Fitness & Well Being

 

Reversing diabetes begins with diet and exercise.

Studies suggest that it is possible to reverse diabetes. We provide a few guidelines for how to get started.

 
Photo: iStockphoto
Learning how to reverse diabetes is simple. Actually doing it is the hard part.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25.8 million Americans are affected by diabetes in one way or another.
 
If you’re one of them, the general steps toward reversing the condition are as follows:
  • Manage blood sugar levels
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Adopt dietary changes
The lifestyle choices that can lead to diabetes include eating lots of sugary foods, refined carbohydrates that easily convert to sugar (like pastries and breads) and not exercising.
 
Christian K. Roberts, an assistant research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Nursing who has conducted several studies on health and lifestyle choices says that it is indeed possible to reverse diabetes.
 
In 2005, Roberts co-authored a research study which highlighted the results of five different studies covering 864 subjects who modified their lifestyles in order to measure the effect on their diabetic condition. In the combined results, about 75 percent of the subjects that were taking oral hypoglycemic agents were able to reverse diabetes and about 50 percent of those on insulin were able to discontinue their medication. 
 
The following year, in a much smaller, peer-reviewed study that lasted about three weeks, Roberts was able to reverse diabetes in about half the participants diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. The 31 men who participated in the trial performed 45-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on a treadmill every day during the study and ate a low-glycemic plant-based diet.
 
“We don’t know exactly how long it takes to reverse diabetes, but, as you can see, with an intensive program, it doesn’t take that long,” says Roberts.
 
Roberts acknowledges that most diabetics, if they are not in an intensive research program, will most likely not be able to reverse their condition in such a short time frame.
 
“The degree to which diabetics modify their lifestyle will determine if it takes weeks or months to reverse it,” says Roberts, adding that in addition to adopting a daily exercise regimen, those with diabetes must eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a small amount of meat, and, perhaps most importantly, no refined carbohydrates.
 
Roberts cautions that reversing their condition does not mean a diabetic is in the clear.
 
“If diabetics, especially those with type 2 diabetes, revert back to the lifestyle that led them to become diabetic in the first place, they will once again have diabetes,” he said. “To be sure, there is no cure.”
 
Judd Handler is an Encinitas, Calif.-based health reporter and wellness consultant. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Dumbbells on a rack.

Adjusting your diet and exercise can help you slow things down metabolically.

 
TRYING TO GAIN: Reduce the length of your cardio workout and add a challenging weight-training routine to help slow down your metabolism. (Photo: jerryonlife/Flickr)
Most people look for ways to boost their metabolism, but for a minority of skinny-minnies, Olive Oyls, and other ectomorphic types, the challenge is how to slow metabolism.
 
For those who need to preserve every ounce of precious body fat or even pack on a few extra pounds, here are some tips to trick your body into burning fewer calories.
 
In general, you’ll want to:
  • Eat a diet rich in natural fats and protein
  • Eat only one or two big meals per day
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
  • Avoid sugary and artificially sweetened foods and drinks
  • Cut down on lengthy durations of cardiovascular exercise
I’d like to gain a couple pounds … should I scarf down a couple Big Macs?
If you’re trying to gain weight, yes, you should consider eating foods with higher fat and protein contents. But choose a diet consisting of whole foods that are ideally not processed or minimally so. Big Macs, unfortunately, don’t fit those criteria.
 
Dietary fat helps to slow metabolism. One gram of natural fat (think avocados; olive and coconut oils; nuts; hormone-free and all-natural meats and cheeses) contains nine calories, compared with four calories in one gram of carbohydrates and one gram of protein.
 
Chances are, if you are underweight, you burn up carbohydrates too quickly. Eating a diet containing liberal amounts of natural fat will help to give you longer-burning energy and avoid that sluggish and bloated feeling you might get after eating pasta or rice and baked goods.
 
I thought eating several meals a day was good for your metabolism
If you’re trying to stoke your internal engine, i.e. your metabolism, yes, eating several smaller meals throughout the day is an excellent way to boost metabolism. But if you’re tying to slow your calorie-burning mechanism, you’ll want to eat less frequently in the day.
 
Used to eating four or five times a day? Try cutting out one or two meals at first and then gradually reduce the number of times you eat in one day.
 
For example, try eating a large breakfast (with two whole eggs with cheese, minimally processed bacon or sausage, some sautéed spinach and whole grain toast), followed four-and-a-half or five hours later by lunch (salmon salad with lots of olive oil) and then a similarly sensible dinner loaded with protein and natural fat.
 
