To make lower fat foods taste good, food companies had to add sugar for palatability. In spite of the low-fat craze, Americans got fatter. Even though we now understand that sugar is the real culprit, we still carry that emotional fear of fat.

Healthy fats are unsaturated. Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), come from plant sources, and stay liquid at room temperature. They are not only an essential part of your diet, but have more than 2x the calories compared to protein and carbohydrates. That’s why fat is filling! This means that a little bit of fat goes a long way. Unsaturated fats can be found in in nuts, nut butter, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish. These are the fats that I want you to eat. AND, I don’t want you to be afraid to eat them.

I want to give you a couple of examples of what I’m taking about.

Example 1: Let’s say you love to eat 2 slices of whole wheat toast for breakfast with ¼ of an avocado. I would much prefer, 1 slice of toast and ½ of an avocado.

Example 2: Your favorite breakfast is ¾ cup of oats for oatmeal served with 1 cup of blueberries and sprinkled with brown sugar. I would prefer, ½ cup of oats, ½ cup of blueberries, ¼ cup of chopped nuts and sprinkled with chia seeds.

Notice–in both of these examples, I cut down the carbs and added healthy fat. Often, when I make these suggestions, the first question I hear is, “Isn’t this just too fattening?” The answer is no. If you are trying to lose weight and are stuck, you need to reduce those carbs. Adding healthy fat will increase satiety and satisfaction.

I am not suggesting for you to have a fat “free for all”. Remember—fat is calorically dense so you must watch your portions. If you’re used to using a “shmear” of peanut butter on a slice of toast, but feel hungry soon after, do an experiment:  try using a portion size, which is 2 tablespoons. You might be surprised at how this fills you up. In addition, the protein and the fat in the peanut butter will slow down the absorption of the carbs in the bread.

We all know that eating carbs leads to eating more carbs and wanting more. That’s why fat is so fabulous—fat doesn’t cause a rise in the hormone, insulin.

One last detour: I want to mention Weight Watchers, because most women I know (including me) have been on Weight Watchers at some point in their lives. Weight Watchers, in essence, counts calories via points. I know it has morphed over the years, but I think Weight Watchers has contributed to the “fear of fat”.  I still hear, “That’s just too many points”, when I suggest getting an extremely high-quality olive oil and using more than a teaspoon on a salad.  Many of my clients over fifty find that Weight Watchers no longer works for them. Again, it’s not a calorie issue, it’s what those calories are made out of.

So, between the low-fat era, and Weight Watchers we are paralyzed to add fat. I say, let’s stop the madness!  If you are stuck and unable to lose weight, try an experiment: Cut the processed carbs. Add some healthy fat. Initially, measure a serving size of fat so you understand how much you’re eating. You might be very surprised at the results!

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MAPLE-ROASTED SQUASH WITH SAGE AND LIME FOR TWO

I have not tried this recipe yet, but will make it for my small Thanksgiving of four people. This week, The New York Times Food Section was filled with recipes and suggestions for smaller gatherings. I happen to LOVE Melissa Clark’s recipes so I’m excited for this one!

ingredients

3 tablespoons maple syrup

Large pinch of ground cayenne or chile powder

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Large pinch of coriander seeds

1 pound winter squash, such as dumpling, delicata or butternut, halved, seeded and sliced into ½ -inch thick (you don’t have to peel it)

Fresh lime juice, for serving

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves, for serving

directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees. If you like, line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or foil. (It’s not necessary but will prove helpful when cleaning up.)

In a small pot over medium-high heat, combine maple syrup and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook until it reduces by a third, 1 to 3 minutes. Add butter and let it melt. Turn off heat and mix in salt, pepper and coriander.

Spread the squash out on the pan and spoon maple mixture over the pieces, turning them to coat. Roast until the pieces begin to soften, 15 minutes. Turn the squash pieces over and roast until glazed and tender, 10 to 20 minutes more. Drizzle lime juice and scatter sage leaves over the top for serving.

(recipe found on https://cooking.nytimes.com/)

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ELECTION 2020: A TRAINER’S TAKEAWAY

Well, we all made it through the election and we’re still standing!

Putting politics aside, I am so impressed with the record-breaking millions and millions of Americans (on both sides), who came out to vote!  In the middle of a pandemic, both grassroots movements and established entities needed to come up with a different plan. And they did! I live in NY State and this was the very first time that we were allowed to vote early in a presidential election. Obtaining an absentee ballot was also, very easy. While I voted on election day, many friends and clients waited on line for hours, while others mailed in their ballots. In all cases, people were motivated to make their voices heard. This happened all across the country and it left me feeling incredibly inspired.

