Red Meat:10 Things We Should Know

The argument and discussion surrounding the consumption of red meat and its place in our diet plan becomes more difficult to understand by the day. From causing cancer and heart disease to building DNA and providing valuable iron and zinc, the pro’s and cons are many, but one thing is clear. Red meat is a valuable food source that can be incorporated into any weight loss plan.

Many studies have been undertaken that explain the dangers of red meat consumption and just as many that show the complete reverse. Here are 10 things that we should know about red meat and its properties as a food category.

1. High in protein
Few sources of protein provide the same concentration of benefit as red meat. For instance, there is about 21g of protein in a 100g portion of beef depending on the type of cut. Obviously, fattier meats contain less protein. Generally, look for loin cuts which have less fat.

2. Can cause cancer
Cases of bowel cancer have been shown to increase as the amount of red meat eaten in any given week increases. There are also cancer causing chemicals that are produced when beef is cooked over an open flame. Meat that is well-done contains more of these substances than say medium-rare cooked meat.

3. It is a great source of iron
Generally, teenage girls and women suffer from iron deficiencies and red meat maintains a healthy level of iron and zinc in the body to avoid health issues with anaemia and the like

4. When not cooked properly, can cause sickness
This is pretty much common-sense but needs to be mentioned anyway. Meat that is not cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees has the ability to cause sickness from food borne bacteria.

5. Pork is considered a red meat
Sometimes pork is referred to as “the other white meat” for advertising purposes but strictly speaking, it is a red meat due to having a higher concentration of myoglobin than either chicken or fish.

6. Red meat does increase LDL cholesterol
For people who are struggling with high blood cholesterol, particularly “bad” cholesterol such a the LDL variety, red meat has to be rationed or possibly eliminated altogether as it is an enabler for those problems

7. Chicken and fish are “better” sources of protein
For me personally, I choose to eat more chicken and fish than red meat, unless I choose to eat out for dinner at night. They are leaner, lower in saturated fats, and less damaging as a cholesterol source. They also offer a high protein value.

8. Our ancient ancestors did not eat more red meat
Initial studies have shown that possibly our ancient ancestors ate less red meat rather than more as they found the consumption of vegetables, and fish to be less dangerous to hunt for. They were also more sensible than their modern day relatives.

9. Grass-fed meat is less toxic than grain-fed
Grass fed beef has a higher beta-carotene content, is higher in Vitamin B and E, and carries less saturated fats.

10. Eliminate processed red meat ALTOGETHER
Meat sources such as ground beef, and meat that is pre-cooked in packages should be eliminated from any diet, weight loss orientated or not. The additives that are contained in these products are damaging and unhealthy. Particularly, ground beef contains a high level of saturated fats.

Red meat will continue to generate hours and hours of emotive debate about its benefits and detriment, but the bottom line is that if we discontinue the Whopper with Cheese visits, and restrict our consumption to the 6 ounce maximum daily intake, red meat can be a  healthy component of any daily meal regimen without causing unnecessary health risks.

The Cheat Day: The Science of Dieting

Cheat Day

Science has become more a part of our lives more than ever today and in the world of weight loss, it forms a big chunk of how we design our eating and exercise schedules. One innovation that has helped many people maintain their dieting focus is the Cheat Day.

Whenever we decide to enter any kind of dieting program that reduces or changes the intake of food into the body, we used to believe that our metabolism maintained the balance to our bodily functions to allow us to live our lives without feeling the hurt too much. The fact is that our metabolism is not this huge battleship ploughing through the waters of your daily health without regard for what we choose to tax it with, but more of a daily operating machine that changes radically to any kind of small variation to, in particular, food intake.

Typically, diets in the past have focused on reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise to burn fat and sugars which in turn reduces weight. When that happens, the body adjusts how it performs those functions based on those changes in food intake in order to conserve the body’s energy. It reduces production of the hormone leptin which we call the “Hunger Hormone”, which tells the body to hold onto fat. The Cheat Day is a way to “fool” the body into thinking that it was wrong to determine that we are starving it of food and that it should continue to burn calories and fat at the usual rate. It is a neat trick and an important addition to your dieting schedule.

