Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tips for Raising Paleo Kids

Changing your diet is hard enough... So what happens when you're trying to get your kids on board as well? I know there are a few article out there already on the topic, but I'd like to mention a few other points that may be beneficial. The following list is based on kids that are 9+ years old.

1. Sit down and talk to the kids about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and why it's important.
This is CRUCIAL. Don't talk to them about this when they're watching TV, or when they're eating, or when they're glued to a screen. Plan a meeting, and bring some paper and pens. Sit down with them and have them realize the consequences that a poor diet will have on their health (diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer.. Or to a lesser extreme but possibly more realistic to them may be acne, IBS, allergies, insomnia, irregular/delayed/early menses, mood swings, low energy or inability to exercise, and of course the obvious, weight gain.) These factors are ALL directly linked to the foods that we eat, and our "gut integrity". The gut can be considered like a "second brain"... What we eat literally has a direct effect on our mood, hormones, and the way our metabolism functions. It is not just about "calories in/calories out", and I would NEVER ask kids to count calories, as this creates a very unhealthy relationship with food. If you think about it, they already may have an unhealthy relationship with food. It may be a fix for boredom, stress, fatigue, or just because "it's there" or "it tastes good." You may be able to relate to this as well. This is just as unhealthy as somebody who is obsessed with calorie counting. Food should definitely be enjoyed and celebrated, but it should be used to NOURISH the body and not eaten out of emotion. I think it's wise to eat based on how that meal is going to make you feel later rather than eat based on how that meal is going to make you feel in the present.

2. Ask them to write down their favorite "healthy" foods or meals.
I mention the paper and pens because I want them to write down all of their favorite "healthy" foods. Here are some "appropriate" options:

Any type of vegetable (peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, winter/summer squash, brussel sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, okra, cauliflower, peppers, etc)
Any type of fruit, preferably not dried (bananas, avocado, apples, grapes, pears, citrus fruits, berries, etc)
Any type of meat/protein (beef, pork, poultry, eggs, bacon, game meat, etc)
Any type of nuts (almonds, coconut, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc)
Any type of starch (red/purple/russet potatoes, corn, white rice)

Perhaps make some meal suggestions like "brussel sprouts and bacon", "crispy chicken thighs", or "pulled pork." I didn't list any dairy because I think it'd be beneficial to just get off it completely, aside from organic, real butter (5$/lb.) Dairy is notorious for causing hormonal disruptions including acne, allergies, or even headaches. It can also behave on the body just like sugar does! If you do choose to include dairy, it's actually better to have FULL-fat, organic, pasture-raised. If you do allow cheese, it's best to choose hard cheeses that don't have a lot of lactose (milk sugar) in them. Also, dairy should NEVER be a "staple" and should never be made into a whole meal. The same goes for nuts, nut butter, or starches. These should be used more like CONDIMENTS. A small serving! Also, nuts should not be roasted with oils. Buy them raw and unsalted. Roasted nuts are usually rancid and often contain mold that can cause gastric distress. Go raw!

3. Ask them to write down WHY they want to commit to this.
What has the biggest effect on our decisions? Emotional attachment. Make sure they are not just doing this because "you told them to" or because "it's the right thing to do" or some other nonsense. They're doing this because they WANT TO. You MUST establish this before moving forward, or you'll never get anywhere. Make them recognize that this isn't going to be hell, and that they will feel MUCH better. That you are not depriving them of their favorite foods, you are just introducing new foods that will make them FEEL good and soon become their NEW favorite foods.

4. Plan a "cooking day".
A huge part of getting the kids on board is actively involving them in the process. During the week, tell them to go lookup recipes they want to try that includes any whole foods. One day a week (to begin with,) rile up everybody to go to the grocery store and collect all the ingredients. Then go home and cook together! Become involved with the preperation of food. Meals should include a protein (say 3-4oz per person,) a vegetable (as much as you want,) a fat (say 1-2tbs per person, but more/less based on appetite. Think of fat as FUEL! This is your primary source of energy and calories. If you're still hungry after a meal, you need to add more fat in the form of butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or lard.)

