Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Nine Rooms of Happiness

The Nine Rooms of Happiness

I can't remember things being balanced as they are now. The dogs, school, friends and family, my house, activities... I read in an article that most women's happiness is split up like rooms in a house. It helps you to "learn to love yourself more, find your true purpose, and get over life's little imperfections".

Here are the nine rooms they describe:

Attic: holds your emotional heirlooms and family expectations. From a long line of doctors but don't want to be one? Welcome to the attic.

Living room: for your social life with friends and neighbors, so this is also the room for envy and overcommitment

Family room: where you deal with your parents, siblings, and anyone else with whom you can be fully yourself and still share unconditional love

Kitchen: where everyone gathers at the table for emotional "nourishment" (catching up, connecting) and sorting out the chores

Kid's room: where you decide whether to have children: if the answer is yes, this is the place for your parenting dilemmas and decisions

Office: for work and career. This is also where you can pay the bills

Bathroom: with both scale and mirror, is where you face body image, aging, health, and wellness

Bedroom: where you handle your intimacy-sex, love, desire, connection with your mate or the search of a life partner.

Basement: holds all the memories, scrapbooks and any childhood events that shaped your past.

They also have a 10th room: a room of one's own. It might be a sunny porch, a cozy corner, a mental space (even an activity such as a walk or jog) where you reflect on your life and role in the world. How ca you do more of what you love? You contemplate the big existential questions here.

It's easy to relate for me because I've KNOW not every room is going to be perfect in our house every day. What I've learned is that I shouldn't let the "messy" rooms ruin the mood of my house overall (aka my overall happiness). The decision is up to me to clean it up the messy rooms (or let it be), to still enjoy the rooms that are clean, and accept that I can't be in every room at once so balancing all rooms is key rather than having keeping rooms in perfect condition.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

5 Ways to Keep the Scale Moving

The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return.
It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.

Arthur C. Clarke

5 Ways to Keep the Scale Moving

By Steve Edwards

Working OutNot much is as frustrating during an exercise program as when your results stop progressing. But it happens to everyone; and even if you're training like a cage fighter, it will happen to you, too. When it does, the solution isn't as obvious as you may think. While the logical answer is to kick your workouts up a notch, eat cleaner, or eat less, that might be exactly the opposite of what you should to be doing. Here is an explanation of why your results are bound to plateau and what to do about it when it happens.

What is the dreaded plateau?

It's part of the body's natural process to hit a plateau because it's always trying to regulate itself. Its regulated state is called homeostasis. Your body is a creature of habit, but it doesn't care whether those habits are bad or good. The more you do something to enact change, the more it adapts and tries to limit that change. This can be a good thing because less stress is placed on the body. But it's a bad thing if you're unhealthy because that is the state your body is willing to call homeostasis. If your goals are to change your body, you'll want to keep that adaptive stress high until you're fit and healthy.

Working Out with a TrainerFitness trainers refer to the above-mentioned process as the adaptive phase of training, and any good fitness program is designed around it. The time it takes your body to adapt to something new varies by activity, your fitness level, and the effort you put into the endeavor. This process can take as little as 2 weeks to more than 12 weeks. In general, the fitter you are, the quicker your body adapts to a new workout routine.

To get the most out of an exercise program, you need to break habits from time to time. This is why most training programs are broken up into phases or blocks that generally look something like this:

Foundation phase: building base fitness—the time this takes varies per individual.

Adaptive phase: learning to master the movements or cadence of a new workout program—takes between 1 and 12 weeks.

Growth or Mastery phase: once mastered, your body has a limited time to make accelerated performance gains—generally 1 to 4 weeks.

Recovery phase: when results level off, your body needs to recover from the stresses of hard training—generally 1 to 4 weeks.

Days of the WeekMost athletes train in 4- to 6-week blocks; during this time, they work on one energy system at a time. Each block is broken down into the above-listed phases. As each phase is mastered, the body begins to plateau, which is a signal to begin a recovery phase and move into the next training block.

If you graph the desired results of your exercise program, the line should look like a ski slope (heading up or down depending on your goals) because you're making rapid changes. Once your body gets good (or efficient) at these exercises, they don't cause as much trauma, and you begin to get less effect out of the same program. The "ski slope" begins to level off and starts to resemble a plateau. If this program is continued as such, the line will go completely flat, or even start to dip the other way because of overuse.

