Posts filed under ‘Be Better’

Should We All Be Gluten Free? (But It’s So Hard!!)

Yesterday I explained how Celiac is just the beginning of the gluten conversation, hardly the end. I also discussed how our conventional model of testing is barely skimming the surface of those of us with gluten issues as it’s catching only 1 in 8 people reacting to gluten. (More on better testing at www.cyrexlabs.com)

But let’s say you’ve done some gluten testing and you appear, on paper, to be in the clear. Whew!

Should you still avoid it? Maybe.

In this article I’ll explain why we all may want to at least minimize gluten, how tough is it to avoid, why you can’t really be “almost” gluten free and why you may be more reactive to gluten now than you were before.

First, our food supply is a mess. Wheat is one grain that is very “modified genetically” (although it does not meet the criteria to be considered genetically modified, aka GMO) in our country. (With most grains and all of our soy being modified, picture me now fist shaking in the air cursing, “Monsanto!”) While it’s not technically “GMO” our adulterated gluten has been genetically spliced and diced enough that it fires up our tummies and our T cells. Our immune system doesn’t like this new gluten much, so whether it’s GMO or not is sorta 6 of one, half dozen of the other….but at the end of the day, this modified gluten is largely to blame for the rash of gluten reactivity we’re seeing today.

The wheat/gluten we’re eating today is not what our parents ate and certainly not what our grandparents ate – and also not what our counterparts in Europe are eating. Our homegrown American gluten is a completely foreign molecule that our bodies, namely our immune systems, have never dealt with evolutionarily. Just like when we shake hands with our friend who has a cold and our immune system sees that virus and launches the attack, it does the same with our modern gluten.

This GMO issue makes gluten unarguably an inflammatory food in general, for us all, positive gluten testing or not.

And here’s a few more ways gluten is firing up our immune system, causing inflammation and generally being naughty:

In order to make gluten mix well with other ingredients, food manufacturers deaminate it. This chemical process makes the gluten molecules water soluble in order to make processed, packaged foods. However, this also creates a molecule that is much more reactive than plain gluten or gliadin (see my post yesterday for a graphic showing how wheat becomes gluten and gliadin, etc).

We grow and farm massive amounts of wheat and it’s stored in large bins for long periods of time, allowing mold to act on it and create little immune aggravators called enterotoxins.

Many of us have “intestinal permeability”, aka a “leaky gut”. A leaky gut is due to inflammation in the gut that has caused a bit of swelling in the cells of our intestines, damaging the junctions between the cells allowing larger proteins to get through. Normally only small things pass through such as a single amino acid, a vitamin, or a molecule of glucose. When these larger proteins end up in our blood stream, our immune system sees them, gets all wound up and here comes the inflammation baby!

We can get a leaky gut from years of a bad diet, various medications, having hypothyroidism, being under high stress, eating foods that we are sensitive to, taking antibiotics or doing anything that disrupts the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut. Many of us have poor digestion including low stomach acid production (either inherently or we take acid lowering medications such as TUMS or Zantac) or low enzyme output to digest our food (we need different enzymes to breakdown fats, proteins and carbohydrates). Any of these can disrupt the healthy gut bacteria in our intestines or cause inflammation (leading to the leaky gut issue) making us more intolerant to foods (think to back when we were young and could “eat anything” and now there are various foods that give us mild to significant digestive distress).

Ok, back to the question: if gluten is inflammatory and I could have any number of issues listed above, should I stop eating it? Is gluten inherently just bad?

Well inflammation is bad and we know this genetically modified Franken-Gluten is causing inflammation so yeah, it’s bad. Is it terribly bad for everyone? Not necessarily.

If your immune system is healthy and your gut is healthy and you don’t have a lot of other inflammation in your body, you’ll do OK vs. someone who is struggling with any of those things. For those of you lucky ones, I’d say going totally gluten free is probably not necessary but I’d still discourage anyone from eating several servings of gluten per day. Always focus on more vegetables and fruit vs. grain based carbohydrates. Think sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, fruits and legumes vs. breads, pastas, rice, etc.

However, if you have an autoimmune disorder, a thyroid condition, PCOS, digestive trouble, depression, anxiety, mood issues, acne or are struggling to get pregnant, my advice is to avoid it.

Not sold? Give it up for 45 days at least. The skies may not part and the heavens may not open up, but many of your symptoms may clear up. If they don’t add it back in and see if you feel any different.

Is It Hard To Be Gluten Free?

At first, yes. But after you’ve done it for a while, at times, still yes. It can be tough if you don’t plan ahead , you will find yourself in restaurants   awkwardly ordering some off the menu concoction, you will have friends and family give you a hard time for eating “so weird”. But it does get easier and if you feel better, look better, have more energy, are less depressed and losing weight, then it’s worth it.

And the question on everyone’s mind: is Dr Brooke gluten free? Yes. I wouldn’t ask any of my patients to do something I was unwilling to do myself or didn’t think was that important. And knowing all of the info I’ve just shared with you in the past two blogs, how could I not be? And how could I feed this food to my family?

Do I like being gluten free? Well I like feeling better – gluten makes me tired, cranky, irritable and depressed – although my gut doesn’t react at all. But no, I don’t like it all of the time. I have been very hungry in an airport when I’ve forgotten to pack snacks for myself, I’ve been sad perusing a menu seeing how limited my options are and I’ve never tasted the delicious looking chocolate croissants at my favorite Park Slope coffee shop. I can live without bread or pasta but I do miss the occasional beer, but hey, that’s life! No sense dwelling on the downsides of it and feeling restricted, that just makes it all so exhausting and depressing. I’d rather focus on all the literally thousands of foods I can eat. Feeling badly and knowing I’m damaging my body just isn’t worth the few minutes of yum I’ll have from that buttery, flaky croissant. What’s more, most of the gluten containing foods are simple carbs that wreak havoc weight loss – one more reason to avoid them.

