Cardio versus Weight Training

Shannon Smyth
Cardio vs weight training, which is better? #weightloss #exercise #fitness Cardio or weight training, which is better? Both have many benefits. It also depends on what you hope to achieve from your workout plan. Women often feel that weight training will make them bulk up, but that's not true when specific training is done to create lean muscle instead.

The Benefits of Each Workout

Cardio workouts are recommended because they improve cardiovascular health, but the health benefits don’t stop there. Cardio workouts are also great for lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar, reducing asthma symptoms, reducing chronic pain, aiding in sleep, helping with weight loss, improving the immune system, and boosting brain power and mood. Best of all, cardio workouts are affordable to anyone and can be done by almost any age group. Examples of cardio workouts including brisk walking, swimming, jogging, running, cycling, playing sports, and even heavy cleaning and gardening. Weight training has its own set of benefits. As we age, muscle mass can turn to fat. Weight training helps ensure your muscles stay muscles. It can also give you the strength and stamina to work harder and for longer. It’s not without its health benefits either. Weight training improves bone density and strengthens connective tissue, muscles, and tendons.

The Right Plan for Your Needs

What’s your goal? If you’re trying to improve your health and lose weight, cardio is definitely the way to go. It is recommended that you do 2 to 3 intense cardio sessions per week to lose weight. On the other hand, if you’re concerned about toning your muscles and making your body stronger to prevent injury, weight training is the best option. If you have arthritis or mobility issues, resistance cords may be of benefit to you.

How You Can Benefit from Both

Alternately doing cardio and weight training is the best way to drop the pounds while toning up, strengthening and sculpting your body. Each of these workouts complements each other. What you won't get from cardio, you can get from weight training and vice versa. As you can see, it’s not so much a question of if you should do one or the other, but why you aren’t doing both. Both forms of exercise can help your body. Cardio focuses on everything from your heart to your immune system while weight training helps you get stronger so that you’re less likely to injury yourself. Everyone can benefit from both. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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Medifast Results, Cost and Review

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. Opinions are my own.

I began my Medifast journey in October and followed it for 3 months. I remained realistic about losing weight for my age (40's) throughout the whole process and learned a whole lot. As I'm typing this and critiquing my before and after photo, my 16 year old came up behind me and said, "Wow, that's a big difference." To me, the most noticeable difference is when I look at my side profile before and afters and it makes me realize that hard work has paid off. Before and After pics on the Medifast Go program via @agirlsgottaspa. Happy with the inches lost so far! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Before and after pics on Medifast Go via @agirlsgottaspa. Inches lost are obvious! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Then I started looking at pictures of me from the holidays and for once, I am happy with how I look. Typically when I take a photo, I'd say "Only take it from mid-chest up" because I was embarrassed about my weight (do you do this, too?) But you can tell from the smile on my face that I genuinely felt confident in my own skin. See for yourself:

So happy with my #medifast results! #sponsored #weightloss #dietingMy brother and I when I visited him in Utah.

An "ugly sweater" that made me look super cute!

My husband and my boys!

My final results were that I lost 6 pounds and 14 inches. I think you can see from the photos that 14 inches lost makes a big difference! I mainly lost it in my bust, waist, hips and butt. I literally pulled my belt so tight that I had to create new holes just to keep my jeans up! Some things I have learned is what Medifast is really like - the food is good, it sets you up for success and it's not as difficult as it seems. I learned that you can absolutely discover new ways to maintain your diet through the holidays, but that if you have a momentary lapse in judgement due to complete temptation, that you can still sometimes cheat on your diet and lose weight. Lastly, I learned that any time of year can be your motivation to lose weight, not just January 1st. I'm really happy with my results over 3 months and to be honest, it's given me the boost I need to keep going. If you jump onboard, I strongly encourage you to take pictures of yourself along the way. You look at yourself every day and may not realize the weight melting away in different places on your body. But slap up a side by side, and just like me, you'll notice that it is all making a difference. Try 30 days of Medifast with 7 Days of Free Meals included in the first month's order with a renewal plan. Offer expires April 30, 2018 or get $15 Off orders of $150+ with promo code SAVINGS15 at checkout! Some exclusions apply. Offer expires April 30, 2018. Leave a comment and tell me how you did! Here's the complete journey: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? 5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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Any Time of Year Can be Your "January" to Kick Off Your Weight Loss Journey

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All opinions are my own. Any time can be your "January" to kick off your weight loss journey via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #diet #weightlossgoals

The first month of the year is synonymous with getting back in the gym, joining a weight loss program and making a resolution for better health. It's viewed as being the month of new beginnings, fresh starts and a clean slate. But for all of the motivation and energy January brings, February and March usually see a sharp decline in momentum. Maybe we set unrealistic goals and are frustrated at the lack of progress achieving them. Maybe it's not as easy as you thought it would be. Maybe real life got in the way. All I know is that I have experienced each one of these hypotheticals myself. Have you? The thing is, no matter what month or season it is, any time can be your January. Why? Because you deserve to be healthy. You deserve to feel better about yourself. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. And you know what? You can decide to make that happen whenever you choose, not when society dictates it. In March, in the middle of a hot August day or right after you have over-stuffed yourself on that secret stash of Halloween candy you've been hiding from everyone. You deserve to say, the time is right now. In fact, I made October of last year my January and began the Medifast Go weight loss program. People thought I was crazy since it was the season of food. Wouldn't I miss out on all of those glorious meals and treats? Wouldn't I feel deprived and miserable? It made me worry, too... can I really do this? But Medifast Go taught me a lot. It's really not just about meal replacement bars, shakes and ready-made meals. If your diet plan makes food the focus, then you're on the wrong weight loss plan... because what happens once you stop? Why, the weight comes back of course. While obviously Medifast's food is the basis for their program, it is not the foundation. Wait, what? The foundation of Medifast is education. This education propels you forward in making a lifestyle change that sticks because it is a guide in understanding food and yourself.  With my month's shipment of meals came a cook book, one that is filled with savory and sweet recipes for a large variety of food. It also showed how to incorporate your Medifast meals into it to really switch things up. I personally am not creative when it comes to the kitchen and let's face it, there's only so many times you can eat soup. The cook book is one of the ways Medifast sets you on the path to success. Then there's the booklet for dining out. It literally lists every chain and popular restaurant you can imagine and tells you which meals you can order to keep you on track. This booklet has been a staple for me because my family only eats out on weekends. And when I want to order from a locally owned restaurant, I simply find a similar menu item on the list. They really make it easy for you. Lastly, there's the food journal, which really makes you accountable to yourself to help you keep on track. Combining these tools with the food you'll be eating aid in changing how you eat going forward. I don't know about you, but it's not neccessarily food that is my problem, but the way in which I eat. My mindset, habits and lifestyle choices. I value a program like Medifast Go that takes those things into account and makes them an important piece of their plan. Before and After pics on the Medifast Go program via @agirlsgottaspa. Happy with the inches lost so far! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet Before and after pics on Medifast Go via @agirlsgottaspa. Inches lost are obvious! #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment (and I'd love to know which month you're making your January!) You can also follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? 5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now Try 30 days of Medifast with 7 Days of Free Meals included in the first month's order with a renewal plan. Offer expires April 30, 2018 or get $15 Off orders of $150+ with promo code SAVINGS15 at checkout! Some exclusions apply. Offer expires April 30, 2018. *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 5 ways you get can on the path to losing weight right now via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #weightloss #diet

