Tag Archives: weight loss

Q&A: Keto diet

Q: Is the ketogenic diet safe? Does it work?

A: Thank you as always for the question. I always enjoy responding to reader questions.

The ketogenic is a popular low carb diet right now. Different from Atkins or South Beach diet, the keto diet focuses on high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbs. The diet has been used for years in neurological settings, helping with uncontrollable seizures.

The idea behind the diet is a bit complicated, but, similar to intermittent fasting, focuses on burning fat and lowering insulin. Our body wants carbs for energy. When we don’t consume them or have anymore stored, the body will break down fats into products called ketones (the source of the name ketogenic). The body then uses these ketones somewhat like carbohydrates. (This is an oversimplification, but works for our purposes). Since the body is burning fat (consumed and stored), insulin isn’t triggered.

There are some risks with this diet, like any.

-It could be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Over a very short term period, this isn’t as concerning as in the long term. Fruits and vegetables are often the most diverse sorts of micronutrients in our diets, so restricting these as strictly as many keto diets recommend could be dangerous.

-If you have liver or kidney problems, a diet very high in fat could exacerbate these problems and would not be recommended.

-This diet is low in fiber. The benefits of fullness seem to be covered by the full feeling provided by fatty foods. But you could become constipated.

-High ketones in the blood can alter neurological functions. This can be good in the case of epilepsy, and possibly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (there is promising research here). But for normal, healthy adults, it could lead to difficulties in memory and fuzzy thinking.

-Risks for heart health and diabetes. The keto diet is often very high in saturated fat. Some studies have even shown increases in LDL or bad cholesterol with heart health. Experts have mixed thoughts on diabetes. Very low carb diets are not recommended for those with diabetes. And people with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, so our previous discussion on saturated fat applies. However, some carb restriction could lead to lowered insulin. Just likely not as low as keto diets recommend.

There are not enough long term studies yet to know if the keto diet is safe and effective in the long term. Short term studies do show it is very effective at weight loss.

Personally, I would not recommend this. I doubt it is sustainable in the long term, and question it would be healthy to do so. A more mild approach would likely be fine.

Hope that helps!

Do you have a question? Comment here, on Facebook, or email me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com.

Sources: Harvard Health, US News, Cleveland Clinic

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Q&A: Intermittent fasting

Q: Many people I know are using “intermittent fasting” to lose weight. Is it effective? Are there health benefits? Should I try it?

A: Thank you for your questions as always. I actually have a few family members who follow an intermittent fasting “diet”, so I was very interested to research some more about this.

Intermittent fasting is followed in various forms by different people. The basics are that you limit your eating to a set number of hours per day. Most people it seems go with an 8-10 hour period, but I’ve heard of some restrict it down to only 2 hours per day.

What results are we seeing in scientific studies? Studies have shown that people have as good weight loss as just restricting their overall intake without a time restriction. But studies also indicate there may be benefits in relation to blood glucose and fat levels, which is good news for those at risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Why? This article from Harvard Health goes in much greater detail if you are interested. But in short, when we eat carbohydrates, one of two things can happen. First, those carbs are used for energy, which requires insulin (insulin levels are high). Second, they can be stored as fat. In between meals, when the body needs carbs but there aren’t any available (insulin is LOW), the body breaks down the fat for energy. This is good. We want the body to do this. But if we are CONSTANTLY eating, insulin levels stay high and we never break down that fat. Also, constantly overload of insulin can lead to our body not responding well to insulin, which can lead to diabetes.

But isn’t fasting hard? For some people, it can be. The Harvard article mentions some research that shows putting your eating period earlier in the day makes it easier rather than later (so 7 am-3 pm vs 12 pm – 8 pm). I think the timing of your fasting period is likely to be very individualized based on your preference and schedule. If you already aren’t a morning eater, don’t start just because of fasting.

Don’t want to fast? Me either. But there are some good take aways for EVERYONE, even if you aren’t intermittent fasting.