One of my patients put it best last week when asked if she felt deprived not being able to eat gluten.  She brilliantly replied, “No! I felt deprived before when I had lower energy, worse allergies and funky digestion.” It’s all in our perspective.

Can You Make Yourself Sensitive to Gluten?

How about this conundrum: I used to eat gluten with little ill effects, avoided it and now when I eat it I feel like a truck hit me! Did I make myself allergic to it?? No, not really.

If we eat a food that we are even mildly reactive to on a daily basis our immune system just plain gets tired and depleted. When we take it out for a while and the antibodies have time to replenish, they are ready to rock when they see that food again and your reaction is quicker and seems more severe. This will not get better, the longer you avoid something you are sensitive to more often the more significant your reaction will be. (Unless the issue was due solely to a leaky gut, in this case fixing the leaky gut issue should remedy the sensitivity…but there are often multiple factors at play.)

Does this mean, to save yourself a nasty reaction you should dose yourself every day? Definitely not! This just tells you that you’ve done the right thing by cutting this food out of your daily diet. And remember, even if your symptoms seem slight such as a “little tummy ache” or just a bit of bleeding gums when you have gluten, you are reacting and it is a stress on your body and your immune system.

Can’t commit? Can you go “almost gluten free”?
If you are not someone with an autoimmune disorder or the conditions I mentioned above, don’t have significant symptoms when you eat it but still are a bit warry of this ubiquitous protein, can you just eat it on occasion? Sure. But if you do have any autoimmunity, hypothyroidism, PCOS, etc then remember this scary fact: the inflammatory reaction created from a bite as small as a crouton lasts for 3-6 months . Having a bite here and there really doesn’t let your immune system recover. That said, less is better than more so if the best you can do is minimize it, then at least do that. Like I always say: if you can’t do everything, don’t not do anything….at least do something!

So for my final trick, I’ll answer the aggravating question: Why when I ditched the gluten, I didn’t lose any weight!! What gives????  Tune in tomorrow for 7 Reasons Why You Didn’t Lose Weight Going Gluten Free. See you soon!

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August 7, 2012 at 9:18 am 6 comments

The 9 Ways You Could Be Reacting To Gluten – None of Which Have Anything To Do With Celiac

With many a Hollywood starlet going gluten free as of late, including the stir caused by Miss Miley Cyrus’s gluten free fueled weight loss, this little grain based protein is grabbing everyone’s attention. Seems right now everyone from Paleo to Vegan is talking about gluten.

This “gluten free craze”, as its being called, is not new although it’s been gaining popularity the past few years. Gluten has been on the radar of natural health practitioners and nutritionists for a long time. So, why now all the fuss?

I’ve been meaning to write an article on this subject for awhile but due to my practice growing so quickly and of course my new job as mommy, my blogging has sadly gone by the wayside. But with both the mainstream media and many of my most revered nutrition and fitness peeps lately saying the gluten free lifestyle is nothing but “trendy”, I wanted to lay this out in greater detail so you can see it’s anything but a fad.

The gluten talk often turns to whether or not you have Celiac Disease (an autoimmune condition where you attack the enzyme that digests gluten in your intestines and can have antibodies to the alpha gliadin component of wheat causing destruction of the microvilli – hairlike projections on the intestines where absorption of nutrients takes place).

But let’s look closer at gluten and how it’s broken down and how Celiac disease is actually just one small facet of the gluten problem. Gluten (from the Latin word for “glue”) is the composite of two proteins called gliadin and glutenin. These exist, joined with starch, notably in wheat, rye, and barley – and most of our packaged foods, sauces, and the list goes on. Here’s how we go from wheat to gluten to gliadin and several other nasties that I’ll explain in a bit:

Not so simple as alpha gliadin huh? Here’s where the advice we hear from Dr Oz to the top fitness magazines to many a blog leads us astray. That advice being: if you do not have Celiac then you don’t need to worry about gluten. Oh my word! This is this not even the beginning of the story, let alone the end.

What’s worse, our current screening for Celiac and gluten reactivity misses 1 in 8 people with gluten issues. Surprised? Confused?

Let’s first talk about the many, many flaws with our conventional testing for gluten allergies and sensitivities (among the tests that deem you Celiac or not) and then I’ll get to how those various breakdown products of gluten cause problems for so many people – yes, even those without Celiac. Bear with me here comes some science…

To be screened for Celiac, the first testing your doc will do includes a couple of antibody tests: alpha gliadin (which is just one form of gliadin) and tissue transglutaminase (an enzyme you make in your intestines that digests gluten). Sometimes an antibody called anti-endomysium is included as well. A positive on any one of these will likely yield an “avoid gluten” recommendation from your MD, however this is not in and of itself diagnostic of Celiac. An intestinal biopsy that shows erosion and flattening of your “villi” is the gold standard for diagnosis of Celiac Disease. So literally, your tissue needs to be damage to a certain extent before we label it “Celiac”.

There are a couple major issues with this blood testing we use to say yah or nah to gluten. First, you MUST be eating gluten/wheat in order for these tests to be accurate. If the antigen, the protein (in this case alpha gliadin), is not around, the antibodies we’re looking for in your blood might not be there in high enough numbers to catch on testing. If you’ve been avoiding wheat and gluten for a while you could geat a false negative. Furthermore, you have to have a healthy immune system for these tests to be really accurate and if you have autoimmune disease (most of which have some level of gluten intolerance as a component) such as Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, etc, or are under a lot of stress, your immune system may not have the strength to show enough of these antibodies for us to pick it up. And perhaps the biggest issue is that our conventional testing screens for reactions to alpha gliadin only, but here’s the bigger picture one more time:

There are alpha, beta, gamma and omega gliadins…and you could be reactive to any of the four forms.