(Medifast Cappuccino - so super delish)

I hate the word diet. Diet, to me, means going without. When you go without then that is all you can focus on. Can't eat chocolate? Now I want ALL the chocolate every chance I can get. Can't go out to that favorite restaurant? Now I want to camp out and basically live there. I prefer to look at weight loss as a lifestyle change. Lifestyles changes are permanent, diets are temporary. Whether or not you have the money to join a weight loss plan to make that lifestyle change (see below for some discounts for Medifast Go that might help), there are 5 things you can start doing right now to set you on the right path to lose weight. Eat a high-protein breakfast Protein is like the golden child of every weight loss plan. It boosts your metabolism, decreases hunger and as you are losing weight, adds lean muscle. Of course, you don't have to just eat protein, you can drink it, too. Eat small meals every few hours Eating smaller, healthy meals several times a day helps to maintain your blood sugar at a consistent level helping you to avoid energy crashes. It also means you feel full longer decreasing your chances or excessive snacking. Psychologically speaking, you may think that eating more often means you'll gain weight, but as long as it is low calorie, low fat, high protein and minerals, then it is much better than the potential for eating 3 large meals and snacking in between - because let's be honest here, snacking is what often does us in. Decrease Stress Easier said than done, but it's well known that stress can pack on the pounds. If you don't incorporate any form of stress management techniques into your day, then there is no time like now to do things like: download the Calm app to your phone, start going to bed earlier, learning basic yoga, meditation and even just exercising for 30 minutes a day. Some days just chasing my two year old around from room to room for 30 minutes straight and making a game of it counts as my exercise for the day - and it boosts both our moods, too. Drink water before and after meals I'm not a fan of water, however I've come to not mind it as much when adding Medifast's Calorie Burn Mixed Berry Flavor Infuser (it tastes so good!) Drinking water a half hour before a meal acts as an appetite suppressant because you feel fuller prior to your meal, helping you to either eat less or just the proper portion size. Since water has no calories (the flavor infuser I mentioned is only 5 calories btw), you avoid loading up on empty calories that would only contribute to weight gain. Decrease sugar and starch Oh the addiction to sugar is real my friends. Sugar gives you temporary pleasure, but then converts to fat and you have to work that much harder to lose it. Starchy foods also convert to sugar. When you significantly reduce them both, you'll begin to notice the pounds start to melt away. I say reduce because in the real world cutting them out entirely simply means you'll find a way to sneak them and overindulge. All of the above are steps you can take starting today to start your weight loss journey. There's no magic potion, only a committment to becoming healthy. I'm cheering you on! You can also follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? If you’re interested in joining me on this journey, you can get 7 days of free Medifast meals + bonus gifts + free shipping on your the first order as part of the renewal plan. Or for a limited time you can get 20% off any order of $300 or more + Free Shipping with promo code BIGDEAL20! Valid December 26, 2017 through January 2, 2018 at Midnight ET. *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight?

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own. So you cheated on your diet, now what? Tips to keep moving forward via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet #motivation

