The new year is finally here and if you’re like most people, you are really ready for a change. The past few months of holiday frenzy and celebration have most likely left you feeling sluggish, rundown, and well, not your best. Furthermore, you’ve probably been thinking about transformations you’d like to see in your own life. Dr. Mary Wendt says that the new year is the perfect time to take charge of your health and diet so you can lose weight, feel great and thrive. How can you achieve this optimal level of health and energy? By swapping out your meat and dairy products for healthy and delicious plant-based foods. In short—by going vegan, or at least mostly vegan.
“Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself,” says Dr. Mary Wendt, founder of www.getwaisted.com and author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life (Get Waisted) (Volume 1) (Doctor Doctor Press, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-49749246-2, $14.95). “Meat and dairy contain inflammatory proteins and excess saturated fat. Getting rid of these artery-clogging foods frees up your plate so you can enjoy more vitamin and mineral rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”
Wendt, who eats a plant-based diet herself, says that right now—the beginning of the new year—is the best time give up (or cut way back on) meat and dairy. And don’t worry! This kind of change is very doable and best of all it promotes sustainable weight loss; vegans tend to be thinner, fitter and more energetic than their meat eating counterparts. Talk about a winning resolution!
Once you make the decision to remove meat and dairy from your diet, you are well on your way to achieving better health and hopefully dropping a few spare pounds for good. But first you have to actually make this drastic change happen—and that can seem very daunting indeed to lifelong carnivores. Don’t worry, says Dr. Wendt: Going vegan (or near-vegan if you can’t quite commit) is much less difficult than you likely imagine. Making a transformation to a plant-based diet can be an empowering (even joyful!) event. Below is a step-by-step guide that will help you make your transition with ease.
Do a 24-hour food recall. First, get an accurate idea of how much meat you’re currently eating. Instead of keeping a food log (which you’re prone to forget about after Meal One), do a 24-hour food recall. Write down everything you ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and drinks for the past 24 hours. For many people, seeing a typical day’s diet in black and white is eye-opening.
“Even if you don’t think you eat much meat, consider the World Health Organization’s recommendations,” Dr. Wendt instructs. “Just 50 grams of processed meat, or a little less than 2 ounces daily, increases your risks. Bacon or sausage for breakfast, plus a deli sandwich at lunch, might put you well over 50 grams—and that’s not even counting supper!”
Stop thinking of meat as the main event. Unless you grew up in a vegetarian or vegan household, chances are you were raised to think of meat as the main dish and everything else as “sides.” Dr. Wendt says it can be helpful to mentally switch these designations.
“Consider meat a condiment that you can sprinkle over beans, whole grains, or vegetables, rather than the main dish,” she recommends. “For instance, you might crumble a small amount of chorizo into your vegetable soup or top your salad with a pinch or two of bacon bits.”
Get over your fear of carbs, too. Are you afraid that stepping away from meat will inevitably lead to more carb consumption…and then to more body fat? This is a common concern, but Dr. Wendt promises that it’s unfounded.
“There’s much more to a plant-based diet than bread, rice, and pasta,” she points out. “A balanced plate includes fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, and more. And anyway, not all carbs are bad. You do want to stay away from simple carbohydrates (like those found in white bread and white rice), which are easily broken down by the body and quickly converted to fat—without leaving you satisfied. However, complex carbohydrates (like those found in whole grain products) will fill you up without filling you out.”
Take the transition slowly. There’s nothing pleasant about quitting your favorite meats cold turkey (pun intended)—and anyway, this strategy is unlikely to be successful in the long run. If you’re currently a committed carnivore, start by eliminating meat from just one meal a day. After a few weeks, you can move on to having meat only once per day—and after that, to one or more meatless days each week.
“No matter what kind of dietary change you’re making, the key to lasting success is sustainability,” says Dr. Wendt. “A slow, gradual transition gives your body and palate plenty of time to get used to more plant-based options and keeps you from feeling restricted and dissatisfied.”
