The podcast features an interview with Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, who discusses her book Younger Next Week. Her book outlines what she calls ‘The 7 Pillars of Vitality’, aspects of health that affect how you look and feel, and a quiz to help you determine your state of vitality. Zeid discusses ways to build your vitality with appropriate food, exercise and stress-management choices.
Here is an expanded version of the podcast interview:
Radio Nutrition: Your 7 Pillars of Vitality include “effortless weight management”. You do note that this is not a weight loss diet, per se, and certainly not a quick weight loss scheme. How does weight loss fit into the Vitality profile? Do you think the book appeals mostly to people for weight loss purposes?
Zied: I wrote Younger Next Week to give women a permission slip and a holistic road map to nurture and care for their bodies and minds no matter how busy, stressed or overextended they are.
One of the pillars of vitality is “effortless weight management” –that doesn’t mean going on an extreme, restrictive diet. But it does mean learning to eat, move and live in a way that’s healthful, realistic, sensible and practical. You don’t need to move mountains—but you do need to make sustainable changes to lose weight and keep it off.
Although I don’t consider Younger Next Week a diet book, it can be used for weight loss. It offers women who need to lose weight an alternative to extreme or faddish diets that rely on gimmicks rather than science. The meal plan I created forYounger Next Week promotes slow and steady weight loss- no more than 1-2 pounds weekly. I don’t recommend more than that for most people because losing too much weight too quickly can sap you of vitality by making you lethargic, hungry and deprived. It can also slow your metabolism by contributing to muscle loss…not a recipe for looking and feeling your very best. For those who don’t need to lose weight, I show them how to bump up the portions they consume to give them enough calories to meet their calorie needs while helping them stay energized and looking and feeling their best.
Radio Nutrition: It’s interesting that the detrimental coping habits you describe, that sabotage vitality, are all related to food and drink. Can you describe how one of those ways we cope saps vitality?
Zied: So many of the ways we women cope with stress sabotage our health and wellbeing—and they also can age us at the cellular level. One common way we cope is by overeating. Of course caving in to too many cravings and overdoing our calorie intake over time contributes to weight gain and obesity. There’s also evidence it accelerates aging by shortening telomeres—these are protective caps at the end of chromosomes, our body’s basic genetic material. Overeating also contributes to higher cortisol and insulin levels and lower levels of other hormones like growth hormone that may be linked to more rapid aging or a shorter life. Overeating also contributes to higher blood sugar levels and can promote the premature aging of your face—although it’s unclear why, there’s some evidence that high blood sugar levels contribute to the formation of substances called AGES (advanced glycation end products)—these substances may prevent the efficient repair of collagen and even harm the heart and kidneys and promote disease. High blood sugar levels may also increase free radical production, and overproduction of free radicals can damage body cells and promote aging. Overeating, especially late at night, can also interrupt sleep and contribute to fatigue, make us more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress. In YNW, I provide Stressipes® –remedies to overcome the negative effects stress has on food, fitness and lifestyle habits like overeating.
Radio Nutrition: Do you think any of the nutrients you discuss in Part 2 of the book are more important, so that following the guidelines you suggest will result in a significant change in a person’s 7 Pillars of Vitality.
Zied: In the book, I talk a lot of about nutrients—mainly in the context of food. For example, I talk about starchy carbs like oatmeal and popcorn that help you achieve many pillars of vitality—they energize you by providing the body and brain with glucose, it’s main fuel source; they calm you by helping to create serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep; they aid weight management. In fact, higher carbohydrate diets are associated with lower body weight, and lower intake of carbohydrate has also been linked with a greater risk of being overweight/obese. Roughly half of your calories should come from carbohydrate.
In the book, I also talk about foods rich in healthy fats including fish and nuts and seeds. Fatty fish intake inversely related with depression risk and symptoms. It’s also a source of tryptophan, a key neurotransmitter that helps the brain create serotonin. Fish is also a good source of protein that helps maintain skin’s structure as well as omega 3s that moisturize and protect the skin. Omega 3s in fish also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nuts and seeds may also help you manage your weight, keep your heart healthy and protect you against metabolic syndrome. Eating them is also linked with longevity.
Different foods have different combinations of nutrients. BUT it’s key to mix up the food you eat to reap the benefits of different nutrients since they work synergistically to optimize health and promote vitality. There’s no one miracle food you can eat to get the results you want. But if you eat a more balanced diet that includes all the key food groups, get enough physical activity and exercise (and sit less), sleep and connect/laugh every day, you will look and feel younger both inside and out.
Radio Nutrition: Your food and diet recommendations reflect a very balanced, high fiber diet. How do you distinguish it from other popular diets?
Zied: The Vitality Plan outlined in Younger Next Week is not a diet that you go on and off of, but rather a comprehensive and holistic lifestyle. It’s about empowerment—not about restriction and deprivation. I hope Younger Next Week resonates with and motivates women to start taking better care of themselves so they can live better and age the best way they can.
Radio Nutrition: You don’t mention vitamin supplements. Is there any place for them in your plan? Do you get questions about that from readers or clients?
Zied: My philosophy has always been food first. While I support supplementation for women who need it, first I recommend seeing how the diet stacks up compared with current science-based federal dietary guidelines. Women who are concerned that they’re not meeting their nutrient needs can then discuss how supplementation can fit into their lives with a physician and a registered dietitian. I’m not convinced every woman needs supplements, but those who restrict their intake, don’t eat certain foods and food groups or have medical issues that affect nutrient intake/absorption probably do need to fill in gaps—but it’s wise to learn how to do it safely and responsibly with the help of a qualified health professional since supplements aren’t subject to the same scrutiny drugs are before they are offered in the marketplace.
Radio Nutrition: You outline your 7-Day Vitality plan with food, diet, exercise and relaxation suggestions. If a person follows through with your blueprint for 7 days, what can she expect to feel (or see in her appearance) at the end of that time?
Zied: If women eat better, meet more of their nutrient needs, eat appropriate amounts for their shapes and sizes—not too much and not too little—sit less, move more, connect with others, laugh daily and sleep enough and better, they will feel the change in 7 days—if not sooner. Just setting their minds to practicing a more balanced lifestyle and prioritizing caring for and nurturing themselves will help women move towards achieving true vitality and help them better cope with the inevitable stressors in life. Even though all of us have setbacks and sometimes that big bowl of ice cream is just too hard to resist, if we cope positively with stress most of the time and fill our plates with nutrient-rich foods and make it a point to be active, we will be healthier and look and feel better in the process.