-Stop eating ALL the time. Allow insulin levels drop and you can burn some fat.

-“Hunger” in and of itself isn’t a horrible thing. Letting it get out of control so you eat out of control can be bad, but a little bit of hunger between meals is ok.

-Don’t eat late at night. This is likely to be just junk foods and shortens the periods of low insulin levels at night.

-Find what works for you. Fasters need to find the 8 hours that work best for them. Find what “schedule” of eating works best for you, be it 1, 2, or 3 meals a day. There is not a generic diet that will be perfect for everyone. You have to make it work for you!

Hope that helps!

Send questions to kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Q&A: Ketogenic Diet

Q: Is the ketogenic diet helpful for brain health, remembering, clear thinking, etc?

A: Thank you as always for questions. I love hearing what nutrition topics are concerning everyone. With so much in the media, it is very hard to know what “real” people are focusing on.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. Our body actually wants some level of carbohydrates for energy. Some organs, such as the brain, actually greatly prefer carbs to fats. If there are not enough carbohydrates, the body will burn fat and produce something called ketones. The brain can then use these ketones as a source for energy.

The ketogenic diet has been part of the treatment for epilepsy for many years. There are proven benefits for people whose epilepsy is not controlled well with medication alone. However, the diet needs to be closely monitored by a dietitian to ensure overall nutrient adequacy.

The ketogenic diet most people using it under generally “healthy” circumstances is really just another low carb diet like Atkins or South Beach. There are no proven benefits for weight loss or mental health or clarity. Many people do succeed with weight loss, but as with most diets, it is not sustainable when they go back to their traditional eating pattern.

Sorry this won’t give you the memory recall you hoped! Thanks again for the question.

Don’t forget you can always ask questions in the comments here or email me at kimberlykmarshgmail.com!

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New Year and I’m back…again

Friends. So sorry for the long hiatus again. I’m sort of perennially working on a menu project that someday I’ll be super excited to share with you. And then I had a baby and being a mom of 3 has rocked my world. It’s all good things, but means I’m struggling to get over here to share recipes and tips.

But it’s a new year and my resolution is to post here at least once a week. And in the spirit of resolutions, here are some thoughts on health related resolutions.

1) Have your heard of Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies? It is a framework for seeing how you relate to changing behavior. If you haven’t taken the easy quiz to find out your tendency, you should check it out here. It will you help you actually achieve your resolutions this year.

2) Try to make your resolutions specific enough to measure but broad enough to help you succeed. Here’s what I mean. Don’t say “lose 20 pounds”. That is super specific and there is only 1 way to succeed. On the inverse, “eat more vegetables” is too broad. How do you measure that? Try: Get 2 servings of vegetables at lunch 3 days a week. Specific enough to measure but broad enough that you can have a couple off days or slip ups while still succeeding.

3) Keep overall health and sustainability in mind. One of my friends started a weight loss journey in December that she is chronicling on social media. She had some great success immediately after a week long juice fast. Now as she is back to eating food, her weight loss has stalled. So she is going back to the juice fast. While I don’t think she is going to do any permanent damage, she should try to focus on food and a pattern that is sustainable while losing weight. It may not be fast. But even if she isn’t losing weight, the exercise and healthy food should make her feel better and is better for her body. Keep those ideas in mind.

4) Slow and steady wins the race. As I mentioned with my friend above, achieving health related goals is rarely a quick process. But if you keep at it, you will feel better. You may not succeed in 1 week or even 1 month. But keep on keeping on. If you slip up, laugh it off and try again the next day.

Good luck and I’ll be back next week with a recipe!

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Your stomach is not your brain

I found this article on mindful eating from the Washington Post very interesting. For those who don’t know, mindful eating is simply the “diet” approach that you can lose or maintain weight by focusing in on what you are eating, without necessarily changing your diet. By focusing, you keep better track of how much you have eaten. you can also account for meal splurges, etc. It has been shown to be effective for many people.

