The calcount Team
What causes a Hot Flash after Eating

What causes a Hot Flush after Eating?

One of our members asked us what causes a hot flush, or flash, after eating? The question came through our contact form, where we invite readers to send in any topics they’d like to see us research. So, we spent a few hours to learn the causes of hot flushes that are not menopause, here is a summary of what we found:

What is a Hot Flush?

Hypothalamus causes hot flashes

For those who have not experienced one, it can be hard to explain. Basically, it feels the way it is named: a rush of hotness that crashes through the body like a wave of boiling water. It is a sudden uncomfortable sensation of body heat, usually resulting in quick sweats and accompanied by heart palpitations and flushed skin. Hot Flashes are usually caused by hormonal changes in both women and men which affect the brain part (hypothalamus) which controls body temperature. Body temperature rises, blood vessels quickly dilate, and stress responses are stimulated.

Not Menopause, not Andropause

Hot flushes are usually associated with menopause or andropause when hormonal changes in ageing people trigger the hypothalamus to misbehave. However, the hot flashes we are writing about today are caused by neither menopause nor andropause.

Here’s an extract from the question we received:

“… my face, neck, chest and upper arms are suddenly hot and sweat pops out uncontrollably. It does not happen every time I eat but it only happens after I eat and it does not seem to be related to what I eat because sometimes its dairy meat or salad or bread. I am a bit concerned it might be hot flushes but I am still young and definitely not near menopause and besides being a bit overweight I am generally very healthy. Is there a particular food I should be concerned about?”

Now before we go any further, remember that the calcount team is not in any way shape or form medically qualified to offer health advice. We’re just sharing the results of our personal research so please consult your doctor before you take any action because of this post.

5 Triggers can Cause a Hot Flash after Eating

Unfortunately, the exact cause of a hot flush experienced after eating is unknown. The problem is that the phenomenon is hard to study because experiments and measurements would need to be made at exactly the moment of the hot flush in a controlled environment. This is difficult to do for an individual, let alone a controlled scientifically determined cohort. At this stage, the best we can do is narrow causes down to 6 triggers which have been somewhat determined:

Gustatory Sweating

Gustatory sweating, also known as Frey’s Syndrome is a distressing condition caused by nerve damage which affects people who have a malfunctioning parotid gland. The parotid gland is supposed to produce saliva when the nervous system signals that food is about to be chewed. However, for people suffering from Gustatory Sweating, the nerve signals go to sweat glands instead, so that sweat is produced rather than saliva. For some people, this sudden sweating is distressing and feels like a hot flush. Even thinking about food can trigger sudden sweats on the face, neck, and head.

The cause of Gustatory Sweating is usually nerve damage, which in turn is usually caused by diabetes mellitus, facial injuries (for example, through surgery), tumour growth, or a viral infection like shingles.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done to repair this nerve damage at this stage of medical advancement. The best that doctors can do is inject a type of Botox to stop the sweat glands from working temporarily.

Food Allergy and Intolerance

Whilst it is not yet well understood, there is evidence that food allergies and intolerances can cause hot flushes for some people.  The hypothesis is that the body releases a stress hormone (cortisol) when undergoing an allergic reaction. This creates a hormonal imbalance which, similarly to menopause and andropause, interferes with the hypothalamus to cause a hot flash. The frustrating aspect of this hot flush trigger is that it is difficult to pinpoint because it does not happen every time the allergen is eaten. Even if the sufferer knows what they are allergic to, their internal hormonal balance influences whether a hot flush will occur.

Common avoidable food ingredients which are known to set off hot flushes in some people are: caffeine, sulphites, monosodium glutamate, and alcohol.

Hypoglycaemia

We mentioned earlier on in this article that diabetes can cause nerve damage which leads to Gustatory Sweating, but the disease has another aspect which can trigger hot flashes. Sometimes, after eating a sugary meal, the body releases a large amount of insulin into the blood. Insulin is a hormone which works to regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. The insulin spike causes low blood sugar, which in turn pushes the stress hormone button, which leads to a hot flush. This low blood sugar condition is known as hypoglycemia and is most associated with diabetes.

As you might expect, treatments to control diabetes can alleviate hot flushes after eating.

Vasodilating Foods

Some foods contain chemicals which cause blood vessels to open wide to allow blood to flow through quickly. This opening of blood vessels is known as vasodilation and chemicals which cause vasodilation are called vasodilators. When blood rushes through widened blood vessels near the skin, flushing occurs. The vasodilators can also stimulate temperature sensory cells in the skin, causing a sensation of heat. This hot flushing sensation can then trigger stress hormones and a full-blown hot flash might occur.

Normally, vasodilating foods are a good choice because they help circulation, but if they are triggering hot flushes you might want to reduce them from your diet. Common vasodilator containing foods are chilli peppers, capsicums, alcohol, chocolate, and garlic. You can read our in-depth article on garlic here.

