Cover Stories

Finding it nearly impossible to lose weight. This might be why!

Remember when you were younger and wanted to trim down for that tropical beach vacay or dazzle in that sexy skin-tight outfit at your friend’s wedding … no problemo, right! A few tweaks on the diet front plus a couple of extra trips to the gym and voila, you were right where you wanted to be.

But as the years tick by, are you finding that those same tried and true diet and exercise plans are no longer cutting it and that losing weight has become a real challenge?

Let me give you ‘the skinny’ on what could be going on.  

It is not an understatement to say that hormonal activity plays a pivotal role in weight gain as we age. So what’s the connection? Well, as our lives evolve, so do our responsibilities and pressures - longer working hours, around the clock raising of kids, taking care of elderly parents, marriage issues, financial headaches … you get the picture. Soon enough we’re just one big ball of stress thanks to our daily grind and that’s when the weight issues can often start. 

One of the major players is cortisol, a hormone produced by our adrenal glands (those two little organs sitting on top of our kidneys). Often referred to as our ‘stress’ hormone, one of cortisol’s jobs is to helps get us out of immediate danger (along with the hormones norepinephrine and adrenaline) by increasing our blood sugar levels, raising our blood pressure and modulating our immune system. That sounds helpful, right?

However, if we stay at a constant (aka chronic) high level of stress, our cortisol levels also stay elevated and this triggers our bodies to lay down fat reserves for what it perceives might be hard times ahead, even starvation. In addition, these chronic high levels of cortisol trigger the release of insulin, our fat storage hormone, contributing to the accumulation of fat cells. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance (a topic for another day). Obviously fat reserves were a necessary part of survival for our ancestors (think fleeing from dinosaurs) but now it’s an unwanted side effect of our modern day, stressful lives.

So where does this fat get stored? You’ve guessed it, face, neck and around our waists where our deep abdominal fat is equipped with FOUR times more cortisol receptors compared to subcutaneous fat - that’s the fat just under the skin that we can pinch. (1)  

So we can start to understand that stress and weight gain are closely intertwined. The imbalance of hormones caused by chronic stress can turn our bodies into virtual fat-producing machines, making it hard not only to take the pounds off but easy to put the pounds on. And that could be one reason we are finding it nearly impossible to lose weight.

Look out for my next Inspiration to discover other daily habits that could be self-sabotaging our weight-loss goals … and yes, they’re hormone related too. 

References

(1) Epel, E.S., B. McEwen, T. Seeman, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine 62:623-632, 2000.

 

Libido-boosting Foods - Myth or Reality?

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner and cupid’s arrow ready to fly, you might be asking yourself, isn’t this the perfect time to be eating foods that could help me ‘get jiggy wit it’?

Oh yeah!

While it’s alluring to think that ‘love’ foods are out there for the eating, what’s myth and what’s reality? This nutrition love-sleuth is on the case.

Chocolate

Who doesn’t think of chocolate as the ultimate aphrodisiac? Such a sensuous texture, a little naughty and undeniably delicious.  Meow!

A 2006 study (1) of Italian women aged 26-44 years old, assessed the association between daily intake of chocolate and sexual function, and found that both overall sexual function and sexual desire were significantly greater among the chocolate-eaters than among those in the older group who were more likely to spurn chocolate. But before you break off a chunk of 70% dark chocolate, the researcher did point out that the age difference in the group, an important factor in sexuality, was also significant and that the “dalliance between chocolate and sex was far from a sure thing.” Well, that’s not quite the definitive ‘green light’ we were hoping for!

What we do know is that cacao (the main ingredient of chocolate) is a great source of four scientifically proven happy chemicals - serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine.  These neurotransmitters are our ‘bliss’ factories, so eating that piece of 70% organic chocolate (#fairtrade, #organic) seems to be a decidedly healthy and pleasurable way to get you into a heightened state of euphoria… and from there, well, anything is possible, if you get my drift. 

Apples

According to a 2014 study (2) on over 700 Italian women (they’re busy ladies), an apple a day does more than just keep the doctor away. The study found that there was a direct correlation between eating an apple daily, increased lubrication and higher sexual function. It is suggested this may be due to an apple's levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, which help to stimulate blood flow to the genitalia and from there it's just a wink and a nod to increased arousal. 

Excuse me whilst I devour an apple.

Oysters

Even though Casanova swore by oysters for his sexual escapades, sadly research has yet to make a clear connection between increased sexual desire and these popular shellfish.  However, if the very thought of eating oysters turns you on, then I say, that’s motivation enough to slurp down a dozen.

