Archive for June 2011

Picking Out a Good Mattress

This blog is at the request of one of my most dedicated readers…

You will spend about one third of your life sleeping and adequate sleep is crucial for good health. A lack of sleep results in higher stress levels, which has an effect on cortisol levels. Ultimately, with less than adequate sleep, you’re looking at the possibility of weight gain and increased blood pressure, among other issues. In fact, when counseling patients for weight loss, one of the points I make is to promote eight hours of sleep every night.

When considering the health issues mentioned above, ensuring a good night’s sleep sounds much more important. Furthermore, sleeping on a quality mattress that is comfortable and supportive is a key component of staying rested. But with so many mattress models out there, how can one even decide the correct fit? I have one major rule of thumb: Try to keep your spine as neutral as possible. In other words, I would like to see the spine to be in the roughly same position it would be if you were standing. In overly soft mattresses, the body tends to sink too far, resulting in a side bend in the spine. Though this softness may feel comfortable at first, sleeping an entire night in a bent position is going to feel very uncomfortable in the morning. At the other end of the spectrum, a very firm mattress isn’t going to have enough give, so you may feel some extra pressure at your shoulders and hips. I feel that with most people, a medium/firm mattress is usually best. However, every individual is different and it is important to test some mattresses out before deciding. I will mention that I am a fan of the memory foam mattresses. I like that they do have give at the heavier parts of the body and offer support throughout. Though they are generally more expensive, if the mattress is comfortable to you, then it is worth the investment.

On a side note, I will throw out the idea of an organic mattress for those really looking to change things up. Most mattresses straight out of the manufacturer also come with things like dust mites and other allergens. For individuals particularly sensitive to these things, a look into a naturally manufactured mattress may be an useful consideration.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a mattress is to pick one that is comfortable for you throughout the night. Being comfortable equals better sleep, which is your only goal for those eight hours. And don’t forget about your pillow. After all, if you’re trying to prevent back pain, you may as well prevent neck pain, too.

Out With the Food Pyramid, In With the Food Plate

Thanks Michelle Obama! It looks like the food pyramid has finally been removed. The food pyramid was such an incorrect guideline for eating habits, I’m surprised it survived as long as it did. The base of the pyramid was all pasta and bread. Way off.

Now we have been given the food plate. I can absolutely say it is a step up from from the pyramid, but it still contains key mistakes. One aspect that I do like is how it is a nice visual for people to reference. The plate serves as a nice comparison for any individual when considering their own dinner plate. Secondly, I would say that the ratios are mostly correct. However, I suppose that this is also my first critique. Personally, I think the grains section is still a little large. People can consume plenty of healthy carbohydrates through fruits and vegetables, therefore, grains do not even need to be standard. The truth is, grains are just hugely popular. Asking someone to remove breads or pastas from their diet is close to impossible. But, as I tell my patients, try to keep them as a side dish and make it whole grain. My second critique is the dairy. I don’t really understand why it is even in the picture at all. Granted, yes, most people take in dairy products every day and I won’t stop you, but this should not be considered a staple food group for every meal. The dairy industry must have some great lobbyists.

In the end, the food plate does look better than the pyramid by far, but it is important to remember that it is still just a guideline. As every individual is different and requires different amounts of nutrients based on gender, age, activity level, physical health, etc., these values need to change. In all honesty, the 3 meals per day rule is far outdated anyway. But that was covered in my last blog.

Eat More for Weight Loss

Eat more frequently, that is. It is the typical American practice to eat three meals each day: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Though this has become the common habit, that doesn’t mean it’s the correct way to eat. Eating three larger meals each day induces a blood sugar roller coaster, resulting in the spiking and dropping of insulin levels. You know that mid-afternoon fatigue? That’s the blood sugar drop. Not only does the traditional three meals drastically affect blood sugar, it also isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.

What if you ate five or six smaller meals each day? Keep your usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner with smaller portions and add a little more at mid-morning and afternoon. The first benefit is that this will help keep your blood sugar and insulin levels at a more stabile level throughout the day, which translates into preventing that fatigue in the afternoon. And, for those of you trying to lose some weight, it also will boost your metabolism. Of course, you will want to make these extra meals healthier options, with a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein. Your goal is to keep yourself in a state of not being extremely hungry or full, but comfortable throughout the day. Give it a shot, break that habitual barrier, and eat in a more efficient way!