Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘weight loss’ Category

The New Year and Resolutions: Change the Paradigm


The most common greeting this time of year is “Have a happy and healthy new year.” Is this just a knee jerk reaction to the overindulgence of the holidays or a well intentioned attempt to just pay attention to our health since we are a year older and a year closer to death?

However well-intentioned our resolutions are, they are often short-lived. Life is busy, stuff happens, you lose motivation when you lose only 2 pounds a week, etc. This doesn’t mean that there is no way to achieve a healthy weight. It just means you are either going about it the wrong way or that you have unrealistic expectations. Here are some tips to help you achieve your health goals in 2013.

1. REPEAT AFTER ME: There is no magic diet that will sustain weight loss

Even bariatric surgery doesn’t work if you don’t comply with a rigid protocol. While there are many who do well on this program, it is by their choice – not because they had a “magic” operation. Diets are temporary. Lifestyle is permanent. Change your lifestyle – change  your health.

2. Health is more than eating right. While diet is an important part of good health, so is exercise, not smoking, and getting enough sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation messes with your hunger and satiety hormones, making you crave bad foods and disconnecting the “I’m full now, stop eating” button. Exercise improves all bodily functions regulating appetite, metabolism and sending oxygen to all you cells. It also reduces stress – another trigger for poor eating (think “comfort food”). Muscles built by exercising utilize more calories than fat. Yes, if you sit on the couch after a workout, your body will burn more calories than if you stand around while unfit.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your mother was right. Your body has been at rest for 8 or more hours since last being fueled. Your metabolism has slowed down. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism for the whole day! That’s right! Skip breakfast and your body never revs up, keeping metabolism slow all day, to protect energy (and fat). A healthy breakfast includes a protein, a carb and some fat. Protein and fat keeps you satisfied longer so you aren’t hungry for lunch prematurely. Carbs are needed for brain and muscle  function. (Did you know that your brain lives on glucose, broken down from carbs?) Just make your carbs healthy ones – whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat, bran flakes, etc. Look at the labels to be sure the grains are whole. “Multigrain” does not mean whole. The ingredients must say “whole” to derive all the nutritious benefits of a whole grain: protein, fiber and the slow release of carbs, keeping your blood glucose from spiking.

4. Drink, drink, drink. Dehydration is more common as we age because our thirst mechanism starts to fail. Don’t rely on thirst to be sure you get enough fluid. Even a small amount of dehydration affects your ability to perform well at any task, may lower your blood pressure to unhealthy levels and make you constipated. Also important is that the need for fluids often masquerades as hunger. You reach for food when in fact you need fluid. The amount of fluid needed varies from person to person but a good rule of thumb is 8 glasses per day. All liquids count (even coffee and tea) and many foods contain fluid. Fruit contains a lot of fluid (think oranges, watermelon, etc.). BUT BEWARE. Not all drinks are created equal. Those flavored mocha latte whatevers have a high calorie and fat count. Be smart about how you get your calories. Reserve them for foods that also carry nutrients with them – not empty calories like junk foods.

5. Eat slowly. People who eat slowly consume fewer calories because they give the body a chance to register fullness. Scarfing down your food before the signal comes means you are already too stuffed.

6. When you eat out, order a takeout container when you order your meal. Putting aside half the meal before you even dig in will cause you to stop before the plate is empty.

7. Use smaller plates. Psychologically, a full plate is more appealing. Loading a large plate with a reasonable portion may make you feel less satisfied. Go ahead, fill that bread and butter plate with healthy food and you can clean it without guilt.

8. Eat more meals. Eat three modest meals each day, with a small, nutritious snack between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. You will be less likely to overeat at any meal because you won’t be as hungry. Skipping a meal has the double negative impact of making you ravenous and slowing your metabolism. Don’t skip meals to manage weight. Studies have shown time and time again, that those who eat small, frequent meals and eat breakfast, weigh less than their peers who starve and binge.

