Food Toxins and Chemicals Linked to Overweight and Obesity

Food Toxins and Chemicals Linked to Overweight and Obesity

We have all heard about the potential dangers of toxins and chemicals in our food. But, do you really know why we’d better keep some foods out of our reach? In this article we’re going to tell you which ingredients you should definitely avoid if you want to stay healthy and fit.

What are toxins?

Toxins are poisonous substances that can be found in our body and our food and which can harm our body organs.

The toxins we’re going to talk about here are called “external toxins”, the ones added artificially to what we eat. These substances can be found basically in EVERYTHING we use day-by-day, from our shampoo to drinking water.

Chemical food additives and weight gain

Every step of the process that puts food on our table (production, harvesting, processing, packing, transport, marketing, and consumption) uses all kind of chemicals. The problem is that some of these chemicals remain in our food and would even persist in our bodies, damaging our overall health.

Recent research has shown that chemical agents in our food can affect our metabolism and trigger the body to pack on pounds. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, a factor contributing to the obesity epidemic is our exposure to obesogens.

The term obesogen was coined in 2006 to refer to industrial chemicals and the non-caloric components of food that may contribute to weight gain. That’s why it is important to know which of the ingredients in our day-to-day food should be avoided.

Food toxins you should avoid

Most of the chemicals present in American processed food were created in the lab to improve shelf life, reduce mass food production costs or enhance visual appearance of colorful additives.

The bad news is that most of these chemicals make more harm than good, and that’s why we should take some time to read nutritional labels (you can learn here how) and find out which products deserve a place in our shopping trolley.

When you buy your food, it’s very important to make sure they DON’T CONTAIN the following ingredients:

  1. Trans Fats: Food with trans fats raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers your “good” HDL. They also increase your risk of blood clots and heart attack. Most of “junk” food, doughnuts, pizzas, and margarine sticks contain trans fats.
  2. Vegetable shortening: Shortening or partially hydrogenated oil clogs your arteries and cause overweight and obesity. They also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. It’s commonly found in cookies, pasta, snacks, and microwave popcorn. You’d better choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut and canola oils and foods that contain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids instead.
  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): According to researchers at Tufts University, Americans consume more calories from HFCS than any other source. It’s in practically EVERYTHING: sodas, ketchup, bottled juices, sweetened yoghurts… everything tasting sweet. It increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to overeat and gain weight.
  4. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) & BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): These food preservatives have been declared carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It’s also been found they disrupt hormones and impact male fertility. They’re found in processed meats, chewing gum, butters and margarines, cereals, and frozen potatoes.
  5. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/rBST): Produces elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in dairy products. Besides, it’s a significant factor in breast, prostate and colon cancers. These are commonly found in dairy products, such as milk, yoghurts, ice creams, etc.
  6. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Almost 70% of processed foods are made of GMOs, which may cause organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. As basically no product clearly states being a GMO, you should look for a certified USDA Organic, then you’ll know it’s not a GMO.
  7. Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate: Benzene is a known carcinogen linked with serious thyroid damage. They’re normally found in sodas, juices, jams, and syrups. Dangerous levels of benzene can build up when plastic bottles of soda are exposed to heat or when the preservatives are combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C contained in any citrus fruit).
  8. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This is a processed “flavor enhancer”, so it’s common to find them in packed snacks, instant soups, chicken-broth substitutes, etc. High levels of free glutamates have been shown to seriously screw with brain chemistry.
  9. Artificial colors: Added to supplements and foods to make them look more attractive, some of the artificial coloring comes from toxic coal tar (used inside the exterior paints and roofing), and have been linked to many health problems such as autism, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and cancer.
  10. Artificial Sweeteners: Many of our supposedly diet-friendly sweeteners may actually be doing more harm than good! Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners trick the brain into forgetting that sweetness means extra calories, making people more likely to keep eating sweet treats without abandon.

