April 20, 2013

Social Pressure vs. Self Choice

Posted in Uncategorized, Weight Loss at 10:04 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

IndividualityOne of the most difficult components with weight loss is coping with the variety of social pressures that encourage poor eating. At every turn we are faced with having to make decisions around food because it is related to an event involving other people.

Dinner parties, birthday parties, holiday meals, girl’s night out, anniversary dinner…and a myriad of other moments where food is an important and central component of the experience.

Most of us don’t handle these situations well. We have many justifications for the behavior that we choose. Most of it is ingrained. To refuse to eat, or to refuse food or to make changes to the food is often considered rude and ungrateful. Most of us have been brought up to appreciate and be thankful for the meals and the generosity of the people giving them.

Another justification is that we don’t want to make other people uncomfortable. A good example is going out with friends and having a drink….or choosing not to. Often, people are concerned that not drinking with their friends will make their friends uncomfortable and the occasion awkward. So they have a drink, even if they don’t really want to, just to make everything easier on everyone else.

We use a lot of mental effort and emotional stress to not rock the boat.

I want you to rock the boat.
I want you to make decisions that are in your best interest.
I want you to take the best care of your body that you can.
Because you only get one. Ever. Just one.

If taking care of it makes someone else uncomfortable, or makes them feel that you are rude, then this is an opportunity for you to lead by example. If you don’t want to have a drink when you’re out with friends, then don’t. Often times simply having a glass of anything is enough for other people to be comfortable and the difference between having the “real” drink or not goes unnoticed.

If you are concerned with appearing rude or ungrateful, simply explain that you are taking care of yourself to the best of your ability. And while you may not be perfect at it all the time, you are giving it your best effort. You never know, they may become interested in doing the same.

So be the crazy lady that tears the bread off of her sandwiches, asks for things on the side or simply orders off the menu entirely and gets exactly what she wants. I’ve never run into a single waitperson who has ever had a problem with this, or who has even batted an eye. I guarantee you, you are not the first to ask specifically for what you want.

Be the parent that takes their kids for walks and runs. Show your children that exercise is important, whether it’s outside in the yard, in the gym, or doing a DVD at home. Lead by example. Make those positive impressions and show them how good health leads to good mood, good sleep, good concentration and a million other benefits.

Choose to take care of your body, every day, to the best of your ability. Exercise. Breathe. Rest.

Make decisions that are in your best interest and lead to your best health. When both your mind and body feel amazing there is nothing in the world like it. This is your chance to enjoy the body you have, and you only get one shot at it. Make it count – and don’t worry so much about what other people think. They get to make their own choices for their own body. So lead by example!


February 21, 2012

Made for Famine

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , at 9:14 am by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

The most common problem with weight loss, especially for a person choosing to do a Low Calorie Diet (LCD) or a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is the reduction of lean body mass that happens along with some fat loss. Lean body mass is our muscle tissue and our bones. Muscle tissue is what keeps our metabolic engine running. Without it, we burn fewer calories than we did before we lost the weight. This is why weight gain is easier after weight loss, especially if a person goes back to eating the same way as they did before they dieted.

The crux of the problem is this: The body will choose to use its protein first before it chooses to use its fat for fuel when in a famine state.

This seems an evolutionary faux pas. Why would you give up your muscle and bone when there is fat available? Muscle and bone are necessary for movement, and our heart beating, therefore, one would think, be more important. But to the body, the opposite is true.

Fat for the body is the last defense against the elements. It is a source of hormone-making substrates. It is the primary matter around our nerves. It makes up the majority of our brain tissue. A minimal amount of fat is necessary for pregnancy and is extremely desirable for lactation. Fat surrounds and protects our vital organs.

To the body, fat is the last thing to be used for fuel. Additionally, fat is difficult to convert to a usable fuel source and creates a lot of metabolic debris that needs to be cleaned up after it’s used. Fat is the last thing the body wants to utilize.

