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Book Review: Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! by Jillian Michaels and Mariska Van Aalst

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_masterSummary:
Jillian Michaels became famous for being a personal trainer on The Biggest Loser, a show she has since left.  In addition to being a personal trainer, she is also a woman with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), an illness that messes with hormones and often makes the sufferer gain weight due to these hormonal problems.  Jillian, with the help of her doctor, takes her years of experience both dealing with her own hormonal issues and training others with them and offers up advice on how to adjust your diet and lifestyle to optimize your hormonal balance for easier health and weight loss.

Review:
Despite its title, this book primarily focuses on achieving health through making permanent changes to your lifestyle, advocating a gradual overhaul with the focus on improving health, with weight loss as a side bonus.

The book opens with an introduction from Dr. Christine Darwin.  It then moves to Jillian giving a brief introduction to her own health journey.  It was fascinating to learn about how she became a trainer in her late teens, got her job on The Biggest Loser, and was diagnosed with PCOS.  This lends a personal touch to the entire book.  Jillian isn’t “naturally fit.” She works hard at it and has an illness that actually makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  This book is honest about the fact that achieving fitness is varying levels of difficult for people, but also takes a no-nonsense, if you want health you’ll fight for it, attitude.  That attitude may rub some readers the wrong way, but I appreciate it.

The book next tackles explaining how your biochemistry impacts your health and weight and why it’s therefore important to keep them balanced.  Readers who enjoy knowing the why’s behind certain bits of health advice (such as keeping your stress levels low, getting enough sleep, not eating after 9pm) will particularly enjoy this section, as it explains the biochemistry behind this advice.  Readers who prefer to just get the advice without knowing the why’s can easily skip this bit and just partake of the advice if they so choose.  My favorite part of this section is how kind Jillian is about how people may have beat up their bodies so far in life.  She’s very encouraging that what’s in the past is in the past, and every body can be improved.

No matter how you’ve abused your body up until now–and I’m willing to bet you have, even if you didn’t mean to–you can make it better. (loc 583)

The next section talks about how various chemicals and hormones in our environments contribute to messed up hormones.  Jillian is quite passionate about how things like BPA in cans and hormones in non-organic dairy can pile up to mess up human hormones.  Jillian makes a point of saying that even changing one of these things (for instance, buying organic dairy) can help your body, because every little bit helps.  However, she is also so passionate about these hormonal and chemical pollutants that it can sometimes seem as if she is telling the reader to change everything all at once, and that can be a bit overwhelming.

Next the recommended diet is tackled, and it’s actually fairly straight-forward.  Limit processed foods (and all the HFCS and artificial sweeteners and preservatives that come with it).  Focus on eating only things that grew in the ground or had a mother. Limit starchy root vegetables (less than 2 servings a day), alcohol (1 drink per day), caffeine (stick to green tea), soy (2 servings per week), full fat dairy and fatty meats, and canned food (to avoid BPA).  She encourages including power nutrients, such as: legumes, alliums, berries, meat and eggs, colorful and cruciferous fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, organic dairy, and whole grains.  Perhaps the most difficult part of the diet, besides cutting out processed food, is the timing of eating she recommends.  Eat within an hour of waking up. Eat three more times in the day, once every four hours.  Eat until you’re full but not stuffed. Don’t eat after 9pm.  The explanation for the timing issue is to help balance your hormones.  She also states that you must have fat, protein, and carbs at every meal, but to aim for higher protein, particularly in the evening meal and as you age.  The reasoning behind this is you feel more satisfied with all three macros and also are more likely to not lack in any particular nutrient.  Two other reasons are that protein increases your metabolism and as people age they need more protein to retain muscles.  This is not a particularly challenging diet, nor is it far off from what is generally recommended by doctors and nutritionists as a healthy diet.  Again, the most challenging part is the timing issue.  Not everyone’s life lets them perfectly space out their meals.

For those readers who are new to eating a whole foods, unprocessed diet, the book includes a sample menu (I believe it covers two weeks, but can’t double-check as it was a library copy).  The recipes are perfect for beginner cooks with nothing too complex and not too much time required.  Jillian teamed up with a professional for the recipes, and is straight-forward about that.

The book next tackles the six most common hormonal disorders, including PMS, hypothyroid, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS.  These hormonal issues require special recommendations and guidelines, and Jillian explains them quickly and clearly.