As you can see, most of the foods we buy at the supermarket contain one or more of these ingredients. However, eating wisely can become a lot easier than you think. It’s just a question of being aware of the portions and ingredients that best suits a healthy lifestyle, so #DecideItNow.

How to Read Food Nutrition Labels

How to Read Food Nutrition Labels

Going to the supermarket can become a real challenge when you’re trying to lose weight or simply looking for healthy food. Shelves are packed with lots of options, each stating to be the best… but, how to choose the food products which best suit our needs? In this article we’re going to give you some tips that will help you make wiser decisions for your grocery shopping.

What are Food Nutrition Labels?

Food labels are the panels found on a package of food and which contains a variety of information about the nutritional content inside a package of food. By law, all food manufacturers are required to provide them, and they can help us to:

  • Compare between food products more easily.
  • Find out the nutritional value of the foods you usually consume.
  • Better manage your special dietary needs (e.g. low sodium, low-carb, or low-sugar diets).
  • Increase or decrease your intake of a particular nutrient (for example, increase fiber, decrease saturated fat)

Decoding Food Labels

Food labels are broken up into sections to make it easy for you to read and understand the nutrition found on a particular food item. Here are the 5 very easy steps from the American Heart Association that will help you understand the information in your food labels:

1. Check the serving size

This will tell you the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container (package). A good idea is to compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat. If you eat the serving size shown on the “Nutrition Facts Table” you will get the number of calories and nutrients that are listed.

2. Check out the calories

Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving of a packaged food. You should pay attention to the calories per serving and how many servings you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients.

3. Check the Percent Daily Value (% Daily Value)

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient per serving, based on the daily recommended amount. It can help you determine if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.

The %DV is very useful when you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), or if you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber). And it can also be used to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day.

4. Get less of these nutrients

The nutrients listed first are the ones Americans generally eat in adequate amounts, or even too much, and which should be eaten moderately or even avoided:

  • Total fat (especially saturated fat and/or trans fat)
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

5. Get more of these nutrients

These are the nutrients most Americans don’t get enough, and which can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.

  • Calcium
  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium*
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

*Note: The listing of potassium is optional on the Nutrition Facts Label.

Some extra (and useful) facts

  • Food labels are based on a 2,000-calories diet a day. We consume less or more than that depending on our age, gender, activity level, and whether we’re trying to lose, gain or maintain our weight.
  • Many food packages contain more than one serving, so if you’re eating the whole package, you should multiply the information by the number of servings contained in it.
  • Being familiar with %DV, can help you to compare foods and decide which is the better choice for you. Be sure to check for the particular nutrients you want more of or less of.

If you still don’t know which foods are best for you, our therapists at Forma Vital will provide you with professional advice according to your dietary needs. #DecideItNow, and we will help you choose your food wisely.

How to Strengthen Your Willpower and Achieve Your Goals

How to Strengthen Your Willpower and Achieve Your Goals

According to the survey Stress in America™, carried out by the American Psychological Association, Americans usually cite lack of willpower as their No. 1 reason for not achieving their health-related lifestyle goals. And how are we supposed to survive temptations when we’re bombarded with ads for high-calorie treats, and fast, processed food is available 24/7, often at a lower cost than healthier options?

Willpower, the road toward long-term goals

Willpower can be defined as the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. With more self-control, we could have better eating habits, avoid overusing alcohol and drugs, save more money, and reach all kinds of goals. As a matter of fact, scholars such as Eli Tsukayama have found that people with a better self-control are less likely to become overweight, thanks to their ability to control impulses and delay gratification.

Researchers have also found that willpower can be depleted, having an impact over a range of behaviors, including substance use and misuse, impulsive purchasing, and excessive food intake. The good news, they don’t believe willpower is ever completely exhausted. On the contrary, we all appear to keep some in reserve, and we’re even capable of strengthen it with practice.

