Finding quality health food stores is becoming more and more important as people are looking for ways to stay fit and healthy. Eating organically grown food is becoming for many the first step in achieving that goal.
Nowadays it seems there’s a health food store in every mall. Typically these are corporate chain stores like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe that carry organic supplements.
Other stores like Walmart for example, although not considered a health food store carry such a large selection of organic foods and organic supplements that they too have become another resource for those looking for healthier food alternatives.
Then there are the small mom and pops that have been around for several years at the same location and are considered a part of the neighborhood.
Which is best?
Going with one of the big national chains or the local neighborhood store?
Well, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Shopping at a large chain store will usually mean you’ll pay less than at a independently owned health food store.
Walmart is an excellent example when it comes to price. They are now the largest seller of organic goods in the US offering more than 400 different food items, supplements and even organic clothing. They have a reputation of getting the absolute bottom prices from suppliers. This allows them to undercut pretty much everyone else.
Allowing consumers to reap the benefits of getting otherwise expensive organically grown foods at bargain prices.
Small health stores can’t order in super large quantities so it costs them more. So in order to make a profit, they then have to charge you more for some items you may be able to get cheaper at a chain store.
Local health food store Selection
While the bigger chains will have a large selection, most of what they do offer are either their own in house brand or products from other large commercial manufacturers. Small family owned health food stores tend to carry smaller brands but also have a more diverse selection of various manufacturers both large and small.
This can be a major plus for some buyers who quite frankly may not trust the ingredients made from large corporate entities.
The small health store owners selling organic supplements and food products typically eat what they sell, they actually use the products and are more likely to be active in some form of organic gardening. Their level of expertise also tends to be quite diverse and can give you advice on specific supplements and organic food choices.
While larger chains have well trained employees, they aren’t necessarily living the “organic lifestyle” generally.
That’s not to say that every employee isn’t into health. It’s just that it’s more of a way of life for the small family health food store owners who literally live and breath living a certain way. They are more aware of the effects of chemicals and other unnecessary additives and are more likely to be concerned about what they’re selling to the public.
Chain stores are more concerned with making a profit.
Another point worth mentioning in terms of personal service is the one on one relationships and familiarity you get from a small food store. If knowing your name when you stop by is important to you then going the mom pop route is a definite plus!
This really depends on what you’re looking for when you shop. This is one area where “bigger” is not necessarily better. It’s really important to understand the standards can be night and day. The very popular Whole Foods and Trader Joes chains are popular health food stores for millions expecting higher quality organic foods.
While bigger stores are constantly under the microscope, some smaller family owned stores can also have their share of problems with quality standards that may go unchecked simply because they’re small and may operate under the radar.
When it comes to quality it’s up to the consumer to ask questions and do their own research to determine if the quality of the goods being purchased lives up to their own set of standards.
A few simple ways to do that is to check expiration dates, read the labels and ask where the produce comes from.
It’s your health and your money, you owe it to yourself to take your time and choose wisely.
We’ve all seen the commercials and read the ads touting women who have dropped several pants sizes in less time than it takes to find form-fitting jeans.
Well my friend Katie managed to do just that – and melt 26 pounds off her body – in the time it took to plan her wedding.
There were no diet pills, exercise DVDs, or radical workout regimens involved.
She shed the weight naturally with a few key lifestyle changes and supplements to stay healthy.
I was in awe of her transformation both for how quickly it happened and for how sparingly she hit the gym.
Inspired by a reader’s comment on my nutritionist vs. trainer post to learn more about Katie’s weight loss journey, I sat down with her for an interview.
Read on to find out how she did it.
What motivated you to slim down?
When my hubby-to-be and I set a date for our wedding, I didn’t think I would need more than six months for me to get everything ready, including my body.
But then I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and came to the sickening realization that I had gained 33 pounds since my thinnest point during college.
What had happened?
I was a RELIGIOUS exerciser, running anywhere from 5-30 miles a week, taking spin classes, supplementing with weight training, and doing everything I thought I needed to do.
Needless to say, something was wrong – whether it was my habits, my metabolism, hormones, or maybe just my perception of what I was really doing!
What was your daily routine during the period of weight gain?
Over the past five years, my weight has fluctuated between those 33 pounds, reaching highs and lows and places in between. I have had personal trainers, gone on marathon-training benders, followed Weight Watchers, flirted with South Beach – you name it.
Sometimes the diet and/or exercise thing worked, sometimes it didn’t.
The first personal trainer I hired in my post-college years was a former NFL football player who used to kick my butt with weight training. I definitely saw results, but my appetite grew and when I finally stopped working out with him, I started to put the weight back on.
When I realized what was happening, I decided to go back to running – first 2 miles, then 5, then longer 8-10 mile runs.
All the running burned so many calories that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted (within reason), got to a fairly comfortable weight, and stayed there.