Practically, the Cheat Day means that you sprinkle in a day, about one in seven, where you throw out all of the dieting restrictions you’ve imposed on yourself and eat normally. Now I know what everyone is thinking. We’re rubbing our hands in glee at the thought of stampeding to the ice cream, beer and Burger King Whoppers in the attempt to gorge for the 24 hour parole period. That is not what I’m saying. The key here is to just return to how you ate before you took on the weight loss program. If that involved a burger for lunch, fine. If you choose to use the Cheat Day as an opportunity to go out for dinner with the family, that is OK too. The point is that we want the body to have to process normal food intake to ensure that it does not make the change to your metabolism that reduces calorie and fat burn.

What is interesting about the Cheat Day concept, and was certainly the case when I first used the idea, is that your desire to eat large amounts, will have for the most part disappeared, hopefully. Importantly however, is what the Cheat Day provides to the struggling dieter. We all have those dark days when we want to toss in the towel and give up the weight loss plan when the food cravings begin to overwhelm you. This principle is a way to motivate yourself so that you have a “special” day to look forward to where those inner demons can be quelled and sedated until the next crisis.

Trust me and implement the Cheat Day into your weight loss program. It does work.

6 Things You Can Do to Organize Your Weight Loss Program Now

We’ve talked many times on this blog about weight loss becoming a state of mind rather than just deciding not to eat certain types of foods and to exercise more. Like anything else, if you don’t set a routine, your best intentions will dribble away slowly. Here are 10 ideas that will allow you to organize your weight loss program. (I always recommend you work a program like Weight Watchers as well)

1. Be sure to set an exercise schedule
Your exercise routine should be like a work task. It should be organized to be completed in the most efficient manner, producing the best results for the least amount of time spent. What this means is set a routine. Determine what time of day you will exercise. If you are disciplined, it will become second nature before too long. That is what we want.

2. Eat SOMETHING for breakfast
Many of us forget or just wake up too late to eat anything before we go to work. While we’re not advocating sitting down to a full meal of eggs, pancakes and the like, it’s very important to get something into your stomach in a morning. Try to drink a glass of orange juice with a granola bar. This will prevent those hunger pangs at about 10.30am that force a trip to the snack machine.

3. Pack a lunch
One of the worst routines that we all suffer from is the “where are you going for lunch today” syndrome. If you are to see quick weight loss results, you cannot eat out regularly at restaurants, especially at lunchtime. You must control your calorie intake and that can only be done by taking a lunch to work. It’s tough, but maybe what I would do is set maybe a Friday as your day for eating out with colleagues or friends. You’ll find its cheaper this way too.

4. Bring snacks for the afternoon
Along with foregoing restaurant lunches, we need to also pack a snack for the afternoon surge around 3.30pm. Stay away from the snack machine. The bag of $1 chips sitting in there will cost you a ton of unwanted calories and just cause more hunger pangs.

5. Cook in quantity
Planning your evening meals will also help keep you on the straight and narrow in your weight loss endeavors. Roasting a turkey at the weekend and then splitting it up through the week for evening meals with a salad, say, is an excellent way to restrict your calorie intake while at the same time making sure that you are getting sufficient nutrients to your body. Think ahead with all of your meals and you will be fine. Don’t let your stomach decide what’s for dinner tonight.

6. Plan to drink water
In my last job, I was banished to a new satellite location that had just opened up in another town and all we had was a water faucet, and a coffee machine. As I don’t drink coffee during the day, I was sentenced to drink tap water for the whole of my work day. I can’t tell you how much weight I lost unintentionally and how much money I saved. Water, and lots of it, never did any of us any harm.

By no means are these reminders going to immediately trim inches off your waistline, but what this will do is organize your weight loss to make sure that you are focused on what is important and that is your body’s health. This will also help you become successful with your weight loss plan so that you are able to feel that much better about yourself in the long term.

Does The Atkins Diet work?

Following on from last week’s article about high protein diets, I thought we’d take a look at The Atkins Diet this week. The plan has received a lot of publicity over the 50 years that it has been available, but does it really work in helping with weight loss.?

