Nutrition

Do You Have to Go Low Carb to Lose Weight?

Do You Have to Go Low Carb to Lose Weight?

Carbohydrates have become demonized when trying to lose weight. If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to get in shape by controlling carbs, calories, macros, etc. Restriction always ends in frustration and a rebound.

I have clients come to me all the time saying they struggle with the amount of carbs they eat. They think if they just eat low carb they will lose the weight they’ve been struggling for years to lose.

But we know weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. At the most basic level, we burn calories through our metabolism and physical activity. Activity includes exercise (cardio + lifting weights) and lifestyle activities (walking, parking far away, taking the stairs, gardening, dancing, etc).


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While quality of food is important for overall health and body composition, to lose weight it always comes down to the calorie equation. Eat less calories than we burn, we will lose weight, regardless of how many carbohydrates we eat. Consistently eat more calories than we burn, we will gain weight, no matter how healthy our food choices.

Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred source of fuel. When we eat carbs, they get converted into glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver. Glycogen is the primary source of fuel during intense exercise. Low-carb diets diminish glycogen stores which inhibits performance, workout recovery and muscle growth.

Carbohydrate and protein are very chemically different than the molecules that make up body fat. They get heavily processed in the body before being able to be stored as body fat. Dietary fat is more chemically similar to body fat, so it requires very little energy for converting into body fat. Consistently eating in a caloric surplus where the majority of the surplus is from dietary fat is guaranteed to cause fat gain. Another point to mention is if a meal is higher in fat, keeping carbs low (and vice versa: if a meal is high in carbs, keeping fats lower) helps control caloric intake and therefore fat loss.

Healthy Carbs List

The biggest problem with carbs is they’re easy to overeat since they tend to be processed and hyperpalatable (hello bread, chips, crackers, and pasta…). If we stick to the healthiest complex carbohydrates which include vegetables, fruit, and grains like oats, rice, yams, quinoa, and potatoes, our blood sugar will remain relatively stable and we’re less likely to overeat. Energy levels won’t dip and we’ll be satiated for hours. These complex carbs contain beneficial dietary fiber which promotes digestion and keeps us full after a meal.

If you overeat a food, it’s best to cut it out almost entirely. For me, it’s pizza and a fresh homemade or bakery chocolate chip cookie. The solution I take is to not keep it in the house, and occasionally I’ll include it in my 10% flexibility.

It’s super common among my clients to overeat bread which is usually paired with butter. If you’re someone who struggles with this, limiting the amount of bread you eat can directly help you lose weight.

Most diets restrict the amount of carbs you can eat, which helps you lose pounds overnight. This quick weight loss is simply due to the depletion of water and glycogen in your liver and muscle tissue. Ever go on vacation and when you come home the scale says you’ve put on several pounds? Good news is most of this is just water retention.

For most people, cutting out an entire macronutrient is completely unsustainable. When we tell ourselves we can’t have something, it becomes all we think about. We can only rely on willpower for so long. A balanced approach to food is the key to sustainable weight loss.

We can’t possibly control the food at every event or restaurant. We can however make the best decision given our options. We know caloric restriction is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss. So grilled, baked and broiled will trump breaded, fried and buttery foods. Chicken or fish, vegetables and a baked potato is a great option compared to  something higher in fat and heavily processed like a creamy pasta alfredo. Our results are based on what we do 80-90% of the time. We don’t have to be perfect. We can still enjoy our favorite foods in moderation 10% of the time.

The average person does well with 40-55% of their calories from carbohydrates. This level promotes good energy, reduces cravings, improves workout performance and overall mood.

It’s important to experiment and find what works best for you. If you have more fat to lose and/or are less active, you’ll fall at the lower range for carbs. If you are very active and/or don’t have much weight to lose, you can get away with eating more carbs. So the biggest takeaway is to listen to your own body and not be afraid to include quality complex carbohydrates as a regular part of your diet.

If you need more help on putting together a workout routine and nutrition plan that’s balanced, healthy and maintainable, check out Sweat and Sculpt here.