Hot Food and Drink

Hot Food causes Hot Flush

Unfortunately, some people are overly sensitive to food temperature. A hot mug of tea might be just what you feel like having after coming in from a cold day outdoors, but it could trigger a hot flush. In the same way that vasodilating chemicals widen blood vessels, so does heat from any source. Hot weather, a hot bath, the sauna, or a bowl of steaming noodle soup, all cause vasodilation. As we wrote in the previous paragraph, vasodilation can start a hormonal chain reaction which results in the dreaded hot flash.

This cause of hot flushes after eating is the easiest to avoid; simply let your food and drink cool to a manageable temperature before you eat.

Conclusion – What Causes a Hot Flush after Eating

There are at least 5 possible causes of a hot flush after eating, most related to how the hypothalamus controls body temperature. Whilst there is not much that can be done about Gustatory Sweating, the other causes like Food Allergies, Hypoglycemia, and Vasodilating Foods can be addressed somewhat effectively. Remember that hormonal balance is key to the proper function of the hypothalamus, so try to reduce stress and avoid foods which irritate.

Special Announcement

We are proud to announce that our blog has just made the cut to be included in Feedspot’s Top Ten Australian Nutrition Blogs and Websites!

The calcount Team
4 Ways Garlic Benefits Men

4 Ways Garlic Benefits Men (with Infographic)

People have known about the general health benefits of garlic for thousands of years, but did you know that garlic helps men particularly, in specific ways? Read on to find out what we learned when we researched this fascinating topic.

Garlic is in the onion family and has been eaten as a condiment and medicine by humans for thousands of years. The Ancient Egyptians believed in garlic’s medicinal properties, as evidenced by the cloves they bricked up in the pyramids. Modern scientific research has supported this ancient and ongoing belief by analysing the chemistry of garlic and its effect on the human body. After decades of study, it seems that we now have a clue as to why so many people swear by it. The main reason for garlic’s health benefits are the same reason that it tastes and smells so very pungent: sulphur compounds.

Garlic’s Special Sulfurous Smell

Garlic is not the only member of the onion family to produce a strong smell, but it is by far the most potent. The distinctive smell is caused by a concentration of about 100 different sulfurous chemicals within its cells, including allicin. Sulphur compounds in rotten eggs and natural hot springs give both their unforgettable smell, just as the sulphur in garlic gives it that special smell. Besides their smell, certain sulphur compounds are well-known for having antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

It is interesting to think about why any plant would evolve to contain high concentrations of sulphur compounds. When garlic is damaged, a natural defense mechanism acts to quickly produce a group of strong-smelling and “hot” tasting chemicals. These unpleasant (to animals and vampires) chemicals repel the invaders and allow the garlic to continue living and growing. Once released, these unstable chemicals continue to react with the environment and each other until much of their original potency is diminished. That is why freshly crushed or chewed garlic smells much stronger than unbroken bulbs or preserved, processed garlic.

In addition to scaring would-be “predators” with their strong smell, the sulphur compounds kill harmful microorganisms that might otherwise take advantage of the damage to enter exposed cells. These potent defensive chemicals are the secret behind garlic’s beneficial effects, for both men and women, but men especially.

Garlic benefits men infographic
Garlic Benefits Men Infographic

Man’s Libido is Increased with Garlic

The sulphur compounds in garlic have the effect of increasing blood flow and circulation to all body organs. A man’s body typically has a certain organ which depends on rapid and sustained blood flow to perform optimally. The optimal performance of this particular organ has a critical effect on men’s libido and well-being. The sulphur compound chemicals found in garlic, such as allicin, are found to widen blood vessels and enlarge flow volume in response to hormonal activity.



Garlic Benefits Men’s Heart Health

Multiple statistics show than men have a much higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than women. Therefore, it is especially important for men to do everything they can to prevent heart disease. Eating garlic is something men can do to treat almost every aspect of heart health, just read this extract from an excellent review of many different studies related to garlic’s effect on heart health:

“The wealth of scientific literature supports the proposal that garlic consumption have significant effects on lowering blood pressure, prevention of atherosclerosis, reduction of serum cholesterol and triglyceride, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and increasing fibrinolytic activity…”

Leyla Bayan et al.

Basically, the review finds that garlic has a significant positive effect on heart health by lowering blood pressure, softening arteries, reducing harmful cholesterol, and even preventing and breaking up potential blood clots!

Prostate Health is Supported with Garlic

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a common health problem for men that usually occurs with ageing. The prostate is a golf-ball sized gland which encircles the tube through which men urinate. BPH is a condition where the prostate grows bigger and bigger until it squeezes the tube, restricting the flow of urine and pressing against the bladder. According to several studies like this one, garlic has the effect of preventing and reducing BPH. Why and how? It must be something to do with those amazing sulphur compounds!

Garlic Enhances Men’s Body Odor

No, seriously, garlic really does improve the body odour of men, it has been studied! Men who eat garlic regularly are perceived to be more pleasant-smelling by women. Note: this is not the “garlic breath” effect, which is caused when sulphur compounds are processed by the liver and excreted through exhalation and sweat. Instead, it seems that the beneficial health effects of garlic cause “positive signal” chemical cues to appear in the man’s immune system, which are picked up by the olfactory sensors of potential mates. Put simply, men who eat garlic smell healthier than men who do not eat garlic, probably because they are.