If we look at the country as a whole, we can say with certainty that the country made it happen for itself. Just look at those voting numbers! We can now do the same on a much smaller scale. Take a breath and pause to see how you can make things happen for yourself. Don’t wait until January 1, 2021 to set a “resolution”, that you can make right now. If you’re exercise regimen has gone out the window in the pandemic, push yourself to try an on-line zoom class; reach out to the nutritionist you’ve been wanting to contact; create a support system with a friend to keep you on-track for consistent walking or healthier eating; commit to being persistent with drinking more water, or stretching, or drinking less alcohol, or reducing sugar. The time is now!

On a personal note, most of you know how much I HATE the winter and despise the cold weather.  Yes, I have a bad attitude about it, which never serves me well. Every year, when the weather gets chilly, I sadly put my bike away and say goodbye to it until the spring. This year I said, “NO!”, and vowed to change my attitude. For the first time, I adopted the philosophy of Billy Connolly, who said “There’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.” So, I invested in some warm bike clothing and have been out for rides on VERY chilly days. I will ride as long as I can, and appreciate each and every ride where I push myself to get out and do it. You can do the same!

Thanks to all of you Americans, who inspired me!

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ROAST CHICKEN LEGS WITH LOTS OF GARLIC

Oh my goodness is this delicious. Cooking at lower temps and for longer makes the chicken fall off the bone A wonderful fall dish! 

ingredientsdownload-1.jpg

4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2½ lb. total)

Kosher salt

4 heads of garlic, halved crosswise

1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed

1 red chile (such as Fresno), quartered lengthwise, seeds removed if desired

3 bay leaves or 5 sprigs thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Place chicken in an 13×9″ baking dish and season generously all over with salt. Add garlic, lemon, chile, bay leaves, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour in oil and toss everything to coat. Turn garlic heads cut side down so they are in contact with the baking dish (this will help them brown).

Roast chicken, rotating pan once, until meat is almost falling off the bone, 75–90 minutes. Let chicken cool in pan 10 minutes.

(adapted from a recipe found on https://www.bonappetit.com/)

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WHEN IT COMES TO “HEALTHY”, DON’T ASSUME!

We all know the expression, “When you assume you make an ASS out of U and ME.” As human beings, we naturally look at each other and make immediately judgments—it’s just the way that we’re wired.

Let’s imagine two, 55-year-old women. The first woman is very thin, has virtually no muscle mass, has elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, has low bone density and poor cardiorespiratory fitness. (She doesn’t exercise.) The second woman is 25 lbs overweight, is muscular, has a perfect lipid profile, low blood pressure, strong bones, and runs 20 miles a week.

Here’s the irony: When we look at the first woman, we naturally ASSUME that she’s healthy.  Likewise, we ASSUME that the “chubby runner” surely can’t be—not with the way she looks. Over the past 17 years I have worked out with a lot of people and I can assure you that being healthy and fit comes in all sizes and shapes.

I’m not saying that being overweight is a good thing. In fact, if you are overweight, losing 5-7% of your body weight can lead to great health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. However, I NEVER want weight loss to be achieved through dieting, since diets don’t work. It can be achieved, though, by making long-lasting lifestyle changes.

Several years ago, I popped into my local hardware store to pick something up right before I was going to teach one of my fitness classes. A lanky, 50-ish year-old man helped me.  Right before I left I jokingly asked, “So, are you going to come to my exercise class now?” He looked me straight in the eye, ran his hands down his body in swooping gesture and said, “Does it LOOK like I need to exercise?” He ASSUMED that because he was thin, exercise wasn’t necessary. This is a very dangerous assumption.

Bottom line: There are plenty of VERY unhealthy, thin people walking around. Don’t obsess over THIN. Instead, do your best to focus on being HEALTHY. That means, try to eat as much food that comes from the ground, move your body as much as possible, get plenty of sleep, reduce processed foods from your diet, lift weights, drink water, stretch, talk to yourself with kindness, find a hobby that makes you happy, learn something new, connect with people, breathe deeply, find your sense of spirituality, read a good book or watch a good documentary. All of these contribute to good health. And whatever you do, don’t assume!

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