When I experience quality sleep, I have more energy
When I have more energy, I can exercise more
When I exercise more, I often have a better sleep
of course – a healthy diet also contributes to more energy as well 😉
When I experience quality sleep, I have more energy
When I have more energy, I can exercise more
When I exercise more, I often have a better sleep
of course – a healthy diet also contributes to more energy as well 😉
Feeling tired or hitting an afternoon slump? These simple lifestyle shifts can make a big difference.
Waking up already feeling worn out? Unable to overcome the afternoon slump? These may be signs that various lifestyle factors are taking a toll on your energy levels, leading to brain fog and straight-up exhaustion.
When constantly on the go, it may be difficult to find ways to recharge. However, Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that more often than not, low energy levels can be remedied by adopting simple changes to your daily routine.
These are seven research-backed habits to boost your energy, according to experts:
Unsurprisingly, emotional stress can leave you feeling less lively.
“Stress has a huge impact on your physical well-being. If you are feeling elevated levels of stress, it can absolutely contribute to low energy,” Dr. Nina Vasan, chief medical officer at mental wellness app Real, told HuffPost.
So, how can you combat unchecked stress to boost your energy levels? Vasan explained that it’s crucial to “find ways to integrate meditation or mindfulness into your daily life,” even for just five minutes each day. Experts also say that identifying coping skills that work for you — such as journaling or reading something that brings you joy — can help you destress and feel more energetic.
When you’re feeling tired, it may be tempting to make a third or fourth cup of coffee later in the day to perk back up. However, drinking too much caffeine can have a paradoxical effect, leaving you lethargic.
“If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeinated beverages throughout the day, it is probably going to affect your sleep pattern. This can then affect your energy levels,” Tallia said.
It’s important to note that suddenly cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling tired at first. As Tallia explained, “the body gets used to caffeine as a stimulant, and when it’s not present, you can experience an energy slump.”
Most experts suggest gradually reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet until you find what works best for you — and not reaching for that extra cup of Joe even when you’re feeling tempted.
Caffeine can only help you stay alert to a point — then it starts to have a negative effect.
It goes without explaining that catching enough Zzzs is key to boosting your energy throughout the day. However, your energy levels are not just impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night, but by the quality of that sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you snooze more soundly, and in turn give you more pep in your step the following day. Sleep hygiene involves adopting habits such as developing a regular bedtime routine and dimming the lights at night. What’s more, Tallia said it’s important to clear your mind by doing nighttime activities that you find relaxing.
Even when practicing good sleep hygiene, you may find you’re waking up feeling fatigued. Raelene Brooks, the dean of the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, said that could point to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to pay your physician a visit.
Try to incorporate exercise into your day — even just a small amount. Research has shown that daily exercise and movement are essential to boosting energy levels. You don’t have to be lifting weights or running five miles a day to glean the energizing benefits of exercise.
“Even low-impact movement is shown to increase your oxygen flow and hormone levels, which give you a boost of energy,” Vasan explained. “It is the No. 1 tip I recommend to anyone feeling fatigued.”
Dehydration is a common cause of low energy. According to Brooks, the science behind this is quite straightforward: “Our red blood cells carry oxygen. Ideally, a plump and round red blood cell allows for a full oxygen-carrying capacity,” she said. “When we are dehydrated, the red blood shrinks and this decreases the capacity for the cell to carry a full load of oxygen. Low oxygen levels are manifested by fatigue, irritability and restlessness.”
If you struggle with being mindful of your water intake, consider trying hacks such as investing in a smart water bottle to ensure you’re drinking enough H2O every day.
Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water each day.
Be mindful of your screen time during the evening hours, and also during the day.
It almost goes without saying that excessive screen time at night can mess with your natural sleep cycle and energy the following day. As Vasan explained, “spending too much time on your phone, computer or watching your TV can cause fatigue by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep and restoration.”
However, the time you spend looking at your phone or computer during the day can also have a harmful impact on your energy levels. Too much screen time can lead to eye fatigue, which may trigger headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate.
We live in a digital world, so spending extensive time looking at a screen is unavoidable for most people. Making the “20-20-20 rule” a habit is a step towards tackling tiredness. According to Harvard Business Review, “when you’re working on a laptop, take a break every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to relax.”
If you ever skipped breakfast or worked right through your lunch break, you probably noticed you feel groggier than usual. While it’s totally normal to miss a meal, making a goal to regularly eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks throughout the day can increase your energy levels.
“Your brain needs nutrition to really function appropriately,” Tallia said. “A lot of people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels are going up and down all through the day.”
Moreover, Tallia said to steer clear of fad diets that encourage people to majorly cut back on caloric intake or to eliminate essential nutrient groups like carbohydrates. This can deprive you of energy.
While it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling low on energy every once and a while, chronic fatigue could point to an underlying health issue.
“If you are eating well, getting enough sleep, integrating movement and exercise into your daily life but still feel tired for more than two weeks, you should consider reaching out to a medical professional,” Vasan said, explaining that a consistent drop in energy “can be an indicator of a host of mental and physical health issues ranging from fairly benign to severe.”
Ultimately, boosting your energy often comes down to taking inventory of different activities and current habits that could be draining you. Adopting just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be key to beating the fatigue once and for all.
Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro Nov 1, 2022
These are three factors that you can change.
Exercise, quality sleep and eating raw fruits and vegetables are the three pillars of good mental health, a study suggests.
Among the 1,100 young adults who were surveyed for the research, those who slept well, did more exercise and ate better were more likely to be flourishing.
Out of these, quality sleep was most strongly linked to better mental health, followed by exercise and then diet.
The finding that sleep quality rather quantity was so important was surprising, said Ms Shay-Ruby Wickham, the study’s first author:
“This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality.
While we did see that both too little sleep — less than eight hours — and too much sleep — more than 12 hours — were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being.
This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and well-being within young adults.”
