Weight Management

Attempting to lose weight can be daunting for many of us. The good news is that there are a number of natural weight loss products available now that can aid us in our quest to shed pounds. In addition to information about our favorite products, we’ll be posting our best natural weight loss tips, from diet to exercise to the best types of foods to eat to lose weight. While there are no easy fixes when it comes to losing pounds, our practitioners and Project Wellness can provide you with information about the all natural weight loss products that meet our strict quality and efficacy standards. Don’t give up! Help is out there, naturally.

  • More about Medium Chain Triglycerides: The Saturated Fat With Benefits!


    Contrary to popular thought, not all saturated fats can lead to heart disease and obesity. That’s because they’re not all created equal—Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), for example, are saturated fats with many health benefits, including support for metabolism, energy and beauty. (Learn more about the beauty benefits of MCTs and coconut oil here.)

    What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides?

    Medium Chain Triglycerides are saturated fats naturally found in coconut oil and palm kernel oils (and in lesser amounts in whole milk and butter). Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), on the other hand, are the most abundant fat in nature, and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat.

    Medium and Long Chain Triglycerides are named based on the length of their carbon chains, and as you would suspect, LCTs have longer carbons chains than MCTs. This structural difference affects how each fat is metabolized—LCTs pass slowly through the digestive tract, requiring bile salts and enzymes to break them down, then entering the lymphatic system and ending up mostly in fat stores as conserved energy. Conversely, MCTs are metabolized by the liver—bypassing the lymphatic system and the need for bile salts and enzymes—making them available for quick energy.

    MCTs for metabolism and weight management

    By replacing common LCTs with MCTs in your diet, you reap many metabolism- and weight-associated benefits. First, MCTs provide about 10 percent fewer calories per gram than LCTs. Consuming MCTs also slows down accumulation of fat over time, since MCTs are not stored in fat deposits the way LCTs are. MCTs may also suppress appetite.

    To get started, try cooking and baking with coconut oil to get more fat calories from MCTs and fewer from LCTs. Palm kernel and coconut oils are also great for cooking because they are stable at high temperatures, unlike vegetable oils such as canola oil.

    Other healthy benefits of MCTs

    Energy – As we’ve established, MCTs provide quick energy because they are so readily metabolized by the liver. This makes them great for endurance athletes, bodybuilders or anyone looking for a quick energy boost.

    Heart Health – MCTs promote normal blood platelet function, healthy cholesterol levels and prevent plaque build-up. Worth noting: Pacific Islanders—whose diet features a whopping 30-60 percent coconut content—show nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.

    Brain Health – MCTs may also be helpful in supporting cognitive health. Here’s why: The brain regularly uses insulin to convert glucose to brain fuel. When insulin response is compromised (e.g. through poor diet or diabetes), the brain can starve of the glucose-converted energy it needs. But MCTs can be converted into ketone bodies or ketoacids, an alternative form of fuel for the brain. In this way, the body treats MCTs more like a carbohydrate than a fat, turning it into quick brain fuel.

    Immunity – The fatty acids in coconut oil (i.e. capric, caprylic and lauric acids) have many immune-benefitting properties, including anti-microbial actions.

    Ways to get your MCTs

    Ready to improve energy, boost immunity and brain power, manage weight and beautify your skin and hair? Pharmaca carries a variety of great products containing MCTs.

    NOW Foods’ MCT Oil – A blend of liquefied pure coconut/palm kernel oils.

    Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil – A buttery, MCT-rich oil that’s great for sauces, sautéing and baking. (Note: Red palm oil is not to be confused with palm kernel oil that has a richer amount of MCTs.)

    Nature’s Way’s Liquid Coconut Premium Oil Made from pure, expeller-pressed coconuts, and formulated to maintain a liquid form wither refrigerated or at room temperature. A great alternative for vegetable oil in cooking, or adding to dressing, sauces and dips.

    Jarrow Formulas’ Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Made with organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed coconuts. Try the easy-to-take pill form, or the solid form that’s great for cooking, baking and for use topically on the hair and skin.

