Science

What You Need To Know About Your Muscles

MUSCLES!

You have 642 of them, you use them every day, but what do you really know about them? Knowledge is power if every aspect of life and training is no different – read on!

Opposing Muscle Groups

When talking about muscles sometimes it is easiest to think of a really simple one for starters, so let’s begin with those biceps being shown off up above! When you bend your arm, your bicep contracts and your tricep does the opposite (elongates) in order to let your elbow bend.

These are called “opposing muscle groups”. Our workouts need to cover all aspects of muscle training from the composition of muscle to how they perform.

Muscle Fibers

Muscle fibers are long and cylindrical; only about the size of a strand of hair! These fibers determine how much weight you can lift and for how many reps (think a bunch of hairs tied in a ponytail make up what a muscle looks and acts like).

There are two types of muscle fibers:

Slow Twitch

Slow twitch fibers are used for aerobic exercise and are very resistant to fatigue and are good for things such as longer distance running. The downside is, they don’t move very quickly (like if you suddenly need to sprint to the finish line). You train slow twitch fibers with higher repetitions, at a slower tempo, and with short rest times.

Fast Twitch

Unlike slow twitch muscle fibers, fast twitch fire very quickly but also fatigue quickly. Fast twitch fibers are used for things like sprints and heavy lifting. You train fast twitch fibers with explosive movements like the push press, kettlebell swing, and box jumps. This type of POWER training needs more rest and recovery time.

Are We All The Same?

NO! Every person has a different percentage of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, which is why some people tend to be naturally better at running distances than sprinting, or better at longer sets than short ones. Even within each person different muscles may be various ratios of fast and slow. For instance maybe your hamstrings are 60% slow twitch, but your biceps only 30%.

So, Why Bother Training?

You are born with a certain number of muscle fibers so you can’t increase the number of them, but you CAN increase their overall mass and strength.

Remember when we said there were TWO muscle fiber types? Well…technically that’s correct, but within “Fast Twitch” there is the potential to train for more short bursts of power or more endurance. Muscles literally change based on your activity and these hybrids will shift more toward slow or fast depending on your training. Train for your goals!

TRAINING GOAL CHEAT SHEET

Determine if your workout is designed to gain muscle size (HYPERTROPHY), strength, or power.

Hypertrophy training aims to fatigue the muscle fiber, which after proper rest will cause the muscle to grow larger. 6-12 Reps and rest 30-90 seconds. The focus is more about the process vs the actual load.

Strength (vs muscle size or power) requires a slower speed and lower reps (like 6 or less) with heavier load/weight.

Power training is similar to strength training, but speed of contraction becomes a factor as we want to generate as much power in as short a time as possible.

As you have seen this week, to get a fully balanced program to build muscle strength, size, and power takes a fine balance and a deeper understanding of how the body works. At Ellipse, you see Tabata, Declining Hypertrophy, Eccentric Training, Pause Training, and so much more. All the different formats and styles are to achieve RESULTS! If you can step through that front door and work to YOUR best, we’ve got the rest covered 😊

Get The Skinny on Healthy Fats!

Plain and simple, our bodies need dietary fat. Did you know your BRAIN is made up of nearly 60% fat? A diet too low in fat robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly. It’s not just the essential fatty acids and omega 3’s either (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats!

Why You Can’t Eat “Fat-Free”

Essential Vitamins

Vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.

Healthy Fats keep your lungs working properly

Our lungs are coated with a substance composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Premature babies who are lacking this substance are given something called “surfactant” to keep their lungs functioning properly. Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Some studies are now looking at the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and Asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty layer.

• Healthy Fats for a Strong immune system

Saturated fats such as those found in butter and coconut oil play key roles in immune health. Loss of too much saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A great source of saturated fat is from animal fats like grass fed dairy and butter or fatty fish like salmon (wild is generally a better choice).