These bodies we have are designed to withstand bad weather, poor nutrition and difficult living. Our bodies are exceptionally adaptable to long periods of deprivation. Over the course of time, this has been a most desirable trait – in lean times, the people who could withstand the most and keep their metabolic rate low, tended to fare better than those that burned out quickly. Over the centuries, there has been far more famine than this world of plenty that we live in now. Our bodies just aren’t made for all this rich living! We have old bodies living in a new world.

We need to acknowledge that attaining food is easy. Even easier is attaining high-calorie, nutrient poor foods that do nothing for our health and weight goals. We don’t work for our food anymore, we just pop into the grocery store or a drive thru. We put very few calories out in order to get more calories in.

It is our responsibility is to be aware of this, and make the best choices possible each and every day. That isn’t to say that we need to be perfect, but it does require us to be realistic with what and how much we choose to eat.

February 11, 2012

BMI, Part III – How to change it!

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , , at 12:19 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

This is the last piece of my BMI discussion, and really, at the end of the day, this is the only part of BMI that most of us care about: our weight.

Most of us would love to be truthful when we say that we manage our weight because we “want to be healthier“, but most of the time our primary motivation for weight loss is because we feel better at a lower weight than we do at a higher one. Simple as that. For many of us a lower weight means a smaller dress size. But I want you to think of some of the other benefits that a lower weight brings:

  • If you are active in any sport, a lower weight usually translates into increased endurance, less muscle and joint strain, fewer injuries and better performance. A good example of this is a patient of mine who recently started rock climbing again. His initial modest loss of 8 lbs has already become an advantage when he’s hanging off a wall. Don’t underestimate gravity!
  • Improved fertility. For many women and men, even a small 5-10% change in body weight can hugely impact your ability to conceive. Remember, in Part II, when I discussed the metabolic effects of adipocytes (fat cells)? Well, this is one of the negative effects of carrying around too much weight. That extra weight is increasing your estrogen, decreasing your insulin sensitivity, throwing your adrenal function out of whack and thereby creating havoc with your hormones and your ability to regulate them.
  • Mood. This is an easy one. If we feel better about our bodies, we tend to feel more optimistic about our lives in general.
  • Energy. When we eat right, we feel good. Simple. Many times the food we eat causes our systems to be sluggish. When we clean it up, we literally “run” more efficiently. Less puffiness, bloating, better GI function. All of this translates into better energy.
  • Sleep. Carrying extra weight, especially visceral fat (the fat within the abdominal cavity), causes many of us to have difficulty breathing at night. Snoring is more common in heavier individuals. Sleep apnea has many causes, but extra weight in the torso and neck can hugely impact our ability to inhale & exhale efficiently. If there is enough excess weight on our chest, our breathing can literally stop. If we can get more oxygen during the night, we will feel better in the morning.

These are just a few examples of the real-life ways that being at a healthy weight can impact our lives for the better.

So, how to get there?

Research has proven time and time again that there are really only three things that need to happen for a person to successfully reach their goal weight:

  1. Pick a plan and stick with it. Really, almost any eating plan will work as long as it is followed consistently. This doesn’t take into account eating preferences, health benefits, nutritional or performance goals. To find a plan that you like, that feels right for you and does meet your other health goals, I recommend working with your doctor or a nutritionist or a personal trainer who has the right education and experience to advise you.
  2. Journal. I know, we all hate it. But there is nothing that is more effective at showing the truth of what we consume. You don’t need to write down every gram and calorie, but you do need to make a list of everything that passes your lips. It is enlightening! Many of us have a faulty memory when it comes to what we eat. Generally, we believe that we consume far, far less than we truly do. This is often because our food choices leave us unsatisfied. By writing down what we eat, we can make educated decisions to make better and more effective choices.
  3. Accountability. Find someone to be responsible to. Granted, choosing to lose weight and make lifestyle changes needs to be personally driven decision. However, being accountable to another individual will help you realize your goals. Knowing that you will be following up with your doctor, weighing in with your nutritionist, meeting up with a friend for a workout or training with your personal trainer will help you make the best decision possible when a food temptation comes your way, or when you feel like blowing off a workout that day.

And that is the magic formula – pick a plan and do it, write it down every day and check-in with somebody!