    Nature’s Way’s EFAGold Coconut Oil – Another great option made from certified organic, non-GMO, extra virgin coconuts. Cold pressed, hexane-free, unrefined and non-bleached.

  • A Little Help for Your New Year's Resolutions

    Have some healthy goals for your 2011? Whether you’re hoping to detox, de-stress, or just de-compress this year, we got some expert tips from Karin DiGiacomo, Wellness Counselor at our La Jolla location. Here's what Karin says:

    Resolution: Lose weight
    Most people benefit from a detoxification program to prepare their bodies for losing weight. Homeopathic Heel Detox Kit is gently effective. Throughout the first month take these drops to eliminate toxins and stimulate cleansing of liver, kidney, blood and lymphatic systems. If you’re looking for a more vigorous, quicker program, Natural Factors RevitalX or Detoxitech may be suitable. I also recommend a detox tea, like Traditional Medicinals EveryDay Detox because it’s slightly diuretic.

    After the detox, you can turn to Natural Factors PGX to support glucose management and curb appetite. Depending on a variety of factors, homeopathic Lobelia from Boiron can also cut cravings, while Pharmaca’s Hoodia works as an herbal appetite suppressant (traditionally used by Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert when food is scarce).

    Resolution: Reduce stress
    I like Hyland Nerve Tonic, a homeopathic formula with phosphates that effectively supports nervous system health. Look for Pharmaca brand essential oils like Lemongrass for giving fresh energy and Perfect Harmony, a blend of oils that includes emotion-calming clary sage. If you’re experiencing adrenal burnout as a result of stress, look for adaptogenic herbs like soothing-yet-invigorating Rhodiola (I like Gaia Herbs or New Chapter). To better manage stressful situations, introduce Bach Flower Essences (e.g. Vervain or Elm) or Rescue Remedy to defuse tension.

    Resolution: Increase brain power
    Pharmaca offers a number of options for brain nutrients and balancers to enhance cognitive function and long-term and short-term memory. I like Bluebonnet Power Thought, which contains a number of cognitive enhancers like phosphatidyl serine and choline, gingko and taurine. On the homeopathic side, Heel Cerecomp helps with mental fatigue and better focus. Getting good rest is important, so if the problem is a disruption of circadian rhythm, try Melatonin. If the problem is not day/night rhythm but general anxiety, I recommend Source Naturals GABA or Boiron Sedalia, which helps calm the mind and relieves nervous tension. Pharmaca also offers plenty of ways to help keep those other resolutions, whether it’s making sure your household cleaning products are non-toxic and eco-friendly or your cosmetics bag is filled with all-natural beauty products.

    Your resolution not here? Pharmaca also offers plenty of ways to help keep those other resolutions, whether it’s making sure your household cleaning products are non-toxic and eco-friendly or your cosmetics bag is filled with all-natural beauty products. Stop in and speak with a practitioner today!

  • 10 Ways to Boost Metabolism

    The new year is here—and for many of us, that means a renewed focus on healthy weight management. Here are a few tips and tricks for keeping your metabolism in check as you start working toward a healthier weight.

    First, a primer on the way metabolism functions in our body. Simply put, metabolism is the process by which our bodies use the calories in the food we eat and turn it into energy. We are continuously burning calories—even at rest—to continue breathing and pumping blood. The number of calories needed for anything beyond rest, such as walking, talking and daily activities, is unique to your body and lifestyle. And when we consume more calories than we need, our body stores them as fat, usually in the belly and thighs.

    It’s important to note that there are a few factors regarding our metabolism that we cannot change. First, men tend to burn more calories (even at rest) than women. That’s probably because men tend to have more lean muscle—which burns more calories—than women, whose bodies are designed to carry more fat to accommodate child rearing. Second, metabolism tends to slow after age 40. No matter what your age or gender, here are 10 strategies that can help optimize your metabolism.

    1) Build lean muscle. Lean muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. This difference adds up over time! Experts say that incorporating 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week, plus 2 days of strength and resistance training, is optimal for boosting your metabolism. In addition, high-intensity exercise is more beneficial, so step up the intensity of your workout to rev your resting metabolic rate for several hours afterward. Try to work out in the morning, since activating your muscles will help to boost your average metabolic rate for the day.

