Friday, October 31, 2008

What Is A Calorie?

Calories are actually a measure of energy; scientifically, the amount of energy it takes to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius. The term we use as Calories are really kcals or 1000 Calories. We use kcal because if we didn’t, a Three Musketeers Bar would have 285,000 calories and no one would ever eat one!

Calories are measured by an apparatus that burns the edible portion of a food and measures the energy that is released. Calories people burn are measured by monitoring the amount of oxygen taken in and carbon dioxide released during certain activities.

In grade school we learn that oxygen is what we breathe in, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is what we breathe out. Where does the carbon come from? The Carbon (C) that we breathe out comes from the energy yielding nutrients: Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The other nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and water—neither contain carbon, nor provide Calories.

People burn most of their calories by their continuous body functions (heart beating, breathing, regenerating new cells, etc). This is called your Basal Energy Expenditure and accounts for about 2/3 of the daily calories burned by most people. When you add to this your movements and exercises during the day (even the process of digestion), you find your total calories expended.

How do we calculate the number of calories in a food? There are a few basics to begin with: Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. Protein provides 4 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. The only other substances that provide calories are drinking alcohol, and sugar alcohols (such as sorbitol, found in sugar-free gums and candies).

You can calculate the calories in a food by reading the label that shows grams of carbohydrates, grams of protein, and grams of fat. The gram weight of a food will be more than the total of the carbohydrates, protein, and fat, because of water weight. Water can compose of up to 90% of some foods (fruits in particular) but is present in very small amounts in high fat foods, such as butter.

For example, a teaspoon of sugar weighs approximately 5 grams. Only about 4 grams are carbohydrate (the rest a little bit of water). If you multiply 4 grams x 4 calories/gram, you find 16 calories in a teaspoon of sugar! Let’s try to calculate butter: a teaspoon of butter weighs about 5 grams. There are 9 calories in a gram of butter (fat). Take 9 calories/gram times 5 grams and find that there are 45 calories in a teaspoon of butter. Hmmm, butter sure has more calories than sugar!

Try doing the math on food labels you find around your house: On a label of bread you might find 12 grams of carbohydrate (x 4 is 48 calories) and 3 grams of protein (x 4 is 12 calories) and the total calories in a slice will be near 60 calories. The slice of bread weighs 30 grams, but the rest of the weight is from the water content.
I hope you enjoyed this little nutrition class :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Scale Can Be Your Friend

More research on helpful weight loss tips: weighing daily helps people track themselves and learn when to adjust their diet to maintain their weight! For years the standard recommendation was to weigh yourself weekly and expect one-two pounds of weight loss per week. While the one-to-two pound range is still a good idea for losing, the fact is you can easily gain this quickly as well. And when people slack off on monitoring their weight, that number can grow pretty high before you notice your clothing is too tight.

Weighing daily comes with some caveats:

1. You have to realize that daily fluctuations occur based on your water weight, which can be affected by sodium intake as well as hormones for women.

2. You will also weigh more if you are wearing heavier clothing (obvious, isn't it!)

3. And you will weigh more immediately after a large meal. Picture this: holding a large turkey dinner with all the trimmings plus dessert while standing on the scale. . . if the scale says you weigh three pounds more while you are holding the food in your arms, why wouldn't it say three pounds more immediately after you eat it and your stomach is holding it? It does exactly that! By no means is this the same as eating enough calories to gain three pounds of body fat, (which would be over 10,000 calories). After the food is processed and the waste excreted, you'll be back down at least 2-1/2 pounds!

4. Since day-to-day fluctuations are invariable it's important not to give too much attention to the number on any one day. Following daily weights in a log book, on a paper chart, or even on a computer graph can show you trends over time and help you get back on track when the numbers continue to rise. Likewise, if the numbers continue to decrease over time, you know you are losing real body weight; not just seeing a lower number on the scale due to dehydration because you didn't have enough water one day

So stay on top of your weight as you continue to eat healthy and adjust your calorie intake to get to your goal, and then use this monitor to help you stay just where you want to be!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can Meal Replacements Work for Weight Loss?

Several years ago, meal replacements were frowned upon by many dietitians and other health professionals. The emphasis was on learning to eat healthy, real foods in the proper portions, and no substitutions were allowed! Now the philosophy has changed. Leading experts in the field of nutrition are offering up this advice: If it works to help you lose weight and it's not potentially harmful, go for it!

That being said, there are dozens of ways you can choose a meal replacement diet!

1. Many diets can be purchased which include an entire program for you. You've seen them on tv with their famous spokespeople. You don't buy any of your own food: These programs provide meals, snacks, desserts--everything. The downside is they can be expensive, and you may not like the taste of their food. You are also highly likely to regain the weight when you go off their program and back to eating supermarket and restaurant food. But it's a good idea to try if it will help you lose weight now. Maybe you'll gain it back, but maybe you won't!

