Counting Calories Is Basically Pointless. So Why Are We Still Doing It?

From the time I was a sophomore in high school up until last fall, I counted calories in one form or another. It started with logging my daily Weight Watchers points, then switched to tracking calories in the Fitbit app to make sure I didn’t go too far over my daily target.

For years, I didn’t mind doing it. It felt good in a way, like I was in control. But over time it became exhausting. I couldn’t take more than a few bites of something without thinking about how I would quantify that later. All of the tedious recording and number-crunching started to suck the joy out of food.

And I realized I hadn’t been listening to my body, either. Sometimes I’d have extra calories left over for the day, so I’d grab a snack (or two) while I was watching TV, even when I was full. Other times, when I was legitimately hungry after dinner, I’d try not to eat anything else to avoid going over my allotment.

It was while reading the book “Body Love” by holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque a few months ago that I realized I finally wanted to quit counting calories. After so many years of doing it, I was hesitant to stop. But overall, I was fed up.

We’ve long been taught that counting (and cutting) calories is necessary if we want to be healthy and lose weight. And yes, the amount of calories we eat does matter in a general sense. But obsessing over that number at the expense of more important factors is probably a waste of your time.

“It’s good to know relative calories: This food is high, this food is low, for example, especially if you eat out in restaurants often,” registered dietitian Abby Langer told HuffPost. “But there are a lot of flaws with calorie counting as we know it.”

“And for some people, it works. But really, I don’t recommend it,” Langer continued. “We can get so involved in the numbers that we experience a disconnect between the food we eat and our hunger.”

When we’re so preoccupied with the quantity rather than the quality of the calories we consume, we miss the point. Not to mention that this seemingly “healthy” habit can take a toll on our mental health while doing little for our physical health in the long term.

HuffPost talked to registered dietitians, professors and other experts to figure out why we’re still so hung up on calories. Here’s what they want you to know.

Counting calories isn’t an exact science.

You’ve probably heard of the calories in/calories out model, which states that in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. And while in theory that may be true, in reality, it’s overly simplistic.

For one, the model fails to take into account how the composition of those calories affects your body ― everything from your blood sugar levels to your insulin levels to your digestion, hunger hormones and future cravings.

“In the end, calories matter, but the amount of calories we eat — and burn — are both influenced long-term by the types of food we eat,” said cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “Our bodies are complex, and different foods create complex interactions with our bodies that can help or hinder weight control.”

For example, two fun-size bags of M&Ms and two hard-boiled eggs both contain about 140 calories. But the eggs have protein and healthy fat that will keep you full and are packed with nutrients that will nourish your body. The M&Ms, on the other hand, are nutritionally void. Plus, they’re high in sugar, which means they’ll spike and crash your blood sugar, leaving you reaching for yet another snack soon after.

“We can get so involved in the numbers that we experience a disconnect between the food we eat and our hunger.”

– Abby Langer, registered dietitian

What’s more, the tools we use to determine the number of calories we should eat to lose weight aren’t very precise. Many people rely on apps or widgets that ask you to plug in your age, gender, activity level, current weight and desired weight.

While these tools may give you a general ballpark figure, you’d need to know your resting metabolic rate (or “RMR,” the number of calories your body burns at rest) to get a more accurate number. And that would require doing a respiratory test called indirect calorimetry that’s not accessible to most people.

Figuring out how many calories are in the foods we eat isn’t an exact science, either. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows calories on nutrition labels to have a large margin of errorup to 20%. So that means that a 500-calorie muffin you ate for breakfast could really have been anywhere between 400 and 600 calories. When it comes to cooking meals at home, you’d need to measure every tablespoon and weigh every ounce of your ingredients to obtain a somewhat accurate calorie count — and that’s just not worth the effort for many people.

Counting calories can be bad for your health.

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SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images

Here’s why counting calories can be damaging to your mental and physical health. 

Carefully tracking calories can be a time-consuming, draining and quite possibly a waste of your time, but those aren’t the only pitfalls, experts say. Here are a few ways calorie-counting can wreck your relationship with your body:

It puts us in a restrictive diet mentality.

Calorie restriction can fuel the guilt-deprivation cycle, said Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and intuitive eating coach at Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness.

“Restriction leads to feelings of deprivation, which leads to feelings of desperation, which leads to binges or obsessive thoughts or cravings, which leads to feelings of guilt or shame, followed by more restriction and over and over,” she said. “This is completely normal and not caused by a lack of self-control or willpower — it’s because your body is sensing that restriction.”

You lose touch with your hunger cues.

When you’re laser-focused on hitting an arbitrary calorie number, it detaches you from your body’s internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.

“Our bodies know how much we need to eat each day if we tune in and pay attention,” Rumsey said. “Trusting your body means you don’t need to micromanage your caloric intake. Some days you will naturally need more food than others.”

“If we were to get out of our head and listen and connect to our body, we’d eat a lot differently.”

– Aaron Flores, registered dietitian

You might fixate on a number rather than on nutrition.

If you’re counting calories, you might end up excluding certain nutrient-dense foods from your diet just because they’re higher in calories: think avocados, salmon, olive oil, walnuts or chia seeds. Instead, you might go for something with less nutritional value ― like, say, an 100-calorie pack of crackers ― just because it will help you stay under your allotment for the day.

“From a health perspective, it is better to focus on the quality of the diet ― e.g. avoiding ultra-processed foods and eating adequate amounts of produce,” said Arya Sharma, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta and scientific director of Obesity Canada.

You may develop an unhealthy preoccupation with food.

For some, counting calories (or any other eating plan that requires strict adherence) can lead to an obsession with food, which can result in disordered eating habits and increase anxiety and depression, Sharma said.

If you have a medical condition that requires a specific diet, it should be monitored by a health professional, such as a registered dietitian, he added.

You may be able to lose weight this way, but keeping it off will be a challenge.

Indeed, restricting calories may yield weight loss in the short term, but for many people, it’s not sustainable. In an analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, researchers found that more than 80% of lost weight was regained after five years. And it’s not because of a lack of effort or willpower.

“Eventually the body begins to fight back, activating multiple overlapping mechanisms for preventing weight loss that were developed in our evolutionary past when food was scarce,” Mozaffarian said.

Counting calories is a hard habit to break.

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Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

Why are we still stuck in the diet mentality of calorie restriction?

Even as health experts have begun promoting less restrictive food philosophies (like practicing intuitive eating or aiming for more nutrient-dense foods), many people are still hung up on counting calories. Why is it so hard to quit?

For one, counting calories gives us the illusion of control over one aspect of our lives ― our weight, Rumsey said. In reality, the fixation on calories ends up controlling us: our thoughts, our actions and emotions. And it’s worth noting that weight is also determined by factors that are outside of our control, such as genetics, certain health conditions or medication side effects.

“The only way to stop this cycle is by getting rid of all restrictions around food and to stop calorie counting,” she said. “Many people have a hard time doing this because it is completely counterintuitive to what diet culture and our society teaches us: That if we don’t ‘control’ what we eat, then we’ll go off the rails, when in fact the opposite is true.”

“Trusting your body means you don’t need to micromanage your caloric intake.”

– Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and intuitive eating coach

Nutrition can be complicated, which leaves us desperate for easy answers and quick fixes. Diet culture takes advantage of this by oversimplifying the complexity of eating: It tells us this food group is bad, this food groups is good, eat this many calories and you’ll be thinner, happier and more worthy of love — and we internalize those messages. So when the diet fails, we end up blaming ourselves, said Aaron Flores, a registered dietitian and host of the “Dietitians Unplugged” podcast.

“When we restrict to X calories a day, we are likely not getting enough ,” he said. “When we struggle with that body feeling, we assume our body is broken ― that it needs too much because the book or the doctor or the dietitian told me I should only need X per day. We fear truly listening to our body, so we want someone else to tell us what to do and how much to eat.”

Here’s what to focus on instead.

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Westend61 via Getty Images

Intuitive eating practices can help you reconnect with your body. 

Instead of adding up the number of calories (which, I’ll admit, I’m still tempted to do sometimes), I pay more attention to how balanced and nourishing my meals are. I aim for protein, healthy fat, fiber and greens/vegetables — or what LeVeque has dubbed the “Fab 4” at every meal. I gravitate toward foods that I know energize and satiate me.

Below, experts share some practical tips for healthier eating that you can incorporate into your own life:

Think about how what you eat makes you feel.

Is it satisfying? Enjoyable to eat? Does it keep you full until lunch or does it leave you wanting a snack after an hour?

“For example, does the meal gives you sustained energy or do you have an energy crash?” Rumsey said.

Tune in to what your body actually wants.

Intuitive eating encourages us to get back in touch with our body’s own signals that tell us what to eat and when rather than relying on external cues like strict diet rules.

“Diet culture has disconnected us from our bodies and the wisdom that lies within it,” Flores said. “If we were to get out of our head, and listen and connect to our body, we’d eat a lot differently.”

Eat more plants and whole foods.

Fill up on foods containing fiber, healthy fats and phytonutrients “like fruits, nuts, beans, virgin plant oils, non-starchy veggies, minimally processed whole grains, and fish, as well as yogurt with live probiotics,” Mozaffarian said.

Cheese, eggs, poultry and unprocessed red meat can be eaten in moderation, he added.

Eat fewer processed foods.

It’s best to minimize your intake of ultra-processed foods such as chips, candy, soda and packaged snack cakes — basically anything containing ingredients like artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils and emulsifiers.

“I recommend focusing on a few key healthy foods to add to your diet and a few unhealthy foods to drop, and building from there,” Mozaffarian said.

Take a break from those nightly takeout orders: Studies have shown that home cooking is linked with a healthier overall diet. Take-out and restaurant meals are often high in sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat — not to mention the portion sizes can be excessive. When you’re preparing your own food, however, you’re in charge of the ingredients that go into each meal to assure they align with your health goals.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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How To Ditch The Diet Mentality Forever And Still Feel Good In Your Body

In February, when I spoke with registered dietitian Christy Harrison about her recently released “Anti-Diet” book, I didn’t realize that the world was about to change so drastically.

We talked about the pervasiveness of diet culture ― the belief system that champions the thin (usually white, cisgender) ideal, that says certain ways of eating are good and others are bad, and that encourages weight loss at all costs. It’s in marketing, health care, our own views of ourselves. Although things look very different these days, all of that is still true.

Diet culture is even more prevalent in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Wellness brands are preying on our fears and uncertainty by offering supplements. More time to scroll through social media and all of the perfectly chosen images leaves us feeling more insecure about our own bodies.

Most glaringly, there’s so, so much fearmongering about quarantine weight gain that even someone who typically has a good relationship with food might feel pressure to start a diet. Those who struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating might feel these pressures even more acutely.

In “Anti-Diet,” Harrison chronicles the history of diet culture, uses evidence to point out the flaws in our strongly held beliefs about weight, and gives some insight into how to finally stop judging ourselves and others for the shape of our bodies and the food we eat.

And there’s no better time to heed those lessons than right now, when the pressure to “watch what we eat” is through the roof (despite the fact that we’re battling a global health crisis totally unrelated to food).

Below, Harrison breaks down some ugly truths about dieting and advice on how you can ditch the horrible cycle for good. Because, yes, it’s possible to ditch diet culture and feel good in your own body.

If you couldn’t lose weight on a diet, it isn’t your fault ― there’s tons of evidence that long-term weight loss just doesn’t happen for most people.

The idea that diets don’t work is nothing new. In “Anti-Diet,” Harrison traces the belief that 95% of diets fail back to a 1959 literature review that looked at past weight loss studies. The review found that, basically, no diet or intervention proved consistently effective for weight loss.

And this still holds true: A 2013 review of several weight-loss studies found that diets do typically lead to short-term weight loss, but that most people regain the weight within five years. A similar 2011 review found that many dieters actually regain more weight than they initially lost.

“In any other case, we would be so quick to say, ‘This thing didn’t work for me, this product is the problem.’ But with diets, we think, ‘I’m the problem.’”

– Christy Harrison, author of “Anti-Diet”

Harrison described this initial weight loss that diets bring as the honeymoon phase.

“I think often when it’s a person’s first diet ever, there’s a honeymoon phase of dieting where you do see weight loss ― although not everyone does ― and you feel like you’ll be able to stick to it because there are no complications,” she told HuffPost. “There’s the feeling of, ‘It’s working! It’s happening!’”

But none of that lasts. “The body gets wise and starts to feel the effects of starvation,” Harrison said. “On average, people will lose weight for about six months to a year, and then at the year mark they start regaining the weight, and the rate of weight regain speeds up over time.”

A lot of people aren’t even able to make it to this six-month mark, she said, “because the starvation response really kicks in and pushes people to start eating more than they were before the diet, which oftentimes leads to binging.”

In other words: The obsession and out-of-control feeling around food that often happens several months into a diet isn’t a personal failing, it’s a biological response.

Because we live in diet culture, people think the solution to one failed diet is to find another, “better” diet.

Habitually jumping from one restrictive eating plan to another is so commonplace that we have a name for it: yo-yo dieting.

But, as any past or current yo-yo dieters know, even very different diets tend to lead to the same result: initial weight loss, eventual weight regain.

“It’s ridiculous,” Harrison said. “In any other case, we would be so quick to say, ‘This thing didn’t work for me, this product is the problem.’ But with diets, we think, ‘I’m the problem. Maybe this one isn’t for me, maybe I’m not meant to be an intermittent faster, maybe I’ll be a keto or Whole30 person instead.’ So we see people jumping from diet to diet to diet.”

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AndreyPopov via Getty Images

“Oftentimes people who have lived in diet culture their whole lives have this accumulation of rules,” said Christy Harrison. Question why you still hold up these rules from diets that didn’t serve you, then work on ignoring them. 

Weight cycling and weight stigma are bad for our physical and mental health.

Although plenty of people diet for aesthetic reasons, health is also a motivator. Those who live in larger bodies are often told by their doctors (and, sometimes, their friends and family) to diet and lose weight to improve their health outcomes. But that advice often leads to more harm than good.

“No matter what weight a person is at, even controlling for BMI, weight cycling is an independent risk factor for all these things that get blamed on weight itself: heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and mortality,” Harrison said. “When we diet, we’re almost inevitably going to end up weight cycling. That’s going to put our bodies at greater risk than just saying the same weight, even if that’s a higher weight.”

The anti-diet movement isn’t just about not dieting, it’s about understanding that bodies can be healthy at any size.