The temptation is all too real. You're trying your best to lose weight and get back on track to being healthy, when you get thrown off your routine with an invitation out to dinner, a get-together with friends or just grocery shopping while hungry. It's happened to the best of us - we've all been there. So you've cheated on your diet, now what? It's time to be real, but not give up. Be Honest with Yourself Changing a lifestyle is hard work. If it were easy, everyone would be their ideal weight without any issue. We all have our vices (mine is chocolate and fried food.) Don't fall victim to all of those "I lost 26 pounds in two weeks" stories that are vapid throughout the interwebs. It's not realistic, it's unhealthy and it's why there is always a disclaimer with the average weight loss in small print. "Results are not typical." Just because you strayed off your diet program here and there is no reason to lose hope. Just behonest with yourself and try again. Allow Yourself a Cheat Night Notice I didn't say "day." I don't believe in throwing away an entire day of indulging in fattening foods so that I stay on track the other 6 days. I do allow myself once per week to eat something I'd like - within reason. If we go out to dinner, I'll typically order salmon or chicken, most times those meals come with rice. Rice is another favorite of mine. So I might eat some rice. Or allow myself to eat 1-2 chocolate chip cookies when I make them with my kids. It's about giving in just enough to satiate your craving without going overboard (e.g. eating an entire loaded sundae when a baby cone would be enough.) You'll find that if you give yourself permission, it takes away the constant desire to do it. So you cheated on your diet, now what? Tips to keep moving forward via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #weightlossjourney #diet #motivation Pick Up Where You Left Off I'm doing Medifast Go, so that means I eat every two hours 6 times a day. When I give myself permission for a cheat night, I pick right back up on my routine the next morning. I don't lament on how many carbs, calories or fat I consumed and wallow in it. I don't beat myself up. I don't tell myself I just threw away 8 weeks of dieting. I admit, when I see an increase on the scale I feel disappointed, who wouldn't? But I do have to remind myself to keep pushing forward, keep exercising and that inch loss still counts! Now will you continue to lose weight if you cheat on your diet? If you follow my above tips, you should be OK. So far I have only gained back one pound in the two months that I have been on this weight loss journey, but as I continue to get back on track, exercise and not go completely crazy, my inches continue to melt away. I haven't lost sight of my goal. You shouldn't either. Now for my 8 week stats: Starting: Weight: 183 lbs BMI: 35.7% (I’m 5′) Bust: 43″ Waist: 44″ Hips: 46″ Butt: 47″ Arm: 13″ Legs: 25″ Neck: 13.5″ Eight week mark: Weight: 177.5 BMI: 34.7% Bust: 41″ Waist: 41″ Hips: 43″ Butt: 44″ Arm: 12″ Legs: 24″ Neck: 13″ TOTAL:  5.5 lbs lost, 1% BMI loss, and  13.5 inches lost. Follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays If you’re interested in joining me on this journey, you can get 7 days of free Medifast meals + bonus gifts + free shipping on your the first order as part of the renewal plan. If you’ve already worked this weight loss program with success, I would love your encouragement and tips in the comments! *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Or check out our natural bath and body line!

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How to Stick to Your Diet During the Holidays

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

How to stick to your #diet during the #holidays! Check out these delicious #recipes! via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #weightloss The holidays bring on the greatest tests of will power, especially when on you have been following a weight loss plan. Every chocolate dessert or new trendy coffee seem that much more tempting when you know they are forbidden. When choosing to jump on board Medifast Go, I was very much aware that I would be hitting every major holiday along the way. I kept feeling bouts of sadness that I wouldn't be able to partake in a cookie exchange or eat two helpings of my mom's famous chocolate trifle. What would I do when invited to a holiday party? It was completely stressing me out. And this is when any other time I'd fall off the wagon. You, too? But I chose to switch up my mindset and keep reminding myself that I am doing this to sustain the life of someone else (kidney donation if you haven't followed from the beginning) and so giving up is not an option. Someone's life depends on me. Then I remembered that Medifast has so many awesome Meal Makeovers in their Simply Well cookbook and on their blog. Below are a few holiday-themed recipes from Medifast that will not only keep you on track with your weight loss goals, but they taste soooo good! Pumpkin Spiced Latte 1 Medifast Meal | 2½ Condiments Yield: 1 serving Total Time: 5 minutes Ingredients ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk 2 Tbsp pumpkin puree ½ cup strong brewed coffee 1 packet of Medifast® Gingerbread Softbake Directions Combine milk and pumpkin puree in a microwave-safe mug. Microwave for one minute, and stir. Add coffee and the Gingerbread Softbake, and stir until smooth. Serve immediately! #Holiday #recipes (like Gingerbread waffles) - and how to stick to your diet during the fall season! via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #medifast #yum Pumpkin Pie Whoopie Pies Yield: 4 servings (2 whoopie pies per serving) Per serving: 1 Medifast Meal | ½ Healthy Fat | 3 Condiments Ingredients 2 packets Medifast Spiced Pancakes 2 packet Medifast Gingerbread Soft Bake ½ tsp baking powder 6 Tbsp egg whites ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk 2 tsp vegetable oil ½ cup whipped topping ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice Cooking spray Directions Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine pancake mixture, soft bake mixture and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl. Add egg whites, milk, and oil, and mix until a batter-like consistency. Divide batter evenly among eight slots of a lightly-greased muffin tin (should fill only a third of each slot). Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Meanwhile, combine whipped topping and pumpkin pie spice. Once cooled, slice each muffin in half horizontally. Spread one tablespoon of whipped topping on the bottom half of each muffin, and top with the remaining muffin halves. Cauliflower Rice Stuffing Yield: 2 servings Per serving: 3 Green | 2 Healthy Fats | 3 Condiments Ingredients 1 Tbsp unsalted butter 1 cup diced celery 1 cup diced mushrooms 1/3 cup diced yellow onion 2 oz chopped walnuts 4 cups riced cauliflower ½ cup chicken stock 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary ½ Tbsp poultry seasoning ½ tsp salt Directions Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, mushrooms, onion, and walnuts. Sauté for five minutes. Add cauliflower rice, sauté for an additional two minutes. Add stock and seasoning; mix well. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Frozen Pumpkin Shake Per serving: 1 Medifast Meal | 1 1/2 Condiments Ingredients 1 Medifast Vanilla Shake 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice 1/4 tsp cinammon 1/2 cup cold water 1/2 cup ice Directions Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. The bottom line is that age old saying - everything in moderation. Adjust recipes to make them healthier, don't over-eat and eat smaller portion sizes. You'll thank yourself once the holidays are over and you may just find some really grest recipes that continue past the holidays and find their way into your everyday diet. Now for my 6 week stats – Starting: Weight: 183 lbs BMI: 35.7% (I’m 5′) Bust: 43″ Waist: 44″ Hips: 46″ Butt: 47″ Arm: 13″ Legs: 25″ Neck: 13.5″ Six week mark: Weight: 176.5 BMI: 34.5% Bust: 42″ Waist: 41″ Hips: 43″ Butt: 44″ Arm: 12″ Legs: 24″ Neck: 13.5″ TOTAL:  6.5 lbs lost, 1.2% BMI loss, and  12 inches lost. Follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works If you’re interested in joining me on this journey, you can get 7 days of free Medifast meals + bonus gifts + free shipping on your the first order as part of the renewal plan. If you’ve already worked this weight loss program with success, I would love your encouragement and tips in the comments! *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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How Medifast Works

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

How Medifast Works via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #weightloss #mediafast #diet

(Bars left to right - S'mores, Caramel Crunch, Cookie Dough and Lemon Meringue)

There are a plethora of weight loss programs out there. Equally as such, there will always be both positive and negative reviews. Prior to joining the Medifast Go diet plan, I wasn't exactly sure how it worked. Obviously I knew you ate their food, and I saw an abundance of amazing before and after photos, but I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Now 4 weeks in and I have a good handle on how it works.