P90X®A good exercise program is designed to keep your graph looking like a ski slope by altering what you do regularly. Let's use a comparison of Power 90® and P90X® as an example of how two programs might look. Power 90 is an introductory program and P90X is an advanced program. They both follow similar patterns but the timing of each is different.

Phase I: Foundation phase. Power 90 begins with the I/II workouts. P90X begins with a fit test, meaning that your foundation should be complete prior to beginning the program.

Phase II: Adaptive phase. This is where the biggest changes in the programs occur. Power 90 doesn't change much because it may take an untrained individual up to 12 weeks to adapt. At the P90X level, adaptations are very quick and will happen in 1 to 2 weeks.

Phase III: Mastery or Growth phase. This is the most intense period of training. Once the body adapts to exercise, there is a short window wherein very rapid improvement occurs.

Phase IV: Recovery phase. Exercise intensity is reduced to allow microtrauma to heal. If timed correctly, fitness improves during this phase, until the body is recharged and ready to begin Phase II again. If done for too long, Phase I should be repeated. The recovery phase, which can also be called a transition phase, is a major part of P90X. Power 90, due to the variable adaptive phase, doesn't have a recovery phase built in.

Plateau: occurs when Phase III is extended too long.

Most sound fitness programs follow a similar plan. This alone does not keep plateaus from occurring. They affect everyone who engages in any exercise program, from couch potato to Olympian. In fact, the more finely tuned your body is, the harder it is to avoid plateaus, mainly because there is less margin of error to play with. But even though they are a natural part of the process, it does not mean that you have to give in to them. At some point along your fitness path, you are going to encounter a plateau. Here are 5 tips to help you snap out of it:

  1. Yoga Booty Ballet®Back off. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't exercise; it just means that if you ease up a bit, you'll likely recover and get stronger. Oftentimes your body is overtrained, exhausted, and just in need of a break. If you are finding it suddenly difficult to get through a workout that was easy the week before, this is most likely the case. You should cut down on your intensity and focus on technique and flexibility. It's a perfect time for a recovery-specific workout like Slim Series® Cool It Off!, Tony Horton's Ho' Ala ke Kino, or some easy cardio, yoga, and/or stretching workout. Another option would be to lower your workout weight or pick easier workouts. Gauge this so that you finish workouts feeling refreshed rather than knackered. When your energy level returns, launch back into your original program, or a more difficult one, harder than you did before.

  2. Turn it up a notch. The antithesis of backing off, because a plateau may also happen when you're purely bored and/or listless. The easiest way to increase intensity is by adding resistance. Change bands or add weight so that you start failing at around 6 to 8 reps on all of the exercises, which changes the energy system you're using. This added intensity will force your body to adapt and turn that improvement line skyward again. You'll know if this was the right tactic in one of two workouts because you'll either respond by feeling energized or you'll hardly be able to finish the workout.

  3. Going OnlineStreamline your diet. Most of our diets could always use a little improvement. If you've been giving yourself little rewards for a job well done (a good idea in general), then it's time to stop. Try a super-strict week wherein you do everything perfect. If you don't have a great example—like the P90X diet—scour the Message Boards for help.

  4. Add some morning cardio. Twenty minutes or more of easy- to moderate-level cardio in the morning on an empty stomach can help get your metabolism steamrolling again. You can train your body to more efficiently use stored fat as fuel, and this is one of the easiest ways to do it.

  5. Weighing FoodAdd or subtract 500 calories per day. If everything else seems fine and you're at wits' end, then try this. Your diet might just be miscalculated and you could be under- or overfeeding yourself. This is common, especially as you get fitter, because your body composition changes, which is why adding calories is one of the main ways our members kick themselves off of plateaus. Five hundred calories per day works out to 3,500 per week, which equates to a pound. Keep in mind that this will only work if you are eating proper nutrients. If not, try #3 first, and then try altering the number of calories you're eating.

7 Tips for Portion Control

In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.

Benjamin Franklin

Back to top.

7 Tips for Portion Control

By Joe Wilkes

The big news in nutrition this past week was a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study covered cookbook recipes over the last several decades (with emphasis on recipes in The Joy of Cooking), and it was discovered that calorie counts have gone up dramatically as authors have increased portion sizes to conform to new cultural norms. Where the 1936 edition of the kitchen classic averaged 268 calories per serving, the most recent 2006 edition averaged 384 calories. Lower costs of food and larger plate sizes are theorized as part of the reason for the increase, but nutritionist Marion Nestle says that mainly it's just a reflection of people becoming accustomed to eating more and more overall. What can we do to monitor and control portion sizes? Here are some ideas . . .