2. You can eat one or two regular meals and substitute the third with a meal replacement, such as a bar or a drink. You know the saying, "a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a healthy dinner". It can be a diet drink, or it can be Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink. The important factor is that you are getting a good source of important nutrients in a limited amount of calories at that meal time. The reason it works is it takes away the work of figuring out what to eat and how to prepare it. Just pop open a can and drink your breakfast and maybe lunch, too. One of the hardest parts about dieting is all the planning--this takes that hard part away.

3. Another option is to prepare a low calorie frozen meal for lunch every day. This can be considered a meal substitute, just like the Subway diet can. It's a prepared item that you do not have to think about or fix or cook.

4. You can use any combination of these: A slimfast for breakfast, a 6-inch low fat sub for lunch, and a Lean Cuisine for dinner. Just be sure to use the food pyramid guidelines to also get in enough servings of fruit and dairy, which are often not included in these meals. Sound like a lot of calories? I calculate less than 1200. That means you have enough leftover for a 100- calorie snack bag in the evening. enjoy!

Please let us know if you try this! Comment here and let us know which way you did it and what your results were.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And The Best Diet Is ...

Wow! I sure am learning a lot at this year's Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition (FNCE). I will have a new entry every day this week to fill you in on the latest research reported by the best dietitians and doctors around the country as members of the American Dietetic Association gather to share the latest findings, newest products, and best tips for weight loss.

Here is a summary from the meetings I attended yesterday:

1. The diet that works best is ... ta da ... the one you can stay on! Yes, research shows that whatever diet you choose--South Beach, Atkins, The Zone, SlimFast, or your own concoction of specially planned meals--if you can adhere to an intake that is lower in calories, you will lose weight. While people were on a regimen that had them eating fewer calories than they burned, they consistently lost weight. When they went off the diet, they gained the weight back. One to five years after stopping their diet, about 98% of the dieting population gains back all the weight they lose during the diet.
So the moral here is, find something you can stick with...forever. Don't see yourself snacking on cheese sticks and pork rinds four years from now? Maybe Atkins isn't the diet for you. Like counting your points? You can stay on weight watchers forever! It's important to include some flexibility, variety, and definitely to include foods you like. Think long and hard about what you can do to change your eating habits permanently, and you won't have to go on a 'diet' again!

2. Everything is proven to be good for you. As I predicted, all the vendors are here showing evidence that prunes--oops! I mean dried plums--are good for you; pork is good for you; nuts are good for you, etc etc etc. Read research with caution. There can be studies showing anything the researchers set out to prove, and companies that sell a product will find a way to prove their product is good for you!
Meanwhile I am enjoying a lot of tasty samples. Some I will bring home for my husband to try and I'll let you know how they go over (I am not a fan of chocolate and peanut butter, and many of the snack bars are made with these flavors).

3. Weight loss is good for your health. Amazingly, research shows this! Over and over again there are reports in the seminars about how even a slight weight loss (7-10% of your current body weight) can reduce the incidence of diabetes in those who are prone, decrease blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and lower elevated triglyceride levels. This means if you weight 200 pounds you can lose 15-20 pounds and produce amazing results for your health. You do not have to aim for a goal of 150 pounds, which is a daunting task, and may be the reason you put off dieting! Just shoot for ten pounds at a time and see what changes you can make at your next doctor appointment.

Well, these are the highlights from the first day. More to come later this week!

Friday, October 24, 2008

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?

One question I hear all the time is "How many calories should I be eating a day?" This, of course, varies greatly from person to person. It depends on not only your weight but also your height; the taller you are the more you burn because you have more lean body tissue and this lean tissue (muscle) uses more energy than fat. It depends on whether you are male or female; men typically have more muscle mass, so they burn more calories (not fair!). It depends how old you are because after a certain age (around 35) we start burning fewer calories and that number continues to decrease gradually as we continue to age. Finally, it greatly depends on your activity level because if you get a lot of exercise you naturally are burning a lot more calories.

Here's a quick and convenient way to estimate of how many calories you need. Multiply your weight by 15 to get the number of calories you need per day to maintain your weight. If you weight 150 pounds and you are happy with this weight, you need (15 x 150) approximately 2250 calories a day to maintain it. This is a very general starting point, because from these numbers we don't know whether you are male or female, active or sedentary, young or older. It's just an estimate.

If you would like to lose weight, multiply your present weight by 10. If you weigh 180 pounds and you would like to weigh less, a good estimate is for you to eat (10 x 180) 1800 calories a day. Again, it certainly depends on how active you are, how tall you are, and whether you are male or female (a man could lose weight faster on this calorie level than a woman), but it's a good place to start.

