Jul 06

Why We Don’t Do Supplements

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

1. Generally, they don’t work.

The claims made by dietary supplement manufacturers are some of the biggest lies you can find in any industry’s advertising. Tricky wording is part of the deception: The bottle won’t say that it lowers blood pressure, it will say that it supports healthy blood pressure. Likewise, you can find pills to support everything from heart health, mood, energy, focus, bone health and of course, your sex life.

So why does this "support" word pop up everywhere? Because the flimsy laws regarding labels only specifically bar dietary supplements from a few words: diagnose, treat, cure and prevent are all verboten. So instead of saying that a supplement treats high blood sugar or prevents diabetes, they’ll say it helps to “maintain healthy blood sugar levels already within a normal range.” (source) That sounds reassuring, but when you read it carefully, it doesn’t actually mean anything. So if you have healthy blood sugar, this pill claims to help you stay the same.

It’s important to mention that some supplements are effective in specific uses, such as taking a specific nutrient for which someone has a diagnosed deficiency. Yet, sadly, these are the minority of cases in which people actually buy and use supplements. Most people aren’t treating a diagnosed deficiency, they are looking for a health boost or noticeable result which never happens.

2. Even if they do work, which is a very very small percentage of all sold, the effect is often miniscule, yet blown out of proportion in the media and in advertising.

A meta-analysis that reports that a particular probiotic “had a positive effect in weight loss in humans” (like this one, in which that quote appears will generate headlines and spikes sales of that supplement like wildfire. And you bet the supplement companies will plaster it all over their bottles and posters, positioning their probiotic next to bikini clad fitness models. But if you actually read the paper and look at the data you see that the effect amounted to just fractions of a pound over 6 months. You’d find the same thing in these two reports, when researchers have found a statistically significant effect of probiotics on weight loss, it is a pound at most and over several months.

And what they won’t show you are all of the studies or meta analyses that showed no significant effect like these:


Or studies that concluded that probiotics can cause weight and fat GAIN, like these:

For Americans, the National Institutes of Health sums it up beautifully: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed.”

3. They have risks

Side effects are common from taking dietary supplements, even when taken as directed by the label. Most frequently, they aren’t dangerous and are merely uncomfortable, things like stomachaches or cramps, dizziness, constipation, headaches, unpleasant breath (like fish burps), tingling, flushing or lightheadedness. If you take more than is recommended, the risk of these discomforts increases. It’s also worth remembering that the food you eat may also provide some of the same compounds in the supplement, and total may be higher than the safe limit even if the supplement wasn’t. For example, your diet plus your supplement can lead to an excess of Vitamin A, giving you chronic headaches and weakening your bones. Eating iron rich food plus taking a multivitamin with iron could overload you on this mineral, causing nausea and vomiting, plus harm to your liver.

The risks of dietary supplements also include that they can deactivate or interact with a medication you’re taking in numerous ways. Birth control pills, cancer chemotherapy, blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants can all be rendered less effective by pairing with the wrong supplements.

As scary as it sounds, there’s also a fair chance that your dietary supplement doesn’t contain what it says it does, or that it contains substances that aren’t declared on the label. I’ve read many reports of supplements which were labeled as containing only all-natural herbs actually being found to contain prescription medicines such as statins or Viagra. Muscle building supplements, sexual performance enhancers and so-called testosterone boosters are notorious for having undeclared steroids in them.

4. When it’s weight loss or fat loss, FOOD is what stands between you and your goal.

Any measure of energy that goes into purchasing or forming the habit of taking a supplement is energy that would be better spent on your eating behaviors. One of our roles as professional nutrition coaches is to focus every client’s mental and physical effort into avenues which will give them the biggest payoff. When a trainer, nutritionist or other coach tells you to put your effort and dollars into supplementation before they have examined and optimized your eating patterns - take it as a signal that they do not mind frittering away your money and time or that they don’t have enough expertise to know what gives the best results over the long run.

If it’s lasting changes to your body that you are after, your behaviors are the currency necessary to get them. What and how much you eat are the things that determine your body weight, and workouts are what make you stronger, faster and more muscular. You can take all the supplements in the world, but without proper nutrition and exercise, it won’t make a difference.