Or you could be reactive to deaminated gliadin. Deamination is something that’s done to make the protein water soluble so it can be mixed with other components to make packaged foods. The reaction to deaminated gliaden is much stronger than regular gliadin. There are three of types of deaminated gliadin (15, 17 and 33) and you guessed it, you could react to any of them.

Or you could be reactive to gluteomorphins (a byproduct of us digesting the gluten protein). Morphin like morphine, reacts on opioid receptors in your brain and literally gives you a high. The people reacting in this fashion are those that tear up in my office when we discuss going off gluten – they are truly addicted. This group also can feel worse when they come off gluten because their brain is missing that fix, more on this later. (FYI: there are caseomorphins found in dairy as well. Tough for you to lose the milk moustache? This mechanism may be at play.)

Or you could be reacting to glutenin (remember that gluten is made up of gliadin and glutenin) and this isn’t tested for conventionally either.

Or finally you could be reacting to wheat germ agglutinin, which is not a gluten reaction but more of a “wheat sensitivity” to the lectin portion of wheat germ.

So when we focus on “Celiac” and we look at testing for alpha gliadin and tissue transmaminase, can you see just how much we’re missing? And how a negative test from our doc can give us a false sense of security as we continue to eat gluten?

And want to know how we’re missing even more people who are reactive to gluten? Usually what gets you tested is complaining to your doc about some sort of digestive trouble (although some autoimmune patients are screened, as well as those having immediate family relatives with Celiac). However, gluten reactivity in the scientific literature is being categorized, not as a digestive issue but as a neurological one. Huh??

Consider this 2002 article from the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry: patients with enteropathy (erosion of the small intestines due to gluten) represent only 1/3 of patients with neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity.

Yikes! That means 2/3 of us – over half – that have some sort of reactivity to gluten do not have digestive symptoms! We’re getting missed entirely. Reactions can be depression, neuropathies, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, infertility, female hormone imbalances, acne, etc. The gluten issue extends well beyond the gut, so notion that we are in the clear if we don’t have Celiac is simply not accurate.

This isn’t just the ramblings of gluten-phobic Dr Brooke – who by the way, is descendant of a long line of wheat farmers! (I doubt they are reading this blog though. My grandfather’s response to

The road leading to my Grandpa Steve’s farm in Montana.

a computer is “I don’t watch that thing.”) For at least 15 years, medical journals have been talking about how we’re missing the boat by focusing on Celiac, alpha gliadin and digestion symptoms only.

In 1999, the British Medical Journal stated that we are catching only about 12.5% of reactive gluten patients by diagnosing those with overt Celiac – the teeny, tiny, tip of the ice berg, so to speak. The journal Gut in 2006 said that, “For every symptomatic patient with Celiac disease there are 8 patients with no gastrointestinal symptoms”. This means we’re missing 7 of 8 people reacting somehow to gluten with our current model of testing.

If you’ve lost all confidence that you’ll get any sort of reliable gluten testing, rest assured there is now a test that will screen for reactions to all of the gluten reactivity I’ve discussed. Visit http://www.cyrexlabs.com and inquire about Array 3.

Not able to get adequate testing – or don’t want to? You have another option: you can always eliminate gluten and see if you feel better. But note that you have to eliminate it completely and usually for 4-6 weeks or until your symptoms are gone. Then you introduce it back and see how you do. If you feel better off gluten, listen to that! You’re body doesn’t lie. Most of us ignore the signals our body sends us every day, if your body does better off this inflammatory food go with it – testing or not!

But let’s face it, even with a positive test on the Cadillac of panels from Cyrex Labs, many people simply do not want to give up gluten. It’s in most of our favorite comfort foods and nearly all of our packaged, widely available, convenience foods.

I had a patient that I saw off and on for nearly a year and her weight just wouldn’t budge. She had horrible acid reflux that even with Nexxium, was so bad it affected her sleep and her workouts. When in a prone positions (face down), like for a push up, she had so much reflux she couldn’t finish a set. She had eczema, a few bouts of skin cancer, her stomach ached every time she put food in it, and no matter what we did the scale just wouldn’t budge.

Her doc had tested her for alpha gliadin and assured her that gluten wasn’t a problem for her. My suggestion to skip her beloved morning bagel was a very hard sell. Finally she agreed to a 30 day trail elimination. In that month she lost 15 pounds, eczema was gone, had zero heartburn and no reflux. She had no pain with eating and more energy than she’d had in years. At the end of the 30 days she said, “Yeah this has really worked wonders and I’ve never felt better…but it’s just too hard to avoid. I can’t do this forever.” So she’s back on bagels, back to being overweight and back to burning pain every time she eats. She’s also had another bout of skin cancer – and she was only 30 years old. Ay yi yi…..

Is gluten inherently evil? No, but our modern genetically modified gluten has proven to be a trouble maker for a whole lot of folks and there is mounting evidence that it makes a host of conditions worse – such as autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. And I don’t want to downplay Celiac Disease – it is a very real condition and an obvious reason to avoid gluten containing foods. But hopefully I’ve illustrated that Celiac patients are not the only ones that should consider living the gluten free life.

Who else should give up gluten? Tune in tomorrow for the answer! And up next after that: 7 reasons why, unlike Miley, you didn’t lose weight when you went gluten free.

Questions? Post them here or email me at drbrooke@betterbydrbrooke.com. Looking for tasty, you’ll-never-miss-it, gluten free recipes? Keep up with me on my Facebook page!