To sum up, what this nutrition love-sleuth has found is that under the covers is a mixed ‘bag’ (wink, wink) when it comes to food and our libidos. But don’t despair … with V. Day hurtling towards us, here’s what we can control when it comes to food and turning up the heat:

  • Whilst you may want to pop the cork on that bottle of wine then get up close and personal with your partner, remember to hydrate!  Alcohol is a diuretic, resulting in the loss of fluids from your body and that could mean those special lady parts become less than moist (ouch!)
  • Try eating smaller portion sizes before the big date, leaving more energy for bedroom antics and less for digestion (those tummy gurgles are oh so attractive)
  • Stay away from loading up on the carbs which could spike your insulin levels, and make you sleepy, which I’m sure is not part of the big intimate plan with your sweetie
  • I’m a huge fan of cruciferous veggies, such as cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli for their anti-cancerous properties. However, there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as a ‘bottom burp’ to kill the mood.  Why does this happen? Well, these bad boys have a ‘one/two punch’ – they contain raffinoise, a sugar that is fermented in the large intestine by gas producing bacteria and a high sulphate content, which we have to thank for that pungent egg waft you’ll be desperately trying to keep trapped under the covers. Ever so romantic. So choose the meals for your cruciferous intake wisely!
  • Don’t overlook the many surprising uses of coconut oil – not only yummy for sautéing, it can bring the ‘heat’ to the bedroom as a pleasurable massage oil or natural lubricant. Say no more!!

I hope this nutrition love-sleuth has given you some food for thought to ignite your Valentine’s Day adventures, and all your other moments of passion in 2018!

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16681473

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24518938

The 2016 Health Nut Gift Guide

The healthiest people I know have two big things in common: a passion for fitness and a love for the most delicious, good-for-you foods on the planet.  These gift ideas are handpicked for you and include a little something for every level of heath enthusiast on your list. Happy gifting! 

BE MERRY & BRIGHT!  Be sure to take some time out of your busy life to enjoy the magic of the holidays.  Shower your family and friends with love, spread joy and peace across the globe, and fill your holidays with plenty of fun and laughter!

Happy Holidays!

xx Sue

xoxo Sue

Back To School: 3 EASY Steps To Build-Up Immunity!

Some of us love getting back into the daily routine when September comes along but one thing is certain, the laid-back days days of summer are over and we are catapulted back to our hectic schedules; getting the kids out of the door, rushing to work or juggling full-on home schedules, speeding to after-school activities, making sure there is something somewhat healthy for dinner whilst trying to get the kids to do their homework. Forget about a little ‘me’ time – there just doesn’t seem to be a moment in the day! Frankly my dear, it's exhausting! 

One of the quickest ways to deplete our immune system is to be under this chronic level of stress, day after day.

We know this is not good - but what does it have to do with our immunity? Simply put, stress undermines our health, especially our gut and digestive health that is the ‘seat’ of our immunity.

As Hippocrates once said, “All disease starts in the gut.”

When we are stressed:

  • Our digestion is slower and less efficient
  • We don’t absorb the same amount of nutrients
  • Our metabolism slows down
  • Our gut can become irritated and inflamed leading to conditions such as ulcers, IBS and Colitis

Guess what ... when that inflammation in our gut spikes, it sends our cortisol levels shooting up, putting us right back into that ‘fight or flight’ mode and presto, we are back in that stress wheel all over again! 

So this year, how can we change what we put in our bodies to stop the cycle of stress and depleted immunity? 

I'm going to K.I.S.S. with my 3 EASY Steps:  

The ‘6’ Rule

Aim for a maximum of 6 teaspoons of ADDED sugar a day. Did you know that this is the World Health Organization’s recommendation (WHO) for daily sugar allowance for overall health prevention? Sugar feeds the bad bacteria, over-running the good bacteria in  our gut that is essential to our immune health. 

What is added sugar? Any table sugar, fructose or honey used as an ingredient in processing and preparing foods or beverages, eaten separately or added to a meal at the dining table. We all know the main culprits - soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream and pies but once you start reading labels, you may be rather surprised at how much sugar is hiding in your favorite food. 

BRIT BEET tip: To work out how much added sugar is in any product, take the sugar amount in grams and divide that amount by 4 to get the amount in teaspoons. For example:  

Nestea Iced Tea
Sugar amount: 28 grams
Serving Size: 20 fluid ounces
Total added sugar = 7 teaspoons

 

If you drank this, you would have consumed your whole day's recommended sugar amount plus an additional teaspoon and you haven't eaten anything yet! 

