August 2015 | Dr. Stephen Gullo

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Is Your Brain to Blame For Your Weight Loss Struggle?

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If you’ve seen any obesity statistics lately, you’re almost certain to be alarmed. Over one-third of all American adults are obese, and the epidemic shows no signs of improving, despite so many dieters trying to lose weight. Weight loss seems like it should be a pretty easy thing to accomplish: you eat a little less and you move a little more. So why can’t so many of us shed the pounds for good? If you’re struggling to lose weight, seeing a psychologist may prove as beneficial or even more so as seeing a nutritionist or dietitian. Psychologist Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania has been studying the issue for years, and he’s shared his research at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Prof. Paul Rozin has pointed out that willpower remains a dominant trend amongst weight loss diets in America, even though unfortunately, dieters who rely on willpower to lose weight are likely to fail to achieve their goals. Instead, Rozin suggests, it’s also important to look at other psychological and environmental factors. Studies have shown that people can actually become addicted to food, and underlying emotional issues need to be addressed first for successful weight loss. Environmental factors are also key. As Dr. Gullo has pointed out in his work, many people will polish off their plates, even if they are full long before the meal is completely eaten. For successful weight loss, I recommend taking small steps—they really do add up over time! Trick your brain by eating low-calorie, high-volume foods instead of calorie-dense junk food.

Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work To Lose Weight

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So you’ve been doing the calorie counting thing, restricting portion sizes, and eating desserts in moderation. Why aren’t you losing weight? Well, for starters, much of what you think you know about diet and weight loss strategies is actually ineffective, according to a new weight loss study that debunks the value of calorie counting and eating in moderation. For 12 to 20 years, five Harvard nutrition and public health experts evaluated the habits of 120,877 healthy people. On average, they each gained nearly 17 lbs. in 20 years. Unsurprisingly, the research revealed that regular exercise helps prevent weight gain. But it also revealed that the type of food that people eat is even more important, along with a few other factors.

For a few decades now, I have been advising my weight loss patients to toss portion control, calorie counting, and willpower out the window. These strategies simply don’t work. Which begs the question, what does work? Remember my golden rule: it isn’t about food deprivation, it’s about food substitution. Instead of giving yourself a long list of things you can’t eat (which will only make you crave them more), fill your diet with low-calorie, nutrient dense foods that will help your body thrive. For example, instead of ice cream, eat nonfat yogurt, which may actually help raise your metabolic rate, according to the same weight loss study. Reduce the amount of TV you watch (food commercials encourage overeating), get plenty of sleep (to put your hungry ghrelin hormones to rest), don’t start smoking cigarettes, and enjoy a glass of wine on occasion (but avoid hard liquors).

Dr. Gullo’s 7 Substitutes For Chocolate Candy Cravings

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Many dieters would list chocolate as the one food that they find it most difficult to give up on a diet. They’ll swear off the delicious treats, nibble on lettuce for dinner, and then wonder why they just ate a whole box of chocolate doughnuts without realizing it. If you find yourself addicted to treats like chocolate candy, find healthier alternatives instead. As I say in my book, “The Thin Commandments,” successful diets focus on food substitution, not food deprivation. And remember not to rely on portion control or willpower, either. If you try to eat just a little bit of your favorite chocolate candy, you’ll probably end up eating much more than you intended. Check out my list of healthier, weight loss-friendly alternatives to chocolate candy.

1. Yogurt
Select a plain, low-fat, low-sugar brand and mix in 2 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder for a low-cal treat.

2. Cottage Cheese
Again, select a low-fat brand and stir in a little unsweetened cocoa powder.

3. Protein Shake
Make it with skim milk and add unsweetened cocoa powder the protein will also help curb your appetite.

4. Berries
Berries have a low glycemic index, which means that they won’t spike your blood sugar levels.

5. Carob
A much healthier alternative to chocolate candy, but it might be an acquired taste for some.

6. Chocolate Pudding
Select a zero-sugar brand and make it with skim milk.

7. Fudgsicles
There are many brands for 100 calories and under, but try to find one for about 40 calories per serving.

7 Surprising Sources of Vitamin C To Help Trim Your Belly

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Those of us who aren’t exactly spring chickens any more understand the value of vitamins for the skin. An exfoliating scrub and a vitamin C treatment can do wonders for your skin tone and texture. But it turns out that vitamin C may also revitalize your belly. When taken internally, that is. A recent study found that people who took 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for six weeks enjoyed decreased cholesterol, insulin, and fasting blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is essential for weight loss. How many times have you eaten a doughnut, gotten a sugar high, and then crashed hours later and reached for another doughnut? When you’re using my methods of meal planning for your weight loss diet, include some of the following surprising sources of vitamin C.

1. Guava
Just half a cup of this delicious fruit has 188 mg of vitamin C, with a mere 56 calories compare that to just 70 mg of vitamin C in the average orange.