I hope you read the article, but here were some of my highlights from it.

– The part about the amnesic patients really reminds me of life with my toddler right now. She loves to come up to me one hour after eating four bowls of cereal for breakfast and claim to be hungry. Hmm…

– I totally agree with the part about social cues. I always look around to see if other people are taking seconds at a social function before I take seconds myself. I had a very thin roommate once, and I felt compelled to eat salad around her.

– My favorite part was making sure you are eating really delicious food. At a summer camp once, someone told me he hated the french fries served at the cafeteria. I then asked him why I always saw him get seconds. He said it was because they were really bad fries, so he had to eat a lot to satisfy his craving for fries. I don’t think it works for everyone all the time. I know sometimes, I am drawn to eat more just because it was so yummy. But I have found other times that I can stop myself if I stop and really enjoy one awesome portion of whatever food it is.

What are your thoughts? Does mindful eating work for you? What social cues have you noticed change your intake? Do you eat less if the food is extra delicious? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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New Year, New Goals, New Weight?

Over the last two years, I’ve waxed long about not setting goals about weight (here and here among many others). Focus on changes for health. If your making healthier choices, you will often lose weight and be able to sustain that weight loss. And even if you don’t lose weight, your health will have improved.

However, I recognize that may not be enough for many of us. This year, I’m included. I admit to having some weight loss on my New Year’s resolutions, thanks to some residual baby weight. I am sticking to my previous statements of not JUST having goals of weight loss. I have several other goals for exercise and diet to help me achieve my weight loss.

I read an interesting article with a paradigm shifting idea on weight monitoring. For years, health professionals have recommended only monitoring weight once a week at most. However, recent studies are showing that daily weight monitoring could be beneficial for weight loss.

The article points out that daily weights can help you see more immediate effects of good or bad choices, maybe helping you stick to diet changes more closely. When you cut out late night snacking and see your weight change quickly, you are motivated to keep that up. If you splurge going out one day and you see your weight spike the next day or two, you become more focused on healthy changes again.

I don’t think it is for everyone, but it is something worth considering. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Cheeseburgers for health?

I promise I am not affiliated with Freakonomics in any way. But they had another podcast recently about health and nutrition that I found very interesting. It was the antithesis of Super Size Me and fits within my philosophy pretty well, too.

The podcast, titled “The Cheeseburger Diet”, follows the story of a women who was determined to find the best cheeseburger in Louisville, Kentucky. She determined to eat two cheeseburgers for a week for an entire year. Since that logically raises some health concerns, she monitored her weight throughout the year as well as testing her cholesterol before and after. After a year, her weight was exactly the same. Her total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol had increased but not to concerning levels. Her HDL (“good”) cholesterol had actually increased to a better level. Surprising, yes?

Not really, when she further examined her life during that year. Since she new that she was going to be eating cheeseburgers regularly, she focused on healthier items the rest of the week. She also exercised more to help offset any effects of the cheeseburger. She even said once the experiment was over, she ate less healthy because she wasn’t monitoring her “junk” intake as much.

While I don’t recommend eating fast food twice a week every week for a healthy life, I think her experiment highlights something important. You don’t have to never eat junk food, fast food, or the food you love. The trick is to eat it sparingly, and be healthier the rest of the time to compensate for it.

What does that look like in real life? Here are a couple other examples, a few which may be helpful as we continue with the busy holiday eating season and as you are considering your New Year’s resolutions.

– Once a week, we eat breakfast for dinner. Often, that means we have less vegetables for dinner than we normally would. On that day, I focus on eating extra vegetables for lunch to make sure I get enough in for the day.

– I’ve known several friends who limit themselves to treats only one day per week. If they cheat, they have to pay money to a “fund” that goes to any participants who don’t cheat.

I hope you have a wonderful, delicious holiday season filled with moderation as needed but enjoyment of your favorite Christmas treats!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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