    2) Stay hydrated. Metabolism requires water for efficient functioning, and any amount of dehydration will impair your ability to burn calories. Shoot for eight 8 oz glasses of water per day. Additionally, drink a glass before you snack or have a meal—we often mistake thirst for hunger, and water is a natural appetite suppressant. Add some ice to your water to burn a few extra calories!

    3) Eat lean protein. The body burns more calories digesting protein than carbohydrates or fats. While you should keep a balanced diet, consider swapping some carbs for healthy lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, low-fat dairy, tofu, nuts, beans and eggs. And try to use grass-fed and organic products when possible.

    4) Don’t skip breakfast! Going without the first meal of the day (or not eating enough in general) puts the body into starvation mode, which signals the body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol and slows your metabolism. Eating smaller meals more often (i.e. every 3-4 hours) will keep your metabolism running and burning calories all day while providing you with sustained energy. Just avoid eating a heavy dinner or eating late!

    5) Keep your thyroid balanced. An under functioning thyroid gland can lead to sluggish metabolism, so have your thyroid regularly checked by your doctor. But mild hypothyroidism is common and can go undetected in blood tests—the best way to detect it is to measure your basal (or resting) body temperature in the morning to determine if it is low. For natural thyroid support, try Emerald Labs’ Thyroid Health or Natural Factors’ Thyroid Health Formula.

    6) Eat thermogenic foods. Thermogenic foods are those that require more calories to consume, digest and eliminate than they originally contain (i.e. your caloric output is more than the caloric intake from the food), or any food that raises your body temperature. Green tea, for example, is a great thermogenic—for maximum benefits, drink 4-5 cups per day (caffeinated or decaf) or take in supplement form (try green tea supplements from Pharmaca, Thorne Research or Herb Pharm). Thermogenic foods to try include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), mushrooms, celery, asparagus, leafy greens, apples, pears, berries, cinnamon, ginger, garlic…and chili peppers!

    7) Avoid crash dieting. Crash diets are low-calorie restriction diets that are harmful to your metabolism and sacrifice good nutrition for the sake of losing a few pounds quickly. While you may initially lose weight, the majority of the loss is typically from muscle mass, not fat, which can further slow the metabolism and encourage weight gain.

    8) Get B vitamins. These are key players in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and a deficiency in B vitamins can result in decreased metabolism. Try supplementing with a B complex to improve metabolism and energy. I recommend Pharmaca’s B Complex, New Chapter’s Coenzyme B Food Complex or Thorne Research’s Basic B Complex.

    9) Control stress. Cortisol is a necessary hormone in our fight-or-flight response, but it’s also our key stress hormone. Chronic stress results in an overabundance of cortisol production, and a prolonged period of elevated cortisol slows the metabolism and can cause excess abdominal fat. To control stress, try yoga, exercise, meditation and good sleep and nutrition habits. You can also help control cortisol levels through supplements like Pure Encapsulations’ Cortisol Calm by or Integrative Therapeutics’ Cortisol Manager.

    10) Try metabolism-enhancing supplements, like these:

    Thermo-Fit by Natura is a balanced supplement formulated to optimize metabolism, increase thermogenesis, decrease conversion of excess carbs into fat, support thyroid function and encourage breakdown of stored fat.

    Diet Slim by Gaia Herbs is an herbal formula designed to support utilization of dietary fat as energy rather than storing it as excess weight, promote fat burning and thermogenesis, and boost energy.

    Green Coffee Bean Extract comes from unroasted coffee beans, which contain chlorogenic acid and other natural compounds that have been shown to promote healthy weight control, fat loss and blood sugar levels. Try green coffee bean from Genesis Today, Paradise Herbs or Creative Bioscience.

    7-Keto Lean by Integrative Therapeutics contains 7-keto DHEA (which will not metabolize into sex hormones) and has been shown to support fat metabolism and weight loss.

