Water — It’s easy to let this simple healthy habit go to the wayside when you’re on the go, but keep your water bottle filled and always available. Water does wonders for your digestion, your skin and for keeping your hunger under control.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colette Heimowitz, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. VP Nutrition Communication & Education. Colette works directly with medical professionals, health influencers and consumers to educate them about a sustainable way of eating to promote health. Heimowitz is a NY Times best-selling author and brings a wealth of nutritional knowledge and experience as the Vice President of Nutrition, at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. She has 20-plus years of experience as a nutritionist, which includes the time she spent with Dr. Atkins as Director of Nutrition at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in NYC. Heimowitz is involved in the medical community, attending a variety of events and conferences to keep up with the latest research and meet other experts in the field. She sits on the Science Advisory Board at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York and speaks to students on the importance of controlled carbohydrate nutrition. She is also an advisory board member of the Industry Nutrition Forum Advisory Panel of AHA, a member of the advisory panel for Health Core (a Dr Oz foundation), and sits on the Corporate Advisory Panel Dept. of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. In addition, she has created a research library of scientific research studies that demonstrate the impact nutrition has on health issues such as weight loss and weight management, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. As a nutrition expert, she has been featured on national television networks such as NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Heimowitz also regularly contributes her nutritional expertise to the print media as well as the Atkins website. Previously, Heimowitz was the Director of Nutrition at the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine. Prior to her role at the Center, she directed nutritional departments at several medical practices, including World Health Medical Group (New York City), and Integrative Medicine Center (New York City). Her clinical contributions include creating and directing patient-specific routines and designing modified sports nutrition programs. She has 20 years of experience setting up nutrition departments in physician offices, creating educational materials and dietary plans, as well as providing individual consultations. She earned her Masters of Science (M.Sc.) from Hunter College in New York, New York.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
When I became sick in college and had no answers from doctors. I started doing my own research, reading books on biology and physiology and reading published research and nutrition concepts because I was hungry for answers. That is when my husband suggested going back to school for my masters in nutrition.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting thing that happened to me since I started my career was making the switch from private practice in doctor’s offices to corporate. I made the switch because I wanted to have more of a global impact on the message regarding the health benefits of low carb living. Working in a corporate setting gave me the opportunity to be part of a team that created educational materials for web and books that reached millions of people. I was fascinated on the complexities and depth of knowledge and research necessary to have a successful brand and business.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
When I first started, the R&D team asked me to participate in taste testing new prototypes. I had a low carb palate because I have been following a low carb lifestyle since my college days. As a result, I thought the majority of the bars and shakes they gave me were too sweet. When they finally tested it with consumers, they discovered I was way off base with the general American taste preferences. They stopped asking me.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?
Because I have been doing this for so long and experience is king in nutrition. In addition, I had the opportunity of working alongside doctors for 15 years in private practice where you can apply your book knowledge with what you learn from patients and the doctors you work with.
In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
Truth in Nutrition. Not being afraid to question the status quo. Understanding fact from fiction. As well as being able to communicate complex nutrition concepts in simple laymen terms.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I was in college, I got sick and all the mainstream doctors could tell me was that I had chronic fatigue syndrome and offered me no solutions. After finding an alternative health doctor, he diagnosed me with EBV virus, better known as Mono. He helped me heal with a supplement protocol, and a low carb diet. I became a convert because it saved me from years of suffering. I also became intrigued with nutrition and switched my major from a BA to a BS and went to graduate school for my masters in nutrition.
I am grateful for all of the physicians I worked with in private practice. Dr. Galland, Dr. Levine, Dr. Yutsis, Dr. Corsello, and last but not least, Dr. Atkins. I learned so much from each and every one of them. It was like having 4 post graduate degrees. I spent about 4 years at each practice.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion, what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
1. Falling back on laurels — Try not to derail your health efforts because you were “good” for a few weeks and you have a sense of security. Try to think about your efforts as a new way to approach food and make it sustainable for the long run. Instead of an attitude of, “I can’t have it,” try, “I choose not to have French fries, and I choose to be healthy.”
2. Going for the Short-term Fix — If your goal is to lose weight for a specific event, try making these new habits part of your everyday lifestyle so that you don’t gain the weight back right after the event is over.
