Will You Ever See Your Abs? REPOST

real fat man

One of the most common questions I get from people is how to lose belly fat and get defined abs. Since a tight midsection is one of the most enviable and desirable body attributes, I am never surprised by these inquiries. I have noticed that there is a relatively common misconception that defined abs come solely from exercise, which is definitely not the case. While a certain amount of development in the abdominal muscles must be present for the washboard appearance which many people covet, an individual’s food choices often interfere with the quest for six-pack abs.

If you really want to see abdominal definition, you need to eliminate the following foods from your diet:

Processed foods (including crackers, luncheon meats, cheese, chips, breads)
Foods high in saturated fat (red meat, fast foods)
Salad dressing

Though it may be difficult at first to eliminate the foods listed, you will notice over time that your palate will adjust and that food cravings will subside. That’s because processed foods and sugar set up a vicious cycle in which you crave more bad foods when you consume them. Cut them out of your meal plan, and your cravings will subside. Another benefit of avoiding these foods is that you will avoid the rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin which they trigger. Why is this important? Because sharp spikes in insulin release promote increased fat deposition in the midsection.

Another dramatic change which you need to make is to drink plenty of water daily. My general rule is to buy an attractive 1 liter bottle, fill it 3 times during the course of a day, and drink all the water you put in that container.

If your abdominal muscles haven’t seen a sit-up in years, you should also incorporate abdominal exercises into your regimen. Here are my three favorite abdominal exercises which work for everyone, from beginners to advanced athletes:

bicycle crunches
ball crunches

If you are consistent with making healthy food choices and getting regular exercise, chances are good that you will see a toned tummy if you are already at a normal weight. If you are overweight, the healthier food choices will help you to slim down and get rid of belly fat, putting you on course for a tighter midsection.

Ham, Cheese and Pickles

During a recent urgent care shift, I encountered a man in his mid-50’s who had presented to the center with complaints of sinus pressure and cough. After I gathered more history and conducted a physical exam, the patient went on a tangent, asking me numerous questions about healthy foods. A commercial construction foreman, he was accustomed to being on site during the day, and insisted that his daily lunch was quite healthy and acceptable. As he prepared to tell me about this daily meal, he beamed with pride. What was it? Several slices of ham from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, a few slices of cheese, and a handful of pickles. He truly believed that the meal he consumed daily was incredibly healthy and nutritious. He even stated that he was consuming a high protein meal with produce (the pickle). The patient went on to tell me that when he was done with work, he often stopped at Arby’s to pick up a sandwich for dinner, and felt that the animal protein from these sandwiches wasn’t harmful in the least.

I shake my head in amazement when I encounter patients who have completely convinced themselves that somehow, their eating habits are completely clean and healthy, when they are actually abysmally deficient in nutritional value. What is more surprising is how insistent these people are on continuing their unhealthy habits, even when they ask for advice. The patient I mentioned above listened to me discuss the power of food as fuel, as sustenance, and nodded when I suggested he visit the fresh produce section of local grocery stores, select uncured meats, and avoid frequenting fast food establishments like Arby’s. I also mentioned that his blood pressure readings of 181/125, 179/127, and 185/122 (non-symptomatic) were rather alarming, especially since he stated that he had “forgotten” to take his blood pressure medications that morning. Was it fair to shake him out of his fog and inform him that with malignant hypertension, and a diet sure to compound the problem, he was on a short course to an unfavorable event like a stroke or heart attack? Did he even care if he was at high risk?

This is the kind of situation which I as a physician must often dance around. I have to determine how receptive a patient is to advice, and I also have to figure out the best way to speak to the patient without offending or discouraging him or her. It can be very tricky to reason with someone who has most likely gone through his entire life somehow believing that ham, cheese and pickles constitute an acceptable daily meal in anyone’s life!

You Truly ARE What You Eat (Updated Post)

you-are-what-you-eatIt’s no secret that fast foods are unhealthy and artery-clogging, but there are impostors which sit on grocery shelves and have people believe they are healthy due to phrases like “Low Fat”, “Good for you”, “Fit ____”, and the list goes on. I encourage my patients to read EVERY label on food containers while perusing the grocery store shelves and aisles and to become aware of preservatives, sugar, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and artificial colorings.