Getting Started with Medifast:

Select your food. It's not all meal bars (although the above photo of them are some of my faves.) For a 30 day supply on Medifast Go, you select 22 boxes of Medifast Meals and 5 boxes of Flavors of Home. There are 7 meals per box. The meal boxes are the foods you will eat 5 times per day, and Flavors of Home are your one "lean and green meal." The lean and green meal contains protein and your 3 servings of veggies. Right now my two faves are Chicken and Rice and Beef Stew. Your lean and green meal does not need to be dinner. If you want to eat it for lunch, you can, and just eat one of the Medifast Meals for dinner.  As for the regular meals, these consist of bars, chocolate chip pancakes, cereal, Gingerbread Soft Bake, shakes and ready-to-go drinks, meal options like Beef Soup, Vegetable Chili, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and then "snacks" like BBQ Bites and Cinnamon Pretzel Sticks.  There's obviously a lot more to choose from, so you have a lot of options and diversity. The great thing about all of the meals is that they are nutritionally all the same (except Flavors of Home.) The same calories, protein, vitamins and minerals and all are low in fat. That means you can eat oatmeal at lunch or for your mid-afternoon snack, or if you're feeling that sweet tooth earlier in the day, the Caramel Crunch Bar is perfect. Oh and least I forget one of the additional items I discovered - their Flavor Enhancers! You need to increase your water intake and if you are anything like me, you're like no thanks, because water is meh. I usually add a freshly cut lemon slice, but started using the Calorie Burn Mixed Berry Flavor Infuser. OMG so good! There's been a definite increase in my water consumption since I started using it. 21 packets come in each box. How Medifast works via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #weightloss #diet

Gingerbread Soft Bake

Exercise on Medifast

While you should lose weight from reigning in your caloric intake, cutting down on sugar, fat and carbs, this isn't a miracle diet plan or "an easy way to lose weight without exercise!" During my research I actually saw that as a pitch of many reps and reviewers. However, Medifast does not at any time in its tips or literature tell you that you don't have to exercise. They do tell you to start slowly if you've never really been active, but they encourage you to exercise to complement, and many times, to help expedite weight loss. Of course, exercise helps you to tone up too, which you'll want to do as the pounds melt away to avoid loose, sagging skin. Here's what I do - aim to meet my 6500 steps per day goal (I work from home, so this is actually a high number for me), I'll either jog for 15 minutes or do a HIIT workout for 15 minutes (there are a bunch on YouTube) and then I do about 5-10 minutes of planks, push-ups and side twists (again, YouTube is your best friend for this.) I try to mix it up each day so that I don't get bored.

Cook Your Own Food on Medifast

You are not "confined" all day to strictly eating Medifast meals. You can choose to cook your protein and veggies from your own storebought items instead of eating a Flavors of Home meal. I do this quite often, actually, because I don't want to get into the habit of not cooking healthy meals for myself. I want it to become a habit of shopping the produce aisle, choosing the meat or fish item and learning a recipe (their Simply Well Cookbook is bomb and lends lots of ideas!) Cooking my lean and green meal has actually become my favorite part of the day. While cooking my family dinner, I also make my meals (which I'll often hear how good it smells.) The Simply Well Cookbook has become a trusted friend, so far I've made Shrimp Scampi (where linguini is swapped out and replaced with spaghetti squash), Hamburger Mac and Cheese and Chicken and Rice Stuffed Peppers. I also love making salmon with spinach, mushrooms and broccoli in a skillet. Making your own lean and green meals can also help you to avoid the dreaded "backing up" that I mentioned in my last post. How Medifast works via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored #weightloss #diet

Don't Miss Out on Dining Out

Wait, what? You can actually eat out and get take-out on Medifast? Oh, yes you can! One of my biggest anxieties was around my family's love of weekend take-out and restaurant hopping. My husband and I work really long days, so come Friday through Sunday, we do not want to cook. In my initial shipment, I received a Dining Out Guide. It not only gives you lots of tips when eating out, it tells you what to look for and avoid with different cuisines. Then it goes on to list, by restaurant chain name, which meals from their menu keep you in line with your weight loss plan. Some are Applebees, IHOP, Chili's, Outback, T.G.I Friday's, etc. From reviewing the options, it has helped me to decipher the menus of the locally owned restuarants in my area, as well. For example, when my family orders pizza, I can order their Chicken Caesar Salad (no croutons.) And no, you are not just eating rabbit food, there are also seafood, chicken and beef items listed for each restaurant as well. Just choose to load up on non-carb/non-starchy veggies and eat a smaller portion of the meal and take the rest home. And this is what I love - the Medifast Go plan is both convenient and non-limiting. So far it's working for me and is really also helping me to become more mindful when I grocery shop and when I eat out. My 4 week stats - Starting: Weight: 183 lbs BMI: 35.7% (I’m 5′) Bust: 43″ Waist: 44″ Hips: 46″ Butt: 47″ Arm: 13″ Legs: 25″ Neck: 13.5″ Four week mark: Weight: 178.5 BMI: 34.9% Bust: 42″ Waist: 42″ Hips: 44″ Butt: 44″ Arm: 12.5″ Legs: 24″ Neck: 12.5″ TOTAL:  4.5 lbs lost, 0.8% BMI loss, and  10.5 inches lost. While I may not have lost a lot of weight in one month (and yes, I am disappointed but blame myself), the inch loss has made a difference in how my pants fit. They are definitely much looser and have me at an in between size. I'm determined to work harder for month two to decrease my inches and weight loss. Follow my journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like If you’ve already worked this weight loss program with success, I would love your encouragement and tips in the comments! *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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What the First 2 Weeks on Medifast are *Really* Like

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Prior to going on this Medifast weightloss journey, I did a lot of research. And I mean, months of research.

