5 Ways To Track Your Weight Loss

Whether you’ve embarked on a healthier eating  plan, started a regular exercise routine or a combination of both, it is informative for you to track your progress regularly.

There are many ways to track your progress and they range from being very simple to implement to moderately more work and costly.

A simple example might be to set a target goal of dropping one size in clothing within 8 weeks.  So say you want to go from a Size 6 dress to Size 4.  Or go from a pair of size 36 waist pant to a 32 waist in 10 weeks.  At the end of whatever time frame you establish, if your old clothes are baggy you know you made progress.  If you can get into that new smaller size, then even more success!  This method is great for those who don’t like to step on the scale.

A second simple way to track is by taking photographs.  Take a selfie at the start of your new plan and compare it to photos taken at different time intervals into your plan.  Every 2-3 weeks is usually enough time to start visualizing changes to your body.  The best thing to do is to take your photos in a consistent manner.  Stand in front of a plain blank wall.  Take front, side and back shots.  Go shirtless or wear a sports bra, shorts or spandex.  Set up your camera at the same distance away that you took it previously.  Keep lighting conditions the same.  If you can keep these things consistent, the before and after photo comparisons will be more easily seen.  For motivation, you can post your photos on the fridge.  Or you can choose to keep them to yourself.  Whatever works for you!

Third method: step on the weight scale.  Regularly track how much weight you have lost/gained but don’t get on  the scale every day.  Day to day fluctuations will just stress you out and cause frustration.  At most, do it once a week.  Again, be consistent.  Same time of day is important.  Usually first thing in the morning is best.  The drawback of simple weight loss measurements on the scale is that it doesn’t tell you what your body composition is.  How much of your weight loss was FAT loss?  How much of your weight loss was MUSCLE loss?  These are good things to know.  But if you are losing weight overall, your clothing size has changed and you look and feel better…you’ve already succeeded!

Breaking out the measuring tape is another possible tracking method.  Do pre and post measurements of key areas such as shoulder girth, chest, waist, hips, upper arm and thighs.  This gives you an idea of where your weight loss is happening.  Some people lose weight quickly in some body areas and slowly in others (aka problem areas).  It is a bit tricky to do these measurements yourself so enlisting your significant other, a great friend or a health professional is usually the best idea.  Accuracy of the measurement can be an issue in terms of consistent measurement locations and amount of tape pull.  So an experienced person is also important.  Often times the areas where we want to lose weight the most like abdomen and hips are the slowest to see change.  Don’t be discouraged.  Keep at it!

For the greatest amount of info and accuracy, you will want to look at body composition tests.  There are a variety of methods/devices out there that provide insight into the amount of lean muscle mass vs. body fat mass and in some cases visceral fat which is an indicator of obesity related diseases.  Good tests to consider include DEXA scan, BodPod and InBody devices.  These vary in price, availability and convenience.  Each of these may report slightly different values so it’s best to stick to just one method of tracking for the long haul.

At Meridian Spine + Sport we are now using the InBody 570 made by GE Healthcare which is used in hospitals, gyms and professional sports teams.  It is also Health Canada approved.  The InBody uses patented technology and can perform segmental (limbs and trunk) measurements and provide vital information on visceral fat (that surrounds your abdominal organs) which relates to heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.  The test is harmless and painless, and scan and consultation only takes 15 minutes.

Whichever method you decide to use, be consistent both with your nutrition/exercise plan and tracking protocol.  Set realistic goals and expect some ups and downs along the way but don’t be discouraged.  Make yourself accountable to someone else and enjoy learning more about yourself and your body!

Disclaimer: I am a doctor, but I may not be your doctor.  The information in my blog posts are meant to give you different perspectives at looking at your health and I hope you find it educational.  However, you should always see a Naturopathic Doctor or a health professional who can assess what is best and safe for you before taking any supplements or making dietary changes.  Keep on learning!

