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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/

Is Exercise a Part of Your New Year’s Resolution?

January is filled with the best of intentions when it comes to fitness and health. Unfortunately, most don’t last longer than 3-4 weeks. (Insert sad face here.) When it comes to beginning an exercise routine, there are several things you need to know for your new commitment to be successful. The biggest thing you need to know is why some folks gain weight with exercise (and, no, I don’t mean putting on muscle), as this is one of the common reasons they quit exercising.

Trauma Alert!!

When you go from being somewhat sedentary to being active – particularly intense activity such as lifting, running, etc – your body will be saying “WHAT THE HECK?!?” It may be in a bit of shock. You’ve just taken it from it’s nice comfy place and introduced it to an entirely different activity and routine. You may be sore, built up a bit of lactic acid, and may even feel swollen and stiff. Think about it… you put your poor, untrained muscles through something traumatic. What happens when any part of your body experiences trauma?

When the body undergoes injury, even micro-tears in the muscle as a result of completely appropriate exercise, it will send fluid to the area to begin repairing the damage. This may sound like you are doing something harmful, but you aren’t! It’s an entirely appropriate response! It’s no different than when you sprain your ankle and it swells because of fluid and inflammation. Your muscles can undergo the same process – the fluid and inflammation bring needed chemicals to the area to begin to repair your muscles and prepare them for your next workout.

This fluid comes from the body holding on to excess water as a response to the new activity. This will contribute to extra pounds on the scale. It’s NOT FAT!

Your Body Wants to Make Exercise Easier!

Your body is impressively adaptive. Now that you are working out, your body will take steps to prepare you for your next workout. This happens independent of the process described above – where your body attempts to repair any micro-damage done by hard workouts.

Your body has the ability to be ready for activity by storing sugar inside the muscles so you have immediate energy for your workouts. It says “okay, I’m gonna be ready next time!” and stores glycogen (the storage form of glucose/sugar) within the muscle.

THIS is when people quit their routine because they weigh themselves after a week and expect the scale to be down. On the contrary! The scale may be up several pounds! Your brain says “this obviously isn’t working!”, so you stop exercising and those pounds go away. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people say “I gained weight when I started exercising, but lost it all when I stopped.” We know exercise is good for us – so this doesn’t make sense….but, yet – it happens just this way! WHY??

Glycogen Storage – Your Body’s Gift to You

In an effort to be ready for the next workout, your body will store glycogen (stored form of sugar) in the body as mentioned above. This is great! This enables you to start your workout fairly intensely – as your muscles have an immediate fuel source RIGHT THERE! (Of course, after appropriate warm-up and stretching.) However, glycogen doesn’t last forever. It’s purpose is for immediate usage, not long-term usage. It’s used up rather quickly, actually. Your body then turns to fat to fuel the rest of your workout. Your body works harder to use fat as a fuel source…glycogen is EASY to use! Thus, our bodies WANT to store glycogen for us!

When the body knows you are really going to stick with this exercise routine, it will store more glycogen in your muscles. Here’s the kicker….. To store ONE molecule of glycogen, the body has to store approximately 3 grams of water! Yes! That means you will retain fluid to store this precious glycogen! This will lead to a heavier weight on the scale. This is also dependent on what muscles have been worked! What will store more glycogen?…. your glutes or your forearms? So, yeah – when you work those big muscles (glutes, back, hamstrings, quads) – there’s a lot of potential for glycogen (and thus water) storage! This will reflect on the scale, but it isn’t true weight gain!

Losing Weight When You Stop Exercising

This explains why you lose that weight when you STOP exercising. It’s not true weight loss. It’s simply ‘pound loss’ – you see the number on the scale drop, but you’ve lost absolutely no fat. When you stop exercising, your body does’t need to store that glycogen. So, all that water you retained as a part of this wonderful, natural process begins to leave your body. This results in a lower number on the scale. That’s it.

So, What’s The Answer?

The answer is to just stick with it. Tune into your logical, rational brain and KNOW you are doing what is right for your body. Know that this is what is supposed to be happening! Drink lots of water (counterintuitive, I know…but it’s a must!) and wait for the scale to begin to show your true weight loss. Or, don’t get on the scale at all and just wait for your clothes to fit differently, or for others to compliment you on your new physique. Or, simply focus on your performance. Are you getting stronger? Faster?

So, You Must Have Numbers?

One way to truly measure if your efforts are working is to have your body composition tested before and during exercise. Before starting a routine – get a baseline body composition test. Then, about every 4-5 weeks. This tells you so much more than the scale ever could! I have patients who have been working with me for months and have only lost ONE pound according to the scale. However, their body comp shows a muscle gain of 11 lbs and a fat loss of 12 lbs. There’s your ONE pound net loss, but obviously things have changed!

My office uses an InBody to check body composition. There are other brands out there – simply google your area and “body composition” to see if there’s a way to do this. Personal trainers also can do this via skin-fold methods and measurements. The scale isn’t the only number that you should be looking at!

In Conclusion

You know exercising is good for you – stick with it despite what happens with the scale! This weight gain is protective, normal, and adaptive! It means your body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Have faith in your body and it’s ability to look out for you.

-Dr. Hodges

This, as well as other essential information for weight loss, can be found in my new ebook!  This new ebook prepares you for your next weight loss program – to make it your LAST weight loss program!  Weight loss starts with your MIND….not with your BEHIND.  Get your mindset right and your chances of weight loss success SKYROCKET!