January 30, 2012

BMI – Part II

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , at 7:04 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

Aesthetically, we all know what being overweight looks and feels like. But do you know what is happening on the inside?

Adipocytes, aka fat cells, are commonly visualized as fluffy square-like cells that are plumped up by the fat within them. For many years, adipocytes were thought of as fairly inert and unexciting storage units. Current research, however, is showing that these cells do far more than just sit there and store our excesses for future use.

Nowadays, a fat cell is being seen as an extension of our endocrine (hormone) system. A good example of this is estrogen and cortisol production. In overweight women, a measurable amount of estrogen is created by the aromatase secreted by the fat cells. In my practice, I have often seen the phenomenon where a peri- or menopausal woman will lose weight and have an increase in her night sweats or hot flashes, or some mild hair loss. Her body eventually adjusts to the lower amount of estrogen and the symptoms resolve. Aromatase can have a multitude of effects depending on the area of fat distribution. Aromatase also creates excess cortisol. Excess cortisol interferes with proper insulin secretion and sensitivity. This creates blood sugar problems (hyperglycemia and Type II Diabetes) as well as increased truncal obesity, greater deposition of visceral fat and increased health risks. In other words, excess fat is creates an environment that makes it easier to be fat.

Now, how do adipocytes relate to BMI? If your BMI number is greater than 30, then you are for sure carrying around more body fat (aka adipocytes) than you should be.

Men and women often disagree with where the “perfect” body weight is on the chart. Most women’s projection of their ideal body weight usually fits into the “Healthy” weight range pretty easily, or is just above at a BMI of 25-26. Most men would disagree with a BMI of 19-24.9. This is especially true for men who have a lot of muscle. To be in the “Healthy” weight range of BMI, they find it too lean and too difficult to maintain. Generally, many men would be very comfortable within the “Overweight” range, 25-29.9. Anything higher than that and the health risks certainly outweigh the benefits.

Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule, but they are few and far between here. This is not the place to use the “I’m just big boned” excuse to justify being in a higher bracket. Probable exceptions include body-builders, elite athletes and those very few individuals who genetically carry a higher amount of bone and lean muscle mass. The vast majority of us, however, fall within the guidelines for the general population.


January 28, 2012

BMI – What does it really mean?

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , at 12:54 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

We’ve all looked it up – plug in your height and your weight and you get a number. http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

But what does it mean? You can reference the table that is usually attached, and see where you fall in the graph. You can look at the calculator’s recommendation about where you “should” be. You can look at the titles, “Healthy”, “Overweight“, “Obese” and see which category relates to you.

But the question really is, what do all those definitions mean to you?

Part I of the Answer

Let’s define BMI. Essentially, all it is is a height/weight ratio. It is very broad in its scope and its only purpose is to give an easy to use guideline regarding healthy vs. unhealthy weight. The higher the your number, the higher your health risks from weight and obesity related diseases.

What BMI doesn’t tell you: It doesn’t estimate your body fat. It can’t tell you how much abdominal or visceral fat you carry. It doesn’t predict your cardiovascular risks. It doesn’t care about your body composition.

What BMI does tell you: People with bigger numbers tend to be more sick. The higher the number, generally, the larger percentage of fat a person carries. The difference between “Healthy” and “Overweight” is fairly mild from a morbidity (the rate of incidence of disease) and mortality (death) point of view. But past that…”Obese”, “Morbid” and “Super”… some serious problems begin to arise.

Part II will discuss some of the metabolic effects that extra fat cells (adipocytes) create, and Part III of this posting will discuss some of the ways we can personally change these outcomes!

July 16, 2010

Chocolate Ice

Posted in HCG, Recipes, Weight Loss at 3:36 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

I was so excited to figure this out over the weekend! Enjoy! It is perfect for all this nice weather!

  • Splash of water or coffee or green tea…etc.
  • 1 scoop Shake (whatever variety you’ve got will work)
  • Crushed ice (cubed won’t work, has to be crushed)

Add it all into a Magic Bullet cup and blend. You’ll have to shake the cup a bit to get the ice to move around, and be sure to blend it up really well – then grab a spoon!!