The idea that more weight is an inherently bad thing is flawed. Many people at higher weights are metabolically healthy, Harrison said. (And, of course, it’s possible to be metabolically unhealthy at a lower weight.) A 2015 study of over 100,000 people in Denmark found that those in the “overweight” category lived the longest, on average ― a conclusion that’s consistent with past findings.

In response to this evidence, the Health at Every Size movement encourages people to “accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.” It also aims to end weight stigma and discrimination and to make the world more accessible to all people, no matter their weight.

It’s important to understand all of this if you want to truly reject diet culture, give up dieting and become a more intuitive eater, Harrison said. Intuitive or mindful eating encourages you to focus on your hunger and fullness cues, pushes you to slow down and enjoy meals, and doesn’t vilify any foods. It’s not a diet program; it’s a lifestyle habit.

It can be much harder for someone in a larger body to reject diets and diet culture because of the discrimination they face.

Throughout the book, Harrison acknowledges her privilege as a thin, white, cisgender woman. When you live in a body that society deems “acceptable,” quitting dieting is easier than it might be for someone who lives in a more marginalized body.

“People in much larger bodies do face discrimination every single day, and it’s natural to want to lose weight as a way to escape that,” said Kimmie Singh, an anti-diet dietitian and fat body liberation activist.

“If you’re someone in a smaller body who’s working toward body acceptance and becoming a more intuitive eater, make sure you also work on accepting all bodies and body sizes to help all people feel safe stepping away from dieting.”

Singh gives her clients background and evidence about why diets don’t work and encourages them not to pursue weight loss, but ultimately leaves the choice up to them. If you’re someone in a smaller body who’s working toward body acceptance and becoming a more intuitive eater, make sure you also work on accepting all bodies and body sizes to help all people feel safe stepping away from dieting.

A life without dieting might be hard to imagine, but it’s possible. Here’s how to do it.

The first obstacle in quitting diets for good is that these days, so many of them claim not to be diets at all.

“Diets have morphed and shape-shifted into this wellness thing that’s now so much harder to detect,” Harrison said. “The ‘wellness diet’ is about demonizing some foods while elevating others; eating the supposedly ‘right’ things and removing the supposedly ‘wrong’ things. It promises health and moral superiority, but it almost always promises thinness, as well.”

Harrison recommends rejecting any diet or “wellness” lifestyle that comes with rules ― eat this not that, eat X amount, only eat between the hours of Y and Z. Even once you do this, you might find that you have a lot of old food rules swimming around in your head.

As an early step in the journey to rejecting diet culture and becoming a more intuitive eater, Harrison encourages clients to write down any food rules or thoughts that pop into their heads during the day.

“It’s fascinating to see. Usually there are dozens of these thoughts throughout the day,” she said. “You realize, ‘Anytime I start to think about food, these rules or these judgments pop up.’ Just becoming aware is the first step.”

Then, you can start to question any rules you might have.

“Oftentimes people who have lived in diet culture their whole lives have this accumulation of rules,” Harrison said. “They can even be from completely contradictory diets ― like demonizing fat and demonizing carbs.”

Question why you still hold up these rules from diets that didn’t serve you, then work on ignoring them.

Don’t be surprised if eating without food rules or judgment feels a little out of control at first.

“Your brain and body have been so deprived that there’s going to be this pendulum swing back from the side of restriction to the side of eating all the food,” Harrison said. “I call it the restriction pendulum.”

But this doesn’t last forever. “Eventually you really will be able to settle in the middle, and get to a place of peace and balance with food,” she said.

The reward goes far beyond just a better relationship with food and body. “It’s amazing to see what happens for people when they’re eating intuitively,” Harrison added.

At first, learning to be an intuitive eater takes some effort. But once you click into it and aren’t constantly obsessing about what you can and can’t eat, you get so much brain space back.

“You’re not thinking about exercise, or your weight,” she said. “You’re thinking about all the other things you really care about. You’re free to do your work, engage in your relationships, and be really present in all the big and small moments of your life. There’s so much more available to people once they stop dieting.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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I Finally Decided To Show The World My ‘Man Boobs.’ Here’s How It Changed My Life.

I realized I was fat in the first grade. My teacher asked the class to share what we loved most. While my classmates shared their love for their parents, pets, favorite toys or siblings, I wanted to profess something different. I had a crush on the prettiest girl in class, and I had found the courage to let her and others know it.

I walked to the front of the classroom with my head held high.

“I love Dee because she is the prettiest and smartest girl in class.”

“Eww!” Dee responded. “I don’t like you! You’re fat, and your titties are bigger than mine!”

The class erupted with laughter; my eyes filled with tears. My classmates called me “titty boy” as I walked back to my desk, arms folded over my chest and head dangled in shame and defeat. My teacher quickly gained control of the class, but the damage was already done. That day, I realized I was different. That day changed my life and created a monster ― one that despised and hated his body for the way it looked.

Day-to-day life as a fat person is about overcompensating or camouflaging yourself so that you don’t stand out as the fattest person in the room. I avoided going swimming simply to avoid taking off my shirt in front of anyone. Clothes and shoes became my talking points. And when that didn’t work, I became the class clown, making people laugh — sometimes at my own expense — to deflect conversations or haggling from others about my weight and breasts.

And since learning that I have man boobs, clinically known as gynecomastia, I’ve had to fight bullies — literally — to protect myself.

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Courtesy of Martinus Evans

Evans crosses the finish line of the Snoopy Loopathon in December 2018.

Others’ perceptions of me damaged my psyche. I believed that being fat meant I was worthless. I felt like my thoughts, feelings and emotions were invalid ― I was fat, and it was my fault. 

Like countless people, I had a tumultuous affair with my weight, body image and attempts at weight loss. Despite finding success with weight loss at certain points of my life, I was left with man boobs. I still viewed myself as a failure; my extreme weight-loss efforts didn’t translate to what I saw in the mirror. After all, my new body wasn’t one worthy of a Men’s Health cover.

I spiraled out of control, losing the glimmer of confidence I was building. I gained weight, repeating the vicious cycle again. Each time I repeated this process, I didn’t feel good enough for society — or even myself.

My turning point surfaced during a doctor’s visit. In 2012, I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office weighing nearly 400 pounds, anxiously awaiting my doctor’s prognosis regarding a hip injury. He groaned.

“Mr. Evans, I know why you’re in pain. You’re fat. You need to start walking and lose weight, or you’re going to die.”

Absorbing my doctor’s response, feeling angry and embarrassed that he had called me fat, I responded, “Screw walking. I’ll run a marathon.”

My doctor chuckled. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in all my years practicing medicine.”

For a moment, I revisited first grade. I’d been told I was fat all my life. Now this doctor, a medical professional, had the audacity to laugh at me, exclaiming that running a marathon at my current weight was impossible. His response pissed me off. It pushed me to purchase some running shoes, train for a marathon and birth my blog, 300 Pounds and Running.

Despite finding success with weight loss at certain points of my life, I was left with man boobs. I still viewed myself as a failure; my extreme weight-loss efforts didn’t translate to what I saw in the mirror. After all, my new body wasn’t one worthy of a Men’s Health cover.