    While supplements may be an added boost to your metabolism, your best approach to optimal metabolism is to stay within your caloric needs, exercise regularly and maintain a well-balanced diet. If you suspect you have a medical condition that is compromising your metabolism, seek help of a qualified health professional.

  • Join the Personal Weight Challenge!

    Getting fit and staying healthy is about to get easier! New this year, we’re helping customers meet their weight management goals through individualized nutrition and supplement consultation sessions—along with helpful encouragement—from one of our expert practitioners.

    Customers can enroll in the Personal Weight Challenge (PWC) program for a low $20 monthly fee, which includes three 30-minute sessions with a practitioner each month. At the beginning of the program, customers will receive fun fitness-related gifts as well as a nutrition/exercise journal to help them keep track of their eating and activity—information that they’ll share with their consulting practitioner.

    “There are many studies that show that keeping a food journal can help you lose weight,” says Colleen Johnson, nutrition educator at our Monterey store. People may think they have a healthy diet, but “this just really makes you aware of what you’re eating.”

    Each PWC session will be geared toward the customer’s individual goals, be it weight loss, blood sugar management, lower blood pressure, a solid workout plan, etc. Sessions will include a weigh-in, a recap of goals achieved since the last meeting and a plan for meeting the next set of goals. Participants will also have access to healthy recipes and exercise plans developed by our practitioners and fitness experts, all designed for busy people on the go.

    Perhaps most importantly, the PWC program helps keep customers encouraged and accountable as they develop new habits. “It’s so much easier to get off your plan when nobody’s watching,” says Colleen. “And everybody loves to have somebody notice when they’ve done something well!”

    To learn more about the Personal Weight Challenge, ask a Team Member at your local Pharmaca.

  • Natural Weight Management: Is There Truth Behind the Hype?

    You’ve probably heard the hype about some new naturally derived weight loss supplements on the market today. Here, we explore how they work, and how they might be able to help you meet your weight management goals.

    Green Coffee Bean
    Taking green coffee bean extract isn’t just like drinking a cup of coffee: unroasted coffee beans contain a much higher amount of chlorogenic acid, an active compound that increases fat metabolism and decreases glucose absorption.

    There are several studies, says Dr. Jenny Kaltunas, naturopathic doctor at our West Seattle store, that provide strong evidence for its ability to promote weight loss. “In one study with overweight people, they saw a significant decrease in overall weight, body-mass index and percent body fat over a 22-week period.” She cites another study in which participants not only lost weight, but also saw a decrease in blood pressure and homocysteine, a marker for cardiovascular disease.

    African Mango
    Derived from the seeds of mangos grown in the rainforests of West Africa, the supplement commonly known as African Mango (Irvingia gabonensis) is high in soluble fiber. “That’s the active constituent that can contribute to weight loss,”Jenny says. “The fiber delays the emptying of the stomach and absorbs water, meaning sugar is absorbed at a slower rate and you don’t get blood sugar spikes.” Fiber also combines with bile, which helps flush out fat and cholesterol.

    In a 2005 African study, participants who were given African Mango saw a 5.6% decrease in weight after one month compared to placebo, and a significant reduction in waist and hip circumference. “They weren’t changing their diets, and their total cholesterol went down,” Jenny says. “So there’s pretty good preliminary evidence that this could be a supportive adjunct therapy to weight loss.”

    Raspberry Ketone
    Raspberry ketone entered the limelight when it showed up on The Dr. Oz Show earlier this year. It’s an aromatic compound that comes from raspberries and other fruits, and apparently improves fat burning by encouraging norepinephrine to break down fat cells.

    “The other idea is that it increases a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in fat metabolism, and improves insulin resistance, which can also help with weight loss,” says Jenny. But, she says, “Exercise is one of the best ways to increase adiponectin, so you’ll probably see a bigger increase if you combine the two.”

    While there isn’t yet strong evidence for raspberry ketone, Jenny says it’s worth a try. “It’s something to try if your want to kickstart a diet—as long as you’re combining it with healthy diet and lifestyle changes.”

    Note: Any weight management program should be combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise program. Please consult your health care provider before beginning any weight management program.