But over time, my now-husband and I settled into comfortable evenings together with dinner and a bottle of wine.
And once work became really busy, going to the gym and the long runs fell completely by the wayside.
So when I stepped on the scale last summer and realized where I had gotten myself, I decided I HAD to get a grip and get myself back in shape.
How did you get started?
The first thing I did was consult a physician.
I needed to make sure I didn’t have some sort of thyroid problem or other hormonal imbalance that had caused the weight gain.
A trip to the GP and Endocrinologist later, I learned that I was fine and would have to monitor my diet and exercise more carefully.
So I initially tried to make lifestyle changes on my own.
I started going back to the gym, cut out that glass or two of wine and dessert that I had become comfortable with every evening, realigned myself, and dropped nearly ten pounds in just a few weeks.
But those first ten pounds were easy.
I had 15-20 more lbs to go before the wedding (now five months away) and needed someone to seriously help me get in gear and stay in gear.
Where did you turn for help?
I went to my gym and met with a trainer.
Ironically, the first guy I met was another former football player.
I knew that he could get me into shape, but I was worried that it would send me on a whole repeat of the cycle I had experienced just a few years prior.
So I started talking to him about nutrition and asked what advice he could offer me.
He stated the obvious: egg whites, turkey, veggies, fruit…duh. When he realized that I needed more specialized help, he turned me over to his female colleague, Jen.
At first I was wary of working out with a female trainer.
I had watched the female trainers in my gym and their clients never really seemed to sweat it out the way I wanted to.
I was a generally athletic person, and I wanted to be sure I would get my money’s worth.
DID I EVER!!!
What made you click with this trainer in particular?
Jen turned out to be not just a personal trainer, but a personal trainer AND nutritionist combined.
One of the most important things which I firmly believe contributed to my ultimate success was that Jen was 1. also a woman and 2. also built kind of like I am.
We could commiserate about food and exercise and social eating and wine and going out with friends and how it all affects the waistline.
It was like a diet/exercise/nutrition/social support system all in one.
How did her plan for you work?
The first thing Jen had me do was keep a food journal.
Keep in mind that I was already trying to be healthy and push past that 10 lb-loss I had already achieved.
But when she finally reviewed my week-long journal, she pointed out something which wasn’t initially obvious to me: I was eating TOO MUCH SUGAR!
A tiny bite of candy here, cereal (even the stuff that seems “healthy”), dried fruit, fresh fruit, wheat bread, whole grain waffles… they all sound okay in moderation, but I needed to work on what I was eating and when I was eating it.
The change in diet also meant I needed to start taking some supplements as well as my aging body needed different nutients that I hadn’t needed when I was younger.
So she sat down with me to go over some guidelines and how I could make better choices.
What were the general rules?
– Try to cut out dairy (cheese, cow milk etc).
– Move towards more organic, less processed foods. If what you’re about to eat says “Natural Flavoring” on the label, you should put it down because it’s not natural at all.
– Stay away from “white” foods – i.e. refined breads and sugars.
– Replace regular bread with Ezekial bread.
– Cut out meat and move towards more vegan options, though fish and turkey or chicken are okay in moderation.
– Drink a ton of water.
– Cut out caffeine and sodas (even diet), and replace with herbal teas or fresh juices.
What were some sample meal plans?
– Protein shake with soy or almond milk and frozen fruit OR
– Ezekial bread with natural almond butter and jam OR
– Amy’s Organics tofu scramble
– Green tea (coffee with soy milk on occasion)
– I had a lot of Amy’s Organics meals because I knew how many calories were in them and could regulate.
I also cooked grilled chicken with re-fried beans and steamed spinach/broccoli on the side to take to work with me.
For something quick, I would grab a bowl of soup.
I also frequented an all-natural Mediterranean take-out place by my office that has falafel salads with fresh hummus, beets, cucumber, tomato, olives, and avocado.
Or I would substitute dinner options below for lunch.
– Stir-fry with tofu, veggies, Tamari soy sauce, and agave nectar
– Brown rice pasta with Rao’s tomato sauce
– Quinoa with lentils
– Soups, salads, etc
– More Amy’s organics
– Popcorn with nutritional yeast
– Raw veggies with hummus
– Fruit with a protein like peanut butter or nuts
– Hard-boiled egg
– Blue corn chips on occasion with guacamole or re-fried beans and soy cheese.
Any other diet tips?
Jen highly recommended the Skinny Bitch recipes – I tried a couple and they are actually pretty good.
I also did cleansing/juicing days where I would eat only fruit and raw vegetables and some nuts, and drink a ton of water.
I never did a great job at these, but if I were hungry, I’d throw in some low fat re-fried beans or an Ezekial wrap to fill myself up.
By no means was I perfect at the diet thing.
I had a glass of wine or a beer here and there and I couldn’t give up my dark chocolate-covered almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt from Trader Joe’s.