The Atkins Diet concept is that if we are overweight, then it is probably because we consume too many carbohydrates. Our metabolic functions burn carbohydrates for energy before fats, so it follows that if we reduce our carbohydrate intake, then the body will turn to fat for energy and burn that instead, hence losing weight. This process is called ketosis. This is the basis for a lot of controversial discussion surrounding the Atkins Diet as many doctors believe that the regimen promotes heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The diet plan allows for meat, fish, chicken and many other high protein sources as food items but forbids pasta, rice, sugar, bread and other carbohydrates, not just for the duration of the diet, but off the table for ever. The success of the program depends on the body being able to “kick-start” the ketosis process by reducing carbohydrate intake down to as much as 40g per day. This has to be done over a two week period. Unfortunately, according to the medical profession, the body needs 150g of carbohydrates per day just to maintain normal bodily functions. Hence the conflicting opinions. Additionally, there are other unpleasant side effects such as abnormal smelling breath and constipation caused by the ketosis process.

Claims that the Atkins Diet also reduces appetite have been made which is a crucial step in the right direction as again, we’ve tried to focus on this blog on changing our attitudes as well as our food habits. This would be a huge help to that thought process. The success of the plan has been increased by its attraction to dieters who may have lost interest in food because of unimaginative meal plans when on other weight loss programs. In 2003 and 2004, the diet reached the pinnacle of its popularity as high level publicity and a sudden realization that we all were slowly eating ourselves to death, pushed the good Dr Atkins front and center. Some experts say that the diet was directly responsible for the 8-10% decline in sales of the pasta and rice industry during those years.

The Atkins Diet has evolved over the years to include a more balanced diet of meat and fruit in order to alleviate some of the adverse publicity that some experts have thrown its way. However, it has become one of the standard bearers of the multi-billion dieting industry in the US today and there is always one glaring fact that is common to all successful business ventures that survive for the long term. The product must work, and obviously, the Atkins Diet does do that.

At the end of the day though, to my ever increasingly cynical mind, it’s all about the calories, food intake, and burning up fat with exercise. The Atkins Diet has developed a plan of weight reduction that has proven successful for many people, but the health issues are a worry. My own philosophy is that a person can develop their own dieting program, based around an Atkins Diet principle, without stretching the limits to an extent where the body’s health suffers damage.

At the end of the day, I’d say the Atkins Diet works. Would I use it? Probably some of the concepts but I feel i can lose weight the conventional way but like anything else, if you choose the way of Dr Atkins, be careful and use in moderation only.

High Protein Diets: Good but in moderation

I’ve always been a proponent of incorporating a high protein diet to my weight loss program simply because I try to work out a lot and I’d like to build up some muscle mass too, but generally speaking, we should be wary of too much protein intake for a variety of reasons, not least the addition of extra fat which is what we’re trying to avoid.

Protein is generally a good thing to put into any daily regimen of meals provided that we are being smart about how we use it. The general rule of thumb is to figure gaining about 25% of daily calories from protein. Any more than that and we’re getting into some foggy areas regarding overall body health. Protein can be obtained from several different sources, of course. Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts are common sources but again, we should consider what other elements we acquire from these food sources. Red meat tends to be high in protein but also provides a lot of harmful saturated fats, cholesterol and some undesirable Amino acids that can affect the body’s digestion. Eggs are high in cholesterol. Chicken and fish are generally safer options and nuts, despite being relatively low in protein concentration, are also good.

Two issues I’d like to mention about high protein diets are fairly important. Bodybuilders will tell you that the higher the protein, the quicker the weight loss. What they don’t tell you is that their exercise regimen demands that extra content in order to build muscle. If you are up-taking huge amounts of protein without the extra exercise, the body will immediately convert that into body fat. Also, eating large meals at night that are high in protein also causes issues. Think about it. It’s 11.00pm and you have a big meal of steak and fries. Your body is getting ready to shut down for the night and exercise is done for the day. While you sleep, all of that protein goes immediately to your middle as the body’s metabolism is in idle. My work schedule in my last job demanded late night meals and I’m convinced that is where my belly fat came from. Nice one Raymond!