    SafSlim (Safflower Oil)
    Safflower has long been cultivated for its oil, used in cooking and other applications. The oil is rich in linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid that is being researched for its ability to reduce the adipose fat around our waist.

    “There are some theories that it could promote the breaking down of fat,” says Jenny. “Supposedly it helps use existing fat for energy and inhibits fat storage.” She also points to a study done at Ohio State that showed that safflower oil can boost good cholesterol levels, and reduce belly fat and insulin sensitivity in overweight post-menopausal women with Type 2 diabetes.

    SafSlim offers a convenient way to incorporate safflower oil into your diet, as it offers an ideal dose of linoleic acid in a tasty formulation.

    Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HcG)
    hCG has been used for years in its injectable form, and is now available as a homeopathic drop. “hCG is a hormone that’s naturally produced in pregnancy,” says Dr. Jenny Kaltunas, naturopathic doctor at our West Seattle store. But if you don’t have a baby, she says, “The idea is that it’s tricking the hypothalamus into using stored fat for energy.”

    Pharmaca offers hCG from Creative BioScience, and the company recommends taking the drops along with a low-calorie diet—either 500, 800 or 1,200 calories per day, depending on your level of physical activity. (Even on a 500-calorie diet, Jenny says, “You don’t feel as hungry as you think you would, because the body is pulling that stored fat to provide energy.”) Their site even offers detailed recommendations for dosages and meal plans.

    “They’re pretty adamant about following their diet recommendations of lean protein, vegetables and low carbs,” Jenny says. “They’ve formulated it in a way that the food you’re taking in is not used up before breaking down the fat cells.” But, she cautions, because the diet is so high in protein, anyone with kidney problems or diabetes should consult with a physician before starting the hCG diet.

    Learn more about Pharmaca’s health weight-management options by speaking with a practitioner today.

  • Adaptogens in Focus: Rhodiola

    On nearly every continent, there are plants that contain particular substances and chemicals capable of altering the human physiological and emotional reaction to stress. Known for thousands of years and utilized by cultures around the globe, these healing herbs and fungi—what we now call adaptogens—convey a resistance to chemical, physical and psycho-emotional stressors when consumed, providing resiliency to both our minds and bodies by balancing neurotransmitters, increasing cellular energy production, and supporting neuro-endocrine functions.

    As most health practitioners will attest, stress and the resulting physical effects of stress are at the core of many health conditions; our societies are just moving and working at a pace that our bodies and minds struggle to keep up with, and it’s taking a huge toll on our health. Because of this, I feel these herbs are an invaluable addition to a healing protocol or supplement regimen, and are needed like never before.

    In this series on adaptogens, I’ll be exploring some of the most potent and effective of these adaptogens, outlining their incredible history, physiological and psycho-emotional effects, and appropriate usage guidelines.

    So let’s jump right in and start at the top with my absolute favorite, rhodiola.

    Siberian strength

    Rhodiola rosea (also called Arctic or Golden Root) is an adaptogen that hails from the highlands of Siberia and northern Europe. A staple healer for centuries in the Russian and Arctic cultures, rhodiola has been classically used to increase physical resistance to the cold and stress of such an inhospitable climate. This effect has been consistently proven in laboratory studies, along with seemingly countless other beneficial effects.

    Rhodiola has a profound effect on neurotransmitter balance. In laboratory studies, it has been found to increase the sensitivity of neurons to the presence of dopamine and serotonin, two prominent neurotransmitters involved in motivation, focus, enjoyment and mood. Because of this, rhodiola has been used as a successful alternative to antidepressants in Europe, and may offer benefit to those suffering from attention issues or memory loss.

    To prevent fatigue, especially at high altitudes, rhodiola is second-to-none. The herb appears to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of our red blood cells, and has been used by Olympic athletes and Russian cosmonauts for endurance and strength. This effect is also due to the ability of rhodiola to reduce cortisol in our blood, a hormone released in times of stress, and one responsible for various detrimental effects when chronically present.

