Blog

How to Grow Muscle for Weight Loss

September 15, 2019

Why are muscles important for weight loss? Muscles at rest require calories while fat cells at rest do not. So the greater your lean body mass, the more calories you will burn all day long not just when you're working out and including in your sleep. More muscle mass equates to high metabolism.

For weight loss, you absolutely need cardio. But cardio plus weight training will provide real results. Here's the mechanics of muscle building. We have over 600 muscles which translate to 1/3 - 1/2 of our body weight. They bind us together, hold us up, and help us move. Muscles when stressed lead to microscopic tears, which releases cytokines to repair the injury. This activates the immune system and builds muscles. Once this damage and repair happens, we build stronger and bigger muscles.

In order for this to all happen, we also need proper nutrition and adequate sleep because repair happens when we are sleeping. Gender and age plays a role too. That's why young men with higher testosterone have an advantage.

We want to do strength training of different body parts throughout the week or at least 2 - 3 times per week. Don't forget to include rest days so that the body can heal. If you're not a fan of weights, try HIIT (high intensity interval training), swimming, surfing, yoga, pilates, or calisthenic workouts (use of just body weight). The more muscle groups you use at once, the better the results which is why calisthenic workouts are so effective.

The take home lesson here is tear muscles, rest, eat right in order to build muscles, which lead to higher metabolism, which leads to weight loss. Please do NOT go on a restrictive diet. That only leads to binging later and potentially inadequate nutrition.

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food. 

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants

September 1, 2019

I definitely enjoy eating out.  It's fun!!  I love the social aspect, the experience, and eating flavors I don't know how to cook.  I enjoy cooking but I'm no culinary expert.  I don't, however, eat out because I didn't go grocery shopping and have no food at home, or I don't want to cook.  These are mental traps that might get us stuck in unhealthy eating because we eat out a lot.  Here are some tips for eating out healthy.  I hope it helps.
  1. Loosen up.  This is my number one rule.  If you're going out, have fun and enjoy it.  If your diet is mostly home-cooked, then you'll leave the guilt behind.  Plus physiologically, guilt packs on more weight.  It's not what we do once in a while that makes us fat and sick.  It's what eat all the time.  Focus on doing "right" at home, and loosen up when you're out.
  2. Scan menu.  Certain words are clear red flags such as crispy, breaded, fried, cream, alfredo, etc.  For better nutrition, look for grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, braised, broiled, seared, etc.
  3. Share.  My husband and I normally share an entree and a salad.  That feels like the best of both worlds to me because frankly, restaurant salads feel like a rip off.  It's a big mound of lettuce.  I make way better salads at home and I don't want to order salads all the time when I go out. Another idea for restaurants that serve gigantic portions is you can share one entree with an extra side of veggies, and save money.  Bonus!
  4. Ask questions.  I like asking about portion size.  Also, ask how it's prepared or if there's a sauce.  Sometimes, the wording isn't very clear.  It helps to know what to order and expect.
  5. Substitute.  See if you can substitute the fries or chips for a salad or double the vegetables on the plate.
  6. Dressing on the side.  Always order dressing on the salad.  They often drown salads in dressing.  Make sure there's not a bunch of unhealthy, processed ingredients in your salad too.
  7. Don't go hungry.  Don't ever show up to a restaurant starving.  If you're like me, I'd order too much and overeat.  If you're starving, grab a whole food snack (one ingredient snack).
  8. Drink lots of water at the table.
  9. Include exercise in your day.
  10. Balance.  If you're stuck eating a few meals out in one day, make sure they aren't all heavy, large meals.  Listen to your belly.
  11. Slow down.  Eat slow and you'll eat less.
  12. Order off the menu.  Feel free to create a healthy meal of grilled protein and steamed veggies or salad.
  13. Box early.  If you get something huge, cut it in half and ask for a box right away.  I love left overs!
The take home message is - do great at home and simply enjoy when you're out.  Don't sweat it but do keep it to real food with minimal processing.
If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.
~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Are Cell Phones Robbing Us of Joy?

August 15, 2019

I was at Rite Aid the other day picking up a prescription and I had to sign something so I was busy reading while the cashier asked me "How's your day?" Since I wasn't paying attention, I asked him to repeat himself. When he did, I said "you threw me off with your kindness" with a smirk. I heard laughter in the backyard.

How often do we just cruise through life not even making eye contact with people or exchanging a few words? For example, what do you do when you enter an elevator? Do you look at your shoes, pull out your cell, make brief eye contact, or strike up brief chitchat? If you tend to pull out your phone, studies show that we are short changing ourselves from happiness. It turns out that even brief moments, as simple as eye contact, adds to greater well being and happiness since we are social creatures after all.