• Healthier Body Composition

One benefit of eating healthy fats is better body composition! This refers to your % of fat-weight versus % of lean-weight. Eating healthy fats help you lose body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones (hormones that help you feel full longer) and eliminating constant cravings.

Tips for Putting it in Action

• Fats: What and how much?

You should include healthy fats at each meal, but there is no need to pull out a measuring spoon every time you eat…a portion size of healthy fats is the size of your thumb! Nuts and seeds are a great source of fats. Certain oils are also excellent sources, like extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil.
PRO TIP: Have you tried using avocado oil spray? A great option to get the healthy fat in without overdoing it!

• Balance and Variety

Balance your diet with a variety of fat types (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) from high quality foods like: seeds, nuts, seafood, coconut, avocado, olives. Avoid the processed foods that contain the unhealthy fats like “Hydrogenated” fats or Trans Fats

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

Shake the Afternoon Slump!

During our onboarding process, we have found that many people indicate the termed “afternoon slump”.

You know, that tired feeling like you would just love a quick nap to be able to finish out the day. There is good news! For the most part, this is normal, but there are things to consider and ways to help combat it. This week we’ll chat about afternoon slumps!

Get Some Sunshine!

You might be able to cure this simply by listening to some upbeat music and/or getting out in the sunshine for a few minutes for a quick boost!

Was it my lunch?

Maybe, maybe not. Research has shown that the slump can even happen without having eaten lunch. However, keeping a level glycemic load in the body can help offset a natural afternoon slump. You need a proper balance of carbs, protein, and fats. A high carb lunch can set you up for a quick drive in energy, but you will quickly find the drop that follows it. Also, make sure you stay hydrated! Even a 1.5% drop in hydration can cause drowsiness.

Was it a poor night’s sleep?

Could be! CHRONIC afternoon slumps or general sleepiness could indicate a medical condition (like a metabolic disorder, PCOS, or sleep apnea) or medication side effects. Be sure to check with your doctor if you have chronic fatigue.

Medical conditions aside, a poor night’s sleep can come back to bite you in the afternoon. Adult bodies need 7-9 hours of QUALITY and UNINTERRUPTED sleep to allow it to run through its full recovery process (mentally and physically!). A quick 10-minute power nap can help with that afternoon slump, though. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a longer nap which can interrupt a normal night’s sleep.

I had a healthy lunch – what’s wrong with me?

You’re human! The human body runs in a circadian rhythm. By nature, the body naturally dips in energy between midnight and daybreak, then again, a smaller dip between 2p and 4p. Just like near bedtime, your core body temperature drops signaling to your brain that it’s time to sleep – a smaller version of that happens midafternoon. This will typically result in a quick drop in energy, alertness, and focus. As you age, the mid-afternoon slump will likely be more noticeable than in younger years.

TIP: Your body associate’s stillness with sleep. Been sitting a long time? Get up and move around!

It’s the afternoon and it hit me! Now what?

Well maybe we should start with what won’t work? A quick sugar high like a Mountain Dew, candy bar, or a triple shot of mocha in your coffee. These will simply exaggerate your energy very briefly before causing an even bigger dip/low point.

Caffeine can certainly offer some aid, remember to try and keep a full day’s caffeine load to 400mg or less.

What else CAN help? A short bout of exercise like going for a walk or jog. Exercise can produce endorphins and release tension which can offset fatigue.

In the end, get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise, and listen to your body! Or, go work for the Huffington Post where they offer “The Oasis”…sleep pods for their employees!

I work shift work. What about me?

Night shifts and swing shifts are tough on the body in regard to circadian rhythm (mentioned above). “Afternoon slump” aside, non-traditional job hours still require a good 7-9 hours of sleep each day otherwise you will fall into a sleep-debt mode that needs to be fulfilled as soon as possible to prevent the increased likeliness of disease.

With night shifts, do not delay going to bed when you are tired! The longer you delay, the more alert you will become. Still try to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, putting your phone on “do not disturb”.

Some other tricks are to eat a small snack before bed and making sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, and cool.