A good general rule to follow is if there are more than five ingredients on a food label, or if there are a bunch of big terms which seem alien and strange to you, chances are that the item has questionable nutritional value and should be avoided. Over the last few years I have developed such an aversion to packaged foods that as soon as I see a food item in a bag, box or can, I tend to avoid it.

An interesting thing begins happening to people when they completely eliminate sugars and processed foods from their diets. They experience increased energy, clearer skin, fewer aches and pains, and lower body fat. If someone has been eating clean for a while and decides to have a sinful treat like pizza, a fast food burger, chips, cake or cookies, he or she will notice a detrimental effect on energy, aches and pains may return, and stubborn pockets of body fat will become more noticeable. I have seen this in myself and cannot stand it. What always occurs with me after I have had a couple of glasses of wine, a piece of cake, or greasy foods is that my digestion is completely thrown off whack and I feel sluggish and achy. In other words, these heavier foods make me feel heavy and tired, while clean, light, fresh foods make me feel energized.

I know some of you are thinking, “Wow, that would be so hard to stay away from processed food all the time!”, but in actuality, it isn’t difficult at all. The first thing you need to do is to clear out your pantry and refrigerator of any processed foods, thus wiping the slate clean. What do you replace those items with? You replace them with wholesome foods, fill up your crisper with fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, and favor single ingredients over packages which have ingredient lists which look like essays. Some of you might complain that you are so busy that it would be a waste to buy fresh fruits and vegetables because they would just rot. For you folks, I recommend purchasing frozen (NOT canned) produce which you can easily thaw out and cook whenever you need to.

And if you think it’s tough to cook clean meals, it really isn’t. A chicken breast can easily be marinated in simple marinades while you are at work (a favorite of mine has Bragg’s Amino Acids, apple cider vinegar, and sesame oil…yummy!), then placed in your broiler to cook. Add some steamed vegetables, and maybe a small serving of quinoa, and you have a healthy, nutritious meal which is a snap to make!

I understand that it can be challenging to find the time to eat whole foods each day, but I am telling you that it is well worth it if you intend to take control of poor eating habits and possibly even reverse disease processes in your body. Give it a try…you will probably love it.

Keep That Body Running Smoothly

I’m willing to bet that most of you who are reading this article keep up to date with scheduled maintenance on your vehicles so that they will run as smoothly as possible. I also know that many of you insist on using a certain brand or grade of gasoline to optimize your car’s performance. Do you take care of your body in the same way, putting healthy, nutritious food into your gullet every day? Do you exercise regularly? If the answer to either or both of those questions is no, then you are neglecting your body’s needs for optimal function, fitness and health. Over time, such bad habits have a cumulative effect and can manifest in countless diseases and dysfunctions, including potential killers like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Just as additives in gasoline can hinder the performance of a car, processed foods will interfere with optimal body functions, and your body must deal with breaking down, eliminating, or storing the chemicals found in packaged meats and other junk foods. The preservatives and artificial colors and flavors which are added to packaged foods trigger production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules which damage the cells of the body and contribute to the development of cancer, atherosclerosis, and aging in general. In contrast, foods which are rich in antioxidants offset this harmful cascade. If your meals regularly consist of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, beans and lean meats, you will be filling your body with clean fuel, providing nutrients which will optimize your health.

Another important component of optimal daily body maintenance is regular exercise. If you can commit to a consistent exercise schedule (and you CAN), you will reap a myriad of benefits, including improved circulation, better cardiac output, improved muscle tone, better concentration, and more energy. Your body is an amazing machine, and just like any machine, will begin to malfunction if it is mishandled or neglected. Regular exercise can be compared to running the engine in your car regularly to keep the pistons and gears running smoothly.

How To Shop For Healthy Foods

From Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide Article I wrote which was posted on their site.

From Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide Article I wrote which was posted on their site.

