Weight Loss with HEALTHeME

Weight loss and good health made simple

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why you binge and how to syop.

Binge on healthy foods.
Binge eating and don't know what to do?  Stop eating sugar.  

Think you can lose weight by simply cutting back on your splurges and enjoying things like French fries or cookies in moderation? Here’s a hard truth: the old advice to enjoy foods you crave in moderation simply doesn’t work for everyone. Some people need to completely abstain from their “weaknesses” in order to feel successful and reach their weight loss goals.

I have worked in the health and fitness business for my entire professional life, so I know what I should and shouldn’t eat. And yet, I have a relentless sweet tooth that enables me to eat sugary treats that would make other people’s teeth hurt. I’ve tried limiting my indulgences, counted points, and established all sorts of boundaries. Here’s the one thing I’ve learned in all of this: I just simply can’t enjoy sweets in moderation. I can walk past the cookie jar all day and not indulge, but the minute I have one cookie, it’s a slippery slope and I’m staring at the bottom of an empty jar in no time. Does this sound familiar? I feel sure I’m not alone in my struggles with moderation; but, many common diets suggest that you should enjoy a “treat” in a controlled portion to avoid binging. For years, I’ve thought there must be something seriously wrong with me: why can’t I follow traditional wisdom and just enjoy ONE sugary goodie? I recently found an article (and some serious science to back it up) that made me make peace with my moderation-challenged behaviors.

The article classifies people into two groups: moderators and abstainers. The author suggests that some people (the moderators) feel more successful when they allow themselves the occasional indulgence or treat. For others, like yours truly, allowing the occasional indulgence literally opens the floodgates and translates into more stress and a sense of “failure”. People that fall into this second category are abstainers – those who fare better if they stay away from their weakness completely. For example, I feel much better if I make all sweet treats off-limits, rather than trying to limit myself to one or two Hershey’s Kisses per day. Neither the moderators nor the abstainers are “right”. Simply recognizing what resonates with your personality may change the way you structure your diet.

If you’re a person who feels that there is a pull much stronger than your willpower when it comes to treats you love, you may be exactly right. One 2011 study suggests that ghrelin, a hormone that helps your body recognize when it’s hungry and seek food in response, may also effect food addictions and your sweet tooth. Researchers found that certain genetic changes in the ghrelin hormone cause some people to consume more sugar. In another study, researchers concluded that increased levels of ghrelin might make you gravitate towards high-fat comfort foods. So, your inability to put the brakes on your late night Ben & Jerry’s indulgence may not be just in your head – you may be battling biology too. There are also a number of studies asserting that certain foods can be addictive substances to our bodies. One study suggests that sugar can be an addictive substance in and of itself, mirroring the chemical reactions that occur in the brain in response to drugs and alcohol. In these situations, doesn’t it make sense to avoid the addictive substance all together and prevent the chemical reactions that seem to make stopping at “just one” nearly impossible?

On the flip side, a recent study found that the more often people resist temptation, they are more likely to give in as the day goes on. The researchers found that mental resistance to a certain food increased cravings for that food. They suggest that the most effective strategy to control eating behaviors is not to resist food all together, but rather, to delay eating the food you are trying to decrease. Another article discusses ways in which restrictive diets can lead to binge eating, citing a classic 1940’s study called the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment”. These studies support the idea behind being a moderator and perhaps saving your treat until the end of the day or delaying your indulgence until you’ve completed your exercise for the day.

Is there a right way or a wrong way? Nope! It all depends on which path - moderating or abstaining - resonates most with your personality and will help you reach your goals. Some of you may feel overly controlled by foregoing those things that make you weak in the knees. If that sounds like you, then following advice like, “limit your sweet treats to once daily and keep it under 100 calories”, might be right up your alley. But, if this one sweet treat turns into an avalanche of Oreos, then try to step away from temptation and go for a walk or have a cup of tea instead. Identify your style and to thine own self be true. After all, no one knows you better than you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Favorite Yoga Poses For Your Legs and Glutes.

