Less Sleep for Teens could take away from Healthy Eating

BlogPic4Whether your teen gets enough sleep or not could determine the kinds of food they tend to eat.

Research that was presented at the annual SLEEP 2013 conference show that teens who are sleep deprived tend to eat less healthfully than teens who are well rested.  Sleep deprived teens not only just eat more food that is bad for them, but they tend to eat less healthy food.  “While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, i.e., nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected,” stated a study researcher Lauren Hale, Ph.D., an associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

In the study, researchers examined data from 13,284 teens with an average of 16 who were a part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.  18% of the teens had slept less than seven hours a night.  These sleepy teens were less likely to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables throughout the week and were more likely to eat unhealthy fast food at least two times a week, compared to the teens who got more sleep the night before.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teenagers need around 9.5 hours of a sleep, while some need about 8.5 hours, but only 15% of teens get 8.5  hours of sleep on school nights.

A recent study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that sleep deprivation could make people want larger food portions.   The researcher of this study, Pleunie hogenkamp of Uppsala University suggested that, “sleep deprivation enhances food intake regardless of satiety.”

Last month a study that was shown at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society showed that sleep loss is linked with high blood level of a molecule, which regulate the feelings of reward that comes from eating.  This could be a reason why people seem to crave food after a bad nights sleep.

In reference to Sleep-Deprived teens skimp on produce, eat more unhealthy food:study

Less Sleep Makes You Eat, Which Makes You Overweight

Recent research that was published on June 26, in the journal Sleep confirms that the later you stay up, the more sleep you lose, which leads you to eat more calories, then you gain more weight.

Sleep researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania, found that when people went to bed at 4 a.m. and woke up four hours later, they consumed about 550 calories after 11 p.m., which is far more than what their bodies needed.  Most of those 550 calories came from fat, which brings on weight gain on an average of 2 pounds after five straight nights of little sleep.  This study was significant because it studied 225 people and the research took place in a lab, leaving scientists able to control it.

Andrea Spaeth, a doctoral candidate and the study’s lead author said that participants in the study could basically eat whenever and as much as they wanted.  The meal sizes did not differ from the baseline days and the experimental days or between the sleep-deprived group and a small control group.  Spaeth explained that the sleep deprived group at more times through the day which shifted their calorie intake toward late night and the next morning they would eat less.

Kenneth Wright, associate professor in the department of integrative biology and the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado mentions that weight gain with sleep loss is still somewhat unclear.  He explained that in an experiment that was released earlier this year, his lab had found important hormones that regulate food intake, like gherlin and leptin, were within normal levels in sleep deprived people, but they would still eat more.

He mentioned, it could be that control centers of the brain, such as willpower, are weakened, causing us to look for rewarding and pleasurable food, which could be why we tend to eat junk food late at night.  We are simply looking for comfort, but there are many other factors at work as well.

“We have biological mechanisms to prompt us to consume more energy” when we are awake,

Spaeth mentioned.  We no longer have to hunt down anything for food; all we have to do is open the fridge when we are hungry.  Spaeth also mentions, “what we’re doing is really overcompensating for small increases in energy requirements.”  This explains why shift work can be so harmful to health, Wright explains.  “Shift work goes against the fundamental biological clock in our brain.  We evolved to be awake during the day when we are supposed to be physically active and consuming food.  When we are awake at night, the circadian clock does not adapt.  There are consequences to that…That’s why shift workers are at greater risk for many health problems we see in modern society.”  Shift work is not going to go away any time soon.  Wright said that looking for ways to compensate for this circadian havoc is an important goal of chronobiological research.

In reference to The Later You Stay Up, The More You Eat, Study Shows

A Summer Healthy Lifestyle

BlogPicPeople think just because it’s summer and the livin’ is easy, we don’t have to worry what we’re eating.  Wrong!  Many who take a summer vacation from work also take a vacation from eating healthy and end up much heavier at the end of summer.

During the warmer weather, everyone enjoys ice and frozen desserts.  Americans enjoy about 25 pounds of ice cream and other frozen treats  per person a year, according to a HighBeam Business report.  In USDA analyses, a cup of premium ice cream usually has more than 500 calories and is made up of added sugar and saturated fat.  A cup of soft serve yogurt has only about 230 calories.

Limit how many frozen treats you consume, no more than a couple times a week and keep the servings in check.  Try to choose regular and no premium options and vanilla is lower in calories than other flavors with mix-ins.  “Whipped” or “slow-churned” frozen desserts have fewer calories per serving that other non-whipped counterparts.  100 % fruit pops, lighter ice cream sandwiches and fudge bars are lower in calories and portion controlled, which many have 100-150 calories per serving.