Dr. Misa Kawasaki has been practicing for over 15 years as a Naturopathic Doctor at Meridian Spine and Sport in Oak Ridges and is also a Nutrition Coach at CrossFit Ark in Aurora.  Check out her facebook page for more health tips!

Eating Tip: How To Use Your Hand To Portion Your Dinner Plate

Tired of counting calories?  Dr. John Berardi and his Precision Nutrition team have created a great, easy-to-use infographic tool for folks to use.  Download the infographic and paste it on your fridge for reference!  Just right-click and select the Save Image As option.








Trying To Lose Weight? – Forget The Dishes And Get To BED!

I started a new strength-training program last week that has me at the gym 4 days per week. I’m pretty excited about it. So I went Monday, Tuesday and Thursday last week. But Thursday and Friday night I went to bed at 1:00 am because I was cleaning dishes and folding laundry—for some reason it was bugging me to get this done. I usually am in bed by 11:30 pm. So I was going to do my 4th training session on Saturday, but I woke up on Saturday stiff as ever!

My foam roller was glued to my hip flexors and IT band all weekend long. It was terrible. What had made me feel so terrible?? I knew it. Lack of sleep. My bodywas not able to recover properly. It took until Monday and a lot more mobilizing and stretching until I felt good to get back to the gym. Yikes.

Since I started coaching at CrossFit Ark last year, I think the most common question I have been asking the athletes is, “Are you sleeping enough?” A few of them who are training for competition are trying to gain weight and muscle, but the majority of the members are trying to get stronger while losing body fat.  So when an athlete at the Ark or a patient in my practice at Meridian comes to me a little frustrated because no matter how much they exercise and eat right, their body composition does seem to be improving, I ask them if they are getting enough sleep every night.

You see, most people think of the morning as the start of their day. But to me, the day starts at midnight. Yup, 12:00 AM. Your body is doing TONS of stuff while you sleep. It’s recovering from the day before, it is detoxifying, rebuilding, healing, regrouping, resting—it is getting ready for the waking day to come, so that you will have energy and sanity for the stresses of the day. So we better respect our bodies and be in deep REM sleep by then.

In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2008 showed a strong connection between sleep duration and obesity. Now this study was done in the elderly population, but common sense tells me that it can certainly apply to all ages. What the researchers found was that compared to those who slept 7-8 hours per night, the individuals that slept less than 5 hours per night had an average 3-fold incidence of obesity in both men and women. And this also correlated with abdominal weight gain and higher body fat percentage. (Patel SR, T Blackwell, S Redline, et al. (2008). The association between sleep duration and obesity in older adults. Int J of Obesity, 32, 1825-1834)

I’m simplifying a bit, but for example, let’s say that for whatever reason (genetics, lifestyle, etc.) you have a 20% risk of being overweight. If you sleep less than 7 hours a night (not just one night, but many), your risk of abdominal obesity increases by 3-fold to 60%!!!! Whoa!!! SLEEP EQUALS FAT GAIN AROUND THE TUMMY AND DIFFICULTY LOSING IT.

How can we all get some good quality shut-eye? Here are 5 tips on better sleep habits:

1. Avoid stimulants 2 hours prior to bedtime. This means visually, emotionally, chemically. Don’t watch any fast action movies that get your adrenaline going. Get off the computer. Stop checking your phone every 10 minutes. Don’t go to bed irritated or angry. Avoid caffeine and sugar. Slow down that racing mind (easier said than done, I know). Even things like B vitamins can increase energy if you take them before bed.

2. Practice meditation for 10 minutes before bed. I put “practice” here because it really does take practice. For those of us who always have “to-do” checklists going on in minds, meditation might just start off with an intentional commitment to turn your mind off and do a deep breathing exercise. Or maybe it means listening to light music, guided imagery, prayer, journaling, stretching, enjoying a calming herbal tea, things like that.