Finally the book ends with some tips on how to live out the recommended lifestyle, including how to afford and/or find organic food, how to clean your house without chemicals, etc…  Just as earlier, Jillian is so passionate about this that it’s possible for the reader to feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing everything, even though Jillian does make a point to state that changing even one thing, or one thing at a time, will help.  Perhaps it would help if the book ended with a checklist of the most important changes or how to adapt gradually or something like that to make it feel less overwhelming for the reader.

Besides the fact that sometimes the book can make the lifestyle feel a bit overwhelming, my only other issue with the book was when Jillian recommends that women stop taking hormonal birth control pills and use condoms instead.  Condoms are nowhere near as good a form of birth control as hormonal methods, and randomly recommending everyone stop using hormonal birth control is more than just a bit irresponsible.  It would have been far more responsible to do something such as suggest that if the reader is concerned about the level of hormones in her birth control to speak to her doctor about lower level hormone options, such as the mini-pill or the IUD, and see if those may work for her.  Just flat-out saying everyone use condoms is not helpful.  Plus, there is a risk/reward calculation that every individual must make for themselves.

Overall, this book mostly recommends diet and lifestyle changes that would also be recommended by most doctors and nutritionists.  The timing of eating is something that is up for debate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the reader to try it.  Jillian sometimes gets so passionate about all of the lifestyle and diet changes that it can feel overwhelming to the reader.  Recommended to those interested in the science behind generally recommended lifestyle changes.  Just remember that you don’t have to do everything at once and take the advice with a piece of salt. Do your own research and talk to your doctor before dropping medication/birth control.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Evidence, Bias, and Use…Oh, My! (MLA12 Seattle: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Section)

So at the meeting, librarians present their papers that were accepted to the conference.  These are organized into groups of four sponsored by one of the MLA’s sections.  I’m pleased to say that on Monday I made it to an entire session.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine includes everything from yoga to special diets (veg*nism, gluten-free) to acupuncture to traditional Chinese medicine to etc….  I appreciate CAM because it tends to look at the patient as a whole instead of just the diseased body part.  Plus I was curious as to what the presentations would have to say.  One thing that it is important to know.  Cochrane is a database of systematic reviews.  A systematic review is a study of the studies done.  It then summarizes what we know so far.  Think of it as centralized scientific study information.  The other thing to know is that in Western medicine, a treatment is come up with and then tested before it is used with people.  In CAM, the treatments are already in practice, so traditional randomized control trials (RCTs) used in Western medicine aren’t super-applicable.

“Cochrane Complementary and Alternative Medicine Systematic Reviews: An Analysis of Authors’ Comments on the Quality and Quantity of Evidence and Efficacy Conclusions” by Robin A. Paynter

  • CAM limited by RCT-driven evidence-based practice
  • 10% of database are CAM topics
  • Cochrane has a project to develop a classification scheme of CAM topics.
  • 47 out of 53 Cochrane groups have at least one review on a CAM topics
  • Treatment ares cover everything from vitamins to yoga
  • dietary intervention has 37 studies
  • Cochrane expresses concern over poor study designs.
  • Difficult to determine active content in plant-based meds
  • Significant groupage of comments around insufficient evidence and no effect.
  • cross-cultural issues

“Alternative Research Education in a Post-R25 World: Assessing Acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) Student Attitudes Toward Research and the Scientific Method” by Candise Branum

  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine–AOM
  • R25 grants intend to develop research literacy and view research as a bridge between Western medicine and CAM
  • Acupuncture Practitioner Research Education Enhancement (APREE)
  • AOM student interest in research declined with years in school, a 2006 study found
  • Do students recognize the benefits of AOM research? Overwhelming yes.
  • Students at schools without dedicated research departments were very unsure about the impact of research.
  • Feelings about research slope toward the negative over time.
  • Students see the benefits of research but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like it
  • A lot of students want to stay alternative and not become complementary
  • If they don’t want to be attached, they’re not gonna want to use the bridge of research.

“Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s (CAM’s) Research Agenda and Its Unique Challenges” by Jane D. Saxton

  • In 2007: 38.4% of adults used CAM over the previous 12 months.  Also, adults spent $33.9 billion out of pocket on CAM.
  • NIH funding to CAM is only 0.5% of the overall budget.
  • CAM is individualized not standardized.  (It’s adjusted to fit the patient not one standard applied to all patients).
  • Whole Systems Research (WSR) is a term coined in 2002.  It is an approach to studying non-linear, whole systems of care.
  • Use of pragmatic RCTs: measure effectiveness, don’t use placebos, patient-centered outcomes (transformational change)
  • CAM is the opposite of Western meds.  The treatment is already in use, whereas Western medicine is proposed, tried, then used.
  • You don’t need to know the biological mechanism in order to know its effectiveness.
  • MeSH terms currently available: complementary therapies, nonlinear dynamics, systems integration
  • We need more funding, different approaches, Whole Systems Research!
  • Please take a moment to check out the libguide of this presentation.

“Hitchhiker’s Guide to One Corner of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Universe” by  Ron LeFebvre

  • Vitalists are more interested in information (they “know” it works).
  • Empiricists value EBM but may not be great at finding what they’re looking for.
  • Chiropractors don’t like to be associated with medicine.  Use terms like “health care” and “practice” with them.
  • A good chiropractic search string: spinal manipulation OR chiropractic OR manual therapy
  • New graduates are more likely to be EBP savvy.
  • “There’s nothing that makes you more skeptical about research than studying it.”
  • There is no widely-used, well-regarded point-of-service tool to serve chiropractic interests specifically.  They do use Dynamed though.
  • PEDRO–database for physical therapy/exercise therapy that is also useful to chiropractors

Q and A

  • Diet is odd.  Sometimes it is viewed as an alternative medicine, sometimes not.  If it’s a non-western diet, though, it’s considered alternative.
  • NIH funded PROMIS is focused on patient-reported outcomes, particularly in treating anxiety/depression.
  • N-CAM databse has outcome scales and measures

Diet Terminology

September 29, 2009 7 comments

It’s not easy to live in America and not follow the traditional American diet.  As a vegetarian I am highly aware of this.  Therefore I tend to try to send nothing but happy thoughts to my fellow non-traditional foodies, be they gluten-free, vegan, kosher, etc….  However I kind of have a beef (pun intended) with one group of them right now.  I’m looking at you pescetarians.

It is absolutely cool that you choose to abstain from all meat but fish.  I don’t agree with it, but I respect it.  What really pisses me the fuck off though is those of you who are running around claiming to be vegetarians.  You are not vegetarians!!

From Merriam-Webster: vegetarian: one whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products

Do you see fish listed in there? Are fish vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, eggs, or dairy products? No? Then you are not a vegetarian! You are a pescetarian.

Here’s Merriam-Webster to help you out again: pescetarian: one whose diet includes fish but no meat

I know. You’re sitting there going Why does this woman have such a problem with what I call myself, right?

How you label yourself directly impacts me.  It’s hard enough to be a vegetarian and have to explain to people things like it’s not appropriate to give your vegetarian niece marinara sauce cooked with meatballs in it, even though you’re not giving her meatballs there is still meat juice all up in that.  I know you face things like that yourself when you explain that you don’t eat chicken.  Pescetarians running around calling themselves vegetarians means I now repeatedly have this conversation:

Me: “I’m sorry. I can’t eat that.  It has fish in it, and I’m a vegetarian.”
Person: “Vegetarians eat fish.”
Me: “Um, no they don’t.”
Person: “But I know someone who’s vegetarian, and she totally eats fish!”

You are making things more difficult for us vegetarians.  It’d be like if I ran around calling myself vegan and gnawing down cheese.  Vegans already are a bit confusing to the public, how much more would that confuse them then? You are just wrong.   You are using the wrong word for your diet.  Even freaking Merriam-Webster says so.  I know pescetarian is a funky-sounding word and you will probably have to explain it a bit more to the public since it is not as well-known as vegetarian.  Do it anyway.  It’s what you are. If you really want to call yourself a vegetarian stop eating damn fish!