 3 Great Poses To Tone Your Legs!

Are you ready to rock your asana (a.k.a. a yoga pose)? Yoga is well known for being a great stress-buster, but yoga is also a great way to build strong, toned muscles. Move-over Madonna arms: these 3 super poses are all about your lower half! Try to hold each of the following poses for 3-5 breaths.

Chair Pose

Chair Pose (also called fierce or powerful pose): Stand with legs hip-width apart. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, bend your knees and press your hips back and down as if sitting in an imaginary chair. Make sure your knees stay behind your toes – you should be able to see your toes when you look down. Keep your chest lifted and abdominal muscles drawn in as you hold the pose for several breaths. Come back to standing.  

Benefits: This pose strengthens the muscles of the quadriceps, glutes, and improves core strength and stability. It also improves the flexibility of your calves & ankles – which is especially helpful if you frequently flaunt high heels.


High Lunge
High Lunge: Step back with your right leg so that you’re in a wide stance. Keep your right heel lifted and toes pointing straight ahead. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. Exhale as you bend the left knee, keeping the right leg straight. Engage the thigh muscles of the right leg and keep the right heel off of the floor. Make sure to keep the left knee directly over the ankle and don’t allow the knee to move in front of the toes. Go only as low as you can and hold for several breaths before switching sides.  
Benefits: The muscles in both legs will be strengthened plus, you get a nice stretch for your hip flexors, so this pose is a great way to counter a day spent seated at a desk.

Warrior III
Warrior III: From a standing position, bring all of your weight onto your left leg. Begin to shift your body weight forward and lift your right leg off of the floor. Keep your spine long and tall as you continue to lift your leg and bring your upper body forward. Eventually, you will try to align your upper body and right leg parallel to the floor. Your arms can either stay by your side or extend and reach forward. Make sure your abdominal muscles stay engaged and your spine stays in a neutral position. Try to resist the temptation to move forward onto your left toes; work to keep the entire foot grounded and muscles of the left leg engaged. Hold for several breaths before switching sides.  

Benefits: This move not only gives your glutes a strong lift, but it also improves your balance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Link between weight gain and stress.

Stress and weight gain go together.
Sleeping enough and keeping your stress low are good ideas, right?  But have nothing to do with reacing your weight loss goals. Wrong!  A new study may make you think again! A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that being stressed out and sleep deprived may, in fact, prevent you from losing weight.

During the study, 472 obese adults participated in a weight loss program that involved regular exercise, keeping a food journal, counseling sessions, and a healthy diet. At the end of the study, 60% of the participants lost at least 10 lbs. As you might guess, the people who lost weight, followed the diet and exercise programs, kept a food journal, and attended counseling sessions. What you might not guess is that the people who lost weight also got 6-8 hours of sleep each night and kept their stress levels low.
Recent research has found that some people cope with stress by eating, especially eating high fat, sugary foods. Overeating can make people feel good and counter the negative effects of stress. But, overeating also leads to weight gain.
Other studies indicate that when people aren’t getting enough sleep, they eat more calories. These extra calories are a sure way to derail your weight loss efforts! Need more encouragement to get some shut-eye? One study suggests that good, quality sleep may help your body regulate blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and body temperature. One surprising way to get better sleep is to simply turn down the lights before bed.

So, if you want to reach your weight loss goals, you might want to consider things like gentle stretching, yoga, meditation, journaling, dimming the lights before bed, and having a “technology” cut-off time (a time to turn off lap-tops, TV’s, and cell phones). These simple steps won’t just help you manage your stress level and sleep better; they will help you live a healthier life!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ABCs of Weight Loss

ABCs of weight loss.

When you choose to lose weight, you'll face inconveniences like giving up T.V. time or waking up earlier to make room in your day to exercise. Here's some tips to make it bearable!

Losing weight, in theory, is a pretty simple concept: burn more calories than you consume and you’re well on your way to shedding those unwanted pounds. In reality, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss takes sacrifice. Let me be clear about the fact that whether you make the sacrifices to improve your health or you are following a less than healthy lifestyle, which puts you at risk for developing serious diseases, you are still making sacrifices.  The sacrifices you'll make by not following the healthy road are much more serious: frequent doctors visits, missed days at work, trips to the pharmacy to get medications, and maybe even dealing with frequent finger sticks and insulin injections – all of which are consequences of diseases that are commonly associated with obesity.
Do I have your attention now? If the health-related consequences of not making your health a priority sound like a bigger inconvenience than making a few sacrifices to improve your health, then read on.