3. Increase melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone produced in your brain that controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle. It is higher at night and low during the day. Higher melatonin production equals a deeper sleep. ANY sort of light in your bedroom will interfere with this…a night light, thin curtains, a digital clock radio, a phone on your night table, TV—try to keep your room very dark while you sleep. That way, when you wake up and start your day, you will feel more alert and refreshed. (Meditation helps increase melatonin production too!)

4. Magnesium helps to relax muscle tension and calm down your brain. Magnesium can really help to loosen muscle tension after a stressful day, especially if you are deficient. Calf cramps in the middle of the night (a.k.a. “restless leg syndrome”) can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. How much to take can really vary, usually starting around 400-800mg before bed is effective for many, but come talk to me about dosages that are appropriate for you. What happens if you take too much magnesium? Remember that is relaxes all muscles, even your colon, so you’ll bowels might get more active. If this happens cut back a bit.

5. Give Acupuncture a try. Weekly acupuncture for 6-8 sessions can really improve your quality of sleep. What does it do exactly? Acupuncture can influence and bring harmony to the natural chemicals in the brain like serotonin that helps with a deeper sleep.

Listen, the dishes will be there in the morning. I’m the first person to admit that I would sacrifice sleep in order to have a tidy and clean kitchen. But I have to keep reminding myself to just get to bed, and that being able to get up early and alert to fix my kids a nutritious breakfast is infinitely more important then a crumb-free countertop.

And of course as a Naturopath, I’ve got many years of experience (12 years and counting!) in helping people figure out what they should eat and how to improve their sleep, and I would love to help you too!

Your friendly, Richmond Hill neighbourhood naturopath…

Dr Misa

Don’t Rely On The Scale To Lose Weight

It’s so tempting to step on the scale first thing in the morning isn’t it? Of course your weight will be lowest then…you’ve used the toilet already, you’ve been fasting for 7 hours, you’re dehydrated, and you haven’t eaten breakfast yet. For those of you who are overweight, you step on the scale in hopes to see if the number that comes up is lower than it was yesterday. This can happen even several times a day for some of you…and it’s really difficult to stop doing it. People tell you that you look “thinner” and in fact your jeans do feel less tight but you’re weight is the exact same number it was 2 weeks ago. But does the number on that scale truly tell us that we are getting any healthier? What sort of “numbers” should we really be looking at?

A Bioimpedence Analysis (BIA) is a cool tool that I use in my practice that can tell us a lot more about losing weight in a healthy way than what shows on the scale. I’m sure you would all agree that someone who is 150 lbs with a 19% body fat is much healthier than someone who is 150 lbs with a 38% body fat.

Well a BIA tells us just that, a person’s % body fat and % muscle mass. It can even tell us if someone has been drinking enough water and if that water is in fact being absorbed and utilized by the muscles. If I hadn’t even met you yet, I could tell you from your BIA if you are someone that retains water, or whose weight easily fluctuates 3-5 lbs in a day. A BIA can also tell us if you are incorporating enough omega-3 oils in your diet, or if your body is having difficulty eliminating toxins from its tissues. And all of these numbers are so much more useful to make sure you’re on a proper eating & exercise regimen and therefore an effective path to weight loss, then just relying on the scale. And that also means that being successful in losing weight in a healthy way cannot be done alone—the experience of a group setting or with a naturopath will take away a lot of the frustration and de-motivation that can come with trying to lose weight.

As a Naturopath, I’ve been helping people achieve healthy weight loss for over 12 years now, and I have yet to find one “diet” that works for every person. I see the frustration people have over trying diets that don’t give them lasting results, and it frustrates me too. Sure, there are templates like FirstLine Therapy and the Healthy &  Active Metabolism Program that I use, but I have to tweak them to take into account my patients’ health status, family history, bloodwork, lifestyle habits, family life…there are a lot of variables!!! However, there are a few tips that I give to all my patients when it comes to optimizing metabolism:

1. Drink half your weight in ounces of filtered water or non-caffeinated herbal tea daily. For example, if someone weighs 150 lbs, they should be drinking a minimum of 75 oz. (or 1.6 L) daily. If you exercise, you need more.

