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For the past 10 years, I’ve had a garden.  I usually do raised beds with tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and other vegetables.  I also do some herbs and spices…along with chamomile.

Why do I garden?

It’s certainly not because I’m awesome at it!  In fact, last year, I lost my entire tomato crop to some sort of fungus, which is making me wonder if I want to plant again as the risk of the same fungus affecting this year’s plants is pretty high.

It’s certainly not because it feeds my family – because, truth be told, I’m pretty much the only one who eats the stuff.  My daughter will eat tomatoes and my son love garden carrots.  But I’m the only one who likes the rest of it.

It’s certainly not because I have an abundance of time on my hands during the summer months and I just have to come up with a way to spend it.  Ha!  I wish!

It’s certainly not because it saves me money.  By the time I buy the plants and have my tomato plants attacked by fungus, have my zucchini plants attached by squash bugs…the yield is pretty low overall.  No money saved, really.

I’m in love with the process

I garden because I love the process of gardening.  I love watching things change and grow.  And….at the end of a very long, hot summer I get to have the fruits of my labor on my dinner table.

Cucumber vines attaching themselves to the supports. Nature is so cool!

I garden because it’s something my husband and I do together.  He eats nearly nothing from the garden!  Yet, he’s right beside me picking weeds and making sure we get the tomatoes out of there before it’s too late.  He also reports the first sign of critters, or anything else, that may be attacking my beloved plants.

I garden because my children are watching….they learn where real food comes from and how to grow and harvest it.

What has gardening taught me?

Gardening has taught me PATIENCE for what is possible if enough care and planning is put into something.

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It’s taught me that it takes a long time, and a lot of work, for the final result to be worthy.

I’ve learned there is always next year….if a fungus attacks my tomato plants.  And, that I may need to do some research to find out how to prevent, or deal with, it if it happens again.  (Fingers crossed it doesn’t!!)

I can pretty much count on the fact that I’m going to be quite sick of the garden by mid July.  That the sweaty, sticky mess I become in the back yard most evenings will become something I dread but find oddly satisfying.

Why am I telling you any of this??

Because, like gardening, the weight loss journey is one of love/hate.

There will be times you are motivated and nothing can stop you.  But, there will also be times when a fungus attacks your tomato plants and you have to pull the entire crop.  There will be others who won’t eat vegetables from your garden and you must tend to it by yourself….drawing support from the simple fact that you are doing something great for yourself.

You will put in weeks to months of work for very slow, if any, yield.  Watching the plants slowly sprout and grow daily over the summer months, you’ll wonder what kind of success you’ll have when they start to produce.

There will most certainly be times when you must drag yourself off the couch to go pick weeds, or do some watering.  But, you make yourself…knowing that the end result will be worth it.

Finally, there will be times when you are ready to till it all under and just be done with it.  The effort it takes to maintain, even WHEN producing great fruits and vegetables, can become overwhelming and you just want it to be OVER.  Yet….you persist until the end of the season.

In the end…

In the end, the most important thing to know about gardening is how long it takes to get the results you want.  For example, even if you plant tulip bulbs, you will wait an entire YEAR to see those tulips bloom year after year.  For whatever reason, you are patient and understand the process.

If you grow a vegetable garden, you will wait months for most of your vegetables to produce something that you can actually eat.  Yet, you forge on – you put in the time preparing the soil, watering, weeding, pruning, etc.  You UNDERSTAND there’s a process involved to get the RESULT you want.

If you garden, you KNOW the fruit (the thing you want the most) comes at the END of the work.  You also know that to keep GETTING that fruit, you must continue to take care of that plant.  You don’t just pick tomatoes once and call it done.  Day after day, you do what it takes for that plant to keep producing for you.  You are A-OK putting in the time and effort to get the results what you want….knowing they are NOT immediate….but come after weeks to months.

By this time…..

It’s probably obvious what I’m trying to do here.

Everywhere I look, I try to see parallels between what we do in life and the weight loss journey.  What lessons can we learn?  What skills that we already KNOW, or already DO, can be applied to our efforts to lose weight?