Small Portion of Food, Water, and Food Storage Containers

  1. Downsize your plate. One issue the study pointed out is that the average plate size has grown over the years, and the amount of food served on those plates has kept pace with that increase. Instead of breaking out the big dinner plate, try eating your dinner off a salad or dessert plate. The smaller plate will make the amount of food look larger by proportion, a visual cue which will trick your brain into thinking you're eating more. You can also trade in your big dinner fork for a more petite salad fork, which will slow down any shoveling behavior that might occur at the dinner table.

  2. Food in ContainersDivide and conquer. When you're cooking more than one serving of something, immediately store the prospective leftovers in single-serving containers. By putting out the entire dish, you run the risk of there not being any leftovers at the end of the meal. Depending on what the meal is, I divide my food onto two plates—one for that meal and one for lunch the next day. And as a side benefit, this can help you tighten your wallet while you tighten your waistline.

  3. Count it down. If you eat your reasonably sized portion of food in the dining room/living room/den/bedroom/bathroom, etc., and leave the leftovers in the kitchen, it will make this next step a lot easier. Here's the scenario: You've finished your first portion, and yet you still want more. This is far from atypical, especially if the big plate of leftovers is sitting in front of you, tempting you, calling to you—maybe just a half a spoonful or maybe just a pick at the serving platter with your fork (just the good parts, of course). That couldn't possibly have more calories, right? Wrong. The calories from the food you sneak in after you finish eating are as potent as the calories from the food you're served. The good news is that if you can hold off, you won't be hungry for long.

    After you have a decent-sized portion of food, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to get the message from your stomach that you're full. So try this: Before you reach for seconds, glance at the clock on the wall or your wristwatch. Spend the next 20 minutes chatting with your dining companions, or if you're eating alone, check out the newspaper, read a magazine article, or play along with a round of Jeopardy on TV. Then, after 20 minutes, see if you're still starving for another bowl full of whatever. Chances are that your cravings will have disappeared. If they haven't, maybe you do still need a little more food to achieve satiety. Review what you ate before, and if the calorie count seems low, treat yourself to a little extra. Or, if the calorie count seems about right or high for a regular meal and you're still hungry, fill up on some low-cal veggies or have a big glass of water. Sometimes it's easy to confuse thirst for hunger.

  4. Smallest PortionsEmbrace your inner child. And we don't mean have candy for dinner . . . When you're on the road or out for dinner, don't be ashamed to look at the kids' menu. As the adult menu has been supersized to gluttonous proportions, the children's menu often has the most nutritious options. Check out Debbie Siebers' portion-control tips below, and you'll see that oftentimes the amount of food in a kids' meal is just the right amount for an adult watching his or her figure. Not to mention, if you play your cards right, there could be a free toy in it for you. Out of the mouths of babes . . .

  5. Sharing is good. And while we're getting lessons from the small set, how about sharing? If you're a foodie like me, the hardest part about eating out is passing up all the goodies you want to try on the menu. Instead of ordering too much for yourself, strategize with your fellow diners about how you can maximize the variety of the food instead of the quantity. Most restaurants will be more than happy to provide you with extra small plates so you can split dishes. And make sure you actually split them! Don't dine out with your friend who survives on a nibble here or there and split two dishes; you'll end up eating 80 percent of the food on the table while he or she makes do with a couple of forkfuls. In case you ever wondered how Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi keeps her model physique while judging up to 12 meals a week, the secret is that she doesn't eat everything. Also, when you're figuring out how to eat family-style, make sure that at least one of the dishes is a healthy salad, a non-cream-based soup, or a vegetable dish. That way you and your family can get full without getting fat.

  6. Nutrition LabelLearn your weights and measurements. As anyone who's a regular reader of this newsletter knows, we're always going on and on about reading labels. And as important as the calorie, carb, protein, and fat numbers is the serving size. This is where the corporate food interests get you a lot of the time, by adjusting the serving size downward to make the nutritional numbers look a little better. As anyone who's recently spent a Saturday night alone with the TV can tell you, the estimate of fourservings in a pint of Ben and Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs is wildly optimistic. Whereas the label would indicate a 300-calorie serving, keep in mind that the entire container has 1,200 calories. And since most of the containers taper downward, eating what appears to be half of the container can actually amount to two-thirds.