When I started running, I felt uncomfortable in my skin. Negative thoughts flooded my mind as my body moved on the pavement. I had this overwhelming feeling that people were silently judging me and giving me weird looks as my body shuffled through runs. Imposter syndrome shadowed my thoughts when someone ran faster on the treadmill next to me or when I felt like I was moving like a lumbering fool. I felt like I didn’t belong to this elite club, even though I knew it was accessible to everyone.

It wasn’t until after I ran my first race that my self-confidence started to form. Something about the race environment awakened parts of me I didn’t know existed. When I crossed the finish line, I was euphoric with empowerment. I felt unstoppable, finally acknowledging my body’s strength. This feeling couldn’t be reduced by any negative comment, so I completed more races, proving to myself that I could do anything, regardless of my size.

The first year after encountering that doctor, I lost nearly 100 pounds and completed over 15 races, including a marathon in my hometown of Detroit. I became the before and after picture that everyone wanted.

With the exception of my man boobs.

The dual relationship with my body still existed. In some ways, I was proud of my physical performance, but I still hated my reflection.

In 2014, I found myself battling a new hurdle. I had two car accidents that sidelined me for a couple of years, and I gained back every pound — plus more. When I was cleared to run again, I was urged to begin another weight-loss journey. But the pressure from my peers bothered me much more this time. In the past, weight loss had been my primary source of inspiration, but this time, I wanted to focus more on my newfound love ― running.

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Focusing on weight loss put me in a vicious cycle and a horrible headspace. But when I solely focused on being the best athlete I could be, everything changed. As I ran more races, I felt more powerful in my skin, exuding confidence in myself and my body. Each time I crossed the finish line, I felt unstoppable.

This resolve didn’t sit well with my friends, family or some of the followers of my blog who knew me prior to my injury. From every direction, I was instructed to lose weight. I realized that larger bodies are forced into a box. When fat bodies are active, people assume they are being active only to lose weight. When people discover those fat bodies are not trying to lose weight but are simply trying to be active, they shame those fat bodies for not fitting societal norms.

Even with the rise of the women-driven body positivity (BoPo) movement, my concerns as a man were still not covered. I felt left out of the conversation. Traditional American masculinity does not permit men to admit their physiques are less than ideal. I wondered what would happen if men felt safe enough to be open about their insecurities without fear of violating the unspoken rules of masculinity. Would we do better at accepting our bodies’ flaws? By doing so, could we get closer to acknowledging the many ways to be healthy?

Frankly, I didn’t have the answers to these questions. My only solution was to try this approach for myself. What could I lose? All my life, I tried to overcompensate and camouflage my man boobs, yet I was still subject to harassment. What if, for a change, I celebrated my body instead of despising it?

So I took off my shirt, grabbed my phone and snapped a selfie. Without thinking twice, I posted the picture on Instagram. I would celebrate what my body could do.  

While most of the comments were positive rather than negative, I wasn’t searching for anyone’s validation. Having enough courage to post a topless picture on Instagram was good enough for me.

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Many men reached out to share their stories of feeling inadequate. They told me they wouldn’t have the courage to do to the same as I did.

Gathering inspiration from ESPN’s “The Body Issue,” I took my topless photos to the next level. While I loved seeing the empowering visuals of athletes’ bodies, I didn’t see an image that represented me: a fat runner. Not to discredit amazing athletes like Prince Fielder and Vince Wilfork, but I didn’t see anything outside of the box.

Sports like football and even baseball celebrate larger male bodies but running is not one of those sports. As a fat marathoner, I wanted an outlet to show there’s no one form a marathoner should take. So I did a nude photo shoot with Shoog McDaniel, a BoPo photographer who pushes the boundaries of the fat acceptance and BoPo movement through art. I also worked with renowned body painter and artist Trina Merry.  

Outside of celebrating my man boobs with such grandeur, I felt like it was dynamic to show vulnerability from a straight male perspective. I was given an opportunity to embrace layers of myself by transforming my body into art and allowing it to be free. Metaphorically, I crossed another finish line for the first time.

To some, this may not be much. To others, perhaps it may be too much. I took a risk by exposing myself ― a man who spent his whole life camouflaging himself. Posing nude was necessary; it stripped away all of the toxic masculinity bullshit of how a man should look — and act.

I found healing through art. Through these forms of expression — running and artistic nudes — I have come no longer to see my body as something disgusting but, instead, as something beautiful and strong. I am just doing my thing, without restriction.

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When I shared my pictures from my photo shoots on Instagram, I received a bit of hate, but I also received love. The fat-shamers said I was promoting obesity and that my body was disgusting. Some people sent me DMs and emails; others resorted to creating threads on forums discussing their hatred for fat people. With my newfound confidence, I’m unbothered by people who sit behind a keyboard, spewing hate about someone they don’t know and will never meet.

Let’s face it: Men don’t face the same unrealistic expectations as women, but we still feel pressure to obtain the perfect body. What was the last superhero movie you saw with a plus-size lead? Men’s publications still focus mainly on hypermasculine things like hard bodies, washboard abs and sex. These images of masculinity, coupled with traditional values of stoicism and self-reliance, are causing a growth in eating disorders and body dysmorphia in young men.

I just want to see men celebrate their bodies and the great things they can do. This 354-pound body can run marathons, complete Tough Mudders and do anything else I put my mind to. I probably won’t grace the cover of Men’s Health or ESPN’s “The Body Issue.” That’s fine by me. I take joy in celebrating myself.

However, I don’t feel like there are safe spaces for men to celebrate themselves. Men need space to eliminate the bullshit of toxic masculinity around like-minded individuals, without fear of repercussion from being that vulnerable. So, what can we do to start creating a space like this for men?

Unfortunately, the media showcases unrealistic standards and misrepresents the average physique — and that includes male bodies. It’s OK to challenge the pictures you see surfacing on your screen. Confidence should be built in you and your efforts, not in the opinions of others.

First, men, believe you are worthy. Period. Sometimes, you just need someone to affirm the things that are going on with you. Let me be first to say it. You. Are. Worthy. You belong!

Second, focus on what your body can do, instead of what it looks like. I am living proof that you can run a marathon weighing over 300 pounds. That’s something to celebrate, even if the media won’t celebrate with me. And even if you cannot fathom running a marathon, maybe your celebration comes in the form of a 5K or a mile. Maybe even cycling, weightlifting or hiking. Slow progress is still progress.

Remind yourself that media-portrayed body images aren’t realistic images of or for everyone. Unfortunately, the media showcases unrealistic standards and misrepresents the average physique — and that includes male bodies. It’s OK to challenge the pictures you see surfacing on your screen. Confidence should be built in you and your efforts, not in the opinions of others.

Above all, it’s OK to be vulnerable. It doesn’t endanger your masculinity. Sharing our experiences, both negative and positive, is the first step to healing and growth. It takes a different kind of man to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is just another form of strength.

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Nothing is wrong with showcasing weight-loss journeys or finding joy in your before and after pictures; they might inspire someone to get off the couch. But when they are all you promote and when your content lacks diversity, you are contributing to the problem.

Let’s work to create spaces that celebrate men for who they are ― man boobs and all.

Martinus Evans is a marathon runner, author, run coach and award-winning speaker who helps plus-size individuals be active without the pressure of weight loss. He is also the host of the “300 Pounds and Running” podcast and the “Long Run With Martinus and Latoya” podcast on the 300 Pounds and Running Podcast Network. His story has been featured in Runner’s World and Livestrong. If you’re looking for a place to start your journey to better health, sign up for his free tips at 300poundsandrunning.com.

