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To Run Or To Lift, That Is The Question

 

What Aerobic and Resistance Exercise Do For Your Health

When you think of exercise, what immediately comes to mind?

Going out for a jog? Sweating it out on the spin bike at the gym? Or maybe loading up weight at the squat rack? What about a resistance band workout?

All of those classify as exercise, but they serve different purposes. If you want to increase your squat 1-repetition maximum by 50 pounds, a daily cycling class won’t get you there.

It’s clear that your body adapts differently to different types of exercise, but how does that happen and what does it mean for your health?

This article will break down the benefits of the two primary forms of exercise training – aerobic (commonly referred to as cardio) and resistance, or weight training.

What does aerobic exercise do for your health?

Aerobic, cardio, endurance – these terms all refer to exercise that simulates heart rate and breathing rate to provide your muscles with oxygenated blood (this differs from anaerobic exercise, which we’ll discuss shortly). The energy that powers such exercise is produced in muscle cells primarily via an oxidative pathway, meaning oxygen is required.

That explains all the heavy breathing when you go out for a run, doesn’t it?

That oxygen is delivered via blood being pumped from your heart, through your arteries, and returning to the heart through your veins.

So, it’s apparent that aerobic exercise primarily works two systems: energy production in your muscle cells and blood delivery in your cardiovascular system.

You’ll get to learn more about the energy production system soon, but first it’s necessary to understand cardiovascular adaptations that impact your health.

CARDIAC ADAPTATIONS

You probably understand that your heart is a muscle, responsible for contracting and relaxing, day in and day out, to pump blood through your body. In that way, it’s a totally unique muscle.

As long as you live, your heart never, ever gets a break. That’s pretty amazing when you realize that all your other muscles get to rest on and off throughout the day. But you can take steps to make sure your heart is up to the challenge.

As an analogy, consider two people: a professional football player, and a high school track athlete. Each is given a 10 pound dumbbell and told to perform 70 arm curls per minute, until their arm gives out.

You’d expect the football player to last a lot longer than the high school athlete – his curls are more efficient since he does them several times per week in the gym, and he’s stronger.

Similarly, aerobic exercise trains the heart to be stronger and more efficient at circulating blood. With aerobic exercise, the chamber of the heart (left ventricle) that pumps blood to the rest of the body literally gets larger and squeezes out more blood per pump, which means its stroke volume is increased.

This results in an improved capacity for cardiac output, which is the quantity of blood pumped by the heart per minute.

If you’ve heard of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), it may seem counterintuitive that a large left ventricle muscle is a beneficial adaptation to aerobic exercise. But, important characteristics differentiate an enlarged left ventricle due to healthy aerobic exercise training and one resulting from disease.

A strong, efficient heart is exactly what you want in order to live a long and healthy life. To understand why the left ventricle’s output, and stroke volume in particular, is such a big deal, consider patients with chronic heart failure.

These patients’ hearts pump out less blood per heartbeat than normal, meaning their stroke volume is reduced. Exercise rehabilitation aims to increase the amount of blood they pump with each heartbeat, and it works.

If your heart is bigger and stronger, pumping more blood per beat, it doesn’t have to beat as rapidly. That’s why you often hear of elite endurance athletes with resting heart rates in the 30’s and 40’s. This is more important than it may seem: lower resting heart rate is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

All these cardiac adaptations are aided by an increase in blood volume that occurs with aerobic exercise training. Without getting too technical, the expanded blood volume improves the heart’s contractility and filling capacity, allowing it to pump more blood per beat.

Although the heart is a different type of muscle than what’s in your arms or legs, it’s still subject to a related function. It contracts in order to move blood throughout the body. In addition to making it stronger and more efficient, you can also lighten the heart’s load by decreasing the resistance it faces.

VASCULAR ADAPTATIONS

Each time the heart beats, blood shoots out from the left ventricle into a big artery called the aorta, and then flows into a vast network of vessels branching off. Every artery in the body provides resistance to the blood flowing through it which the heart pushes against.

The resistance provided by arteries is variable, though. Aerobic exercise training reduces the heart’s workload by reducing arterial stiffness.

When you perform aerobic exercise, your heart rate increases, pushing more blood through your arteries than at rest. The inner wall of your arteries feel the increased blood flow, and through a series of mechanisms, causes your arteries to widen.

As you train and your arteries experience this regularly, they become more effective at expanding to accept each rush of blood with each heartbeat, every day. If you don’t regularly do aerobic exercise, your arteries never experience this stretch and they literally stiffen up.

It’s much harder for your heart to pump blood through a stiff tube than a stretchy one – imagine forcing water through a steel pipe versus a rubber tube.

If the upstream cardiac effects of improved arterial health aren’t enough to convince you exercise is important, consider this: increased arterial stiffness is associated with coronary artery plaque development, the stuff that causes heart attacks.

Aerobic exercise also impacts your vascular system by promoting capillary growth. Capillaries are the microscopic vessels where oxygen diffuses from red blood cells to muscle (and other) cells.

Aerobic exercise requires increased oxygen delivery to the muscle to produce energy, so your body grows more capillaries to be able to better handle the energy demand. It does so by stimulating a molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor, and it’s never too late to benefit: older individuals have a similar response as younger.

METABOLIC ADAPTATIONS

Along with cardiovascular adaptation, aerobic exercise substantially impacts your muscles’ energy production system. Once blood delivers oxygen to the muscle cells, they still have to use it to produce energy that powers all the exercise you’re doing

As mentioned earlier, aerobic exercise primarily relies on oxidative energy production. This takes place in tiny energy generators within cells called mitochondria. Aerobic exercise also relies to a great extent on breaking down fat molecules for energy, which can only happen within mitochondria.

Consequently, aerobic exercise training drastically improves your muscle cells’ ability to burn fat by generating more mitochondria and improving their functionality. Particularly in the hours following each training session, your body burns more fat than usual.

Along with a greater quality and quantity of fat-burning machinery, aerobic training can increase your resting metabolic rate, resulting in more calories burned each day.

