Small Change = Big Gain

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If you've been reading my blog or following my newsletters, you'll know that one of my biggest philosophies is to start making small changes in your life that eventually will lead to big ones. This is the basis for my with with individual clients when we determine how to achieve whatever goal it is they seek to accomplish. And it works.

Sometimes, we just need a little reminder about the basics. So, here you go.

If you're trying to lose weight, for example, you will never succeed if you say you're going to cut out all carbs and sugar and go to the gym 5 days a week. It's too lofty of a goal. Instead, if you just commit to walking 10,000 steps a day and adding greens into at least one meal, you'll start to create the building blocks of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will ultimately lead to weight loss.

A few of years ago if you had asked me if I was a morning person I would have said "Hell no!" After my father died and I was looking for ways to start my morning off on the right foot, I would go for walks with my husband and I fell in love with how quiet the city was before 8am. Those mornings turned into workouts or sometimes they remained walks. I slowly became a morning person and am much more fulfilled that way. I feel like I'm getting the most out of every day even if I'm in bed by 10pm. 

Whenever I get the chance to share this tiny piece of wisdom, I jump on it. So, when Elysium Health included my two cents on the topic in an infographic, I was thrilled! Elysium takes more of a scientific approach to healthy habits, as shown by the graphic's focus on cellular metabolism as well as the company's own research into NAD+. Check out what they unveiled about the major impact small changes can have on your life.

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The Secret to Curing Your Food Addiction

Trying to eat better? Brad Lamm has a solution: Know your style.

Lamm, an interventionist who works with those struggling with food addictions, has identified six types of eaters and their motivations. Knowing your type is crucial. “It reveals the behavioral changes you need to make,” says Lamm, founder of Breathe Life Healing Centers in Los Angeles. To find your style, read on.

Emotional eater

The style:

“You eat in tragedy or triumph, rather than [by taking] natural hunger cues,” says Lamm. You lack the ability “to distinguish between food as fuel [and] food as a coping mechanism.”

The strategy:

List “nonfood” ways to elevate your mood, such as a spa treatment.

Habitual eater

The style:

You indulge in junk food under a “just this once” excuse, but don’t stop eating. “If you’re not careful, ‘just this once’ becomes a part of your daily routine,” says Lamm.

The strategy:

“Journal about your eating each day to help you see your habits in black-and-white, and keep an eye on where and when to cut back,” says Lamm.

External eater

The style:

You fall victim to food that appears in front of you, like bagels in the office kitchen, and you’re susceptible to advertisements.

The strategy:

Shake off the “I see, therefore I need to feed” mentality, says Lamm. Be aware of external cues and your sensitivity to them. “Stop and think, ‘Do I really want to eat this?’ ” says Lamm.

Critical eater

The style:

You have a wealth of knowledge about nutrition and health but a strong “all or nothing” way of thinking. You might consume an entire box of snacks and think, “Well, this day is a bust anyway, so whatever,” and subsist only on green juice the next day to counteract your overindulgence.

The strategy:

Ease up on your food rules and be more realistic. “Think less about how self-destructive you feel when you’re ‘off the rails’ and more about how your next eating choice will be a healthy one,” says Lamm. “The whole day doesn’t have to be a wash if you made one poor meal choice. Restart it at any time.”

Sensual eater

The style:

You relish every bite and don’t hold back when trying exotic and decadent dishes — even if it means putting on the pounds.

The strategy:

“Keep your portions in control and this style of eating will not get the best of you,” notes Lamm. “Stick to the ‘three forkfuls’ rule” — allowing yourself only three bites of indulgent dishes.

Energy eater

The style:

You work out all the time, so you think you can eat all the time, but you tend to “inaccurately calculate the quantity of fuel [you] actually need to power through [your] day,” says Lamm. The snacks you’re eating are likely healthy, but you’re consuming too many.

The strategy:

Try journaling to get a clear picture of just how much you’re eating, and make an effort to eat more protein to help you stay satiated.