Sugar Addiction: How I Quit

Sugar Addiction: How I Quit Mine

My sugar addiction and how I quit, is a story I’ve never fully shared. Every week I talk to women who struggle with sugar cravings in the afternoon and at night. They will eat to the point of feeling sick, feeling like they can’t stop. They’re frustrated that they can’t be consistent enough to reach their goals. They’re sick of cycling between days of eating too much or depriving themselves on a restrictive diet. I hear this so often that I felt inspired to share my personal struggle and how I overcame binge eating, disordered eating and sugar addiction.

Popular diets tell us we need to have more willpower, drink a magic supplement, track all our calories and macros, cut out entire food groups, and weigh and measure all our food. But we know this isn’t the answer, diets don’t lead to permanent fat loss, but instead years and sometimes a lifetime of diet hopping.

I’ve had a sweet tooth all my life. As a child it was cookies or brownies in the afternoon and ice cream after dinner. But when I started to become disciplined in my diet, and told myself I couldn’t have sugar was when binge episodes appeared and when food would control my life from age 21 to 24.

The biggest triggers were after drinking alcohol or trying to follow a restrictive diet that cut out entire food groups or held me to a specific calorie count. At holidays or events, I’d usually go crazy on drinks and/or sweets and then come home and continue to eat more. I’d go for the chips, ice cream or cookies first, but since I don’t keep unhealthy foods in the house, I usually binged on cereal, oatmeal, protein bars, yogurt, brown rice pasta, chocolate chips, and “healthy” homemade desserts like paleo banana bread. 

I was obsessed with trying to be perfect with my workouts and tracking my calories and macros. I was so fixated on food, that it became debilitating. I remember trying to follow restrictive diets that cut out entire food groups (carbs, soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, gluten, etc.). But then I’d go out to a restaurant and it was impossible to enjoy myself because I’d be worrying about things like if there was dairy or soy in the salad dressing.

I would track calories during the day and was under-eating, so I’d have all these extra calories leftover at night. I’d eat things like peanut butter and chocolate which would immediately put me over the daily calories. I was obsessive over what I was eating and would make zero progress.

Many nights I’d eat non-stop from 8pm-11pm and then barely sleep and wake up feeling awful, not even hungry sometimes for 2 days after a binge. Wondering why I kept overdosing on sugar and feeling like I failed. My body felt awful mentally and physically after a binge. After overeating I’d feel so full, tired, and irritable. I was disgusted with myself. This went on for years, going from one binge to the next and in between trying to be very healthy and go on a sugar detox, but inevitably I’d always just eat more desserts the next day.

Despite my “clean” diet during most of the week and exercising 4x/week, I had a continuous fluff around my midsection, even my face was puffy. My energy was terrible and I didn’t feel like myself. I was totally frustrated because I felt like I was putting in all the work, but my inconsistency was preventing me from getting the results I wanted. It felt like fitness was taking over my entire life in order to have my ideal body and lifestyle. 

After every binge I would journal and blame myself, saying all I needed was more self-control or willpower, that I just needed to stop. While eating healthy and exercising made me feel amazing, which was enough motivation for me to do so, I was also telling myself I couldn’t have one single cookie. When we tell ourselves we can’t have something, it’s literally all we can think about. And then when we allow ourselves to finally have one, the floodgates open and we feel like we can’t stop.

The biggest shift came when I focused on eating for health and longevity instead of trying to attain some fitness model’s physique. It was a practice to stop under-eating during the workday, to stop obsessing over being gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, to stop watching the clock to be sure I ate every 2-3 hours. I allowed myself to have the real thing instead of making “healthy” desserts that I’d overeat because they weren’t satiating.

Eventually the binges got further apart to where I couldn’t remember the last one. I realized I was finally not thinking about food after dinner and no longer had sugar cravings. I learned how to be easier on myself, and how to eat my favorite things in moderation and find balance. I can finally enjoy parties, birthdays and holidays and not stress over it. Having self-compassion and letting go of the perfectionism self-talk was key to finding balance.