Pets and Health: Bigger Than You Thought!

According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (yes that is a real thing!), 68% of US households – about 85 million families – own a pet.

Studies have shown that dog owners particularly decrease their risk of death in general by 33 percent compared with those without a pet!!

This week we’ll talk about how pets can have a positive impact on your health from stress to fitness! Don’t have a pet? Go check out the local humane society and/or pet sanctuaries!

Pets and Stress Response:

Now this may depend on the person – and on the pet – but numerous studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure and regulate the heart rate during stressful conditions. Even when they are not with you at the time! Pretty amazing. Outside of casual health benefits, therapy animals can be used for more extensive needs, such as equine therapy for conditions from depression, to anxiety and post-traumatic stress!
Check out this link for info on therapy dogs!

Pets and Staying Active:

Pets can help you stay active, particularly if you have a pet that requires outside time. Walking the dog for instance is an activity that will force you to get outside in even the harsh winter conditions instead of loafing around when the weather is poor! Going for a short walk can have tremendous health benefits when compared with hours of sitting uninterrupted.

Pets and Mental Health:

On the same idea as licensed therapy pets, pets love you for who you are without judgement, which can lead to feelings of acceptance that one may not always get from family or society! Dog parks can be a great way to get active with your pet as well as have a social outlet with others that share a common interest.

Find local parks, and establishments, where you can bring your dog along at www.bringfido.com. Check out the activities area for local dog parks and outdoor options.

Pets and Allergies:

The National Institute of Health has suggested “children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy have a lower risk of developing asthma by 7 years old.” (Source) A similar earlier study found homes with cats had a protective effect, having made allergy-related antibodies, against asthma symptoms in young children. Some scientists believe pets carry microbes that stimulate the immune system so that children don’t become allergic. (Source)

A Pet a Day Keeps the Doctor Away:

Two studies involving the same participants 5 years apart showed that people who had a pet both at the first and second touchpoint had the fewest doctors visits of the group, followed by the group who had no pet the first round and had then acquired one within the 5 years preceding the next.

Take a moment to think about that!

Dog, Cat, Horse, Fish, Bird – any pet counts!

More Resources:
http://www.center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/
https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/6-ways-pets-improve-your-health#2

Dry Needling for Joint and Muscle Pain Relief

What is Dry Needling?

The name “dry needling” comes from studies that were done to determine the effectiveness of injections. The studies showed that just putting a needle into a trigger point (a small, tight, tender area in a muscle) was just as effective as injecting a pain relieving or anti-inflammatory medication into the trigger point. Since nothing is injected with dry needling, we refer to it as “dry.”

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

While the two are often confused, they are actually different treatments. Dry needling is performed in the dysfunctional area, whereas acupuncture may be performed in the hand to address a headache, for example. Dry needling also focuses mainly on the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

How is Dry Needling Done?

First, the area of pain or tension will be assessed in order to locate trigger points. Then a needle will be placed into the muscle, and then the needle will be moved around in small movements that cause the muscle to activate – seen or felt as a twitch in the muscle. Once the twitching ceases, the needle is removed from the muscle.

What is the Purpose of Dry Needling?

Dry needling helps to relieve pain, help muscles relax, and improve function. Usually dry needling is used on tense muscles that are causing pain and affecting a person’s function. It is a very effective method and the results can be seen quicker than other treatments such as massage. The effects of dry needling can be felt after just one session but may take more than one to fully resolve the issue. It is used in conjunction with other treatments such as manual therapy and exercise.

Is Dry Needling Safe?

The risks associated with dry needling are minimal which makes it a safe procedure when performed by a trained practitioner. Physical therapists are regulated by each state in the training they must receive for dry needling before they can use the treatment on patients. Physical therapists also use clean technique, meaning they wear gloves and make sure that they use hand sanitizer and alcohol to sanitize the area being needled. Also, needles are kept in sealed packaging until use so that they are sanitary and safe for use. After a single use they are disposed of in a sharps container and are never reused.