 Here are 5 best sacrifices to make for weight loss (although maybe a little inconvenient):
  1. Cook at home. I realize that you’re busy and between work, helping kids with homework, and taxiing your family around, it might seem like the drive-thru is the answer to your prayers. Consistently making dinner at home and eating at the dinner table may seem like a big inconvenience. But, studies show this is key to improving your health. According to one study, cooking at home leads people to make and eat healthier foods and those who cook at home experience more positive emotions. Plus, by cooking at home, you can control exactly how much sodium and fat is in your food. Try making a large batch of a meal so you’ll have on-the-go leftovers. Or, cook several meals over the weekend and freeze individual servings for healthy meals you can just heat up on busy days.
  2. Exercise regularly. OK, I know carving out time in your schedule to exercise is a little like reading a “Where’s Waldo” book. But finding the time to get active may be the healthy life magic bullet. Researchers in a 2011 study found that exercising just 20 minutes 3 times per week can cut your risk for developing type II diabetes by over 30%. That’s just 60 minutes of exercise per week, folks! When you leave your house for the day, take your sneakers with you so you will be ready to get moving when a free moment presents itself.
  3. Track your food. According to one study, the study participants who tracked what they ate on a daily basis lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t track their diet. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, taking a few minutes each day to update your food log will make you more aware of what you’re eating and where those extra calories might be sneaking in.
  4. Turn off your laptop and cell phone before bed. Who doesn’t want to wake up feeling well rested and ready for the day? If you’re burning the midnight oil texting, typing, and checking out Facebook, you might be in for a restless night. One study found that interactive technology, like laptops, cell phones, and video games, not only affect the quality and quantity of sleep you get at night, but they are bigger sleep busters than falling asleep while watching your favorite late-night show on T.V. So, try setting a bed time and turn off all technology (especially laptops, cell phones, and video games) at least 30 minutes before you want to hit the sack.
  5. Make (and eat) breakfast every morning. Mom may have been right in saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. And grabbing a Pop-Tart on your way out the door is not gonna do the trick! Not only are most on-the-go breakfasts loaded with sugar, they also lack a major breakfast must-have: protein. According to a 2011 study, eating a balanced breakfast that includes protein, can reduce cravings and decrease overeating, which can help you stay on track the rest of the day. Start your day with a true breakfast of champions and include high protein foods like egg whites or Greek yogurt.
Pick just one thing that will lead to weight loss and you can start to incorporate into your daily life. As you succeed in that one thing, you will find the confidence and the time to add another, and another, and another. As the Chinese proverb reminds us, “One step at a time is good walking.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ball workout for the best core!

Your “core” is the powerhouse of your body and includes everything from the abdominal muscles to the muscles of the back and hips. A strong core is key if you want to improve your posture, decrease back pain, and even slide into your jeans a little more easily. All you will need for this 15-minute core strengthening routine is an exercise ball! Perform 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.