Garlic is Food and Medicine

There are 124 calories in 100 grams of garlic, and since each clove usually weighs about 5 grams, the caloric value of garlic as typically eaten is insignificant. Aside from the sulphur compounds, garlic is packed with B vitamins, minerals including selenium, and antioxidants.

Garlic used in combination with ginger produces an unmistakably rich flavour which forms the backbone of many Indian and South-East Asian dishes. Garlic mayo is practically indispensable in many Middle Eastern cuisines.

Chopped parsley can be added to garlic to reduce the strength of “garlic breath”.

To get the most benefit from garlic, chew on a couple of raw cloves every day before breakfast, followed by a glass of warm water.

This probably goes without saying, but whilst garlic benefits men, it also benefits women too!

The calcount Team
foods to boost your immune system

4 Foods to Boost your Immune System

To say that Corona Virus or Covid-19 has been in the news lately is a bit of an understatement, so if you are like us, you are probably thinking about what you can do to prevent infection and illness. The good news is that, like many other virus infections, this new one struggles to do serious damage to people who have healthy immune systems. From what we know so far, most healthy people who contract the Corona Virus experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery.

Eating certain foods to boost the immune system

So, besides practising good hygiene and avoiding obvious sources of infection, the best thing you can do to fight Covid-19 is to keep a healthy immune system. You can give your immune system a boost every day with these 4 common foods:

Mushrooms

mushrooms to boost your immune system

When thinking about foods to boost your immune system, mushrooms are not always top of mind. However, research shows that mushrooms boost your immune system by promoting the growth and efficiency of T cells in the blood. T cells are a type of white blood cell which actively hunt and “eat” viruses and bacteria. Do your T cells a favour by adding a cup of chopped mushrooms to whatever meat or vegetable dish you are planning to eat tonight! Calories per 100G: 20

Garlic and Onions

garlic

You probably knew that garlic would take a spot on this list, because it has been used as a home remedy for generations. Perhaps the key ingredient of garlic which boosts the immune system is a chemical called Allicin. Some studies show that Allicin has a beneficial effect against common colds and other infections. Some studies show that onions have similar properties. Calories per 100g: 124

Oranges and Lemons

oranges

Basically, all the citrus fruits and other high Vitamin C foods like kiwifruit will give your immune system a leg-up. Why? No one really knows exactly why and how Vitamin C increases infection resistance, but it seems to promote the growth of white blood cells. Your body cannot make or store Vitamin C, so make sure to include a good helping in your diet. Calories per 100g: 42

Yoghurt and other Fermented Foods

yoghurt

Fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kefir contain high amounts of probiotics which, in addition to helping with gut health, reduce upper-respiratory tract infections. Existing problems with your upper-respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, throat and upper bronchial tubes) can quickly exacerbate virus infections, so look after yours with a bowl of yoghurt! Calories per 100g: 105

There’s an old saying which goes: “let food be your medicine” and another which says: “prevention is better than a cure”. We think that there is a lot of wisdom in these two distilled nuggets, so why not add some citrus, mushrooms, yoghurt and garlic to your meal plan this week for some extra peace of mind? You eat food every day, so eat foods to boost your immune system and stay healthy!



The calcount Team
calcount healthier meals

Healthier Meals – 5 tips

Making better food choices is a daily challenge. It is not easy to plan and execute a perfectly healthy meal every time. Luckily, there are ways to change the way you make and eat your food so that you make healthier meals.

Here are five things you can do to make healthier meals:

  1. Drink a glass of orange juice when you eat vegetables like spinach, lettuce and broccoli. The high concentration of Vitamin C in the orange juice will help your body to extract more of the iron found in these types of vegetables. The principle works with all leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C.
  2. Add peanut butter to your pancake mix. Most pancake mixes (especially the supermarket-bought pre-mixed ones) are very low in protein and fibre. A spoonful of peanut butter will help to balance this deficiency whilst adding to the flavour.
  3. Cook your vegetables. There seems to be a trend by some misguided people to believe that raw vegetables are in some way better for you than cooked ones. Of course, vegetables should not be cooked to a point where they lose colour and all texture, but there is no doubt that cooked veggies are much better for you. Cooking breaks down the tough cell walls so that the nutrients within can be released into the meal and your body. Uncooked vegetables will release fewer nutrients on their way through your system.
  4. Combine oily fish with dairy. Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel have high quantities of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to ingest the calcium found in dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt. If a glass of milk with your sardine sandwich does not strike your fancy, try adding a yoghurt dressing to salmon fillets.
  5. Do not order the fries. When buying a burger from the fast-food place or ordering a chicken parmigiana/steak at your local pub the default side-dish choice is chips. Try to opt for the salad or vegetables instead. There is a time and place for fries, but when combined with other high-calorie, high-sodium foods in a meal which probably includes sugary or alcoholic drinks, they can tip your meal into the unhealthy range. Feel better about the meal experience by replacing them with veg.

