Stress And Weight Gain

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Many people are under stress. Work, social obligations, bills, running the kids here and there can cause a great deal of stress. Often people under stress fail to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits and may gain weight. You may be tempted to stop for fast food on your way to work or skip the gym because you worked late. Even if you do try to eat a balanced diet and exercise, you may still gain weight. Stress triggers a hormone that may actually cause you to gain weight. 
Cortisol is a hormone that is essential for a number of body functions, including maintaining blood pressure, metabolizing carbohydrates for energy and stimulating the release of insulin into the blood stream to keep blood sugar levels stable. Stress causes elevated levels of cortisol in the blood. Excess secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands stimulates your appetite, which can lead to overeating or unhealthy snacking. 
Elevated cortisol levels may also cause your body to store fat in your abdomen. Belly fat has been linked to diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. The best way to combat stress-related weight gain is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. If that’s not immediately possible, continue eating a healthy diet and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Exercise can help combat stress. Take time to relax and care for yourself. Do things that are enjoyable and help you relax. 

Debunking Diet Myths

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It can be difficult for some people to lose weight. When they don’t reach their weight-loss goals as fast as they think they should, some may be willing to try just about anything to lose weight. There is no shortage of fad diets and myths that can actually harm your efforts to eat a healthy diet and lose weight. There are no quick fixes for weight loss. The healthiest, safest way to lose weight and get fit is exercise and a nutritious diet.
One myth that persists is that you have to eat a low-carbohydrate, zero fat diet to lose weight. A low-fat diet with healthy carbohydrates and heart healthy fats combined with exercise can help aid in your weight loss efforts. Calories are the real diet busters. To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Carbohydrates are an important part of your healthy diet. The USDA dietary guidelines suggests at least 1/2 of your food plate should contain fruits and vegetables, a little more than 1/4 of your plate should be whole grains and the final portion of your plate should be protein. The nutrients from all of these food groups are important for a healthy body. You have to reduce caloric intake and increase exercise to lose weight.

Some people still believe that skipping meals is a good way to lose weight. Skipping meals or fasting is not a good way to lose weight. When you skip meals, you will be more hungry and may over-eat at the next meal. Skipping lunch may cause you to eat more than you normally would at dinner. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea. Your body has been without food for hours while you were sleeping. Eating breakfast will replenish your nutrient-deprived body and jump-start your metabolism. Some people are able to lose weight by eating 3 small meals plus 2 healthy snacks throughout the day instead of 3 larger meals. It is also a myth that one type of food can help you lose weight. For example, grapefruit has been touted as a magic weight loss food because it is claimed to speed up the metabolism. Grapefruit is a healthy, vitamin-rich food, but eating a lot of grapefruit will not cause the fat to melt. Only a healthy diet and exercise really works. 

Another popular myth is that you have to give up all the foods and drinks that you love if you are going to lose weight. Again, weight loss requires burning more calories than you take in through your food. You can still have a piece of cake or a soda occasionally. Lasting weight loss requires a commitment to lifestyle changes that include exercise, plenty of sleep and a nutritious diet. Reduce the calories you ingest from sweets and sugary drinks to help reduce your total caloric intake. Include more fiber and whole grains in your diet to help reduce the overall number of calories in your diet. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day to lose weight and get fit. 
  

Fat-Fighting Foods

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Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of tasty, nutritious foods. Many of the foods you love can help you lose weight or help you maintain your weight loss. Continue to exercise regularly and enjoy some of these fat fighting foods.
Protein is an essential nutrient for muscle health. It also helps to build other body tissues, produces enzymes and hormones and helps to regulate the biochemical processes in your body. You can get protein from animal and plant sources. Eggs are low in calories and loaded with essential protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs may contribute to cholesterol, so limit eggs to a couple of times each week. Nuts are another great source of protein. They are also high in fiber and omega-3 healthy fats. Nuts can be eaten plain as a snack or added to salads, breads and cereals for extra flavor. 

Lean meats and fish are a good way to get muscle-building protein in your diet. Protein helps you feel full longer so that you eat less. Red meat is usually higher in fat than chicken. If you eat red meat, trim all the fat off the meat prior to cooking. Skinless chicken breast is a very good choice with less fat than other meats. Extra lean steaks and roasts are good choices. Fish is a great source of protein and contains little fat. Fish, especially salmon, is also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Vegetable protein is just as healthy for your body as meat protein. Beans are especially high in protein and fiber. Beans are low in calories and fat too. Quinoa, cracked wheat and brown rice are other great sources of vegetable protein. They can be prepared as a side dish, used in soups and in casseroles. In addition to protein, these high-protein foods also contain iron, zinc, vitamin E and the trace element selenium. Fruits like watermelon, pears, apples, grapes and yogurt and berries are also high in protein and other essential nutrients. 

Good Sources of Calcium & Vitamin D

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Calcium and vitamin D are essential to strong bones, teeth and skin. Bone cells are replaced much like skin cells. Old bone cells are shed and new bone cells replace them. Your body needs calcium and vitamin D to replace bone cells. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium it needs to build strong bones and prevent diseases like osteoporosis. You need to eat a variety of foods rich in both calcium and vitamin D and get adequate exercise to keep your bones healthy and strong. Natural sources of vitamin D and calcium are best, but drinking vitamin D and calcium fortified milk and juices can also provide the essential nutrients your bones need. Only your doctor can tell you if you need a vitamin and mineral supplement. If you think you need a supplement, see your doctor for a check up before taking any over-the-counter supplement. 
Your body cannot make calcium; therefore, you have to get your calcium from the foods you eat. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are rich in calcium and Vitamin D. Spinach, kale, collard greens, okra, white and soy beans, and fish, including trout, salmon, perch and sardines are rich in calcium. Orange juice and milk are often fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Breakfast cereals, including oatmeal and some cold cereals, are also enriched with extra vitamin D and calcium.
In addition to milk, yogurt and cheeses, you can get vitamin D from foods like tuna, salmon, mackerel and other fatty fishes. Egg yolks and beef liver are also rich in vitamin D. Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. About 5 minutes per day is enough to stimulate your skin to produce vitamin D. Avoid over-exposure to the sun. Sunburn and skin conditions such as premature aging and skin cancer can result from too much sun exposure. 