Think about what you do here, not at the supplement counter.

If you’ve tried traditional diet and exercise programs only to have them fail, it makes to want to do something different, but don’t let that steer you down the row of pills in the drugstore. You can do better. We’re dedicated to empowering people with what actually works in the real world, forever. It’s not following a limited diet or taking supplements, it’s new skills. So think about the skills you’d like to pick up, rather than a bottle of empty promises.

​Fat Loss Comes From Skills Not Pills. (Sorry, I couldn't resist).

Want to know what skills WILL make a difference in your body, permanently? Here they are. Most people are already good at some of them, but have plenty which they KNOW they need some improvement on to see results. And getting better at those skills is like anything else you want to get better at, you break it down to a level that fits where you are at NOW, and practice. If you need a hand, coaching offers the added direction and accountability to get you maximum results for your effort.

Jun 13

How To Handle A Loved One Going Low Carb

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

Dear Georgie,
My husband is starting the Atkins diet! On the bright side, I think this will make some things easier for me because he will be watching what he is eating and having less temptations around. But I'd love some reading on this, either for my knowledge or anything I should have him read. I'm concerned about his health. - Joan

Dear Joan, I agree that it will be helpful to you and your goals that your husband is choosing to do watch his intake, even if his approach isn't the same as yours. Your home will likely have fewer temptations, (especially alcohol and sweets) and hopefully it will help him with the results he wants to see. Maybe he'll start cooking more!

There are a lot of ways to do a low carb diet. A lot carb lunch might be a salmon filet and green salad with pecans.... or it might be bacon wrapped steak with butter-blue cheese sauce on it. If a person includes a lot of vegetables, and chooses healthier fats and proteins, it's not that bad health-wise.

The elements which can (but don't have to) make a low carb diet detrimental to health include:

  • Low intake of fiber (constipation is common)
  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables (especially during the first phase when carbohydrate intake is very limited, you can't even have all the vegetables you want. Vegetable intake is correlated with longer, healthier lives, less cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • ​High fat intake. Diets which are higher than about 40% calories from fat are causally linked to the development of insulin resistance, leptin resistance, obesity, increased appetite and decreased satiety, increased inflammation, and unhealthy changes in gut flora which increase risk for further weight gain and abdominal pains/digestive pain when fibers or carbohydrates are reintroduced. (a-j).
  • Decreases in mental well-being (some but not all studies have found that low carbohydrate intake is related to worse moods). (k, l)
  • Impaired athletic ability (particularly speed/power) (m, n)

The first 3 you can do something about by making specific choices within the Atkins Diet parameters, but the last 2 are directly due to low carbohydrate intake, and you can't raise carbohydrate intake and be on the Atkins diet.

To maximize fiber: get as many vegetables as the phase will allow. Use avocado for some of your fats, since it also provides a good amount of fiber. Chia and flax seeds can also help provide fiber without many digestible carbohydrates. Don't use carbohydrate allowances for sugars or white bread. Use them for plants!

To minimize the health risks of a high fat diet, don't go sky high in fat (you don't have to put butter in your coffee), include seafood twice a week, choose more olive oil, nuts and avocado and less fatty red meat (bacon, hamburger, steak), and use cheese and butter less often. A Mediterranean diet pattern including 1-3 tablespoons (15-45 mL) of olive oil every day has been shown to improve triglycerides and markers of inflammation, so think in spoonfuls, not glugs straight from the bottle (o).

Also, if the individual is in a calorie deficit (calorie deficit = weight decreasing) then the risks to cholesterol levels and blood lipids are reduced. Even an "artery-clogging diet" doesn't have so many damaging effects to a person if they are losing weight, the weight loss benefits to blood lipids are very significant.