August 6, 2012 at 9:18 am 10 comments

The Only New Years Resolution You Should Keep

It’s that time of year where we swear off sugar, vow to be a regular at the gym and announce to friends and family our grand plans to get into tip top shape. It’s that time of year we are right back where we started last January.

Very few of us are setting a get in shape or get healthy goal for the first time. We stand at the precipice of the New Year and declare that “this year is THE YEAR!” And we mean it. We believe it. We have every intention of pulling it off. We don’t set out to fail, but we often do. Should we just say “screw it”? Decide we can just live with this body as is? Accept that this is as good as it gets? Nope. Wanting to be healthy, and let’s be honest: wanting to be hot, is not the problem. The problem is often the bigness of our grand plan.

The goal is big: transform our sluggish selves into the fit, lean, vibrant, energetic, sexy person we’ve always wished we could be. A big goal like that needs a big plan: giving up sugar, alcohol and carbs; working out 6 or more times per week; signing up to run a race or other event; giving up our Friday night drinks with friends; and learning to say no to all your cravings and bad ol’ habits.

It’s tough – but that’s what it takes. We have to be overwhelmed, do a complete overhaul, make sweeping changes.

Right?

Sometimes an abrupt shift is just what we need….but sometimes, most of the time actually, we need to take a slower, more steady approach.  Just look at your gym this week, it’s packed with new faces. Then look again in March or April – it will soon back to the same crowd that was there in December, save a few new converts.  So the big, grand New Year’s resolution to lose weight doesn’t work so well.

But this doesn’t mean we are doomed to feel badly about our bodies and that we’ll never make the kinds of changes that give us the look and health we want, it means we need to change our plan about how to get it. Take a little of the bigness out of it.  

So what’s the only resolution you need to keep? It’s not to never have dessert or never miss a workout. It’s simple, sustainable and will give you quick and lasting results.  Dying to know? It will surprise you: simply do better than you did yesterday.

Today shouldn’t be so hard right? After days of holiday cookies and too much champagne last night, choose a big salad with protein for dinner tonight and take a walk. Today? It’s already better than yesterday. Then the next day, do a little more.  Go grocery shopping for the week and cook more meals in than dining out.  Hit the gym. Then do a little more. Look into a new class, go “more” organic, or drink more water.

Just keep doing better every day, bit by bit and come this time next year you’ll be loving your fit, healthy body; be a regular at your gym; and have mastered 100s of new healthy habits.  

You don’t have to be perfect every day. You just need to be better.

This year, simply resolve to be better. Be better today than you were yesterday.

For tips, recipes, motivation, and more be sure to follow BETTER by Dr Brooke on Facebook! Gonna be an amazing year!

January 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm 1 comment

Your Body Is A Chemistry Lab – Today’s Lesson: Methylation

Standing in the aisles of your local health food store or shopping on a any number of websites, it’s easy to be daunted by what supplements you should take. Next to fish oil, methylating nutrients make the top of my list for good health on many levels. But what the heck does it mean to be methylating?

Technically, methylation is the subtracting or adding of a “methyl group” (one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) to some other molecule – like a protein or DNA.  This process is going on all the time in your body and it’s crucial to you staying in optimal health. It’s often been said in functional medicine circles that “if you don’t methylate well, you aren’t well”.

Serotonin, for example needs to be methylated in order become active – without this process your serotonin will be low and you may feel depressed or have trouble sleeping. A compound called homocystine needs to be methylated in order to regenerate the important amino acid methionine – failure to do so is dangerous for cardiovascular health.  Adrenaline must be methylated in order to get out of your system so that you can “wind down” – lacking methylation here could leave you anxious or wide awake come bed time.  These are just a few of the scads of methylation reactions happening right now that are keeping inflammation down, detoxification running smoothly, hormone metabolism up to par and your mood on even keel. Know this: if you support methylation your entire body will benefit.

With nearly every system in your body affected by this chemical reaction, your mood, PMS, sleep quality and mood will all be better when it’s clipping along smoothly. Consider supporting this system with:  B vitamins (particularly B12, B6, and folic acid), trimethyl-glycine (also known as betaine) and SAMe.

Wondering how your metylation stacks up? You can see homocystine levels on a simple blood test or you can have various alternative testing done to see markers of methylation (see www.metametrix.com for more information or find a functional medicine practitioner).

B vitamin status is seen in a common CBC, aka a complete blood count, and more specifically B12 levels are checked with a test called methylmalonic acid. (Note: blood levels of folic acid or B12 are not accurate for B vitamin status, but rather reflect recent vitamin intake from food and supplements. Methylmalonic acid and homocysteine are not routinely run, so you’ll need to ask your doctor.)  There is also a genetic marker for methylation called the MTFR gene that can be tested for as well.

When looking for a supplement, I recommend using a combination product of several B vitamins and in light of recent damming evidence on synthetic folic acid, look for a product containing a particular form of folic acid: L-5-methyl tetrahydrofolate, to ensure efficacy and safety.

December 28, 2010 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Black and White, Meet Gray

This perhaps doesn’t  apply to us all….but it applies to nearly every woman that sits across the desk from me at my office. Black or white. On or off. All or nothing. I want results and I want them now.

Much of the time we are either turned on 110%, giving our all on a plan or we are feeling out of control and way off track. We go, go, go; restrict, restrict, restrict; exercise, exercise, exercise – this usually gives some quick results, which we love! But then….then we hit the wall, often landing head first in a pint of ice cream.

This radical on and off mentality sets us up for the dreaded – yet oh so popular – yo-yo dieting. We work our tails off – literally – and lose 10 pounds only to gain back 15.  By the time we come to and realize we’ve not only hit the wall, but bounced back off it farther than where we started in the first place, the guilt sets in, followed by a bit of panic.