The study’s results showed that those who slept an average of 8 hours had the highest mental well-being.
Those sleeping almost 10 hours, though, had the lowest chance of developing depressive symptoms.
People in the study were in their early 20s, however, and generally we require less sleep with age.
Having too much sleep is generally considered almost as bad as having too little.
Diet also played an important role in mental health.
Those who ate 5 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day had the highest mental-wellbeing and those who ate less than 2 servings each day had the worst.
Ms Wickham said:
“Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is suboptimal.”
Dr Tamlin Conner, study co-author, warned that the findings were correlational:
“We didn’t manipulate sleep, activity, or diet to test their changes on mental health and well-being.
Other research has done that and has found positive benefits.
Our research suggests that a ‘whole health’ intervention prioritising sleep, exercise, and fruit and vegetable intake together, could be the next logical step in this research.”
About the author
Psychologist Jeremy Dean, PhD, is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Wickham et al., 2020).
Two-plus years of a pandemic have altered our mental health. Here are the signs and what you can do to cope.
Even though we’re armed with COVID-19 vaccines and updated booster shots, the world is still largely in a different (and oft-worried) place compared with before the pandemic.
This, experts say, can lead to a feeling of malaise — or “lifestyle fatigue,” in the words of Sean Grover, a psychotherapist who writes for Psychology Today. Lifestyle fatigue can be summed up as “feeling stuck in a rut,” Grover wrote ― and who hasn’t felt at least a little stuck at some point in recent years?
“As it says in the article, lifestyle fatigue’s not any sort of clinical diagnosis,” Alayna L. Park, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, told HuffPost. “You’re not going to go to a psychologist and get a diagnosis of lifestyle fatigue.”
But she said the concept can relate to “feeling off, feeling down [or] feeling tired,” all things that fall into larger areas of mental health research.
Such feelings are normal right now, and sad days are a part of life. However, a few warning signs can indicate that you may be dealing with something bigger.
Here, experts share what lifestyle fatigue means to them and why society is experiencing it more than ever. (If you’re feeling this way, you are certainly not alone.) Plus, they offer some advice on how to feel even just a tiny bit better.
Lifestyle fatigue may be related to a symptom of depression.
The description of lifestyle fatigue resembles the clinical signs of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure, Park said. And while it’s a symptom of depression, experiencing anhedonia does not automatically mean you are depressed, she stressed.
“There can be a lot of causes for anhedonia or lifestyle fatigue,” Park said. One is engaging in very few pleasurable or productive activities. This contributes to a feeling of boredom, sadness or tiredness.
“We’ve definitely had a very prolonged period of that during the COVID pandemic,” she said, adding that this is due to (very necessary!) restrictions that meant we couldn’t take part in many activities and social interactions.
“Even if we’re not outgoing extroverts, we still crave that social interaction. And that social interaction does tend to bring us a sense of pleasure,” Park said.
And even now that restrictions have lifted and people are vaccinated, we are still faced with tough decisions as we consider the risks of certain activities. Our overall life may look different, too: Our friendships are changing and maybe leaving less room for social interactions. Our workplaces are more tiring or demanding, causing many to feel less pleasure from a career. All of this can take a toll.
It could also be related to emotional exhaustion.
Society is emotionally exhausted because of what is going on in the background of our lives — that is, the pandemic on top of any other stressful life events you’re experiencing — according to Dr. Elaina DellaCava, a psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
When experiencing emotional exhaustion, “you’re lacking the energy to do things, lacking the motivation [and] finding that there are things that you feel you should do [but] don’t have the desire to anymore,” she said.
In other words, you’re exhausted and don’t feel like doing something that would have felt pretty normal in 2019, whether that’s a trip to the grocery store or grabbing a drink with a friend.
“Over time, what I’ve seen in my practice is that people are reporting they try to make themselves do things but just the enjoyment isn’t there in the same way it used to be,” DellaCava said.
After two-plus years of less structure than ever (like rolling out of bed and logging in to your computer) and more isolation from loved ones compared with before the pandemic, any kind of structure — such as plans, chores or an in-person meeting — can feel like an unwanted responsibility.
Your ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response has likely been activated for too long, resulting in sadness.
The pandemic has activated people’s “fight-flight-freeze” response — named for the possible reactions to a perceived threat — for the past two and a half years, according to Park.
“What our bodies naturally do when our fight-flight-freeze response [has] been activated for so long is they start to experience some depressive symptoms,” she said.
These will tire you out so you can get more sleep and heal from this stress response, Park said, adding that the symptoms are essentially telling your body: “Hey, you’ve been in this fight-flight-freeze response for two years. That’s way too long. You need to rest.”
This is your body’s way of trying to get back to its normal state, but as the pandemic continues all around us, these fight-flight-freeze responses are still reacting to that stress. So instead of going back to its typical state, your body could be experiencing depressive symptoms over and over as it pushes for rest.
Though lifestyle fatigue isn’t depression in all cases, it may be in some.
It’s normal to feel sad or off at times, Park said, but if you feel tired or down for the majority of the day on most days for at least two weeks, this may be cause for concern. At that point, you should get in touch with a doctor or therapist, she said.
DellaCava said that many people attribute these emotions to burnout — a term that is now pervasive. But feeling down for long periods of time could be a symptom of something larger than burnout, which is generally more work-related and comes from chronic stress.
It’s OK to feel this way.
After multiple new COVID-19 variants, politicized public safety protocols and a sometimes overwhelming fear of getting the virus or passing it on to a loved one, it is normal to feel different than you did before the pandemic.
“If people are feeling this way, they’re certainly not alone,” DellaCava emphasized.
Much of this exhaustion or lifestyle fatigue may be due to the feeling that the pandemic cost someone an element of their identity.
People who love to travel may not feel comfortable getting on a plane now, or if they do go on a trip, they might worry about getting sick abroad and dealing with canceled plans. Similarly, someone who once considered themselves an extrovert might struggle with small talk or meeting new people. It’s hard to be the 2019 version of yourself in the world we live in right now. And that’s exhausting.