High intensity aerobic exercise also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), resulting in increased calorie burn after training sessions in addition to what you burned while exercising. While the extra expenditure may seem minimal at around 10 – 20 extra calories per hour, the cumulative effect could impact your long term body composition goals greatly.

Over time, your body will adapt to the training you do. To maintain EPOC as you gain fitness, make sure to gradually progress your training intensity.

MUSCULAR ADAPTATION

The cardiovascular and metabolic systems get all the attention when it comes to aerobic exercise, but your muscles also adapt as a result of aerobic training.

Muscles are made up of several fiber types. Aerobic exercise training primarily influences type I fibers, also known as ‘slow-twitch’ fibers.

They get the name from the proteins within that are responsible for their contractions. Relative to type IIa fibers (‘fast-twitch’), type I fibers contract more slowly but have a far greater capacity to contract over and over, for a sustained period of time. Perfect for aerobic exercise like running, cross-country skiing, and cycling.

It should come as no surprise, then, that aerobic training results in primarily hypertrophy of type I muscle fibers. They adapt by adding more ‘slow-twitch’ contractile proteins.

SO WHAT?

No matter who you are, all the adaptations you just read about are relevant to you. They are exactly what fuel endurance performance and cardio-metabolic health alike.

How? You saw that these adaptations reduce the risk of conditions like heart failure, heart and vascular disease, and chronic metabolic disease. But one factor ties them all together nicely.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is strongly associated with risk of mortality from all causes. Cardiorespiratory fitness is measured by your maximal oxygen consumption during an exercise stress test (it’s also commonly known as VO2max).

VO2max is such a strong indicator of your health and mortality risk because it’s determined by all the beneficial adaptations to aerobic exercise discussed so far: your heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood through arteries, blood supply at the capillary level, and mitochondrial machinery to use the oxygen your muscles receive.

Metabolic diseases are particularly associated with mitochondrial defects, which can be prevented or reversed with aerobic exercise. And the muscular adaptation mentioned? That allows you to progress your aerobic training and continue making cardiovascular and metabolic improvements.

What does resistance exercise do for your health?

Resistance exercise is training that progressively overloads your muscles to promote muscle strength, power, anaerobic endurance, and size. Traditional weightlifting, bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups, and resistance band exercises are all examples of resistance training meant to make your muscles bigger, stronger, more powerful, and more functional.

Specific adaptations to resistance training begin within the muscle cells. However, you’ll still get systemic benefits ranging from muscle growth to cardiovascular benefit.

To gain a deeper understanding of the whole-body performance and health effects of resistance training, read into how resistance exercise affects muscle at the microscopic level.

MICRO ADAPTATIONS

The point of resistance training is to make muscles function more effectively. This all starts with the contractile proteins that act to control muscle shortening and lengthening.

When you do resistance exercise, some of those proteins get yanked apart. That, along with the stress your muscle experienced, is the stimulus for your muscle to rebuild – this time bigger, stronger, or more powerful than before.

After resistance exercise, your muscle synthesizes proteins (this is aided by nutritional stimuli i.e. protein consumption). Special cells known as satellite cells also spring into action to help build up the broken down muscle. They normally lie quietly adjacent to muscle cells, but resistance exercise tells them to get to work.

Satellite cells combine with the muscle cells that were strained and damaged during your resistance training session. In doing so, they lend their molecular machinery to support protein synthesis that leads to muscle hypertrophy.

As for fibre type, resistance training with loads over 60% of your 1-repetition maximum results in hypertrophy of primarily type IIa fibres (‘fast-twitch’). These fibres, compared to type I fibres, are capable of rapid contraction with high force, but tire more easily. That makes sense – your body adapts to meet the challenge it’s presented with (e.g. lifting a difficult weight for eight repetitions).

Not only do type IIa fibres have the greatest growth, but a third fibre type called IIx (formerly known as IIb) can be converted into IIa fibres. Type IIx fibres, before they’ve converted, have properties that blend those of type I and type IIa.

These micro- level adaptations matter to athletes and the general population alike. When you make measurable gains in muscle mass, strength, or power, you can thank the protein synthesis and fibre-specific adaptations that occurred within your muscle cells.

MACRO ADAPTATIONS

All those microscopic adaptations add up to cause changes that are easier to grasp. Resistance training at the proper intensity leads to measurable muscle hypertrophy.

Strength improves in part due to changes to the neuromuscular system. Control over your muscles is typically a balance between competing neural signals. Some of those signals tell the muscle to contract, while others prevent contraction.

Regular resistance training can reduce neural inhibition that normally limits the strength and/or endurance of the muscle.

Muscle accounts for roughly 20% of resting energy expenditure, so it’s impacts on calorie burn and body composition is meaningful. Not only that, but you can’t increase the mass of most of the other organs that account for resting energy expenditure, like the liver, heart, brain, and kidney. Muscle is different because it hypertrophies, growing larger and expending more calories.

By packing on muscle, not only do you increase strength, power, and function, but you also raise your basal metabolic rate. And by doing so, you’ll see an increase in your metabolism and an improvement in your health.

CARDIORESPIRATORY ADAPTATIONS

If you’ve ever lifted weights or done resistance exercise, you’ve probably felt your heart pounding with the exertion.

Does that mean you’re getting cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations like you would with aerobic training?

Maybe not.

Resistance exercise does raise your energy expenditure. But it does so differently, and to a lesser extent, than aerobic exercise.

The primary fuel sources for high intensity weight lifting are phosphocreatine and ATP, two molecules that are readily available to power short, quick movements like weight lifting. This means resistance exercise trains your energy production systems, but has less impact on the aerobic energy systems.

When it comes to cardiovascular benefits, isometric resistance training can help you maintain healthy blood pressure. Isometric exercises involve contracting your muscles against resistance that doesn’t move, so it’s different than traditional resistance training.

To get the best of both worlds, some people turn to circuit training, which consists of lifting higher repetitions of lighter weights and moving rapidly between exercises, to maintain a higher heart rate and metabolic demand.

SO WHAT?

Large-scale and small-scale alike, these adaptations to resistance exercise impact your health and physical performance. Your muscles carry you through the day, allowing you to do everything from climbing the stairs at work to picking up your two-year-old for a hug when you get back home. If you’re an athlete, they are essential to performance during training and on game-day.