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These 5 People Made Resolutions In 2019 And Actually Kept Them. Here’s How.

Each new year comes with hopes of fresh beginnings and, for many people, a list of resolutions to help make them happen. But committing yourself to making a change in your life can be easier said than done. Need proof? Try counting how many people enthusiastically show up at any of the thousands of gyms across the country at the start of January. Then see how many are still working out at the end of the month. 

That’s why it’s so fascinating to hear stories from people who pick a resolution, put systems into place to stick with it and then actually achieve their goal of choice.

HuffPost chatted with five people who made resolutions at the start of 2019 and managed to accomplish them. They told us how they did it and offered some key takeaways for anyone who aspires to do the same by the end of 2020. 

NOTE: Before starting any new health program, it’s always a good idea to discuss your plans with a doctor or medical professional.

Brandon Campbell lost weight 

Atlanta-based designer Brandon Campbell’s resolution will sound familiar to many ― he wanted to lose 10 pounds.

“My wife and I had moved down south from Brooklyn a year beforehand, and my indulgence in southern comfort food (and craft beer) was showing,” he told HuffPost. 

Campbell enlisted the help of a friend, and together they created a “buddy system” to help keep that resolution ― and several others that included everything from cutting back on drinking to taking a vacation ― on track.  

“My friend Nalani and I wrote our resolutions down on cards, sealed them in envelopes marked with corresponding numbers, and sent them across the country to each other,” he said. “Many of the resolutions were written as goals with distinct milestones, so ‘quit drinking’ was written as ‘no drink for three months’ and another card for six months, and so on. Once a goal was achieved, we would let the other person know which envelope to open.”

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Brandon Campbell

The cards Campbell and his friend sent to each other as part of their New Year’s resolution plans. 

Campbell noted that breaking down the achievements like this made sticking to them more of a priority ― and more enjoyable.

“There’s an added element of satisfaction when you get to share the achievement with someone in this way,” he said. “There is also a motivating element of accountability when trying to get someone else to open all of the envelopes by the end of the year. The other person doesn’t know what is in those cards, but how sad would it be if the months passed without a single envelope being opened? They’d just be sad, little, mysterious pipe dreams collecting dust on Nalani’s shelf.”

Campbell accomplished his primary resolution and then some, ultimately losing a total of 18 pounds by cutting out meat, eggs and dairy from his diet. He also achieved several other resolutions. It might sound daunting at first, but Campbell saw it as an opportunity to be creative. “Eating became more fun as I discovered more options I hadn’t considered before,” he said. 

Kelly Grover finally quit smoking

Kelly Grover started smoking when she was 21 and last year, at 46, she was going through two packs a day. She finally decided enough was enough and chose the start of 2019 to stop. “It was definitely time to give up the bad habit,” she told HuffPost.

Grover had made this resolution before, “probably about five or six times” using several methods to try to quit — but she never managed to do it. This time, she enlisted the help of her doctor, who prescribed her Chantix. She also used an app to track her progress.

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krisanapong detraphiphat via Getty Images

Kelly Grover used Chantix and the app Smoke Free to help her quit. 

“Some of the hardest moments were in the beginning,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the smoking itself that I was missing, but the habit. If I’m stressed or upset, I was used to smoking. I didn’t have the ‘crutch’ anymore, so that was ― and still is ― hard sometimes.”

Despite her struggles, the accountability she experienced by using her app and the benefits she felt ― like breathing easier and sleeping better ― have kept her on track. 

“As of today I am one year and seven days smoke free and have saved $5,573 ― although I wish I would have actually put that money aside in an account,” Grover said. 

Natalie LaFrance Slack read a book a week 

“My resolution is boring, all things considered,” Natalie LaFrance Slack said of her resolution to read one book a week in 2019. When she spoke with HuffPost she was nearly 50 weeks into her goal and already ahead of schedule. “It’s kept me challenged throughout the year,” she said. 

Slack craved a return to reading for pleasure after a number of factors over the years understandably kept her from doing so ― first being in school, then having three children in three years. She said she not only wanted to get back to doing something she once loved, but also wanted to set a good example for her three boys. It wasn’t the first time she pledged to read more ― just the most effective and therefore successful metric.

“In the past I’d had a generalized plan to read more often,” she said. “This was the first year that I set a timeline to reach my goal, along with accountability practices, and intention to ensure that I truly would spend 2019 reading.” She even made a spreadsheet where she listed the titles and synopses of each book she finished. 

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Natalie LaFrance Slack

Natalie LaFrance Slack with one of the boks she read in 2019.

“The hardest part of the resolution was being intentional with my time,” she said. “It’s easier to default to watching Netflix in the evening with my husband, or going out with friends, instead of pouring into a book at the end of a mentally or emotionally exhausting day. There was a period of time, over the summer months, when I found it easier to wake up at 4:45 a.m. and read because my evenings were often filled. I took two international trips during the year which restricted me from having the feeling of turning pages in a book (something I absolutely consider part of my reading delight and experience) and during those trips I used my phone to read, with less pleasure.”

Beyond experiencing the satisfaction of completing a book, Slack was delighted to find gratification in other unexpected ways throughout the year. “I took great joy in mailing completed books of meaning to people I cared for,” Slack said. “One highlight was ‘Once More We Saw Stars’ by Jayson Greene, which I completed shortly after hearing of a dear friend’s pregnancy loss. Sending that book, with a note of courage and remembrance, was a gift that meant more than a bottle of wine or platitude. Passing the books on to friends offered full circle moments of sharing education, ideas, creativity, imagination and joy throughout the year.”

Stephanie solved her stomach issues

Stephanie (who asked that her last name not be used) was sick of feeling sick. At 53, she had long suffered from gastrointestinal issues and told HuffPost she’d repeatedly been misdiagnosed with IBS. 

In 2019, instead of continuing to make trips to her doctor in hopes of resolving her stomach issues with more medical intervention, she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I did a bunch of internet research which led to trying a series of elimination diets,” she told HuffPost 

Stephanie tried cutting out a variety of different foods, often with no success. 

“It took a lot of patience,” she said. “You have to wait several days before trying something new; if one food makes you sick, you have to wait until your body recovers. I actually thought it was a gluten sensitivity, but when I started adding ‘gluten-free’ items into my diet, I got sick again. That really threw me! I was ready to give up.”

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etiennevoss via Getty Images

Stephanie tried cutting out many things from her diet, including gluten. 

Stephanie said she finally discovered which foods upset her stomach, and has since cut them out of her diet, to great effect. It takes work: She has to prepare her food in advance and be especially careful about what she eats. But, she says, fulfilling this resolution was well worth it.

“I feels zero symptoms of my previous condition and have a wonderful quality of life that I’ve never known before,” she said. 

Victor Feraru worked to get healthy 

Victor Feraru was preparing to take the bar exam in 2018 when he developed a cough, which grew considerably worse, and was followed by a slew of other symptoms. Eventually a trip to the hospital revealed that at just 37, Feraru, who was “healthy up until then,” was experiencing congestive heart failure.  