6 strategies to reboot your willpower

According to Roy Baumeister, our beliefs and attitudes may mitigate the effects of willpower depletion. When high motivation is not enough to overcome weakened willpower, you may find the following strategies pretty useful:

  1. When our glucose levels are low, we’re more susceptible to overeating. Eating regularly to maintain blood-sugar levels in the brain may help refuel run-down willpower stores. Just remember that if you’re trying to keep off extra pounds, you should eat frequent small meals and snacks rather than spending long periods of time without any food.
  2. When you set goals, be sure to meet your own personal objectives, and don’t try to fulfill others’ expectations. When it comes to willpower, being in touch with ourselves yield better results than pleasing others. Willpower is YOUR choice. If you decide to make some changes in your day-by-day habits, you should be truly convinced to do so: the only person you have to please is yourself. If you go on a diet just because your friends, family, or couple want you to lose weight, you’ll have to make a greater effort than if you were doing it because you want a better version of yourself.
  3. Flexing your willpower muscles can strengthen self-control over time. Regular physical exercise leads not only to stronger muscles, but will exert your willpower as well. Exercising for the first time requires a lot of willpower, but once you’ve begun, it becomes a routine. The same happens with every change you’d pursue in your life; exercising is a routine that also strengthens your willpower.
  4. Don’t set too many goals at the same time. Once a good habit is in place, you won’t need your willpower to maintain the behavior. Healthy habits will become a routine and you won’t need self-control either; it is then that you can put the next goal in your calendar.
  5. You can try the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. If you’re trying to get rid of extra pounds, you can try keeping junk, fattening food out of sight, it’ll be easier not to fall into temptation.
  6. Use “if-then” statements to plan those situations you know might make you fall. For instance, if you’re watching your alcohol intake and you’re attending a party, you can think, “If I’m offered a drink, then I’ll ask for a soda instead”. Having a plan in place ahead of time may allow you to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower.

Having willpower will bring you positive life outcomes, such as higher self-esteem, lower intakes of damaging substances, and improved eating habits, which will lead you to a better physical and mental health. It might not be easy at first, but if you #DecideItNow, you’ll soon realize it was worth the effort.

How To Succeed In Your New Year’s Resolutions

How To Succeed In Your New Year’s Resolutions

According to research studies, 50% of Americans make a list with their New Year’s Resolutions: losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and save money are in the top of our lists. However, only 12% manage to achieve these goals. That’s why here we’re going to tell you some strategies that can help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions.

You can prepare yourself to succeed in your resolutions

Changing our behaviors is no piece of cake, and might be a harder work than we expect. One of the biggest problems is that we’re not properly “ready” for changing our lives only because we change of year.

If you really want to succeed, being prepared for these changes is an essential stage. And even if we know there are no foolproof plans, we all need a start point. Here are some strategies you can use to be prepared for your New Year’s resolutions:

  • Commit yourself when you’re TRULY ready: There are some times which are definitely better than others; goals are easily achieved when the context is suitable for them to happen. For instance, if you decide to go on a diet during the holidays, it’s very likely you’ll end up, either falling off the diet wagon, or become really frustrated. But if you choose a time when you know you can prepare your own meals and won’t be so socially active, your diet won’t become a nightmare, but a definite success!
  • Be aware of success and failure: Leaving bad habits behind is not that easy, and you may have relapses. If you plan how this could happen, you can make a contingency plan. You can even try to re-commit one month from your start date and see how things are going.
  • Go for specific and measurable goals: It isn’t very effective to say “I want to lose weight”; but if you say “I will work out three days of a week for 30-minutes” you can be measuring your progress towards your deadline and not just leave your resolution up in the air.
  • Start with the most reachable goals: If we begin with small and manageable goals, which success we can see in a couple of weeks, we feel very motivated to add more goals… and successes!
  • Strengthen your willpower: As Roy Baumeister suggests, willpower is limited. Every time we start a new behavior or quit an old one we use our willpower “supply”. If we set too many goals, we get physically and mentally exhausted. If you try to achieve them little by little, you’ll have more chances to succeed and, therefore, you’ll strengthen your willpower.
  • Build your resilience: What doesn’t kill us make us stronger, and gives us the chance to adapt well in the face of adversity and to be able to bounce back from setbacks. When we’re resilient, we can fall and stand up again to achieve our dreams.
  • Reward yourself when succeed: Instead of punishing yourself for missing goals, be proud for what you’ve achieved. Start thinking about what your rewards will be. Just remember these rewards should be meaningful for you and motivate you to fulfill your resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are a good way to bring out the best in us and improve our lives. If you really want to make some meaningful changes this coming year, #DoItNow, there’s no better way nor time to start. And by the way, Happy New Year!