DellaCava added that social media makes this even tougher. People are inundated with happy images that can be tough to look at when you’re having a hard day.
“They say comparison is the thief of joy, and I think there is validity in that,” DellaCava said, but remember that “you’re seeing everyone’s best day on social media.” Others aren’t posting about their bad moments or restless nights, she added.
Certain activities can help you feel better.
Adding some productive and pleasurable activities to your week can help calm feelings of lifestyle fatigue, Park said. But with many people feeling exhausted due to their work and home lives becoming intertwined, productive activities do not have to revolve around your job, she added.
“Things that can be productive are things like exercising — so, running further than you did two weeks ago — or learning a language,” Park said. Both of these can give a sense of accomplishment if you’re feeling down.
Pleasurable activities can include visiting a friend, playing an online video game with a family member or calling up a loved one.
For those feeling unmotivated or anhedonic, DellaCava suggested focusing on self-care, which can include getting a good night’s sleep or, if you’re a parent, taking time for yourself. If you’re caring for your own elderly parents, try going for a walk alone or using a meditation app. Self-care should consist of enjoyable activities that are just for you, she said.
That said, it may seem tough to go for a walk or visit a friend when you’re feeling this way. But once you’re engaged in something you enjoy, you’ll likely notice that you’re happy to actually be doing it. Plus, you should be proud of yourself for mustering up the motivation to try the activity.
But if you’re not noticing any change in mood while taking part in once-pleasurable activities, do not hesitate to reach out to a doctor or therapist, DellaCava said. There is a lot going on in the world, and it’s OK if you need someone to talk to right now or a little extra help.
Jillian Wilson – Wellness Reporter, HuffPost Sep 12, 2022
Cheer up couch potatoes! Regular stretching and balance and range of motion exercises are as good as aerobic exercise in slowing the progression of mild cognitive decline, a new study has found.
“My worry in the beginning of the study was ‘What if only aerobic makes a difference? Good luck getting the majority of Americans to do aerobic exercise on a regular basis!’ It’s not sustainable,” said study author Laura Baker, a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, via email.
“But we found that cognitive function did not decline over 12 months for either intervention group — the people who did aerobic exercise or the people who did stretching, balance and range of motion,” Baker said.
Rudy Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, welcomed the findings that a modest amount of exercise – 120 to 150 minutes per week for 12 months – may slow cognitive decline in sedentary older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
Tanzi, who was not involved in the study, has examined the role of exercise in mice genetically bred to have Alzheimer’s disease and found exercise induces the birth of new neurons in the section of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s while also boosting beneficial growth factors that improve neural activity.
“So often, the benefits of interventions observed in Alzheimer’s mouse models do not translate to human patients. It is nice to see that in this new study, the benefits of exercise perhaps do translate from mice to human,” said Tanzi, who directs the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
WHAT IS MILD COGNITIVE DECLINE?
The study, presented Tuesday at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, followed 296 participants who were completely sedentary at the beginning of the experiment. All had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment – the earliest stage of the slow slide into dementia.
“Individuals who have mild cognitive impairment are not cognitively normal, but they don’t have dementia,” Baker said. “They’re fully capable of taking care of themselves, but what they have to go through to do so is exhausting.
“‘I can’t remember where I’m supposed to be. Let me check my calendar. Oh, I forgot to write on this calender. Let’s check another calendar. Oh, I can’t find that calendar. I’ve lost my phone. Where is the key? I can’t find the key.’
“They’re able to regroup in the early stages and accomplish things,” Baker said, “but the toll is immense.”
Participants in the study underwent cognitive testing and then were randomized into two groups. One group did moderate-intensity aerobic training on treadmills or stationary bikes, striving for a goal of 70% to 85% of heart rate reserve: “That’s about 120 heartbeats per minute for about 30 to 40 minutes for a standard 70-year-old,” Baker said.
The other group did stretching, balance and range of motion exercises designed to allow them to move their body in ways that would help them navigate in real life.
“Folks in the balance-range of motion group said they were thrilled – they could go to soccer games with grandchildren without being concerned about tripping, or they could drive and turn their neck to see the back, which they had not been able to do before,” Baker said.
IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT
Both groups exercised twice a week with a personal trainer and then two other times weekly on their own for the first 12 months. Combined, the groups completed more than 31,000 exercise sessions during that time, Baker said.
At the end of the 12 months, cognitive function had not declined in either group. That’s impressive, Baker said, because a control group of equally matched people with mild cognitive impairment – who did not exercise – did decline.
Studies have shown that social support is also key to improving brain health. So is it possible the results of the study were due to an increase of social support and not the exercise?
“Well, we don’t know for sure,” Baker said. “But there is enough science showing the benefits of exercise on brain health alone. So this is not something to sweep under the carpet.
“And our recommendation would never be for people with mild cognitive impairment to do this alone,” she added. “They are going to need support. So exercise alone is not a prescription. Exercise with support is a prescription, and that is going to be our recommendation.”
Sandee LaMotte Published Aug. 2, 2022
Can certain foods boost the immune system? We look at what to eat to prevent illnesses and stay well
Can foods boost the immune system? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. When it comes to preventing infections, we roughly know the drill. Wash your hands thoroughly. Sanitize surfaces. Stay home if you’re not feeling well. But many of us remain unsure as to what to eat to prevent our bodies from constantly getting ill.
It’s easy to fall prey to marketing gimmicks deployed by food brands. After all, it’s comforting to think that there is a single superfood or supplement out there that can supercharge our immunity and solve all of our health problems. But in reality, it’s way more complicated than that.
It’s definitely true that certain vitamins can provide a boost to our immune system. But at the same time, our bodies are complex machines with sophisticated needs. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet may be much more beneficial to our health than popping vitamin supplements. So if you’re interested to know whether foods can actually boost the immune system, keep reading. Here, we’ll discuss what and how to eat in order to keep yourself fit and healthy.