    It's definitely too much of a hassle to weigh and measure everything you put in your body every day. Even the most anal-retentive people among us don't have the time to be hauling out the scale and measuring cups for every meal. But it's worth it to at least familiarize yourself with a few standard weights and measures. Try learning what an ounce, a gram, and a tablespoon, etc., look like. That way you can at least eyeball how much you're eating. I've yet to meet the person who can make a typical bag of potato chips last for twelve servings.

  7. Give yourself a hand. For an easy guide to portion sizes, follow this guide from Slim in 6® creator Debbie Siebers.

Handy Portion-Control Guide

By Debbie Siebers, creator of Slim in 6®

To achieve weight loss, it's crucial to really understand what a portion is. Here's a trick: use your hand as a guideline to portion sizes.

Palm = Proteins
Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in animal products, like fish, meats, and cottage cheese. Some veggie sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh, and wheat glutens.

Thumb = Fats
Fats are important but also very dense, so match portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc.
Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember that whole grains are always preferred.

Hand = Veggies
Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That is a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and contain very few calories.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

To Fast or Not to Fast?

By Steve Edwards

As our Nutrition 911 series transitions from drinks to food, what could be more natural than to discuss something in between, like fasting? Most people think that the simplest way to lose weight is to not eat. But if you don't eat, you'll die, which renders this "theory" ineffectual or, at best, short-lived. As we've discussed, we need nutrients to live, and we also need nutrients to transform our bodies from being overweight and out of shape to being svelte and toned paragons of fitness. So what's the deal with fasting? Is it a trend? Is it dangerous? And should you do it?

Silverware Wrapped in Measuring Tape

First of all, fasting isn't a trend. It's one of the oldest therapies in medicine, and its recorded practice dates back thousands of years. But these days, it's hard to peruse the magazines at your local market without being provided with myriad "trendy" fasting options promising health and spiritual enlightenment, and most importantly, weight loss. It's also pretty easy to find literature warning of the dangers of fasting. So let's have a look at its history, benefits, and potential dangers.

If you've read any historical literature, you know that fasting has been around a long time. Many of the oldest healing systems have recommended it as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. Paracelsus, another famous healer, wrote, "Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within." Sounds good, but what exactly is it: simply not eating, or using some sort of product you've seen pitched on TV?

Woman and a Glass of WaterBy definition, anytime that you don't eat, you are fasting—hence the word "breakfast." Most therapeutic fasts last longer than one night, usually from 1 day to a few weeks. Juice or liquid fasts, while not traditional, are quite common because many of the desired results are achieved without as much stress on the body (see 2-Day Fast Formula® for one option). It's also common to begin a fast by eating cleansing foods, like veggies or soups. A modern fast is often synonymous with a cleanse, or it's a very restricted diet designed to reprogram your body. Most fasts only last a few days. Provided that you stay hydrated, the body can function without food for this long with little stress (though it may not feel like it to you, especially the first time).

Those wanting to participate in the longer and more traditional fasts should have medical supervision, or at least be certain they are in condition to undertake such a venture. While strict nutritionists rarely recommend such things, most alternative medicine practitioners, including homeopaths, naturopathic doctors, and ayurvedic doctors, are well versed at supervising and monitoring patients during fasts. Monitored fasts are almost always safe, but they should be entered and exited with care.

We'll get to the different types of fasts in a moment. First, let's look at 10 reasons why you might want to try fasting or make it part of your lifestyle.

  1. To cleanse your system. Most of us eat more than we should, take in more toxins than we'd like, and are subjected to many other things, like pollutants, that we'd rather avoid. Furthermore, most of us carry around a lot of undigested food in our systems that comes from eating more than we can process. Essentially, a fast will flush these things from your system. Yes, you'll lose weight. But more importantly, your body will run better than it did before.

  2. To change bad habits. When you don't eat, your body craves sustenance and becomes more sensitive to toxins. Most habits are based on cravings, but when you completely change how your system is running, those cravings also change. Coffee is the easiest example. During a fast, your body is too sensitive to tolerate highly acidic substances or caffeine. Coffee will often make you feel terrible during fasting, when ordinarily it has the opposite effect.

  3. To change your health. Many chronic conditions can be treated effectively with fasting, including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, digestive disorders, mental illness, and obesity. Fasting is thought to be beneficial as a preventative measure to increase overall health, vitality, and resistance to disease.