Lastly, while it's not a physical health issue, dietary monotony and restriction can be unfavorable for mental health and a person's relationship with food. Being unable to eat bread, beans, rice, desserts, etc isn't something most people are willing to do forever, so they do the low carb thing for a while and within 6 to 12 months, most people are back to eating carbs. So to "bring out the best" of this phase, I'd try to emphasize some helpful diet skills that your husband can practice and maintain, even after the diet is over. Even if he doesn't stay on a low carb diet forever (most people don't) he can practice cooking and enjoying vegetables in place of starches with dinner, looking for high fiber foods, reading food labels, appreciating whole foods, and get in a habit of choosing olive oil, avocado and seafood frequently.

Best of luck to you both! Feel free to pass on the links below or send a link to this article.

References ​
















Jun 02

How To Fix Emotional Eating With Self Care

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

There’s something we’ve noticed a lot of the time when people have trouble with emotional eating or stress eating — eating is the only thing they do to treat themselves.

Problems, Stress, or Emotion

When people try to work with emotional eating, they assume that the treats they eat are the problem. They remove treats, and then tro to white knuckle not eating them when they have stressful or emotional days. Eventually, something happens, and they can’t hold on any longer — they break down and have even more treats. Then they feel terrible.

Or, sometimes they assume that their emotions are the problem. It’s easy to think “If I didn’t have these emotions, I wouldn’t have an issue!” Like, the assumption that what you need is a life without problems or stress. The only problem there is that most of the clients we see actually have really stressful lives. They have important jobs or families or even charities they sit on boards for, they have all of these big priorities in their lives, and they have to work with those things. And all of these important things in their lives have normal cycles of ups and downs. Sometimes they’re really stressful. Sometimes it’s really emotional.

Two things we need to look at:

1.) You’re human. You’re going to have emotions. You’re going to have stress. We need to accept that that’s a normal and recurring part of life.

2.) We need to look at what is really effective self-care.

It’s About Choices

The goal isn’t to never have treats again. We aren’t even saying that you can never soothe yourself with food again. The goal, simply, is flexibility. We want you to have more than one option.

If the only thing you have to soothe yourself with is food, you’re going to gain weight.

So, what we really need to do is build a personal library of “real life treats.” We need to look at what actually makes us happy. It could be as simply as petting your dog or cat, listening to music, getting outside and going for a walk, reading, going to a movie. These are all things that make us feel better, that don’t involve food.

The goal is to have more than one option. If you have a rough day and you’re used to going straight for food, you’re still going to have that habit. We just want to loosen that up. Maybe try going for a walk first, and then if you still want the food treat, then try that.

Hug a pet

It’s About Self Care

If you’re really feeling down, cookies probably sound awesome. But after you eat the cookies, you don’t actually feel any better. Likely you feel worse.

Food treats often do a really poor job for self-care.

Instead, you want to take a look at what is actually effective self care for you. When you feel bad, what if you called a friend? What if you had some really good alone time? What if you meditated? What if you get a massage? Or watched your favorite funny movie?

There are things that you can do to take care of yourself that are going to do a much better job of taking care of you than food. You want to start putting together your personal list. You want to have options of things that are good for you.

Relax and listen to music

It’s About Your Values

Lastly, it’s about what’s important to you in life. Make a list of things that matter to you, people who matter to you, and who you want to be about food and health.

If you want to be someone who has a reasonable, balanced, healthy relationship with food, what does that mean to you when you have a bad day? It might mean that sometimes you have food treats and other times you have real life treats. That sounds balanced and reasonable.

Color a grown-up coloring book

Ultimately, the goal is flexibility.

If your only answer is to eat food treats, that probably doesn’t fit your values and goals. We want you to have lots of options.

Most of the time, have treats when you want to have treats because it’s a special occasion. Have treats when you’re hanging out with your best friend. Or have treats just because, and have your favorite treat in the world. But have those treats intentionally, and enjoy them and feel good about them.

And when you have a stressful or emotional day, take a look at what self-care is going to be best for you.

Deep breathing and/or meditation

Jun 01

Meal Planning as Simple As 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

Meal planning is much simpler than most people have been led to believe. Diets deliberately complicate things for marketing purposes. As long as there is a “magic food” or “secret macro ratio” that makes it work, you’ll always need to buy another diet.