Stretch your culinary muscles. As you cut back on the amount of meat you eat, you’ll want to add new plant-based recipes to your kitchen repertoire. (Sorry—eating more chips, French fries, candy, and other meatless junk food won’t do your health many favors in the long run.) Also, variety is important both for nutrition and your new diet’s sustainability.
“Fortunately, finding recipes and learning new cooking techniques has never been easier thanks to sites like Pinterest and Epicurious, plant-based food blogs, YouTube tutorials, and more,” notes Dr. Wendt. “If you don’t want to spend time searching and prefer a more customized approach, my Get Waisted program gives you access to thousands of curated plant-based recipes.”
Look for satisfying substitutions. Instead of telling yourself, I can’t eat that, ask, How can I make it healthier? Your quest to eat less meat (or even go meat-free) won’t feel like a sacrifice if you can find a plant-based way to replicate the flavors and dishes you’ve always loved.
“Before I cut meat out of my diet, I used to love making—and eating—Vietnamese pork bundles,” shares Dr. Wendt. “I mourned their loss for four whole years before I had the idea to substitute pinto beans for the pork. Turns out their creamy goodness, and even their coloring, mimics ground pork reasonably well. And bonus: Beans are consistently linked to high productivity and longevity. By choosing a bean over meat, I had not only found a way to extend my life, I was improving its quality, too.
“The point is, you don’t have to look for an all-new repertoire of meatless recipes—just get creative when preparing your old favorites,” she continues. “In addition to subbing beans for meat, give meat-replacers like tofu, portobello mushrooms, lentils, and eggplant a second (or first) chance.”
Start the day off right. Many of us view cured meats like bacon, sausage, and ham as a breakfast staple. We may even have thought we were doing ourselves a favor by avoiding sugary cereals and carbs. But based on the WHO’s recent report that processed meats are linked to cancer, it’s wise to bid a (perhaps tearful) farewell to these old meaty favorites—or at least enjoy them on a more limited basis.
“Don’t skip breakfast altogether if your old go-to option is off the table,” Dr. Wendt warns. “This meal is a great place to start incorporating plant-based substitutions. You can try vegetarian and vegan sausages and bacon if you prefer to start the day off on a savory note. Personally, I was surprised by how close to the original many of these copycats are. And don’t forget options like oatmeal, fruit smoothies, and whole grain breads and cereals. All of these are healthy, and once again, will fill you up without filling you out.”
Harness the power of association. If you really want to get serious about saying no to meat, go on the offensive by associating something very yummy with something even more yucky. Every time you bite off a piece of bacon, for instance, picture a mouthful of chemical-laden smog. When you’re craving a hot dog, conjure up a mental vision of a sludgy, disgusting landfill.
“During my own transition, I was frequently assailed by cravings for barbecue,” Dr. Wendt recalls. “So when I smelled or just started fantasizing about this dish, I would think about dirt. Sometimes I’d even picture a little pig on a factory farm, living his life in a crate, never getting a breath of fresh air and never knowing what it felt like to stick his nose in some nice mud. This tactic worked amazingly well!”
Consider what makes cents. Face it: Many types and cuts of meat are expensive! In fact,over 20 percent of the average American grocery bill is spent on meat (and meat prices arecontinuing to rise). So if you’re motivated by a good deal, you may find it helpful to remind yourself of the money you’re saving by choosing plant-based options.
“You might object that fresh produce and other non-processed foods can also be pricey—and I hear you!” Dr. Wendt acknowledges. “However, if you’re no longer funneling one-fifth or more of your grocery budget toward meat, you’ll have a lot more to spend on these items. Plus, alternate sources of protein—beans and grains—are very inexpensive compared to animal proteins.
“Also, remember that the cost savings aren’t limited to what’s (not) on your plate,” she adds. “For instance, many of my patients find that they spend less on cosmetics because a plant-based diet improves their hair and skin. And, of course, by eating nutritiously, you’re avoiding piles of medical bills in the future.”