  4. Cracker and OlivesTo reset your body clock. Fasting gives you a clean slate. Without nutrients, you become more sensitive, and sleep and other patterns change. It's an easy time to revamp your schedule and get your body clock working in your favor.

  5. To bring your body into homeostasis. This is the balance point your body prefers to be at but is rarely achieved with our hectic lives. When the intake of food is temporarily stopped, many systems of the body are given a break from the hard work of digestion. The extra energy gives the body the chance to heal and restore itself—plus burning stored calories gets rid of toxic substances in the body. Essentially, you force your body to work efficiently, and thus bring everything into balance.

  6. For increased mental clarity. Most of us probably first heard of fasting as a spiritual exercise. There are examples of it in most religious texts. It's a great tactic for mental and spiritual rejuvenation because it forces you to focus on important thoughts and frees the mind from everyday clutter. When you are deprived of nutrients, your body—in survival mode—begins to focus on things of true importance.

  7. To make changing your diet easier. When you fast, you become more sensitive to what you put into your body. It's easier to understand how nutrients affect you, and hence how bad foods make you feel worse. The easiest time to change your diet for the better is after a fast. Your body will crave healthy foods. All you need to do is give it what it wants.

  8. To get a better feel for how exercise and diet make your body work. When you take away nutrients, your body can't function as well as it did from a performance standpoint. When you add nutrients back, y ou'll feel your energy increase, and understand how exercise affects you and how your body utilizes nutrients. This understanding can be a great dietary aid. Most of us have a hard time understanding what fats, carbohydrates, and proteins do for us, but coming off a fast, you'll more easily understand their functions, especially if you are exercising.

  9. Woman with Blue ScarfTo improve fat mobilization and physical efficiency. Many physiological changes occur in the body during fasting. Your body turns to stored fat for energy, and this process becomes more efficient under the stress of a fast. Furthermore, the brain, which has high fuel requirements, still needs glucose (sugars converted from glycogen) to perform well. To obtain glucose for the brain, the body finds two sources of fuel, ketosis and muscle, so the body begins to break down muscle tissue during a fast. However, to fuel the brain, the body would need to burn around a pound of muscle a day.

    So we've developed another survival mechanism to create energy that saves important muscle mass, a process called ketosis. Via ketosis, the liver converts stored fat into ketones, which can be used by the brain, muscles, and heart as energy. Those of you versed in the Atkins diet may have a negative association with this process, but "Atkinsers" somewhat abused it. It's another survival mechanism the body has that can be developed and utilized. Where Atkins may have overdone it was by promoting it as a way of life, not a phase toward improving the body's functionality.

  10. To get a forced rest phase. Our bodies do better when we train periodizationally. This is training in phases of intensity, one of which is rest. P90X® is based on periodizational training. Since we tend to skip the rest phase because we feel like we'll regress if we don't exercise (either that or we overly embrace it to the point of not exercising), fasts force a recovery phase because you can't do hard exercise. The most exercise you should attempt is low-intensity movements, like walking, hiking, or easy yoga or stretching. During this time, the body heals its cumulative microtrauma that has resulted from exercise. When you come off a fast, your body will be slightly deconditioned. However, its capacity for conditioning will have increased. This means that once you catch up to the fitness level you were at prior to fasting, you will more easily exceed this level, instead of hitting a plateau.

What are the different types of fasts?

There are many fasts on the market, which sounds funny because if you're not eating, it raises the question, why do you need the market? But most fasts contain some sort of strategy that includes some nutrients.

  • 2-Day Fast Formula®The simplest are the "beginner" fasts—Beachbody's 2-Day Fast Formula® is a beginner fast. These usually provide some liquid nutrients, like fruit and veggie juices or a shake, to make things less stressful. You still get most of the benefits of fasting, and well, you still get to look forward to some meals.
  • More complex fasts are ones like the Master Cleanse diet, which allows you to get some nutrients, though very few. With Master Cleanse, you're supposed to fast for a longer period of time than with a beginner fast, usually at least 10 days. These fasts require that you have a lot of self-knowledge. It's always recommended to begin with a shorter fast to see how it affects you.
  • Spiritual fasts are traditional and strict. They often mean going for long periods of time with no nutrients at all; you just drink water. Since their aim is more mental than fitness oriented, they're rarely—if ever—recommended by the fitness and nutrition industry.

