NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

I was pretty excited when I first heard about NEAT. Intuitively, I know that most lean people move more. They seem to have energy to burn, and they do so by moving, often. Now research confirms that any movements throughout the day really do add up in terms of calories burned and can have a big impact on your health and weight. Most of us strive to include some structured moderate to intense activity several times a week—I think we call that “exercise”–yet increasing the non-structured movement WILL make a difference for every body.

There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.Endocrinologist and researcher, Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, developed the concept of NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). He found that healthy individuals can burn up to 700 calories per day through NEAT. He also found that obese people perform drastically less NEAT, even when compared to normal-weight people who don’t exercise and have similar, sedentary jobs. As the world has modernized, NEAT has declined, which is clearly a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Since being sedentary is a strong predictor of death and disease, the less sedentary you are, the more health benefits you will see. Now that you know what a difference a little movement can make, here are some ideas on how to incorporate more NEAT into your day.

Move At Work – Pace while you talk on the phone. Schedule a walking meeting. If you work in an office building, take the stairs. If you sit at a desk, sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. Walk with a co-worker on your lunch break.

Drink More Water – Besides the obvious benefits for your body, more water means more peeing. It’s a built-in walk to the bathroom every hour or two.

Never Stand Still on an Escalator – Make it a rule.

Park Farther Away – You’ve heard this before, but try to make it a habit. It may require a change in mindset since most of us are on the lookout for that perfect, close parking spot.

Fidget, Stretch, Stand Up – Take a break during long bouts of sitting, especially on airplanes, in movies, long meetings, and car rides.

Keep in mind, it all adds up – a lot!


James Levine, M.D., Ph.D. – Transform 2010 – Mayo Clinic, September 24, 2010

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!, from the blog Summer Tomato by Darya Rose, Nov 8, 2010, with guest blogger Travis Saunders of Obesity Panacea


Gilding the Lily

gilded lilyIn my house, we have an expression for those times that you’ve eaten too much. We call it “gilding the lily.” You had it in hand. You enjoyed a delicious meal and you were delightfully satisfied, but the good food was just too tempting. You had one more piece of pizza, one more glass of wine, or you kept shaving off the edge of the cake to make it even!! Before you know what hit you, you feel bloated and probably a little guilty.

Other scenarios might include eating in front of the TV and not paying attention to the volume of food you were scarfing down. Or you were brought up to clean your plate, and you served yourself a lot more than you stomach could comfortably hold.

How can we better listen to our bodies? It’s ingeniously equipped with sensors that alert our brains when we’ve had enough food. How can we tune back into those natural cues?

Your best bet is mindful eating. You may have heard of the term. It means to stop multi-tasking and to pay attention to what you’re eating. Don’t rush through a meal or even a snack. Sit down at the table. Turn off the TV, the cell phone, put down the paper.

tasteofslowSavor the food. Don’t eat out of the container of leftovers. Put it on a SMALL plate (more on that in an upcoming post). Pour yourself some water, grab a napkin and a fork and make it a welcome ritual. Think of it as a time out to enjoy a sensory experience.  Chew each bite thoroughly. Some experts recommend we chew each mouthful 40 times if you’re trying to lose weight. Notice the flavors and textures, and enjoy them!

Practice these things when you’re eating alone, so that when you’re eating with a group, you’ve already created that groove in your brain that will help mindful eating kick in. Avoid gilding the lily. And remember, there’s always the next meal.

Chopped Greek Salad with Farro

A hearty and colorful salad, it has plenty of opportunities for substitutions based on what you may have on hand. Navy beans can stand in for the garbanzo beans, and barley or quinoa will work as well as farro. The dressing is flavorful without being heavy on the oil, and it stays moist on days two and three, but you’ll be lucky if it lasts that long!

Chopped Greek Salad1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
¼ small red onion, diced
1 small red, orange, or yellow pepper, seeded and diced
10 whole Kalamata olives, pitted and drained and diced
2 pepperoncini peppers, seeded and diced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup feta cheese
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups cooked farro

½ cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons red wine or Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the farro according to package directions. Run the cooked grains under cold water. Chop vegetables into a consistently small size. Combine veggies with feta, farro, and garbanzo beans.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, basil, dill, vinegar, agave nectar, water, salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad ingredients and combine well.