Breaking down and building up muscle through resistance training is essential to maintaining function as you age. Loss of muscle mass even threatens some people’s capacity to live independently.

In terms of body composition, muscle mass is not only an important component to maintain, but it also contributes to your resting metabolism, helping you maintain a healthy energy balance.

By now, you should have a solid understanding of what aerobic and resistance training each do. To recap, aerobic causes the cardiorespiratory system to adapt. It maintains heart function and health, and keeps your energy metabolism system running. Resistance training still benefits the cardiovascular system, but its role is mainly for muscle gain and function.

Is aerobic, or resistance training better for fat loss?

So, aerobic and resistance exercise each have enough benefits to be heralded as a ‘miracle drug’ by some medical groups.

But what if your specific goal is to shed a few pounds of fat? Should you focus on aerobic or resistance training?

The answer is straightforward: aerobic. Read on to find out why.

It’s true that resistance training that increases your skeletal muscle mass will boost your basal metabolic rate, causing you to burn a few more calories each day. But, the most substantial increase to your calorie burning will be thanks to the exercise you do.

On the other hand, aerobic exercise boosts the muscle’s fat-burning machinery, the mitochondria. It also burns substantially more calories per session than resistance exercise, and results in study indicates RT had greater EPOC than steady state aerobic so only HIIT was similar or greater.

Most importantly, if you have fat to lose, aerobic is probably most efficient for both visceral and subcutaneous fat loss.

Visceral fat is the nasty, metabolically active fat your body stores in your abdominal cavity, surrounding the internal organs. It’s what you should care about if you’re concerned about your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or a host of other health problems. Subcutaneous fat is what your body stores just under the skin. It’s more visible, but less detrimental to your health.

If you’re truly going after a substantial fat loss, and dedicated to keeping it off, you need to strongly consider adding a dietary component to your weight loss plan.

To illustrate, take a goal of 1 pound of weight loss per week. That equates to a 500 calorie deficit per day, or roughly one hour of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every day of the week. Not only is that unlikely to be sustainable, but you’d probably injure yourself by taking on an intensive program like that.

To reach the same calorie deficit, you could eliminate 500 calories from your daily energy requirement. That could mean simply reducing your portion size at each meal.

The good news is that diet and exercise go hand-in-hand for losing weight. By obtaining a calorie deficit from both exercise and diet, neither has to be as drastic. Instead you can combine 250 calories of exercise with a 250 calorie reduction in energy intake each day.

Combining diet and exercise even improves your chances at maintaining your weight loss over time, and keeps up your metabolism despite your energy deficit. If that isn’t enough for you, it may be better than either exercise or diet alone for reducing visceral fat.

Pulling It All Together

Before reading, you probably already knew that exercise is key to your health and body composition. Now, you should have a much clearer idea of why that’s the case.

Put simply, aerobic and resistance training each tell your body to adapt in different ways. That’s exactly why they can’t be substituted for each other. If cardiovascular health is your primary concern, resistance training won’t result in the same blood vessel adaptations you would get from cycling training. Likewise, you can’t expect to gain much strength or power from running. It won’t tell your type IIa muscle fibres to hypertrophy!

Both are important for a healthy body composition. While aerobic is best for losing fat (especially visceral fat), resistance builds muscle that keeps you functioning all day long.

All the adaptations you’ve read about – from strengthening your heart and making your arteries more flexible, to synthesizing muscle contractile proteins – directly impact your health and physical function. What medications can you name that have such a widespread and profound impact?

Maybe those scientists who call exercise a miracle drug are right.

The Author Max Gaitán, MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.

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How ‘The Sultana Exercise’ Can Help You Lose Weight

 

The five-minute trick could be the secret to re-establishing a healthy relationship with food

We all have to eat to stay alive, but how often do you actually savour your food?

The concept of mindful eating is nothing new – for years, health gurus have extolled the virtues of appreciating your food instead of mindlessly shoving it into your mouth.

Studies have shown that eating mindfully results in weight loss with minimal effort, but just how exactly do you do it?

The one effort-free technique which is proven to help lose weight.

One expert has revealed her tried and tested technique to help us eat mindfully – it’s called ‘the sultana exercise’.

According to Charlotte Thaarup, Australian clinical mindfulness consultant and director of The Mindfulness Clinic, doing this single exercise with a sultana is all we need to do to keep us eating consciously.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Take a sultana and spend five minutes “using your five senses with it”
  2. Look at it, noticing the texture and colour
  3. Feel it in your hand
  4. Smell it
  5. Taste it, rolling it around your tongue and noticing how it feels between your teeth.

According to Thaarup, the sultana exercise could help you eat better and binge less, the Mail Online reports.

Mindful eating has for a while been touted as a way to help people re-establish a healthy relationship with food.

“Whether you want to lose weight, call a truce in the war with your dear body, change your relationship with food, or reduce your daily stress by making healthier choices,” Thaarup says eating mindfully can help.

  • As well as the sultana exercise, other ways to encourage mindful eating include:
  • Putting your cutlery down in between mouthfuls
  • Noticing your thought processes as you eat
  • Making meals memorable by laying the table nicely
  • Eating slowly
  • Sitting at a table rather than in front of the TV
  • Keeping a food diary.

For a lot of people, however, eating mindfully becomes harder when dining with other people – it’s hard to pay attention to what your companions are saying if you’re also focussing on every mouthful you chew.

But if you can manage it, mindful eating really could be the easiest way of all not only to stop overeating but also to get more pleasure from food.

One study, for example, found that people who ate chocolate mindfully were left in a better mood than those who didn’t bother to really enjoy it. So perhaps it’s time to grab a sultana and mindfully eat your way to health, happiness and harmony.

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Seven Common Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight

It’s that time of year, summer holidays are over, kids are back at school and you’ve been on a new diet to lose all the weight you put on while on your ‘all inclusive’ in the sun.  While you lost quite a lot of weight at first without much effort, you have now reached a plateau and all your hard work does not appear to be paying dividends when you step on the scales.

So here are seven common reasons I find hold people back from losing weight.