9. Read labels and record what you eat. I can’t emphasize this enough. Awareness of what you are putting into your mouth is the secret of those who lose weight successfully. We think twice before downing a handful of nuts when we know how many calories and grams of fat are in them. If we choose to eat them, and record them, we have a better handle on what we can consume the rest of the day.

10. Follow the 80/20 rule. If you are careful about what you eat 80% of the time, you can safely indulge the other 20% of the time.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

 

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Safe Weight Loss


Frankly, I was alarmed when someone recently said that she was losing a lot of weight in a very short period of time. I don’t know the details – perhaps she is under medical supervision and I hope it is not using a clinically unproven fad diet. But it prompted me to address the issue again, in general.

The Mayo Clinic and other reputable sources, cite a safe weight loss rate of 1-2 lbs per week. Rapid loss not only puts your health at risk, it is unlikely to result in sustained loss. Why? There are 2 factors going against you – one biological and one psychological. The first is the body’s natural desire to keep the weight on. When extreme dieting begins, weight will come off at first, but then the metabolism slows down to preserve that weight. Secondly, we are creatures of habit. The only way to sustain weight loss is to develop new habits. Therefore, if a diet is temporary, so will the weight loss be temporary. The way to keep it off is to change your diet habits forever.

I have written past entries about safe weight loss and maintenance. For more information see:

-Why diets fail
-How to keep your weight off after losing it
-Weight loss is not magic, and
-Diatta – from the Greek for “manner of living”

Why Diets Fail


Let’s begin by understanding the way the body works. The body is most efficient when calories taken in equal those expended in activity. The quality of those calories matters. Nutrient dense foods give us the most “bang for the buck.” Cells use glucose to fuel metabolic activity, which comes from the carbs we eat. Excess intake is stored as fat.

When we gain weight, we increase the number and size of fat cells. When we lose weight, the cells shrink, but the number of cells remain. Further, empty fat cells want to fill back up. That’s what causes yo-yo weight gain and loss.

Another issue when calories are reduced, is that the body prefers to break down muscle mass rather than fat stores. When dieting ends and the regular diet is resumed, fewer calories are needed, so weight is more easily regained – but it is fat, not the lean muscle mass lost. The end result is that we have replaced lean body mass with fat. Why is this so?

Each kilogram of fat tissue burns only 1 Kcal of energy
Each kilogram of muscle tissue burns 22 Kcal of energy

That is why it is desirable to have a greater percentage of lean muscle mass than fat.

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging and discouraged. Here are 2 things you can do to make weight loss stick and improve your health.

Exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Exercise has its obvious cardiac benefit, but it also builds that lean body mass that so efficiently burns calories.

Give up traditional or fad diets. THEY DON’T WORK! I repeat, “DIETS DON’T WORK.” “But,” you say, “I lost __ lbs.” Yes, you did. It was lean body tissue – and, you gained the weight back – and it’s now fat – and you may have done it multiple times, increasing the percentage of body fat.

Instead, change one thing at a time as you endeavor to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. Lose weight slowly; no more than 1 lb. per week, for sustained weight loss.

Make a commitment to your health. Enjoy advanced age by remaining fit and healthy. See other posts on this blog for more information.

Follow up on Healthy Dining Out


Because it is hard to know what is in each menu dish (and the waiter/waitress often doesn’t know either), here is a quick and dirty way to know which foods to select and which to avoid, to reduce the fat in your meal.

AVOID:

  • Battered, breaded
  • Pot pies
  • Crispy
  • Tempura
  • Parmesan
  • Alfredo
  • Cheese sauce
  • Buttered, buttery
  • Hollandaise
  • Au gratin
  • Casserole
  • Prime meats
  • Hash (browns, corned beef, etc.)
  • Braised
  • Fried, deep-fried
  • Creamed

Instead, look for these words, which indicate the meal is prepared with less fat:

  • Poached
  • Broiled
  • Sautéed (without breading)
  • Flame broiled, grilled
  • Steamed
  • In own juices
  • Loin and flank meat cuts
  • Roasted
  • Baked
  • Teriaki (high in sodium)
  • Marinara or tomato sauce
  • Picante, pico de gallo, salsa

Who and What Should You Believe?