Download a PDF of this recipe.

Recipe adapted from Greek Salad found in The Lean, A Revolutionary and Simple 30-day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss, by Kathy Freston (recipe by Dayna McLeod).

10 Benefits of Being Honest

What does honesty have to do with health and wellness? If you’re striving to be the best you can be, honesty has to be at the foundation. Change won’t last if you are trying to be something that you are not. Honesty is the bridge to authenticity and self-compassion. Honesty allows you to set realistic goals. It bolsters your courage and frees you to be your best self.

10 Benefits of Being Honest:

honest1. Honesty promotes authenticity. Honesty is a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings. If you want people to know who you really are, be honest in your self-expression.

2. Honesty fosters courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing what you know you want or need to do, despite your fear. It takes an immense amount of courage to say what you feel. It is often difficult and takes practice and patience, but he payoffs are enormous.

3. Honesty shows you care. Being honest with yourself and with others shows how much you really care. It also demonstrates self-respect and respect for others. A caring attitude makes people stop and think. Gentle honesty is also very attractive and appealing.

4. Honesty creates a circle of love. Honesty sets an example that invites others to imitate. When others respond with honesty, it can create more interpersonal closeness and authenticity. This often translates into love and can create an ongoing evolution of loving relationships.

5. Honesty shows maturity and self-acceptance. There can often be hurt and pain associated with honesty. A mature person conveys honest expression in a style that minimizes painful impact. When others are hurt, the mature, self-accepting person remains in the relationship to work through any pain experienced by the other person.

6. Honesty fosters a connection. Honesty can bring people closer by creating a safe connection. It forms a context for the relationship within which both parties feel secure enough to be genuine in their interactions. Such a relationship can invite and empower each party to work through some highly personal issues.

7. Honesty feels exhilarating because it is so freeing. Being authentic and saying what you feel and think feels great! By doing so, you break free of the limitations of fear.

8. Honesty eliminates garbage. Hiding true feelings or withholding information creates emotional garbage. This is known as gunnysacking , which requires a lot of self-defeating energy. Being honest from the beginning of any interaction prevents the build-up of emotional garbage and cleans out your emotional gunnysack.

9. Honesty attracts honesty. If honesty becomes an unconscious habit, you will become very attractive to other honest people. A life filled with authentic people is vastly enriched.

10. Honesty can keep you out of trouble. We all know how you can dig yourself deeper into a hole with lies and deceit. So from the start, don’t even go there. Keep a clean slate by staying honest, especially when you fear the anticipated consequences.

Now that you know the benefits of honesty, the following questions will help you explore how much you value honesty. It shows up in all sorts of communications. Often it’s about our dealings with others, but it begins with how honest we are with ourselves.

discoodoni via Flickr

1. Are your actions predictable and congruent with your stated positions?

2. Do you follow through on your promises and avoid making excuses?

3. Is you behavior dependable?

4. Do you respond truthfully (authentically) to constructive criticism?

5. How do you treat confidants?

6. Are you trustworthy?

7. How do you express negative information?

8. Under what circumstances do you lie?

9. Do you exaggerate the positive and diminish the negative?

10. Is your behavior consistent with your stated values, even when no one is watching?

11. Do you take responsibility for your mistakes, omissions, and shortcomings?

12. Do you make others’ best interests equally important to your own?


Adapted from: Williams, Patrick, and Lloyd J. Thomas. (2005) Total Life Coaching. New York, W.W. Norton and Co, Inc.

Calcium – Where to Get it, and How to Hang on to it?

I’ve been confused about calcium and the role it plays in my diet. What foods are best? Is dairy a good source or not? Can I get enough calcium if I don’t eat dairy? And the most puzzling: Why does the US have the highest rate of hip fractures in the world? So I did a little research.