Core and more on the ball!
  1. Plank Walk-Outs: Place the ball under your hips, hands under your shoulders and toes on the ground. Walk forward on your hands, lifting your legs and walking out so that the ball rolls under your legs. Keep your belly button lifted (navel toward your spine). Walk out only as far as you can maintain control over your body and not allow your hips to drop towards the floor. Walk back slowly to starting position.
  2. Back Extensions: After completing your last walk-out, walk back to place your toes on the floor and place the ball under your hips. Let your hands rest lightly on the ball. Keep your spine long and your neck in line with your spine. Slowly lift your chest away from the ball, without pressing your hands into the ball (they should just lightly rest on the ball for balance). Once you’ve lifted as high as you comfortably can, slowly lower back down to starting position.
  3. Squat Ups: Sit on the ball, with your feet flat on the floor and shift your weight forward slightly. Press up, lifting your hips off of the ball, bringing your hips just about an inch above the ball. Be sure to keep your knees behind your toes. Hover just a bit above the ball and slowly lower back down with control. To avoid “bouncing” on the ball and keep the work in your muscles, imagine that the ball is a water balloon that you don’t want to pop – keep the weight in your feet and put very little pressure on the ball as you lower down.
  4. Half Roll Downs: Sit on the ball and roll forward slightly so just your sitting bones are on the front section of the ball. Draw your abdominal muscles in and begin to roll back as if you were going to lie down on the ball. Stop about halfway down (you should feel the “tremor of truth here” – the shaky sensation in your core muscles when they’re working hard). Once you have paused at the halfway point, inhale and as you exhale, reverse the movement, rolling back up to starting position.
  5. Prone Hip Extensions: Lie on the ball, placing the ball under your belly or hips (whichever is most comfortable). Place your hands under your shoulders and extend both legs straight out behind you, toes off of the ground. Keeping the right leg straight (and the left leg very still), lift the right leg up a few inches. You should feel your gluteal muscles engage as you lift. Slowly lower the right leg down and repeat on the other side.
  6. Plank: Once you have completed your Prone Hip Extension exercise, walk forward with your hands until you are in a plank position (it should look like you are starting a push up). Place the ball under your thighs, shins, or ankles. Draw your abdominal muscles in and up and don’t allow your hips to pike up toward the ceiling or sway down towards the floor. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds.
  7. Crossover Crunches: Lie on your back with the ball directly under your lower back. In this position, your head, neck, and shoulders will be unsupported by the ball. Place your right hand behind your head and place your left hand on the side of the ball. As you exhale, draw your right shoulder up and over, aiming your right shoulder toward your left knee. Take care not to pull on the neck! Once you’ve completed your repetitions on one side, switch to the other side.
  8. Bridge: Lie down with your back on the floor and your calves resting on the ball. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your hips. Pressing your hands into the floor and your calves into the ball, lift your hips away from the floor, coming only as high as is comfortable for your body. Slowly lower your hips back down toward the floor and just allow the hips to barely tap the floor before lifting the hips again.
  9. Stretch! Don’t forget to include some stretches when you are all finished working your core. Try stretches like a lying twist, seated outer hip stretch and release your body into a lying position over the ball.
All the information presented by HEALTHeME is for educational purposes only, intended to help you make informed decisions about fitness issues. This information is NOT a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program. Use of the programs, advice, and information from HEALTHeME is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

5 Best Nutrients for Heart Health

Healthy Heart
Love is in the air. On this particular day, pretty much everything – from chocolates to balloons - is in the shape of the universal symbol of love: the heart. And, February has more to do with hearts than just being home to Valentine’s Day. February is also American Heart Month. So, how ‘bout showing your heart some love?
In honor of a month filled with reasons to take care of your heart, here are 5 nutrients that will keep your ticker lovable:
  1. Fiber: From helping you control your blood sugar to being a big player in weight loss, fiber is a key part of a healthy diet. One study found that a diet high in fiber decreases your risk for developing heart disease. This is especially true of soluble fiber, which is found in apples, blueberries, nuts, beans, & oatmeal. The average person needs to consume 20-35g of fiber per day, which is almost double what most people get on a daily basis!
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids: Eating fish is a great way to get your fill of heart healthy fats. Many studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3’s can decrease your risk for developing heart disease. A 2011 study found that a consuming fish oils might protect people against the harmful side effects of obesity, including decreasing the obesity-related risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines, and cod.
  3. Vitamin D: This vitamin has been getting a lot of buzz lately for its role in health, with deficiencies being linked to all kinds of health problems from depression to arthritis and heart disease. One study examined people who were running low on vitamin D. After consuming more vitamin D, 47% of the study participants reduced their risk for heart disease. If you’re going the dietary route, it’s best to work with your doctor to monitor your vitamin D levels and prescribe appropriate supplementation. But, one thing you can do is to make sure you’re soaking up the sunlight! Before I go on, let me emphasize that many consider me the sunscreen drill-sergeant, as I won't let anyone in my family go outside without at least 60 SPF from head-to-toe. A study I recently discovered has me considering giving my body just a few minutes of “un-screened” time in the sun each day. Researchers found that, for people with heart disease, a lack of sun exposure could result in a 30-50% increase in the rates of severe disease or death. Some experts recommend spending 10 minutes of your day soaking in the rays of the sun.
  4. Potassium: A banana per day may keep heart disease at bay! One study found that consuming twice as much potassium as sodium could decrease your risk of heart disease related death. So, to put this a little more simply: eat less sodium, eat more potassium rich fruits & veggies, and you’re less likely to die. That’s a pretty simple recipe for a longer, healthier life if you ask me.
  5. Love: Ok, ok, I know, it sounds corny. But, being one half of a loving, supportive relationship can have some serious benefits for your cardiovascular health, according to one cardiologist. This goes along with findings from a study in which researchers found that happily married people have lower blood pressure than their single counterparts. And, we all know that blood pressure control is a key to heart health. So, you might want to consider love a key nutrient and plan to get and give lots of it on a daily basis.