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

September 18, 2009 6 comments

I discovered via Random Musings from the Desert that this week – September 14-20 – is National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.  I was unaware that such a week or an organization exists, but this is awesome!  Too often people suffering from illnesses without obvious symptoms are told it’s all in their heads.  Well, it’s not.  In honor of raising awareness, I decided to complete the groups’ 30 things questionnaire about my own invisible illness.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2006

3. But I had symptoms since: Well that’s hard to pin down.  I had minor symptoms periodically in my teens, but they grew insanely consistent and nearly unlivable in December 2005.  Imagine the worst stomach bug you’ve ever had.  Now imagine that lasting two months, but only showing up in the mornings and that was my life.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: My diet, my diet, my diet.  IBS caused me to become vegetarian and severely limits what processed foods I can eat.  It’s really hard to tell people “I can’t eat there” or “I can’t eat that,” because if they don’t know I have IBS then they relentlessly question me, mock my food choices, or even just assume that I’m picky and spoiled.

5. Most people assume: That symptoms are consistent.  That it’s my fault because I’m stressed out too much.  It’s true that stress-reduction techniques can help IBS symptoms, but stress does not cause IBS.  It’s true that sometimes I puke but not every time I’m symptomatic.  There’s nothing really consistent about IBS.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Breakfast.  Do I attempt to eat breakfast? Should I eat even though I don’t feel hungry?  Lots of times I’m nauseous in the mornings.  Even if I’m not nauseous there’s no guarantee that eating breakfast won’t cause me to become symptomatic.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Scrubs.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My iPod (not sure what this has to do with anything…..)

9. The hardest part about nights are: Nights are actually usually the easy part for me as long as I ate well that day.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. I don’t take any consistently. Though I do try to take B12.  When I was first diagnosed, I took a lot more until I got the symptoms under control.  It was mostly herbs and digestive support alt med stuff.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: would be in hell without them.  The regular medical doctors were only able to give me a pill that added passing out on top of my other symptoms.  A naturopath gave me dietary and exercise advice as well as the dietary supplements previously mentioned.  Changing my diet and exercise routines combined with those pills were a serious life-saver.  I went from being symptomatic every day to about two days a month.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: An invisible one.  It’s relatively easy to hide if I don’t feel like talking about it, which is most of the time.

13. Regarding working and career: Most of my jobs have been really understanding about it. Yay libraries!

14. People would be surprised to know: That people with IBS are at a higher risk for developing eating disorders, because they come to view food as evil.  This is not a big surprise since people with IBS know that the only time they are guaranteed no symptoms is when their digestive tracts are empty.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: That I can’t eat whatever I want anymore.   Also, the fact that when I’m symptomatic and puking in a public restroom, people always make snarky asides about me being either bulimic or pregnant.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: There’s nothing I thought I’d never be able to do again that I now can do.  I still can’t eat Pringles, for example. (Hey, I really like Pringles).

17. The commercials about my illness: Make it look like only women have it, and we all bloat up and stand around holding our stomachs.  They also make it seem like a pill could fix it, when it can’t. (yet)

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Again, being able to eat whatever I want!   Ah, to vary this up, how about puking only occurring the once in a blue moon I got a stomach bug.  Now it’s a monthly occurrence.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: Fried food. I can still eat it somewhat, but it’s risky.  I also miss Doritoes.  And bacon.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Yoga!  It’s so beneficial for IBS symptoms.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: (repeating myself) Eat whatever the hell I wanted all day without worrying about how I’d feel later.

22. My illness has taught me: It led me to reading vegetarian cookbooks, which educated me about factory farms (terrible places).  It has also taught me to respect people’s food choices without asking them annoying questions about them.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “It’s your fault because you’re too stressed.”

24. But I love it when people: Make a point to do the extra checking to make sure a restaurant we’re going to will have food I can eat.  I also love the various people who’ve held my hair when I’m throwing up.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I really don’t have one.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Skip the regular doctors and go alt med.  Make lifestyle changes and your symptoms will improve.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How much other people care about my stomach.  In both the good and the bad sense. 😉

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Anybody who’s held my hair and/or cleaned up for me when I was too ill to is really high up there.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I think it’s a good cause!  I wasn’t even aware IBS existed when I was first symptomatic.  Awareness of these things is always a good thing.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Honored. 🙂

How to Successfully Become Vegetarian

August 17, 2009 10 comments

A twitter conversation this weekend with some would-be vegetarians made me realize that while there is a lot of information out there on why to be vegetarian, there isn’t very much guidance offered for those who have decided they want to make this life change.  Thus, this post won’t be a list of the many good reasons to become vegetarian; this post is directed at those who want to not only make the change, but do it in a healthy manner and make it stick.