We rush out to buy a new workout DVD, hire a new trainer, or end up at Barnes and Noble rifling through the heaped table of weight loss books – all promising the latest and greatest in fat loss. We’re feeling anxious, even a little desperate to get back on track – usually blaming the last regimen we tried, thinking it failed us.

Perhaps it’s not a flawed nutrition plan or an ineffective workout regimen, but maybe it’s our harsh black and white palette that’s messing us up. Rather than on and off like a light bulb, think of your health and fitness as being on a dimmer switch. A dimmer can be turned up or down depending on your goals and state of mind, and it doesn’t ever have to be ON or OFF.  This is the gray between black and white.

Some of you may have mastered the art of gray and know how to use your dimmer switch. You’ve found a middle ground that keeps you on track to your body comp goals over the long haul – for the rest of us, life is colored starkly in black or white and we swing abruptly between them.

When we are on, we are way on – but when we are off, we can get way off. We over exercise and end up injured or exhausted. We restrict our “treat foods” so much that we end up binging on them.  We view a single cookie as a sin, but end up eating the whole bag eventually. And then comes the guilt…which can bring on even more binges or just more bad feelings.

This black and white attitude is not only bad for us emotionally, it seriously wreaks havoc on our hormones. Strict dieting, especially followed by a binge, sends a very mixed message to hormones like leptin that regulate hunger, and hormones like insulin that regulate fat storage. And let’s not forget our sex hormones – progesterone often wanes during strict dieting causing our periods to get light or stop all together.

Cortisol is yet another hormone that gets perturbed when we strictly diet or over-exercise. A rising cortisol can cause us to stall or “hit a plateau”. If you’re already burnt out from stress or a past history of yo-yo dieting, a very restrictive phase can really affect blood sugar causing you to have serious carb cravings or it can give a wicked case of insomnia (Remember, cortisol breaks down stored fuel to raise blood sugar between meal and during the night. When your adrenals are sluggish your cortisol reserves can be low, meaning you have to rely on adrenaline to keep your blood sugar stable while you sleep. If you need a burst of adrenaline during the night guess what? You wake up and have a hard time going back to sleep.)  

Shades of Gray

Gray is a mix of black and white.  Gray means better hormonal balance, less anxiety, less feelings of restriction and less guilt from falling off the wagon –  what it doesn’t mean is no results.  When I first meet with a patient and we discuss their goals I often ask them how important this is to them, what their level of commitment is and how soon they want results.  They typically respond with: “It’s a 10 of 10 – or even a 12 or 10! I want all you’ve got – diet, exercise, supplements – everything and I want results NOW!”

How many times have we jumped on board with a new book or a new plan and did great for a few months? Seriously, how many times???? If it’s more than once then what you did wasn’t sustainable and didn’t  give you lasting results.  It’s not to say that that particular plan was full of poor advice or that it didn’t work – but perhaps you went into the plan 110% and “blacked out”, so to say, and next ended up all “white washed” and totally off the wagon and most likely back to many of your old habits.

You’re not alone. Even my youngest patients, even 20 year old women, have tried at least one diet in the past and yet here we all are again – looking for the next, best way to shed pounds.

Learn to Use Your Dimmer Switch

Don’t black out. Pick a plan and incorporate 1-3 habits per week. Master them and then move on – trying to do everything at once is usually too overwhelming. For example, start eating a protein based breakfast everyday or figure out how to order out a healthy lunch. Or even drink more water.

Don’t white wash. When you get off track it doesn’t have to be a total disaster! You are one meal away, one workout away, even one positive thought about your body away from being back on plan. So you ate the bagel, don’t have it with a side of guilt and self defeat – have it with some lox to balance out the insulin response and get right back on track.

Guilt is optional in the gray zone.  Life will happen, you won’t be perfect everyday – but self correcting and not letting the guilt set in will help keep a bad meal or even a bad day from turning to weeks or months off plan.

Sometimes your gray will be darker than other times, you’ll be move motivated and supported and find it easier to make progress. When it lightens up, don’t panic and don’t feel guilty – if you are ready to get back on track, go for it. If you aren’t, find the gray zone that feels maintainable for now rather than holding on so tight to the idea that you have to be perfectly on plan that you lose your grip and drift away.

Know when you have the stamina to turn up the heat.  When you are ready for a big push towards your goal, be sure you are feeling healthy, injury free and supported before you jump in.

If you struggle with stamina on a plan, know when it’s a good time to start. Maybe planning to lose 20 pounds between Halloween and Christmas isn’t feasible for you, but losing 10 pounds and having 12 new habits by the New Year might be. 

BETTER Body Thoughts:

Ugh! I ate ______ , I might as well just start again next week!

BETTER: Ok, I ate _____ and that was a temptation for me because _______.  One off plan food doesn’t make or break anything – a week of plan will so I’m recommitted as of RIGHT NOW.

I wasn’t perfect this week, I missed workouts and didn’t eat well; this will never work so why bother.

BETTER: I did do _______ and _______ this week and I’ll continue to do those and include ______ next week. Doing something for my health is better than nothing – good habits build upon themselves. 

For example: I did get 3 workouts (but aimed for 6) and I got plenty of sleep this week. Next week I will schedule my workouts in like appointments to be sure they happen and I will drink more water.

October 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm 2 comments

How Does It Feel To Be Called Fat?

Well it doesn’t feel good. I can attest to that.  

Recently on Amazon.com I got slammed for being too fat to have written an effective fat loss program in Ultimate You. It was upsetting of course, and I’ll admit, it was one of my biggest fears come true.   