Find some friends to share the journey. It’s a lot easier to make healthy transitions when you’re working toward your goal with friends, old or new. Don’t underestimate the power of support, encouragement, and commiseration.
“If you can’t get your family on board with a reduced-meat or no-meat diet, maybe you can swap plant-based meal plans with a good friend or team up with a coworker to make sure the break room is stocked with healthy lunch and snack options,” Dr. Wendt suggests.
“This is a great time to start making lasting changes that will improve your whole life,” concludes Wendt. “You can begin a new, healthier chapter of your life today, with no distractions or excuses weighing you down. It is my hope that the prospect of a more fit and healthy ‘you’ is inspiration enough to reclaim your health using the undeniable power of plant-based foods.”
About the Author:
Mary R. Wendt, MD, is the founder of Get Waisted and the author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life (Get Waisted) (Volume 1). She is an expert on making the transition to plant-based nutrition and has 20 years of experience practicing internal medicine in private and hospital practice. When she’s not eating rice and beans from Chipotle, she’s searching for the latest healthy choices available all over New York City. To learn more, please visit www.getwaisted.com.
About the Book:
Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life (Get Waisted) (Volume 1)
(Doctor Doctor Press, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-49749246-2, $14.95) is available from Amazon and other online retailers.
Canada’s long, dark winter brings with it the blahs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for many, however a Canadian doctor is looking to the sunshine vitamin to aid those suffering.
Seasonal depression or “SAD” is a mental condition that develops in some individuals who do not receive enough natural light. Shorter winter days makes Canadians more at risk of the disorder, which can lead to symptoms of decreased energy to difficulty concentrating to feelings of anxiety and despair, among others.
According to Dr. Samantha Kimball, Scientific Advisor for the Vitamin D Society, vitamin D levels change when the seasons do and low times of vitamin D match periods of depression in SAD patients. In her research she has found that increasing vitamin D intake can help reduce the symptoms of patients suffering from SAD.
“SAD is a complex disorder for which there are many contributing factors, however biological evidence suggests that vitamin D can help fight the symptoms in several ways,” said Dr. Kimball. “Vitamin D, which is naturally generated in the body by sunlight and can be replenished through supplements, or artificial UVB, modulates the immune system and reduces inflammation, which is related with depression.”
In some individuals, vitamin D can help prevent the symptoms of SAD and the winter blues by keeping your body and mind in better shape. In addition to helping the immune system, vitamin D can also positively affect mood by influencing areas of the brain where happiness and other moods are regulated. Vitamin D also helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, assisting with better sleep patterns.
For Canadians looking to decrease their chances of developing SAD, Dr. Kimball, and the Vitamin D Society recommend reaching an optimal blood level of vitamin D between 100-150 nmol/L. This may require daily supplementation of 4,000 IU or more for adults.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that up to three percent of Canadians may suffer from SAD and shift workers and urban dwellers who may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments may be at a higher risk.
Dr. Kimball however does warn that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to combating SAD with just vitamin D.
“While low vitamin D levels have been reported for people with depression and vitamin D has been demonstrated to reduce the symptoms of SAD, due to the complexity of SAD etiology, not everyone will respond to vitamin D treatment,” said Dr. Kimball.
The Vitamin D Society urges all Canadians to have their vitamin D levels checked by their physicians through a simple blood test to ensure they aren’t deficient. Get your test score and compare to the level scientists recommend.
To learn more about vitamin D please visit www.vitamindsociety.org.
About the Vitamin D Society:
The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage people to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually; and help fund valuable vitamin D research. The Vitamin D Society recommends people achieve and maintain optimal 25(OH)D blood levels between 100 – 150 nmol/L (Can) or 40-60 ng/ml (USA).
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with all kinds of fattening foods, and making healthy choices this time of year can be especially tough. Here, fitness, nutrition, and weight loss expert Warren Honeycutt provides a few tips to help you avoid overindulging this holiday season.