Grocery stores in the U.S. can be nutritional traps for uneducated shoppers, because processed foods are placed prominently in the center aisles, while nutrient-dense whole foods are pushed to the periphery. It’s a smart marketing ploy, since many shoppers are easily lured by the colorful and appealing packaging which processed foods feature. There’s even a whole science devoted to the psychology behind food labeling! Because of this, I always advise patients and clients to do the majority of their shopping around the perimeter of a grocery store, even in places like Whole Foods, in order to maximize chances of making the healthiest food choices.

Think about it. If a food item can be stored in a box, bag or can at room temperature, it means that it probably has preservatives which keep it from spoiling. Start reading ingredient labels and you might be shocked at what you find. If ingredient labels are excessively long or have long names which you can’t pronounce, you probably should steer clear. Remember that the least processed foods will be assimilated by your body the most readily.
Grocery store junk

Supermarkets and grocery stores are designed to lure you in like a rat in a maze, but instead of getting a reward at the end of the maze, you might be signing up for health issues if you are distracted by all the colorful advertising found on the most popular food items. Keep in mind that these stores are designed to tempt shoppers to make impulse purchases. Such impulse buys can be especially tempting if you are ravenous with hunger when you shop.

Here are some guidelines which will help you to make healthy food choices when perusing a grocery store.

1. Shop around the perimeter of the store – Most processed foods are found in the aisles of a grocery store, while whole foods like fresh produce and meats are found around the perimeter.

2. Read food labels – Be aware of hidden sugar, sodium, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives.

3. Keep purchases of packaged foods to a minimum – Beware of foods which are packaged in boxes, bags, or cans, as these foods tend to be filled with preservatives.

4. Prepare a shopping list and stick to it – Making a list will ensure that you do not forget any necessary items and will also help prevent impulse purchases if you adhere strictly to the items which are on your list.

5. Eat a meal before you shop – If you shop for groceries when you are satiated, you will be less likely to make impulsive purchases or buy more than what you need.

6. Fill your cart with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts and beans.

7. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week – This will add variety to your meal plan.

8. Spend the most time during your shopping trip in the produce section.

9. When choosing whole grain cereals, aim for at least 4 grams of fiber per serving– Make sure the sugar content is minimal.

10. Choose lean cuts of meat – Good beef cuts are round, top sirloin and tenderloin. When buying poultry, purchase the skinless variety.

11. If you can’t purchase fresh fruit, choose frozen fruits and vegetables over the canned variety.

12. Avoid food items that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

13. Be careful when choosing bread – Many refined breads are dark from added molasses, caramel or other coloring. Look for breads which contain 100% whole wheat or other grain as their first ingredient. Try to avoid enriched wheat flour as it is actually made with processed white flour. Make sure the bread you select has at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.

14. Select fish which is high in omega-3 fatty acids – Best selections are salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, and tuna. (Below is a list of seafood lowest in Mercury)
low mercury foods
15. Choose strong-flavor chesses – Sharp cheddar, feta and Parmesan have strong flavors which means you will need to use less to flavor your foods.

16. Purchase Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than other varieties, and the protein content is much higher. My favorite is Fage Total 0-Percent Greek Yogurt.

17. If you must buy frozen entrees, make sure they contain less than 400 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium, with at least 14 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbohydrate.

18. Add vegetables and/or cooked brown rice or quinoa to your frozen entrée to increase the size and nutrition level of the meal.

19. Add fresh or frozen fruit to cooked oatmeal to provide sweetness without added sugar.

20. Eat oatmeal – Make sure to buy regular oatmeal, not the instant variety.

Here’s to happy and healthy shopping!

Eating Clean Makes All The Difference

This abdominal definition truly comes from eating clean 98% of the time.  There are no tricks to this.  I also train abs only one day per week and keep my routine down to about 7 minutes.

This abdominal definition truly comes from eating clean 98% of the time. There are no tricks to this. I also train abs only one day per week and keep my routine down to about 7 minutes.

