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Want to Lose the Love Handles?

If you are exercising, but can’t seem to make a difference in areas that are bothering you, consider this advice on how to address love handles, underarm fat and more.

Do you have love handles, underarm fat or a paunchy middle - even though you're exercising, eating well, and on track with your supplement regimen? Sometimes our "trouble spots" seem to escape our best fitness efforts, but keep in mind that "spot reducing" isn't how the body works. We have sophisticated mechanisms that keep fat fairly evenly distributed, even when we focus on arm curls or stomach crunches. This means that time in the gym, or even simple things like using the stairs instead of the elevator, all help us shed overall body fat rather than fat in any particular place.

Varying your fitness routine by incorporating some higher resistance lifting or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help you over the plateau. Consider signing up with a trainer at a gym for personalized instruction, and you'll find the fat receding from the trouble spots - and everywhere else!

Foods for a Healthy Weight: Part 2

Yesterday’s Daily Tip covered four foods for a healthy waistline. Today’s Tip offers up five more: from oats to healthy fats, these foods can help you get to a healthy weight. Add them to your meals this month.

If you are trying to lose weight, avoid the frozen, prepared, and often expensive "diet" meals and instead hit up the real, whole foods sections of the grocery store. These foods are not just filling and can help you manage your weight, but offer numerous health benefits as well.

  1. Steel-cut oats. An excellent source of fiber, eating steel-cut oats is a good way to fill up and stay satisfied in the morning without a lot of calories. Consider the convenient use of a crockpot the night before.
  2. Quinoa. A healthy alternative to white rice, quinoa can help curb hunger via its fiber and protein content.
  3. Apples. A calorie-efficient way to curb hunger, apples contain antioxidants that may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by excess belly fat.
  4. Buckwheat pasta. Unlike regular white-flour pasta, buckwheat is high in fiber and contains protein, making it more satiating, so you eat less. Try soba noodles in place of spaghetti. Always aim to cook the pasta a few minutes less to decrease its glycemic index.
  5. Olive oil and avocados. Both contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Many people find that increasing their intake of healthy fats makes them feel fuller while keeping insulin - which helps conduct fat into the cells for storage - low and steady.


Foods for a Healthy Weight: Part 1

Getting to a healthy weight usually means a combination of exercise and healthful foods. Start with these filling, healthful options on your next grocery trip!

  1. If you are trying to lose weight, avoid the frozen, prepared, and often expensive "diet" meals and instead hit up the real, whole foods sections of the grocery store. These foods are not just filling and can help you manage your weight, but offer numerous health benefits as well.
  2. Kale. This dark green, leafy vegetable provides fiber, iron and calcium - and at about 35 calories per cup (raw and chopped), it is a low-calorie way to fill up. Choose organic when possible.
  3. Lentils. High in protein, lentils can help prevent spikes in insulin levels that can cause your body to store excess fat.
  4. Blueberries. A good source of antioxidants, blueberries have over 3.5 grams of fiber per cup, which can help to fill you up and keep your digestive system running smoothly.
  5. Wild Alaskan salmon. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can help improve insulin sensitivity, which helps build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Sardines are another good omega-3 and protein-rich fish option.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s Daily Tip for four more waist-friendly foods! For more information on nutrition, join Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging!

Potato Extract for Weight Loss

Consuming polyphenols, a class of antioxidants found in potato extract, may hold promise as a strategy to avoid obesity. This news comes from researchers at Canada's McGill University, who studied the effects these compounds obtained from a variety of potato that is particularly rich in polyphenols. The investigators tested the extract in mice that had been fed a diet high in fat and refined carbohydrates. To begin, they put the mice on a 10-week long diet designed to fatten them up. The animals that started out weighing an average of 25 grams gained about 16 grams on the diet, but a second group of mice on the same diet with potato extract added gained only seven grams. The research team was so surprised at the results that they repeated the study to confirm the outcome. Don't think you can get similar results by upping your intake of potatoes, however. You would need to eat 30 potatoes a day (every day) to get the amount of polyphenols given the mice in the McGill study. The extract needs to be tested in humans to see if it is safe and has similar effects, and researchers will have to determine the optimal dose for men and women. If those studies pan out, the team anticipates making the extract available in supplement form or as an ingredient for cooking.

Less Weight for More Life

If you've been thinking about your New Year's resolutions and have put weight loss at the top of your list, take it seriously. A Canadian research team examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy and calculated that being overweight or obese can steal up to eight years of your life. Worse, they concluded that because those excess pounds often lead to diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life, they could deprive you of nearly two decades of good health. The team used data from 4,000 people included in the 2003 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their lifestyles were used to develop a model estimating the annual risk diabetes and cardiovascular disease pose to individuals, and it revealed how different body weights affect life expectancy and years of healthy life lost. They found that the very obese could lose up to eight years of life, the obese up to six years, and the overweight up to three years. In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those whose weight was healthy. They reported that the worst cases were those individuals who gained weight at early ages. Now the team is looking into how weight loss can affect life expectancy.