During the summer you should always keep your body well hydrated and calorie-free water should be your first choice.

Avoid reaching for sodas, slurpees, smoothies, or strawberry daiquiris or you might feel your waistband expand.  Liquid calories raise your brain’s hunger and satiety regulators which make it harder to control your calorie intake.  Alcoholic drinks are even worse because they contain a lot of calories and alcohol actually stimulates appetite while it decreases inhibitions and activates the food reward areas within the brain.  Limit your liquid calories to no more than 150 a day and if it’s an alcoholic drink a lower calorie option.


Of course, when it is hot out people tend to crank their ACs.  By doing so, you might be turning your metabolism down and turning your appetite up.  According to researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University report in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition they found that air conditional may play a role towards the obesity epidemic.  The researchers suggest that as more homes continue to use air conditioning the obesity rates also sky rocketed.  They also found that when the body is exposed to heat and humidity, the persons appetite decrease and they will tend to eat less.  Also, at the same time if your sweating, your metabolism will work extra hard to help cool your body temperature.

During the summer sweating is a very good thing, and make sure you stay hydrated!

This is in reference to Don’t Let Summer Sabotage Your Diet

Try to Focus on Health, Not Appearance

A recent study suggests that there is both a right way and a wrong way to persuade your children to eat healthy and help prevent obesity.

Instead of talking about needed weight loss or how food connects with fatness, parents should focus on talking about eating healthier.

Dr. Jerica Berge of University of Minnesota Medical School states, “A lot of parents are aware of the obesity problems in the U.S. – it’s everywhere you turn – but they wonder how to talk about it with their children.”  She encourages that parents “tell kids to eat more fruits and vegetables because eating them will make them healthy and strong.  Don’t connect these conversations to weight and size.”

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, child obesity has more than tripled in the youth of America over the last 30 years.  This has had an impact on children’s health, with conditions that are usually seen in adults, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure which are now being seen in children.

From data, conversations about eating that focused on children needing to lose weight were associated to a higher chance of problem dieting and other unhealthy eating behaviors.  Parents who talked about healthy eating and lifestyle were less likely to have their children engage in unhealthy eating behaviors.

Berge mentioned that even if parents say all the right things about eating healthy, it won’t matter much to their children if they see their parents ignoring their own advice.   It’s “do as I do,” she mentioned.  “Modeling does have a big role in showing kids the type of behavior that you want them to take on.”  She also added that these conversations should happen more than once, they should be continuous.

Dr. Ronald Feinstein, an adolescent medicine specialist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center said,  “Telling people that they are fat or overweight is not in the best interest of the adolescents.”  He adds, “We need to focus on healthy lifestyle, and parents need to lead by example.”  This would include appropriate meal planning and having healthy food available.  He adds that there might be a need for a little troubleshooting.  For example, “At a restaurant, quietly ask the server not to put the bread basket out, or hand out one slice to everyone and then have it removed, so it’s the family making the decision and no one feels left out,” he said.  Also he adds, “Set an example and avoid putting kids in a position where they have to make poor choices.”

Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness agreed that weight usually is not an easy subject to discuss with adolescents.  “I always try to focus on health, not appearance,” he added.  He mentioned that the new findings, “lend further weight to the importance of finding careful loving, supportive and appropriate ways of discussing health with kids.”

This is in reference to Focus on Health, Not Fat, in Food Talks With Kids.

Let’s Get Motivated to be Active!

For some time, exercise scientist had believed that motivation to exercise or not must have a genetic component.  Researchers have compared the physical activity patterns among family members, and especially with twins. They have found that close relations tend to work out similarly; they exercise about as much or as little as their parents or siblings do, even if they grew up in different environments. These results suggest that the desire to be active or lazy is to some extent, inherited.

Scientists at the University of Missouri in Columbia had interbred rats to create two very different groups.  One group loves to run and the other would rather remain idle.  They started with ordinary adult male and female lab rats, which generally embrace the opportunity to run, but individual mileage can differ to a great extent among rats.  The scientist put running wheels in the cages and for six days they tracked how much the rats ran.  The males and females that had ran the most miles were bred together, while the others who ran less were paired together.  Through 10 generations, the rats were bred the same way.  The active rats tended to exercise 10 times as much as the lazier rats.