Play around with the range of 10 to 15 times your weight. If you weigh 160 pounds, look at the numbers from 1600 (16o x 10) to 2400 calories (16o x 15). You could probably lose a pound a week by limiting your calorie intake to 1600 calories, and you would probably maintain your weight if you ate 2400 calories a day. Remember if you are middle-aged, female, less than 5'4", and not very active you will need to keep your calories in the lower part of this range to lose, and maybe even to maintain your weight.

If you are very overweight (say, 270 pounds or more) you should multiply the weight you would like to be by 15 to find a good starting calorie level. People who are nearly 100 pounds overweight are carrying that extra weight as fat tissue, which does not burn nearly the calories of our muscles, organs, and other body tissue. So a 270 pound woman may aim for (170 x 15) 2550 calories to start losing weight. It sounds like a very high calorie level for weight loss to occur, but people who are this heavy are usually eating more than 2500 calories a day! Therefore, reducing your intake to less than you usually eat will result in weight loss. You do not have to start with a 1200 calorie diet and feel starving to lose weight. Eat a little less; take your time with weight loss. Make it permanent!

Now, just a quick note on where to go from here: how do you figure out what to eat once you figure the appropriate calorie level? It's pretty tough counting calories all day, so take advantage of using some estimates again here. Aim for 1/3 of your calories at lunch and 1/3 of your calories at dinner; slightly fewer at breakfast to allow for small snacks during the day. If you want to eat 1800 calories a day, divide that into a 400 calorie breakfast, a 500-600 calorie lunch and dinner, and a couple of 100-150 calorie snacks! Read your labels and get to know what the calorie content is of foods you eat often. Some websites calculate these for you so it may be helpful to enter your food intake on one such as The Daily Plate.

Post any questions and we'll help you get started!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's "Good For Me" Now?

This weekend I'm off to the Food And Nutrition Conference and Exposition (FNCE), the annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association. I'm excited because I'll be bringing back lots of information for all of you! I'll be learning the latest research on what makes people gain weight, how the appetite signals work, and how best to help people lose weight.
In addition to the research presentations, there will be food and nutrition companies present by the hundreds. They'll each have a booth set up in the enormous exhibit hall, be handing out pens and mugs and key chains to entice us to walk over to see what they have to tell us, and they'll all tell us the same thing: Why their product is so "good for you"!
There's the Pork Board and The Dairy Council; The American Egg Board and the International Tree Nut Council. There are retail companies like Nestle and Kelloggs to tell us how chocolate is good for you and how breakfast cereal is a good start for your day. The California Dried Plum Board will be there (they changed the name of "prunes" to "dried plums" several years ago as a marketing technique since prunes have a reputation among some of not being very tasty). And there will be new products showcased like Quorn; a textured vegetable protein made from mushrooms that makes a delicious vegetarian version of 'chicken' patties and other substitute versions of meat products. What they all have in common is research to prove that their product is good for you; studies that show how consumption of the food they sponsor will reduce your chance of getting cancer, or improve your eye health, control your diabetes or help you lose weight.
But did you know you can find a study to support just about anything? If I wanted to do research to prove that eating lots of lemons makes my hair lighter, I could do that. There might be 929 studies that show lemon intake has no effect on hair color, but the 930th study might show a slight lightening of hair shade in a small group of women who drank lemonade every day... it might not be a direct result of the lemon intake but, hey, if that's what I'm trying to show then it works for me!
My point is, be careful about what you read and hear when trying to figure out what's 'good for you'. Ask and investigate when you see a study reported on the news that "coffee drinkers suffer lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease". Was the study sponsored by the coffee bean board? Was there more than one study done with the same result? Are there dozens of other studies that disprove this outcome? The saying "don't believe everything you read" is very applicable in relating to news about a specific food and what it can do for you. Don't be quick to judge, don't be quick to avoid one food because one study showed it can make blood sugar rise in some people with diabetes, and don't jump on the bandwagon to overeat another food because one study found it can help your eye health. Constantly changing your diet based on the latest rumors is unnecessary and confusing. If you try to keep up with the latest research on everything from everywhere you'll end up flustered and feeling like you just don't know what to eat or who to believe.
Look for information that has been obtained from reputable scientific institutions, results that have been repeated, and facts that have stood the test of time. Follow the recommendations of appropriate and reliable associations such as the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, The American Medical Association, and the American Heart Association. You'll find advice repeated consistently among all of these boards, such as "get plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains" and "maintain a regular exercise habit of at least 30 minutes of activity daily" and "consume fats and sweets in moderation".
It's easy to get confused with all the media bombarding us with so much new information every day. Don't let yourself get caught in the trap of trying to keep up with "what's good for you" and changing what you eat and what you avoid because of one report you heard. The bottom line is: there is not one food that will help cure or prevent any disease and, likewise, there is not any one food that will be the downfall of your health.
Follow the adage "everything in moderation" and check with the reputable national organizations for any questions you have on what's good for you!
If you have any specific questions I can clarify for you, feel free to post a comment here for a public answer, or email me at for a private response.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Motivation Monday: What Can You Do This Week?