Some Little Tricks to Survive Xmas Overeating

Some Little Tricks to Survive Xmas Overeating

With Christmas just around the corner, all our attention is focused on festivities: gifts, toasts, and food, lots of food. Clearly, the main objective of the holidays is not to forget about your healthy eating habits or to gain weight. December holidays must be a cause for celebration, a tradition that reminds us the importance of family and friends. However, it can become a real torment for those who have been fighting overweight throughout the year.

Thinking about the pounds you might gain during the holidays terrifies you?

According to data from Treated.com, an average American eats about 3,300 calories on Christmas day, which makes almost 7,000 calories during all the festivity; that is, more than three times the daily intake recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture!

Without a doubt, that overindulgence of food and drink has a negative impact on our body weight. A survey from the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that we gain between 7 and 10 pounds during this holiday season, which can ruin all our past year’s efforts and even take away our desire to try to lose weight again.

Christmas time survival guide

The good news is that following these simple tricks you can avoid regaining weight but will still be able to enjoy the delicious Xmas recipes.

  1.Use smaller plates

Big plates are in style today; they’re pretty “chic”, but they can make us overeat. According to Brian Wansink, specialist in psychology of eating from Cornell, using smaller plates also decreases the amount of food we eat and reduces in 60% our calorie intake. The same happens with tumblers, so you’d better chose tall skinny tumblers instead of small ones.

  2.Don’t skip meals waiting for the “great feast”

Skipping breakfast, and even supper to “make room” for Christmas dinner, it’s a really bad idea. When we arrive with an empty stomach we run the risk of overindulging. It’s best not to leave without having breakfast; take a light, though substantial, meal. If you’re going to a dinner, don’t forget to eat something healthy to curb your cravings.

  3.Continue with your workout routine

During this season, full of reunions and dinners, we usually forget to do exercise. Remember that physical activity boosts your metabolism and whets your appetite in the morning, which keeps you from skipping breakfast. Believe it or not, that will prevent you from overeating and will make you enjoy food more.

  4.Eat strategically

The utmost objective of Christmas is neither try EVERY dish, nor eat them in large amounts, so you’ve got no excuse to leave your healthy eating habits behind. If you have the chance, choose eating more vegetables and low-fat food instead of meals rich in sugar and/or fat.

  5.Be aware with desserts

We know it’s almost impossible saying “no” to a delicious Christmas dessert, but you may choose desserts with less sugar and more cinnamon, or pick up an apple strudel and not a chocolate cake. Your dessert will be as delicious, but you won’t gain weight.

  6.Look out for yourself

Pre-Christmas toasts and dinners are the first of a long series of festivities; Christmas and New Year’s dinners, Three King’s Day, and their corresponding after-parties, to say nothing about reunions with friends and colleagues. That’s why you should look out for yourself daily. If possible, do a detox (here we tell you how) a few days before special feasts; don’t stop your workout routine; and, mostly, don’t abuse your body overeating.

Christmas season is the best time to celebrate our achievements and reward ourselves. However, #DecideItNow; don’t lose sight of your objectives. You can share this season’s delicious meals in moderation. Remember that, even if making a pause during Christmas is up for grabs, it’s not worthy to throw all your past efforts for achieving your ideal weight down the drain.