2. Be strategic about the timing of your grain/carbs. This means that you consume your grains around the most active time of your day. For most people, this means having grains with breakfast or lunch (not both) or just after a tough workout.

3. Always eat a protein serving with breakfast. This can be leftovers, eggs, meat, beans, tofu, or a protein shake.

4. Please don’t starve yourself. Starving puts your body into hibernation mode and hold on to fat. Don’t go for more than 4-6 hours without food, but don’t graze all day either. Grazing does NOT improve your metabolism. It actually makes your gut work overtime to produce digestive enzymes and stomach acid all day long. (This rule differs for people with diabetes, or other blood sugar metabolism disorders, but does apply for the general population).

5. Always eat fruits at the end of a meal, or with some nuts or protein. For regulating blood sugar, we need to view fruits as a sugar. If you eat it alone, it will spike your blood sugar faster than if you eat it with some almonds, which will slow down the absorption of the fruit. Stick to low sugar fruits too. I don’t think I need to say that drinking fruit juice is not the same as eating fruit. Juice should be avoided.

6. Exercise!!!! And it has to incorporate high-intensity interval training. Yes, I mean weights, and probably heavier than you are imagining. Why? Because you need to do movements that increase muscle mass and strength—especially for women, this is key!!! Running or fast walking are great for improving cardiovascular health, but will not help you increase muscle. Muscle is a metabolic tissue. It will burn more calories than fat in between workouts. You need more muscle. If you need a personal trainer to help you with knowing what to do and do it safely, then I highly recommend you invest in one, or come talk to me!

7. And most important – get enough sleep. Proper rest lowers your cortisol levels.  High cortisol levels caused by stress causes you to gain (and keep) abdominal fat. And if you can’t, or work shifts, or have kids, or whatever, come talk to me about natural ways to lower cortisol levels.

8. For us ladies….hormones and weight loss….well, that is a whole other blog post!

Interested in getting on a path of healthy weight loss? Come book a free 15-min meet & greet with Dr. Misa, or book a 90-min initial visit (includes BIA test) to get started right away! Naturopathic Medicine is covered under most work health benefits.

New Healthy Habits for 2013!

It’s a new year and for some of you it’s a fresh year meaning fresh beginnings while for others it may feel like just “back to the grind”.  But wherever you are at, setting goals for a healthy 2013 is always a good thing, and our team at Meridian is here to help you do just that.

WEIGHT LOSS is always one of the top New Year’s resolutions, yet we all know that after the first few weeks of going to the gym everyday, “life” kicks in, and that new gym membership may go unused for weeks or even months at at time.  I’ve even had a few patients tell me that they have not been to the gym for a years, but keep renewing their memberships so that they feel better that there is at least the potential to go (c’mon really???).  And if you’re a PERFECTIONIST like me (yes I’ll admit it :)) and have that “all-or-nothing” mentality, then if you can’t do it right, you won’t do it at all, or you will keep “re-starting” over and over again, telling yourself that “this time I’m going to do it, I’m going to get it right.”

And then the excuses set in…”I have no time”, “work is too stressful right now, too many deadlines”, “I have to drive my kids everywhere”, “I don’t have the money to eat healthy”, “it’s my spouse’s fault he/she keeps chips and cookies in the house”, “I injured my ankle so I can’t do any running or jumping.”  Yes, they are all excuses.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound condescending or judgemental here.  I totally get it–I work full-time, own a business, have two small children, a house to clean, meals to cook, and the list goes on.   But you have to admit, sometimes we can use these as excuses to avoid the feeling of repeated failure or defeat, especially when it comes to weight loss.