How often you fast depends a lot on what type of fast you do. Longer fasts should not be done often, but 1-day fasts can be done regularly. An old common religious practice was to skip eating 1 day per week, which can be easily done without any associated fitness loss. So it's fairly easy to make fasting a regular part of your "diet."

To enter a fast, no matter which type it is, it's best if your diet is gradually lightened over a few days. First, heavy foods like meats and dairy products should be eliminated. Grains, nuts, and beans should then be reduced. The day before you begin, eat only easily digested foods like fruits, light salads, and soups. Likewise, you should break your fast gradually, going from lighter to heavier foods progressively. The diet after a fast should emphasize fresh, wholesome foods, which is easier because junk and convenience foods will usually make you feel awful. It's also vital that before, during, and after a fast you drink a lot of plain water. This keeps you hydrated and helps flush your system.

It's also important to note that fasting is not appropriate for everyone—especially pregnant and nursing women—and in some cases, it could be harmful. Those with health conditions should always have medical support during fasting.

Now that we've covered how not to eat, next we'll look into how we should eat, starting with the best food in the world.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

Book Review by Denis Faye

I've always had a hard time with food. As a kid, my kitchen was rarely stocked with salty and sugary snacks—rarely, because most of those salty and sugary snacks would be eaten before they even had a chance to be put away. A jumbo bag of Fritos® would be lucky to last an hour in our house. Gallon tubs of ice cream were routinely opened for the evening's dessert. My best friend's mother once asked him to stop bringing me over after school because I would regularly and impulsively clean out her pantry's stock of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Boy With Two Burgers

While I had friends who would smoke funny things and listen to Pink Floyd, I didn't do drugs; when I watched The Wall, instead of smoking those funny things, I got "high" by drinking 2 liters of Coke® and eating an entire box of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch®.

Through my teens and into my twenties, my weight seesawed between 225 and 170. It wasn't until I moved to Australia that I finally got a handle on things. Perhaps it was the lack of exposure to the American media machine, perhaps it was because junk food is more expensive down under and fresh produce is cheaper, perhaps it was because I had fallen in with a committed pack of super-fit surfers, or perhaps I was just sick of being fat. Either way, I finally turned things around and have managed to remain relatively thin ever since.

But it's incredibly difficult. While my thinner waist is a result of raw willpower that's tested daily, I still have to resort to a few tricks. It was impossible to curb my appetite, so instead, I learned to fill up on the right things. I eat more fruits and vegetables in a day than most people eat in a week. I stay out of restaurants as much as possible, and for at least a decade, even vaguely tempting groceries did not enter my house. It's only in the last couple of years that I've been able to keep peanut butter on hand, and that's because I've learned to block its very existence out of my head.

Also, I exercise. A lot.

David Kessler's The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

Overweight Belly and Tape Measure The reason I'm playing true confessions is because it was with great personal interest—perhaps even out of personal necessity—that I opened former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler's new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Sometime in the 1980s, Americans starting getting fatter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1988 and 1991, the number of overweight Americans increased by 85 percent. Between 1960 and 2000, the average weight of women between the ages of 20 and 29 went from 128 to 157.

The "why" for this has been extensively covered in books like Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. We have access to more salty and sweet foods, and the portions we're served are larger. When a 500-calorie fries, 310-calorie Coke, and 540-calorie Big Mac meal is presented to you as a normal lunch, you're going to eat it.

And you're going to get fat.

Overeating: Solutions?

Unfortunately, while the problem is well documented, the solution isn't. Calling for reforms in the food service industry is lovely, but this is a billion-dollar industry; and frankly, people will continue to eat 1,350-calorie McMeals, no matter how unhealthy those meals are.

The other half of the solution—that consumers should exercise self-control—isn't all that helpful either. A few lucky ones, including me, found an escape from the Dionysian trap, but we are few. It's one thing to say you won't eat M&M'S®, but as anyone who has any issues with overeating knows, when you're at a party and you're surrounded by bowls of the little multicolored jerks, they call out to you in a collective, candy-coated chorus that's often too much to bear.

Conditioned Hypereating

That's the premise of The End of Overeating. Thanks to our culture of consumption, the drive to eat beyond our needs has skyrocketed out of control. Kessler dubs the problem "Conditioned Hypereating."

Essentially, Kessler theorizes that today's foods have been engineered to the perfect point of saltiness, fattiness, and sweetness. It just tastes so good, and it's just so accessible. Where once higher-fat ice creams were premiums and adding crushed candy bars or other extras as toppings was a novelty, these practices have now become the norm. And while all these rich foods damage the waistline, they cause majorly gratifying chemical reactions upstairs.