It also contains actionable tips on how to break through the plateau and get things moving again.

1. Maybe You Are Losing Weight Without Realizing it.

If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, then you may not need to freak out just yet.

It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This does NOT mean that you are not losing fat.

Body weight tends to fluctuate by a few pounds. It depends on the foods you are eating, and hormones can also have a major effect on how much water your body holds on to (especially in women).

Also, it is possible to gain muscle at the same time as you lose fat. This is particularly common if you just recently started exercising.

This is a good thing, as what you really want to lose is body fat, not just weight.

It is a good idea to use something other than the scale to gauge your progress. For example, measure your waist circumference and get your body fat percentage measured once per month.

Also, how well your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror can be very telling.

Unless your weight has been stuck at the same point for at least 1-2 weeks, then you probably don’t need to worry about anything.

2. You’re Not Keeping Track of What You’re Eating

Awareness is incredibly important if you are trying to lose weight. Many people actually don’t have a clue how much they’re really eating.

Studies show that keeping track of your diet helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries, or take pictures of their meals, consistently lose more weight than people who don’t , if you have a smartphone then the best app, bar none, is myfitnesspal. It has a library of 10,000s of foods and is simple to use.

3. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Protein is the single most important nutrient for losing weight.

Eating protein at 25-30% of calories can boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and make you automatically eat several hundred fewer calories per day. It can also drastically reduce cravings and desire for snacking.

This is partly mediated by protein’s effects on appetite-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin.

If you eat breakfast, then this is the most important meal to load up on the protein. Studies show that those who eat a high-protein breakfast are less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.

A high protein intake also helps prevent metabolic slowdown, a common side effect of losing weight. It also helps to prevent weight regain.

4. You’re Binge Eating (Even on Healthy Food)

Binge eating is a common side effect of dieting. It involves rapidly eating large amounts of food, often much more than your body needs.

This is a pretty big problem for many dieters. Some of them binge on junk food, while others binge on relatively healthy foods, including nuts, nut butter, dark chocolate, cheese, etc.

Even if something is healthy, the calories still count.

5. You’re Still Drinking Sugar

Sugary beverages are the most fattening items in the food supply. Our brains don’t compensate for the calories in them by making us eat less of other foods.

This isn’t only true of sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi; it also applies to “healthier” beverages like Vitaminwater – which are also loaded with sugar.

Even fruit juices are problematic, and should not be consumed in large amounts. A single glass can contain a similar amount of sugar as several pieces of whole fruit!

6. You’re Not Cutting Back on Carbohydrates

If you have a lot of weight to lose, and/or if you have metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, then you may want to consider a low-carb diet.

In short-term studies, this type of diet has been shown to cause up to 2-3 times as much weight loss as the standard “low-fat” diet that is often recommended.

Low-carb diets can also lead to improvements in many metabolic markers, such as triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood sugar, to name a few.

7. You’re Not Drinking Water

Drinking water can have benefits for weight loss.

In one 12-week weight loss study, people who drank half a litre of water 30 minutes before meals lost 44% more weight.

Drinking water has also been shown to boost the amount of calories burned by 24-30% over a period of 1.5 hours.

To Summarise; “Diets” almost never work in the long term. If anything, studies actually show that people who “diet” gain more weight over time.

Instead of approaching this from a dieting mindset, make it your primary goal to become a happier, healthier and fitter person.

Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.

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Is it Possible to Lose Weight with an Underactive Thyroid?

 

Is it Possible to Lose Weight with an Underactive Thyroid?

If you are being treated for an underactive thyroid, medically known as hypothyroidism, and are struggling to lose body fat, you are not alone. Of the estimated 2% percent in the U.K. who have hypothyroidism, many find themselves with undesirable weight gain.

Hypothyroidism is mostly seen in women between the ages of 40 – 50 and is seen in women ten times more often than men. It often occurs during the menopausal years and symptoms are often ignored during the early stages by both patients and doctors if the patient is at this age.

Even after diagnosis and treatment, it may be extremely difficult to lose weight. You may even find yourself gaining weight, so attaining your personal body composition goals seems impossible.
The doctors at our clinics regularly identify thyroid issues. This article aims to provide some basic information about thyroid function and its role in obesity and give you specific steps you can take to lose weight.

The small but mighty thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located low on the front of your neck. It secretes several hormones, primarily T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), that act on every cell throughout the body to regulate metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. These hormones also affect breathing, heart and nervous system functions, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, weight and cholesterol levels.

The thyroid functions by receiving information from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland located in the brain. The pituitary gland, which is like a thermostat for your body, stimulates the thyroid by secreting Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). When the pituitary senses a low concentration of thyroid hormone in your blood, it produces more TSH to signal to increase production of T4 or T3. If thyroid hormone levels are high, the pituitary produces only tiny amounts of TSH.

THYROID DYSFUNCTION

If your thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, you have hyperthyroidism. Common symptoms include uncontrolled weight loss, rapid heart rate, and heat sensitivity.
With hypothyroidism, insufficient thyroid hormone is secreted to meet the body’s needs, and body functions slow.
If you have hypothyroidism, you may gain weight, feel tired, have dry hair and skin, be constipated, and have an intolerance to cold.
Hypothyroidism is treated with daily thyroid hormone pills to replace the amount of hormone your body is no longer producing.

THE LINK BETWEEN HYPOTHYROIDISM AND WEIGHT GAIN

Weight gain or the inability to lose weight is a common concern for people with hypothyroidism. Even when on treatment, there is usually only a modest loss in weight.
The way the thyroid functions to affect weight and body composition is quite complex. Research has found interactions between thyroid hormones and factors directly affecting energy expenditure, such as fat tissue, other hormones, and the brain.

Although clinicians are not certain whether hypothyroidism causes obesity or vice versa, there is undoubtedly a link between the two.

What can you do?

Hope is not lost! Your motivation may be lagging because the weight is not melting off even while taking thyroid hormone replacement. There are proactive steps you can take to address issues keeping you from meeting your goals. All these things should be done in consultation with your doctor.