The scientists studied the elements of physique and psychology.  People and animals that are overweight, ill, have poor muscle quality or tone, and other physiological hold ups to physical activity, tend to be motionless.  Of course if moving is difficult, we tend not to do it. After examination and comparison, the lazy rats were slightly heavier, but surprisingly average body compositions and percentage of muscle versus fat, were very similar. Both groups had similar healthy muscles and good appetites. The differences in physique were not a driven difference in the exercising behavior, but motivation played a different factor.  The researchers compared the activity of thousands of genes in a specific portion of the brain that controlled reward behavior, or motivation to do the things they enjoy.  The genes were very different between the two groups.  The rats’ decision whether to run or not was being driven by, at least the genetics of motivation. Frank Booth, a professor of physiology at the University of Missouri stated, “It does seem likely there is a genetic element to the motivation to exercise.” He also believes that scientist could conceivably develop a test that would reliably inform someone whether they are genetically influenced to be physically active or lazy. Dr.Booth’s study findings “are not meant to be an excuse to not exercise,”    he says, behavior remains a mix of native tendencies and personal choice.  If it is in your nature to sit idle on the couch, you can personally choose to get up and be active.

In reference to Why We’re Motivated To Exercise. Or Not

Seek for weight loss camps for motivation to lose weight

When trying to lose weight, you can benefit from having a weight loss body even if it’s virtual.  It was found that when women watched an avatar act our healthy behaviors, the women lost an average of about a pound a week.

Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, stated in a press release, “this small study suggests that virtual reality could be a promising new tool for building healthier habits.”  She also mentioned, “you don’t have to be a gamer to use virtual reality to learn some important skills for weight loss.”

Virtual reality continues to be more widespread, it has found uses in unlikely places, even with healthcare.  A number of studies shown that people identify themselves with avatars that look like them and that interacting with the avatars can help patients deal with conditions from eating disorders to PTSD.  Avatars can help shape behaviors, for example, in one study people were more likely to exercise the very next day if they had watched an avatar that looked like them run on a treadmill.

For a new study, Napolitano and her colleagues recruited eight overweight and let them pick their own avatars that look like them with size and skin color.  Once a week during a 30 minute session, the eight women watched their avatar demonstrate behaviors that lead to weight loss.  In one of the lessons, the avatar learned about portion sizes by looking at a plate with too much food and one with just the right portions.  Also, in another video the avatar walked on a treadmill at the right pace just to help lose weight.

Four weeks later, the women had lost an average of 3.5 pounds, which is the same rate of weight loss that is achieved through traditional kinds of diets.

“This is just the first step to show that women, even those who are not gamers, are interested in an avatar-based technology to help them with a weight loss plan,” Napolitano explained.  “We are excited by the potential of this technology as a scalable tool to help people learn the skills to be successful at weight loss over the long run,” she had mentioned.

In reference to Watching An Avatar May Help Some Lose Weight.

Fat Camps – Helping With The Emotional Side of Teen Obesity

They used to be called “Fat Camps” and they might as well have been called “Detention Camps”, as they used military-like exercises, starvation dieting, and punitive jibes and commands to keep their campers’ noses to the grindstone.
Couple this with the fact that some of the campers were teens mixed in amongst the adults of all ages, therefore assuring it was the parents who locked their kids up demanding they lose weight…or else… and you had an all-around recipe for weight loss disaster.

Kids came out pounds thinner, but far more traumatized and with even lower self-esteem than when they went it.

Thankfully times have changed. Now there exists reputable weight loss camps specifically designed for teens that addresses their weight issues from a far more well-rounded approach–dealing with the body and spirit of the teen and considering the emotional side of teenage obesity.

Counselors at such reputable weight loss camps have been given sensitivity training and have been taught how to gently coax from the teens deeply buried feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem to the surface.

Bullying, jeering, or mocking are discouraged and exposed for the negative behaviors that they are. Campers are encouraged to share their feelings with other campers, many of whom have faced the same problems and challenges.

Shy kids are coaxed carefully and with great patience and not rushed to reveal too much until they are ready. Positive reinforcement makes that time come all the sooner. Teamwork–and more importantly–team support is given for individual efforts as well as efforts undertaken as a team (and everyone makes the team.)

Overweight teens often learn to make excuses for their obesity (“I am big-boned like my mother” or “My dad was fat when he was in high school.”) These excuses are understandable, but not allowed to stand at weight loss camp. Rather they are brought out in the open so they can be dealt with. Once teenagers learn the nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices they need to lose the weight (and keep it off), the excuses are no longer necessary and fade away.

Soon the layers of shame and humiliation every obese teen is wrapped in begin to peel away too. What stands in their place is a slimmer, confident, and prouder young person–one who has a plan to take the weight off, keep the weight off and live a healthy life–one in which they are in control. Their future looks much brighter.

Why is Camp Shane NOT a fat camp?