(Of course, I didn't need Cold Stone Creamery® or Chili's®. I learned how to "engineer" foods myself. In my junior year of high school, my favorite after-school snack was a Ruffles® and Miracle Whip® sandwich on Wonder® Bread.)

Overweight Man Looking at His FridgeThe brain's pleasure-seeking chemicals, called endorphins, are overstimulated by these foods because these foods are specifically created to cause this overstimulation. The brain remembers this stimulation, so over time when you see these foods, another chemical called dopamine is released. According to Kessler, "Dopamine drives desire through a survival-based capacity known as 'attention bias.' Defined as 'the exaggerated amount of attention that is paid to highly rewarding stimuli at the expense of other (neutral) stimuli,' attention bias allows us to pick out what matters most so we can pursue it."

In other words, in the same way the brain induces "fight or flight" responses or overwhelming maternal instincts, it urges us to eat yummy junk. Our stomachs may be full, but our brains really, really want the rush.

4 Steps to End Conditioned Hypereating

After explaining this, Kessler dedicates several chapters to admonishing the food industry for creating this situation. It's an interesting read, but it is fairly well-treaded territory. Where the book really shines is part four, "The Theory of Treatment." Here, Kessler suggests how someone suffering from Conditioned Hypereating might go about fixing it.

Basically, Kessler suggests four steps to kicking the habit.

  • The first is to become aware of the problem.
  • The second is to reverse the habit by exercising competing behaviors.
  • The third is to develop thoughts that quiet the old, problematic thoughts.
  • The fourth and final step is to seek support.

Kessler then explains how to achieve these steps with methods like planned eating, which is basically having your meals planned and sticking to that plan. This is much like the nutrition plans that come with programs like P90X® and ChaLEAN Extreme®.

As it turns out, as much as I value The End of Overeating, there's nothing in Kessler's book that I didn't already know. However, it has given me a new perspective. He's taken these facts and connected the dots in a way I hadn't seen before.

Woman With VegetablesAs I said, my change came largely due to willpower, but I was blessed in that I was put in a situation where that willpower could take hold. I often forget this when giving advice and simply tell people suffering from Conditioned Hypereating to just buck up and do it.

It's just not that simple, and now that I know exactly why, hopefully, it will grant me the patience and tools to help others accomplish the goals that took me so long to achieve.

Related Articles
"The Magic Number for Health and Beauty"
"What's Your Fitness Personality?"
"Why You Might Be Losing the Battle of the Bulge"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, June 15th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

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Test Your Candy IQ!

By Monica Gomez

June is National Candy Month. No, this doesn't mean you should run out and buy a tub of Red Vines to celebrate (sadly, this includes me). How much do you know about these sweet, delicious treats?

  1. Girl with a Jelly bean CrownHow many jelly beans are produced in the U.S. each Easter? According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), more than 16 billion jelly beans are produced each year for Easter, enough to fill a plastic Easter egg 89 feet high (or the height of a nine-story office building)! The NCA states that it takes 6 to 10 days to make a jelly bean. Next time April 22 rolls around, you can celebrate Earth Day andNational Jelly Bean Day!

  2. What did "fairy floss" come to be known as in 1920? William Morrison and John C. Wharton introduced "fairy floss" at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, selling 68,655 boxes. In 1920, "fairy floss" was renamed cotton candy. Don't go "flossing" your teeth with this sweet treat, though. One cup contains approximately 336 calories and 84 grams of sugar (the main ingredient in cotton candy). This isn't exactly the fuel we'd recommend for, well, anything!

  3. When are most NECCO® Sweethearts® Conversation Hearts sold? Most of the eight billion Conversation Hearts manufactured each year are sold between January 1 and Valentine's Day, making them the #1 non-chocolate Valentine's Day candy. Originally called Motto Hearts, Conversation Hearts used to be made in myriad shapes, like postcards, watches, baseballs, and horseshoes. These shapes allowed for longer sayings. Today, Conversation Hearts are even printed in Spanish. ¡Deliciosos!

  4. Chocolate CandyHow many pounds of milk are used each day by U.S. chocolate manufacturers?According to the NCA, 3.5 million pounds of whole milk are used every day to make chocolate. And it's no surprise. It would take that much to produce what American's have voted as their favorite flavor. A recent survey revealed that 52 percent of U.S. adults voted chocolate as their favorite flavor.