• Get your thyroid tested – Discuss the results with your doctor to see if your TSH levels are in the higher end of the reference range, or if your T3 or TBG is low. Your doctor may need to adjust your current medication or supplement with T3 in order to find your optimal thyroid levels.
• Optimize your thyroid medication – Discuss any changes in your medications with your doctor and check you are taking them at the best time and whether they should be taken with food, for example.
• Get tested for insulin and leptin resistance – If you have these conditions, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
• Exercise regularly – Lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, which improve body composition (even without a change on the scale), improve thyroid function. Regular exercise raises your metabolism, curbs your appetite, lowers blood sugar levels, and reduces insulin and leptin resistance.
• Change your diet – Work with your doctor to find a diet plan that will provide optimal thyroid health and control your weight while helping to manage or prevent conditions associated with hypothyroidism.
• Change your eating patterns – Larger, less frequent (2-3) meals each day with few or no between-meal snacks may be more effective at controlling insulin and leptin levels, which will optimize fat usage.
• Get your 8 hours of sleep – Getting enough sleep controls insulin and leptin as well as stress hormone levels.

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Why You Need to Know Your Body Fat Percentage

Do you know what your body fat percentage is, right now?

Do you know what a healthy body fat percentage is for your gender?

Do you know why you should care?

Your body fat percentage is a value that tells you how much of your body weight is made up of fat. In terms of your overall health, your body fat percentage can be one of the most useful numbers available to you, even more so than your scale weight and much more so than your Body Mass Index (BMI).

If you have an interest in living a healthy lifestyle, try your best to eat a healthy diet, and work to keep your body weight under control, your body fat percentage is a crucial number to know that will help you in many different ways. Here are just a few.

#1 Get The Context Of Your Weight

Knowing how much you weigh tells you very little because people can have the same body weight but have completely different compositions, body types, and health risks. Your body fat percentage puts your weight into context, telling you far more about your yourself than how heavy you are.

Here are the body compositions of three types of people, all around the same weight (~154 pounds) and height (5’10”). To make each of these easier to talk about later, we’ll give them each a fictitious name.

Bill has a body weight of 154.0 pounds and a body fat percentage of 28.3%. Notice the large differences between the bar for Body Fat Mass and SMM (Skeletal Muscle Mass). Because of this very large difference, despite being a normal weight, Bill likely falls into the category of what is popularly called “skinny fat.”

Ted has a nearly identical weight to Bill – less than half a pound in difference – but has a body fat percentage of 15.6%, almost 13% less than Bill! This is because, unlike Bill, Ted has average amounts of muscle and fat for a 5’10” person.

Within about a pound of both Bill and Ted is Brian, with a body weight of 154.8 and a body fat percentage of 10.1%. The bars for his SMM and Body Fat Mass are the complete inverse of Bill, who had a skinny fat composition.

Now it’s true that even without these charts, it would be quite obvious to tell skinny fat Bill from athletic Brian just by looking at them.

However, the more extreme examples of Bill and Brian are helpful to illustrate how three individuals with roughly the same scale weight and BMI can have wildly different body compositions– something that scale weight cannot reveal.

Of the three individuals, Bill stands to be the most at risk for health problems because of his high body fat percentage and low muscle mass, but especially so because his weight and BMI are considered normal.

Without the content body fat percentage provides, it’s very difficult to understand what your weight means when you stand on a scale and whether or not you should consider making changes to improve your body composition.

Knowing your body fat percentage helps you decide which of the two goals that reflect healthy body composition changes – increasing Lean Body Mass and decreasing Fat Mass – you should be working on.

It’s difficult to point to any single “ideal” body fat percentage because what may be ideal for a bodybuilder may be different than what’s ideal for a soccer player. For this reason, ranges are used to give people an idea of where they stand in terms of health.

  • For men: 10-20% is considered normal/healthy
  • For women: 18-28% is considered normal/healthy

These ranges may vary depending on who your source is. The American College of Sports Medicine has ranges as does the Mayo Clinic (more on that later in the next section)

Knowing where your body fat percentage falls in these ranges can be very helpful for you to decide how to improve your overall composition.

For example (and this may come as a surprise): many overweight/obese people actually already have a significant amount of muscle development compared to an average person of the same height.

Now, while strength training can be healthy and useful for everyone, a program based on bulking up and developing huge muscles may not be the best method for improving the body composition of someone who is overweight. That’s because the diet that encourages muscle growth typically requires being in a caloric surplus (eating more than your body needs to maintain its weight).

While it is true that fat loss can occur while strength training and gaining muscle, for someone of this body type, results will likely be achieved faster by a combination of restricting calories, increasing energy use, and weight lifting to maintain – not grow – muscle.

For someone like Bill, who is not overweight but still “overfat,” the opposite advice may apply.

Based on the relative lack of muscle compared to other people of the same height, Bill can likely get the quickest and most positive body composition changes by focusing on building muscle, not losing fat.

The reason this approach is better for this person and not someone who is overweight or obese is due to the lack of developed muscle. While an overweight person already has a lot of muscle due to the need to support a larger frame, a smaller person will need to actively work to develop this muscle while maintaining or reducing the amount of fat.

#3: Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease

Knowing your body fat percentage has uses outside of fitness, too. Keeping your body fat percentage at a healthy level can help reduce your likelihood of getting serious health risks, specifically, heart disease. Seriously.

Heart disease is most often caused by a buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This occurs when small pieces of cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) damage your arteries, causing them to harden, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body.

What does body fat have to do with your heart? Quite a lot, actually.

According to new research published by the Mayo Clinic, having a healthy body fat percentage has a significant effect on your cholesterol levels – increasing the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) which helps to remove the damaging LDL and lower overall total cholesterol. This means less artery-clogging cholesterol in your bloodstream, which means less stress on your heart.

To be clear: this research isn’t linking this to overall weight or even total pounds of fat. These positive effects are linked with the amount of body fat you have compared to your current weight. The body fat percentage ranges needed to have this positive effect have an upper limit of 20% for men and 30% for women.

While the research doesn’t suggest that this is any type of complete preventative for heart disease – many lifestyle factors, as well as genetics, play into whether you will develop it or not – it does suggest that you have some degree of control over preventing it by maintaining a healthy body fat percentage.