    One of those detrimental effects, as you may know, is stress-related weight gain. Our bodies preferentially store excess weight around the midsection during times of excess and perpetual stress, anticipating that we may be in some kind of physical danger and so must protect the internal organs. By reducing cortisol, rhodiola may help to calm the body and reduce this effect, while at the same time turning on an enzyme, hormone-sensitive lipase, which stimulates the body to break down and utilize the fat stored in abdominal cells. And as extra weight support for those of us who are challenged by stress-related eating behaviors, rhodiola can also help to adjust satiation through increasing dopamine sensitivity, reducing carbohydrate cravings and potentially increasing the pleasure response we get from eating.

    This is just a tiny sampling of this plant’s incredible potential benefits, and I encourage you to research and read more on it if you’re interested. Personally, I have been taking rhodiola on and off for about six years, and have never found an herbal supplement to be more powerful or multifaceted in its healing abilities.

    Note: Look for a rhodiola supplement that is guaranteed Siberian-grown, as other plants grown in more temperate regions of the world don’t develop the same stress-balancing compounds. New Chapter’s Rhodiola Force is a personal favorite.

    Ideal dose has been set at between 100-600 mg per day, depending on your physiology and the effects you’re looking for, taken once a day in the morning. Side effects are minimal to none, though those with high blood pressure conditions are advised to avoid rhodiola. Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner to learn more about appropriate dosage levels.

    Ciel is a certified Wellness Coach and Holistic Health Practitioner in Berkeley, Calif., and works at the Rockridge Pharmaca in Oakland. She employs her background in herbs, nutrition, psychoneuroimmunology and Shamanic practices (and a few hundred other modalities) to guide people to a greater understanding of their life processes, leading to vibrant health and much more laughter.

  • 30 Day Challenge, Week 2: Progress

    Our 30 Day Weight-Management Challengers are well on their way to eating and feeling better, and they're letting us know how their new routines are working out for them. Susan, a Challenger from our San Francisco location, had this to say this week:

    "I am really happy that I am doing this--working with Pharmaca--as this is really difficult! [My practitioner] Courtney's support is invaluable as my weight is coming off soooooo sloooooooowly. Courtney helps me think it out and the good news is I'm sticking with it. I don't know what I'll do without her as I want to keep going. Thanks, Courtney!"

    Read more about all of our Challengers' progress here.

  • Ask the MD: Healthy weight management

    We’ve gathered some common questions about weight management and posed them to the chair of our Integrative Health Advisory Board (IHAB), Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD. Here is his sage advice about maintaining a healthy weight.

    What integrative therapies can I use to manage my weight?

    First off, keep in mind that there are no quick fixes. But if you are willing to be persistent, then you can lose all the weight you desire. Exercise, diet, stress and sleep all play a critical role in weight management.

    A good first step is to increase the amount of exercise you get. Modify your diet with smaller, more frequent meals, and make sure you’re managing your stress and mood. Stress can indirectly affect your weight, so try yoga, breathing practices, guided imagery, or supplements, if necessary, to manage stress. It’s also important to improve your sleep, so explore different natural therapies if necessary. As far as supplements go, I recommend people increase their fiber intake to increase feelings of fullness and improve digestion.

    Read the rest of the questions and answers at pharmaca.com >>

  • Ask the MD: Healthy Weight Management

    We've gathered some common questions about weight management and posed them to the chair of our Integrative Health Advisory Board (IHAB), Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD. Here is his sage advice about maintaining a healthy weight.

    What integrative therapies can I use to manage my weight?

    First off, keep in mind that there are no quick fixes. But if you are willing to be persistent, then you can lose all the weight you desire. Exercise, diet, stress and sleep all play a critical role in weight management.

    A good first step is to increase the amount of exercise you get. Modify your diet with smaller, more frequent meals, and make sure you're managing your stress and mood. Stress can indirectly affect your weight, so try yoga, breathing practices, guided imagery, or supplements, if necessary, to manage stress. It's also important to improve your sleep, so explore different natural therapies if necessary. As far as supplements go, I recommend people increase their fiber intake to increase feelings of fullness and improve digestion.