Even just a brief eye contact increases one's feeling of inclusion and belonging. Start with people you have to interact with anyways like the cashier or the barista. Research shows that high frequency of positive events, even as small as eye contact (with or without a smile), helps us feel included, decreases loneliness, and increases happiness. It is fear that the other person won't enjoy talking with us that holds most people back (even if they think they prefer solitude like just reading their book). Once we start conversation, people feel less awkward and it's more enjoyable than most people expect.

Next time you're next to a stranger, acknowledge their presence and even say "hello." Put your phone away. This might put a smile on your face and theirs. More small moments of joy adds up. And in my office, more joy leads to less emotional eating and therefore, more weight loss. Social creatures need to feel less lonely. So put that phone away and interact. You'll feel the difference.

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food. 

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Health Tips for Summer Grilling

August 1, 2019

I love grilled food.  They often taste so much better.  And wouldn't you agree that eating outside just makes food taste yummier?  Here are some health tips and ideas for your summer grilling and picnics. 

Reducing cancer.  Fats from meat that drips into flame produces more smoke and carcinogens.  Reduce this exposure with these ideas:

  • Avoid breathing in smoke.
  • Avoid charring meat and trim them off so you don't eat them.
  • Grill fish or poultry with the fat trimmed.  Try veggie burgers and grilling vegetables too.
  • Reduce grill time by cutting meats into smaller chunks.
  • Wrap meat in foil.  This speeds up the cooking time and protects it from smoking.
  • Use marinades.  This reduces carcinogens because of the acid in the lemon, lime, and vinegar.  Plus, herbs such as rosemary, garlic, thyme, etc. have antioxidant properties to prevent cancer.

Healthier options.  High intake of red meat especially processed meats like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami are linked to higher risks of death such as colorectal and stomach cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.  Try adding more plants like:

  • Veggie kabobs using zucchini, summer squash, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms and pair them with salsa, hummus, baba ganoush, pesto. 
  • Fruit.  Cut up peaches, mangoes, melons, berries, pineapples, figs, etc.  Some of these tastes so good grilled too.
  • Add plant-based proteins such as beans, seeds, tofu, tempeh to salads or grain dishes. 
  • Roasted crunchy chickpeas as snacks

Add herbs and spices.  Not only do they make our food taste better but they have beneficial chemicals called polyphenols and also have antimicrobial properties.  Garlic, onions, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, tarragon, rosemary, cloves prevent growth and even kill some bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and streptococcus. 

Hydrate.  Don't forget to hydrate but make it naturally sugar-free by infusing water with cucumber, lemon, lime, oranges, mint, etc.  Drop the soda and sugary drinks.

Minimize wastes.  This planet is our home and we need to all do better with reducing wastes.  Reduce single-use items, use metal skewers, use real plates/utensils/cups, and bring an extra trash bag for recycling.

Happy summer to you and enjoy your food!  

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.   

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach

Things That Kept Me Alive May Help You Succeed

July 15, 2019

Joy & Peace

This is a difficult blog for me to share but if I can help one person, then it was worth it. I believe these tips apply to all of us no matter where we're at.

I spent all of my childhood and most of my adulthood in depression. Things happened in my family due to circumstances that left me apart from my parents and sisters since I was 9 months old (according to my grandma). Because no one explained it to me, like most small children, I blamed myself. I thoroughly convinced myself that if my mom left me, then I must be a horrible person and absolutely unlovable. If she gave me away, how can I expect love from others. This made me extremely shy and afraid to seek friendships. I was suicidal, alone, and scared. If I was past down from mom to aunt to grandma, then I better show up perfect so grandma wouldn't leave me too. I wished someone took the time to tell me I'm loved. I'm here to tell you that you're lovable, you're worthwhile, and you're enough.

You have a right to how you feel so validate that and let go of judgment and comparisons. Whatever your goals and obstacles, know that you are worth the effort. Our past shapes us and makes us even more powerful and empowered if we allow it. Whether you abuse your body with food or other things, this is your time to flip the switch and love yourself.

I'm still dealing with some of what feels like permanent wounds. I know my mom never intends to hurt me, but she unknowingly continues to hurt me to this day. Because I can't change other people, I have set out to work on myself. It took decades and sometimes it feels like I work every minute of my life to feel "normal." It's exhausting! I promise you it's worth it though. Looking back, these are the things that kept me alive. I'd be lying if any of this was intentional at the time. I was definitely fumbling and just got lucky that these things actually helped me be the happy person I am today. Maybe there's something to be said about our intuition to thrive. Let's also get real. I, like everyone else, am still work in progress. I hope that my sharing will make your journey much shorter than mine and your efforts WILL pay off.