Why People in These Countries Are Living Longer (PS It Has to do With Pasta)

Originally appeared in the New York Post

In recent years, we’ve all been told that to eat healthfully, we have to forgo bread and pasta and up our protein intake.

But according to one researcher, the people living the longest, healthiest lives are doing the opposite. In his new book “The Mindspan Diet: Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk, Minimize Memory Loss, and Keep Your Brain Young” (Ballantine Books, out now), Harvard biologist Preston Estep III singles out what he calls “the mindspan elite” — countries whose residents not only have long life spans but also have relatively low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Life expectancy is only one measure of health, and it doesn’t include quality of life. If it is accompanied by a very high dementia rate, then that effectively subtracts years,” Estep tells me. “Life expectancy [can be] misleading.”

According to Estep’s data analysis, Japan came out on top in terms of “mindspan,” with an average life expectancy of 84 and low rates of cognitive decline. Mediterranean France and Italy, Spain and Costa Rica also rank among the elite. Despite having a life expectancy of 79, the US is a “mindspan risk” country, according to Estep, because of its high rates of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Estep found some surprising similarities among the top-ranked diets. The main food source for many of the longest-lived people is bread, pasta and rice. “Refined carbs are the base of the ‘mindspan diet,’” Estep says.

But these countries aren’t enjoying the same carbs we are. In the US, bread and pasta — whether it’s whole wheat or white — tend to be enriched to contain about three times the amount of iron as their non-enriched equivalents in the Mediterranean, Japan and Costa Rica. Estep believes consuming too much iron damages DNA, cell membranes and neurons. “People with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have substantial amounts of iron and other metals in their brains,” he says.

While the “mindspan elite” have the lowest rates of cognitive decline and brain disorders, places with high iron consumption — such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Finland — lead the world in Alzheimer’s disease incidences. This excess iron can also come from too much meat consumption, according to Estep.

“Parts of northern Europe lead the world in dementia risk,” he says. “High meat consumption and [the] resulting high body stores of iron are likely a primary reason they have such a high dementia burden.”

“It’s a myth that we need to eat so much protein, especially from meat,” he continues. “In fact, it’s hard on the kidneys and may promote cancer and accelerate the progression of dementia. Pinto beans, found in the Costa Rican diet, [contain] just the right amount [of protein].”

Olive oil was another common denominator of the “mindspan elite,” especially among the Mediterranean and Spanish diets. “Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), which is less reactive in the body,” says Estep. Foods with MUFA have been linked to a decreased risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as helping weight loss and lowering cholesterol — all things that help you live longer.

Countries that rely on butter and other animal products, he says, tend to rank among the “mindspan risk.” Despite the controversial nature of some of his assertions, Estep insists he approached his research with an open mind and wasn’t looking to favor bread over beef.

“I just followed the evidence with no particular dietary philosophy in mind,” he says.

Should You Be Taking a Sleepcation?

Originally appeared on Yahoo Health:

In the world of Hollywood we’re used to hearing stories of late nights out and non-stop parties. So, it was a bit shocking to when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gave an interview about how he was opting for a night in rather than a night on the town.

While Patriots players Rob Gronkowski, Jonas Gray, and Shane Vereen were attending a Clippers game with Justin Bieber on Monday, Brady, during his weekly interview on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” on Tuesday, said that he’d rather catch some zzz’s. “I’m not doing anything like that. That time has come and gone in my life. I did a lot of Charger work last night, sleeping. This is my first time away from my kids in a while, so I finally get some decent sleep.”

Brady isn’t the only celebrity who uses time away from home to catch up on sleep. Actress Brooke Burke-Charvet has also admitted to taking “sleepcations” with her husband. Could bed actually be the newest hot spot?

With more and more people working long hours and having extended family commitments it’s no surprise that there is a serious case of sleep deprivation in this country. The National Sleep Foundation says 42 percent of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep, which can have some serious consequences. “Sleep deprivation studies repeatedly show a variable (negative) impact on mood, cognitive performance, and motor function,” says one University of Pennsylvania study. “Deficits in daytime performance due to sleep loss are experienced universally and associated with a significant social, financial, and human cost.”