Last week a guy at the gym approached me and asked me a question I hear frequently, which was “What exercises would you recommend for me to get six-pack abs?”. My response didn’t have anything to do with specific abdominal exercises, but centered around nutrition. I asked the guy what his diet was like, and he revealed that he was of Italian descent and just HAD to have pasta several times per week. He also admitted that he spent many of his evenings drinking an appreciable amount of alcohol. So I told him that his eating and drinking habits guaranteed that he would never see a washboard across his midsection, no matter how many crunches or planks he did. He was so intent on finding a way to get a toned midsection without changing his eating habits that he repeated his question a second time, which made me shake my head and wish him luck as I walked away.

If you are committed to getting a lean midriff, you MUST change your eating habits! You simply cannot have your cake and eat it too when it comes to coaxing those lovely abdominal lines and cross cuts out of hiding. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can somehow get a quick fix by doing a cleanse to repair the damage of a poor diet, or that you can perform a plethora of abdominal moves to somehow melt all the fat that is sitting around your waist. The only effective way to etch those abs is to consume whole foods with minimal to no processing, such as lean meats, grains such as quinoa, rice, and oats, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and eggs. If you are worried that these foods lack the flavor you crave from consuming processed foods, check out the various seasonings, flavored mustards, hot sauces, and other condiments which can add a new dimension to your food.

Once you make the switch to a healthy food regimen, you will probably notice a lot of subtle changes in your overall well-being, such as more energy and clearer skin. After a while, you might even notice your abs peeking out!

Evil Goldfish


Last weekend I went out of town on a much-needed weekend getaway, and I decided to go off the grid with everything from my daily life and wing it. I didn’t pack any whole food, gym clothes, or my computer, and I had no plans to do any work. Since I was in wine country, my main objective was to visit wineries, enjoy the scenery, and to allow myself to consume whatever struck my palate. One winery featured wine and cheese pairings, which is something I would ordinarily refuse. Thank goodness I didn’t deprive myself, because the cheese selections were even more delicious than the wines at that particular winery!

Though I could feel my gut rebelling somewhat against the drastic change in diet, I enjoyed the freedom I had. I still looked for more protein dense food selections while we were exploring the region, and I wolfed down a couple of B-Up Bars for a boost in protein. However, I pretty much gave up on getting my usual 25+ grams of protein with my morning meal while at the bed and breakfast inn where I stayed. The only protein dense food selection at the inn was Greek yogurt, so I had that on Saturday morning with some fresh fruit.

By the end of the day on Saturday, we had visited some wonderful wineries. We made sure to hydrate well the entire time and we also had a big lunch, but I was hungry when we returned to the inn, and since the food selection was so limited (the fruit and yogurt were no longer available at 5 pm), I grabbed a snack sized bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers and began munching on them while chatting with the innkeepers. BIG MISTAKE. About five minutes after consuming the cute little crackers, a feeling of malaise washed over me, and my head began to pound. I excused myself from the table and went to my room, whereupon I crashed onto the bed and held my sore head. The room was blazing hot, even with the ceiling fan whizzing at high speed, and I floated in and out of sleep for about an hour.

We had dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant, so I peeled myself off the bed and got ready even though I felt like I had gotten hit by a truck. And NO, it was NOT the wine which had me feeling this way. Once we were at the restaurant, I ordered an entree which sounded appealing, but by the time the entree arrived, I could not even eat as a result of severe nausea and a splitting headache. That delicious lamb shank I ordered sat on my plate like a forgotten masterpiece.

Now that I realize what got me so sick, I figured I would review the ingredients found in these evil Goldfish crackers. How could something I so gleefully consumed as a child wreak so much havoc on my body as an adult?

→ Ingredients are listed in order of importance (quantity).

Well, for one thing, these crackers are loaded with gluten (from the unbleached enriched wheat flour), and the canola or soybean oil lurking in the crackers also did a number on me. Back in January, I discovered (through ALCAT Testing https://www.alcat.com/) that I had an intolerance to gluten, canola oil, and soybean oil. No wonder I felt so ill! My habit of reading labels and of avoiding any foods which have ingredients of which I am intolerant is something I need to do ALL THE TIME. Just one slip and I had to pay the price!