“Doctors at Duke and Columbia University were preparing me for the very real possibility of needing a heart transplant, or dying, within a year,” he told HuffPost. “I didn’t plan on doing either. On Dec. 21, 2018, I underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator because I was at risk for sudden cardiac death with such a weakened heart. I decided then that if I survived into the new year, my resolution would be to not only live, but try to avoid needing a heart transplant. Oh, and I wanted to pass the bar.”

Achieving his monumental resolution required intense dedication including completely overhauling his diet and working and exercising through constant spells of dizziness and weakness. But Feraru didn’t stop ― not even when he learned that after four months his heart showed no signs of improvement. 

“Within the year my heart did what it rarely does in situations such as mine ― it reverse remodeled, or began to shrink down to size and pump a lot better,” he said. Feraru’s doctors credited his progress to his incredible dedication to his health.

“In other words, I stuck to my resolution,” he said. “About the time I should have been dead, or needing the transplant, my heart was actually healing. My heart isn’t perfect, but I no longer need the transplant.”

While dealing with major side effects from the medication he was taking, Feraru also began studying for the D.C. bar. “It was brutal but I pushed through and passed it. I’m now waiting for certification to receive my license to practice law in Washington, D.C., and New York.” 

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Victor Feraru

Victor Feraru’s resolution was a matter of life and death. 

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https://www.specialreviews.net/these-5-people-made-resolutions-in-2019-and-actually-kept-them-heres-how-2/

Hallelujah, Instagram Is Banning The Most Toxic Weight Loss Ads

Instagram is one step closer to becoming a good place, thanks in part to outspoken body positivity activist Jameela Jamil.

The actor and Kardashian slayer has used social media as a tool for calling out the common practice of influencers and celebrities pushing unhealthy products like appetite suppressant lollipops and “flat tummy detox teas.” In February, Jamil used her platform to push a petition asking celebrities to stop those promotions, which racked up almost 250,000 signatures.

Now she’s working with social media to address the problem. On Wednesday, Instagram announced that posts promoting weight loss products or cosmetic procedures with a price tag or incentive to buy will be blocked from the accounts of users under age 18. In addition, it will remove these kinds of promotional posts in which the poster makes a “miraculous claim” about weight loss as the result of using the product.

In an interview with Elle UK, Jamil celebrated Instagram’s decision and revealed that she has been working on the guidelines with the platform for months. She also articulated why action was ― and continues to be ― so necessary.

“We have hyper-normalised flogging nonsense to young impressionable people,” she told Elle UK. “These people are selling hair growth gummies but wearing extensions or photoshopping themselves to look slimmer and selling a weight loss shake. There are so many lies being told and we’ve accepted that as a cultural norm.”

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Bravo via Getty Images

The Kardashians are well-known for peddling weight loss products, like appetite suppressant lollipops, on their Instagram accounts.

It’s no secret that the imagery people are exposed to can deeply impact self-esteem, both on a conscious and subconscious level. Too often the companies (and sometimes the celebrities) that shill these products appear to have little regard for the impact they’re having or the harmful way they’re being promoted.

Back in March, Australia-based brand SkinnyMe Tea came under fire for using a photo of an eating disorder survivor to promote its product. The Kardashians have been criticized for promoting appetite suppressant lollipops, detox teas and more unhealthy products masked as “wellness” tools.

An option to allow Instagram users to report posts that violate the new guidelines will roll out in the coming weeks, according to Elle UK. Instagram did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.

Props to the social media platform for taking steps to improve its users’ mental health. It’s hard to imagine our appearance-obsessed culture will ever truly be free from the pressure of twisted beauty ideals, but getting them off our timelines is a start.

https://www.specialreviews.net/hallelujah-instagram-is-banning-the-most-toxic-weight-loss-ads-2/

Can COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss? Here’s What You Need To Know

Among the many side effects of COVID-19 that have emerged, hair loss may be one of the most unexpected. “It took me a little off guard,” says Dr. Pedram Yazdan an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “I think it allowed me to appreciate how stressful this infection can be on our bodies.”

Technically known as telogen effluvium, temporary hair loss can be triggered by many things, from weight loss to severe infection and psychological stress. Yazdan, who specializes in hair loss, says all three may play a role in the reports of hair loss he’s seeing. One such report, a survey of more than 1,500 survivors released in late July, lists hair loss as among the top 25 symptoms experienced (out of nearly 100 total) by COVID-19 survivors.

Conducted by Dr. Natalie Lambert, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and Survivor Corps, a grassroots movement of COVID-19 survivors, the survey reveals that more people experienced hair loss than nausea or runny nose — two hallmark symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey isn’t the only place to highlight the issue. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in April reported a “high frequency” of “male pattern hair loss” among COVID-19 patients in Spain. A post from the Cleveland Clinic on July 30 noted an increase in COVID-19 patients reporting the condition. And in an interview with USA Today late July, a doctor from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York said she’s been seeing patients come in with “bags of hair” that they’ve lost after recovering from COVID-19.

Yazdan has seen cases of it as well. “I see patients in the clinic for hair disorder issues and recently we had a couple of patients who during — and even after — infection with COVID, started to have pretty noticeable shedding of their hair,” says Yazdan. “And basically there was no real attributable reason other than the infection that could have caused them to shed their hair.”

Telogen effluvium has been known to occur after other infections, including malaria and syphilis, the latter of which can result in what’s called syphilitic alopecia, says Yazdan. But for these COVID-19 survivors and others with temporary hair loss, there likely isn’t just one mechanism behind it. “It could be infection, it could be nutritional, it could be a lot of stress on the body — physical stress and medical stress,” says Yazdan. “Some patients with a lot of emotional stress … if they have a lot of anxiety or just some situational event in their life which is very emotionally taxing that can lead to hair shedding.”

The pervasive stress associated with this pandemic, he says, is likely playing a major role — and may even be causing hair loss in those without the virus. “I’ve been doing a lot of telehealth hair visits too and a number of my patients haven’t gotten COVID, but they’re shedding their hair,” Yazdan says. “I can’t really figure it out, but then when I probe more, just the fact that they’re in lockdown, stuck at home or worrying about losing their jobs…the life stresses that it’s putting on people I think is contributing.”

On top of the mental anguish, changes to the physical body — such as weight loss — may be influencing it too. “Some of these patients, their appetite is messed up and they’re not nutritionally optimized like they were before the infection. And one of the most important things with healthy hair is proper nutrition and having a well-balanced diet,” he says. “A lot of these patients, they don’t want to eat, they have no appetite and they’re losing weight. And so the hair gets pissed off for those reasons too.”

One positive aspect of this type of hair loss, Yazdan says, is that it’s temporary. “The good thing is that it’s transient. Of all the hair loss conditions that you can have, this is the best form to have because invariably it subsides,” he says. “They say ‘This too, shall pass’ and that’s kind of what happens with this too.”

For those who are experiencing it, he says that reducing stress and optimizing nutrition are both important, but the main advice he gives is simply to remain calm. “People say, ‘What can I do to treat it?’ And I think the best is just the tincture of time,” Yazdan says. “I spend a lot of time reassuring patients that this is a temporary condition…so all the hairs that were shed from telogen effluvium should theoretically, over time, come back slowly. So I tell them, just be patient.”