I'm not the type of person to make any decision without first looking into it. This diet was one of them.

Maybe you are doing the same thing right now and that's why you're here. You're wondering, "Do people really lose weight and inches fast?" "What's the catch?" "What does Medifast food taste like?" "Are there really ALL positive results?"

Article after article that I came upon boasted fast and dramatic weight loss. It was awe-inspiring and aspirational, but it was also unbelieveable. Both wow! and really? (said in my skeptical tone of voice) at the same time.

Having gotten two weeks under my belt I'm going to get real with you and explain what it's really like to be on this weight loss plan for these first few weeks. I'll break it down question by question. What the first two week on Medifast are really like via @agirlsgottaspa - get 7 days of free Medifast meals + bonus gifts + free shipping your the first order! #mediafast #weightloss What does Medifast food taste like?

I'll be honest, I didn't expect to like every single item I chose for my first month. However, I've been pleasantly surprised. I don't hate everything, and I actually really do have some favorites. I LOVE the Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Cereal Crunch. I typically eat cereal every morning normally and was worried that this cereal would be blah - but it so TASTY. Like so much so that I could probably eat it a few times a day.

Typically, I would also overfill my bowl if I loved a cereal and it has been difficult getting used to normal portion sizes, especially eating something that tastes so good.

The chocolate chip pancakes taste good, but there is a bit of a learning curve with adding the right amount of water for the type of pancake texture I like. I'm getting better at it though.

The maple and brown sugar oatmeal is delicious and I always add a dash of fresh cinnamon to it for extra flavor.

What it really like on the Medifast diet via @agirlsgottaspa #sponsored

All of the bars I have tried so far (cookie dough, fruit & nut, strawberry crunch and chocolate mint) are all good. They are small and at first you will want to cry over their size. But this gets easier as your body gets used to eating small in 2 hour increments.

Chicken noodle soup, vegetable chili (I add a pinch of shredded cheese to it), chicken and rice soup and the mashed potatoes are also really good. Despite it being powder and freeze dried, they're actually quite flavorful.

The strawberry and chocolate shakes are yum. Sometimes I just blend them with ice in a shaker, and sometimes I make it more like a cold treat by blending ice in my blender to thicken it up and then adding the shake mix.

The parmesan and olive oil crisps taste like the real deal. There's nothing diet or fake about them.

I've never eaten anything with lemongrass before so the lemongrass chicken had an unexpected kick to it - but it was good.

The chocolate mint soft serve and chocolate pudding also taste very real (and their portion size is actually pretty big.)

Wondering what the first two weeks on Medifast are really like? We give you honest answers. #medifast #diet #weightloss

Do you really lose weight fast with Medifast?

I certainly asked this. Multiple times.

What I didn't realize is that weight loss is due to a number of circumstances. For one, if you are a female in your 20's, then look at other female 20 year olds that have done this diet to see what would be realistic for you. If you are 30, look at someone who is 30. If you're a female in your 40's, then watch my journey.

Here's the thing - the younger you are, the easier it is to lose the weight "fast". The older you get, the slower it comes off.

Men also lose weight faster and differently than women. You can't be 40 looking at the before and afters of a 20 year old and you can't be a woman comparing the weight loss of a man. There's just no comparison.

Weight loss also depends on activity level. You can't follow the diet but never exercise and expect to look great. I've had to make lifestyle changes. I now do a HIIT workout for 10-15 minutes every morning and I try my best to reach my 6500 steps a day goal. This may not sound like much, but I want to start slow and build up from there. And this is because you need to know yourself.

For me, working out for 45 minutes every morning is not something I have much interest in, let alone time. I need the kickstart to get me in the right mindset. It's always better to start small and increase it with time, than to go all in and burn out quickly.

OK, and here is the other thing and may be TMI for you, but if you are considering this plan then you need to know. The food binds you up. And when that happens (and it will happen), this too plays a role in the number you see on the scale.

My tip is to increase your water intake (which should also help with hunger pains) and make sure your lean and green meal has roughage veggies like zucchini to help avoid this issue altogether. (Trust me, lesson learned!)

The other thing you can't forget is that inch loss counts, too. That number on the scale may not move as quickly as you'd like it to, but as long as you are losing those inches, then you are still on track to be choosing a smaller dress size soon enough!

Will I feel hungry on Medifast?

I'm not going to lie here, there are days when all I can think are, "OMG I'm going to die from starvation!" (said in my very dramatic, over-exaggerated voice that my family knows me for.)

There are times when I keep asking Alexa how much time is left on my 2 hour timer and feeling complete relief when I hear "10 seconds."

I absolutely look forward to my lean & green meal at dinner time every night because this is when I'm able to eat a protein and 3 servings of vegetables. (So it feels like I am eating a lot.) I choose to cook for this meal because I don't want to get in the habit of not figuring out portion and nutrition on my own.

I was able to get my hands on their Simply Well cookbook and it is AMAZING. So many interesting recipes that I would've never thought of on my own.

For example, tonight I made a Makeover Meal. This is where you mix a Medifast meal with food you buy at your local market. I chose to make the Chicken and Rice Stuffed Pepppers. I just mixed the Medifast chicken and rice soup with 2 eggs and split the mixture between two red peppers and baked them for 30 minutes.  It was so good and so filling.

So do you feel hungry on this diet? Yes and no. It definitely takes some getting used to, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and I think my body is, too.

Here's my stats so far:

Starting: Weight: 183 lbs BMI: 35.7% (I'm 5') Bust: 43" Waist: 44" Hips: 46" Butt: 47" Arm: 13" Legs: 25" Neck: 13.5"

Two week mark Weight: 178.5 BMI: 34.9% Bust: 42" Waist: 42" Hips: 44" Butt: 45" Arm: 12.5" Legs: 25" Neck: 13"

TOTAL: 4.5 lbs lost, 0.8% BMI loss, and 9 inches lost.