It’s time to give your heart some much-needed TLC, and not just today or during heart month, but all year long. We hope your heart is all a-flutter for heart-healthy living! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Read This Before You Weigh Yourself!

Let me paint a picture for you: you’re on a diet and, as of today, you and your walking shoes have become better friends. On Monday, you weigh yourself; on Tuesday morning, you check in on your progress by hopping on the scale. You’re super excited when you see that you lost 2 pounds overnight. Woot, woot! By Wednesday, you step on the scale again, holding out hope that you might be at your goal weight by now. You stare blankly at the scale, realizing you have gained back those 2 pounds plus one. Oy vey! What’s the deal?

According to some experts, your weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds from one day to another. Changes in your weight are due to things like water retention, water losses, and bloating. If you step on the scale on a daily basis, you are going to notice every little up and down. So, what’s the “right” number of times to step on your scale? Sigh. I know you were hoping for a simple answer with a magic number, but like most weight loss questions, it just isn’t that straight forward. The frequency with which you track your pounds is really all about your personal preferences.

For most people, weighing themselves once per week is enough to keep them on track, without feeling as though they’re on an emotional roller coaster. But, if you’re a person who responds well to accountability, then daily weigh-ins might just be the way to keep you on track. One study found that 68% of dieters who did not weigh themselves on a daily basis gained at least 5 pounds over the course of the 18-month study. Daily weigh-ins have helped many people stay accountable for their actions. If you're going to go this route, you just have to cozy-up to the idea that you could see fluctuations in your weight every day.

Regardless of whether you weigh yourself once a week or once a day, one thing is clear: you’ve got to weigh yourself regularly if you want to enjoy long-term weight loss success. According to the findings from the National Weight Control Registry, study participants who weighed themselves regularly were able to lose 10% of their body weight and keep it off for at least one year. In fact, 75% of the participants who maintained their weight loss weighed themselves at least once per week, with many stepping on the scale every day.

If it keeps you focused to weigh yourself each day, great! If the fluctuations in your weight make you frustrated and you lose momentum, then just check-in once per week. No matter how you decide to keep your eye on the scale, you have to set a realistic goal. Most experts agree that a weight loss of 1-2 pounds each week is the kind of gradual loss that you can actually sustain over the long term. And, remember to write down your numbers to track your progress. After all, you’ve got to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Tips to Lower Sugar Intake

Don't go there!

Shocker: the average American consumes more than 90 pounds of sugar per year!

In the 1990’s, American obesity rates soared and became public health enemy numero uno. The answer, it seemed, was to produce a whole lot of low-fat and fat-free foods. What did food producers do to satisfy the newly health-conscious consumer? They were able to slash the fat content of food and replace it with tons of sugar.

The problem with sugar is how our body metabolizes it. If we eat too much of certain types of sugar (think high-fructose corn syrup), our liver has to work really hard to process it and will convert most of the sugar into fat. This process can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major contributor to obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease.

Here are 3 simple tips for cutting sugar intake:
  • Don't make desserts a regular part of every meal - Save them for special occasions or weekend treats.
  • Skip breakfast cereal -  Most cereals are loaded with sugar, which sets you up for hunger and fatigue for the whole day.  Try having fruit, yogurt, and nuts or light cheese instead.
  • Say farewell to soda and fruit juice - These sugary drinks are also high in calories, so choose water flavored with fresh lemon or lime, seltzer, tea, milk, or plain water instead.