Over time, you may even be able to cut down to one or two heavy meals per day. A word of caution: don’t sacrifice good energy for the sake of slowing your metabolism. It’s more important to have steady energy throughout the day then trying to put on a couple pounds. Make sure you’re eating enough during the day so you’re focused on your job, raising your kids or whatever demanding tasks you have.
 
No caffeine? Are you serious? I can’t live without my grandé hammerhead.
If you really need your caffeine fix, try and limit your intake to one 8-ounc cup of coffee per day, preferably in the morning after you’ve had some water and breakfast.
 
Drinking coffee first thing in the morning before eating, if you’re trying to slow your metabolism, is like pouring fuel on an already quick-burning fire.
 
Consider a slower-burning caffeine buzz like green tea if you really need caffeine fix.
 
Overweight people consume lots of sugar; won’t eating it help me gain weight?
It’s more important to add muscle mass — not fat mass — so ingesting large amounts of sugar will most likely lead to fat accumulation in areas that aren’t very attractive (saddlebags, buttocks, hips, etc.).
 
Individuals with hyper metabolisms who consume large amounts of sugar are, just like in the aforementioned caffeine example, pouring fuel on an already out-of-control fire, not to mention the potentially dangerous consequence of developing type 2 diabetes.
 
I thought cardio was good for you
Cardiovascular exercise builds healthy heart tissue and blood pumping efficacy. But if you’re trying to slow your metabolism, limit the duration of your cardio sessions. For example, if you’re used to doing 45 of 60 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, try reducing to 20 minutes and instead, add a challenging weight-training routine that limits the amount of repetitions to 10-12 per set.
 
After all, muscle weighs more than fat, and if you’re trying to pack on a couple pounds, what better way to gain weight than turning your body fat into muscle?
 
Judd Handler is a weight-management consultant and freelance health writer living in Encinitas, CA. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

Lifting weights to build muscle

Learn how resistance training, anabolic foods and proper rest can help you grow muscles in a healthy way.

 
Photo: alaina.buzas/Flickr
What's the best way to get stronger and develop just-in-time-for-summer ripped muscles? Hopefully, you're not thinking anabolic steroids or cosmetic surgery. Instead, try these tips on how to build muscle, with long-term safety and wellness in mind.
 
Any muscle-building regimen requires these three components:
  • Resistance Training
  • Nutrition
  • Rest
To build muscle, you need to stimulate and challenge your musculoskeletal system with resistance training. For some people that have been struggling for years with being overweight, resistance training conjures up an intimidating image of massive bodybuilders pumping iron at the local gym.
 
PushupsBut resistance training doesn't have to be a meat-headed, sweaty, earth-shattering-barbell-drop-to-the-floor affair; your own body weight is more than enough to encourage muscle growth.
 
Even if you don't have the strength to do a single military-style pushup, doing a modified version on your knees can greatly increase strength and encourage muscle growth.
 
Start with knees under hips, hands shoulder-width and elbows pointed straight back and close to the ribs. Rock your bodyweight slightly forward on the lowering phase and exhale as you push back up. Perform at least 3 sets to near failure, even if you can manage just a few repetitions.
 
Other bodyweight exercises like bench dips and squats can build muscle.
 
I'm fine with going to the gym. What should I do to build muscle? 
Trainers love to debate the merits of free weights versus machines. But to build muscle, it really doesn't matter what equipment you use.
 
WeightsCertainly, you've heard the term "atrophy." Perhaps you've broken a bone in the past and your doctor explains how the inactive muscle around the bone will become atrophied. The opposite of atrophy is "hypertrophy" and no matter the resistance training method you choose, be it barbells, dumbbells, machines, your own bodyweight or a combination, make sure you are training for hypertrophy.
 
Theoretically, hypertrophy occurs at the 8-12 repetitions mark. This means that, say you’re doing some biceps curls, you would want to lift a weight that is light enough for you to be able to do at least 8 reps but heavy enough that you would reach failure at no more than 12-15 reps.
 
Perform three to four sets of each exercise and target large muscles like the glutes, thighs and back. You can even build muscles in your abdominals by doing weighted crunches. (This is better than wasting your time with 100 crunches.)
 
