For many people, especially at this time of year, the motivation for healthy eating and increasing their physical activity is often to shed a few pounds. But as T.E. Wealth Vice President Lynne Triffon discussed in the previous issue of Strategies, adopting a healthier lifestyle is more than just looking good; it also is about feeling good.* Maintaining a healthy weight and level of fitness can lead to improved sleep, better handling of life’s stresses and fewer illnesses and ailments. We know that staying trim and fit is one of your best defenses against some of the chronic conditions that can impair your overall enjoyment of life. But we also know that exchanging current bad habits for a healthier way of life is not always easy.
Understanding the reward cycle
At the recent T.E. Wealth Speaker Series, we invited Executive Weight Loss Coach Adele Tevlin, of Adele Wellness, to explain how food affects our brains and influences behaviors that can sabotage all of our efforts to pursue a healthier lifestyle. A Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a degree in neuropsychology from McGill, Adele helps busy executives develop weight management strategies that work. Speaking to capacity crowds in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, Adele dispelled some of the myths surrounding nutrition that actually hamper weight loss and explained how to break the eating patterns that end up causing weight gain. The problem, it seems, is all in our heads.
As Adele pointed out, food actually stimulates the reward centre in our brain, the part of the brain that accounts for addictions. Research has shown that food is the second most addictive substance, right after heroin. And years of feeding our reward centre at certain times of day – the milk and cookies after school or the chips and pop late at night, create eating patterns and cravings that are hard to break. Sugar, salt and fat are usually what we crave in foods. These three ingredients are highly addictive as they stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain and create a feedback/response loop that says, “Let’s eat that again.”
Twenty-one days for sustainable change
A number of detrimental eating patterns are established this way. The key for sustainable weight management is to recognize the patterns that affect you and then work on strategies to eliminate them. Common patterns include the mid-afternoon pick-me-up, eating before bed, social eating, arriving home starving after not eating all day and eating out of boredom. According to Adele, if you can break these patterns you will be able to effectively manage your weight. In her experience, it takes 21 days to break the cycle.
Mind the blood sugar
Of course, what you eat is just as important as when you eat. One of the nutritional myths Adele addressed is that all calories are equal. To illustrate, she compared eating a Mars bar with eating a chicken breast – both of which have roughly the same calories. The Mars bar may taste better but the chicken breast will make you feel fuller. The reason is how these foods affect the blood sugar level in your body. The sugar in the Mars bar will cause your blood sugar levels to spike in the short term and this can lead to weight gain around the body’s mid-section. The protein in the chicken breast will cause a more moderate rise in blood sugar levels that lasts longer, hence you feel full.
Ideally, for effective weight management, you want to keep your blood sugar levels steady with minor fluctuations throughout the day. As Adele explains, this means eating smaller amounts but more frequently so that your blood sugar level doesn’t get too high or too low, and starting your day with a breakfast based on protein and not the carbohydrates and sugars found in cereals, muffins and bread. The end result will be more even levels of blood sugar, which stabilizes your mood and energy and prevents your body from storing excess sugar as fat. Adele maintains what you eat in the morning will set the pattern for the rest of the day and recommends eggs for breakfast, reporting that the long-held notion that eggs cause cholesterol has been shown to be false. Now considered a “superfood”, eggs are a low-calorie, protein-dense, nutritionally rich food that also happens to be inexpensive.
According to Adele, it’s not lack of willpower that is making us fat, it’s ingrained lifelong habits that undermine our efforts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. By finding the right strategies for changing these behaviors, you can look good and feel even better in no time.
Due to the demand, Adele Tevlin will be back on the podium at the upcoming T.E. Wealth Speaker Series scheduled for May 27th in Toronto and May 28th in Montreal. Speak to your T.E. Wealth consultant for more information. Watch Adele’s presentation.
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