One of the undisputed highlights of the holiday season is the food. (Oh, the food!) From savory main courses to sugar-laden desserts—and even special adult beverages—we’re surrounded by treats that we look forward to all year long. But before you rush headlong into the holly-jolly minefield stretching from Thanksgiving dinner all the way through the cocktail parties, potlucks, and restaurant outings that lead into 2016, ask yourself this: Do I want to look sleek and sexy on New Year’s Eve…or do I want to show up on Facebook looking like a stuffed turkey in a (not so) little black dress?
Of course you don’t want to start your New Year’s weight-loss resolution behind the eight ball. And Warren Honeycutt says the good news is you don’t have to spend the next few months’ festivities moping by the veggie tray. Having your fruitcake and eating it too is just a matter of balance and sustainability.
“We tend to use celebrations as a free pass to (over)eat poorly—and this time of year, the calendar is full of excuses to indulge!” says Honeycutt, author of Get Lean For Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss (Get Honeycutt, Inc., 2014, ISBN: 978-1-5008011-7-5, $19.95, www.getlean.guru). “Fortunately, there’s an alternative to being a gastronomical Grinch: eating healthfully in a way that doesn’t feel like deprivation and that you can sustain over the entire season.
“But if you don’t do some planning and strategizing in advance, you’ll never avoid holiday weight gain,” he adds. “Your default party persona will kick in, and your good intentions will be toast.”
A respected expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, Honeycutt knows what works and what doesn’t. He is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications. Honeycutt offers personalized fitness training through his comprehensive Get Lean program, which features detailed fitness videos for exercising at the gym, at home, at the office, and while traveling; personalized meal plans; motivational material; and more.
Here are 10 of Honeycutt’s tips to help you say, “Bah, humbug!” to holiday weight gain:
Fill up before you go out. Yes, it’s something of a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: It works. When faced with a buffet table loaded down with tempting choices, it’s all too easy to mindlessly graze until, before you know it, you’ve gorged yourself full of empty calories. Preparing a healthy meal or snack for yourself before you leave will curb your appetite and keep you from filling up on unhealthy party food.
“The worst time to be hungry is at a gathering loaded with junk food,” Honeycutt comments. “If you’ve had something nutritious to eat beforehand, you won’t give that fattening snack table a second (okay, maybe third) glance.”
Don’t go straight for the food. Yes, that buffet table looks amazing…but it’s not the only thing worth your attention at this party. Make the rounds and say hello to your friends before grabbing a plate. Find the host and thank him for inviting you. Sit down with your nieces and nephews and ask them what they hope Santa will bring this year.
“When you’re in the middle of an enjoyable interaction with someone else, you might forget all about eating for 15 minutes, or half an hour, or more!” Honeycutt says. “Nourishing your relationships with the people you love can be even more satisfying than nourishing your body.”
Limit yourself to one plate—but make it one GREAT plate. Making healthy choices is not just about what you eat, but also how much you eat. (Honeycutt challenges you to research recommended portion sizes for your favorite foods. You’ll probably be shocked!) Learning how to limit your portions (especially at a holiday party where unhealthy foods are so plentiful) is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. A good first step is resolving to eat only one plate of food—but make that one plate count.
“Scope out the entire buffet line before going through it and put only the dishes you reallywant to eat on your plate,” Honeycutt recommends. “If you’re still hungry later on, you can always make yourself something at home. When you feel lean and refreshed the next morning, rather than bloated and groggy, you’ll be glad you stopped before dipping seconds or thirds.”
Take your time and savor the flavor. It’s a natural inclination to eat quickly when you’re hungry—and that impulse is heightened when you’re in a party atmosphere with other fun activities you’d like to participate in. But Honeycutt reminds that it takes around 15 to 20 minutes for the brain to realize that the stomach is full—so enjoy your meal slowly.
“Taking the time to savor your food lets you realize when you’ve had enough, and it also enhances the entire experience,” he comments. “You’ll be surprised at how much more you enjoy eating your favorite seasonal treats when you take it slowly.”