There is no secret, it’s just basics of feeling full, repeated over and over again. Let’s take a look:

The four elements of fullness:

  1. Protein
  2. Vegetables
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Fat

The master element of consistency and success: Taste

  1. Flavor profile

News and diets live on crying wolf about the evil magic of carbohydrates, or protein, or fat, or whatever. In truth, people are going to feel the most full with some of all of the above in each meal.

People get freaked out about carbohydrates, like “I gain weight any time I even see carbs!!!!” This is false. Most people eat five servings of carbohydrates at a meal. Have you ever tried one serving?

Why it can work to cut out carbohydrates: Because most people have 4-5 servings of carbohydrates at every meal. Obviously this is too much.

What works best for fullness and weight loss: One serving of carbohydrates at every meal. A totally reasonable and healthy amount.

Same thing with fat. Fat was demonized for years because it’s so calorically dense. It is calorically dense. Don’t go crazy with it. One serving is usually fairly small.

Why it can work to cut out fat: Fat is pretty dense, and it’s easy to go way overboard with it.

What works best for fullness and weight loss: One serving of fat at every meal. A totally reasonable and healthy amount.

Protein is super popular right now, so we won’t go too deep into it. Just know that most people feel full when they have a serving of protein in their meals. If you’re noticing a trend in this plan so far, it’s this — one serving of everything, at every meal.

Lastly, vegetables are magic for feeling full after meals. We often tell people to shoot for 2 servings of vegetables. This isn’t rocket science, add some veggies.

How Big is A Serving?

Well, it’ll be a little different for everyone. Here’s the simplest way to look at it:

If you are gaining weight:
Your servings are too big for weight loss.

If your weight is staying the same:
Your serving sizes put you at maintenance.

If you are losing 0.5 pounds per week:
Your serving sizes are just right for weight loss

If this seems to simple, it’s because it is. There’s no magic to this. But there is a simple system that you can use to experiment and guide yourself. Your plan won’t be the same as everyone else’s, it’ll be custom tailored for you.

Do I Need All Four At Every Meal?


The more you have at one meal the better. If people have just one, like carbohydrates, they’ll be likely to feel starving in an hour or two. If they add a second one, like carbohydrates and protein, they’ll be more likely to be full. If they add three, they’re really doing well. And, of course, with all four, you have the best shot at feeling full and satisfied between meals, while still losing weight.

Just one macro: Probably going to be hungry

Two of the three macros: Little bit better shot at feeling full, but might still be hungry

Three macros or two macros + vegetables: Pretty good shot at feeling full and satisfied

Three macros + vegetables: Best shot at being full and satisfied and losing weight

Lets Add Some Flavor

The last thing we want to look at is adding flavor. For some reason, when people first start eating healthy, they assume that it has to be flavorless and tasteless, which is a super sad way to go.

Go to a local spice shop and get a spice mix for your protein and a spice mix for your vegetables. Add sauces. Add salsa or green chile. Add garlic. Add onions. Put salt and pepper on everything. Get Mexican seasoning and cumin and cilantro. Get Italian seasoning and oregano and basil. Maybe even grow your own basil!

Don’t be afraid to add flavor.

People make a silly mistake with health food — they buy diet books! You can throw away all of your diet books. Replace them with cookbooks! Cookbooks are these amazing books that are filled with delicious meals you can eat. They literally teach you how to cook stuff, and make it taste good. You may find that sometimes you want to adjust the ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in a recipe. Or you may find that some recipes are predominantly carbohydrates, and you need to add a protein. Feel free to adjust the meals to suit your needs. And then, definitely use the chefs’ flavor knowledges to make your meal taste good!

Here are a few cookbooks to get you started:

It’s Really Is As Simple As 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

There’s no magic to it. Just combine the 4 elements of fullness, to create meals that are healthy and satisfying. Then make sure to add flavor!

The four elements of fullness:

  1. Protein

  2. Vegetables

  3. Carbohydrates

  4. Fat

The master element of consistency and success: Taste

  1. Flavor profile

Lastly, you know that if your scale weight is trending up, your portions are too big. If the scale weight is trending down, your portion sizes are just right for weight loss.