Every meal that you eat represents a choice. Feel good about your choices by consciously choosing healthier options. Compare different ingredients by searching them in our https://www.caloriecounter.com.au/ This will help both your health and well-being. Healthier meals for a healthier you!

The calcount Team

Your Watch can be Used Against You

When you buy a smart phone, smart watch or wearable fitness tracker (like Fitbit), you are probably not thinking about what impact it might have on your insurance premiums.

Tracking your Lifestyle

But, if you think about it, devices like these are used to track important health metrics like your heart rate, the amount of exercise you do and how much you sleep. Some even allow user inputs to record the amount and variety of food consumed, the type of exercise being performed, and “goal versus actual” scenarios.

This is exactly the type of data that Health and Life Insurance companies use to calculate how risky you are to their bottom-line. Statistically, people who exercise well, sleep well and enjoy healthy heart-rate ranges are less likely to require health insurers to pay up. People who regularly set goals which are later not achieved can be statistically profiled by actuaries for longevity.

Its in the Contract

Ordinarily, insurers cannot get their hands on this sort of personal information but that might be about to change. According to some recent reports, insurance companies are starting to include data-gathering clauses in their contracts. The data is your personal health-tracking information harvested from your wearable devices.

According to a recent article published by The Telegraph, information collected from these devices is already being used by some insurers to calculate variable insurance premiums.  Four obvious concerns are:

  1. Only the healthiest customers will be offered lower premiums
  2. Customers who do not wear devices (or opt to turn the tracking function off) will be effectively penalised because the default higher premiums will apply
  3. Those customers with erratic or “non-average” sleep and exercise patterns will be negatively profiled
  4. Data privacy: when insurance application records were a few pages of paper filed in an office cabinet, the risk of data theft and abuse was very limited. However, with this sort of electronic data harvesting, the risks posed by hackers and errors increase exponentially.

At this point, you might think that this might just be a fringe idea being mulled over by a few insurers. This is certainly not the case, since it appears that multiple insurers have filed patents relating to something called Predictive Insurance Modelling (PIM). PIM is an innovative way to use data to predict the likelihood of health problems for insurance purposes. The data in question cannot all be arriving from publicly available sources or the questionnaires you get when your insurance salesman rushes you through when your policy starts!

Not Just your Phone and Watch

The data gathering and analysis is not just being used for Life and Health Insurance. According to the Telegraph article, there is a recent case where a car insurer notified a customer that he was driving after business hours too often. They knew this because they were gathering vehicle usage data from tracking systems in his car. The man had to explain that he worked night shifts, so the car was primarily being used for business as defined in the policy.

Here’s a Carrot! (Just Ignore the Stick for now)

So how do insurers entice customers to agree to have their personal lifestyle data harvested for these purposes, if the data can later be used by the insurers to wield the premiums stick? They use a carrot of course! “Show us your healthy lifestyle data and we will give you lower premiums!” is the message.

An example of this tactic can be seen with a certain large insurer in the USA, which gives customers the option to wear a fitness tracker, then rewards those with apparently “good” lifestyles. The reward appears to be an additional/higher cover threshold for those customers who have comparatively healthier lifestyles (of course, they presumably also have less likelihood to need higher cover thresholds). Note that the reward disappears if their lifestyles change.

Coming to Australia too?

We do not know if this type of data-gathering will become a trend in Australia, but be on the lookout. We are all for tracking and measuring health and lifestyle data, if it is used for the sole benefit of the individual being tracked. However, we are completely opposed to the idea of personal lifestyle data being used to the detriment of the individual being tracked.

The calcount Team

How to Change Your Bad Habit

 

In the last post, we described how hard it is to change a bad habit. We made the point that if it is particularly difficult for you to change habits, the reason is probably because your character is too strong.

Character is “who you are” and who you are is made up of a combination of genetic predispositions and conscious and subconscious choices based on personal experience and expectation.

People with strong characters find it hard to change because something deep inside them knows that change is not always a good thing. Sometimes, a refusal or an apparent inability to change is seen as being weak-willed or stubborn.

“Why is she so fat? She should stop eating those greasy pies all the time! Can’t help herself…”

“Can’t he get out of bed earlier? Why does he always have to leave everything to the last minute?”

“I keep telling her to come with me when I go running, but she is so stubborn! Always making excuses…”

Our last post explained that it is possible for people like the ones described above to use their “stubbornness”, “laziness” and “low willpower” like a judo master using an opponent’s own strength against him. After all, a person who stubbornly takes her morning run every day, come rain or shine, is hardly ever called “stubborn” for doing so. No, she is resolutely fit.

A person who is always too lazy and ambivalent to find and sample all of the different restaurants in town is never called “lazy”. That person is normal, prudent and sensible.

Nobody says that the man who just has to eat a green salad when everyone else is tucking into pasta is a helpless food fiend. That guy has strong will-power.

If you think about it, there is very little difference between the person who stubbornly keeps a good habit and the person who stubbornly keeps a bad habit. One nurtures a good habit, the other nurtures a bad habit but they are both nurturing a habit.