The other aspect of high protein diets that we have to be careful of is the nutritional supplement obsession that seems to invade every dieter’s mentality. Once we get wind that protein is good, we all trundle off to the GNC store and spend hundreds of dollars in large quantities of protein powder that we immediately think will drop weight off like a stone. Wrong. It won’t, but what it will do is affect your kidney function if you consume too much protein. A by-product of protein breakdown by the kidneys is urea which has to be excreted as urine. Force more protein in the system and the kidneys have to work harder. Just a thought.

High protein diets like everything else in life are good provided they are implemented with just a modicum of common sense. Remember, 25% of daily calories and no more. Throw the bottles of protein powder away. No late night steak dinners or the like and concentrate on fish or chicken to give that extra protein boost.

If we can do that, those high protein diets can be a huge asset to your weight loss program.

The Gastric Band: Drastic and difficult

As someone who doesn’t suffer from a major, debilitating weight problem, it is difficult for me to imagine ever resorting to the Gastric Band to enforce my weight loss principles. However, despite being drastic and difficult, sometimes it is necessary but surely the trick is to act before we get to this point in our journey.

Surgery for me under any circumstances is so painful mentally, that if I can figure out a way to chicken my way out of it, I’ll do it. Weight loss for many people is a simple process. Eat less, exercise more and the weight falls off. Not everyone is that fortunate so in some cases, people resort to extreme solutions such as the insertion of a device called the Gastric band. It consists of a saline filled piece of silicon that wraps around the opening to your lower stomach like a plastic tie. It reduces the size of the volume of your stomach so that it takes less food for the body to tell the brain “No Mas”. The surgery is done laparoscopically and the patient generally recovers quickly in a matter of days. A relatively simple procedure if that is what is needed.The device has achieved mixed results across the board with all demographics and has several side effects that can become very unpleasant.

Before I move onto my next point, let me first say that I understand that there are many medical reasons where the only suitable weight loss option is the Gastric Band, and that regular dieting and exercise might not be possible. I am directing my comments towards those of us who haven’t had the stones to follow a dieting plan, and haven’t been dedicated enough to exercise regularly as part of their daily routine. My sympathy simply dribbles away for this person who now, as a result of having reached a weight that has become unmanageable because of sheer size, has to have the Gastric Band inserted which has become their only option to lose weight. To these people, I ask why?

I can recall mentioning on many occasions that weight loss is all part of a general state of mind. It’s about creating a culture so that the person, rather than the diet, controls the weight problem. Regimens of that type are far more successful and long lasting than the short, sharp, shock that many people employ with only meager results. I implore anyone reading this who is facing the possibility of surgery and who has an opportunity to avert it through self-management. Forego the surgical procedure and dedicate yourself to following the simple procedures that we have discussed over the past several weeks. It has to be the easier option, doesn’t it?

The Gastric band has many features that make it a fit for dieters with specific weight loss needs. To the rest of us, it should be a last resort.

How to Lose Weight the Old Fashioned Way

Let’s face it. There are literally hundreds of diet plans and exercise regimens available today that will drop the inches off any waistline given enough time. Some are affordable, some are not, but either way, if you are really committed to the cause, it is relatively straight-forward to lose weight the old fashioned way.

Losing weight is truthfully just simple math. Provided that the calories your body uses for energy is more than the total consumed through food and drink in a day, then your body will lose weight. It is at times, a little more complicated than that but basically that format will start you off on the road to weight reduction. As a rule of thumb, for every 250 calories that you burn over and above what is consumed each day, in a seven day period, the body should lose just over 1lb in weight. The trick with this regimen is to position your levels at points where the body doesn’t decline because of a lack of nutrients and where too much exercise doesn’t cause injury to a stressed metabolism.

Calorie intake should be pegged at about 1250 per day, along with an hour of exercise with 20 minutes of that vigorous. This should be a benchmark to start work from. Reducing fat, sodium and starch intake will also help as fluid will be lost at a greater rate than normal. Along with that, you must consume a healthy amount of water per day, about 6-8 eight ounce glasses will make sure the body stays hydrated properly.