Don’t let any gimmicky infomercials or hypey magazine articles try to convince you that it’s any more complicated than that. Keep it simple, stay consistent, and you’ll hit all of your goals.

Josh Hillis

May 20

From Binge Eating to Weight Loss

By Maryclaire Brescia | Uncategorised

As nutrition coaches, people come to us when they are stuck and not making progress. One particularly challenging and recurring example of this is people who struggle with binge eating and excess weight, both of which they would like to lose for good.  It's not hard to see that binge eating (consuming objectively large amounts of food in a single sitting while feeling out of control) is counterproductive to weight loss. What's harder to see is why someone in this situation actually shouldn't try to work on both goals at the same time.

Working on losing weight is counterproductive to binge eating recovery, however binge eating recovery is the single best step toward attaining a healthy weight.

Is that a mind-bender or what? Let's explore.

Friends and families of our clients who fit this profile often know them as the Super Healthy Eaters, who never seem to eat any sweets, or maybe they are the strict Paleo dieter in their circle of friends. They may have "always been on a diet." But behind closed doors, all the restriction drops away at some moments, and hundreds or thousands of calories are eaten in numbing desperation.

Sometimes no one knows; Sometimes everyone suspects but no one says anything. And sometimes other people do know and try to help, yet just don't know how.

Binge eating and restriction become a frustrating cycle that batters a person's body and self-esteem. It feels like a prison of shame, where every escape attempt ends up back in the same place.

One typical client, whom we'll call Beth (not her real name), despaired each time she looked in the mirror or tried on an outfit before work. The twenty-five extra pounds she saw in her reflection just didn’t belong on the person she wanted to be. She described how she imagined her friends and colleagues wondering about her. After all, she gets up at 5 am to workout intensely almost every single day, how come she isn’t absolutely ripped? She felt like the extra weight on her body told she must have a secret eating life. They must think she has no willpower, she worried. She was disgusted with herself.

She re-committed to sticking 100% to her very structured diet and vigorous exercise. She made rules for herself to make sure that she would stay in control and on plan. If only she could follow her diet to the letter, then this time she would be successful. Day after day she logged her calories and macronutrients. She skipped the takeout place, and eliminated all junk food. She didn't eat fruit (too much sugar) or nuts (too much fat). She stopped eating dairy and swore off gluten, too, because so many people said they were bad.

Then one day as she walked home after a particularly stressful day at work, she became embroiled in some familiar thoughts. Overwhelm and unhappiness swirled all around her. She just wanted to feel better; desperately needed to escape this moment. There must be a release valve. Why not just get stop by the convenience time doesn’t matter. She could worry about it again tomorrow. Her palms started to sweat when she imagined the cold deliciousness of her favorite ice cream. Her heart raced.

Once the floodgates opened she found herself eating uncontrollably.

She went through the ice cream and cookies she brought home, then ravaged the pantry. Cereal, peanut butter, even crackers she didn't really like. She felt like she was in a daze, unaware of what she was doing, or like it wasn’t real. There was some relief that at least the tension about whether or not to binge was gone. The workday seemed far away, there was just food, food, and more food.

However, waking the next day it was all too clear how real it was. Packages and crumbs littered the counters, evidence was all around. She felt sick, bloated and demoralized as she cleaned.  She wondered how she could do this yet again when she promised herself that this time would be different. It felt like she would never get rid of this problem. It wasn’t even worth trying.

Beth’s story illustrates how strict dieting as a way to control binge eating can backfire, but it’s almost always the route people take when they are overweight and unhappy. After all, isn’t the entire world of magazines and the internet telling us, if we want to lose weight we need to eat less and move more? Then why isn’t working? If we want desperately to lose fat, how can we not try and eat less?

For someone with binge eating disorder or a habitual tendency to binge eat, cutting calories to encourage weight loss just stokes the fire of burning urges to binge. The stress of restraining and limiting food intake makes a person want to binge from a psychological trigger, while the state of drastic calorie deficit amplifies the physiological drive to eat uncontrollably.