I’m no athlete and I’m no model, so being part of the experts in the fitness community, at times I felt a little out of place. I’m a regular woman who eats well and workouts regularly….and I’ve had my share of body image issues. 

I’m only 5’3″ and have complained about my legs being too short. I’m curvy and have done my time hating my booty. And thanks to my Czech background, I’ve got a very round face and the cheeks to go with it. 

As I’ve grown from a girl into a woman, I’ve laid to rest most of my body image issues and reveled in the fact that I can lift weights with the boys, do a few pull-ups and have even come to appreciate the shape my curves give me. But I’ll admit, when I read “…the fat neck and cheeks of Dr. Kalanick…” – all those issues came flooding back. 

Now, maybe you’ve never had your issues called out on the World Wide Web, but most of us at one time or another has been the victim of someone’s nastiness – whether their words were true or not, it feels like crap.  
 
You can shrug it off and say “They are a jerk, so what”.  But let’s be honest, the biggest trash talk usually comes from our own heads.  Fat neck? Ha! What an amateur. I’ve probably done better than that in the last hour or so.  

So why can we look at what someone else says and see clearly that being nasty is…well, nasty, and not see our own thoughts so clearly? The nasty, negative chatter in our own minds is often so mean we wouldn’t utter it out loud to our worst enemy – and we really need to knock it off. 

But it’s on autoplay, it’s hard to stop and often when we get a handle on it and we’re feeling good something happens to trigger it all again. Our therapists will tell us, it’s been there for a long time – since childhood probably – and our adult relationships and experiences just add layer upon layer to our unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and our bodies. And let’s not forget the ever popular villain: the media. Most women feel they don’t or can’t measure up to images of the female body they see on TV and in magazines. But guess what ladies? I work with a number of these women and they have body issues too. 

Sowhat gives? Why are we all (or at least most of us) walking around most days hating this or that about our thighs or our bellies? Blame it on culture or the media or our mothers – but we’ve got a lot of hatin’ going on! 

The truth for me is that when Ultimate You was released I was in the best shape I’d ever been in, so to hear those comments about how I looked was very frustrating. But then I thought about it – was I feeling happy and completely satisfied with my body during that time? Well, yes I was happy with my body then but I’m not going to lie, I’d catch a glimpse of a trouble spot like the back of my thigh and think “ugh!”  And there would be days when those thoughts or the pressure I put on myself to look a certain way would get the best of me – and you know what? It’s BS. For most women our bodies are a work in progress, and that’s exactly what we do – we work on them. 

We work at the gym, we work to order a salad instead of a sandwich at a restaurant, we work when we pass up the dessert tray, we work not have another cocktail when we’ve gone out for just “a drink”. We work and we work – and most of the time it feels like just that: a lot of work.

How often do you order the salad with chicken instead of the slice of pizza for lunch and feel overwhelmed with contentment, satisfaction and joy (yeah, I’m using salad and joy in the same sentence)? With each bite you feel more and more satisfied knowing you’re eating something so good for you. Its fiber is filling up your tummy and aiding digestion, its nutrients reacting away in biochemical pathways, and the protein is balancing out your blood sugar so your cravings stay on an even keel. It’s sort of amazing actually – but how often do we feel it was easy and effortless to make the choice to feed ourselves very well?

How about at the gym – are you at the gym putting in your time, much like serving a jail sentence? Or are you there feeling powerful, strong, healthy and filled with self love when you catch a glimpse of your muscles in the mirror.

I am working on a new project called Nourishing Women (I’m working with some truly amazing women – these smart, strong ladies and their PhDs can bench more than some boys I know!). Since being asked to contribute, that word “nourish” has been stuck in my mind….nourish….hum…how often do any of us feel nourished by what we eat?

When we’re eating to lose weight or even to be healthy, we often feel confined or controlled by a plan – or there’s my favorite: “Dr Brooke is making me.”.  We’re usually not chewing on a mouthful of baked salmon thinking, “wow, I feel so nourished by this food.”.  Nourish is a good word, so is cherish.  How many of us cherish our bodies?  Cherish is defined as:  to treat with affection and tenderness; to hold dear.  How often do we act in ways that “hold ourselves dear?”

Eating healthfully, exercising regularly, committing to a weight loss goal – these are all wonderful things to do for ourselves, but if we are looking in the mirror, noticing every flaw and thinking critical thoughts everyday, well that’s not healthy – no matter what you weigh. 

So instead of just trudging it out at the gym or managing to somehow stomach some steamed veggies, try nourishing and cherishing yourself. While you’re doing that, I’ll be reminding myself that like most women, my body is a work in progress. Like yours, my journey to the perfect body goes on and on, and I can love myself on that journey, nourish myself, be healthy and not give in to nasty comments – including those in my own head – or dwell on the opinion of someone who clearly doesn’t cherish me. But you know what? That’s ok. It’s not their job to cherish me, it’s mine. 

And it’s yours – so while you’re working on creating your Ultimate You, love yourself a bit…it can’t hurt! 

Try these simple steps to start having more positive thoughts about your body: 

*List 3-5 things you love about your body, such as your smile, your skin, your feet, your biceps – anything. When you catch yourself having a negative thought about something you aren’t satisfied with yet, rattle of these things you like. You still had the nasty thought, but you can turn your attitude around with reminding yourself of the things you do like about you. 

*Stay focused on the process and appreciate the little goals.  If you can do a pushup now where you couldn’t before – that’s something to feel great about. If you’ve lost 2 pounds – well it may not be the 10 pounds you want to lose, but it is something and you did accomplish it.  Start each day listing all the things you’ve accomplished in your mind while you brush your teeth. 