If it is hard for you to change a bad habit, it will be hard for you to change a good habit once you establish it. This is how you can establish it:

Choose one

Start at the beginning by zeroing in on one bad habit that needs changing. Don’t make a list of all of your bad habits then choose one. Just choose one.

It might not be your worst habit, it might not be the hardest one to break, and it might not even be all that bad. Then again, it might be the worst, most resilient sucker you have.

For whatever reason you want to give yourself, just pick one.

The process of choosing one and making a decision to break it is half the war. Making the choice is a major battle, which you win by default. You’re already off to a winning start!

For the purposes of this post, to illustrate the process, let’s propose that the habit you want to break is Snacking Between Meals. It is a common bad habit and the cause of many an overweight body.

Name your enemy

Next, you need to define the habit and give it a special name. When you make the effort of actually thinking about the habit and giving it a name in your head, you will be better able to break it. That is because a special compartment opens up in your brain (figuratively speaking) to remember the name. It is easier to think of something and all that it involves when you can name it and visualise it as an object or personality or life-form. It becomes “realer” as a problem to be solved.

Naming the habit: Let’s name the Snacking Between Meals habit the “S.B.M.” habit. Call it SBM. We are going to break SBM.

The name you choose does not have to be an acronym, but it should be distinctive enough that you would need to explain it to somebody who wanted to know what you’re on about.

Defining SBM: let’s decide that SBM means eating or drinking anything that is not water or tea or coffee (low sugar/cream) when it is not breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner time.

Okay, now that we have named and defined the bad habit to be broken, we can move on to the nitty-gritty.

 

Recognise the need when it arises.

We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. We wake up when we need to wake up. Eat when we need to eat. Play when we need to play.

Think about the last time you performed the bad habit and try to remember why you did it. With SBM, perhaps it was yesterday about an hour after dinner when you were settled in a comfortable chair watching your favourite show. It was warm and cosy, the show was excellent, the house was peaceful and everything was great until you got out of your chair to help yourself to a glass of chocolate milk and Nutella sandwich. SBM strikes again!

What was the need in that case? Perhaps it was the need to

  • Feel a sense of completeness (as in you wanted the satisfaction of a full belly in addition to the satisfaction of enjoying your entertainment and creature comforts)
  • Or maybe you were hungry
  • Or someone else was having a snack and you wanted to accompany your fellow,
  • Or maybe you felt the need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine.

Whatever the need, try to pin it down and look out for it. Why? Because when it arises you need to be ready to battle. SBM is coming at you, guns blazing, shrieking an ear-splitting war-cry.

But don’t worry, you are going to be ready and armed.

 

Act on the need quickly and forcefully.

By substituting your habitual action with an alternative action which satisfies the need. Do not just try to ignore the need and soldier on without doing anything. That’s called willpower and for reasons already explained that won’t work for you. You are probably too strong for willpower.

Thinking about the SBM example, let’s think of actions which work to deliver you from the need:

  • Get that full-belly sensation by drinking a mug of tea
  • Feeling hungry? Drink something warm and engage your brain in solving a puzzle, preferably one with bright colours and moving parts. Something like a mobile phone game works really well. The hunger sensation will subside without you having to fixate on it. If you feel hungry, do not try to Will your way out of not reaching for the cookie jar! Act on the sensation by giving your stomach sensors something to do (drinking a warm low-calorie drink) and diverting your brain to something else (an engaging puzzle, movie, book, game, conversation).
  • Want to accompany someone else who is snacking? By all means accompany them, but don’t join in them in eating. Use the time that you would ordinarily use in chewing to think up and introduce new topics of conversation. That way, you will enrich your relationship with the person by opening new avenues to share ideas and insights.
  • Feeling a need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine? Meet this need by removing the ability to keep that “normal” routine. In our example, this would mean not buying Nutella, or chocolate milk. Instead, buy some interesting teas or coffees and make those instead. Make that the new “normal” and the need to stick to a comfortable routine will be met.

Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!

Get rewarded immediately.

If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way.

If you go to bed feeling miserable because you did not SBM, it will be very hard to beat SBM tomorrow. If you go to bed feeling great because you did beat SBM, your chances of victory tomorrow are very good.

Satisfying the need might seem like a reward in itself, but remember that we want to crush the bad habit, not just evade it. By receiving a reward for winning the battle, we feel good for more than one reason at the exact time of our victory. This double-whammy is just good for you and will help to prepare you for the next onslaught.

The best reward might be a literal or mental pat on the back, given to yourself by yourself. Think of yourself as a victor, and you will reinforce the positive cycle. You will become better and better at winning the battles and hence the war.

If mental rewards are not your thing, why not try one of these 101 Ways to Reward Yourself? Or just make the rewards up as you go!

It’s a game

If all of this talk about “battles” and “wars” seems a bit over the top, just think about the process as a game. A game that can be re-started any time, is fun to play, and will help you even if you do not win all the time.