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

Every person is different, and each muscle responds differently to dry needling. The process can be uncomfortable, but is usually not painful. The needle used for dry needling is a very thin needle similar to those used for acupuncture, so there is usually no pain associated with the needle being inserted into the skin. The muscle twitches associated with dry needling can be uncomfortable but typically are not painful. There may be some lingering soreness afterwards but this usually lasts less than 24 hours. Drinking plenty of water after having dry needling done can help to lessen this soreness.

Is Everyone Appropriate for Dry Needling?

While dry needling is a very effective and safe procedure for most people, not everyone is a candidate for it. There are certain precautions that can affect someone’s ability to have dry needling done (for example, over the area of a pacemaker). There is also a timeline of when dry needling is appropriate after surgery so that there is no increased risk for infection. Talk to your physical therapist to see if you’re appropriate for dry needling.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

8 Glasses of Water a Day? THINK AGAIN!

This time of year is often about trying to maintain some semblance of health while being bombarded with treats, rich foods and drinks.

One way to combat this is simply to drink enough, and/or MORE, water! Simple huh?

The science of water has changed some over the past decade, so let’s see if you have the latest facts!

How do I tell how much water is the right amount for me?

Taboo or not, check the color of your urine! If you are properly hydrated your urine will be colorless or light yellow in color. Drinking too much water is rare for healthy Americans who eat a typical American diet.

How much water should I drink each day?

It’s simple to give a solid number, but the reality is every person is different. Water needs are based on your health, your activity level, and where you live. Outside of being sick or pregnant, women’s general recommendations are around 90 ounces per day (74 ounces at a minimum) and 125 ounces for men; BUT this includes water from food consumption as well.

Foods high in water, like fruits and vegetables, will contribute more to your daily intake, typically about 20%. Even coffee, tea, etc is still counted toward your water intake, caffeine or not. Still not your gig? Try drinking broth!

Wait…Coffee counts??

You’ll be happy to know, despite popular the myth, science shows that coffee does NOT dehydrate you. If tap water just doesn’t do it for you, grab that cup of Joe…just skip, or go light, on the add ins because excessive dairy and sugar will certainly not help you feel hydrated.

What about carbonated water?

The latest science shows that carbonated water is just as good for you than still/tap water. Science has shown that carbonated water is NOT bad for your tooth enamel or bones and has been shown to help with digestion!

Is carbonated water too acidic? Well, it’s been shown that your body properly balances the slightly acidic carbonated water via the kidneys, with no additional stress. Not feeling the tap water? Crack open a non-sweetened sparkling water! Check your label just to be sure. Have you tried HINT sparkling infused water? NO sweeteners!

BEWARE! Tonic Water and Club Soda are not the same as carbonated water or Seltzer Water

What about exercise?

In addition to needing water to lubricate and cushion your joints, you need to replenish the water you lose during exercise. It’s important to note, the amount consumed to replace it would not count toward your daily consumption needs. For most, this ranges between 12-24 ounces when working out for less than an hour. When it’s hot/humid, your hydration needs will increase.

What You Need to Know: Plantar Fasciitis

Today’s blog post is courtesy of a special guest writer and expert on the topic of Plantar Fasciitis: Rachel Zimmerman DPT.

If you’ve ever experienced pain in the bottom of your foot, or in your heel, chances are it’s Plantar Fasciitis.

There is a common misconception that this is something you have to live with, but you don’t! The following advice will help alleviate your pain and get you back on your feet.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

To understand what this condition is, we need to break it down into parts: plantar fascia and -itis. The plantar fascia is a structure in the bottom of the foot. It is a thin, white tissue similar to a ligament that sits between the skin and the muscle and extends from the heel to the toes. It provides stability to the foot. The suffix “-itis” is a Greek term meaning inflammation. So plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this tissue in the bottom of the foot.