*See yourself in your perfect body.  If you’ve been at your ideal weight and size, pull out a picture and place it on the fridge, bathroom mirror, car dashboard or somewhere else where you’ll see it every day.  If you have no idea what your perfect body looks like, just spend some time imaging it.  The more clearly you can see yourself in the body you want the more easily it will start to happen – thoughts do matter.  Thinking about your perfect body doesn’t make it appear overnight but it will help you feel better about yourself and your current body as you work your way towards it.  Spend at least 30 minutes a day (doesn’t have to be all in a row) seeing your fit, healthy, perfect body in your mind’s eye. And the sooner you can start to be the woman with that body, the sooner that body will show up. After all what does the woman with that perfect body do? She works out, she eats lots of veggies and protein and I’d venture to guess that she cherishes herself.

September 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm 19 comments

What If We Took Compliance Out of the Equation?

And What Can We Learn From Bodybuilders About Losing Fat? 

You may think you have nothing to learn from these hulks and hulkettes. Many react to that particular physique with, “um, I would never want to look like that”. But let’s face it – body builders, or figure athletes, know how to lose body fat! And that’s something we’d all like to hear a little more about. 

A friend and colleague of mine, Matt McGorry, recently competed in his first body building competition (which by the way – he won!). I sat down with Matt and talked with him about his experience of losing 35 pounds and 12% body fat in about 4 months – which is no small feat, even for someone who was already considered fit. Impressive…but what can us regular folks learn from what these competitors go through to shed fat? 

How did you commit 110% to this goal? When I asked this, Matt didn’t hesitate one bit with this answer: “I knew I needed a good reason to do it. The reason to do it needs to justify the commitment, the hard work and the sacrifice it will take to pull it off….it had to be worth it.” 

Are you committed whole heartedly to leaning up? Or is it a ho-hum attempt that you think about off and on during the week – as in “I meant to hit the gym 5 times this week, oh well”.  Is your goal clear and measurable? Or vague, such as “I want to lose weight”? Instead of a clear, measurable goal with a deadline such as “I will lose 130 pounds by July 4th.“. This type of goal allows you to know exactly where you are going, sets mileposts along the way and also, you know it will end….and then you’ll get to have a piece of pizza. 

Many of us think we are committing whole heartedly – and in the moment we probably are. Tuesday morning at my office you’re on board 110%, but come Happy Hour on Friday evening you’re 110% committed to unwinding with several cocktails. Next, your buzz leads you to make less that optimal dinner choices and your Saturday-morning-low-blood-sugar-brain has a one track mind: pancakes.

What is your reason for wanting to lean up and lose weight? It better be something good or it won’t be worth ordering a soda water when your friends are on their fourth drink or eating an on-plan meal before you head out to socialize so you aren’t tempted to get off track. 

Your reason can be whatever you want – but it needs to drive you. It needs to be something worth getting up at 6am to workout for, worth passing up the cookies at a co-worker’s birthday party and worth that effort it takes to drag yourself to the gym on those crazy busy days where it’s 9pm and its either go to bed or keep your commitment to working out that day. 

While losing fat might seem like one isolated aspect of your life, the discipline and fortitude it takes to achieve that goal will bleed into every other area – and people notice. Matt figured this goal would not only make him a better trainer, open up new acting roles, but also demonstrate to everyone that he had what it takes to be incredibly disciplined. 

Set your goal, give it a deadline, get some coaching or help on how to pull it off – then go for it! Do everything you can to achieve it – because honestly, if you do all you can and don’t achieve it you won’t be too bummed out. You will still have lost a lot of fat – even if it wasn’t all that you’d planned on. Disappointment will only come from looking back saying, “if only I wouldn’t have cheated those few times” or “if only I wouldn’t have done only 8 sprints when I was supposed to do 10”. Matt’s goal was to be compliant with his diet and exercise and keep his word to himself that he would do his absolute best – not to win a body building competition. In the end, that was just a bonus. 

With 16 weeks of strict diet and exercise, weren’t you temped to cheat?  Matt was so committed that he did not cheat once during his 16 week prep time. He didn’t sneak even one extra bite of food, nor did he miss even one minute of exercise.  He told me, “I didn’t want to be the kind of person who cheats or sells myself short”. To keep on track he focused on the fact that it was a short term goal – 16 weeks. After that he would not have to be so strict. He used other short term goals as well – like counting the days until his cheat meal and counting the minutes until the end of his cardio session. 

These little goals – even if it was “hey, I’ve done 30 minutes and I’ve got 30 minutes left” – kept him from feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on what you can do right now, in this moment, to get you closer to the goal keeps the bigger picture from becoming too daunting. Everyday make several little, good decisions and they will add up.  

Matt also did something a little scary for most of us – he told everyone what he was doing. He told his clients, other trainers and everyone else what his goal was.  This kept him accountable and got him in pretty deep, he said. “I couldn’t really throw in the towel on the frustrating days because I’d committed not only to myself, but to everyone around me that I was doing this.” Sharing his big goal also garnered some unexpected praise. Everyone who watched Matt go through his contest prep felt inspired by his determination and hard work…and it made several of us wonder just how far we could push ourselves. Matt never set out to inspire or gain more respect, but he certainly felt when it started to happen.  Another bonus. 

But what if you do “cheat”? Just shrug it off and get back on track – don’t let it derail you by beating yourself up over it. It’s done so now troubleshoot why it happened, try to avoid it in the future and get back to business.

I can hear you all now: Matt is a personal trainer….it would be much harder for me to lose 35 pounds. To be honest, losing 35 pounds would’ve been easier for some of you – and harder for some of you. Matt will be the first person to tell you that he loves junk food and can remember a time when it was rare for him to go a whole day without some sort of “treat”. However, he has been working on creating the discipline and building upon his nutrition knowledge for years, “This contest was like the sprint at the end of a marathon”.  