Fruits are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups. Packed with vitamins, minerals and many different biologically active compounds, they can provide a great boost to your immune defenses. Every type of fruit has something to offer your health and wellbeing. To get the most benefit, make sure to include a whole rainbow of plants in your diet.
Having said this, certain fruits may have stronger immunoprotective properties than others. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are a perfect example of foods that can boost the immune system. They’re widely known to be one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient routinely used to treat viral and bacterial infections. But that’s not the only compound that makes them so effective. Citrus fruits are also rich in flavonoids, particularly hesperidin. Hesperidin is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and respiratory viruses. According to an article in Frontiers of Immunology, regular consumption of citrus fruit juices can increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and decrease the levels of inflammatory markers in the body.
Another family of fruit that’s been shown to promote a healthier immune system is berries. Multiple studies have shown that berries contain antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.
If you want to boost your immune system, one of the best ways is to include more vegetables in your diet. Similarly to fruits, this food group provides a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also a great source of fiber and prebiotics – compounds that feed the good bacteria living in our gut. And keeping our gut health in check will in turn have a beneficial impact on our immune responses. To maximize your chances of staying free from infection, include many different types of vegetables in your diet.
Red bell and chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C, almost on par with citrus fruits. They also contain an alkaloid called capsaicin. According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, capsaicin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and as such, has the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, can also contribute to a stronger immune system. They contain high levels of vitamin C and E, as well as compounds called glucosinolates. As described in the Molecules journal, glucosinolates have been shown to be protective against many different types of cancer, including breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic and prostate.
Broccoli is another great example of a food that can boost your immune system. Apart from containing many vitamins, polyphenols and glucosinolates, it’s also a great source of substances called sulforaphane and quercetin. According to a review published in Phytochemistry Reviews, sulforaphane is highly involved in detoxification and neutralization of chemical carcinogens and free radicals. Quercetin also displays powerful antioxidant, anti-allergic and antiviral properties.
Special attention should also be given to green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce and spinach. Spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables. Multiple studies have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and cholesterol-lowering abilities. It provides a solid dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including a carotenoid called lutein. As suggested in a review in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, lutein has been shown to stimulate the production of antibodies and fight bacterial infections.
There’s been a growing interest in the immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms. This food group provides a good deal of selenium and B vitamins, both of which have an important role in our immune health. Furthermore, mushrooms contain a range of highly specific immunomodulatory and anti-cancer proteins, as described in the Journal of Autoimmunity.
Many types of mushrooms are beneficial to our health, but recently the attention has been directed particularly at shiitake mushrooms. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, regular consumption of shiitake significantly improves white blood cell and antibody production in the body.
Fermented food and drink has a long history. They were among the first processed food products consumed by humans – and for many good reasons. The fermentation process improves the shelf life, safety and flavor of foods like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. It also enhances their nutritional properties.
Many fermented foods contain strains of beneficial live bacteria, often referred to as probiotics. Probiotics can stimulate immune system function through enhancing natural killer cell toxicity, regulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increasing white blood cell count, according to a study in the Food Control journal.
When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, seafood may not be the first thing to cross your mind. But this food group has a lot to offer. Oily fish, for example, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, tryptophan and polyamines. According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular fish consumption can lead to better gut health and a reduced risk of developing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
Shellfish – including shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, crabs, krill and snails – also contain significant quantities of immune-stimulating bioactive peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, which is linked to immune health.
Garlic is a great example of a food that can boost the immune system. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic appears to stimulate the production and regulate the functioning of white blood cells, cytokines and immunoglobulins. Regular consumption can contribute to the treatment and prevention of respiratory infections, gastric ulcer, and even cancer.
Ginger is another example. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer potential.
What’s more, black pepper may also be able to boost the immune system. Due to its antibacterial properties, it’s long been used as a food preservative. It contains a compound called piperine, which according to a review published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, displays numerous health benefits.
In the last several years, researchers have also been extensively studying the immunomodulatory properties of turmeric. Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin – the main active ingredient of turmeric – shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties and can reduce the risk of several types of cancers.
Many foods have the ability to boost the immune system, but how can you make sure you’re including them in your diet?
Firstly, make sure to focus on eating wholefoods and cooking from scratch. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods – items such as packaged bread, microwave meals and breakfast cereals may appear healthy, but they tend to be largely devoid of immune-supporting nutrients. If you feel peckish, try to snack on citrus fruit and berries. When it comes to larger meals, try to add a solid portion of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, shellfish and fermented foods to your plate. Experiment with spices and condiments too.
It’s also good to make sure that your cooking processes don’t destroy immune-boosting nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook them. Instead, stick to steaming and gentle processing. According to an article published in Food Science and Biotechnology, prolonged boiling, frying and baking may result in reduced levels of vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. In fact, broccoli may lose up to 50% or more of its vitamin C when boiled.
If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric or mushrooms, consider dietary supplements. Many brands offer good quality extracts made from immune-boosting foods. It’s also relatively easy to top up on probiotics in the form of tablets or capsules – for best results, look for quality products with multiple different bacteria strains. If you are thinking of changing your supplement routine, however, it’s best to consult your doctor first.
There’s no doubt that being more active is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to boost your immune system. According to an article published in the Nutrition journal, exercise intensity and duration are closely linked to the functioning of multiple immune system components.
Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal also pulled together the results of multiple studies and concluded that higher levels of habitual physical activity is associated with a 31% lower risk of contracting an infectious disease and a 37% reduced risk of dying from it.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference to your quality of life. But getting enough sleep is also an important factor in immunity. A good snooze helps to balance the levels of hormones and cytokines that are responsible for regulating the inflammatory responses in the body, as described by a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Some animal studies have also shown that interactions between immune signaling molecules and brain neurochemicals increase significantly during infection, indicating that we tend to sleep differently when we are sick. Researchers suggested that during infection, these sleep alterations help our body to recover faster.