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exceptional weight

We’ve all been there – the uncomfortable one at the party or family gathering.  Having obesity can make it even more unpleasant.

Whether it’s judgmental looks from across the room or grandma’s comments about the “baby fat” you’ve never lost, weight is a personal subject.

If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, you’re not alone.
According to Gallup.com, 52% of Americans want to lose weight.

While weight loss is an individualized concern, the ways obesity impacts one’s lifestyle are fairly universal. To shed light on this, take a look at some of the ways being obese can impact you and your loved ones.

Higher risks of health complications

In addition to societal effects, obesity can impact your daily life. Throughout the years, obesity has been known to pose higher risks of several health conditions such as sleep apnea, joint pain, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re feeling pressure in your back and joints by the end of the day, it could be time to finally lose the excess weight. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your joints over time.  It may not seem like a big deal while we are young, but as we age…..mobility and independence will be a BIG deal.

In both sexes, the chances of cancer increases with excess pounds. For women, this can include breast, colon, and uterine cancer. For men, the risk of prostate and colon cancer increases. If any of these cancers are prevalent in your family, the odds increase even more.

Getting pregnant becomes more difficult

Obesity also has been linked to fertility complications, which may explain why you and your spouse haven’t been able to conceive yet.

In women, obesity can cause hormonal imbalances, which impacts ovulation. Inversely, being underweight can affect fertility, so falling within the “average” weight for your height and age is greatly important.

In the end, everyone’s different, and obese couples may have very little issues having a baby, but it may be something to look at if you’ve been struggling to conceive.

You deal with social stigmas

We all know that most Americans place a value on being thin. If you believe that you’ll be great at your job once you’re thin, or you’ll finally find the right partner once you’ve lost the weight, you’re not the only one.

You could be on a flight and find the person next to you acting like you’re a burden no matter how courteous you try to be. The young kid at the theme park who tries to fasten your seat belt could look at you like you’ve done something offensive.

Is it fair? No. But the good thing is that you can do something about it without having to feel like you need to take society head-on. It starts with admitting that you’re finally ready, then comes finding the right, healthy diet and exercise routine to follow.

Having obesity impacts your psyche

Every day we see images of happy thin people, which programs us into believing that being thin is the only way we can be happy. Though the tides are changing thanks to some of today’s top plus size models, it’s still important to consider your own mental status.

In addition to overall mental fatigue, those with obesity are about 25% more likely to have depression. With this follows self-confidence and self-image issues that are damaging to one’s mental health.

While it’s possible to be happy and overweight, that doesn’t mean health consequences aren’t down the road.  Talk to your physician about what you can do to lose excess weight and be the healthiest you can be!

 

This, as well as other essential information for weight loss, can be found in my new ebook!  This new ebook prepares you for your next weight loss program – to make it your LAST weight loss program!  Weight loss starts with your MIND….not with your BEHIND.  Get your mindset right and your chances of weight loss success SKYROCKET!

Subscribe to email list to receive valuable info and announcements

Weight loss

Being overweight is a health problem that affects people of all ages from children to adults. Being overweight is having a body weight that is more than what is medically recommended for your height and body mass index. Your weight results from different factors some of which can be managed. They include; genes, environment, lifestyle, metabolism rate, habits, family history of being overweight or obese and feeding routines just to mention a few. You cannot change genes and family history, but you can adopt a lifestyle that curbs unhealthy weight development.

Health risks of being overweight

Coronary heart disease

As your body weight increases, so does your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is a health condition whereby a waxy substance known as plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood into the heart. The plaque narrows the coronary arteries and gradually blocks them. Narrowing the arteries reduces the amount of oxygenated blood transported to the heart muscles. This, in turn, can cause chest discomfort or pain known as angina or worse still, a heart attack. If the problem is not addressed, it can lead to heart failure where the heart cannot pump enough blood as required by the body.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure also known as hypertension occurs when the blood flows through arteries at higher than normal pressure. Genetic and environmental changes in the body are responsible for causing high blood pressure. Environmental changes include factors like being overweight, unhealthy eating habits and taking certain medicines such as hormonal therapies. High blood pressure also runs in families. As such, there are gene mutations that put you at risk of developing high blood pressure if your parents had the same. If the blood pressure rises and stays high for a long period, it can damage other parts of the body and lead to serious health complications.

Stroke

As noted above, being overweight causes plague build up in the arteries. With time, the plaque ruptures and causes formation of a blood clot. If the clot gets close to the brain, it blocks oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Lack of oxygenated blood in the brain causes a stroke to occur. The brain cells will die gradually after a few minutes of lacking oxygen. Note that, the risk of developing stroke increases as the body mass index increases. Stroke is a serious medical condition that requires emergency care. It causes long term disability, lasting brain damage or death if not addressed immediately it occurs.

Abnormal blood fats

Being overweight means that you have excess and abnormal fats stored in the body. This includes high levels of bad cholesterol that in turn take up the storage space meant for good cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat and waxy substance that is present in all body cells. The body relies on good cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and other substances that help during digestion. High blood cholesterol and fats signify that you have too much unwanted cholesterol in the blood. High levels of bad cholesterol increase your chances of developing heart complications.

 

This, as well as other essential information for weight loss, can be found in my new ebook!  This new ebook prepares you for your next weight loss program – to make it your LAST weight loss program!  Weight loss starts with your MIND….not with your BEHIND.  Get your mindset right and your chances of weight loss success SKYROCKET!

Subscribe to email list to receive valuable info and announcements