T. Colin Campbell and The China Study initially sparked my curiosity. The book was hugely instrumental in my decision to cut way back on my consumption of meat and dairy as well as processed foods, and instead embrace a plant-based whole food diet. has much to say about calcium and osteoporosis. His position centers on the fact that eating animal protein causes our blood to become acidic. To balance the blood’s PH, the body leaches calcium from our bones (similar to what a Tums does for stomach acid). Keep in mind this “robbery” from the bones is a normal and highly controlled bodily function. The only danger may be to those whose dietary calcium is almost exclusively from milk, cheese, eggs and meat. And the likely reason why their calcium intake fails to meet the minimum requirements is a corresponding lack of leafy greens, beans, and other whole plant foods.

There’s no doubt Americans get a pretty hard sell from the dairy industry on the supposed benefits of milk consumption. It does a body good, right? Yet, how do we explain the results of a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women? Those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. Is it the result of our high protein diets, and the acidity from animal protein? The evidence is not entirely conclusive, but we do know that western, industrialized countries have higher calcium requirements.

There is consensus among the experts on bone health and calcium in that our body’s absorption and retention of the mineral is key. Calcium is not only vital to bone health; it’s needed for nerve signal transmission, production of enzymes and hormones, and blood vessel contraction and expansion. And wouldn’t you know, as we age, the rate of calcium absorption in our bodies falls.

Best Sources
spinachThe most healthful source of calcium is green leafy vegetables and legumes. Think broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and various greens like kale, Swiss chard, and spinach. Legumes such as white beans and soybeans (tofu) are winners because they also contain magnesium, which the body uses in conjunction with calcium to build bones. The calcium in fortified orange juice (300 milligrams per cup) is highly absorbable since it is paired with vitamin D. Cereals and almonds are other good bets. Unless you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, dairy in moderation supplies plenty of calcium. Just don’t let it be the dominant source, and stick to options that are lower in fat and cholesterol and free of antibiotics and hormones.

Active people keep calcium in their bones while sedentary people lose it. Weight-bearing exercise–anything that forces you to work against gravity–promotes bone density and strength.

Limit Salt Intake
saltWhen calcium leaches from the bones it enters the bloodstream and is excreted in the urine. Salt increases the rate at which calcium is lost. Processed foods provide 75% of the sodium we eat, so by avoiding them, you’ll cut your sodium intake and boost your calcium.

Limit Caffeine
You lose about 6 milligrams of calcium for every 100 milligrams of caffeine you take in. Like salt, it increases the rate of calcium excretion.

Limit Soda
Cola also increases calcium loss. Sprite, Mountain Dew, etc. don’t seem to have the same effect. It’s likely due to the phosphoric acid found in colas.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D controls your body’s absorption of calcium, so if you lack vitamin D, your bones are going to suffer. It’s hard to get vitamin D from food sources (some fish, fortified cereals, milk, and orange juice), but sun exposure triggers vitamin D synthesis.

Bottom Line
thumbs up xrayIf you’re concerned about osteoporosis and calcium levels, talk to your doctor about your diet and possible supplementation. Meanwhile, I like WebMD’s approach: “The safest strategy is eating a diet that’s low in salt and rich in fresh and minimally processed whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Include enough calcium and vitamin D from foods, and supplements if necessary, and be sure to limit caffeine and carbonated drinks.” There it is again, the plant-based whole food lifestyle, and another important reason to live it.


Jack Norris, RD, Does (Animal) Protein Leach Calcium from Bones?, What Affects Calcium Absorption?, by M. Gideon Hoyle.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI, Pub Med, Acid Diet (High-Meat Protein) Effects on Calcium Metabolism and Bone Health, by Cao JJ, Nielsen FH.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI, Pub Med, Epidemiology of Hip Fracture: Worldwide Geographic Variation. by Dinesh K Dhanwal, Elaine M Dennison, Nick C Harvey, and Cyrus Cooper.

U.S. News and World Report, Health, 5 Non-Diary Foods with Calcium, by Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil., Living with Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis Diet Dangers: Foods to Avoid, By Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD.

The World’s Healthiest Foods, Calcium, The George Mateljan Foundation.

Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements, Institute of Medicine, 2010