HAPIfork: Controlled eating at your fingertips

As you are probably well aware, I’m not a great fan of “tricks” or “gadgets” that provide a quick, painless way to achieve weight loss goals, but if something works and is harmless, I’m game. Enter HAPIfork. A new technology in a special fork that controls your eating habits.

Similar to an electric toothbrush, HAPIfork is a project initiated by a French designer, Jacques Lapine, who had a traumatic incident in early adulthood when he suffered what he thought was a heart attack but which was finally diagnosed as something similar to acid-reflux, but primarily caused by eating too fast.

Lapine’s company, HAPILabs, has since developed a special fork that contains innovative software that records how fast you eat your food, and if the speed is too fast, a vibrating response that is uncomfortable to the touch is produced to encourage you to slow down. The process seems to work when used properly although there are ways to get around the method such as picking the food off the fork and putting it into your mouth with your fingers. The software works through what is called capacitive touch sensitivity, the same principle with which your cellphone screen detects the presence of your finger. Every bite in every meal is recorded and analysed over time to produce a report of how fast you eat and what can be done to slow you down.

At present, the project is still in the Kickstarter development stage which at first glance appears to have been successful. Devices will be sold for around $99 each and there are plans to design the software to work in conjunction with your Smartphone where real-time reports can be accessed so that immediate correction to eating habits can be made. The principle that people who eat slower consume fewer calories is a huge part of HAPIfork also.

In order to help weight loss habits, the elapsed time between bites can be preset into the device. For instance, lengthening the time between bites to 20 secs from 10 secs helps with digestion and appetite responses which can determine how much food is consumed at one sitting. The product has already won an award at the last Consumer Electronics Show for innovation so there is obviously potential here. The question for me, is does it work. My answer is I don’t know. I guess anything that helps control food consumption, and helps focus our attention on what’s necessary when it comes to the whole principle of dieting, is a benefit.

I have to admit though. I can probably find a bunch of things that I can spend $99 on before I’d spend it on HAPIfork.

5 Foods to Increase Weight Loss

foods to increase weight loss

As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, there are no quick, easy ways to reduce weight at will, on the spot. It takes an attitude, and a plan, to convincingly reduce weight and improve health over the long haul. Today, however, we’re going to look at five foods to increase weight loss and keep you on the straight and narrow in your quest.

1. Water
I know we said foods but to me, water is a food. The body needs it to survive and it is a great way to aid in dieting provided it is used properly. It can take the place of sugary drinks, milk, and caffeine-laden beverages that can lead to heart problems. However, it must be consumed in reasonable quantities. It is not a case of the more water you drink, the more weight you lose. There is a tipping point and you need to know it. It is 8 glasses per day (64 fluid ounces).

2. Avocados
The super food that looks like a pear but is a dieter’s dream. High in fiber and protein, avocados contain large amounts of oleic acid which acts as a hunger suppressant. They have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels too.

3. Wine
Nope. Haven’t lost my mind, not yet anyway, but it’s true. A glass of wine a day increases calorie burn for about 90 minutes and the substance, Resveratol, contained in grapes, prevents the body from storing fat. Dieting wasn’t so bad after all now was it.

4. Black beans
Hugely beneficial because of protein value and fiber, black beans have been shown quantitatively to reduce weight when consumed as a supplement to normal dietary created meals. Black beans have no saturated fats as does red meat and can be used as a protein substitute.

5. Salmon
Salmon is a lean source of protein without the unsavory addition of monounsaturated fats that can be so harmful to the human body. Any kind of fish also contains omega amino acids that act as oxidants to protect and strengthen cells against cancerous degradation.

Of course we could sit here all night long with a laundry list of foods to increase weight loss but the key here is to generate some awareness of how you can quicken the process of weight loss not only by reducing food intake but also by changing the types of food that are on your diet plan.

In that way, you can achieve your targets, faster, and hopefully, with a bit more of a smile on your face!

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.

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