Becoming vegetarian is a life-style change.  It’s hard to change your lifestyle cold turkey.  You tend to make a mistake, revert to your old ways, then get discouraged.  Most people I know who have tried to make a lifestyle change cold turkey end up failing.  It works for some people, but it’s also not the healthiest option when it comes to relearning how to eat.  If one day half of your meals are made up of meat, then the next day you suddenly can’t eat meat, you’re prone to make unhealthy choices, such as subsisting on fries and coke.  😉  A vegetarian diet isn’t innately healthy.  You can eat nothing but chips, ice cream, and candy and still be considered vegetarian.  Thus, the approach I usually recommend is the gradual approach.

First, cut out red meat.  It’s the most unhealthy meat for you, and a lot of people can’t eat it for various health reasons.  It’s the easiest meat to tell people you don’t eat.  At this same stage, limit yourself to meat at one meal a day.  This will get you practicing on creating healthy, meat-free meals.  Pick up some books on vegetarian recipes.  My favorite for new vegetarians is Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies.  It explains to you how to make sure you’re eating a balanced, meat-free diet, whether you like to cook or not.  If you do like to cook, it has some fun, super-simple recipes to get you started.   This stage is the one I like to call the “ah-ha! Meals don’t have to revolve around meat!” stage.

Pre-set an amount of time for yourself to stay at the “no red meat and only one meat meal a day” phase.  I did it for six months, but each person knows herself the best.  However, whatever amount of time you choose, stick to it!

For the next phase, cut yourself down to only three meat meals a week.  I ate three dinners a week, but you can make them whatever meal you want.  Keep track of it though, and don’t cheat.  I recommend spreading them out over the course of the week.  Maybe eat meat Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  That gives your body a break between meat days and will leave you craving the meat less.  Continue to read up on vegetarian cooking and living.  There are books out there for everyone from the person who hates to cook to the person who loves to entertain with gourmet meals.  Read what suits you!

Some people like to step down from three meals a week of chicken and/or fish to three meals a week of fish.  I was never a huge fan of fish, so I skipped that step, but if you want to, you certainly can.  If you go that route, I’d say do three months of both, then three months of just fish.

Finally, you are at the year mark.  You are only eating meat at three meals a week.  You might surprise yourself and hardly even notice there being no meat in your other meals.  Horizons are broadened as you have learned of new foods you can eat, such as tempeh, couscous, wheat gluten, hummus, and more!  The final step is upon you: taking that last plunge, cutting out those three meals, being able to proclaim “I am a vegetarian!”

Choose a specific date as the day you become a full-fledged vegetarian.  New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, so I made mine a New Year’s Resolution, but you certainly don’t have to wait for New Year’s! Pick whatever day you want.  The week prior to the official day, clear out all the remaining meat from your house.  I ate my final meat meal out at a favorite restaurant, but you can cook it for yourself if you prefer.  View it as a celebration, not a loss!  Maybe even buy yourself a few new pots and pans that you can look upon as your special, vegetarian pans.  On that day, wake up and know that you are now a vegetarian!

Since you made the transition gradually, you won’t feel such an immediate, gaping hole.  You’ll only need will-power periodically instead of at every meal of the day.  Be sure to pick up a Vitamin B12 supplement at this point though, as it is the only vitamin you cannot get from plant food.  (You used to be able to, prior to factory farming).  I won’t lie to you.  You will still get cravings sometimes.  About a month in, I almost caved and ate bacon.  In fact, most vegetarians I know caved once at some point and ate meat. Every single one of them followed it up by being sick to their stomachs immediately after.  Don’t feel bad if you cave once!  We are all human!  You’ll probably pay for it by being horrendously sick to your stomach anyway, no joke.  That’s another element of going gradual: your body gradually adapts so that it prefers the vegetarian diet.  It comes to view meat almost as an invader in your intestines.

Don’t be deterred though!  Even though you may periodically crave your own favorite bits of meat (for me, this will always be bacon, as there is no good vegetarian substitute), you will have new favorite foods!  I fell in love with hummus and tofu.  I also discovered the amazing No-Name at my local vegan restaurant The Grasshopper.  These are foods you would never have known about if it wasn’t for going vegetarian!  No matter what your reasons for going vegetarian, you’ll be healthier.  Studies have proven that vegetarians have a lower risk for various cancers, obesity, and heart disease.  Vegetarianism isn’t a diet you go on briefly.  It’s a new way of life!