Sensible Snacking

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Americans really enjoy their snack foods. Vending machines are located just about everywhere and contain sugary drinks, chocolate bars, salty chips and pretzels and candy snacks. Convenience stores and many grocery stores place the candy bars and small bags of chips close to the checkout line or beside the cash register where you will be tempted to make an impulse buy. These snacks can contribute hundreds of empty calories to your diet. According to the USDA snacks can amount to nearly 600 calories per day. Many people will consume a full meal’s worth of calories every day just by snacking. Eating between meals does not have to be a diet disaster. You can eat a healthy, nutritious snack between meals that can help boost your metabolism to aid in weight loss. The key to losing or maintaining your weight and still enjoy between-meal snacks is to snack sensibly.
If you get hungry between meals, you should eat a healthy snack so that you do not over-eat at mealtime.  Snacks that will curb your hunger without adding too many extra calories will contain fiber and protein.   Peanut butter on whole wheat crackers or on a stalk of celery will ease your hunger pangs and provide nutritional protein, carbohydrates and fiber to help you feel full. Raisins, walnuts, almonds, dried cherries and apricots or fresh fruits, such as apple slices, a pear, an orange or a handful of grapes are rich in nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. One-half cup of low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit, like blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, can help you feel less hungry while providing your body with important vitamins and calcium. 
Don’t keep a bowl of chips, pretzels, popcorn or candy on the table in the television room! Mindless snacking can add hundreds of calories to your diet and you won’t even realize how much you have eaten. Replace your high-calories television snacks with healthy alternatives like dried fruits, nuts, granola and fruits. Low-fat cheese and whole wheat crackers is a healthy alternative to popcorn and chips. Cut out the sodas when you snack. Drink a glass of water before your snack to help you feel full between meals. 

Benefits of a High-Fiber Diet

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Dietary fiber has health benefits from weight-loss, to lower cholesterol and cancer prevention. What’s the truth about dietary fiber? Dietary fiber is found in all plant foots and consists of the parts of the food that your body cannot digest. Many people refer to dietary fiber as roughage. The fiber passes through your body intact because it cannot be digested. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. 
Insoluble fiber travels through your digestive system relatively unchanged and promotes a healthy digestive system by moving waste through your system. Whole grains, such as wheat, oats, bran, nuts and most vegetables contain insoluble fiber. A diet rich in insoluble fiber can help to regulate bowel movements, which prevents constipation. Eating a diet rich in insoluble dietary fiber can also help prevent hemorrhoids and protect the health of the colon. 
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Dissolved soluble fiber takes on a gel-like consistency in your digestive system. Soluble fiber can help to lower glucose (sugar) levels in the blood and reduce cholesterol. Soluble fiber also helps to lower the blood pressure. Eat oats, beans, apples, carrots, barley and citrus fruits to get natural sources of soluble fiber. The absorption of sugar from the digestive system into the blood is slowed when soluble fiber is included in the diet. 

High-fiber diets may also help you to lose weight and control your weight. When you eat high-fiber foods, you chew longer and eat less. High-fiber foods help you to feel fuller faster, and you stay full longer than eating foods that are low in fiber. Drink plenty of water and enjoy the benefits of a high-fiber diet. 

Diet Damaging Drinks

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You’ve been watching what you eat, cutting down on calories and getting exercise, but for some reason you just aren’t losing weight fast enough. Have you given much thought to the beverages you enjoy every day? When you are trying to limit calories, don’t overlook the calories hiding in your cup or glass. Fancy coffee drinks, alcohol drinks and even fruit smoothies contain hundreds of diet damaging calories that can interfere with achieving your weight loss goals.
Soda is one of the worst drinks for dieters and anyone who is concerned about watching their weight or controlling the sugar in their diet. The average soda contains several hundred calories and is loaded with sugar. The calories in regular soda are empty calories, meaning you consume hundreds of calories but receive little to no nutritional benefit. Switching to diet soda or sugar-free soda can help, but you may not be able to lose weight by switching to diet soda alone. 
Natural fruit juice contains plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs to stay healthy. But, did you know that fruit juice may also contain several hundred calories in just one short glass? Look for fruit juices that are 100 percent juice. Avoid juice drinks or blended fruit-flavored drinks. These types of drinks usually contain 10 percent or less actual fruit juice and contain lots of sugar. Mix  your fruit juice with some cold water to cut down on calories. 
Unless you make your own fruit smoothies, you may be getting little fruit and mostly fruit concentrate, artificial flavors and sugar. Some smoothie shops blend real fruit with sweeteners like ice cream or honey, which can put the calorie count through the roof! Make your own healthy, low-calories, nutrient-rich fruit smoothies at home by blending bananas, strawberries, a splash of 100 percent orange juice or a fresh orange with ice and skim milk. 

Flavored vitamin water is another drink that can sneak in extra calories. Some flavored vitamin water contains sugar. Select flavored water that contains no sugar or make your own flavored water. Refrigerate water until it’s cold. Flavor it naturally with lemon juice or add some sliced strawberries to a glass of cold water for a delicious, refreshing drink. Drink a couple of glasses of water before every meal to help you feel more full to avoid overeating and to stay hydrated.