Best Exercises That Help Prevent Back Pain

Two little words that strike fear in the heart of many: back pain. Nearly 80% of Americans experience back pain at some point.  Here's more .  .

Most people know back pain can affect their quality of life. But, it can also take a toll on your wallet. According to a recent NY Times article, back pain sufferers spend $7000 per year on health care costs. Their non-suffering counterparts spend only about $4000 per year. This estimate doesn’t take into account the work-related costs of severe pain, like lost wages due to missing work.

So, if you think back pain sounds like a pain in the neck, there are some ways you can prevent it. One of the most important things you can do to prevent back pain is stand up straight! Correct posture means allowing your spine to maintain its natural curves. Your ears should be aligned over your shoulders; your shoulders should line up over your hips.

Good posture takes more than just mindfulness; you have to have the core strength to maintain proper alignment. Some classes like Pilates and Yoga will help you build up your core. There are also plenty of exercises you can do on your own without any equipment. Exercises like crunches, plank, and even just drawing your belly button towards your spine while sitting, will help you strengthen those abs.

Here are 3 great exercises that keep you strong and go a long way toward helping prevent back pain:

Plank on-the-ball for ab & back strength.

Reverse plank - advanced.

Bridge for back, glute, & hamstring strength.

Friday, February 10, 2012

15-minute Fat Burning Workout

Quickest workout ever!

Try this interval workout to build muscle, burn calories, and boost your energy. It takes just 15 minutes - no equipment required!

  1. Jog/march in place: 2 minutes
  2. Squats: 1 minute - Press your hips back as if sitting in an imaginary chair & keep your knees behind your toes
  3. Push Ups: 1 minute - Do these with your hands against the wall, knees on the floor, or place your hands under your shoulders and straighten your legs for more intensity
  4. Jumping Jacks: 2 minutes
  5. Alternating Reverse Lunges: 1 minute - Start with legs hip-width apart, step back with your right leg and lower your right knee toward the floor (without actually touching the floor) while keeping your left knee directly over your ankle, step your feet together and repeat on the other side
  6. Triceps Dips: 1 minute - Place your hands on a stable chair, step, or sofa, bring your hips forward off of the seat, bend at your elbows and lower until your elbows are bent to a 90 degree angle, push back up to complete one repetition
  7. Front Kicks: 1 minute - Don’t lock out your knees as you kick forward
  8. Alternating Jabs: 1 minute - Punch forward without locking out your elbows
  9. Plank: 30 seconds, rest, repeat - You can place your forearms on the floor (elbows under your shoulders) or hands on the floor (hands under your shoulders), keep your back in alignment and don’t allow your hips to drop or pike
  10. Jump Rope: 2 minutes - No worries if you don't have a jump rope, you can pretend!
  11. Bridge: 1 minute - Lie on your back and place your feet a few inches away from your hips, lift and lower your hips without completely resting your hips on the floor
  12. Abdominal Crunches: 1 minute - Be sure not to pull on your neck as you perform your repetitions.

    All the information presented by HEALTHeME is for educational purposes only, intended to help you make informed decisions about fitness issues. This information is NOT a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program. Use of the programs, advice, and information from HEALTHeME is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Congratulations to our CEO Dr. Guy Rachmuth

    Dr. Rachmuth's Actual Chip
    HEALTHeME CEO Dr. Guy Rachmuth has earned international recognition for his collaborative research at Harvard-MIT, which will be featured in a landmark paper to be published in a renowned science journal.

    Along with a team of researchers, Dr. Rachmuth helped to design a computer chip that mimics how the brain’s neurons adapt in response to new information. This groundbreaking research on how a brain learns and remembers will be unveiled in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
    The MIT researchers plan to use their chip to build systems to model specific neural functions, such as the visual processing system. Such systems could be much faster than digital computers. Even on high-capacity systems, it takes hours or days to simulate a simple brain circuit. With the analog chip system, the simulation is even faster than the biological system.
    Dr. Rachmuth said that another potential application is building chips that can interface with biological systems. This could be useful in enabling communication between neural prosthetic devices such as artificial retinas and the brain. These chips could eventually become building blocks for artificial intelligence devices, said Dr. Rachmuth.