What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis typically presents as pain in the heel, usually on the inside part of the foot. The pain can also spread along the arch and along the bottom of the foot. The pain is usually worst during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning but can also occur after standing or walking for long periods of time.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis has multiple causes, but one of the most common is increasing your activity level too quickly! Also, having tight calf muscles, weak foot muscles, and/or wearing improper footwear.

What do I do if I believe I have plantar fasciitis?

Avoid aggravating activities: The most important thing you can do when you have an inflammatory condition is to avoid activities that increase your pain. Figure out which activities are aggravating it and modify them as you can. This does not mean to avoid activity altogether – just find activities you can do that don’t increase your pain level. This does not have to be long term, just while you are experiencing pain.

Stretch your calves: Tight calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) can contribute to inflammation in the plantar fascia. Stretch your calves by sitting with your feet out in front of you with your knees straight, and place a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull back on the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat a few times. You should feel a stretch, but not pain.

Strengthen your foot muscles: There are specific muscles in your foot that help to support your arch and take stress off the plantar fascia.

   • Great toe extension: Lift big toe, leaving other 4 on the ground. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Small toe extension: Lift 4 smaller toes, leaving big toe down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Doming: Raise the arch of your foot, keeping toes down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

Change your footwear: Avoid shoes that are flat as these do not support your arch and can contribute to stress on the plantar fascia. Look for shoes that have a buildup on the inside of the shoe where your arch would be. Most shoe stores will be able to help find footwear that is appropriate for your feet, whether you need a stability shoe (which has more arch support than normal) or a neutral shoe (which has arch support but not as much as a stability shoe).

Ice: You can freeze a plastic water bottle, and then roll your bare foot over the frozen water bottle. It provides massage and ice, which will decrease the inflammation and will numb the pain temporarily. Do this for a few minutes at a time at most.

Consider orthotics: There are orthotics, or inserts for your shoe, that provide more stability for your arch. You can try basic orthotics from a drugstore or consider custom orthotics. A physical therapist, podiatrist, or orthotist can help you with custom orthotics.

**If your pain does not get better, consult a physical therapist! There are many other factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis that your physical therapist may be able to assess and treat.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

WHO: Up to 50% of Cancer Cases Preventable with Lifestyle Change

National Breast Cancer awareness month kicked off this week, so we thought it an appropriate time to discuss how lifestyle, nutrition and exercise can reduce your risk of developing different types of cancers.

Cancer in general is caused by genetic changes or mutations leading to uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation. This is part of the reason that it is so difficult to treat and study, because the causal factors are not quite as black-and-white as bacterial or viral diseases.

The good news however, is that according to the World Health Organization between 30-50% of cancer cases are preventable, and most often with simply a lifestyle change! Even in high-risk women, lifestyle change has been shown to decrease risk of breast cancer as well as other cancers. Let’s talk about what you need to be aware of and what steps can be taken to potentially reduce your risk of developing cancer.

1. More More, Sit Less!

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week. That boils down to 30 minutes of activity daily! Activity also increases your immune defenses!

Limit screen time. Consider investing in a fitness tracker to see what an average day for you looks like for movement.

2. Eat Healthy!

The Mediterranean diet for instance has shown to be one good guide for nutrition since it focuses on mostly on plant-based foods – such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

Limit sugars, processed food, and red meat. Oh and…EAT MORE VEGETABLES.

3. Don’t Smoke; Limit Alcohol

Worldwide, tobacco exposure (chewing, smoking and second-hand) is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills
millions of people each year, from cancer and other diseases.

Tobacco smoke has more than 7000 chemicals, at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Interestingly, Tobacco PLUS alcohol substantially increases the risk. Also, according to the CDC more than 100 studies have found an increased risk of breast cancer with increasing alcohol intake.

4. Strive for a Healthy Weight!

According to Wikipedia, in the United States excess body weight is associated with 14-20% of all cancer deaths. Although there are much better ways to figure out what weight is the right weight for your body type, a quick reference guide is the Body Mass Index. Although we know that weight is not a perfect indicator of health (because it doesn’t measure overall fat or lean tissue content) it is a good starting point in figuring your potential risks and determining health goals.