Know Your Percentage to Take Control of Your Health

Perhaps one of the best things about your body fat percentage is that it compares you to yourself.

If you just track weight, this invariably leads to comparing yourself to someone else. Even though there could be significant differences in height, muscle mass, genetics, or other factors, all people hear when they talk about or think about their weight is the number.

That’s what’s so great about your body fat percentage. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh; the only thing that matters is what that weight is made up of. You could be overweight (and even have a BMI that tells you that) but if you’re a woman with a body fat percentage of 25%, why care?

To take control of your health and fitness and gain the positive benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, the first step is to get your body composition measured. Find a facility near you that offers body composition testing, get your body fat percentage, and start tracking it to start living better!

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Weight Loss Articles

How to Help Heal a Heart

Suffering from a heart condition can be very stressful and upsetting. How will it affect your day to day life? Is there anything you can do? Lots of people, understandably, feel powerless. However, there are positive actions you can take to minimise any further problems.

Obesity and Heart Conditions

If you suffer from a heart condition, the logical starting point on the road to recovery centres on the body. Until recently, the effect of obesity on heart conditions was considered to be ‘indirect’. This is now not held as the case, according to the American Heart Association. Factors that worsen a heart condition increase in line with an increase in BMI (Body Mass Index). One condition, Atherosclerosis, is inextricably linked to it. This condition, where fatty substances form a deposit on arterial walls of the heart, is related to obesity, which also predicts the development of the condition. It is not just a direct link between obesity and a heart condition, though. Obesity can also dramatically increase the chance of diseases such as sleep apnea, diabetes, and hypertension which will put all the more strain on the heart.

Why Get Help with Obesity?

But, what are the causes of obesity? There is no doubt that there is a genetic disposition to it. But the condition is exacerbated by factors such as bad diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake. Therefore, prevention of obesity and the treatment of obesity is grounded in lifestyle choices.
Why should you change your lifestyle? After all, it will be tough and require a lot of willpower. Well, even if you are not suffering from a heart condition, you will be minimizing your risk of developing one. You will also start to feel far better. The stairs will not be so daunting, you will have more energy, and the depression that often goes hand in hand with obesity will retreat. The net effect will be less strain on the heart, and less possibility of attendant illnesses, according to the British Medical Journal.

How to Lose Weight and Help Your Heart

No one thing will guarantee success, but the lynchpin to having a good meal plan, exercising, and reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol is to have a system set up and monitored by a medical professional. The supervision will benefit you in many ways. One of the most prominent is to track your development, which identifies problems early enough to turn them around, but, crucially, provides encouragement when you are doing well. It eliminates the temptation for fad diets and the realisation that ‘lose weight quick’ schemes are usually unsustainable. Medical monitoring can provide you with support groups to boost morale, and provide you with effective meal and exercise plans that suit you. This obviously couples with maintaining the plan structured for your circumstances. It is a tough undertaking. But with correct supervision, an effective plan, and will power it is possible to lose weight and help your heart.

References:

www.circ.ahajournals.org/content/96/9/3248.full
www.drfuhrman.com/success
http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/pdf/patient-summaries/532364.pdf

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Weight Loss Articles

Is Liposuction A Logical Choice?

Weight loss is a hard mountain to climb. There are numerous methods and theories that can be tried. However, the main focus of any self-improvement has to be sustainability. As such, the various ‘quick fixes’ and weight loss ‘miracle plans’ may have a short term effect, but they do not generally have longevity. With all weight loss options, it is essential to be well informed not only about the benefits, but also the consequences. One alternative weight loss plan people might consider turning to is liposuction.

Liposuction? I know all about that

Maybe you do. The idea of liposuction has moved into everyday life, with celebrities seemingly transformed overnight by using it. However, the process is necessarily complex, and not a magical alternative to exercise and diet that can be performed in a lunch hour.

So, what are the basics? Liposuction is generally used on areas such as the abdomen, thighs and buttocks, or the neck, backs of the arms and similar areas. The process involves a procedure, not for the squeamish! In general, fat is removed via a hollow tube and a suction device. Liposuction techniques can be categorized by the amount of fluid injection and by the mechanism in which the hollow tube works. The levels of fat removal are a vital part of the process and must be agreed between the surgeon and patient beforehand. Additionally, the level of anaesthetic is informed by this decision.

Liposuction: Implications and Alternatives.

Like any surgical procedure, liposuction has its specific results and possible complications. Cosmetically, it is not the quick fix many believe it to be. As the balancing act of reducing fat is so fine if a patient is ‘over suctioned’ the procedure can result in bumps and dents in the skin. Liposuction can also give the impression of more weight loss than has actually been achieved. Even though there have been claims of 22.7kg loss as a result of the procedure, this is rare, and certainly not to be attempted unless the patient is in the fittest of health.

The result of liposuction in the short term are mostly what you would expect from an invasive surgery, bruising, swelling, pain, scarring, and lack of mobility, but you can also actually gain weight after receiving liposuction. More concerning is the possibility of puncturing internal organs during the surgery, and other risks, such as fluid imbalance, and allergies to the anaesthetics employed. It should never be forgotten that this is a cosmetic procedure that comes with the risks of surgery.

So what are the alternatives to liposuction? Well, you may not think it glamorous, but a common sense approach to a good diet, coupled with an appropriate diet plan is the surest (and cheapest) way to shed the pounds and keep them off. Diet plans, just like exercise ones can be tailored to you, and your lifestyle. The best part? No need to worry about unsightly bumps or surgery and no time off work, as it slots right into your life.

Is it for you?

It may well be that liposuction is just the thing to inspire you to succeed at your weight-loss goal. However, you must be confident in your surgeon and be in good enough health before the surgery. It also carries a large financial cost, and, after all, is rarely a one-off procedure. The surest and easiest to maintain methods are non-surgical procedures and planning.

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Weight Loss Articles

Metabolic Rates: What your body does when no one is looking

You might think metabolic rates are simple. It is just an input to output ratio. It is actually far more than that, and is essential to every healthy human and animal. It governs how your body assimilates food intake and distributes the energy, and is a vital component in regulation of your essential organs and the well being of your body, ranging from psychological responses, to physical development, including weight loss and obesity.