And that is the totally WRONG way to look at health, isn’t it?  The process of leading a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be a negative thing, nor is it an achievement or a prize that you get at the end, because you’ve lost “X” amount of pounds.  Leading a healthy lifestyle is about getting up in the morning and not feeling tired, it’s about being strong enough to pick up your children and swing them in the air, it’s about having the endurance to pull that toboggan up the hill one more time, it’s about enjoying a coffee at 3pm because you like the taste of it, not because you need the caffeine, it’s about being physically able to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and not just dream about it,  it’s about looking ahead 30-40 years and telling yourself you don’t want to be on 10 different medications because you didn’t pay attention to your health NOW.

So here are my “New Year’s” Top Habits to help you integrate healthy into your busy life:

1. Drink 1.5-2 litres water or herbal tea daily.  If you have a caffeinated beverage, then drink two more glasses water on top of that.

2. Learn to drink your coffee without sugar or sweetener of any sort, except stevia.

3. Do 10 push-ups, 20 sit ups, and a 60 second plank as soon as you get out of bed in the morning.

4. Get off the subway or bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work or school.

5. Eat your proteins and veggies at the beginning of the meal and your carbs at the end of the meal to help control your blood sugar better.

6. Stop eating bagels. Choose rye bread instead.

7. Breathe deeply.  We can live without water or food longer than we can survive without oxygen.  Breathing to survive is not enough, your tissues may still be slowly suffocating!  Breathing DEEPLY will keep all systems functioning optimally and lower stress.

8. All kids love piggy-back rides!  Put your child on your back and do some squats and walking lunges every day (…be careful no one gets hurt!).  You get some exercise, plus laughs and fun with your kids.  It’s a win-win 🙂

Stay posted for a new Healthy & Active Metabolism Lifestyle Program coming to Meridian Wellness in Spring 2013!  For the “inside-scoop” ask the Naturopath (Dr. Misa) about it at your next visit!


How To Lose Weight By Sleeping More!

Sleep and Weight LossAre you burning the midnight oil?  A good night’s sleep is one of the keys to good health—and may also be a key to maintaining a healthy weight. There is mounting evidence that people who get too little sleep have a higher risk of weight gain and obesity than people who get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.  There are even a few published books on this topic out there.

It’s true that many of us are getting a lot less sleep than we used to.  Our lives have become so busy that essential things like exercise, taking the time to relax and eat properly (are you eating a late lunch at your desk working as you read this??) have taken a backseat.  But we all know that at some point we face total burnout, and perhaps even a point of no return with our health.  And when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, sleep is super important, as reported by Harvard School of Public Health, who reviewed several studies on the association between lack of sleep and obesity.

As parents, we also have a duty to set a good example of proper sleep habits to our kids.  An observational study in New Zealand followed over 1000 children from birth to age 32 and found that each one hour reduction in sleep was associated with a 50 percent higher risk of obesity by the age of 32.

So how exactly does sleep affect body weight?

  1. Sleep deprivation may alter hormones that control hunger and therefore increase appetite.  Researchers found that the hormone leptin, which tells your body that you are full, is lowered in people who don’t get enough sleep.  With lower levels of leptin, your body doesn’t get the signal to stop eating.
  2. Sleeping less gives you more time to eat, especially those late night snacks which are often high in fats and refined sugars, leading to weight gain.  Have you ever reached for celery sticks as a late-night snacks?  If so, good for you, most people crave fats and sugars like chips, chocolate, popcorn, cookies and all kinds of unhealthy foods at night.
  3. Sleep deprivation may prompt people to have less healthy diets–they tend to eat out more, eat at irregular times, skip meals and binge eat.
  4. Decreasing exercise and physical activity.  People who don’t get enough sleep are tired during the day, and the last thing they want to do is exercise.

Ready to make some lifestyle changes

and sleep better?

The first step is to book a free 15-minute naturopathic “Meet & Greet” with Dr. Misa so that you can learn more about how naturopathic medicine can help you de-stress, sleep better and lose weight.  You can also stay tuned in my future blog about good sleep habits.  Cheers to a good night’s sleep!  As we say in Japanese, “oya-sumi-na-sai!” (that means “goodnight”!)