Friday, January 30, 2015

Get a Valentine to Make You More Successful with Your New Years’ Resolution!

I am always thrilled when I have clients that encourage their spouse to see me too. The reason is because I know that they have a stronger likelihood of being successful with their goals by changing their food and exercise habits. I see it time and time again; the couples that I work with tend to reach their goals much easier than those that are going in alone without their partner. Typically, it is easier for them because they are on the same page as far as what they have learned is healthy. For example, if the husband is doing Paleo, the wife will have trouble abiding by my recommendations and making a meal with farro, vegetables, beans, and fish because her husband’s diet forbids grains and beans. Similarly, if your spouse wants meat and potatoes for dinner every night, that will make it more of a challenge to stick to my recommendations and make a more well-balanced meal. On the other hand, if you both are on the same page with their diet, then you can make and enjoy meals together. Furthermore, you keep each other in-check with regards to portion size, food choices, and meal balance. 

Additionally, becoming more physically active becomes easier when both parts of the couple are meeting with me and on the same page. I have had many couples take up an after-dinner walk to help reduce blood sugar after the meal per my recommendations. Many couples also start taking long bike rides together (when it’s nice out), which is a great way to spend time together while exercising. However, I do have some other clients that report their significant other just wants to lay on the couch and cuddle after dinner, so that makes it harder for my client to have the motivation to go out and exercise at that time.

In an ongoing cohort study in the UK, a study analyzing more than 3,000 married couples (most ages 50+) found results that support my experience with clients. In this study, published in the January 19th online issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers found that men and women who were looking to adopt new healthy habits had much higher rates of success if their partner also enlisted in those changes. With regards to weight loss, men and women who had a healthy weight partner were not more likely to shed pounds, but those who had a spouse that was also trying to lose were much more successful. In fact, about 25% of men and about 33% of women lost weight when their spouse was losing weight too, compared to 10% and 15% respectively for men and women whose spouses did not lose weight. With regards to physical activity, 67% of men and 66% of women became more physically active when their spouses became active too compared to 26% and 24% respectively when the spouse did not.

The main message of the study mentioned and my experience with my clients is that most people are more likely to be successful if they have a partner to make goals and changes with. If you aren’t married and don’t have a significant other, don’t fret! You too can be successful by finding a friend or even a colleague at work, the gym, or on the internet that can keep you motivated and on track! But since it’s almost Valentine’s Day… might not be a bad idea to head to the gym and try to pick up someone with similar goals as yourself so you can conquer them together. An added bonus is you can then have a Valentine too! ;-)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015


With health insurance costs skyrocketing for 2015, be sure to check on your plan to make sure you are using all of the preventive resources your plan offers. Most insurance plans now cover nutrition counseling 100% as a preventive benefit. For most plans, you do not have to be obese, do not have to have any pre-existing health conditions, and do not need to pay a co-pay or get a referral! Everyone can benefit by eating better, and I can help you reach your goals, whatever they may be!

I am a provider with many health insurance plans located in the Philadelphia area, most of which offer at least 6 sessions per year covered at 100%! I do all the billing, so you just show-up and do the hard work of changing your diet and becoming more active! Below are the companies I am an in-network provider for:

Independence Blue Cross
Highmark Blue Shield
Blue Cross/Blue Shield (only Blue Card PPO members)
AmeriHealth Administrators
Independence Adminstrators

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with me, please email me at:, or call me: 610-964-8800 x 107. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

Be sure to Get in Enough Vitamin D this Winter

My guess is that a Vitamin D supplement is probably the #1 prescribed supplement by physicians over the past few years. It seems like most of my clients were told they are deficient in Vitamin D and have been told to take a supplement. Typically, I tell my clients that I do not think most supplements people take are necessary, and can actually be doing damage. What is especially concerning is many people are taking supplements, for example, because Dr. Oz recommended it (which a new study shows 50% of what he recommends is not valid) and they aren’t even sure what the supplement does. If you are eating an adequate amount of calories and consuming a well balanced diet – especially one that is very high in non-starchy vegetables – you should be getting close to most of the vitamins and minerals your body requires. It’s when you start cutting out specific food groups like grains and dairy when it is troublesome to get in all the nutrients you need.  However, Vitamin D is a very challenging nutrient to get in through diet alone for almost everybody and I do back up the advice that people showing suboptimal levels should take a supplement. 

 For most people, the IOM recommendation for Vitamin D is 600 IU per day and adults over the age of 70 are recommended to get in 800 IUs per day because synthesis decreases with age. Vitamin D is critical for bone development and a deficiency is known to cause rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis. The best sources of dietary Vitamin D are cod liver oil (my favorite!), swordfish, salmon, tuna, and fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, and cereals. Three ounces of salmon or swordfish will get you the recommended amount of Vitamin D for younger people… but it is rare that people are eating that amount on a regular basis. From doing diet analyses on a regular basis, I can tell you that the average person has a lot of trouble getting Vitamin D in through dietary sources.
Alas, there is good news since Vitamin D is so hard to get in through diet: the best source is through synthesis in the skin from the sun’s UV rays.  It seems there is definitely a relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk of most major diseases and conditions prevalent in the US (diabetes, certain cancers, depression, weight gain, etc.). In grad school I wrote a comprehensive research paper on Vitamin D as an anti-cancer agent and found there is ample evidence showing a link between Vitamin D status and breast, colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.  However, they have not found if Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk, or if higher levels of Vitamin D in the blood is protective against these cancers.

If you spend much time outside during the summer, you probably do get in enough Vitamin D, since a fair-skinned person can get a whole day worth of Vitamin D synthesized from amount fifteen minutes in sunlight. However, darker skinned individuals and the obese need more exposure.  During the winter, it is much harder due to make enough because the intensity of the sun’s rays are lacking due to the angle of the sun, but being outside in sunlight is incredibly important. You still will synthesize some Vitamin D by being outside during the winter, and certainly it is important to get outside to combat depression associated with the doldrums of winter. That being said, there is also some link between depression and Vitamin D deficiency, go figure!

If you have had blood work done recently and found that you have suboptimal Vitamin D levels, I recommend you ask your doctor if a supplement is warranted. To figure out how much you should be taking, ask your doctor, or visit the Mayo Clinic’s dosing guidelines page here. In May 2013, Consumer Reports rated the best Vitamin D supplements, and the best bang for your buck seems to be Trader Joe’s Vitamin D softgels, and Costco’s Kirkland Signature (for Calcium + Vitamin D supplement) seem to be the best value. One note is that more is not better when it comes to Vitamin D, especially because it is fat soluble and your body cannot excrete excess. According to WebMD, taking 4,000 mg or more for a prolonged period of time is deemed possibly unsafe and too much Vitamin D can cause kidney problems.

The research regarding the “Sunshine Vitamin” and its link to disease prevention is very exciting and there is a lot more to come. The majority of the research shows that a deficiency of this Vitamin can definitely harm your health. So, my recommendation is get your blood work done, see how you are doing, and possibly consider taking a supplement if need be. However, I always recommend getting outside for a walk as much as possible- even if it’s cold! You won’t get the optimal amount of UV exposure for Vitamin D synthesis if you are living in the north during the winter, but it’s definitely beneficial. Visit my blog on how walking and regularly exposing your body to cold is actually advantageous for losing weight!


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