What is a Metabolic Rate?

There are two types: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). They both concern the body’s process of thermogenesis: the production of heat. Measuring this determines the level of energy expended. They energy the body generates is only sufficient to keep your essential organs operating whilst in a state of rest (hence why the restful state is the only reliable condition to measure the rate). The metabolic rate itself is regulated by the hypothalamus, which controls many autonomic functions that combine to be a survival system for every human. The metabolic rate is the yard stick against that which it is measured.

How can a metabolic rate be quantified?

There are two primary methods for determining your metabolic rates. The most accurate is a process that measures the production of carbon dioxide and nitrogen waste, along with the consumption of oxygen. The other, method used is an equation utilizing metrics such as age, weight, height and sex. This is, however, a rough guess, even though the equation has been refined over the years. The entire process requires the subject to be in a state of rest, that is, a ‘neutrally temperate environment’.

Metabolic Rates and Weight Loss

Weight loss and Metabolic rates, by nature, go hand in hand. The most important thing to remember is that metabolic regulation is the body’s defence mechanism. A sudden fast will only result in weight loss likely to be temporary, and the body will resolve to never be tricked so easily again, so will store energy for any other such emergencies. Obviously, the necessity for exercise and a valid program are endemic to any weight loss effort, but nutrition and good diet are invaluable.  Measurement of your metabolic weight before weight loss allows for an accurate assessment of the calories you need to stay healthy yet still see results. When you are ready to maintain your weight, a metabolic rate calculation makes it easier for you to keep to a diet that will allow you to keep your new figure. Otherwise, weight can creep back on, simply because you have overestimated your calorific needs.

Metabolic Changes

Despite being such a vital function of your body, the Metabolic Rate of you can be affected by many factors. Lack of sleep, diet, stress, and exercise are all powerful influences on it. Also, as you age, the BMR decreases, and that impacts on the ease of weight loss. Simple tactics such as a better sleeping pattern and less stress, combined with a realistic exercise regime and a good diet plan can increase your BMR, and your body will then process energy more quickly, leading to weight loss and a healthier you.

http://www.metaboliceffect.com/topic/38-nutrition-lifestyle.aspx

http://www.weightlossforall.com/metabolic-changes.htm

 

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Weight Loss Articles

Rubber Gastric Band or an Iron Will?

When losing weight seems difficult it can be tempting to look into surgical options like the gastric band. However, this weight loss surgery is not a miracle cure or an easy way to lose weight, and you should make sure you educate yourself about the procedure, its risks and less invasive alternatives.

The first step to achieving weight loss will always be making the decision to take control of your health, but the various methods to achieve this have a marked difference in longevity and effectiveness. The basic factors, including a sensible diet and continued exercise, are fairly well known, but because of the stresses and strains of everyday life, these ‘easy’ ways to lose weight are not always easy to stick to. People often choose what are seen as more convenient methods, such as surgical procedures like gastric bands. It can be seductive to have a quick fix solution, so it is important to be aware of the nature of the surgery, its effects and possible consequences.

What is a Gastric Band?

Essentially, a gastric band is an inflatable band placed around the upper stomach, in effect creating a smaller stomach. This limits food intake and makes you feel fuller, quicker. Generally, they are fitted via key-hole surgery.

One of the most important things to bear in mind with gastric bands is that they are not a first case solution. They are generally only employed when other methods, such as exercise and diet, have failed to produce a result. They are usually only advised for patients with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 35 to 40 with the lower limit only being permissible in cases where the patient suffers from an illness like diabetes, as the American Society of Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery reported in 2007.

What About Gastric Band Problems?

In the short term, the band will decrease your intake of food. It is removable, and the scar is not as prominent as other surgeries, although it is still noticeable. Also, there are a number of complications that can arise. Whilst these are mostly related to the band itself, the risks of internal bleeding, infection and other gastric band problems are real.

Gastric band surgery is also not a certain solution to weight problems. An Australian study of 80 patients, 12 years after their adjustable gastric band surgery, found that almost 1 in 2 required further operations to have their bands removed. A study in Switzerland found that as time went on, successful weight loss decreased, with 40% of patients who had no s evere complications maintaining a weight loss of less than 25% of their excess weight.

There is no way to maintain a weight loss program without eating a sensible diet, in sensible quantities, and with regular exercise. Supplementing such actions with an effective treatment program goes a long way to maintain your will power and push you to a continued success. A gastric band on its own will not be able to do that.

Is A Gastric Band the Right Choice?

There is no doubt that in some cases a gastric band can be a way to lose weight fast for specific people. But it is important to bear in mind that, as with many things, no single action can be a miracle cure.  A well planned and thought out treatment schedule will last for longer, and provide more support than an operation that will not provide the personal attention, advice and supervision that can help you to reach your goal. You are able to do it, but like with so much in life, there are no shortcuts.

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Weight Loss Articles

How to Stop Overeating Once and For All…

You had one too many drinks last Saturday evening because it’s the weekend anyway! At dinner last night, your dessert craving for chocolate cake turned out to be a binge – one tempting slice after another.

And today,  you stuffed yourself with five buttery rolls at the office potluck. You originally intended to have only two of the tasty rolls, but they were just too yummy to ignore.

We’ve all been there, and we all know how those post-binge episodes go — from guilt to frustration to promising yourself that it’s going to be the last! (Not to mention the dreaded food coma…)

You thought you’ve overcome overeating for good, yet it turns out that you’re back to square one when it comes to getting your cravings under control.

Why is it so hard to break out of this cycle?

Is there a way to kick this ceaseless habit for good?

Does it have to do with sself-controland having an endless supply of willpower?

Or is there some otherworldly, mystical force that you need to tap on in order to break free from binge-eating episodes?

I’ll explain why it’s so tempting to finish a large box of pizza all by yourself and I’ll help you understand how to put an end to overeating.  With obesity affecting more than one-third of the UK adult population, getting out of the binge-diet cycle remains a puzzle to many.