5. Gradually make every meal a whole foods meal.
First off, establish regular meal times. For example, breakfast at 7am, lunch at noon, dinner at 6pm. Try to eliminate all snacking, but it should be quite easy to stop since cravings will drastically decrease and meals will be so satiating that there should not be hunger throughout the day. Typically, snacking will just stop naturally. If snacking is still an issue, try providing them with 1oz raw nuts, or a small piece of fruit, or a handful of raw veggies and homemade dressing, or boiled eggs. An ounce of hard cheese, shredded coconut, or cold meat may also be good choices.

You may find it easier to start going "paleo" with one meal a day. For instance, breakfast might be a big pile of bacon and eggs. No time to cook? Leftovers make a great breakfast. Other options may include smoothies comprised of full-fat, canned coconut milk, one piece of fruit (berries, banana, or an avocado work great,) big handful of spinach (you don't taste it at all,) 1-2 scoops pure EGG protein powder (with no additives/sugar,) or some other goodies (nut butter, cinnamon, cocoa powder, etc.) If they're drinking a giant shake full of protein, fat, and nutrients, I doubt they will need any mid-morning snacks! As this becomes habit, slowly transition into whole foods lunches. This is why I suggest a cooking day. When I was super busy with my PTA internships, I used to spend quite a few hours on Sunday preparing my food for the whole week. I didn't view it as a chore, but something actually enjoyable. Crockpot meals are especially easy, and I'm pretty sure there are microwaves at school cafeterias to warm up their food. If this still isn't cutting it, you may opt for some gluten-free sandwich bread. It's expensive and NOT preferrable to real, unprocessed food, but would be a far better choice than just leaving them to pizza and chips in the ala carte line. And don't put all the work on yourself; have them actively participate by having them make their own lunches!

6. Ask them to choose a physical activity they want to do.
It doesn't have to be at school or a club; it might just be bikeriding, running, or dancing at home! I really suggest enrolling them into Crossfit Kids, although it can be a little expensive. Even joining a weight lifting club would be an EXCELLENT option, and compliments a "paleo" diet very well. Giving them an activity will give them more incentive to eat better, because they will soon realize that eating Mcdonalds before a basketball game (or whatever) will make them feel worse AND perform worse than if they ate a healthy meal of steak with sweet potatoes covered in butter!

7. Throw out everything in your pantry.
Pile up all the junk food, processed foods, etc. and put it in a big box. Send it to someone you hate. :-) Or, donate to charity. Getting the crap out of the house is a BIG step that is one of the most important. Pantry items that are OK may be plain rice, canned tuna/fish, canned vegetables, olive/coconut oils, vinegars, unsweetened coconut (flakes/shredded), 75%+ dark chocolate, coconut milk, raw nuts/seeds, small servings of dried fruit (do NOT make this a staple, it's just like candy!)

BONUS: 8. Get thrifty with your purchases.
For one person, it costs me about 30-40$ a week to eat like this. To keep things cheap, I only buy meat that is between 1-3$ a pound, and vegetables that are under 2$ a pound. I primarily buy sale items, so I keep track of all the weekly specials at various grocery stores. My cheap go-to staples are bulk organic carrots (70 cents a pound,) frozen veggies at Target/Walmart (1$/lb for broccoli/cauliflower/green beans/peas/carrots,) bananas (.59 cents a pound, sometimes cheaper if they are slightly brown,) eggs (1.25$/dozen), and I also will save ALL of my meat fat! Especially bacon grease. Nuts can be pricey, so I rarely buy them, and when I do, I get them in self-serve bulk bags. Most of my budget goes toward meat, butter (I'm addicted, what can I say,) and nutrient-dense veggies. Lately, I've been buying a lot of turnips, beets, yams, and carrots (all excellent roasted) since not only are they very nutrient-dense, but they also have more calories (energy!) than kale, spinach, or peppers. So, essentially "more" for your buck, but I do reccomend cycling through veggies routinely, depending on what's on sale. Canned tuna can be a good option, but remember to stick with the "under 3$/lb" rule for meat. A can of tuna might LOOK like a good deal at 1$ a can, but consider one can is only 4oz. Therefore.. You're really paying 4$/lb for canned tuna, and it's typically not the meaty albacore kind, meaning a lot of it is water/vegetable broth. Canned salmon is a good deal at about 3$/lb, especially since fish is one of the best proteins you could eat, but I'm not sure they'd like it (especially since there are [edible] bones in it! It might freak them out.)  Otherwise, your best, cheap options will probably be things like whole chicken fryers, chuck roast, or fatty pork roasts. Try to get as "humane" as possible, at least anti-biotic/hormone-free. If you have a large down payment, you may opt to find a local farmer (eatwild.org) and buy grass-fed beef. The final cost may be anywhere from 4-6$/lb. Grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild meat (including the organs) is ALWAYS preferred, when possible. Also, remember that your main source of energy (and the most satiating food) is fat, and fat is one of your cheapest items (25 cents or less per tablespoon/serving of fat, and virtually 0 cents if you save the animal fat from cooking.) Potatoes and white rice are also very cheap and calorie-dense, just remember not to make them into main meals (a feast of potatoes covered in tons of cheese, even if it's organic, is STILL not a good idea.) Oh.. and rotiserrie chickens are a quick, 5$ dinner that you can't go wrong with. Have fun with this and make it a learning experience for everybody!