How I Overcame Compulsive OvereatingBy Debbie Siebers, creator of Slim in 6®

Eating words has never given me indigestion.

Winston Churchill

How I Overcame Compulsive OvereatingBy Debbie Siebers, creator of Slim in 6®

My biggest challenge in life so far has been conquering my compulsive eating habit. I remember so clearly the hopelessness I felt because I had no control over my impulses. I would literally sit down to a pint of Häagen-Dazs® every day and swear that tomorrow I would start my diet. There are also vivid memories of me downing an entire bag of Chips Ahoy!® chocolate chip cookies and an entire big bag of Doritos®! I had those moments of sitting in my car, opening a jar of peanut butter, and polishing off almost half of it, and then driving to a fast food place for a burger and fries. And let's not forget the CHEESE! I am a Cheesehead, after all, and I would eat blocks of it at a time.

Debbie Siebers' "Before" and "After" Photos

When I think of that now, it truly makes me sick to my stomach. How could my poor body handle that? No wonder my digestion was so screwed up and I have cellulite so bad—even now. You can't possibly expect to abuse your body like that and put such demands on your digestive system and not have major issues. I remember jogging around my block at 4:00 AM, desperate to burn off those calories, and then dropping down to the ground into a heap of tears praying for control and the strength to get my life on track. I do know that I was eating out of emotion—not knowing how to cope with certain feelings I was having.

I knew I had to confront my demons head on and figure it out. I'm not sure of the exact moment I decided to change. It was an accumulation of emotion and just being fed up with feeling and looking bad. Enough was enough! So, I joined a support group and through that program I learned how to eat properly. I learned about portion control.

Growing up, I was never taught any of those things. My mother had been severely overweight when I was growing up, and she loved to bake. And I mean BAKE EVERYTHING you can possibly think of. I would wake up every Saturday morning to hot chocolate chip cookies, gooey brownies, pies, homemade bread, you name it. I would stuff myself until I couldn't eat another bite. Having that support group made me accountable and got me on track. The first 12 pounds came off pretty easily. Then, it was a bit slower, but because I stuck with the program, it consistently came off.

Man Salivating over a Big BurgerWhen I moved to Los Angeles at 21, I was on my way to better health and felt more in control. I was a secretary at that time, so I sat most of the day. I definitely had bumps and challenges along the way, but I was determined to get the once lean, fit body back that I had when I was in high school as a cheerleader, gymnast, and sprinter! It was when I joined a gym and began working out with weights that I really started to see the changes. Unfortunately, I made a lot of the mistakes that many women do when they don't really understand how to exercise properly. I worked with heavy weights and didn't do enough cardio. So I got really strong, but I was very bulky! Also, I still was in the bad habit of eating three big meals a day instead of small little mini-meals throughout the day. It really wasn't until I was in my late thirties that I figured it out.

The last thing I needed to get control of was my love for sweets, and it wasn't easy . . . I decided to just starve myself of all carbs and sugars for about 2 weeks. It was truly amazing what happened. I sincerely didn't crave them anymore! I would never have believed in a million years that I would actually desire a delicious piece of fish with vegetables over a pizza!

I think having so much energy and feeling my body toned and lean also gave me extra incentive. Then, when I became a personal trainer at the gym I was working out at, I was literally exercising with my clients all day long doing ab and midsection routines with them. Before I knew it, my waist was tiny and my abs were ripped. I had a six-pack for the first time, and I was pumped!

Now if I really want to have a chocolate chip cookie, I'll have one . . . but only one. And sometimes, I don't even eat the whole thing. I am satisfied with a bite or two. For me, it was a major shift in the way I associated and looked at food. Also, the more educated and aware I became, the easier it was to treat my body with respect. I got into "right-thinking" mode and didn't want to sabotage myself anymore. Some of the tools that helped me along the way were thought-provoking, motivational, and inspirational books and tapes that would put me in the present moment. Now, there is such a wealth of extra support at your fingertips. Beachbody® has developed such an amazing community that you're crazy if you don't take advantage of it.

Get involved in the live chats and the Message Boards. Join the WOWY SuperGym®. Keep that journal every day to help you stay accountable. Empower yourself with knowledge and invest in YOU! You deserve it. You deserve to be happy and healthy! I know if I could do it, you can, too . . . we are all here to help cheer you on and support you to live your best life!