Friends, this is what I try to do – show you that weight loss doesn’t have to be anything that starts from scratch.

I guarantee we all have things within our lives, like gardening, that require many of the exact same skills it takes to be successful at weight loss.  And, remember, that has nothing to do with “you didn’t tell me what to eat.”

It has to do with routines…habits…mindset!

It’s all about how you LOOK at the task at hand.

If you’re ready….

If you’re ready to learn more about what skills you already have that can help you with your weight loss journey – book a call with me.  If I can’t help you, I’ll try my best to point you in the right direction.




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The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s usually found close to the ingredient listing.

Two versions of a nutrition Facts label, the old and new version.

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to choose healthier foods, right?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1: Serving Size

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it’s tricky.

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. So, for example in the label we see above (the one on the right), the serving size is 1 cup. This means when you eat 1 cup of this food, you’ll be eating 7 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein, etc. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

You may purchase this product and essentially memorize that one serving contains these particular nutrient values. However, if you purchase another brand – that brand may have the serving size be 2 cups. WOAH! If you aren’t careful and don’t notice that EVERYthing has doubled on that label, you may be under the impression that you can eat twice as much of the second brand. NO! Not the case at all.

In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small. I’ve not heard if this is the case with U.S. labels.

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco. 

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day. 

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule. It means most of the population will not be DEFICIENT in this particular nutrient if this DV is met.

You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Look at the walnuts label, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat.That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made/packaged foods, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional. 

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

Conclusion

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

One of the best things about reading labels is truly knowing what you are putting in your body. Many food-tracking apps, such as myfitnesspal, have the ability to scan the bar code so this information gets transferred right into your food log! All you have to do is tell it how many servings you ate. It’s pretty nifty.

And don’t forget my general rule for SUGAR on these labels….If it has more than 10 grams of sugar per serving…consider it CANDY! Many health bars, cereals, etc are marketed as “healthy” when, in reality, they are the opposite! So, labels are of tremendous value if you are truly interested in optimizing nutrition for health.

Take a look at a couple labels of processed foods that are marketed as healthy and look at their labels!

My book Weight Loss that Works: Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available in the KINDLE STORE! Woot!

Recipe (walnuts): Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack

Serves 1

8 walnut halves

4 dates, pitted

Instructions

Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

References:

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html
http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1

You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

I mean, that number you see on there doesn’t define you (obviously)….you know that, RIGHT?

What you weigh does matter but only to a certain extent. Did you know that waist circumference can be a better indicator of your health risks?

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)?  

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdominal cavity covering the liver, intestines, and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.  

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood cholesterol, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

Apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see, where  fat is stored can be more important than how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”. 

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you find yourself measuring at or around these numbers, please schedule an appointment to discuss with your physician. You can also find a specialized weight loss physician to help you via the ABOM website. These are physicians, such as myself, who have extra training and certification in weight-loss medicine.

Tips for helping reduce visceral fat:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food. Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially sodas and juice (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up. Moving means getting up outta that chair at least every 45 minutes and walking around, stretching, marching in place, etc. Just MOVE.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

My book Weight Loss that Works: Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available via KINDLE! But, if you’d still prefer the PDF form for printing, you can find that here.

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves 4

1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)

2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

Weight loss

Dear Former Patients,

Please allow me to take this opportunity to issue my sincerest apologies.   Prior to 2011, I was giving out some really crappy nutritional advice.  You came to my office, claimed you were following all of my instructions – yet, you were a few pounds heavier than last visit and your diabetes was still out of control.  I remember thinking you were not being honest with me about your food intake.  And, I remember you looking desperate, wondering what else you needed to be doing, asking yourself how you could possibly try harder.   And, I vividly recall sending you on your way with instructions to increase your whole grains, switch from white bread to wheat bread, and to stop putting sugar on your cereal.  Essentially, I encouraged your high-carbohydrate diet.