    About Dr. Guy Rachmuth

    Harvard trained neuroscientist Dr. Guy Rachmuth, co-founder of HEALTHeME, develops the algorithms and artificial learning capabilities of the HEALTHeME engine. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in biomedical engineering with a focus on neuroplasticity – how the brain rewires and adapts in response to experience. He is a research affiliate at the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Stop Stress Eating!

    STOP stress eating!
    There’s a scene in a movie in which two women are talking about relationship break-ups. One of the women says something along the lines of, “When you hear that, you just run to the store and buy some ribs and some ice cream because YOU have just been dumped.” Let me be clear: this is definitely not a blog about relationships but it is important to point out that we often run to foods like ribs and ice cream when we’re facing an emotional crisis, after a stressful day at work, or even to celebrate a happy occasion. If we’re going to succeed in our battle against the bulge (or even a battle against high cholesterol), we’ve got to stop treating food as a reasonable outlet for our emotional status.

    According to one study, people who report feeling sad are twice as likely to eat high-calorie comfort foods when compared to their good-mood counterparts. Did that make your jaw drop? Probably not. Many of us recognize that we turn to cookies, ice cream or potato chips when we’re feeling blue – looking to food as a quick pick-me-up. But, what is surprising about this study is that when given the nutritional information of their comfort food, people who were feeling sad ate less than those who had found their happy place. Maybe people who were already feeling down didn’t want to feel worse by overindulging in high calorie foods or maybe they realized the old adage, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”, holds some truth. No matter the reason, reading nutrition labels might just curb your appetite for indulgence when you’re feeling down.

    It isn’t just the bad times that send people running to the all-you-can-eat buffet. In the event of happy times that warrant celebration, when’s the last time you didn’t make merry with a potluck, dessert, or dinner out with family and friends? Birthdays, holidays, and, yes, even Super Bowls often lead to over-doing the high calorie goodies. One study found that people who were focused on past happy events (like reliving last week’s promotion) were more likely to indulge in unhealthy foods. So, the next time you have a reason to celebrate, do so at an event that isn’t food-centered. Also, try to focus on living in the present moment. While you can (and should) take time to enjoy life’s happy moments, keep your focus on this day and the rewards of staying on the healthy track.

    You may already know that both celebrations and sadness make you more prone to indulgence. But, before you swear off office parties and just-been-dumped get-togethers, know that there are some serious biological factors at play here. Ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone”, is released when your stomach is empty and triggers your body to recognize hunger and eat. We also know that ghrelin is triggered in response to stress, making you feel the need to eat more when you’re anxious. A recent study found that this same hormone is responsible for making you crave high calorie comfort foods in response to stress. In the study, mice that were subjected to stress and able to respond to ghrelin were more likely to gravitate to high fat foods. However, mice that were genetically engineered and were unable to receive messages from the hunger hormone showed no preference to high-fat foods.

    Since we really can’t go in and rewire our brains to ignore ghrelin, what can we do to avoid running to the arms of our favorite comfort foods in the face of stress? And, remember, stress can be the stuff we normally associate with our busy schedules and high-pressure jobs; but stress can also be positive reactions to promotions, a new house, or a new job. Here are some strategies to help you eliminate the emotional rush to food:
    • Exercise. It’s one of the best ways to help you cope with stress. Plus, the endorphins released during exercise will boost your mood if you’re feeling blue.
    • Read your labels. As one of the above studies notes, reading the nutrition information will help you keep your eye on the prize: a healthy you.
    • Journal. Jotting your feelings, good or bad, down on paper helps you clear your mind and feel more at ease. Letting go of these emotions will help you make better decisions and will help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating.
    • Spend time with friends & family, just don’t do it over a meal! Get together for a walk, go to the gym together, or go to a movie (but be sure to pass on the popcorn).

    Yes, it’s important to celebrate life’s successes and it’s equally important to honor your emotions following the not-so-great things that happen to us. The key is to find a way to celebrate or commiserate without indulging in high-calorie foods that will de-rail your get-healthy plans!