Short bouts of stress can help us to survive dangerous situations. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can have a serious impact on our physical health.
In an article published in the Brain and Behavior journal, researchers speculate that chronic stress severely disrupts immune system signaling and increases the levels of inflammation in the body. There’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that stress-reducing interventions have a direct impact on our susceptibility to infections. For example, multiple studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness meditation may result in decreased markers of inflammation and improved immune signaling.
By Anna Gora
Depression is an extremely common experience, which can be hard to escape from once an episode has begun.
Psychological research has found all sorts of ways that the chances of developing depression can be reduced.
From social connection, through building resilience to taking up a hobby, there are many science-backed methods for lowering depression risk.
Social connection is the strongest protective factor against depression.
People who feel able to tell others about their problems and who visit more often with friends and family have a markedly lower risk of becoming depressed.
The data, derived from over 100,000 people, assessed modifiable factors that could affect depression risk including sleep, diet, physical activity and social interaction.
Dr Jordan Smoller, study co-author, explained the results:
“Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion.”
Recalling positive memories helps to build resilience against depression.
Reminiscing about happy events and having a store of these to draw on is one way of building up resilience.
Similarly, getting nostalgic has been found to help fight loneliness and may also protect mental health.
Thinking back to better times, even if they are tinged with some sadness, helps people cope with challenging times.
Being able to naturally regulate mood is one of the best weapons against depression.
Mood regulation means choosing activities that increase mood, like exercise, when feeling low and doing dull activities like housework when spirits are higher.
Some of the best ways of improving mood are being in nature, taking part in sport, engaging with culture, chatting and playing.
Other mood enhancing activities include listening to music, eating, helping others and childcare.
Eating more fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of depression.
Reducing fat intake and increasing levels of omega-3 are also linked to a lower risk of depression.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables may account for their beneficial effect.
Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables may also help to lower the markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.
Similarly, adding more fibre to the diet decreases depression risk.
This is probably why many studies link vegetarian and vegan diets to a lower risk of depression.
Excessive negative thinking about unfulfilled dreams is linked to depression and anxiety.
When people repeatedly compare a mental vision of their ideal self with the failure to reach it, this can produce psychological distress.
Aspirations can be damaging as well as motivating, depending on how the mind deals with them and what results life happens to serve up.
Thinking obsessively about a perceived failure is psychological damaging.
Cutting down on screen-time strongly reduces depression risk, whether or not people have previously experienced a depressive episode.
The results come from data covering almost 85,000 people.
The study found that another important lifestyle factor linked to less depression is adequate sleep — around 7 to 9 hours is optimal.
Again, adequate sleep improves mood even in people who have not experienced depression.
Being in nature relaxes the mind, which in turn enhances the immune system.
This may explain why nature has a remarkably beneficial effect on a wide range of diseases including depression, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, obesity and many more.
Dr Ming Kuo, who carried out the research, explained how nature helps:
“When we feel completely safe, our body devotes resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes — growing, reproducing, and building the immune system.
When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”
People who take up any hobbies reduce their risk of depression by almost one-third.
Pursuing hobbies increases the chance of a depressed person recovering by 272 percent.
Hobbies are usually considered informal leisure activities that are not done for money and do not involve physical activity.
Things like music, drawing, sewing and collecting would be good examples.
To be beneficial to mental health, hobbies do not necessarily need to be social.
However, some studies do find that social hobbies can be particularly beneficial to happiness.
People high in aerobic and muscular fitness are at half the risk of depression.
Being fit also predicts a 60 percent lower chance of depression.
The study tracked over 150,000 middle-aged people in the UK.
Their aerobic fitness was tested on a stationary bike and muscle strength with a handgrip test.
After seven years, people who were fitter had better mental health.
Those with combined aerobic and muscular fitness had a 98 percent lower risk of depression and 60 percent lower risk of anxiety.
Mindfulness helps to reduce depression, anxiety and stress for many people, new research finds.
However, its effects on depression and anxiety may be relatively small, with the highest quality studies finding little benefit.
The best advice is probably to try and see if it works for you, but do not be surprised if its effects on depression and anxiety are modest.
Here are some common mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day and 10 ways mindfulness benefits the mind.
Want more suggestions? Here are 8 more everyday tools for fighting depression.
May 21, 2021 source: Psyblog
A lack of sleep leads to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
Just ten minutes of mindfulness helps the mind and body recover from sleep deprivation, new research finds.
Failing to get 7-8 hours sleep per night is linked to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
But mindfulness has a remarkable restorative effect.
Ten minutes of mindfulness during the day is enough to compensate for 44 minutes of lost sleep at night, the study of entrepreneurs found.
Here are some mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day.
Dr Charles Murnieks, the study’s first author, said:
“You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief.
As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.”
The study followed 105 entrepreneurs, 40% of whom were working 50 hours per week or more and sleeping less than six hours a night.
The results showed that entrepreneurs who engaged in more mindfulness were less exhausted.
A second study of a further 329 entrepreneurs also found that mindfulness could offset the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
However, mindfulness only works in this context when people are low on sleep.
Some people are getting enough sleep, but still feel exhausted.
Dr Murnieks said:
“If you’re feeling stressed and not sleeping, you can compensate with mindfulness exercises to a point.
But when you’re not low on sleep, mindfulness doesn’t improve those feelings of exhaustion.”
Mindfulness helps to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion.
For entrepreneurs and others with long working hours, mindfulness can be beneficial.
Dr Murnieks said:
“There are times when you’re launching a new venture that you’re going to have to surge.
Mindfulness exercises may be one way to provide some relief during those tough stretches.”
The study was published in the Journal of Business Venturing (Murnieks et al., 2019).