The calcount Team

You are Probably Too Strong to change your Bad Habit

 

We see something wrong with the way things are, so we think of ways to fix it.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is a headache or a shiver. Things like that can be fixed with a once-off solution like a pill or a doona.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is an unhealthy body weight or constant tiredness or low self-esteem. Things like that cannot usually be fixed with a once-off solution like a brisk walk or a good night’s rest or a pep-talk, so we start thinking about changing habits.

Habits are your life, because habits take up all of your time. Your sleep habits, your waking up habits, your cleaning habits, your eating habits, your traveling habits, your working habits, your family habits and all of your other lifestyle habits.

Habits are the way we do things and the way we live, because we are alive for many days and none of us can (or wants to) do things differently every day. In fact doing things differently is so unusual for us that we make special words to describe times when we don’t follow our habits – words like “holiday” and “adventure” and “party”.

Doing things differently is so unpleasant for us that we make special happy words to describe times when we don’t need to do things differently – words like “comfort” and “relax” and “familiar”.

Habits work on our health and wellbeing slowly and steadily. The first day of getting into the habit of eating a large bowl of vanilla ice-cream when you Netflix and Chill is not the day that makes you overweight. The 500th day of your habit is also not the day that makes you overweight. It is the habit that makes you overweight and the only way to stop it from making you overweight is to replace that (bad) habit with a different (better/good) habit.

Changing your habit is the same as changing your life, because life is what happens when you action your habits.

Changing your life is hard, as it should be. If it were easy to change your life, perhaps every new thought you had would send you off into a new life direction. Setting course toward an objective would become an impossibility because you would never know whether or not you would change your mind about the target just after you decide to take action. It is not good to change your life all the time, so nature makes it really uncomfortable and stressful.

That is the real reason why it is so hard to keep things like New Year’s resolutions. Without diving into the concept, theory, biological basis, and behaviourist evidence (something for another post), we can agree that it is really hard to use willpower to overcome the innate desire to keep the familiar and reject the new.

You are not weak because you were not able to break a bad habit. You probably kept the bad habit because you are too strong.

Willpower works really well for short-burst activities, but not so well for drawn-out, long-term commitments.

Willpower is made for battles, not wars.

Calorie Counter Australia likes to keep things short and to the point so here is the point of this post: habits are hard to break and in some ways the stronger-willed you are, the harder it is to change. If you have been unable to change a bad habit to this point, it is probably not because you lacked the willpower to do it. You are part of a chain of generations of people who have passed down genes that make you a survivor (winner) in this world. Your ancestors won because they did not flip-flop their lives whenever a new idea popped into their heads. You are just honouring their legacy by being resistant to change.

Does that mean that you should never change your habits? Of course not, that does not even make sense. Change is the only constant and everyone changes their habits at some point, sometimes because they are compelled to and sometimes because they choose to.

So, the question is: What is The Best Way to Change a Bad Habit?

We are going to go deep into this question in our next post, but we won’t leave you hanging. Here is a three-point summary of the Best Way to Change a Bad Habit:

  1. Recognise the need when it arises. We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. Wake up when you need to wake up. Eat when you need to eat. Play when you need to play. Note that we did not say “Recognise the want”. That’s because the difference between “want” and “need” is just a question of degree. When does a “want” become a “need”? How long is a piece of string?
  2. Act on the need quickly and forcefully, using the new habit rather than the old. Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!
  3. Get rewarded immediately. If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way. Try swapping Friday night pizza for Friday night garden salad and see how long that lasts!

In our next post, we will go into why these three points work and how to make them work.

Until then, recognise that habits are hard to change and that in some ways you are a stronger person than most if it is harder for you to change your habits. Know also that you can use your strength and resilience to your advantage when it comes to replacing bad habits with better ones.

The calcount Team

Running and Nutrition

Running is one of the best ways to help maintain your body’s physical well-being. It is as natural as walking and if you have ever tried a regular running programme you will know how good it is for your stamina. With proper cautions in place, a running programme is a great cardiovascular exercise that gets the blood pumping to maintain good circulation and a healthy heart.

Everybody needs proper nutrition and a healthy diet. This requirement becomes more vital for people who are into health activities like running. This is amplified further for runners who are also into competitions or have special dietary needs.

Normal diet

A normal healthy diet typically consists of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fats. The diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein and heart healthy fats which ensure a balanced source of micro-nutrients in addition to the macro-nutrients.

The daily calorie consumption of runners can be modified, depending on the individual’s needs – whether he is maintaining his weight, losing some or gaining some.
Combinations can be tweaked accordingly to suit the individual’s needs.

Runner’s diets

For instance, a distance runner preparing for a marathon may wish to increase the percentage of carbohydrates in his diet. This is during those periods of intense training where he covers long and grueling distances every week. The carbohydrates are a potent energy source used to deliver sustained fuel for the required muscle activity.

On the other hand, a sprinter who is working to improve her muscle mass by way of weight training and other equally intense exercises must include additional amounts of protein into her diet. This is helpful because proteins can help stimulate muscle growth. Sprinters need powerful muscles which can quickly exert massive force for a short duration, the emphasis being power over stamina.