3. Cutting Back Too Much — I often see people trying Atkins 20 and losing weight quickly, and making the mistake of thinking less is better. They begin to cut more carbs than they should, which causes their weight loss to stall, causing them to give up and gain it all back. My advice is to stick with the program you choose and commit to making it a lifestyle you can maintain.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
Overall, I recommend trying an Atkins low carb approach comprised of high-fiber carbs, optimal protein and healthy fats to improve your lifestyle. You can find low carb recipes for every meal at Atkins.com. Here are five easy tweaks to make to your day that cater to this low carb lifestyle:
1. Full-Fat Greek Yogurt — Try a half-cup of plain whole milk Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of toasted wheat germ, a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or two tablespoons of slivered almonds or other nuts. Packed with healthy fats and protein, it’ll keep you satiated throughout the morning so that you avoid sugary cereals.
2. Low glycemic fruits, such as berries and colorful vegetables — Fruit and vegetables are packed with fiber and antioxidants. Fiber offers huge benefits to your health, from controlling your appetite and regulating blood sugar, to helping your digestion. Make sure to consume between 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day.
3. Protein — Incorporate protein into each meal, such as protein from eggs, dairy, fish or poultry or a vegetarian source such as tofu. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
4. Healthy Fats — Incorporate healthy fats, such as nuts, into your diet. Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts) all contain different mixes of healthy fats which can reduce the risk of heart disease.
5. Water — It’s easy to let this simple healthy habit go to the wayside when you’re on the go, but keep your water bottle filled and always available. Water does wonders for your digestion, your skin and for keeping your hunger under control.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
1. Exercise preserves and builds lean body mass.
2. Exercise improves your mood and helps decrease depression.
3. Exercise helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.
It’s important to understand how the different foods you eat on an Atkins low carb lifestyle will affect your exercise. You need protein for exercise because when you eat protein, it replenishes your body’s supply of chain amino acids (which are critical for your body’s muscles). You need carbohydrates to help fuel your workouts (exercise uses your body’s stores of glycogen for fuel). I recommend having an Atkins Shake an hour before your workout and a low carb meal comprised of high-fiber carbs, optimal protein and healthy fats 30 minutes after your workout when your body is replenishing nutrients.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
1. Cardio Exercise — Alternate high-intensity cardio with rest and low-intensity cardio to boost your metabolism.
2. Strength-Training Exercise — Try exercises that focus on each major muscle group. Head to Atkins.com for easy beginner tips.
3. Walk — If you find yourself in a weight-loss plateau, head outside and walk or run — you will start to see your body composition change.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long-term injury?
Opt for low glycemic carbs during a 60 minute+ exercise to enhance performance. Post-workout, consume at least a portion of your daily carb consumption to maximize muscle recovery and prepare for your next exercise session (carbs consumed right after exercise begin to replenish glycogen stores).
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I recommend the Atkins low carb lifestyle comprised of high-fiber carbs, optimal protein and healthy fats. Atkins offers a customizable eating approach regardless of whether someone wants to achieve optimal health, manage or lose weight and the three versions (Atkins 20, Atkins 40 and Atkins 100) provide a place for them to start, depending on their goal. This was based on several observations: For the vast majority of people, 40g of net carbs or less result in a fat burning metabolism and are more sustainable for the long run. The clinical research in which study participants are consuming this level of carbohydrates has very positive outcomes when it comes to weight loss and glycemic control. Atkins 100 is meant for a lifestyle approach and we believe it should be the new standard American diet.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Dr. Atkins books gave me a new perspective on how to think about and approach food.
I was a vegetarian for 10 years prior to getting pregnant. I had to run 6 miles a day to burn off those carbs and keep a normal weight. Once I got pregnant, I craved meat. It was hard to meet my body’s demands for more protein with vegetarian choices only. Once I added animal protein and cut back on carbs, I felt like someone turned on a switch for me. Fewer swings in energy and fewer cravings. I also avoided gestational diabetes and excessive pregnancy weight gain, which runs in my family. I never went back.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
According to the Journal of the Medical Association (JAMA), 52% of Americans are either pre-diabetic or diabetic. The most important thing I can do, and continue to do, is teach people the impact that excessive carbohydrate consumption can have on health and longevity. My entire career has been bringing that awareness to the population and I can’t think of anything else I would rather do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
From the book, The Prophet
“Ready am I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind”
A reminder to keep an open heart and mind to what life is presenting to me.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Malcolm Gladwell! I would love to hear his take on ways to change the world.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!