January 6, 2021
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
“Even though nighttime might seem like the perfect time to catch up on the latest COVID-19 information or the presidential race, we should try to avoid things that can cause anxiety before bed. Unfortunately, nowadays the news is filled with things that can cause worry and other unwanted emotions that you definitely want to avoid if you are hoping to get a good night’s sleep. The news, in some ways, keeps people up late at night the same way that a horror movie can. Images and information regarding violence or fear stimulate your mind preventing you from having a smooth transition into sleep.” — Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant proportion of our population is working from home these days, and as such, your home has become your office. You want to avoid at all costs working from your bed, however, as you want to maintain the relationship with the brain that the bed is only for two things — sleep and sex.
As you do more and more mentally stimulating activities in bed, the brain slowly develops a psychological association of the bed being a place to stay awake rather than sleep. This, in turn, can trigger people to develop sleep-onset insomnia. Your house is already your office, so during these difficult times, use the bed as your sanctuary — a place to relax, escape work and sleep.” ― Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Exercise in the morning or during the daytime can go a long way to helping improve insomnia symptoms at night, but exercise late in the day can be counterproductive. Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.” ― Stacey Gunn, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.
Plus, anger is a huge turn-off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response, which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch ‘Love Actually,’ one of my personal favorites.” — Dasgupta
“Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks past 2 p.m. Caffeinated drinks —including coffee, soda, iced tea, pre-work out drinks or energy drinks — act as a stimulant. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors — and adenosine [plays a role in] sleep homeostasis.” — Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Some people end up self-medicating with a nightcap, because it does help them to fall asleep more easily at the beginning of the night. But I recommend against it because it causes the sleep architecture to be disrupted later on, resulting in poor quality sleep. If I do have a drink in the evening, I try to separate it from bedtime, and give the alcohol a chance to clear out of my system before going to sleep.” ― Gunn
“Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.”
7. They don’t use electronic devices (without a blue light filter).
“In sleep and circadian science, we use the term ‘zeitgeber’ — or ‘time giver’ — to describe environmental cues that help us entrain to a 24-hour cycle. Light is the most powerful zeitgeber that signals the brain to stay awake. Prolonged exposure to bright light around bedtime keeps us awake and reduces the amount of sleep we get. Exposure to light at night also suppresses the brain’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps us to fall asleep.” ― Anita Shelgikar, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan
“I was reminded during a fishing trip to the Outer Banks [in North Carolina] with my nephews of the importance of avoiding artificial light before bedtime. We were forced to use propane lanterns on the island each night as there was no electricity available. Several of the parents on the fishing trip remarked that the darkness had improved their sleep so much that they might pitch the idea of ‘Lantern Tuesday’ to their spouses: A night each week dedicated to reducing light exposure and improving sleep sounds like a great idea to me!
Exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Plus, alteration of the circadian rhythm (or the daily rhythmic sleep-wake cycle) by nocturnal light exposure may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. What sort of practical steps can one take to avoid bright light? Dim the lights in the home except for a few lamps several hours before bed.” — William J. Healy, assistant professor of medicine and director of sleep quality improvement at Augusta University.
“Many of our patients will give themselves a 10-hour sleep window but realistically are only asleep for six to eight hours. Please do not spend more time in bed than you really need. All the extra time in bed awake results in your brain starting to develop an association that the bed is a place to be awake and also sleep. But this, in turn, can result in disruption of your sleep drive and thus result in poor sleep efficiency and sleep quality.” — Patel
Eight exercise for developing serenity and calm.
Teaching people to focus on positive emotions helps them deal with stress, new research finds.
People were taught classic positive psychology exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal, recognising positive events each day and doing small acts of kindness.
Together, the training helped reduce people’s anxiety and depression over the six weeks of the study.
The researchers focused on 170 caregivers for people with dementia.
Half were put in a control group, while the rest were encouraged to focus on their positive emotions.
People were taught eight skills:
Professor Judith Moskowitz, the study’s first author, said:
“The caregivers who learned the skills had less depression, better self-reported physical health, more feelings of happiness and other positive emotions than the control group.”
The results showed that those who learned the positive psychology exercises experienced a 7 percent drop in depression scores and 9 percent drop in anxiety.
This was enough to move people from being moderately depressed to being within the ‘normal’ range.
Professor Moskowitz chose dementia caregivers as the disease is on the rise:
“Nationally we are having a huge increase in informal caregivers.
People are living longer with dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, and their long-term care is falling to family members and friends.
This intervention is one way we can help reduce the stress and burden and enable them to provide better care.”
One participant in the study commented:
“Doing this study helped me look at my life, not as a big neon sign that says, ‘DEMENTIA’ in front of me, but little bitty things like, ‘We’re having a meal with L’s sister, and we’ll have a great visit.’
I’m seeing the trees are green, the wind is blowing.
Yeah, dementia is out there, but I’ve kind of unplugged the neon sign and scaled down the size of the letters.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Moskowitz et al., 2019).
A new study reveals that positive thinking may help reduce memory loss as people age. It seems the people who look at life through rose-colored glasses may have the right idea after all. This study adds to mounting research about the role of a good attitude, or ‘positive effect,’ in healthy aging.
The study, published on October 22, 2020, in the journal Psychological Science, found that people with an optimistic attitude have better memory as they age. Most people want to retain good memories in life, but the ability to do so largely depends on emotional and physical health. While many factors come into play in regards to the strength of our memory, it turns out being cheerful can reduce memory loss.
For the study, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 9-year longitudinal study involving 991 middle-aged and older U.S. adults. They all participated in a national study conducted at three separate times: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014. In the questionnaires, the participants reported on various positive emotions they’d experienced in the past 30 days.
In the last two assessments, the researchers also gave the participants tests to observe the strength of their memory. For these assessments, participants had to recall words right after they’d been said to them, and again after 15 minutes passed. The researchers analyzed how positive thinking could reduce memory loss, taking age, gender, education, depression, negative outlooks, and extroversion into account.