Give the veggie tray a fair shake. As Honeycutt has mentioned, you don’t have to limit yourself to carrot sticks and cucumbers, but if you do spot fruits or veggies among the cookies, meatballs, and cheese cubes, put a few of these healthier options on your plate. They’ll fill up space that (be honest) would otherwise be piled up with high-calorie fare.
“It’s okay to partake in some of the more decadent offerings available—it is a party, after all—but do your best to find a healthy balance,” he advises. “Good health is about doing the right thing most of the time.”
Take it easy on the toasts. Whether it’s alcohol or sugary soft drinks—or worse, alcohol and sugary soft drinks—what you drink at a holiday celebration can sabotage a healthy diet just as quickly as what you eat. Everyone knows that sodas are packed with sugar and can wreak havoc on teeth and waistlines alike, Honeycutt says, but sometimes we tend to conveniently forget that alcohol can also be a major culprit in weight gain.
“Alcohol contains lots of empty calories, slows down the metabolism, and can weaken inhibition, which can then lead to overeating (and possibly some other embarrassing behaviors),” he reminds. “Since you’re at a party, you may not want to go the teetotaler route—and that’s fine!—but does every drink have to be spiked eggnog? I suggest replacing at least every other drink with water. This strategy will keep you hydrated and save you the many unwanted side effects of alcohol.”
Use the buddy system. As with many things in life, making healthy choices is easier when you don’t have to go it alone. Ask a friend or spouse to help you stay on track if your willpower starts to waver.
“If you can convince someone else to party healthy with you, you won’t feel like you’re the only one missing out—and the two of you can remind one another of why you want to make smart choices,” Honeycutt comments. “Remember, it’s not about deprivation—it’s about making healthy decisions you can maintain for life.”
Sneak healthier recipes into your celebrations. If you’ll be hosting a holiday celebration or attending a potluck, prepare a dish that uses healthier but still satisfying ingredients. For instance, instead of using bread stuffing (which might have as many as 358 calories per cup), prepare an equally tasty pan of homemade cornbread stuffing with mushrooms, sage, and parsley—at only 95 calories per cup. The Internet is full of more healthy substitutions, and Honeycutt’s own Get Lean program offers dozens of appetizing, healthy recipes by registered dietitians.
“Also, be aware that home-cooked dishes are often healthier than pre-prepared store-bought options—so plan ahead and create holiday staples from scratch,” Honeycutt advises. “In your own kitchen, it’s easy to make healthy alterations to your favorite recipes, like using olive oil instead of butter. And definitely take advantage of all the fresh fruits and vegetables you can find. For instance, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and several kinds of squash are all in season this time of year.”
Save your weight loss goals for the new year. Sure, you might have “only” 10 or 15 more pounds to lose before you reach your goal weight, but let’s be honest: This time of year isn’t exactly known for its salads. Since low-calorie options might be even less plentiful than usual—and high-calorie treats will definitely be tempting you at every turn—be realistic and resolve to simply maintain your current weight.
“The fact is, the holidays are probably the hardest time of year to lose weight,” Honeycutt confirms. “If you can make it to New Year’s without adding any new pounds, consider that a win. You can resume chasing that goal weight on January 1st. And bonus—a weight maintenance strategy (as opposed to weight loss) will give you room to selectively sample your favorite seasonal dishes.”
If, despite your best intentions, you still lose control, cut yourself some slack. If you do happen to overeat at a celebration with a particularly tempting spread, remember that it’s not the end of the world. One mistake won’t ruin a healthy lifestyle unless you allow it to. (Just don’t overdo it at every gathering this holiday season.)
“Everyone slips up from time to time,” Honeycutt confirms. “Whatever the circumstances are, it’s important to understand that tomorrow really is another day. You can’t change the past, but you have full control over the future—so when you’ve slipped up, direct your mental energy to planning your next meal or workout instead of dwelling on your mistakes. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend. Encourage the most important person in your life…YOU!”