And although he is in the fitness profession and is a competitive power lifter, he’s had a harder time losing fat than his friends or fellow trainers – so he knew he’d have to work for it. He began using a nutrition coach over a year before he took on this project, so he’d cultivated a lot of habits that made this restrictive diet plan doable. “My aim was to be the best client ever. I did everything my nutrition coach asked me to do and it was amazing to see what was possible when I took compliance out of the equation.”

What if we could all do that? Not forever, but let’s say for just 16 weeks. What if for the next 16 weeks you completely adhered to your exercise and nutrition plan? No missed workouts, no unhallowed carbs, not one sip of alcohol….for just 16 weeks? What about just 8 weeks? What would be possible in your health and physique if “not doing what you needed to do” wasn’t an option? It’s something to think about, huh? 

And here come the Big Buts: But I have a job. But I have a child. But I am too busy. Yes it’s true that Matt didn’t have a toddler to chase after and he does work at a gym….but let’s not ignore everything he had to give up to do this. His show was in January, which meant he went through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s…without cheating. He packed his chicken breast and carefully measured serving of brown rice to Thanksgiving dinner. He attended multiple Christmas parties sipping water or diet soda and staying away from even a taste of holiday cheer or holiday cookies. 

I asked Matt what it was like to have to give up so much: “It was miserable at times. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I knew it wasn’t forever and I had committed so much in the beginning that blowing it was not an option. I wanted to be successful more than I wanted to cheat.” 

How do you pull off something that takes so much time, stamina and hard work? Matt simply made it work – he did what he needed to do to get to his goal. Troubleshooting is the key and here’s a few of the things he did to make it work: 

            *Part of his workout regimen was hour long fasting walks on the treadmill, 7 days per week – tedious and boring. So he bought himself a portable DVD player to make it more bearable and said “it was probably the best money I’ve ever spent”.

Do what you need to do to make it work. Figure out another day of childcare, cut back on an hour of TV, solve your insomnia problem so you can get up and get to the gym in the morning – whatever it is get it handled! And of course ask for help if you need it.

            *Matt only ate out at a restaurant one time during the 16 weeks, which meant taking the time to grocery shop, cook and pack up meals – everyday. It does take a bit of time, but cooking for yourself keeps your diet very clean and yields amazing results.

           *One of the things that kept Matt from diving head first into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s was sticking to his meal schedule. Eating smaller, more frequent meals keeps you from getting too hungry and being left with only will power to get you through. Also, always having a meal with you means never having to either eat off plan or be left feeling famished.

            *Schedule, schedule, schedule! You schedule in important meetings and a haircut appointment right? Why treat your meals and workouts with any less importance? Set aside time to shop for and prep your health meals as well as time at the gym – then stick to it.

            *Keep your word to yourself. You said you’d get in 6 workouts this week and here we are at weeks end with only 4 done. What to do? Get them in. Consider a strength training workout in the morning or a fasted walk, and then an interval cardio session later that day. This isn’t ideal, but it keeps your promise.

Because Matt did this over the holidays, he wasn’t only up against holiday junk food but holiday gym hours. Some days because of shorter open hours, he hit the treadmill for his 60minutes of walking, gobble down a meal and 2 hours later was back at the gym for a weight training session.

So what can we learn from Matt’s experience and apply it TODAY to our fat loss goals?

*Commit fully to your goal. Make a solid, clear goal – with a deadline, and have a reason important enough to you that it matches the sacrifice and commitment.

*Share what you’re up to. This will give you support from others around you, keeps you accountable and before you know it you’ll probably inspire someone else to get healthier.

*Prep and pack your meals with you. Spend a little time each week cooking up chicken breasts, chopping up veggies for quick salads or stir-frys – or whatever it takes to have quick, healthy, fat-loss-supportive foods on hand so you can’t use the excuse “but I was exhausted and had nothing healthy to eat” or the all too common “I went out with a friend, was starving, and made terrible choices only to feel sluggish and guilty afterwards”. If you simply can’t cook for yourself, consider a healthy meal delivery service such as 5 Squares.

*If you are just starting out with more healthy, lean-eating habits – don’t sweat the small stuff. So your favorite restaurant doesn’t have organic salads. Still order the salad with chicken or fish instead of the pasta. If you can’t stomach one of Dr Brooke’s favorite snacks, say a can of sardines – what can you do? 3-4 oz organic, deli turkey? A protein shake? Find something that works. Don’t worry so much about if it was 4 or 5 oz of protein in the turkey burger you had for lunch when there was 6 hours between lunch and dinner. Stick with the basics of protein and veggies at every meal, opt for higher fiber carbs such as sweet potato or legumes over breads and cereals, and always eat every 3-4 hours.

*Don’t set yourself up for failure or feeling deprived by going to a social event hungry. Eat something on your plan before you go and always, always stick to the 3-4 hour meal rule – it’s truly the best craving reducer.

*Get some help. If you aren’t sure what you should be eating or have been doing the same tired workout for months – get some help. Matt attributes much of his success to “putting himself in the hands of a trusted nutrition coach”. From there he just had to do what he was told.

*Remember losing fat isn’t forever – you’ll lose it and then you’ll be in maintenance.  If you could possibly commit 110% percent for just a finite period of time – maintenance will be a piece of cake! Literally.

For more info on Matt visit www.mattmcgtraining.com or http://www.peakperformancenyc.com. To read more about his bodybuilding contest prep, see an interview at: http://elitefts.com/documents/mcgorry-starnes.htm.  And for you guys out there, check out Matt’s article in March’s Men’s Health Magazine about getting that good lookin’ V Shaped Torso.

March 2, 2010 at 2:08 am 2 comments

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