Follow my weight loss journey from the beginning: How to Lose Weight At Home

*Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks.

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How To Lose Weight at Home

Shannon Smyth

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medifast. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

How to lose weight at home via @agirlsgottaspa About this time last year, I began researching how to become a living kidney donor. I knew I was in good health, I was fairly confident I would pass every physical and psychological test, but what I didn't know was that my weight would be my biggest obstacle. Fast forward to a few months ago and me sobbing into the phone while the Living Kidney Donor Coordinator explained to me that my weight needed to drop and my A1c needed to lower (they are tied to each other, so when the weight drops, typically your A1c does as well), and until then, I wasn't going to be able to proceed with the living donation process. After 3 months of going through test after test, I ugly cried, so thank God she couldn't see me. I was all in for this donation process and now my sweet tooth was catching up with me and preventing me from doing something for someone else. I tried completely overhauling how I ate. I got a FitBit and set goals for sleep, steps and activity. I started working out. However, it took me 4 months just to lose 12 pounds. Friends urged me to get a thyroid test and check to see if I was insulin resistent. Both came back completely normal. I went to a dietician who was completely stumped. I was doing everything she would recommend. She only saw me once because she felt I knew what to do, even though it wasn't moving the needle on the scale. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. I slowly began to fall back into my old eating habits and the 12 pounds came back. I felt defeated. I hated how I looked, no doubt, but I felt even more awful that I couldn't donate to someone in need. Over the last few months I noticed that my Pastor became a Medifast rep. He lost a lot of weight and looks great. Others in my church have also done the program and looked great. However, if being skeptical was a full time sport, then I was in the game. So I did my research. A few times a week during my downtime, I would look up various aspects of the program, as well as, before and after stories from those who had done it themselves. Working 50 hours a week and managing a household of 7 means I don't have time to go to the gym. I also don't have time to do weight loss meetings. Trying to figure out what it will take to make me lose enough weight to begin the living donor process again is overwhelming and exhausting. So, when the opportunity came before me to try Medifast Go, I decided to go for it. How to lose weight at home with Medifast Go via @agirlsgottaspa I know that in order to lose weight from home, I have to be organized. I'm going to be honest, I love that the meals are basically grab-n-go and that I don't need to think if something has too much fat, is too high carb or if it lacks the macronutrients I need. However, there's still things I need to do to ensure success. Be Realistic When I ordered the food, I did so thinking ahead to when I go into maintanence. I like to eat things that taste sweet, I love chocolate, but I also like savory items. So the food I ordered matched that vs trying to act like I was going to cut out all "treats" and be super good. I know me, and I would perseverate on those "missing" treats and likely cheat. The Medifast Go program even has chocolate chip pancakes - something we eat once or twice a month in my house. Additionally, be realistic about every aspect of real life while doing this weight loss program. For example, can you do 45 minutes a day of exercise? For me, that's mostly unrealistic, but 10-15 minutes of HIIT is doable. Set a Goal I actually have two weight loss goals - my "ideal" and my "realistic" goal. Ideally, I'd like to lose 70 pounds. Realistically, I'd be OK with losing 30. This helps you to set your expectations. Set a goal when it comes to your daily activity. I work at home from my desk, so this sedentary job makes it difficult to get in 10K steps daily, but 6500 is more realistic. (I tested my baseline one day and it was 1500 steps. So pathetic.) I can make sure I get there by adding in some fitness before I start my work day. Plan Plan your day the night before. Decide what time you will start eating and which meals you will eat. The Medifast Go plan requires eating 6 times a day. I'm lucky if I can remember to eat 3 times a day. Spacing out eating every 2-3 hours requires advanced planning. One thing that comes in handy? My Alexa Dot. I simply tell Alexa to set a timer for 2 hours from the time I first eat. Each time I eat, I tell her to reset the time. This keeps me on track. (You can also ask, "Alexa, how much time is left until my timer goes off?" and she'll tell you.) Keep a Weight Loss Journal Keeping track of what you eat, your exercise, your weight and measurements will help to keep you accountable and on track. And as you begin to lose weight and inches, you'll stay motivated. Today I started this program and I will be doing it for the next 3 months. I'll be checking in every few weeks to update you on my progress. It is my hope that by the end I can say I'm moving forward with the living donor tests so that I can donate my kidney. Try 30 days of Medifast with 7 Days of Free Meals included in the first month's order with a renewal plan. Offer expires April 30, 2018 or get $15 Off orders of $150+ with promo code SAVINGS15 at checkout! Some exclusions apply. Offer expires April 30, 2018If you've already worked this weight loss program with success, I would love your encouragement and tips in the comments! How to Lose Weight at Home What the First Few Weeks on Medifast are Really Like How Medifast Works How to Stick To Your Diet During the Holidays Can You Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight? 5 Tips to Lose Weight Right Now *Average weight loss for Medifast Direct® customers using Medifast Go™ is 11 pounds. Medifast Direct customers are in weight loss, on average, for 8 weeks. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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Can You Lower Your A1C with Diet and Exercise?

Shannon Smyth

If you just received test results back from your doctor and he/she has indicated that you have an elevated HbA1C (or A1c for short), you may be wondering what that means and just what you can do to lower it to within normal range.

Back in December I decided I wanted to be a Living Kidney Donor. I'm at a point in my life where I'm no longer satisfied with just living a basic life. I want to do more, see more and touch more lives before my time is up.

To become a candidate for living kidney donation you have to go through a battery of tests over the course of several months. The very first round of bloodwork includes testing your HbA1C level to determine if you have diabetes or are considered "pre-diabetic."

Obviously you don't have to be looking to donate a kidney to have this test done, as it's something your doctor will do when you have blood sugar issues. Mine was in the pre-diabetic range (5.8%) and it left me trying to figure it out what I needed to do to lower it.

What is HbA1C?

