Monday, July 16, 2012

Quit and Stay Fit!

Smoker? Thinking of quitting? Then this idea is definitely running through your mind:

“I’m going to gain weight!”

And believe it or not, this fear of losing your shape can create -and often does- an obstacle to those trying to quit smoking.
Is it a well-placed fear? Can weight gain be avoided?

1. Why should quitting affect your weight?

It is true that quitting smoking can make you gain some extra pounds. In fact,


- Depresses the appetite for certain foods. This effect is no longer available when you quit.
- Provides a substitute activity for eating.
- Increases the passage of food through the lower digestive tract by increasing the propulsive activity of the colon. In consequence, some food is excreted before all the nutrients are absorbed.
- Marks the end of a meal. So instead of sitting at the table bingeing, smokers light a cigarette.

Quitting smoking makes you

- Feel hungrier and are prone to eating more than usual.
- Tend to have more snacks: in order to replace the urge to smoke, you might consume more high fat, high sugar snacks as well as alcoholic beverages.
- Burn less: smoking increases your metabolism. So, once you quit, the latter goes back to normal. You start to burn slightly fewer calories on a daily basis.

2. How worried should you be about your weight

Even though almost every person who quits smoking gains weight, this issue should not be a primary concern. In fact,

- The weight gain is no more than 4 to 5 kg for 90% of quitters.
- The quality of food you snack on can be modified in order to prevent weight gain.
- A lower metabolism is not such a big deal compared to heart, lung and other diseases.

Let’s say the benefits of quitting outweigh the hassle of losing the weight gained.

3. How can we prevent the weight gain?

It is very important to know that the main goal is to STOP SMOKING. You can worry about the weight gain at a later stage.  The frustration of having to focus on both your body shape and its health is too much to handle. However, there are simple small steps you can take in order to minimize as much as possible the weight gain.

- Have several (5-6) small meals. Choose smaller plates. They can help you control your portions and still feel like you’re eating as much as you used to.
- Eat slowly. Try to be the last one done.

- Take smaller bites. Chew and swallow each bite before taking the next. Become aware of the taste and texture of your food.

- Don’t allow yourself a second plate. In fact, you were used to having your cigarette after finishing your meal. And without it you might be prone to eating more. This is why you should leave the table as soon as you’re done.

- Pick a non-smoking activity to signal the end of the meal: take a walk, brush your teeth, do the dishes, take a shower, have a breath mint, etc.

- Make a wiser choice of snacks: instead of high sugar high fat food, go for fruits and vegetables, yoghurts, cereals and cereal bars, etc.
- Have drinks that you wouldn’t normally smoke a cigarette with. Skip the coffee and the alcohol and focus on fresh juice, water, diet sodas, etc.

- Take a walk instead of a coffee break.

- Keep at your reach sugar free gum or hard candy to satisfy your cravings with low calorie items. Eat only one piece of candy or gum at a time and try to make it last in your mouth as long as possible.

- Physical activity is of a high importance when it comes to quitting smoking. Besides the fact that it can help you breath better and release your stress; it can help you maintain your weight by losing extra fat through aerobic activities and increasing your metabolism through weight training.

- Always have the support of family and friends to keep you away from the cigarettes and the food.

Finally, you should consult with a professional for a more personal approach.

If you were effectively reconsidering quitting smoking because of the weight gain, I hope this article has given you enough reasons not to! So go ahead, pick your quit day and go for it!
Good luck!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Know Your Numbers!

“We are young, we are strong” and a few years later we are SICK!

As young people, we feel unbreakable. We might worry about our shape and image; however, we never think about our health. Too soon, isn’t it?!

Well, maybe not! Disease comes at a later stage because we fail to prevent it as youngsters. I had to learn about this the hard way. In fact, I went for a blood test a week ago and as healthy as I am, being a dietitian, I discovered that I had a low HDL, good cholesterol, level. And this was affecting my LDL, bad cholesterol, level. pic

And so, I realized that even in our twenties, as full of life as we might be, we should always have that sound in our head that talks to us at least once a year, reminding us to go for a checkup.

So what are the important tests we should always do?

1. Cholesterol and triglycerides

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “high cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease. When too much LDL circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis” and it may result in heart attacks or strokes.

“Heart disease can develop at any age, so it’s crucial that you make good, health conscious decisions that will benefit you now and in the long run”, preaches the AHA. In fact, the latter highly recommends people to know their numbers by getting tested at least once every 5 years starting their twenties. This is important especially for men as they are more at risk, those who have a family history of heart disease, those who smoke and drink alcohol. Of course, for those who have inadequate results, they should get tested more often.