Focus on eating 5-6 times per day and dispense with the huge meals, especially after 7pm. Food groups should be fruit, vegetables, fish and lean meats such as chicken and shellfish. Soda has to be eliminated, even in diet form, and can be substituted with soy products. Whole grain cereal and bread will maintain roughage levels and help to prevent intestinal problems especially during the period immediately after the new regimen has begun. Processed foods should be regarded as ‘Kryptonite” as their nutritional value is appalling and they contain a huge amount of sodium.

Measuring serving amounts is a great tool for understanding exactly how much food a person consumes on a daily basis. Many dieters are horrified once they start to record their food intake as the comparison to what had been the norm for them, is now so much less. As we have talked about before on several occasions, what we are looking for here is to change the culture of eating and poor exercise. Tracking your numbers in this way daily helps to create that confidence and encouragement that we sometimes need to sustain us through the dog days of any weight loss program.

If we can follow some of these guidelines, we can eliminate some of the excessive cost involved with structured diet plans that involve the purchase of large amounts of pre-packed food, and embark on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

As we can see, it isn’t hard at all to lose weight the old fashioned way. You just have to earn it.

Dieting or Exercise for Weight Loss: Why not both?

Many people have long held the belief that exercise has to be a part of any weight loss program and that it forms a more important part of losing weight than anything else, including diet. However, recent studies have shown that for the long-term, exercise on its own is not sufficient to lose weight consistently. So dieting or exercise? Why not both?

For me personally, I’ve always felt that exercise is essential to any weight loss program that is going to show success over time. No matter how many calories you drop, if you cannot burn them during the course of your regular day, then your body will find a way to store those chemicals as fat and add to the poundage. However, recent studies have shown that dieting seems to provide better results.

The theory is that control of calories is much more of a realistic and achievable target than an exercise program that involves trips to the gym, along with strenuous and sometimes difficult work-out sessions in uncomfortable environments. Human nature being what it is suggests that we are more likely to throw in the towel on the gym membership before we start eating the chocolate cookies again. A lot of this, to me is common sense, but I guess in order to scientifically prove the theory, researchers had to travel to deepest Africa and subject an ancient tribe to all kinds of weird experiments with “tagged hydrogen and oxygen molecules”, GPS sensors and strict diets to track how fast they burnt calories and also how far they traveled on their hunting expeditions. All too much for me.

Basically, I maintain that a stringent weight loss plan has to have BOTH a dieting and exercise component and that the successful people that lose the significant weight are typically those who manage to find time, and the willingness, to do both. I always found that dieting came relatively easily but that the exercise, unless a ball was involved, had to be structured. The old exercise bike in the garage along with the headphones just wasn’t enough to float my boat for long enough to lose any noticeable pounds.

Weight loss is a state of mind and not just some schedule that’s written on a calendar or an entry in a personal trainer’s daily log. It is a commitment that needs to be made not just to achieve the goal of losing your target number of pounds, but extends into your activity habits for the rest of your life. I’d rather all of this hard work and sacrifice actually led to a healthier, and happier life. The intention is not to go grab a double cheeseburger once I break the tape of my weight loss target. It is to continue on beyond to maintain a constant healthy weight, and with that in mind, at least for me, both dieting and exercise need to form a solid partnership in my weight control schedule.

Fitbit: Fitness with Social Media and Mobile

One of the problems I’ve had personally with maintaining my weight and fitness program is with staying motivated over the long term. Anyone can diet or work out for a couple of weeks but what happens a year, or two years from now? FitBit provides a complete environment for the least social of us to maintain focus through Facebook, Twitter our Smartphones.

Dieting and weight loss is as much about the social aspect of what to do and not do as it is about the technical issues. Top athletes will tell of the times when they had to train on their own for weeks on end and found it almost impossible to accomplish their goals. Once they were immersed back into a “team” atmosphere, they became more comfortable and content and as a result, achieved much more.