2. Red Bell Pepper
Add half a cup of sliced red peppers to your salad for 142 mg of vitamin C.

3. Broccoli
A cup of chopped broccoli contains an impressive 135% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.

4. Grapefruit Juice
3/4 cup contains about 50 to 70 mg of C, but always select a brand with no added sugar.

5. Parsley
Eat your garnishes a cup of raw parsley contains 133% of the recommended daily value.

6. Brussels Sprouts
Half a cup contains 48 mg of C if you don’t care for Brussels sprouts, try roasting them to enhance the flavor.

7. Kohlrabi
Add kohlrabi to your soup for 45 mg of vitamin C per half cup, cooked.

7 Sugars Hiding in Plain Sight at the Supermarket

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Certain things in life are meant to be complex. The theory of relativity, for example, is something that only a select few geniuses can claim to truly wrap their heads around. However, your diet should be pretty simple. Otherwise it’d be difficult to follow and you’ll be more likely to fall off the wagon. When you use the diet planning techniques from my book, your meal plan shouldn’t read like a confusing white paper on Virident FlashMAX M1400 MySQL, for example. So why are nutrition labels filled with words you can’t even pronounce? It seems as if manufacturing companies like to make up complicated words for plain old “sugar” so you won’t even realize you’re heading for a sugar high. Becoming thin begins in the supermarket, so it’s time to break out the dictionary and decipher all that mumbo-jumbo on the ingredients lists. When you learn some of the common and alternative terms for sugar, you can much more easily avoid an afternoon sugar high.

1. Evaporated Cane Juice
This stuff is created when raw sugar cane is boiled; the crystals left behind are processed to remove any lingering vitamins and minerals.

2. Fruit Juice Concentrate
Despite the “fruit” in the name, this stuff does not count toward your daily fruit and veggies quota this type of sugar has no redeeming nutritional value.

3. Sucrose
This is just another name for plain old table sugar (sucrose is sugar’s chemical name).

4. Fructose
Fructose is the sugar that is found naturally in fruit—it’s natural, yes, but it’s still sugar.

5. Lactose
Another naturally occurring sugar, but this is found in milk instead of fruit.

6. Barley Malt Syrup
The “syrup” in the term should be a dead giveaway for its sugary nature also watch out for rice syrup, corn syrup, and sorghum syrup.

7. Turbinado
This stuff has an appearance similar to brown sugar, but it’s a little lighter and less processed.

Can Carbs Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s?

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Seniors already have a lot on their plates. They’ve seen their 401ks and other retirement plans shrink during the economic woes of the least 10 years, and they may have even had to tap into retirement funds before they officially retired. Seniors also have to worry about the future of Medicare, and many of them are diagnosed with chronic health conditions later in life, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. One study has linked a person’s diet to his risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, a high carb diet may boost a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s about fourfold.

Researchers from the well-respected Mayo Clinic examined approximately 1,000 people ages 70 to 89. The diets of the participants and their indicators of cognitive impairment were examined over the course of four years. The results indicated that a diet high in protein can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 21%, and a diet high in heart-healthy fats can reduce the risk by 42%, whereas a high carb diet drastically increases the risk for Alzheimer’s. Researchers note that a high carb diet affects a person’s glucose level and insulin sensitivity. Although the brain needs a certain amount of sugar to work, too much sugar from carbohydrates can prevent it from using the sugar properly. High levels of glucose can also contribute to the buildup of beta amyloid plaques, which are proteins found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.

So what does all that research mean for you? Avoid going cold turkey on carbs; radical diets are never the answer. Instead, use my meal planning techniques to maintain a healthy weight and preserve your brain function. Choose healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, but don’t make them the main focus of the meal.

7 Butter Alternatives Perfect for Dieters

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When you begin a weight loss diet using my dieting techniques, you’ll examine your food history to customize a plan that’s right for you. You might notice that you tend to go overboard with butter products. According to Eating Well magazine, butter has an average of 100 calories and 11 g of fat with 7 g of saturated fat per tablespoon. That’s an awful lot of fat and calories for such a little serving size. Instead of depriving yourself of buttery goodness, find a healthier alternative. Store shelves are stocked full of alternative butter products. Look for one that ideally contains less than 50 calories and less than 3 g of saturated fat per serving. As well, check for trans fats. Even if a product proclaims that it is “trans fats-free,” it still has less than 0.5 g of trans fats if the ingredients list includes hydrogenated oil. You can also check our recommendations for alternative butter products below.

1. Applesauce
Yes, you read that correctly: applesauce. Revamp your baking recipes to use unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, or other fruit purees instead of butter

2. Ricotta Cheese
You can also substitute ricotta cheese instead of butter in baking recipes, but always select the low-fat varieties.

3. Roasted Garlic
If you love garlic bread, make it healthier by substituting whole wheat bread and roasted, mashed garlic heads instead of butter.

4. Greek Yogurt
Select plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt and use it as a substitute for butter products in baking recipes and on dishes like potatoes.