To have a greater understanding as to how overeating happens, it makes sense to initially get a grasp of how our appetite, or the desire to eat, work.

Understanding Overeating – How Appetite Works

It’s worth noting that appetite is a tad different from hunger. Think of hunger as a need to eat breakfast while appetite is more like a desire to eat that sliver of cake after lunch.

At a fundamental level, hunger and appetite are influenced by a network of pathways involving the neuroendocrine system. Appetite regulation, satiety, and energy balance involves your gut (it’s the largest endocrine organ in the body!) and a cocktail of hormones your brain

In essence, energy-dense foods rich in fat and sugar were extremely desirable to our hunter-gatherer ancestors for survival because they were scarce. However, this instinct for fatty and sugary meals remains even though these types of food are now available 24/7.  Eventually, the continual intake of fat and sugar overrides the human body’s natural hunger regulation system, leading to habitual overeating.

In a nutshell, the more you gorge on food laced with too much fat and sugar, the more likely that you’re going to get addicted to it.

Homeostatic And Hedonic Hunger

Another way of understanding appetite is to look at it from the perspective of eating for two main reasons— as a response to hunger (homeostatic) and for pleasure (hedonic).

In a review of studies differentiating the two, the researchers described that homeostatic hunger is the result of the prolonged absence of energy intake or food itself, while hedonic hunger is strongly influenced by the availability and palatability of food in your environment.

Why You Really Overeat And Binge

At first thought, it seems like putting an end to overeating is simply a matter of telling your brain to stop consuming food. Yet we all know that it’s not that easy, right?

Your brain may be the main driving force behind your appetite, but it’s not acting alone.

The frequency and the amount of food you eat is also influenced by a complex interaction of the following factors:

  1. Genetic Influences

Your gut, hormones, and brain may be working together to control appetite, but your genetic makeup also has a say as if you’re the type to overindulge.

  1. Environmental Influences

Environmental factors also contribute to the rise of appetite. These factors include the atmosphere of the room and the presence/absence of distractions during meals

Child feeding practices by parents during the first years of childhood tend to impact one’s eating behaviour later in life. A review of studies on the parental influence on eating behaviour revealed the following interesting findings:

  • Restrictive feeding practices by caregivers is associated with overeating and poorer self-regulation of food intake among preschool-aged children.
  • Restricting access to palatable foods like cookies in children may be counterproductive because it will eventually promote their intake.
  • Higher levels of parental control and pressure to eat were associated with lower fruit and vegetable intakes and higher intake of dietary fat among young girls.
  1. Psychological Influences
  • Did you know that not sleeping enough or getting stressed over finals week could lead to you reaching out for the cookie jar 5x a day when we’re not actually hungry?
  • It turns out that your appetite and hunger regulation is also influenced by these behavioural factors.
  • In fact, evidence from longitudinal studies suggests that chronic life stress may be linked to weight gain, with a greater effect seen in men.

Whether it’s stress or social pressure that’s driving you to overeat, we all know how frustrating it is to realize that you gave in to your cravings (again!). The good news is you can do something the next time you’re about to open your third bag of crisps.

What Should I do?

For a start, consider the following easy yet sustainable solutions to put an end to overeating, minus the horrible feeling of self-deprivation.  Learn to recognize the difference between homeostatic and hedonistic hunger.

As mentioned earlier, you can eat because you’re hungry but you can also eat for pleasure.

It can be a struggle to figure out the difference between the two because it requires you to be more mindful of your body. As a result, misinterpreting hunger and satiety signals can lead to overeating.

It can be challenging to recognize the true signs of hunger and satiety. While these cues will differ from one person to another (as well as depend on the time of day), you can learn to recognize your motivation for eating and adjust your eating habits by asking the following question:

Am I eating as a response to a physical cue (e.g. growling stomach, headache) or am I eating because I am feeling stressed, anxious, or overjoyed?

Whether you’re stressed about deadlines or fed up about your annual employee performance review, talking to a friend or journaling may be more helpful than eating your emotions away.

Be mindful of your “food environment”.   Your “food environment” may be divided into two parts:

  • Your social interaction and the overall atmosphere of your environment.
  • How your food is served.

To help promote a positive food environment, consider the following best practices:

  • Keep an eye on your portions.
  • Before eating two chocolate bars in one sitting, savour one instead. Furthermore, you might also want to use smaller plates and bowls to avoid taking in too much when you’re in a buffet. Press pause (whether on your TV or phone) until you’re done with lunch or dinner. When you’re distracted, you tend to eat mindlessly. As a result, you’ll be less sensitive to satiety cues because your brain is paying more attention to other things.
  • Eat slowly. A Greek study found that eating at a slower pace tended to increased fullness and reduce hunger ratings in overweight and obese participants.
  • Surround yourself with people who are taking steps to eat more mindfully. Whether it’s your co-worker who’s into calorie counting or your brother who’s a geek when it comes to meal planning, being around others who eat mindfully will help reinforce your own good habits and perhaps teach you some new tips and tricks as well.
  • Make tiny adjustments to your daily habits that may impact your eating behaviour. Curbing overeating is not about making massive changes in your life but rather making tiny adjustments to your daily habits.

These are three examples of tiny adjustments you can make to your daily habits.

  • Stop skimping on sleep, pronto. As mentioned earlier, lack of sleep can lead to eating more. Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Establishing a consistent bedtime routine may be a good start. An irregular bedtime schedule is linked to poor sleep quality.
  • Eat breakfast when you can. There may be some exceptions (like when you’re doing intermittent fasting), but skipping your morning meal usually leads to overeating because you end up feeling famished throughout the day. On the other hand, protein-rich breakfasts are associated with increased satiety and reduced hunger cues.
  • Do whole food swaps instead of cutting out certain foods entirely.
  • You don’t have to toss all the junk food residing in your fridge right away. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 80 percent of your daily meals from whole food sources and devote the rest to the not-so-healthy food items. By doing so, you won’t feel deprived, which in turn can lead to another binging episode.

Food Addiction

A lot of people can relate to overeating (because it happens to the best of us too!) but food addiction is a different story. If you feel that your binging episodes have turned into more than just a bad habit that you can change, seek professional help.