I humbly ask your forgiveness.

Prior to 2011

As a medical resident and then a young attending physician, I was regretfully under the influence of some very, very bad nutrition education.  I had been taught that diabetics needed 40-60% of their intake to come from ‘good’ carbohydrates – whole grains, natural starches, fortified breads and cereals.  I was taught that fat was the enemy – one that was sending our nation into a spiral of irreversible cardiovascular disease.  So, I recommended fat-free products to you.  I advised you to purchase skim milk, margarine, and to stay away from eggs.

I humbly ask your forgiveness.

After 2011

However, a single conversation changed my life.  I was discussing my sudden weight gain to a trainer at a gym I had joined.  I was in the best physical shape of my life – trail running in the mornings and doing Crossfit a few times per week.  Within 2-3 months, I put on 15 lbs.  I knew this was not “muscle” – no one gains muscle that quickly.  I was asking her what she thought (and I was on the verge of crying!).

Her first question was “how many carbs are you eating?”  And my first thought was “why the hell does that matter?”  She recommended I try to keep track of my carbohydrate intake and see if I could keep it under 100 grams per day.  (My head was still thinking she was full of it…..limiting carbs was NOT what I’d been taught in medical school.”

My discovery

I left the gym that very day and went home to consult my favorite mentor:  Google.  I spent hours that day reading about lower carbohydrate diets and the history of how fat came to be such a villain in our society.

That was the day my jaw hit the floor – and it’s pretty much stayed there.  I was shocked at what I learned – that our excess carbohydrate intake furthers many disease processes, including diabetes(If you have a problem processing sugar – carbs are sugar – why in the world would it make sense that you eat mostly carbs??) I learned that there really isn’t a “minimum” amount of carbohydrates that one needs – that we’d survive just fine without them.  And, I learned that removing fat from our diets starting in the 1960s (and peaking in the 1980s-90s) was the single biggest dietary mistake our society has made.

My world was forever changed.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a DOCTOR

So, why was this information all new to me?  I’m going over countless studies, not believing what I’m reading.  Flawed research, industry influence!  How was I not privy to this information as a young medical student and physician – sworn to do no harm?

That’s it – I was OBSESSED.  The world has to know about this!  (My friends reading this are all saying…oh yeah, she let us all know about it….over…and over….and over…)  🙂

My new career was born

Since that one conversation, I have been on a mission to fix the mistakes I made so long ago.  I can still see some of those patients very clearly and this helps me stay focused on my goal of re-educating people about what real food truly is – and more importantly – what it is NOT.  Obesity and type 2 diabetes have only gotten worse – particularly in the last twenty years.  The low-fat, high-carb dietary recommendations have done us no favors, friends.  In fact, they have made us an incredibly sick nation.

After becoming a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, I opened Exceptional Health & Weight Loss Solutions, PLC in September 2015 – a clinic entirely dedicated to fighting the untruths we’ve been taught about food.   I focus on responsible weight loss without gimmicks. I basically teach people how to eat.

All of this came about due to one simple conversation after I’d gained 15 lbs.  Going back to that story – I did start watching my carb intake.  I realized for every handful of pretzels I gave my kids, I’d take handful too. (Because, ya know…pretzels are fat free.)  I’d take a bite of every PB&J and every serving of Mac ‘n Cheese.  I stopped all of this and the pounds came off within a couple of months – fairly effortlessly.  (BTW, I no longer purchase pretzels or Mac ‘n Cheese for my children.)

So again….

I am so sorry for the terrible advice I gave so many years ago. (And I’m also sorry my family felt like they had to hide the butter, bacon, and eggs when I went home to visit!)

I was uneducated on this topic.  You came back to me heavier and sicker and I assumed you weren’t following my directions.  When, in fact, you were probably doing exactly as I had instructed.

~Dr. Linda Hodges

You can find this story, plus other valuable information, in my new ebook!  A book about weight loss that focuses on PREPARING for your next diet….MINDSET is ESSENTIAL for SUCCESS!

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