Calories

The next factor to consider with regards to people who are into running are calories. There are basic guidelines on the amount of calories an individual should consume regularly. These are based on the person’s current weight and activity level. For runners who are into intense training, it is important that a medical professional be consulted prior to and during training programmes.

An example would be a runner regularly consuming 2,500 calories a day and running around 14 to 16 kilometers daily. If he still feels tired, he may have to increase his calorie intake.

If the runner is already at an ideal weight, he should strive to consume enough calories to maintain his weight.

Lastly, the quality of the calories consumed should also be carefully considered. They have to come from quality sources such as whole grains carbohydrates, lean protein sources, and heart-healthy fats. The runner could always obtain his calorie requirements from foods rich in sugar and fat. But these food groups are not quality calorie sources. More likely, the runner will get his same amount of calories but he will feel sluggish and may not be able to perform well. This is because ‘empty’ calorie foods such as typical fast foods are low in micro-nutrient content such as essential vitamins and trace minerals, which are required for muscle, nervous system, and circulatory system health.

A case in point is a piece of cake that has an equal amount of calories as a steak sandwich on multi-grain bread. Eating the cake will give him enough calories to run the distance. However, the high sugar content in the cake will trigger an insulin response from his body, which can make him sluggish and less energized.

Nutrition is a very important component in such an activity as running. It is not just a question of energy but also of health.

The calcount Team

Can You Lose Hair by Eating Badly?

Yes, you can. You can suffer distressing hair loss if you do not maintain a healthy diet rich in the essential nutrients that your hair needs. The good news is that, if you do happen to suffer hair loss because of poor nutrition, most of it may re-grow if you make the switch to a sensible, balanced diet.

The average adult has 135,000 hairs on the scalp at any given time. Hairs naturally fall off (shed) at the rate of about 75 per day, only to be replaced by new hairs. However, if your body does not receive enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals by way of a nutritious diet, the balance will be upset and you will shed many more hairs than are replaced on a daily basis.

Hair, like toe and finger-nails, is made from protein fibres. Your body makes these protein fibres by converting the protein you consume in food through a complex chemical process. The process requires iron, zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, copper, selenium, magnesium and other trace minerals which are often absent from highly-processed carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods.

There is no doubt that poor nutrition and hectic lifestyles can contribute to hair loss. Some modern diets are characterised by a number of nutritional deficiencies that are thought to contribute to hair loss:

  • The refining of whole grains reduces the B vitamin content. Unprocessed whole grains contain Biotin, which is the key B vitamin used to strengthen hair and reduce breakage and hair loss.
  • Over-cooking vegetables destroys B vitamins, so it is not a great idea to re-heat and re-cook vegetables in the microwave or stove-top.
  • Raw leafy greens such as spinach are a good source of vitamins and iron, but they are absent from many diets of convenience.
  • When vitamins and minerals are ingested, the body prioritises them to be used to facilitate the digestion of pure carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. This means that you should take in an abundance of them to ensure that there are enough for all of your body’s needs. One lettuce leaf on a double cheeseburger will not usually contain enough vitamins to meet the average person’s daily vitamin needs.
  • Stimulants and depressants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol strip the body of vital nutrients.
  • Excessive salt intake can encourage hair loss because of its tendency to accumulate in tissue.
  • Low fibre intake inhibits digestion thus reducing the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the blood stream.

If you do happen to notice hair loss, how can you tell it is being caused by poor nutrition? Of course the best approach is to seek professional advice from a doctor, but here is a list of signals which might indicate that your diet is to blame:

  • Dry skin
  • Constant tiredness, fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Slow recovery from injuries
  • Brittle hair

Clearly, poor nutrition can cause hair loss because the body will ration nutrients in a hierarchy of vital organs first and hair last. If you decide to go on one of those rapid weight-loss diets which severely restrict food intake (hardly ever a good idea!) and want to maintain your hair health, make sure that you supplement it with a multi-vitamin/mineral and do not skimp on your protein.