I wish I’d reached out for help sooner instead of taking all the blame. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about helping my clients learn how to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, is I never want anyone to feel as frustrated or helpless as I did. We shouldn’t feel like a failure because we have a slice of homemade apple pie on a holiday. If you suffer from uncontrollable cravings or finding a healthy balanced lifestyle and workout routine, I would love to help you with Private Coaching.

Sugar Addiction: How I Quit Mine for Good in 5 Steps

Ditch the Diet

Diets have a 95% failure rate. The problem is most diets are highly restrictive, and when we come off of them we put back on all the weight. If we can't eat the way we're eating for the rest of our lives, it's not sustainable. I thought if I could be more perfect in my diet that the binging and cravings would go away, but dieting made it worse. I was food obsessed, in a cycle of restricting and binging. Instead of dieting, we can eat nutrient-rich unprocessed whole foods that naturally regulate appetite and satiety.

I began to eat like an adult. Lean protein, vegetables and healthy fats at every meal. Complex carbohydrates based on how active I was. When we eat mindfully, we can recognize when we’re full or when we need to increase calories because we’re more active.

Sleep

Sleep is my anchor. If I don’t get 7 to 8 hours, my body feels totally out of balance. I get cravings and become less driven by my goals. When I was binge eating late at night I’d get poor quality sleep and was always in a cycle of being exhausted.

Lack of sleep directly increases cortisol, the stress hormone. It also disrupts hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that regulate appetite and fullness. For more ideas on how to get better quality sleep, read this article.

Break the Habit

A habit is any behavior done automatically and repeatedly without really thinking about it. Usually we are in a state of reacting to our subconscious beliefs. Once we become aware and decide to consciously respond, we can change our habits which will change our realities.

I unconsciously used food and alcohol as a way to soothe and distract myself from whatever emotion I was feeling. For most of my disordered eating I was at a job I was unhappy and completely bored with. I relied on food to create that happiness. When I pursued a career I was passionate about, and focused on the type of person I needed to become in order to be the best coach and trainer, I felt more creativity, happiness and excitement.

Realistically we can’t all leave a job because it makes us unhappy. But we can implement new habits that make us feel good. Instead of going into the kitchen we can: draw a bath, read an inspirational book or watch your favorite TV show. When we make time for more things we love during the week, whether it be walking in nature, a yoga class, calling a friend, we feel happier and more fulfilled without having to turn to food. Make a list right now of 10 to 20 things that make you feel good. What did you love to do when you were a kid?

As an extroverted introvert I can only last so long at a party. When I stay too long I find myself reaching for more drinks or food to take the edge off. I decided to stay at home on the weekends more and watch a good movie and go to bed early, instead of mindlessly partying and drinking. I also made a point to surround myself with positive people.

Eat for Health and Longevity

When we decide to eat and train for nourishment and strength, it becomes a lifestyle. The sustainable path to results is one where healthy habits are compounded over time to where they become who we are. When I started to view food as fuel and nourishment and practice portion control, being lean year-round became more effortless.

Practice Moderation

Moderation and balance are a practice. We don’t wake up one day and learn how to eat just one cookie or even a few bites of one. This looks different for everyone. It took time to get rid of the mindset that I needed to reward myself with food because I was “good” all week.

There are still times I’ll turn down dessert, but now it’s not because my “diet” says I can’t have it, it’s because I choose not to because maybe I’m full, not in the mood, content with a cup of tea or it’s not my favorite flavor. Instead of eating 100% clean all week, I eat a 90% unprocessed diet and enjoy 10% flexibility for my favorite things which are high quality treats like cheese, dark chocolate or wine. Indulgence is now a choice not a failure.

The first and most important step is to speak with someone about your disordered eating. Consult a counselor or psychologist to uncover the emotions behind binge episodes.

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Best Healthy Food in Westport CT

As a personal trainer in Westport, CT I get asked all the time about where to pick up a healthy breakfast or lunch in town. When schedules get busy or we want to meet up with a friend, these are all easy go-tos you can feel good about eating.

When ordering out my biggest tip is to look for things that are made from real ingredients and as fresh as possible. Raw, grilled, steamed and citrusy instead of fried, sautéed, sugary and creamy. Bonus points for organic, GMO free, gluten free and locally sourced. All meals should include a lean protein, fresh vegetables and some healthy fat. If I workout, I’ll add a complex carb like fruit, rice, potatoes, quinoa or oats.