But, can sleep marathon sessions really be the solution?

Research shows that the strategy really can help you catch up on sleep. In one study, research subjects who were allowed to sleep as long as they wanted spent about 12 hours per night in bed for four or five nights, on average, and then adjusted to a more normal 7 to 8 hours. ” It can definitely help meet some of the sleep needs that you missed,” says Natalie Dautovich,  National Sleep Foundation Environmental Scholar. “Sleeping in can be beneficial especially if you have that extended period of time to get back on your regular sleep schedule.” In fact, Shane Green, global hospitality consultant and founder and president of SGE International, says that many of his VIP clients will check into a hotel just to catch up on sleep. “So many times you get these celebrities that are coming off the road or off the tour after a season and they will check in for a couple of weeks just to get their balance back,” says Shane. “We have a number of celebrities who would check in and put blackout curtains up and pretty much just sleep for days on end.” Once they’ve acclimated, they are ready to enter the real world again.

While long stretches of sleep can be beneficial as an occasional fix to reset your schedule, studies show it’s not useful for chronic deprivation. A recent Harvard Medical School study shows the effects of persistent sleep loss on performance and concludes that it is nearly impossible to “catch up on sleep” to improve performance. “There is some emerging research that this recovery sleep is not the same as getting the sleep to begin with in both quality and quantity,” says Natalie. “If they test people after a regular night’s sleep versus sleeping in or if they’ve had these ‘sleepcations,’ they don’t preform as well as if they’ve had a regular night’s sleep. The recovery sleep cannot fully compensate for the missed sleep.” According to the study, even when you sleep an extra 10 hours to compensate for sleeping only 6 hours a night for up to two weeks, your reaction times and ability to focus is worse than if you had pulled an all nighter. The bottom line is that there is no real way to get back lost sleep.

If you tend to have an erratic schedule, there is a tool that can help you get the most out of your slumber. A sleep calculator can help you compute when to go to bed to make sure you are not disrupting your sleep cycle. During the night, sleeping follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep sleep and rapid eye movement  sleep. Waking up during a deep sleep cycle can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. Even if you have to wake up at 5am, a sleep calculator can identify several times that are best for falling asleep so you will wake up feeling refreshed—even if you haven’t gotten the recommended six and a half to eight hours.

The Scientific Reason You Love to Travel

From my Travel + Leisure article:

Itching to hit the road? There may now be a scientific explanation for that desire.

Studies over the years have proven a link between an excess of dopamine in the brain and a tendency to engage in impulsive and dangerous behaviors. This surplus dopamine has also been associated with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene, which codes for a single type of dopamine receptor called the 7R+ allele. While this genetic variation has previously been tied to issues like gambling and addiction, it can also explain a more benign compulsion, the urge to travel.

Justin Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, said that the DRD4 gene and the consequent extra dopamine may have helped provoke prehistoric man to leave home and explore other territories in hopes of finding food, mates, and shelter. Though those survival needs are no longer at play, that biological background might have morphed into modern-day wanderlust.

While there’s obviously a combination of nature and nurture in most scientific explanations, Garcia said that DRD4 could explain why some view traveling as exciting and others deem it terrifying. J. Koji Lum, an anthropologist at Binghamton University explained this concept further to Nomadic Matt.

“DRD4 is one gene and, of course, its contribution to any complex behavior is going to be small. But those small differences add up,” he explained. “To a certain extent, assessing risk is just running an algorithm in your head. The different genetic variants mean that algorithm is running at slightly different levels in different people. That’s where all of this comes together: people are running slightly different algorithms that help define whether or not they will take a risk. And, ultimately, over time, that one small difference in the algorithm ends up in very different lives lived.”

So, if people think you’re crazy for wanting to see the world, know that your impulse may be grounded in biology.