Am I building muscle if I do more than 15 reps? 
Picking a weight that allows you to do 15+ reps encourages muscular endurance, which is an important element of overall health. For resistance training beginners, it's a good idea to first concentrate on muscular endurance before training for hypertrophy. After three months or so of regular resistance training (3-6 days per week), reduce your repetitions to the 8-12 range to build muscle.
 
What foods should I eat to build muscle?
We know that anabolic steroids build muscle, albeit with potentially harmful consequences. But to encourage muscle growth, you need to eat anabolic foods. After food is digested, it will either have an anabolic or catabolic chemical reaction.
 
Catabolic foods encourage the wasting away of muscle tissue; anabolic foods encourage muscle-tissue growth.
 
Anabolic foods include:
  • Lean, antibiotic-free, all-natural animal protein
  • Eggs
  • Whey protein powder
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Healthy natural fats
EggsFor most people, the majority of carbohydrates that comprise the typical Western diet are catabolic. To build muscle, the only carbs you should eat are lots of vegetables and moderate servings of fruit and whole grains.
 
Is it really important to eat after a workout? 
The most important time to "feed your muscles" with anabolic foods is within one hour after a resistance training workout. Lifting weights causes micro tears in muscle tissue. Make sure you encourage tissue repair and growth within the hour, if possible.
 
What else can I do to build muscle? 
Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Your muscles don't repair and grow at the gym; they do so at night, while you're sleeping. Also make sure you are drinking at least 8-10 cups of water a day to help saturate your muscle tissues and hydrate the joints around them.
 
Judd Handler is an Encinitas, Calif.-based fitness trainer and weight-loss coach.
 
Photos:  alexa627/Flickr; Håkan Dahlström/Flickr; cursedthing/Flickr

 

The HCG diet is become very popular.

Thanks to celebrity-authored diet books heralding the hormone, the HCG Diet has become quite popular.

 
(iStock)
If you were overweight, would you take a weight-loss supplement formulated from the urine of pregnant women?
 
The supplement in question is HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This hormone has been utilized as a medical solution since the 1950s. It was originally administered to boys in India to reverse their female physical traits, such as breasts.
 
In recent years, due in part to celebrity-authored diet books heralding the hormone, the HCG Diet has become quite popular.
 
Perhaps not a household name like Atkins, South Beach and the Zone Diet, the HCG diet has also experienced a resurgence because of laissez-faire supplement regulations on the Internet, fueling an explosion of companies hawking HCG online.
 
How does HCG Work?
Proponents of the HCG diet claim that the hormone resets the body back to its natural healthy fat metabolizing capability. The hormone influences your body to draw all of its energy only from your abnormal and excess fat, yet leaving your muscles and organs functioning healthily.
 
People pushing HCG also purport that the hormone helps your body reach a state where it can more effectively control hunger while burning fat quickly.
 
Claims of one to three pounds of weight loss per day are common on the HCG diet.
 
HCG signals the hypothalamus (area of the brain that affects metabolism) to mobilize fat stores. In pregnancy, this helps the body bring nutrients into the placenta, nourishing the fetus with the energy to grow.
 
Although the hormone is commonly associated with pregnant women, men are also able to supplement with the hormone and have naturally occurring levels in their system.
 
HCG supplements are most often sold in sublingual drops, although most dieticians would recommend being supervised by a doctor, who would most likely prescribe injections rather than drops or pills.
 
Because injections and doctors visits are often more costly than ordering a bottle online, the resurgence of the HCG diet has sparked controversy.
 
What are HCG diet dangers?
For starters, HCG is only licensed as a fertility drug. But diluted, unregulated forms are found all over the Internet.
 
The hormone is also used by some bodybuilders to increase testosterone production and counter the effects of diminishing testicle size during an anabolic steroid cycle.
 
The main kicker is that the HCG diet is severely calorie-restricted: 500 calories maximum per day.
 
Conventional wisdom recommends that adults consume at least 2,000 calories per day.
 
Consuming only 500 calories per day would make most dieticians’ hair fall out.
 
Under normal circumstances, that’s precisely what would happen if someone ate 500 calories a day. In addition, they would experience muscle loss, bone density loss and organ dysfunction.
 
What do proponents of HCG say about the dangerously low caloric intake?
The case for HCG supplementation is that it actively suppresses food cravings, and energy requirements are completely fulfilled thanks to rapid fat metabolism.
 
Although HCG dieters eat similar to the caloric intake of an anorexic, their bodies are acting as if they’re consuming much more.
 
“Even though you’re only consuming 500 calories while on the diet, your body actually receives thousands of calories to meet its energy requirements from the fat that is being broken down,” claims one website that sells the hormone.
 