Camp Shane is based on the model of a traditional camp, with all the fitness activities, sports and special events that the best-equipped traditional camps have. We don’t obsess over dieting, the emphasis is on friends, fitness and fun! We work on learning or improving physical skills so that campers can continue to be active after camp, learning about nutrition so that campers can make healthier food choices at home, and working on self-esteem issues that help campers build confidence in their ability to succeed.

Camp Shane is not a fat camp because we promote improving health for the long-term, not losing as much weight as possible in the shortest time possible. Fat camps do not mind if the weight returns; in fact, they are happy to get repeat business.

At Camp Shane, we do not care if you are 0, 10 or 50 pounds overweight – in fact, we have many campers who have achieve weight loss results but return for the good times and good friends. The fat camp mentality is part of a culture that demands makeovers – the faster and more extreme the better. But Camp Shane works to internalize the changes that make losing weight about better health choices…NOT thinness at any cost.

We encourage our campers to want to look their best, which we define as healthy and fit. We discourage trying to achieve the impossible perfection of the teen supermodel, which can promote psychological problems, including eating disorders. Often, children don’t want to tell their friends they are going to Camp Shane because of the fat camp stigma, but when they return home, healthier, more confident, and yes, thinner, they love to share stories of the great time they had and are proud of what they have accomplished.

Before and After Weight Loss

Rethinking the Backyard Barbecue

Summertime and the living is easy…and much of it is spent outdoors. If your child or teen is returning home from a weight loss camp with some of those stubborn pounds missing or if you have visited an adult “fat camp” or been trying to rethink your own eating habits, here are some suggestions for a healthier backyard BBQ:

* Instead of serving soda or beer, make your own lemonade with fresh squeezed lemons, some calorie-free sweetener, and ice cubes into which you’ve frozen some fresh mint leaves from your garden (pansy flowers work too.) Or make herbal iced tea with organic honey. Aim for no artificial ingredients in any drink you serve.

* Don’t cheat and buy mayo-rich salads. Make several green ones instead (spinach and raw almonds; raddichio, rugula and garbanzo beans dressed with light oil and lemon or raspberry vinegar; fresh basil, dill and cold (skinless) chicken breast with a little sunflower oil and grapes. Make fruit salads, too–using natural honey as the “tie that binds”.

* While you are preparing the fruit, save some to make light sorbet in your ice cream maker or freeze fruit juices with wooden sticks for homemade popsicles for dessert.

* Use what grows wild around you–How about a salad with dandelion greens, wild rose petals and rhubarb stalks? And don’t forget the onion grass you find everywhere (those are just chives and scallions by another name.) If you find a sunflower–bonus! The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted.

* Substitute turkey dog for hot dogs and serve without a bun. Instead of hamburgers on the grill, why not make “lamburginis”–lamb patties mixed with fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden for flavor. (Ditch that harmful salt. Pepper comes in infinite –and delicious varieties–try pink peppercorns and see how you like them.)

* Shish kabobs–grilled with no oil–make a great BBQ food, especially when combined with fresh peppers of several varieties.

* Condiments have lots of hidden calories–serve plenty of juicy garden-grown tomatoes instead of ketchup, and cucumbers instead of salt-filled pickles. Or better still, make your own, substituting calories free sweetener for all that sugar in the ketchup and a salt substitute in the brine for homemade pickles.

* Go online and research the many recipes that now exist for light summer fare and save yourself from feeling weighted down in these hotter months. Start a summer cookbook with what you find.

* Remember, a BBQ isn’t all about eating… it’s about playing too! Set up a badminton court, a croquet course, or invest in a bocce ball set (then explain the game to your kids). If you are feeling more adventurous, buy a trampoline or a silly slide (that and a hose are all you need to laugh the afternoon away and get your exercise to boot.)

Getting and staying fit doesn’t mean you have to give up that time-honored American tradition. With a little rethinking, the backyard BBQ will continue to make great summer memories for your family.


Diet Camp – How It Can Help

Peer Pressure Can Be A Good Thing

Let’s face it: We are a nation of Couch Potatoes and our “Small Fries” are learning from us how to sit in front of the TV until our rear ends expand to fill the seat.

What parent hasn’t heard the whine, “I’m bored”? In previous generations, a mom or dad might reply, “Go outside and play”. We don’t hear that –or say that–much anymore and it’s time we do. Our children and ourselves would benefit. Here’s some ideas to get you started:

– Head out for a game of tennis or pickup basketball in the driveway with your kid.

– Ask them to teach you to use their skateboard or relive your own youth by strapping on a pair of rollerblades (moms can usually fit into ones their sons outgrow).