5. Baba Ganoush
Spread this dish, made of roasted, mashed eggplant, on wraps, sandwiches, or any other food item on which you would ordinarily use butter products.

6. Light “Butter” Spread with Sterols
These lower-calorie spreads are substitutes for regular butter products; check the label for the presence of plant sterols, which have been proven by one study to lower LDL cholesterol by 14%.

7. Whipped Butter
Whipped or light butter contains fewer calories and saturated fat than regular butter, but check the label to choose the best brand; as well, if your food history reveals that you’re a butter fanatic, skip this altogether and choose alternative butter products.

Can A Sugar Tax Help Combat Obesity?

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There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about attempts by government to curb sugar consumption. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was famously lampooned for his ban on oversized sodas that was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. But what about a sugar tax?

The British Medical Association has called for a for a 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which would be used to subsidize the costs of healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables.The thought is that such a tax could reduce sugar consumption. A similar federal tax on tobacco cut cigarette smoking/tobacco use in the US primarily among the wealthiest and most educated citizens. High-income families decreased their smoking by 62 percent, versus only 9 percent for low-income families. So would a sugar tax really help lower income Americans, who are already at risk for more health problems? To start to answer this question we need to realize the comparison to the tobacco tax isn’t a good one. Food, unlike cigarettes, is a necessity.

Beyond the socio-economic implications, we should also ask, would a sugar tax actually have an impact on the rampant consumption of sugary beverages? Other British studies have found that a 10 percent tax would only reduce the average personal intake by 7.5 milliliters, which is the equivalent of just a single sip of a sugary beverage, having no effect on the global overweight or obesity crisis. The other issue with a tax, particularly a negligible 10 percent on comparatively inexpensive food items, is that it will zero effect on the thinking, behaviors and habits of a majority of people who consume sugary sweetened beverages.

To beat the epidemic of obesity it will take more than a paltry ‘sugar tax.’ It will take personal responsibility combined with guidance, support and smart strategy rooted in understanding the psychological and emotional reasons why we abuse food.

Yo-Yo Dieting: Not So Bad for Your Health After All?

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If you’re a dieter, you’re certainly familiar with the term “yo-yo dieting.” You’ve probably experienced the phenomenon firsthand. While losing weight only to regain it back later can be frustrating and feel unhealthy, a new study by researchers at the American Cancer Society has found that yo-yo dieting doesn’t adversely impact cancer risk, or risk for any of 15 weight-related cancers.

While this is good news, the adverse effects of yo-yo dieting extend far beyond cancer risk. For one, obesity, which affects 35 percent of adult Americans and millions more children, absolutely increases cancer risk. Moreover, studies indicate that yo-yo dieting also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Weight cycling can also increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which the body stores as fat. What the ACS study leaves out is that yo-yo dieting is psychologically destructive, causing millions of dieters to feel discouraged and/or depressed. The average American dieter makes 5 loss attempts a year. The negative psychological effect of regaining and losing weight can’t be measured by any academic study, but it certainly accounts for this country’s astonishing rates of overweight and obesity.

One researcher who worked on the study added, “Our findings suggest that overweight and obese individuals shouldn’t let fears about their ability to maintain weight loss keep them from trying to lose weight in the first place.” This is certainly true. But it doesn’t undercut the need for effective strategies that make lasting weight loss possible. We need strategy to stop the yo-yo dieting which has damaging effects beyond cancer.

Does Color Therapy Hold the Key to Losing Weight?

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Some people spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on the latest weight loss techniques–everything from the wacky (Hula Chair) to the just plain lazy (Power Plate). But if you’re like most of us in today’s economy, you’re pinching pennies and trying to live on less, and the last thing you want to waste your money on is some weird dieting gadget. But could you really boost your weight loss for the mere price of a bucket of paint? As I’ve been saying for decades, losing weight is not just a physical process, but it’s also a psychological process. And since willpower tends to fail, finding little ways to trick your brain can help. This is where color therapy comes in. A recent study has discovered that the color of your plate and the general environment in which you eat can affect how much you eat.

In the study, participants were given either a red or white plate and directed to fill their plates with pasta in a white cream sauce or a red tomato sauce. Participants who had cream sauce on white plates or tomato sauce on red plates selected a portion size about 17% to 22% larger than those who had red sauce on white plates or white sauce on red plates. The researchers hypothesized that the contrasting colors made the participants more aware of how much they were eating. Research has further revealed that when a person dishes out his own meals, he is likely to eat at least 92% of it. I call these dieters “plate finishers.” So if you’re a plate finisher, you might be best served by having someone else dish out your food for you on flatware in a color that contrasts with your dinner. You might also consider painting your kitchen blue. According to color therapy theory, the color blue acts as an appetite suppressant because there are few blue foods in nature, which means that you might subconsciously think that “blue” equals “poison.” Just remember that eating a gigantic piece of chocolate cake on a blue plate won’t help you lose weight; you still need to focus on smart food choices.