Dieting is a one way street for someone who binge eats. Actually it’s more like a traffic circle, leading round and round, but never getting anywhere. Not to weight loss. Not to binge freedom, just endless circles of demoralization and shame.

If you do have initial success with reducing calories, even lose a few pounds, you feel excited! But often that confidence causes trouble. Perhaps you try to let yourself celebrate with a little treat… and it leads to a wipeout that erases any progress you made in weight loss and leaves you feeling hopeless (yet viciously motivated to get back on that diet and do it right this time.) Overeating followed by strong feelings of remorse as well as undereating can set you up for a vicious cycle. You might hear other people talk about hungry and satisfied feelings, but feel like yous must be busted. You never feel like that, you just want unending quantities of food, so how would you ever lose weight unless you stay controlled?

As glum as this scenario is, there is a different, more effective way to approach the problem. Instead of trying to accomplish two things at once: stopping bingeing and losing weight, we get great results because we separate the journey. The first step is to stop binge eating without attempting weight loss. Aiming for calorie balance gives someone the best possible set up to combat binge eating and win for a change. Life is hard enough, isn’t it, without adding a calorie deficit to the mix? We all have pressures and stresses, emotional sore spots and people who grate on us. Family issues, work concerns, identity, sex, finances…. There are plenty of emotional challenges which pose binge eating triggers, we believe you can cross intense hunger off the list for the first chapter. There’s plenty of other tough stuff to learn to work through in the initial phase.

First, the goal is to stop bingeing.​

For this portion we follow the recommendations of the most widely studied and most successful treatment available based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. We also include elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to provide a framework for resilience in the face of difficult emotions. Equipped with tools and strategies to use for emotional management, the binge becomes an outdated coping mechanism. One that gets less and less use, and eventually gathers dust.

The key components are to establish a pattern of regular eating and to practice detaching from urges to binge. Many people who binge eat are erratic eaters. They may skip breakfast or skip meals post binge. Or perhaps they are trying to accomplish a low calorie diet. This feast or famine eating can add to the physiological pressure to binge. To counteract this we recommend a regular eating schedule of 5-6 meals per day. These meals act like stepping stones to get you through the day binge-free. In this way you are only a couple of hours at most from your next meal. This gives our bodies time to grow accustomed to an even, predictable feeding pattern, and to allow our natural hunger and satiety cues time to normalize.

Then, a period of time needs to pass for things to settle. Since they’re new, the cognitive tools and self-regulation strategies need to be practiced, so they become easier to remember and grab at the right moment. After several weeks, of regularly spaced, normally-sized meals, the digestive tract and central nervous system have changed in a positive way. Frequent binge eating leads to distorted reward signaling in the brain, abnormal motility in the digestive tract (causing digestive symptoms such as pain, bloating, constipation), and a dulled or absent perception of hunger, satisfaction or fullness. Thankfully each of these will improve during the recovery process, it just takes some time of normal, regular eating.

Once the frequency of binge episodes have markedly subsided and stabilized, and the hunger and satisfaction signals have begun to emerge, it’s finally time when weight loss is possible. It’s difficult to be patient enough to get to this point, but the investment in mental and physical wellness allows a person to finally, FINALLY, escape that prison. If someone still wants to lose weight, in the third phase we gradually introduce weight loss habits using the successful Lean Habits system.

As for the best weight loss approaches, we recommend that anyone make changes that are sustainable and not exceedingly uncomfortable, we not fans of the rapid or drastic for anyone. But for someone with a history of binge eating, sustainability and reasonableness is even more crucial, because the old coping mechanism of the binge might be gathering dust, but it’s still there. Overwhelm, extreme physical discomfort or emotional pain can increase the urge to relapse. So it important to protect yourself from unnecessary strain (like a 7 day juice fast) and treat yourself lovingly. You have time to lose any excess weight, there is no urgency, and managing your environment to eliminate avoidable triggers is wise. Your health and happiness are worth it, and by reaching this point you will have accomplished something extraordinary. It’s well justified to treat yourself like a pretty amazing person, who has come through a hard road but stood strong and changed their life for the better.

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