But I got in the habit of picking healthier options like Tofutti cream cheese and Tofutti ice cream sandwiches.
Making these small adjustments definitely made a difference.
How did your exercise regimen change?
As far as working out, Jen and I met twice a week – once for an hour session and once for a half an hour session.
During our sessions, we would do sprints on the treadmill, squats, lunges, free weight training, floor ab exercises, work with the Bosu ball, balance exercises, various types of push-ups (who would ever think regular push-ups are the easy choice!), plank, 100s, bicycles, etc.
She told me I should be working out a couple of days a week on my own, but I honestly did not have the time to do it that often.
Sometimes I would squeeze in a run on the treadmill or go for a walk, but I mostly relied on my sessions with her.
What results did you see?
Jen and I would weigh and measure my body every couple of weeks to track my progress.
It was a great way to stay on target and, even if the scale didn’t budge, to see the inches come off.
I found it really fun and fulfilling. What surprised me throughout the whole experience was that I was now working out less than I had been previously, but seeing more results.
For me, I think working out less was important because it helped curb my appetite. And working out less was realistic for me at that point because of everything going on in life (work, graduate school, wedding planning).
I just didn’t have a ton of time on my hands. Overall, I lost 26 lbs and multiple inches from my body.
I’m firmly back down to a size 8, though I can wear a 6 in certain clothes, which is super exciting given where I started (12).
How will you maintain your weight loss moving forward?
For me the key now is keeping up the lifestyle and hard work to keep the weight off.
I will say, though, that the biggest change has been a lifestyle overhaul – I have changed the way I eat, the way I look at food, and the way I look at exercise, and I think I’m much more balanced now.
Working out is important, but it is not everything. Having the time to run 5-8 miles a day is just not an option for me given my career path, family obligations, and current school obligations.
I love to exercise, but the most important thing is finding the right combination of nutrition and fitness to suit your body at certain points in your life. I weigh myself religiously right now (as I transition out of working out with my trainer), and hope to hit my stride soon.
I’ve gained back one pound since my lowest point before the wedding, but I am committed to staying within a five pound range going forward.
Xanax (alprazolam) and valium (diazepam) are in the benzodiazepines family.
Disontinuing either medication can be difficult due to withdrawal symptoms and their are addictive issues and warnings to be aware of.
Side effects, abuse and addiction are important to be aware of with these medications.
They each can lead to an increased tolerance which then requires a higher dosage for the same results.
Often xanax abuse symptoms are not recognized or admitted by users.
The dopamine centers are effected and this is part of the hooking quality.
Valium is a known medication for the treatment of anxiety, back pain and for those who have trouble sleeping (insomnia).
We have often heard of our mother or our friend’s mother taking Valium to calm themselves down.
This drug is still prescribed for people who have a hard time coping with stressful situations.
This drug can and has been over used by those who just want to get relief.
Though xanax and ativan are have been prescribed more lately, some physicians as well as patients prefer valium.
Xanax is prescribed for certain types of anxiety like panic attacks and mild to moderate states of depression.
Your physician will make a determination of what he thinks is best.
Both drugs affect your brain and spinal cord which is needed to reduce the effect of anxiety and depression.
These drugs do contain side effects that you should be aware of.
Valium users can experience some mild drowsiness, tiredness, weakness of the muscles, or feeling uncoordinated.
If any of these common side effect become overly irritating or won’t go away, consult with your primary physician.
Definitely seek medical help if you experience any rash, itching, breathing difficulty, swelling, a sore throat, chest tightness, memory loss or confusion as this is serious.
Xanax use can cause you to experience mild side effects like a change of appetite or sexual desire, dry mouth, lightheadedness, dizziness, and constipation.
Severe side effects are similar to valium but also include decreased urination, hallucination, changes in menstruation, and muscle spasms or twitching.
Dealing with anxiety can be difficult without assistance.
Whether you take prescription medication or not, it’s critical to develop techniques to reduce stress.
Try to use natural methods before opting to use any medication.
The main conclusion was that organically grown foods are not healthier nutritionally than non organically grown foods.
Another important conclusion that came from that same study is the one major difference that is even more important to parents.
The tipping point for parents opting to feed their children organic fruits, vegetables, milk and meat products is the amount of pesticides added to non organic foods. That’s why I use a local catering Houston company to supply all the food in our company now.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it perfectly clear that in spite of the Stanford study, they are uncomfortable with any amount of pesticides added to foods especially where young children are concerned.
According to pediatricians, very young children are highly susceptible to foreign toxins because their immune systems are not fully developed.
On the other side of the coin, the amount of “allowable” pesticides in foods, according to the federal government is not enough to cause harm to either children or adults.
Pesticides and Child Development
Pesticide spraying – Opting to shop from organic grocery store for pesticide free organic foods.