    It is important for me to know my Body Mass Index (BMI) score?
    BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, so it's a good thing to be aware of (you can find many BMI calculators online). Healthy people should achieve a BMI between 18.5-25, 25-30 is considered overweight and over 30 is obese. Note: People who are large boned or have significant muscle mass can have skewed BMI numbers. A doctor can help determine your BMI goal for your body type.

    How should exercise figure into my weight management program?
    People think of exercise as beneficial strictly because it burns calories. But that's the least of its benefits. Exercise can help you lose weight in three ways: First, it increases your metabolic rate so that you burn calories more rapidly throughout the day (it's like turning up the furnace in your house which in turn burns fuel more rapidly). Second, exercise can improve your mood and reduce stress, so it makes you less likely to crave foods for psychological reasons (one of the main reasons we overeat). It also helps you to sleep better, and lack of sleep is strongly associated with weight gain.

    In terms of guidelines, shoot for exercise 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day. Keep in mind that even 15 minutes of exercise provides 65 percent of the benefit. By expanding your definiteion of exercise to include activities such as taking the stairs, walking during work meetings, walking to work, to name a few, you can easily exercise daily and it doesn't have to take a lot of time out of your day. I recommend people get a pedometer and aim to walk 10,000 steps each day.

    What dietary changes should I make?
    The most important thing to consider is the quantity of food being eaten in terms of calories. You can track your intake online via WeightWatchers or SparkPeople.

    Next, look at the types of food you're eating. Try what I call "going brown," or switching out refined carbs like white rice, bread and pasta for whole grain breads, brown rice, etc. These increase your fiber intake, which makes you feel fuller for longer and with fewer calories. In addition, increase your total vegetable intake, which increases the amount of phytonutrients you're getting and improves the quality of food.

    Try to eat frequent small meals. A good breakfast is important (including whole grains and a little protein), then mid-morning eat a good snack (protein mixed with a little fat and carbs, such as yogurt, a handful of nuts, or celery with peanut, almond or cashew butter). Have a light lunch (like a large salad), and a mid-afternoon snack before dinner. By eating multiple meals per day, you are less likely to crave sweets and salt and to eat large meals. You will also sustain your blood sugar levels instead of creating spikes and drops that can affect your mood and therefore your food choices.

    Could my extra weight be caused by a medical condition or a prescription I'm taking?
    You can gain extra weight if you are hypothyroid, so if you think this may be a contributing factor, get your thyroid levels checked by a doctor. Together you'll be able to determine the best approach to regulating thyroid levels. Other conditions that can lead to weight gain are sleep depravity, depression and in rare cases, polycystic ovary syndrome.

    As far as prescription medications go, the most prominent are insulin (for diabetics) and prednisone (a corticosteroid used for autoimmune conditions), which tends to make you crave food more and therefore can cause weight gain.

    Each month we'll be tackling a new topic and posing questions to members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board. Next month we'll cover heart health, stay tuned!

  • Boost Your Exercise Potential with Nature



    We came across an interesting story from Berkeley Wellness about how “green exercise”—as in exercising in nature—can boost the restorative effects of working out. We’re lucky here in Boulder, Colo., to be surrounded by easy (and beautiful!) places to get into nature and take a breather, and we love that doing so can help boost our energy, our mood and our brain power.

    “Studies have found, for instance, that people do better on tests involving memory or attention after trekking through the woods than after walking in a city. People have increased vitality (that is, physical and mental energy) and a greater sense of well-being after walking through a tree-lined river path than after walking indoors. Other studies have even found that patients in hospitals tend to recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows.”

    The story goes on to say that researchers theorize that part of the benefits of green exercise come from the respite we get from everyday life, being able to focus on the sights, sounds and smells around us—without multitasking. Researchers also think that airborne chemicals that are emitted by plants can also play a role.

    So if you’re planning on going for a jog or a bike ride this Labor Day weekend, make it even more beneficial and find some nature to do it in—be it on the seashore, in a forest or even a city park. And don’t forget to breathe deep and enjoy our beautiful earth.

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