How Are Physical Therapy and Diet Related?

This is a continuation of "Are You Broken?'....

In physical therapy, you would never instruct somebody with a fresh rotator cuff injury to bust out some push-ups on their first day (in fact, they may never be able to safely do push-ups again.) This is common knowledge... Wait for the tissues to repair, heal, and recover before subjecting it to any more stress. Your metabolism could be viewed similiarily; if the system is broken, stressed, or inflammed, why would you further subject it to MORE stress via dieting, restriction, or excessive exercise? And further more, how could you ever expect to get any better when operating in this manner?!

Just like with a broken bone or torn ligament, you should always consult a healthcare professional to learn specific protocols or interventions before jumping in or experimenting. I think the same should be applied for somebody that has damaged their metabolism through chronic dieting, diabetes, or even chronic, generalized stress. Here are some other tips if you are considering any type of restrictive diet and/or exercise program:

1. Check your body temperature every morning.
A healthy, fast metabolism should yield a 98.4-98.6+ oral temperature, or a 97.8 axillary temperature first thing in the morning. For a more precise measurement, try getting a second and third reading at about noon and 3pm before eating, drinking or exercising. Body temperatures that are consistently low or fluctuate a lot may indicate a hormonal disruption, and dieting will only exhaserbate the problem. Be aware if your extremities are frequently cold, especially when dieting, as this is could indicate low thyroid hormones.

2. Get a blood and/or saliva test.
Find a doctor you respect and get some lab work done. Some important items you may have to request are a FULL thyroid panel (not just TSH), vitamin D, iron levels, FULL hormonal panel (estrogen, testosterone, etc.), and possibly an adrenal saliva test to check cortisol levels throughout the day. Thyroid low? Adrenals shot? You should probably post-pone on the intermittent fasting.

3. Make sure you are eating enough.
Conventional wisdom suggests that females should never eat less than 1,200 calories, and males less than 1,800 calories a day. However, other agencies consider anything under 1,800 calories a day for females to be too low, and anything less than 2,200 calories for males is too low. If you're not eating enough on your diet, weight loss can plateau (or you may even gain weight,) your body temperatures will drop, and you'll generally feel run-down or cranky. Try increasing your food intake by 100-200 calorie increments throughout the month until you are consuming at least your BWx14.

4. Make sure you focus on food quality as much as food quantity.
I think it's well-known at this point that 100 calories from a dinky cookie snack-pack compared to 100 calories from a can of tuna fish is not the same. Food quality matters, regardless of quantity! Your body not only needs to be satisfied with a sufficient amount of calories, but it also needs to be satiated with a sufficient amount of nutrients. Eating foods devoid of nutrients (refined, processed, crappy garbage food,) will not only inflame your system (horrible for fat loss,) but you'll also be compromising your results by not providing yourself with the necessary vitamins and micronutrients to get lean and healthy. This isn't to say you won't make progress unless you eat ten cups of vegetables a day (although you're more than welcome to,) but I guarantee you will fare MUCH better at least consuming a wide variety of fresh meats, nuts, seeds, and animal fats that are full of anti-inflammatory components (seriously, did you know REAL butter is full of antioxidants?) You deserve good food. Treat yourself!