“Our findings showed that memory declined with age,” said Claudia Haase, senior author of the paper and an associate professor at Northwestern University.
“However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade,” added Emily Hittner, the paper’s lead author and a Ph.D. graduate of Northwestern University.
In the future, they hope to do further studies on what life factors may improve positive affect, and therefore reduce memory loss. For example, better physical health and stronger relationships may play a role in one’s overall happiness.
OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE MEMORY LOSS
In addition to thinking positively, other lifestyle factors can help improve your memory:
1 – GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE.
Exercise improves every aspect of health, not just our physical appearance and muscle-to-fat ratio. You will increase your endurance and strength, plus give your brain muscles a run for their money as well. Since the mind and body are inarguably linked, we must take care of them both.
Lack of exercise can lead to developing health problems such as obesity. A growing body of evidence links obesity and all the health complications that go along with it to increased memory loss. Furthermore, obesity heightens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.
Researchers believe this may occur because obesity negatively affects brain structure and volume. Overweight and obesity cause the hippocampus to shrink, which leads to cognitive decline. Also, the same proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s have been found in those with severe obesity.
Several studies show how regular exercise may help reduce memory loss. For example, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can result in a larger hippocampus. This area of the brain aids in learning and memory; therefore, a larger brain can support a stronger memory.
2 – PRIORITIZE SLEEP.
Unfortunately, in our “24/7” society, many of us suffer from some level of sleep deprivation. When we run on little sleep, it starts to affect our cognitive function, including memory. Deep, quality sleep helps us consolidate and sort through memories, so without enough REM sleep, our memory suffers. No matter what your schedule looks like, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and make sure to keep it consistent.
3 – EAT A HEALTHY DIET.
What we put into our bodies not only affects our physical health, but our mental performance as well. Eating too many processed, high-calorie foods can lead to a feeling of brain fog, impairing our memory. Experts say that if you want to reduce memory loss, you should include these foods in your diet:
4 – DO BRAIN GAMES AND PUZZLES.
Just like any other muscle in your body, your brain needs regular exercise to perform at its best. Do crossword puzzles or other brain games which require you to jog your memory. Instead of passing your time scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, take a few minutes a day to challenge your brain. Not only will you possibly learn something new, but you will reduce memory loss in the process.
5 – WATCH YOUR SUGAR CONSUMPTION.
This tip will help both your physical health and your memory. Just like berries and nuts can improve your memory, unhealthy foods like sugar can hinder it. Studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar have difficulty remembering things and have a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even if the person doesn’t have diabetes, eating too much sugar can hinder memory and brain health.
Researchers believe that, once again, the hippocampus starts to malfunction with too much sugar intake. While it requires a certain amount of glucose to function, too much of it can cause the opposite effect.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON RESEARCH THAT SHOWS POSITIVE THINKING CAN REDUCE MEMORY LOSS
Positive thinking enhances many aspects of life, from our relationships to our physical health. Researchers have found that optimism may help reduce memory loss as well, perhaps due to stronger pathways in the brain. While more studies need to be done about the relationship between memory and positive thinking, this shows great promise for future research.
Since thoughts create our reality, it seems vitally important that we pay attention to what goes on inside our heads. Positive thoughts lead to better outcomes in life, so make sure to take care of your mental health.
Around one-third of people over 65 are overweight or obese.
Bursts of short, high-intensity exercise can triple weight loss, research finds.
Known as ‘interval training’, or HIIT, the exercise can burn off more calories in a shorter period of time.
The exercises involved do not require any special equipment and can all be done at home in less than half an hour.
They include things like ‘jumping jacks’, squats, step ups and push ups.
Common types of interval training involve 30-second bursts going “all out” followed by four minutes of recovery at a much lower intensity.
Interval training can also be done on a bicycle, by running, jogging, speed walking or with a variety of other exercises.
The study included 36 people aged 70 with visceral (belly) fat exceeding 1 pound in women and 4 pounds in men.
They followed a 10-week course of interval training.
The interval training started at just 18 minutes per day, three times per week.
It involved 40 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of rest.
Over the 10 weeks of the study, they worked up to 36-minute workouts per day.
The results showed that the interval training tripled the losses in belly fat, in comparison to a control group who did not exercise.
The effects of exercise were stronger for men than for women in this study.
The study’s authors conclude:
“In conclusion, the main finding of this trial is that 10 weeks of progressive vigorous interval training decreased total FM [fat mass] by almost threefold compared to the control group while increasing muscle mass.
These outcomes are previously known to be associated with improved cardiometabolic health and decreased risk of CVDs.”
Around one-third of people over 65 are overweight or obese.
Obesity increases the risk of a range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Ballin et al., 2019).
Start with the fact that there are plenty of unhealthy foods that masquerade as healthy. Although choosing healthy foods are the correct path, they can’t be consumed without keeping portions in check. “My patients often report eating low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets full of healthful foods like quinoa, green leafy vegetables and berries, but they are eating too much of these foods,” says Gillian Goddard, MD, an endocrinologist and certified nutrition support clinician in New York City. “What makes foods healthy is their nutrient content. This does not mean we can eat them in limitless quantities.” For example, a half cup of quinoa has 111 calories. “Most people are eating two or three cups of quinoa in a sitting which can come in at 400-600 calories. That doesn’t include, the nuts, cheese and olive oil they’re adding,” adds Dr. Goddard.
They’re not easy to deal with. Julia Ross, author of the new book, The Craving Cure: Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control, says that when it comes to eating, the brain’s directives are all-powerful. Unfortunately, she says, the brain is telling most of us to eat sweets, fried foods, and starchy pastas and breads. Instead she advises not to skip meals and to make better choices to ward off bad choices. “Increase your protein at each meal and include some red meat along with poultry and fish. This kind of dense protein, eaten regularly, is the most effective food for turning off cravings for sweet and starchy ‘treats,'” Ross continues.