Dr. Manisha Ghei of Praana Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Center, PLLC told me that, "HbA1C is a test of hemoglobin glycation and hemoglobin is present inside our Red Blood Cells (RBCs). Our RBCs regenerate every 120 days so it will take A1C approximately 3 months to change. A1c is a test of average long-term blood sugar control over the three months prior to the date of the blood test."

Think about what you eat over the course of 3 months. Do you have a few "bad days" where you emotionally eat or go on a chocolate and fried food binge? No? Just me? Well for those of you not in the big fat liars club, Dr. Manisha says that since it is a test of an average of your levels, even a few very high or very low blood sugar readings over the 120 day cycle will unfortunately show up in the average.

Kelli Shallal, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer, further explained that, "Hemoglobin is protein found in the red blood cells which carries oxygen, but in an irreversible process it can bind to sugar in the blood helping lower the free sugar in the blood. The levels will not lower until that red blood cell is replaced, usually every 2-3 months. In the mean time the goal is to prevent this process from occuring in new red blood cells."

How is HbA1C measured?

Stephanie Dunne, Registered Dietitian and Integrative & Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner, told me that hemoglobin A1C measures how much hemoglobin in the blood is glycated, thereby giving an estimate of how much glucose has been in the blood.

This is why the number is reported as a percentage, as it represents the percentage of hemoglobin that is glycated. When you see the A1C number as a percentage, this can be translated to the average blood glucose as follows: 5% A1C = average blood glucose of 97 mg/dL 6% = 126 mg/dL 7% = 154 mg/dL 8% = 183 mg/dL 9% = 212 mg/dL 10% = 240 mg/dL

The reason A1C is a better measure of long-term blood glucose levels than a simple fasting blood glucose number is because a single number only tells you what is happening in that moment. As the body becomes resistant to insulin (also known as prediabetic), the fasting blood glucose number may still be normal, but the A1C number may be inching up as the blood glucose level rises after meals.

The A1C number tells us what's happening over a period of time. A normal A1C is anything under 5.7%. A level of 5.8 - 6.4% is considered pre-diabetic and above that means you either have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

What's the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, Dr. Manisha explains, is an auto-immune condition where the body's immune system starts attacking itself, specifically the pancreas in this case, so eventually there is absolutely no production of insulin from the pancreas. This leads to severe elevation of blood sugars due to inability of the cells to take in sugar unless an external source of insulin is provided to the patient.

This disease usually presents in childhood or young adulthood. Treatment with insulin becomes an absolute necessity for survival. Conventional medicine has no treatment for reversal of this disease.

She told me that Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes. It is not an autoimmune disease and usually, but not always, presents in adulthood, although the incidence of onset during childhood is now on the rise.

This disease starts with cells becoming insulin resistant where they stop responding to insulin and the sugar, though present in high amounts in the blood, cannot enter into our cells and provide energy. Initially this disease can be treated and reversed with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes and if needed, blood sugar lowering oral medications. Gradually over time, the insulin production reduces drastically and insulin treatment may eventually be needed.

Need to lower your A1C? you're going to need to cut out the sugar. via @agirlsgottaspa My A1C is 5.8% and above, how do I lower it?

First and foremost, create a plan of action with your doctor. For me, that meant further testing to see what my insulin level was (e.g. was I insulin resistant) and a thyroid test to see if my thyroid was contributing. Once both of my tests came back in the normal range, my doctor then scheduled me to see a nutritionist.

Dr. Manisha suggests keeping your blood sugar consistently in a near normal range over the 120 day period to get a true picture of the control of your pre-diabetes or diabetes over the three months. That means no binging on your favorite high-sugar, high-carb, high-calorie comfort foods.

Easier said than done, I know.

"Eating clean is the way to go, I avoid all things processed and focus on protein and fat. The majority of my carbs come from vegetables. Also, being that I am a type 1, I correct anything over 120," said Allison Caggia, editorial director of Diabetes Daily and Type 1 Diabetic. "Keeping your blood sugar in range at nighttime is also important. This tight control will definitely be reflected in your A1C."

Allison recommends the app MyFitnessPal to help track macros, nutrients and calories. I recently downloaded this app and was so surprised where sugar, fat and carbs would sneak in. So many things in the app are free and will give you a better understanding of the nutritional value of the food you are eating.

"The first thing to cut out is boxed cereals, white bread, white pasta, desserts, pastries and soda pop," reports Michael Ham of Leisure Guy and Type 2 diabetic. Soda, whether it contains calories or not are to be avoided, "The artificial sweeteners sort of trick the body and also maintain the taste for sweets."

He recommends staying away from all added sugars. Ham also has a "no bites" rule - "I put food into my mouth only at mealtimes and for the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. At all other times, no food allowed, not even a taste of a sample at the grocery store."

Ms. Shallal offered these tips:

1. Limit intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar. Stick to lower glycemic index whole foods such as whole grains, beans, whole potatoes (cooked), and limited quantities of fruit for carbohydrates.

2. Try not to eat more than 30-45 grams of carbohydrates per meal.

3. Never eat a carbohydrate on its own, pair it with a protein or healthy fat.

4. Exercise regularly. Both strength training and cardio are important for promoting pathways that help regulate blood glucose.

Wait, wait, wait did she just say I could eat carbs?

So many friends and family who offered advice told me to nix carbs altogether, including vegetables that are considered starchy, as they'll convert to sugar. But she explained that whole grains and whole potatoes are "whole foods" that also contain fiber that will slow down the blood sugar response and are not the same types of carbs that, say, you get from noshing out on a bag of chips. She reminded me that, "a balanced diet is best for long term weight loss."

How you can lower your A1C with diet and exercise if you are pre-diabetic or a Type 2 diabetic via @agirlsgottaspa Does losing weight help lower your A1C?

Weight loss is directly related to A1C change, Ms. Shallal (and my own doctor) confirmed. In my case, I had been lowering calories, but increased carbs and although I was losing weight, it caused my A1C level to increase to 6%.

The best thing is to aim for balance, protein, healthy fat, and 30-45 grams of fiber rich low glycemic index carbohydrates per meal.