5. Listen to your body.
This is a biggie, but it either falls on deaf ears or it's nearly impossible to commit to for some individuals. After forcing your body to do things it doesn't want to do for years in order to lose weight, it's hard to just "let go" and LISTEN. Eat good foods when you're hungry, stop when you're satisfied. Sit down with your meal without distractions. Never eat when you're stressed (or at least try really, REALLY hard.) If you can't commit to your diet plan one day, it's OKAY. It's important to know that when you're stressed (not enough sleep, too much exercise, emotional burdens, etc.) your body eats up nutrients like nobody's business. It's scavenging for any and all nutrients to nurture your system during a state of turmoil, so it makes sense that you are more hungry during stressful periods. This isn't a green light to eat everything and anything in sight, but perhaps a higher-calorie day (of good, whole foods!) will be exactly what your system is begging for.

Be smart, be kind, and most importantly, be PATIENT!

Five Things That Will Probably Land You in Physical Therapy

Aside from the obvious culprits of a PT visit (torn connective tissues, broken bones, surgery, etc.) here are FIVE things that may increase your chances of seeing me in therapy down the road. Basics? Eat well and move more!

1. Poor Posture
I'd say about 90% of our patients have pretty horrible posture, with some having quite extreme KYPHOSIS (upper back rounding.) Think grandma hunched over and shuffling with her walker at ninety (or earlier!) This is not your ultimatum--straighten up! How do you know if you're all in line? Stand against a wall with your heels, butt, shoulders, and head touching the wall. You should have a "neutral spine"; no excessive curvature and no extremely flat back. Generally, somebody should be able to shimmy a fist inbetween your back and the wall. Make sure your shoulders are not rounded. A good test? Make an "o" with your fingers and thumb, then hang your arms by your sides. If your "o" is facing inward, roll those shoulders back! If your "o" is facing forward, then congratulations, you have good shoulder posture. Keep it up!

2. Weak Glutes
The glutes are one of the most powerful muscles in the body, yet a staggering amount of people don't use them properly. This isn't just for aesthetics either; strong glutes are crucial for a healthy back because they help support the entire lumbopelvic region. Personally, I think everybody should learn how to deadlift properly (using primarily the butt and hamstrings with proper body mechanics) since we essentially "deadlift" several times a day. Mckenzie, a well-known spine biomechanic, once said, "the spine can only take so much flexion. Then it just goes." So learn to take the weight off your spine, and put it in that butt!

3. Ignoring Aches & Pains
I'm shocked at the amount of my patients who wait six to twelve months before they see a therapist for a nagging injury or pain that never goes away. At that point, they've usually been protecting the site for so long that they their range of motion has diminished radically and muscles have either weakened or tightened from misuse. It's even more crucial to get checked out the older you are since the healing process is much slower. If you have an ache or pain that won't go away within a few days, check with your doc. You may not have to get physical therapy, but any sort of intervention that will help alleviate your symptoms and get you moving pain-free again should be pursued.

4. Poor Nutrition
I first learned about the true importance of nutrition from my own Physical Therapist, Dallas Hartwig. He realized that eating an anti-inflammatory diet of mainly fresh meat (chicken, beef, pork, fish, game, etc.), healthy fats (fish oils, butter, coconut, avocado, olives, tallow, etc.) vegetables, fruits, and raw nuts/seeds helped him and his patients recover much quicker than a diet of vegetable oils, soy, and grains. I tell my personal training clients that they also make my job much easier by eating a more "anti-inflammatory" diet because it accelerates weight loss and gives them more energy for their workouts. I've also heard on several accounts that it helps reduce arthritis and bursitis flare-ups, including rhumatoid arthritis. It's important to know that eating the wrong foods can even cause "unexplainable" aches and pains, so try easing off the processed goods and see how that makes you feel.