The calcount Team

5 Ways to Deal with Obesity

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost a third of all the adults in our country are clinically obese. That means, when you step into a lift with eleven other people in Sydney and look around, four of you could be cast as the “Before” person in one of those dieting club videos you are forced to see before you get to click “Skip Ad” on YouTube. We are told that obesity is a serious and fast-growing problem. The Department of Health has a definition for what obesity is:
“Overweight and obesity is measured at the population level for adults using the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. For example, a woman 1.67m in height and weighing 65kg would have a BMI of 23.3 which falls within the healthy weight range. Overweight is measured at a BMI of 25 or more with obesity determined at a BMI of 30 or more. These cut-off points are based on associations between and chronic disease and mortality and have been adopted for use internationally by the World Health Organisation.”
You probably skipped over that definition because it is hard to relate it to anything but don’t worry, we will dissect
The Sad Fat Person
Imagine that you are having lunch with Joe from the office, and he tells you (in-between mouthfuls of Food Court sushi) that his cousin Mary is on a diet because she is obese. You imagine Mary and what imagery flashes through your mind? Do you think about where she sits in the spectrum of Body Mass Index, her waist-hip ratio, her body fat percentage?
Probably not, instead automatic images of Mary the Sad Fat Person are popping into your mind. You are forming an opinion of Mary, imagining her in your mind’s eye. You see her sitting in the lounge-room watching TV, sipping a low-calorie shake whilst secretly longing for a custard-filled Krispy Kreme. Maybe she is peeking through the window at passers-by, or leaving a needy message on her husband’s phone. Mary is not happy. Mary is quiet in public. Mary wants to be thin. She wants to be someone else. This is the meaning of obesity for you and most other people, it has little connection to the official definition. The pictures of Mary come to mind in an instant because obesity is emotive.
It is everywhere you look and everyone you know has an opinion about it and no-one seems to want it for themselves and you read about it on the internet but what is obesity, really?
Doctors don’t like fat people
We have all heard about the health risks but for most of us, obesity is not really just a measure of relative health or an indicator of longevity. Even scientists can’t seem to agree about whether or not a high body-fat ratio will reduce your lifespan, it seems that perhaps people who are overweight might live longer than people regarded as having a ‘normal’ body weight. “Unattractive” and “ugly” are words that more than half of a group of 620 doctors used to describe their obese patients in a survey carried out by the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.
The doctors did not like the way the obese people looked, but they also took their obesity as indicators of a negative character. More than 200 of the doctors surveyed used “lazy”, “weak-willed” and “sloppy” as words to describe those same patients’ personalities and attitudes. These doctors do not think of obesity in the clean, clinical way it is defined by the Department of Health. If this is what doctors think of obese people, what might we suppose the opinion of the average person is?
Has obesity always been a negative thing?
Perhaps we are biologically hard-wired to find obesity distasteful. It seems that just about anything we do or think in a behavioural sense can be explained by our pre-historic past, before fire, farming and Facebook. Anthropologists have used evolutionary pressure to explain everything we generally like and dislike, from lipstick to tidy houses. In prehistory, a large man with lots of body to carry around might not be good at catching rabbits or escaping from the claws of a Sabre-tooth tiger. Perhaps we could not depend on a big woman with irregular hormonal cycles to make babies when the going was good. Or maybe obese people were reviled as selfish hoarders who ate more food than anyone else, so no upstanding tribe members would want to be seen with them. Sounds reasonable?
Well, the logic does not hold because there simply were not enough obese people (or animals) around for any sort of evolutionary bias to take hold. Studies of primitive societies and examinations of cave paintings show that it was very rare for anyone living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to become obese. If anything, obesity was seen as an indicator of abundance and a paradigm of attractiveness, if the oldest statue in the world is anything to go by. An obese person would be a marvel to behold, probably a leader of a prosperous tribe or an extraordinary person who was able to hunt and gather far more food than anyone else.
So here’s what obesity really is
Remember that the official definition of obesity includes the statement: “…These cut-off points are based on associations between and chronic disease and mortality …”. This means that, officially at least, we call people obese when a group of doctors agree that the person will probably die before his or her thin twin will. Be that as it may, remember that when you thought about Joe’s cousin Mary, you did not see her thin twin crying over her deathbed, you did not feel a pang of pity for her impending doom. Instead, like the doctors in the University of Pennsylvania survey, you are likely to have made a quick judgement about what sort of person she must be to have been called obese by her cousin. You formed an instant negative opinion of her lifestyle, just as you would have formed an instant positive opinion of her life choices if Joe had said that her diet was necessary because she had given all of her food away to a soup kitchen for the homeless.
We began this post with the question “What is obesity, really?”. Perhaps the answer is that obesity is the feeling you get when people look at you as though you are fat. It is the feeling you get when you imagine how people will judge you when you leave the house in a tight shirt that was not tight a couple of years ago when you bought it. It is also the feeling of superiority that a thin person gets when he tells other people about his cousin’s latest diet.
How to live with obesity
For whatever reasons, our society has come to associate obesity with uncontrollable greediness, laziness, and social awkwardness. It is a stigma which does not look as though it will go away any time soon. So here’s our advice about how to deal with it:
  1. Understand that there is a stigma, and it is not a good or fair thing.
  2. Understand the health and personal perception benefits of maintaining a “normal” weight, and work steadily towards achieving and maintaining it for yourself and others
  3. Do not call yourself or others “obese”, because the word has lost its true meaning. It has become a word used to describe social outcasts. If you think of yourself as obese, you might start to behave as a social outcast, and be treated accordingly. If you think of someone you know as being obese, you will start to look down on them from a great height, to the detriment of your relationship.
  4. Do not wear clothes that make you feel fat. Do not eat foods that make you feel like a fat person. Do not avoid crowds and conversations. If anyone makes negative comments about your weight, find some aspect of their appearance to return the favour because no one is perfect. Go about your daily business as You, instead of being that Sad Fat Person.
  5. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The classical painters like Rubens lovingly immortalised large women, and most people look up to those huge Olympic weightlifters with their massive bellies.