High triglyceride levels are also correlated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Normal range for:
Total Cholesterol

I personally believe that getting tested once a year wouldn’t hurt especially for someone who is at risk of heart disease due to the factors cited above; on the contrary, it would put some people at ease and help prevent potential diseases for others.

2. Glucose levels

Testing your glucose levels is very important in determining possible cases of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Both cases are dangerous. In fact the first one might be related to diabetes, diseases of the kidneys, liver or pancreas, metabolic problems, alcohol use, etc. and the second may be related to type I and II diabetes.

Normal range
Fasting blood glucose
<100 mg/dL
2 hours after eating (postprandial)
<140 mg/dL

3. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

The CBC is one of the most ordered blood tests. It is the analysis of the different components of blood in order to determine the concentration of white and red blood cells as well as platelets. The purpose of these numbers is to determine whether there is an inflammation somewhere, anemia, bone marrow problems, etc.

4. Ferritin and serum iron

In conjunction with other tests, ferritin and serum iron may detect a possible anemia. These tests are very important for us young women as

- we periodically lose blood
- our diets are sometimes inadequate and do not provide sufficient iron
- a large number is vegetarian and may not be getting enough iron

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is closely related to bone metabolism. In fact, the body uses vitamin D as a vehicle to help absorb calcium we take from food. And of course, proper levels of calcium promote strong, dense bones. You should always check your vitamin D levels as a deficiency is very commonly seen. Also, there is increasing evidence that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk for some cancers, immune diseases and cardiovascular disease.

Normal range
25 hydroxyvitamin D
30-74 ng/mL

As we get older, it becomes harder to stay healthy. So you better start acting NOW! Of course, you should visit your doctor and let him prescribe the adequate tests.


Monday, July 2, 2012

For a healthy weight gain!

Don’t you just hate it when people envy you for being too thin?
Well, hello!! I’m not happy about it! On the contrary I want to gain weight. I don’t want my bones to be visible to all. I want to have a shape like the rest of you.
So, while some people pay fortunes to lose the extra 2 kilos around the hips, others are doing everything they can to gain some. Ironic, don’t you think?!

So, how come some people are underweight?

Being underweight can result from:

- Genetic composition: some are just born this way!
- Natural lack of appetite: some people just don’t feel hungry that often.
- A certain sickness: some diseases such as cancer induce weight loss.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia leave the person with an unhealthy body.
- Aging: it reduces appetite, taste buds that will allow the person to enjoy food, ability to chew and energy to cook and take care of oneself.

How can someone gain weight?

You might think it is an easy question to answer; however, it is not. The goal is not to gain weight randomly but in a healthy way! In fact, the next three points are the main issues to deal with:

1. Organize your meals. If you lack appetite, have several small meals rather than 3 large ones and if you’re the type who just forgets to eat or doesn’t put their nutrition as a priority, have larger meals.

2. Choose energy and nutrient dense foods. The point is not to gain weight by consuming sugars and fats which we call empty calories. It is very important to go for foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Go for avocado, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives. It is highly important to avoid junk food and all saturated and trans fat sources. You want to gain weight but you definitely don’t want to increase your risk of diseases!

3. Train your muscles: Stay away from aerobic activities as they will make you lose weight. Focus on muscle building activities so you can gain both weight and volume. This will also increase your appetite.

Every day tips

- Add cheese to your eggs in the morning
- Sprinkle some dried fruits and nuts on your breakfast cereals
- Don’t drink and eat at the same time. The water volume will make you feel full very fast.
- Stay away from soups and salads that will fill you up before the main course.
- Add healthy oils such as olive oil to your meals. Be careful to add them after cooking so they don’t become harmful.
- Add calorie rich sauces to your meat, chicken or pasta. Go for the creamy ones as they are more energy dense.
- End your lunch with some bread and olives like our grandparents used to do.
- Always carry snacks so that the minute you feel hunger, food will be available for you.
- Reduce intake of watery fruits and vegetables. Go for bananas, pears, apples and dried fruits instead of watermelons, oranges, cherries, etc. Consume starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas, squash more than watery ones such as broccoli, cauliflower etc.
- Replace sodas and juices with milkshakes and yoghurts.

Finally, if your lack of appetite doesn’t get settled easily, you can always take a walk or have something sweet before a meal as the sweet taste can stimulate your appetite.

These tips will definitely help you gain weight. However, if you feel like this is simply not working out for you, ask your dietitian for a more personal approach.