5. Immobility
How many hours a day do you spend sitting? Most of the population sit on their rear for about 8-10 hours a day. Even on the weekends, some of us are so "mentally drained" from the work week that we're too exhausted to do much else than veg out in front of a television. I'm hoping for some radical shift in this but I can't see that happening anytime soon, except that "treadmill desk" idea has actually gotten some pretty good reviews. ;-) A good rule of thumb is at least six hours of your day should be standing, plus 10,000 steps a day (about an hour and twenty minutes of normal-paced walking.) This isn't including additional exercise, such as weight lifting or physical recreational activities (dancing, hiking, biking, skiing, rollerblading, etc, etc, etc.) that should be done a few times a week. I think another crucial addition to those listed is consistent MOBILITY work. It's much easier to maintain than it is to improve, so a little bit of mobility work a few times a week (especially before exercise!) is truly not too much to ask for. Your joints need to move regularly in order to get adequate blood flow and nourishment, just like your heart does. Move that body!

Are You Broken?

For the past few months, I admittedly have put personal training on the back burner in consideration of my new physical therapist assistant position. I've been working at a privately-owned out-patient clinic here in Denver, and have been fortunate enough to end up with a great boss, great team, and great patients (who love to spoil us with enormous amounts of gourmet chocolate, but I digress...) I also lucked out since my boss wants to offer personal training at his two clinics, so I happily get to dive back into my passion of fitness. Speaking of which, I have finally decided to nix my 24-hr Fitness membership and go back to a "real" gym, owned by a National Powerlifting Coach. Here's to some new PRs!

Anyway, I was speaking with my boss the other day and he mentioned he was on a "diet" (my co-worker said he has been on a "diet" for the past three years.) He ate salad leaves for lunch that day with about a teaspoon of dressing. For the rest of the day, he commented he felt very "alert and focused" (due to the semi-fasted state he put himself in, causing a surge in stress hormones to keep him going,) but also very irritable (due to lack of proper fueling for a busy, on-your-feet Monday afternoon.) Since I've been really into Matt Stone's work and the concept of becoming metabolically unhealthy due to chronic dieting or restriction, I mentioned to him about the idea of "RRARF". For those who are not familiar with it, "RRARF" stands for Rehabilitative Rest & Aggressive Re-Feeding. In an extremely simplified explanation, RRARF essentially means eating as much as you want (and then some) and resting (no exercise!) until your body naturally tells you "no more" and you feel the desire to exercise again. Although, what some people don't seem to get is that your re-feed should NOT consist of Little Debbie snacks, fastfood, booze, or other psuedo-foods. The point is to eat nourishing, whole foods in their most natural form... Even including potatoes, corn, and rice, to get your metabolism going and your body in a happy, fed state for once. Now, I wasn't suggesting he partake in "RRARF" since I don't know his history, but I wanted to emphasis the fact that self-inflicted dieting (sounds scary, huh?) is a pretty miserable and sometimes dangerous practice that may ultimately end up in re-bound weight gain, thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue, sleep disturbances, reduced testosterone levels (yes ladies, you want testosterone, too!), and other hormonal issues. Still want that dry bed of leaves for lunch...?

Americans seem to be OBSESSED with losing weight. Yet, we're all still fat, miserable, and sick. We unsuccessfully try to override our innate signaling that tell us to eat and rest when we need it, thinking that we can finally be skinny by forcing ourselves to eat less and move more. While playing bad cop with our body may work for awhile (sometimes even years!), eventually we piss our body off and it begins rebelling. We get fat eating 1,200 calories a day and running 10-20 miles a week. How is this possible? Are we not trying hard enough? No, we're trying too much. I like this quote from Matt Stone that summarizes it pretty well: "Losing weight is like holding your breath. You will soon be gasping for air".

While I think SHORT-TERM dieting can be a very effective tool (especially when it comes to shedding the last few pounds,) most people are absolutely clueless how to "diet" healthfully without tanking their metabolism. Even worse, most people who finally decide to stop "dieting" for their entire life realize they don't even know how to eat a normal, healthy amount of food anymore. So what happens next?

I think seeking out professional help from a credible nutritional specialist should be the first step. I don't think a good practioner should give you ANOTHER diet, but rather, work closely with you to find a style of eating that works for you in a sustainable and nourishing manner. Losing and maintaining a healthy, attractive weight should not be a constant battle of mind over body... And if it is, you either haven't recovered or you're forcing yourself into a size that you won't function optimally at.

So are you finally sick of diets and deprivation? Try nourishing yourself with as much wholesome food as you want and sleeping as much as you want. Let me know how that works for you. ;-)