“Pick one or two of these strategies to focus on—or enter the holiday season armed with all of them,” Honeycutt concludes. “Once you realize that sticking to healthy behaviors isn’t the massive lifestyle change you imagine it to be, getting lean will become second nature. With a few simple changes, you can have a happier, healthier holiday season—and overall lifestyle. That’s really something to celebrate!”
About the Author:
Warren Honeycutt is the author of Get Lean For Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss. An expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications and a physique that is the envy of most 25-year-olds.
Along with his partner, Soraya Bittencourt, Honeycutt is the co-founder of Get Honeycutt, Inc. This company supports Get Lean, a comprehensive weight loss and fitness program featuring personalized fitness routines, menus designed by registered dietitians, instructional videos, and motivational support.
A popular speaker on fitness and nutrition topics, Honeycutt’s expertise has been featured by NBC, CBS, ABC, LifeExtension, A Second Look at Sports, LiveStrong, Live Relentless, and more.
To learn more, please visit www.getlean.guru.
Some forecasters believe the next big healthy living trend — beyond kale — will be discovered outside of the produce aisle and on retail shelves where magnesium product sales are double-digit booming. A report by Nielsen Perishables Group (March 30, 2015, The Packer) shows that sales of magnesium-rich kale, while still impressive, have softened in 2015. By comparison, consumers are increasingly reaching for magnesium products to supplement their diets, creating a noticeable growth spurt for retailers.
According to a recent ConsumerLab.com survey of 10,000 supplement users, magnesium is now the most popular mineral supplement, posting a relative growth of 13 percent in 2014, the largest increase among the major supplements.
“Magnesium does the one thing everyone wants. It helps us reduce stress and the resulting physiological impacts: constipation, headaches, muscle aches, and trouble sleeping. So, it is no wonder that consumers and practitioners alike are looking to get their daily dose of magnesium,” said Ashley Koff, R.D., and co-author of Mom Energy (Hay House, 2012).
Recent data from SPINS, a company that analyzes consumer trends in the natural products sector, reveals further proof of magnesium’s popularity: The No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 top-selling dietary supplement products in the natural channel today are all magnesium-based products manufactured by Austin-based Natural Vitality. The company’s Natural Calm line of products, formulated to restore healthy magnesium levels, is a blend of ionic magnesium citrate, organic fruit flavorings and stevia, and is vegan, gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified.
“Magnesium is one essential mineral with a veritable buffet of proven health benefits,” said Ken Whitman, Natural Vitality’s president and co-owner. “Like the superfood kale, magnesium is a ‘supermineral.’ Consumers trust it to work. This is why Natural Calm is enjoying continued growth.”
Growing awareness of magnesium deficiency in the population is another driver for this essential mineral’s trend-worthy rise in more mainstream acceptance. According to a 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, at least half of the U.S. population had inadequate intakes of magnesium.
“In terms of the need of magnesium in the body, a hundred years ago we were getting 500 milligrams of natural magnesium in our food supply from rich soil. Now, we’re getting about 100 milligrams,” said Dr. Carol Dean, M.D., N.D.
Magnesium is vital in more than 600 enzymatic chemical reactions in the body. Most notably, magnesium is responsible for nervous system balance, bone integrity, heart health, blood sugar control, energy production and proper bowel functioning. For more information and third-party peer-reviewed research on magnesium, visit the Nutritional Magnesium Association website.
About Natural Vitality
Austin-based Natural Vitality (NV) is a purpose-driven company committed to healthier and happier living. Owned and operated by partners Ken and Susan Whitman, and Justin and Shila Farmer, NV has developed a line of best-selling, research-backed supplements formulated to produce noticeable results. The company is the publisher of the award-winning Organic Connections online journal and believes that real, lasting health requires the creation of a sustainable environment and food system. For the past nine years NV has had the No. 1 selling magnesium supplement product in natural grocery stores: Natural Calm – The Anti-Stress Drink. For information on magnesium’s health benefits, visit www.naturalvitality.com.