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Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but it’s possible guidance around COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

https://www.specialreviews.net/can-covid-19-cause-hair-loss-heres-what-you-need-to-know-2/

Konjac and glucomannan: Multi-purpose prebiotic fiber

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When I was a kid, my mom would return from her occasional trips into New York City to buy food from a Japanese grocer with some konnyaku candy, a jelly-like sweet desert that came in large bars. I did not know then that this was a product made from konjac originating from an Asian yam. The dense candies have since been removed from the market, unfortunately, as some children choked on the thick jelly, casting a shadow over konjac products for a number of years. Concerns over other forms of the fiber have since been addressed and dismissed. (The solution is to sell the product in small bite-sized pieces, rather than large bars or other forms, or to chew the candy well. Glucomannan powder added to foods does not have this concern.)

But, consumed as a teaspoon of glucomannan powder (the dried powder of konjac) or as Shirataki noodles made from konjac, these foods provide a convenient way to increase intake of prebiotic fibers without the choking risk of the thick gelatin form. Konjac as a dried powder does indeed have substantial water-absorbing potential and has therefore been put to work in inducing satiety for weight loss purposes, as well as for increasing elimination of intestinal bile acids that leads to lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol. Clinical studies have therefore focused on weight loss and cholesterol-reducing effects (both of which are modest or minimal). But the prebiotic fiber properties of glucomannan are the most interesting.

Given prebiotic fiber content, konjac and glucomannan have been associated with:

      • Increased proliferation of probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species, while indirectly suppressing proliferation of Gram-negative pathogens and several Clostridia species. Short-chain fatty acids that both nourish the intestinal lining as well as mediate beneficial health effects (e.g., reduced insulin resistance, reduced blood sugar and blood pressure, reduced triglycerides) are also substantially increased.
      • Increased Bacteroidetes (away from the greater Firmicutes pattern seen in obesity and type 2 diabetes) and increased Akkermansia
      • Modest reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, but a more marked 23% reduction in triglycerides (the pattern often seen with prebiotic fiber supplementation).
      • Increased activity of an intestinal enzyme, alkaline phosphatase, that disables the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of pathogenic bacterial species that is associated with endotoxemia. In other words, glucomannan likely reduces the severity of endotoxemia caused by dysbiosis and SIBO.

We do not, of course, confine intake of prebiotic fibers to only one source, but seek out variety: glucomannan/Shirataki, galactooligosaccharides from legumes, arabinogalactan and others from acacia fiber, inulin from onions, garlic, and asparagus, etc. Getting in a variety of prebiotic fibers helps cultivate bacterial species diversity in bowel flora, a powerful marker for overall health.

Knowing about glucomannan powder and Shirataki noodles therefore adds to the list of sources of prebiotic fibers that help cultivate bacterial species diversity. Glucomannan powder can be added to many dishes (add slowly and stir, as it can thicken your dish considerably; adding one teaspoon adds 4 grams prebiotic fiber to your daily intake) and is heat stable. Its moisture-absorbing properties can be put to use as a thickening agent, as well. If you are in the mood for an Asian-style dish, Shirataki noodles are a great choice. Here is my recipe for Ramen Noodles made with Shirataki noodles.

https://www.specialreviews.net/konjac-and-glucomannan-multi-purpose-prebiotic-fiber/

Billionaire

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I just had an analysis run to count the number of bacteria in a sample of L. reuteri yogurt: 28 BILLION.

Recall that, by crushing 10 tablets of the BioGaia Gastrus tablets to begin fermentation, we start with—at best, assuming 100% viability—2 billion CFUs (colony-forming units or bacteria) of L. reuteri microbes (two strains). Given a L. reuteri doubling time (the time required for one bacteria to reproduce and become two bacteria) of 3 hours, it means that our prolonged fermentation time of 36 hours permits 12 doublings. We could do the math, but this value would only apply to the first batch. Since we make subsequent batches from a couple tablespoons of a prior batch, we rapidly lose track of how many bacteria are contained in the yogurt. It’s therefore helpful to perform an actual count.

The analysis yielded 220 million microbes per gram. By consuming one-half cup per serving of L. reuteri yogurt, we obtain:

220,000,000 x 127.7 grams/half-cup serving = 28,000,000,000

or 28 billion microbes.

This is the magic of bacterial doubling time. Just as the graph above shows how one penny on day 1, doubled every day for 30 days, yields $5.5 million, with big numbers showing only after day 25, so it goes with our L. reuteri fermentation: Big microbial numbers don’t appear until 10 doublings have occurred, i.e., around hour 30, with huge jumps in numbers with two subsequent doublings to 36 hours. You can appreciate that the 4-hour fermentation that most commercial yogurt makers use, or the 8-hours used by commercial kefir makers, yields trivial bacterial counts. They cut the process short by a huge amount of time, thereby yielding products that have almost no bacteria.

But this is part of the reason why, I believe, we are achieving such over-the-top results for most people such as thicker skin, smoothing of wrinkles, accelerated healing, restoration of youthful muscle and strength, deeper sleep. These effects are occurring due to consumption of large numbers of microbes, far more than obtain from conventional yogurt or from a commercial probiotic.

https://www.specialreviews.net/billionaire/

Bifidobacteria infantis yogurt

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I’ve previously discussed the concept of keystone species, i.e., species that are crucial for maintaining the balance of life in an ecosystem, such as plankton in the ocean—without plankton, jellyfish and whales could not survive. The same sort of principle applies to the bacterial (and fungal and Archaeal) species in your intestinal microbiome: there are keystone microbial species whose presence and metabolites are crucial for the survival and proliferation of many other species and thereby crucial for human health.

There is a very interesting keystone species that was meant to be passed onto child from the mother at birth via passage through the birth canal and/or breastfeeding: Bifidobacterium infantis. B. infantis is the #1 major metabolizer of something called human milk oligosaccharides, HMOs, a major constituent of breastmilk. HMOs are indigestible to humans, but digestible by bacteria, especially B. infantis. For this reason, babies are meant to have a microbiome dominated by this species.

Unfortunately, B. infantis is among the many casualties of the modern microbiome, species that most modern people have lost due to antibiotics and other factors. If the mother, for instance, took antibiotics in her past, consumed glyphosate in corn and soy products, drank diet soda sweetened with aspartame or was exposed to the many other factors in modern life that disrupt microbiome composition, she herself lacks B. infantis and is thereby unable to pass it onto her baby.

The 90% of babies who lack this species are thereby unable to digest the milk oligosaccharides in their mother’s breast milk. Milk oligosaccharides are a crucial prebiotic fiber for babies that enhance growth and cultivate proliferation of other healthy bacterial species in the baby’s nascent microbiome. HMOs thereby provide the nutrition for building a healthy collection of microbial species, help regulate gastrointestinal function, and help the immune system mature. Lack of this species therefore represents a major health deficit with both short- and long-term health implications.

What happens if B. infantis is restored to an infant who is breastfeeding and obtaining milk oligosaccharides? The evidence shows that babies:

  • Have 50% fewer bowel movements that are better-formed—meaning mom and dad have to change 50% fewer diapers
  • Have less colic—Any parent who has had to quiet a crying child with colic knows what a challenge this can be.
  • Have less diaper rash
  • Are more likely to sleep through the night
  • Take longer naps

I wish I knew about this when my kids were small.