You can certainly get a more in-depth look by measuring body composition via Bioelectrical Impedance, Skin Folds, Hydrostatic Weighing or other methods. Do your research and seek out a certified professional!

5. Get Your Routine Check Ups!

When it comes to your health and prevention of cancers and other diseases, healthy food, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight play a big role in prevention. Even the healthiest of us however, should still see a doctor regularly to be proactive and ensure everything seems up to par. Prevention costs infinitely less than the cost (financially, physically, and emotionally) of treating disease.

Why You Gorge on Junk Food and Not Broccoli

Why is it so easy to cruise through a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream, but when you get to pile of broccoli, cucumbers, or chicken, it’s hard to eat more than a cup or so? Well the truth is, it’s a little more complicated than not having self-control or even because chips or ice cream “taste so good!”

The food industry is one of the most competitive markets and there are tons of companies all clamoring for your business. Go into the center area of any grocery store and you are inundated with boxes and bags of processed food screaming for you to buy them with bright colors and million-dollar logos! Each one touting low-carb, fat-free, vegan, organic, etc all claiming to be just what you need and want. But are they?

Let’s talk about the lures of “junk food” and why it’s so easy to overeat.

Whole foods are harder to overeat because they contain more filling fiber. Whole foods usually also require more physical chewing than their processed counterparts, and this is huge! Chewing actually sends signals to your brain which help you feel more satisfied and full. Perform your own experiment! See how many chews it takes to eat a piece of carrot, chicken, or broccoli and compare that to your favorite processed food.

Beware! According to Precision Nutrition, there’s a major restaurant chain that injects chicken with sauce to flavor and tenderize it so it requires less chewing…allowing you to eat more than you need!

Money – most everyone likes to save a buck. You can walk into most fast food restaurants and pick a numbered combo meal that delivers a pile of food to munch on. To get the same volume of food in a vegetable and protein meal (like a salad or buddha bowl) you will likely pay twice as much! Even at restaurants the most healthy options on the menu are often the most expensive. But the trick is, you probably don’t need the same amount of food as that double burger with fries and soda!

Pro Tip: Creating healthy meals with veggies and lean protein at home is extremely inexpensive! In-season produce can often be picked up for fifty cents a pound, and 4 servings of organic chicken breast is likely to cost you less than $10, so get in the habit of preparing! Don’t get caught without a plan and forced to meander through the nearest fast food drive-thru.

When it comes to processed foods (something that doesn’t grow from the ground, walk, swim, or fly) a clear majority of health claims do little more for us than the traditional “junk food” brands. When grabbing that processed food with the halo, compare the label to the equivalent “not so healthy” box. Understand what you are buying. Evaluate your pantry and stick with whole foods that don’t need labels. Organic Macaroni and Cheese is not so different from the blue box brand…

Trigger Warning! Find your trigger foods, slow down your eating, and be kind to yourself! Jumping on the latest “crash diet” is not a good long-term plan. Try being honest with yourself, with how you perceive yourself, and then find a supportive environment. Look for triggers to your food choices. Are you stressed, tired, or anxious when you turn to food? When you feel the urge to overeat, from stress or otherwise, try going for a walk, spending time with a friend or pet, exercising, reading, listening to music, or anything else that will positively distract you.

Have you ever noticed it’s easier to overeat at a buffet? When “trying a little of everything” you expose yourself to more flavors and textures that your body will be more inclined to consume more. This same phenomenon applies to mix snack packages with things like pretzels, cheese crackers, etc all mixed together.

Stick with fewer food choices on your plate if you want to keep your waistline in check. A rule of thumb is to stop when you feel 80% full, because it takes time for your brain to get the signals that you have had enough to eat.

Get even more info like this from our friends at Precision Nutrition, and as always remember to…