Finding the willpower to shed pounds is tough enough. If you consider your weight-loss efforts as punishment, you’ll start to resent your diet—especially in social situations. “You’re staring down the bread basket or considering dessert,” says fitness instructor Jenna Bergen Southerland in an article in Prevention. Your thought process may be that everyone else is getting to eat those things, and you can’t.
Southerland says to not look at it as deprivation. “Food, in general, is certainly a necessity. But a brownie? So the next time this thought whispers across your brain, take a step back and ask yourself two questions: Am I really depriving myself of a necessity? If I don’t change my eating habits, what am I really depriving myself of? The answer: A healthier, happier life. Keep that in mind and you’ll happily pass up the junk.”
Even healthy drinks like fruit juice or smoothies have a ton of calories and sugar. When you’re trying to lose weight these drinks can seem like a sensible tactic, but if you have too much it can seriously undermine your success, points out, Yvonne Sanders, U.S. head of operations, with Slimming World, an online weight-loss food optimization platform based in Dallas.
When people go more than three hours between meals they can become too hungry and then overeat whatever comes their way, explains Dafna Chazin, RDN, a dietitian at a weight loss practice in Voorhees, New Jersey. “Most people need two snacks in the afternoon hours, spaced out and protein-rich, to curb hunger and reduce impulsive eating.” Some good snack choices include Greek yogurt, hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, fruit, and nuts, she says.
Many weight-loss experts still claim that a calorie is a calorie—but that’s flat out wrong. “A 100-calorie pack of cookies is not going to provide the same nutritional value as something like a green smoothie,” says Lindsey Smith, author of the forthcoming book, Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. “While the green smoothie may have more calories, it also has way more nutrients that can help your body lose weight, keep it off, and feel mentally and physically healthy.”
Saying fat will make you fat is so 1990s, quips Smith. “You need it to keep hunger away for hours, to think clearly, and to make good decisions and function throughout the day,” Smith says. “Plus, most items that claim they are ‘low-fat’ are usually packed with sugar or other chemicals to make up for the flavour loss, and they can actually lead to more weight gain.” She also advises to incorporate healthy choices such as avocados, coconut oil, fish, nuts and seeds.
“It’s almost logical to think that if you skip meals or cut your food intake drastically, you’ll cut out more calories over the course of the day, but it rarely works that way,” says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND, and director of worldwide nutrition education and training Herbalife Nutrition in Los Angeles. “Skipping meals and cutting back invariably leads to uncontrollable hunger and overeating.”
Instead, she advises to plan out how you can distribute your daily calories over three meals and one or two snacks. “It’s easier to practice portion control when you know you’ll be eating every few hours, and you’ll help to break the ‘starve-then-binge’ habit,” Bowerman says. Gearing up for holiday cheese platters?
Many people fool themselves into thinking they’ve burned off a lot more calories during exercise than they actually have, and they use that as an excuse to indulge, Bowerman says. “Be aware of how many calories you actually burn when you exercise (you can find lots of resources online), and compare that to the calories you’re tempted to take in afterwards.” Also, keep a log of the type of exercise you do and the amount of time you spend doing it. This journaling can keep track of what you’re taking in and what you’re burning.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, Bowerman says. “If you think you should be perfect—that you’ll always exercise every morning or never eat another piece of candy—you’re setting the bar awfully high,” she says. The fix here is to practice positive self-talk. “Offer the same support to yourself as you would to a friend. You wouldn’t tell your friend who’s struggling with weight, ‘You just don’t have the willpower. I guess you’ll just be fat for the rest of your life.’ So, why do you say that to yourself?”
Many people fail to drink enough water, and this is a big factor in blocking weight loss progress, says Sean McCaffrey, DC, a chiropractor who operates McCaffrey Family Health in Springfield, Illinois, where he offers a weight-loss clinic. “Water makes you feel full, which helps to curb appetite,” he says, plus it’s necessary for digestion and to prevent dehydration.
Also, a proper supply of water is needed to help the body burn fat. “Six to eight, eight-ounce glasses are recommended but some people need more or less, depending on the climate they live in, their overall health and how much exercise they do,” McCaffrey adds.
It isn’t hard to undo a week of careful eating with just a few indulgences over the weekend. “Your weight isn’t going to budge if you’re constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back,” Bowerman says. To keep on the right track, do your weekly weigh-in on Friday mornings rather than Mondays. “If you’ve had a good week, it will show on the scale and will help keep you motivated throughout the weekend. You can also ‘bank’ a few calories during the week to spend on the weekend,” Bowerman says. “But be careful and know the calorie content of your indulgences. A margarita and a basket of chips could set you back several hundred calories.”
While protein is an important part of a healthy diet, too much of a good thing can block your weight-loss success. “If it runs, jumps, swims or flies, it tends to be good protein,” Dr. McCaffrey adds. He cautions relying on protein powders or shakes. “They often have lots of sugar and other additives. Under certain circumstances, these may be appropriate to use but most people can easily get adequate protein through their diet,” he says.
Rebecca Lewis, RD, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh, says even just a single night of poor sleep can make you feel hungrier than usual the next day. “Instead, make sure you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Start by turning down lights and powering down your electronics about an hour before bed,” she says.
Slow down as you eat your meals, as it takes time for the signal from your stomach to get to your brain that you’ve just eaten, says Lewis. “Without that signal, we’re inclined to keep eating until we are full—and then end up stuffed. Instead, slow down, put your fork down between bites, try to stretch your meal to be a full 20 minutes, and stop eating when you’re medium-full.”
“We used a novel set of methods for simultaneous measurement of daily sleep, physical activity, and meal timing patterns that could be used to identify persons at risk for increased weight gain.
Given that wearable activity monitors and smartphones are now ubiquitous in our modern society, it may soon be possible to consider the timing of behaviors across 24 hours in how we approach the prevention and treatment of obesity.”