  1. Connection.  I didn't think I'd be alive for very long so I had nothing to lose.  After traveling alone to 30 countries, working to sustain my shoestring travels and staying in shady places, I met amazing people who accepted me.  It never occurred to me that strangers can love me.  I made so many cool connections.  This was the beginning of gaining a glimpse of self-confidence and self-worth.  They had no idea they saved me, so smile at the next person that crosses your path.  You have no idea your impact on them.  Today, I have very close friends who I call family and they continue to be my foundation.  Find your tribe. 
  2. Trees.  As I picked up my backpack to roam earth alone, I sought out the woods.  My main activity in every country was and still is hiking.  I guess I did myself a favor without knowing it.  The latest Harvard study indicates that walking in the woods (not the city) helps with mental illness and can even prevent it.
  3. Breathe/Move.  I'm a terrible breather especially when I feel depressed or anxious.  Good thing I've always gravitated towards exercise.  You can't help but breathe deeply when you're running, swimming, playing sports.  Beach volleyball is something I've grown to call therapy.  Find your therapy that is fun!  Although I'm an advocate of meditation, I can't seem to sit still.  I do use yoga often.  Find YOUR breath; YOUR movement. 
  4. Gratitude.  I spent decades under dark clouds (since the 4th grade).  It took so much work to rewire my mind to focus on the positive.  Each time I'd crumble and fall to pieces, I tried to find some gratitude.  Depression is serious, and I know how hard it is.  Changing how I wake up in the morning was my main focus.  It starts with gratitude and a smile even if I have to fake it that day.
  5. De-clutter.  There was a time that I moved every 9 months so it didn't allow me to accumulate or own very much.  Plus, I was extremely poor.  Get rid of what you don't need.  Less is more.  A de-cluttered life is a healthier, happier life.
  6. Purpose.  Do something you feel proud about.  I worked with wild animals (they made more sense to me than people at the time), joined the Peace Corps, and presently doing work to help others be healthier and happier.  We are all different.  Take the  time to focus on others but treat yourself with compassion.  The words I'd use to myself would send me straight to prison.  Can you be nice to yourself? Talk to yourself like how you would talk to a friend. 

I've come a long way and I have lots of people I owe my success to.  I still focus on the 6 points above with more intention now.  Additionally, I'm learning to connect with my body and what that blob inside is trying to tell me.  I'm also learning to be a mom and that has been so healing to have a second chance at a loving mother-daughter relationship.  Lastly, I'm working on rewriting my story and checking in when my brain freaks out.  How can you rewrite the stories you tell yourself?  

Let me know if this helped and share your journey with me if you're comfortable.  I wish you a fruitful journey full of smiles even on bad days.  Those are the most important days to find something to smile about. 

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food. 

How to Use Happiness to Lose Weight

July 1, 2019

How will being happy help us lose weight?  What if I told you happiness is the beginning of successful weight loss?  You see,  our equation for attaining happiness is backwards.  Society tells us that if we lose weight, work hard, gain more success, then we will be happier.  To drive us even further away from happiness though, every time we reach our goal whether it be a sales goal or a promotion, we are off setting the next goal to attain and never celebrating happiness.  This is true of weight too, don't you think?  When were you completely happy with your body?

It turns out we need to be happy first in order to attain success in weight loss, being healthy, career, relationships, and across every category of life.  When we are happy/positive, our energy level rises.  Intelligence and creativity also improves.  With the body and brain working, we are able to focus on health goals and actually do them. 

Across different fields, when people are positive versus negative, neutral, or stressed, they are 31% more productive, report 37% greater sales, and doctors have faster, more accurate diagnosis by 19%.  Being positive, makes us more resilient, less burnt out, and have superior productivity in anything we do including losing weight and being healthy.  Dopamine, as a result of happiness, turns on all learning centers in the brain. 

So, how can we work towards being more positive?  Do this for at least 21 days in a row:

  1. Name 3 new things you're grateful for daily (gratitude)
  2. Journal 1 positive experience daily
  3. Exercise daily (behaviors matter)
  4. Meditate daily (train the brain to focus on one task)
  5. Engage in random acts of kindness (praise or thank someone)

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.   