  • Vanilla shake with some berries
  • 1/2 apple and cinnamon, maybe a dash of stevia
  • Vanilla shake with Chai Spice (I found this spice blend at Fred Meyer)

May 16, 2010

Start your day off well!

Posted in Recipes, Weight Loss at 7:39 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

I just thought I’d share my favorite morning drink:

16 oz hot water
2 packets True Lemon (unsweetened) or a 1/4 of a squeezed fresh lemon
Vanilla Stevia, a few drops to taste

It’s a little tart, a little sweet and gets things moving in the digestive sense. It leaves you with a clean taste and just makes your day start a little more nicely. If that isn’t reason enough, let me give you one more: that’s 16 oz of fluid that goes towards your water goal!

Remember, to lose weight well you must, must, must drink your water! 1/3 of your body weight in ounces should be your minimum goal!

April 21, 2010

I miss “heavy food”!

Posted in Recipes, Weight Loss at 1:29 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

This is a quote from one of my patients today. She made a connection that most of the food that she has been eating is lighter in weight and substance to what she was eating before. Gone are the days of clumpy cream sauces, pastas, potatoes and weighty fats and starches.

No doubt about it, it is a hefty change (yes, pun intended).

So what do we do to feel good about these changes in our eating habits?

1. We acknowledge that the food we’re eating is, indeed, lighter and healthier for us. We work to wrap our minds around that just because our brain is sending strong signals to increase the caloric density of our food, we don’t need to do this. Eating those calorically dense foods didn’t serve us before, in fact, it only made us heavy, literally.

2. We use thickeners and other foods to round out our meals. For example:

  • Agar or arrowroot in our soups to make them thicker and give them some additional mouth-feel.
  • Gelatin, unflavored and unsweetened, added to our fruit to make a low-glycemic jello.
  • Shirataki noodles, also known as “Miracle Noodles” to add to cold salads or soups. You can get these at Central Market in the Asian food section, or order online.
  • Konjac flour added to shakes to make them into pudding! Trust me, use less than you think you need! 1 tsp usually will suffice!

April 8, 2010

Thanks for a great class!

Posted in Weight Loss at 7:44 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

Hello and thanks for coming tonight! It was a pleasure to meet those of you new to our clinic, and great to see those familiar faces!
I look forward to working with each of you individually!

April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Posted in HCG, Weight Loss at 9:19 am by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

Holidays, and the celebratory eating that goes with them, can be difficult to navigate.

What to do?

You have three options when you are on plan to handle a holiday feast successfully, and here they are:

1. Stay on plan

Tough though this is, it is the most efficient way to maintain your weight-loss momentum. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t have the yummy foods commonly associated with your holiday meal, but it does mean that you will have to modify where you can, prepare or bring your own foods to eat along with your family and friends, and possibly just say “no” to dessert.

2. Modify and Triage

This is the hardest way to manage a holiday dinner, but it can also be the most satisfying. Although you will be going off plan, you are moderating the damage done. What do I mean?

Stick to plan as best as possible, but with allowances for this one day. For example, instead of your lean chicken breast or cut of pork, you go ahead and a have a modest portion of the Easter ham. Another example, have a devilled egg, but get most of the yolk out (or better yet, make them yourself without all the mayo, etc.), leaving just a taste of it. The egg white portion of course is good to go.

3. Just go ahead, enjoy the meal, and get back on track the next day.

Really, I mean it. Eat as you normally do around the holiday table, and tomorrow, jump back on that weight-loss train with 100% effort! Here is where folks go wrong: don’t eat the leftovers, don’t snack on the carrots tomorrow, don’t nibble on the cake/jello/biscuits/etc. Leave them alone. If you are hosting dinner, great, send all your guests home with goody bags!

Will this holiday eating effect your weight loss for the week? Yes, of course it will. However, it is a good lesson in weight maintenance. Remember, maintaining your weight after you lose it is more important that losing it in the first place. This principle goes back to what I say in class – you should be able to “eat clean” 80% of the time, so that you can have the flexibility to absorb higher calorie days like holiday celebrations the other 20%!

Hope this is helpful and that you have a great day!

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