Later in life, B. infantis-replenished children have less risk for asthma, type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. The loss of this and related species is believed to be the reason that the pH of infant stool has changed  over the past century, increasing from an acidic pH of 5.0 to its current more basic pH of 6.5, a huge change in the logarithmic pH scale. In short, restoration of this microbe is transformative, restores an acidic stool pH, helps restore gastrointestinal health, alters microbiome composition, enhances immune function, and changes the course of the child’s health and development. Restoration of  B. infantis, combined with the advantages of vaginal delivery and breastfeeding, are among the most important factors in determining the child’s long-term health and development.

(Because infant formula does not contain milk oligosaccharides, given the complex structure of these molecules, it is not known whether kids consuming synthetic formulas obtain these same benefits. There is no harm, of course, in restoring B. infantis to a formula-fed infant, but there is insufficient evidence to know whether the same benefits apply.)

Much of the evidence for the benefits of B. infantis are with the commercial strain EVC001 called Evivo. (Remember: Many effects are specific to strains; other strains of the same species cannot be assumed to yield similar effects.) This product comes as a sachet with 8 billion CFUs per envelope, meant to be combined with a few tablespoons of breastmilk and fed to the baby. It is pricey at $79 for a 28-day supply. The mother of a newborn can thereby replenish this lost microbe to her baby. One nice feature: Unlike most other probiotic species, this microbe can persist for months, even one year, after restoration.

Why not go a step further and not just provide the microbe as a probiotic to the infant, but why not restore the microbe to the pregnant mother who, upon delivery, transfers this and other microbes to her baby as he/she passes through the birth canal or feeds on breastmilk? A microbial species provided by this route is more likely to be passed on in the company of other healthy microbes. Because the Evivo product is sold with the relatively modest bacterial count of 8 billion CFUs per packet, we can also increase bacterial counts by making yogurt out of it. (Our latest batch of flow cytometry studies of our yogurts fermented by the unique methods I advocate, i.e., prolonged fermentation in the presence of prebiotic fibers, yielded 260 billion CFUs at 36 hours—far greater than provided in the commercial product. Bigger numbers provide bigger, more confident effects.) The pregnant mother can therefore make yogurt, consume it, restore B. infantis that she can then pass on—the natural way—to her newborn baby. To make the yogurt, she needs to purchase the Evivo product only once, as she can propagate batch after batch just by starting another batch with a bit of a prior batch.  (The yogurt should not be fed to the baby, however; it is only meant for mom’s consumption.)

Doing it this way also means that mom can also share in some of the benefits, such as reduced anxiety, improved immune response, anti-inflammatory effects, and improved intestinal barrier function that can reduce bacterial endotoxemia.

To make B. infantis yogurt:

1 sachet Evivo B. infantis
1-2 tablespoons raw potato starch or sucrose
1 quart organic half-and-half (with no added mixing agents, emulsifiers, or thickeners)

(The raw potato starch or sucrose is there to feed microbes, not you. There should be little to none remaining at the end of the fermentation period. With Bifidobacteria species, we avoid use of inulin as the prebiotic fiber, as not all can metabolize this variety of prebiotic fiber.)

In medium-sized bowl, combine contents of one sachet, raw potato starch or sucrose, and two tablespoons of half-and-half, and stir until well-mixed.

Pour in remainder of half-and-half and mix thoroughly.

Cover and maintaining at 100 degrees F for 30-36 hours. Consume 1/2 cup per day.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with the Evivo product or company.

https://www.specialreviews.net/bifidobacteria-infantis-yogurt/

The next Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox Challenge begins Wednesday November 11th!

By Dr. Davis and April Duval

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Are you ready to take back control over your weight and reclaim your health?  Do you want to turn the clock back 10 or 20 years, look and feel better, be freed of numerous, if not all, prescription drugs?  Well then you are invited to join us in our next Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox Challenge that starts on Wednesday, November 11th.

The Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox supplies you with carefully designed meal plans and delicious recipes to fully eliminate wheat and related grains in the shortest time possible. Perfect for those who may have fallen off the wagon or for newcomers who need a jump-start for weight loss, this program guides you through the complete 10-Day Detox experience. In addition to this quick-start program, I’ll show you:

  • How to recognize and reduce wheat-withdrawal symptoms,
  • How to avoid common landmines that can sabotage success
  • How to use nutritional supplements to further advance weight loss and health benefits
  • How to effectively navigate the grocery store and choose safe products
  • How weight loss and magnificent health are achievable without cutting calories, without hunger

To join the Detox Challenge:

Step 1: Get the book. And read it (at least the first 5 chapters).

Detox Challenge participants should be informed and active in order to get the most out of the challenge and private Facebook group. READING THE WHEAT BELLY DETOX BOOK IS REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE. PLEASE DO NOT PARTICIPATE IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK or else the conversations will not make sense and you will not enjoy full benefit. It is a very bad idea to try and piece the program together just from our conversations. (Note that the Wheat Belly Detox program is NOT laid out in the original Wheat Belly book.)

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1JqzMea

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/wheatbelly10daygraindetox-bn

Indiebound: http://bit.ly/1KwcFTQ

Step 2: Join the Wheat Belly Blog community 

Access the thousands of discussions that provide additional recipes, discussions about issues relevant to the Wheat Belly lifestyle, and access the newest ideas in the Wheat Belly Blog.  By becoming a Wheat Belly Blog community member, you will have access to the huge number of resources available on the Wheat Belly Blog: nearly 2000 posts with recipes, tips, new concepts, avoiding pitfalls, etc. You are also supporting the cause and covering the costs of Wheat Belly staff and projects.

The cost is $15.99 for an annual subscription. Here is why we have converted to a subscription process.  Please provide the name you registered with when requesting to join the private Facebook page:

Step 3: Join the Private Facebook Group.

http://bit.ly/WheatBelly-PrivateFBGroup

Step 4: Prepare for the Detox Challenge

Head to the Private Facebook Group Wednesday, November 4th through November 10th for chapter discussions, tips, strategies, recipes, videos and discussions to help you prepare for your upcoming detox challenge.  Dr. Davis and site administrator, April Duval, will be posting and answering your questions.  April is herself an example of a fabulous Wheat Belly Detox success, she knows the ins and outs of this lifestyle like the back of her hand.  Our goal: to help you succeed in restoring your health and achieving your health goals.

Step 5: Join the Detox page conversations from November 11th to November 20th.  Dr. Davis will personally kick off Day 1 of the Detox Challenge with a LIVE Facebook session.  It will be held on the Detox Facebook page Wednesday, November 11th, 12 pm EDT/11 am CDT/10 am MDT/9 am PDT. Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/groups/527516110738721/

Why the Detox Challenge?

Through the New York Times bestseller, Wheat Belly, millions of people learned how to reverse years of chronic health problems by removing wheat from their daily diets. But, after reading the original Wheat Belly or the Wheat Belly Total Health book, or even using the recipes from the Wheat Belly Cookbook and Wheat Belly 30-Minute Cookbook, people still said: “I’ve read the books, but I’m still not sure how to get started on this lifestyle.

The Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox  Challenge helps readers navigate the core Wheat Belly lifestyle strategies. This is the quickest, most assured way to get started on regaining magnificent health and slenderness by adopting the Wheat Belly lifestyle.

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https://www.specialreviews.net/the-next-wheat-belly-10-day-grain-detox-challenge-begins-wednesday-november-11th/