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

One Ingredient That Drives Over-Eating

June 15, 2019

It's true that the wonderful combination of fat, sugar, and salt makes us eat more and crave more, but research shows what really makes us overeat is super-processed foods. In a small but completely controlled study, those who consume ultra-processed foods consume on average an extra 508 calories more per day and gain 2 pounds over 2 weeks. Compare it to those who consumed unprocessed foods, they lost 2 pounds on average over a 2 week period while consuming the same calories, fat, protein, sugar, salt, carb, and fiber.

Ultra processed foods make us consume more. It's not just the obvious junk but things like Cheerios, white bread, jarred sauces, favored yogurt, frozen sausages, and reconstituted meat. Most Americans look for low cost, convenient, and foods that take the least preparation. That's exactly our problem. Why are we signing up to be cheap, convenient, and easy? We need a complete shift to be healthy. We are worth high quality, time, and energy.

In this study, eating unprocessed diet seem to secrete higher levels of appetite-suppressing hormones (lowers ghrelin which is our hunger hormone). Eating processed food does the reverse. Those who ate processed food also seem to eat faster and more carbs and fats. Eating whole foods is still the key answer to weight loss and health. What's getting in your way of doing this?

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food. 

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

3 Ways to Lose Belly Fat

June 1, 2019

Want to lose belly fat?  Are you doing tons of sit-ups?  That's not going to help.  We cannot target fat reduction.  That only tones the muscles in your abdomen, which is awesome, but it does not reduce fat.  Here are some ideas. 

  1. Regular aerobic exercise.  Regular is the optimal word.  We have to move every day so why not make it easy.
    1. Schedule walking meetings, social physical activities (instead of just meals and happy hours), plan more moving fun.
    2. Take every opportunity to move like taking the stairs, parking far, biking to work, walking around the block, etc.
    3. Focus on 10 minutes.  If you do a few 10 minutes, you'll be golden like dancing, jumping jacks, walking, something you enjoy.
  2. Whole food diet.  Change how you eat without following a fad diet.
    1. Eat slowly and mindfully.  I think this is the hardest for my clients but slowing down makes us eat far less.  Plus, eating without distractions prevents mindless munching.
    2. Start with a salad or vegetables.  Front load the good stuff before consuming the carbs and proteins.
    3. Use a smaller plate.  This really helps with portion control.
  3. Reduce stress.  When stressed, we excrete more cortisol which is more concentrated in our belly.  We don't seem to gravitate towards broccoli when stressed.
    1. Exercise is my stress reliever.  Have you found yours (that is also healthy)?
    2. Gratitude.  Starting my day with gratitude has really changed my attitude on life and myself.  Find your peace.
    3. Let It Go!  It's hard not to sing that since the Frozen movie especially because my daughter sings it all the time.  How do you let go of things you can't control? 

In my office, we address all three but it seems that for most people, we focus on stress and mental health.  When we resolve the underlying stressors, eating well and exercising comes naturally.  I suppose, self-care comes with peace and self-love.  I'd love to support you.  

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.   

~ Samantha Hua, Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach, San Diego, CA  

Cooking Without a Recipe

May 15, 2019

The part about my job that I dread the most is coming up with recipes.  I know that sounds ridiculous considering that my main focus is getting people to cook.

I just love cooking without reading and measuring.  It's so much more fun and for me, less stressful.  Maybe if we walked through the process step-by-step, you'll get excited about cooking without recipes too.

  1. What am I making?  A bowl, a soup, a stir-fry, a "compartmentalized" meal (separated carb, protein, veggies)?
  2. What's my protein?  Beans, tofu, chicken, fish, seafood, turkey, red meat, etc.?
  3. What are my vegetables?  Often time, it's whatever is in my fridge or what might blend well together.
  4. What's my complex carb?  Quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, pasta, soba noodles, barley, etc.?
  5. What country am I cooking?  This helps me figure out the herbs to use.  I always start with onion and garlic sauteed in oil. Below are just a few examples:

Mexican: Chili, cumin, cilantro, oregano, onions 

Italian: Garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary

Chinese: Ginger, star anise, red chili pepper, sesame, garlic

Thai: Basil, Chili, peppers, garlic, turmeric, lemon grass

Indian: Chili, saffron, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom

Moroccan: Turmeric, paprika, cumin, cinnamon 

What if we made cooking that easy?  We blend together all the ingredients we like, pretend we are traveling, and voila...delicious (because you only put in ingredients you love).  I recognize that recipes help to explore/expand and help us feel more comfortable in the kitchen.  Once we get the hang of it, be creative.  Eat mother nature's ingredients that you love.

Get some ideas with these simple free videos:  https://happyfoodhealth.com/healthy-cooking-videos/

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.