Eat Fermented Foods 

Fermented foods contain all that good bacteria we so desperately want hanging out in our gut, keeping our immune systems strong. So the next time you go to the store, if you haven't ventured into the world of fermented foods before, be brave and pick up a jar of:

  • Kimchi: (Yes, it stinks when you open it (you've been warned, but it tastes REALLY good!)
  • Sauerkraut (my husband and I have this for lunch every day with the kimchi -  it’s a delicious combo!)
  • Kefir:  Make the switch from regular yoghurt- the family will love it! (You’ll find it in the yoghurt aisle; look for Organic Kefir in glass bottles.)
  • Miso: Add a daily teaspoon to soups, salads and dressings.  Try my Immunity Salad Dressing for your 'hit' of daily miso! 

Aim to eat at least two serving of fermented food daily - it's really going help keep your good  bacteria level up and your immunity strengthened. 

Take Probiotic Supplements

Even with the best intentions we can still find ourselves stressed out and sucking back on sugar -  it's normal so don't beat yourself up. However, taking a daily probiotic can be the 'steady Eddy' in your immunity toolbox - think of it as 'immunity insurance'.   

Note: As a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, I have accessed to a wide range of probiotic supplements, so please ask me for my recommendation on brands, single/multi strain varieties, room stable vs. refrigerated options and the optimal times of days to take them.

So there you have it - 3 easy steps that we can put into daily practice to give our families the best chance to stay healthy and happy this coming year.

You’ve got this! 

Wireless Overload (Part 1): Are We ‘CELL-ing’ Out Our Kids?

It was September 2009, and I was attending a classical concert in the hip skiing town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  A well-dressed woman sat down next to me and turned to pay me a compliment on my dress (Diane Von Furstenburg knock-off!). I thanked her warmly and without missing a beat, she asked if I had kids. “Yes”, I told her. Her next question was unexpected, “Do they have cell phones?”

Dr Devra Davis 

Dr Devra Davis 

And that’s how I met the Dr. Devra Davis, an award-winning, internationally renowned scientist who heads up the Environmental Health Trust (http://ehtrust.org) - the only nonprofit in the world that both carries out high-level critical research on controllable environmental health hazards and works directly with local communities, teachers, parents and students as well as policy makers to understand and mitigate these hazards through research, education and advocacy.

That’s right – she is plugged in!

Her book, Disconnect (selected by TIME in 2010 as a 'must read') provides shocking detail about cell phone radiation. In her own words, “this is the most important and unrecognized public health issue of our time.  If we act, we could avert a global catastrophe.

Dr Davis said those words over a decade ago.

If you haven’t already heard, there is increased concern globally about exposure to cell phone radiation, especially when it comes to kids.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “children are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.”

Let me explain:

Prior to 2003, studies of cancer risk and cell phone use produced conflicting results. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assured the public that scientists had found no harmful health effects from exposure to cell phone emissions. This was despite the fact that they did no pre-market safety testing nor did they perform research to determine a safe level of Wireless Radiation.

However, most concerning of all, was that these studies were based on exposure of adults, not children - adults who had used cell phones for just 3 years, not long enough to develop any types of cancer. 

Does it matter that radiation exposure studies were based on adults, not children?

IT MATTERS … According to research compiled by EHTrust.org:]

  • Childrens’ systems are still developing, so even small insults can result in large impacts later in life.
  • Equally important, their smaller stature, thinner skulls and unique body makeup result in radiofrequency radiation penetrating their brains and bodies more deeply than large adults.
  •  
Children have thinner skulls which allow for deeper penetration of radio frequency radiation than adults

Children have thinner skulls which allow for deeper penetration of radio frequency radiation than adults

So what can this mean for your kid(s) if they use a cell phone?

Research is on-going, but in 2007 Dr. Lennart Hardell, a distinguished Oncologist and his research team at Orebro University in Sweden showed that children who start using a mobile phone as teenagers (which unfortunately, we know is late for getting a first cell phone) were at risk of developing 4 to 8 times more brain cancers on the side of their head where they held the phone, than those who began to use phones later in life. (1)(2)

I know … that’s a frightening statistic.

Worse still, this research only looked at teenagers - not at younger children using cell phones from an earlier age, which sadly is the reality these days.

With this concerning research, are government bodies doing anything to protect our children?

The ehtrust.org website states that:

  • Berkeley California has passed an Ordinance informing people about the radiation emissions from their phones.
  • Over 20 countries have precautionary policies in place.
  • Russia, the UK, Canada, and many other countries discourage the use of cell phones by children.
  • France and Belgium have actually banned the sale of phones to children.
  • Believe it or not, Toronto, Canada also limits Wi-Fi in public parks.

Next time, MORE on the dangers of cell phones and what YOU can do to help reduce cellphone radiation for your kids.

References

(1)         http://www.radiationresearch.org/pdfs/royal_society_hardell.pdf

(2)         http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569116/