“Once the diet ends this status quo remains because your body has been re-tuned to take its energy from excess fat rather than store it,” the website adds.
 
How long do you have to be on the HCG diet?
Most businesses that sell HCG online claim that if you have up to 25 pounds of weight to lose, it will take about 25 days to achieve the weight loss. A cycle of approximately 40 days is the norm for people with more than 25 pounds to lose.
 
Some on the HCG diet have failed to lose all the desired weight on their first cycle. They are advised to repeat the cycle after a period of three weeks; six weeks if on the 42-day program.
 
The Verdict on HCG
Testimonials of people losing dozens of unwanted pounds number in the thousands, but it’s probably best to consult a doctor, dietician, or naturopath before starting the HCG diet.
 
Judd Handler is a wellness consultant and freelance health writer based in Encinitas, CA. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Woman receiving massage.

The benefits of massage are vast and include some not so obvious connections to the central nervous system.

 
Some say human touch is as vital to our existence as food, water and breath. (Photo:thomaswanhoff/Flickr)
Measuring the benefits of massage can be difficult.
 
There are the obvious benefits, which have been documented in scientific studies and demonstrate that massage can be great for reducing stress, boosting immunity, combating stress, mitigating depression and lowering blood pressure.
 
But, then there are the less obvious but equally important ways massage benefits us: it stimulates the central nervous system and improves the mind-body connection.
 
As we continue to learn more and more about massage and its effect on humans, we will undoubtedly see more and more research and studies and we’ll likely learn more about the great things massage does for our bodies.
 
But do we really need research studies that corroborate what the ancient Egyptians and Chinese already knew, as well as Native Americans and Indians from the Asian subcontinent and other classic civilizations?
 
Don’t we intuitively know all these benefits? Do we really need a lab researcher doing a study proving that sitting in close contact with a partner for 10 minutes lowers blood pressure, as recent article in Oprah Magazine mentioned? 
 
Massage Benefit Bonus: Mind-Body Connection
One major massage benefit the article did not mention is the stimulation of mind-body unity. Perhaps it’s difficult to scientifically measure what the gerontologist and author Ken Dychtwald called “the miraculous play of psyche and spirit within the totality we are,” in the foreword of the seminal bodyworker’s bible, "Job’s Body" by Deane Juhan, a book that Utne Reader said should be “required reading for every bodyworker.”
 
Dychtwald summarizes the themes of Juhan’s opus, divulging in the very beginning of the book quite eloquently what is perhaps one of massage’s greatest benefits.
 
He says:
“Without adequate tactile input touch, the human organism will die. Touch is one of the principal elements necessary for the successful development and functional organization of the central nervous system, and is as vital to our existence as food, water and breath.”
Another massage benefit, according to Dychtwald, is that “Bodywork…can actually re-educate and re-program the organism into becoming more coordinated, more flexible, and more appropriately responsive—literally more ‘intelligent.’ ”
 
Different Types of Massage for Different Benefits
Good bodyworkers ask their clients before a session what outcomes or benefits the client would like to experience as a result of the session.
 
Perhaps one client is a cyclist and most often enjoys deep tissue massage for the benefit of muscle tension relief, but this week is majorly stressed out. The in-laws are in town.
 
The bodyworker would be wise to at least ask if the client would want to receive a more gentle form of bodywork to relieve stress and quiet the mind.
 
If the intake form (which every bodyworker should have a client fill out before the first session) lists anti-depressant medication, the bodyworker would likewise want to provide a less-rigorous, deep-tissue massage, unless specifically asked for.
 
If your bodyworker doesn’t ask you about your desired outcome (more relaxed, less tense, etc.), tell the bodyworker before the session starts how you would like to feel after the massage.
 
Intrinsic Benefits of Massage too Complex for Scientific Measurement?
Science can measure some of the physiological processes that occur after getting a massage such as increased serotonin, one of the brain’s all-natural depression fighters.
 
But what it has yet to measure is the mental development that may occur as a result of massage and how massage affects, once again quoting Dychtwald, the “intellectual and emotional contents of the body’s organs.”
 
What Dychtwald means is that one major massage benefit is that bodywork may fundamentally change who we are as human beings.
 
Judd Handler is a lifestyle coach and certified massage therapist in Encinitas, CA, specializing in Thai Massage Therapy, a combo of assisted-yoga stretching and bodywork. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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