I recently had a lively online debate with someone who coaches people on weight loss. She maintains that the elimination of a certain food enables people who struggle with weight, to lose it. I challenged this, citing recent scientific studies on the substance but she was adamant, as were a few of her clients who weighed in (no pun intended) on their success. Mind you, after a little information was shared, I learned that they also changed their diets. When you have confounding factors, how can one be so sure of which caused the result?

What about the hundreds of diets out there (check them out: the tapeworm diet – ewww!)? Some reasonable ones, based on what we know about the body’s needs, are healthy. But many diets eliminate nutrients or focus on eating a lot of a particular nutrient, which contradicts everything we in the dietetics field know to be healthy. While every person is unique, we all need protein, carbs, fat vitamins, minerals and water to survive.  And the more we learn about phytochemicals, the more we understand how they contribute to optimal health. How we gain, lose and maintain weight is a complicated dance, where genetics, lifestyle, diet, temperament, situation, mental health and attitude all play a role. Most of us eat for reasons other than nutritional needs alone, so adherence to a healthy diet may be affected by what is going on in our lives. How we feel about ourselves plays a big role. Do we feel we “deserve” to be well and healthy?

There is a lot of dubious information out there and many people call themselves a diet counselor without the proper training. Counselors, while they may have the best intentions, must be held accountable for their advice.  Even those with the best intentions must be held accountable for their advice. If a person is generally healthy, anyone who is good at coaching can help. But beware the person who is willing to coach someone with medical complications, multiple medications and diseases. using a trained professional ensures that the advice you receive is based on scientific rigor and best practices.

Look for credentials such as RD or DTR, CDN. These credentials guarantee that the practitioner has earned a science-based degree and sat for a national registration exam.

How to Keep Your Weight Off after Losing It


The National Weight Loss Control Registry tracked 10,000 people who lost over 30 pounds and maintained it longer than a year. They collected data from annual questionnaires from 10 year registry members. Most held college degrees and 75% were women. Their average beginning weight was 225 lbs. and the average initial weight loss was 70 lbs. They maintained a 50 lb. net loss 10 years later.

The key factors leading to success in this group were:

Food habits:

  • They tracked what they ate and consumed 1,800 calories per day,with less than 600 of their calories from fat. Some chose their own food and other relied on programs such as  Weight Watchers.
  • They never skipped breakfast.
  • They ate out an average of three times per week and ate fast food less than once per week.
  • They didn’t use special occasions as an excuse for eating too much or the wrong foods. They kept to similarly healthful foods every day.

Non food habits:

  • They walked an average of one hour every day or replaced it with some other equal calorie burning activity.
  • They weighed themselves weekly.
  • They watched less than 10 hours of TV per week.
Nothing beats the combination of good eating and exercise habits, to keep weight off. That is the winning “recipe” to sustained and stable weight.

Weight Loss is Not Magic


Because people want instant gratification, the promise of quick weight loss is ever enticing. We want to believe that it will work. It may work in the short term, but it never works in the long term. Quick weight loss inevitable results in regaining even more than what was lost. Even worse is that losing weight too fast is downright dangerous. Nothing replaces a sensible eating plan and exercise, for the rest of your life. It’s just that simple.

The worst thing you can do is skip meals. Your metabolism shuts down as your body believes it is starving. That’s why the old wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal is actually true! After a night of fasting, you need to stoke the fire and get the metabolism going. Fat cells burn less energy than muscle cells, hence the importance of converting the fat into lean muscle tissue. We now also know that sleeping too little can also make you fat. Rest is needed for proper functioning.

Use common sense. Any diet or supplement that seems too good to be true, is. You need just change one small behavior, stick with it for 21 days and form a new habit. Try making small changes in the composition of and/or quantity of your foods. Little by little you will achieve your goal of losing unhealthy weight and keeping it off.

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