– Take a hike with your kids–even if its just around the neighborhood.

– Invent a scavenger hunt.

– Walk the dog. Walk the neighbors’ dog.

– Plan a family camping trip (this includes pitching the tent, collecting wood for the campfire, cleaning up–and everyone helps with every chore). Once your kids find out they love camping, consider sending them to a summer weight loss camp for a few weeks.

– Join the neighborhood “Y’ and enter into swim meets and other competitive family team sports.

– Plant a garden with your kids (everybody digs and weeds and everybody gets to plant what they want.)

– Clean the attic and have a rummage sale (split the proceeds with your kids in exchange for their manual labor.)

– For family movie night,rent old swashbuckler movies like Robin Hood and Zorro (or enjoy Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean) and take up archery and fencing as family activities.

– Join a dojo with your children and practice martial arts.

– Teach your teenage daughter to belly (not pole) dance.

– Take up boxing and help your whole family take out any tension on the speed bag hung in your basement.

– Make Twister the choice for family game night (keep the Ben Gay handy if you are over 40).

– Split wood for next year’s fires (top lumberjack honors earn a respite from family chores for a week).

– Run–as a family–in a marathon or for a charity.

– Sign your kids up for tap or ballet and join in (or take ballroom dance with your spouse) then have a dance-off with invited judges.

– Take up horseback riding–offer to muck out the stables and bale hay in exchange for more lessons.

– Go apple picking in season.

– Offer to babysit some neighborhood toddlers (take turns doing the chasing.)

Use your imagination to add to this list. The idea is to keep moving and to make that moving fun for all. Involve your kids–engage their minds and their bodies will follow and they will be on a path of better health forever.

Fitness Camp – The Power of Example in Child/Teen Weight Loss

When your kids were small, your mother might have cautioned you against saying something in front of them with the time-worn phrase, “Little pitchers have big ears” meaning children hear and understand more than you think.

Well, those little pitchers have big eyes too and they don’t stop watching you just because they are now older (even when they are teens). Your every move is watched and even emulated. When it comes to weight loss and healthy eating habits, you can provide a good example (or a bad one.) This is particularly important for when your kid returns home from weight loss camp. You don’t want to undo all the good results they have achieved, so now is the time to look to your own diet and exercise habits.

Consider starting the day with some stretches –a habit that will be useful well into the years when you are a grandparents. If you do these on your living room floor, your kids will notice as they bound by. Invite them to join in.

Next comes breakfast, the most important meal for a reason, it is the fuel for the day. Ask your kids to research which juices and fruits are best for your family and have them report the results to you–then buy (or better still-squeeze the juices). Let them experiment with juice combinations too. Make sure there are several healthy cereals available for those rushed mornings, as well as yogurt, fresh fruit, and a handy blender for a dash-for-the-door smoothie. Don’t you dare limit yourself to a cup of coffee because you are late for work!

Pack your healthy lunch for work and let our kid pack their own lunches from the ingredients you’ve assembled. Make sure you have nuts and fruit and whole grains in transportable pieces for ease of use. Banish soda and soft drinks from your house. Buy a water filter pitcher and keep plenty of organic juices around. Start monitoring your own fluid intake–making sure you get plenty of liquid to flush your kidneys. Trade in whole mile for low-fat milk in your refrigerator. Investigate drinking soy milk or almond milk instead–as your kids for their opinions of each.

Keep fresh fruit, like apples or dried fruit in the winter, for a quick handful of energy. Replace them (uncomplainingly) when your kids eat them all. Substitute sources of protein (other than meat) when possible–find out what type of beans (kidney, navy, garbanzo) and tofu your kids like and start eating them yourself.

Buy a rice cooker and brown rice. Keep it and salt-free soy sauce handy. A bowl of low-fat milk, honey, and rice even make a great sweet substitute.

Invite your kids out for an after-dinner walk (and, if you are lucky, talk. Tell them you enjoy their company and love talking things over with them.) Enjoy a light dessert, like natural sorbet or frozen yogurt, when you return and throw out the cookies and cakes (if you find yourself jumping in the car and driving to the store for a fattening dessert at night, you might need to visit an adult weight loss camp.)

Join a gym with a family membership. Set a schedule when you will go and stick to it. Let your kids know the schedule will be kept and that they are always invited and will provide the ride. Buy a bike and use it. Train for a marathon–in front of the whole family. Get them rooting for you. Then follow through on that and all your healthy changes. When they see your commitment, they will know you are serious and it can start the gears in their brains a-turning.

Parenting doesn’t have to be all, “Do it because I said so”! It can be “Do what I do,” if you utilize the power of example.