Green & Tonic

best healthy restaurants westport connecticut

My day starts early and between training my clients and then training myself, I need to be well-fueled. I love knowing what I'm putting in my body is the real thing with no chemicals. A plant-based cafe, the entire menu is gluten free, dairy free and vegan, offering options for any food preference. They have coffee and tea, smoothies and smoothie bowls, salads, soups, wraps, meals and baked goods.

My go-to order is a steamed Mexican Mocha and a Zenergy Smoothie or Power Acaí Bowl bowl.

The Mexican Mocha is cold brew coffee, almond mylk, cacao powder, and cinnamon. Then they add a pinch of cayenne and dash of agave for the perfect spicy and sweet combination. It's served over ice, but I usually asked for it steamed especially in colder months.

The Zenergy Smoothie Bowl is matcha green tea, banana, spinach, almond butter, coconut mylk, cinnamon, bee pollen, hemp seeds & granola. It's the perfect mix of nutrients, healthy fats, and superfoods to fuel you through the morning or recovery post-workout. The Power Acaí Bowl is a delicious blend of acaí, banana, almond mylk, almond butter, chia seeds & granola. Acaí berries are full of energy-boosting and anti-aging phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Cos Cob, and Greenwich


The Granola Bar

best healthy restaurants westport connecticut

The perfect cute and casual restaurant to meet up with a friend. I like The Standard which is 3 eggs any style with bacon and greens and a Hot Ginger Lemon Tea. The Shrek smoothie is also great and you can add pea protein. They have build your own avocado toast, with toppings like apple and goat cheese, buffalo chicken, or a soft egg. Then there’s salads like the nourishing Macro Bowl or protein-packed Naughty Cobb.
Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich and Stamford


Organika

A plant-based kitchen offering juices, meals and snacks that are all gluten free, GMO free, vegan and vegetarian. I love the protein bowls like the Nourish Bowl and a Health-ade Kombucha or the Protein Boost Smoothie. Every item is totally aligned with their motto: "Let food be they medicine and medicine be they food" -Hippocrates. We are what we eat, and it's great to see more local places with nourishing foods you can feel good about eating.
Southport and New Canaan 


The Simple Greek

best healthy restaurants westport connecticut

A fast-casual restaurant offering a mix of flavors from the Greece and Mediterranean seaboard with build your own bowls (rice or lentil), salads and gyros. There’s also vegan toppings like lentils, beans and hummus. My go-to order is a salad or rice bowl + chicken gyro + lentils + cucumbers + kalamata olives or pickled onions + hummus + feta cheese + tzatziki. SO good!
Norwalk


Garelick and Herbs

When I need a quick and healthy lunch, I’ll pop in here for a delicious salad. All their food is organic and prepared fresh. My favorite salad creation is an arugula base + grilled chicken + sun-dried tomatoes + chickpeas + cucumbers + avocado with ginger dressing. They also have seasonal soups, grain salads, entrees and great coffee.
Southport, Westport, New Canaan, and Greenwich


Embody Fitness Gourmet

Shakes, juices, salad bowls and protein+veggie bowls all with ingredients you can feel good about. They're open every day for breakfast and lunch. I love the Embody Bowl which has eggs, turkey bacon, a sprinkle of cheddar and veggies. The Deep Green Juice with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, mint and ginger is another favorite.
Westport, Darien and New Canaan

For the complete guide to eating at any restaurant while traveling or on the go, download your free Restaurant Guide: Healthy Insider Tips for Eating on the Go!
It’s the ultimate guide for eating or ordering out food while still feeling lean, fit and healthy.

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Trader Joe’s Haul and Meal Prep Favorites

I meet with clients every week who tell me they struggle with meal prep and staying on track when life gets in the way. When we don’t have a meal plan for the week, we lack consistency and don't get the results we want. I always have foods like these on hand, so I can whip up a meal in ten minutes or less. I also go over my top 4 tips on how to read a food label.