What about fruit? Doesn't fruit contain sugar? Ms. Shallal clarified that fruit is considered a simple carbohydrate and should be eaten in small amounts timed around your workouts. Berries are best, but whichever fruit you choose, eat it in moderation and don't overdo it, but avoid fruit juice and dried fruits.

Once a dietary change is made, it takes 3 months for the A1C to fully adapt. This is because red blood cells live an average of 3 months in the blood stream. As such, after 3 months, every red blood cell will be new and the A1C number will reflect the dietary change.

Of course, all red blood cells are not created or recycled at the same time, so the number will slowly change over the 3 months as the existing red blood cells are recycled and new red blood cells are created, Ms. Dunne explained. She continued that in order to lower the A1C number, a person has to lower the average amount of glucose in the blood for an extended period of time.

What this means is that huge spikes in blood sugar must be avoided as these spikes increase the average over time. The best way to lower blood glucose is to avoid carbohydrate containing foods that are easily digested and absorbed. The faster carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the blood stream, the bigger the blood sugar spike will be.

So as Ms. Shallal mentioned you can eat a simple carb like an apple, or a complex carb like a whole potato because it is also high in fiber. Ms. Dunne advises that if you do consume easily digestible carbohydrate containing foods, be sure to eat other foods that will slow down the overall digestion and absorption process. This includes protein and fat containing foods, or foods high in fiber.

By the way, this is why complex carbs like whole grains and vegetables don't cause a blood sugar spike - the fiber in the food gets in the way of the other carbohydrates being digested and absorbed. But that doesn't mean go tap out on cake and white flour foods like bread and pasta because these are the big no-no's and will cause your blood sugar to spike.

Ms. Dunne explained that if a person changes their diet to have more protein and fat containing foods, as well as carbohydrate containing foods with a lot of water and fiber (like vegetables, fruits and legumes), then the amount of glucose to be absorbed goes down. The reality is that glucose metabolism and insulin production are not simple things, she reminded me.

What causes the A1C level to rise?

Whenever there is excessive amounts of sugar in the blood stream, Dr. Manisha explains, it attaches to hemoglobin in our Red Blood Cells (RBCs). This causes a change in the protein structure of the hemoglobin molecule. We call this change, glycation, and the glycated hemoglobin is the known as Hemoglobin A1C.  

The higher the sugar in the blood, the more it attaches to hemoglobin, thus the higher the HbA1C. "Because we are incredible systems of thousands of interworking parts, there are many things that can cause blood glucose to go up," Ms. Dunne explained.

Some other factors that can cause an A1C number specifically to increase are:

  • Pregnancy Iron deficiency anemia
  • Lead poisoning Uremia (abnormally high levels of waste products in the blood)
  • Hemoglobinopathies (genetic disorders of hemoglobin, like sickle-cell anemia)
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Sleep apnea

Beyond those things that are specific to an increased A1C, the following chronic conditions can cause blood glucose levels to be higher:

  • Stress or other causes of amped up adrenal glands
  • Hyperthyroidism Pancreatitis (acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic use of some medications, including steroids, epinephrine, furosemide, thiazides, phenytoin and statins
  • Chromium deficiency Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Asthma Toxicity from environmental toxins like plastics and polluted air
  • Excess testosterone (when produced internally, as opposed to using steroids as mentioned above)

So, if someone was eating well and sticking to the low glycemic index, she recommends to have your doctor start looking for other potential causes that aren't related to the diet.

Another area that would contribute to elevated blood sugars and diabetes are nutrient deficiencies of certain key nutrients like chromium, magnesium and certain B vitamins that help the body process the sugar load adequately.

If someone is deficient in these due to malabsorption or any other reason, their ability to handle even normal amounts of carbohydrate loads will be reduced, explains Dr. Manisha. To Ms. Dunne's point above about stress, Dr. Manisha concurs and says we cannot underestimate the role of stress in raising blood sugars.

Under stress our body produces the stress hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol causes the release of sugar from stores in the liver. Unless we are able to lower cortisol levels with mindfulness and relaxation techniques on a daily basis, this will continue to not only cause elevated blood sugars but also possibly to high blood pressure, lowered immune function and many other chronic diseases.

Addressing some of the above root causes can most certainly lead to resolution of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Sandra J. Eleczko, DDS, brought up another good point - periodontal disease and diabetes are interrelated and will effect each other.

Good oral hygiene is essential to maintaining a healthy A1C. The bacteria and the inflammatory mediators that these bacteria stimulate will enter the blood stream and effect the entire body, reeking havoc everywhere in the body. So one of the things that you need to do to decrease your A1C is to see a dentist and have your teeth cleaned and make sure you floss every day. Can you lower A1c with diet and exercise? Can your A1C still be pre-diabetic if you lead a healthy lifestyle?

According to Dr. Manisha, a "healthy lifestyle" may differ from person to person. Her area of expertise is Functional Medicine, which involves an individualized approach to any chronic disease including diabetes mellitus.

"In Functional Medicine, we believe that it is important to get down to the root cause of any disease and the root cause(s) for the very same disease may vary in different individuals. One of the areas to look at, regarding the root cause of diabetes could be food allergies and food sensitivities which can both impact gut health and cause inflammation."

In her experience with her patients, she has seen blood sugars drop dramatically once the trigger foods are eliminated from that person's diet. She believes that testing for trigger foods can have benefits in the management of diabetes.

Gut health should also be looked at with a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, so that if there is gut inflammation or imbalance in the gut bacteria, it can be addressed as well.

Some books Ham recommends reading to understand sugar are:

Why We Get Fat and What to Do about It,” by Gary Taubes

"The Case Against Sugar" by Gary Taubes

"The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz

I also plan to get "Zero Sugar Diet" by David Zinczenko and "Blast the Sugar Out" by Dr. Ian K Smith because I honestly feel like I have no idea how to do this when there is sugar in absolutely everything.

I hope this article was able to help you. If it did, please share it with others.

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