Fitbit is a way for the average Joe to share experiences and achievements through social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as providing the technology support so that the consumer can make the most of current technology to keep track of performance and goals. For instance, Fitbit provides an interactive weight scale to track weight loss, calculate BMI index, and put your information to work at your fingertips digitally. There is a device called Fitbit One which tracks distance travelled, speed, steps taken and folds it all into a socially shareable statistic which can be used to motivate friends and fellow exercisers travelling along the same path to similar goals. The Fitbit One will also track sleep patterns and wake you up in the morning.

There are Mobile Apps that allow the athlete to track all data through their Smartphone, IPad or tablet and keeps information current and available at all times of the day or night. The app has just become available for Android. Fitbit Flex is a wristband that incorporates all of your daily exercise and dieting data into state-of-the-art technology. The new advances in the Fitbit Flex ensure that complete accuracy is maintained so that the information you glean from the device is meaningful.

One of the things I love about Fitbit is the Social Media aspect of the device. Sharing experiences and gaining support and motivation from fellow exercisers is very important. Nothing is worse than struggling through a difficult part of any weight loss program, hitting the wall, and feeling like you’re in a “desert” with no life around you and no help on the way. Fitbit puts you back into that “team” atmosphere.

I’m a Social Media freak anyway so this type of technology is a must for me. Prices are reasonable with the Fitbit One and the Fitbit Flex starting at around $100 each. In my view, that is a very small price to pay to gain the motivational support that we all need from time to time while pursuing our goals of maintaining weight loss.

5 Reasons To Not Use Nutrisystem as Part of Your Weight Loss Program

One of the most popular and visible weight loss programs on the market today is NutriSystem. Around since 1972, many would think it would be the ideal way to lose waistline inches fast. However, here are 5 reasons as to why you might not want the people at Nutrisystem handling your diet plan.

1. Too expensive
At an outlay of around $300-$350 for a 28 day plan, the cost of Nutrisystem can be excessive as their customized diet program also requires the customer to purchase fresh food such as fruit, vegetables and water to complement the meals that they provide. This probably should be obvious to most people but in many cases, this is one of the major complaints. Remember, the food that Nutrisystem sends you is readily available at any grocery store.

2. High quantities of sodium in their pre-packaged items
If you are a food fanatic, or if you just read the food labels on packaged foods, you will know that there are huge amounts of sodium contained in all of that stuff so Nutrisystem’s plan cannot avoid the issue as they send you a full month’s supply of food in advance. Customers with heart or kidney issues should stay clear of the plan for health reasons but as with any dieting plan, you should consult with your doctor first anyway.

3. Requested foods substituted too often
As a dieting customer, Nutrisystem allows you to request your own menu which would seem to be a feature of the plan, provided that when the food is shipped, it actually corresponds to the order that was placed. In many cases, apparently, food is substituted without prior consultation which would be a huge issue for me. For example, if you are a vegetarian, do you really want an eggplant lasagna replaced with a Veal Parmigiana? I don’t believe I would.

4. Health Side Effects can be difficult
Some consumers have reported experiencing some physical side effects such as bloating, constipation, nausea, and stomach pain among the most common. My own feeling about this is that the diet is based on certain pre-requisites such as 25% protein, 55% carbohydrate, and as much as 20% fat. These combinations do not necessarily agree with everyone’s metabolism. Remember also that the diet plan requires the user to drink eight glasses of water per day.

5. No long-term weight control benefits
The problem with a program like NutriSystem is that it is “weight loss in a box”. If the user discontinues the plan and reverts back to old habits, the weight returns. Part of establishing effective weight control is to embed good eating habits alongside regular exercise which is independent of an outside source.

Generally, I think Nutrisystem is an effective program of weight loss. If the consumer does what he or she is told, then the benefits are well established. You simply don’t stay in business for 40 years in a market like this without having consistent success. Would I use it? No. I wouldn’t. For me, it is way too expensive and I am a huge advocate of establishing personal habits that become everlasting and are not short term. However, if I was a career minded executive, who had little time for cooking or exercise, and where cost was not an issue, I might very well give Nutrisystem a shot.

Worst case scenario is that if you don’t like the program, then send the food back and wave goodbye.

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