My take? Obesity remains a widespread medical problem in the U.S. - one third of adults and 17 percent of children are considered obese, and, as a result, at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease. Obesity may also increase the risk for developing some types of cancer. And it is strongly associated with osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. So it should be no surprise to learn that being overweight or obese can take years off your life, and make the years you do have less enjoyable. The obvious solution is to lose weight - no easy task although we all know what's involved - avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar; eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and, especially, in glycemic load; cut back on alcohol; avoid stress, frustration and boredom; if you're depressed, seek treatment and get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week. Your health and life are worth the effort.

Can Fiber Promote Weight Loss?

A new study from the University of Illinois suggests that adding fiber to the diet can influence the growth of two kinds of bacteria in your gut (known collectively as the microbiome) toward a ratio typically seen in lean people.  Unfortunately, the researchers observed, most Americans consume only 12 to 14 grams of fiber a day, which is half the recommended amount of 25 to 38 grams. The investigative team had previously studied whether adding fiber to the diet would cause gut bacteria to shift toward "lean." They gave snack bars to 20 men whose reported daily fiber intake was about 14 grams a day. About one third of the men received snack bars with no fiber; another third were given bars containing 21 grams of polydextrose, a common fiber food additive, and the remainder of the participants received bars with 21 grams of corn fiber. The researchers reported significant positive shifts in the ratio of gut bacterial populations toward more bacteriodetes (associated with being lean) and fewer firmicutes (associated with overweight and obesity) with the addition of fiber. However, they also found that the beneficial changes didn't last when the participants went back to their normal diets. Earlier research had shown that a high fiber diet is protective against obesity. The take-home message from lead researcher Kelly Swanson is that if you want a healthier gut and hope to lose weight, you have to make lasting changes to your diet.

My take? It's well established that a diet high in fiber influences health for the better: it prevents constipation, and reduces the risks of colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes. We've also known for some time that fiber helps to maintain ideal weight. This new study adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of fiber in the diet, and especially as it pertains to weight. I recommend getting 40 grams a day from bran cereals, beans, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Freshly ground flaxseed and psyllium seed are also excellent sources of fiber.

Why Exercise May Not Be Working

If you view exercise as an unpleasant chore, you may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. A new study suggests that your outlook may influence whether or not structured physical activity helps you lose weight. To find out whether exercisers are sabotaging themselves, French and American researchers divided 56 mostly overweight women volunteers into two groups. They asked one group to walk a one-mile course "for exercise" with the promise of lunch afterward. They asked the other women to walk the same course, but gave them headphones to listen to music and rate the sound quality, and encouraged them to enjoy themselves. Afterwards, they found that the women in the “exercise” group ate much more at lunch than the women who were told to have fun. The researchers then repeated the experiment with a group of men and women, telling half the group the walk was for exercise, and the other half it was for sightseeing. Afterwards, they gave the participants plastic bags to fill with all the M&M’s they wanted. The “exercise” group took twice as much as the “sightseeing” group. Finally, the researchers went to the finish line of a relay marathon and asked participants whether or not they enjoyed the run, offering them chocolate bars or healthier cereal bars as thanks for answering the questions. Here, the runners who said they had fun preferred the cereal bar, while those who didn’t enjoy themselves tended to take the chocolate bars. The consensus of these observations: watch what you eat after your workout. If you’re “rewarding” yourself for exercising, you may be taking in more calories than you burned off.

My take? I hated exercise for much of my life and now don’t feel right if a day goes by without some form of it. Here is a practical tip: If you want to develop new healthy living habits, spend time with people who have those habits. Your choice of friends and acquaintances is a powerful influence on your behavior. If you want to change your eating habits, spend more time with people who eat healthy food. If you want to be a habitual exerciser, keep company with people who exercise regularly and enjoy it.

Carolina O.C. Werle et al, “Is it fun or exercise? The framing of physical activity biases subsequent snacking,” Marketing Letters, published online May 15, 2014,, accessed June 6,2014

How Do You Rate Your Chance of Living to 85? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the issue of carrying extra weight as you age: Should Seniors Worry About Weight? Check out the article and let us know what you rate your chance of living to 85.

Sleeping Your Way Slim

Keeping regular sleeping hours might be the easiest way for women to stay slim. A study from Brigham Young University found that young women who went to bed and woke up at the same time every day had lower body fat than women in the study who maintained irregular sleeping patterns. Sleeping between eight and 8.5 hours was associated with the lowest body fat among the study participants, comprised of 330 college women. Women whose sleeping patterns varied more than 90 minutes had higher body fat than those whose sleep patterns varied less the 60 minutes, the study found. It also showed that sleeping less than 6.5 hours or more than 8.5 hours was associated with higher body fat. The researchers theorized that the lower body fat seen among the regular sleepers might be a result of exercise, and noted that they only tracked the women’s sleep patterns for a week. Because this was simply an observational study, it doesn’t prove that regular sleeping patterns, on their own, affect amounts of body fat.

Bruce W. Bailey et al, “Objectively Measured Sleep Patterns in Young Adult Women and the Relationship to Adiposity, ” American Journal of Health Promotion doi:

What Weight Loss Method Works Best for You? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the weight loss hype surrounding Garcinia Cambogia, the small purple fruit native to India and Southeast Asia: Lose Weight with Garcinia Cambogia? Check out the article and let us know what weight loss method works best for you.