On Mondays we often resolve to start a new diet. We feel guilty for all the calories we consumed over the weekend, going out to eat, having a few drinks with friends, splurging on desserts, and generally throwing caution to the wind. So instead of scaling back we decide to go for the extremes to make up for it: No more chocolate--ever!--we declare; I'll just have a grapefruit half for breakfast and a salad for lunch and some plain chicken and vegetables for dinner from now on; and definitely no snacks anymore.

How long can you really keep up a pattern like that? Depriving yourself and telling yourself "no" all day long, despite true hunger setting in. Trying to ignore the ever-present treats we eye in every store, in every cafeteria line, on every coworker's desk. Have you tried this way before? Okay, so you know it's not going to work!

Instead, try a new idea: Choose ONE thing you can do this week to improve your diet. The goal should be for it to become a long standing habit. Remember that habits don't develop overnight. Certainly you would not easily change all of your eating habits this week, so shooting for a plan like the first one is setting yourself up for failure.

What can you be sure to accomplish this week? Drinking three more glasses of water each day would be a good habit and in no way a deprivation. Including an extra fruit or vegetable serving in your diet each day (or both!) would make your diet more healthy and it's a great goal to shoot for. Maybe you can commit to a 20 minute walk each evening after dinner, or after lunch with a coworker.

If you think these ideas won't help you lose weight, think again. In the long term if you were to establish the walking habit you would be burning an extra hundred calories every day (that's 36,50o a year!) resulting in a weight loss of 10 pounds. If your focus was on eating MORE of something, like fruits, vegetables, or even water, it would take the feeling of deprivation away and be easier for you to follow through each day. Even a positive change that is not diet-related, (like taking 30 minutes a day to relax, or meditate, or journal, or call a good friend) can help reduce your stress and decrease the stress-induced eating behaviors in which we often engage during the week.

Stop the all-or-nothing diet behavior! Find just one new habit you can begin this week. Set yourself up for success and start today.

For five tips on how to set yourself up for success, sign up for my free monthly newsletter at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can Women In Their 50's Find A Way To Lose Weight?

Why is it harder for women to lose weight in their 50’s?
Is it really a fact that it’s harder to get the weight off or does it just seem like it? Think back to when you did find it easy to lose weight. What was different?

Besides your hormones, menopause, your muscle mass, and other biological issues, there are also lifestyle factors to consider:

1. As we age it is very likely we have more disposable income than we did when we were younger. This, along with the types of social activities we enjoy later in life, often leads to dining out for dinner more. In turn we have less control over the ingredients in our meals, as well as the portion sizes. Eating out more often means larger meals, preceded by rolls or chips or appetizers, in combination with alcoholic beverages, and/or followed by desserts! Consider that you may actually be eating more now than you did 20 or 30 years ago.

2. Comparing your lighter days to now, how often do you eat fast food? It is much easier to pick up a quick meal nowadays than to make one at home, and sometimes even less expensive. It is so convenient to order Chinese food, or a pizza, when you may have prepared virtually every meal at home when you were a young mother with small children. Maybe you even skipped a meal now and then because you were so busy! Could you be getting an extra few hundred calories several days a week from burgers, fries, and other meals that are so convenient, but not so low-calorie?

3. How closely do you watch what you eat today compared with how you may have watched your figure when you were younger? Did you have days where you barely ate because there was a dress you wanted to wear to a party that was coming up? Did you avoid cookies and chips and other snacks and desserts because “fat free” or “guilt free” or “low-cal” treats did not exist? We may eat many ‘diet’ foods these days, telling ourselves “it’s okay; it’s low fat”. Well, it’s not calorie-free food, so maybe we are getting more calories than we need on a daily basis.

4. Finally, exercise naturally comes in to the energy balance equation. How much exercise do you get now compared to the activity in your daily life a few decades ago? Do you find yourself spending a lot of your day in sedentary activities due to your work, or even your hobbies? Did you do more walking back then for reasons like getting the kids to school or visiting a neighbor? Today it is quite easy to go through a twenty-four hour period hardly moving a muscle! We drive everywhere. We email people at work instead of walking down the hall to answer a question. We can order clothes online and gifts from catalogs so we don’t even have to go to a mall for shopping. We can get our dry cleaning delivered to our home, and even get a sack of burgers and fries without leaving our car—just drive up to the window and it’s handed to you! What can you do today to increase your activity level? Consider that as little as 20 minutes of walking each day can help you lose more than 10 pounds a year!

Take some time to think about what your life was like when you were at a weight you would like to be again: What was your breakfast like? Your lunch? Your dinner? What did you do for exercise or how active were you just to get the daily list of errands accomplished? What did you do for fun with your friends besides going out to eat?
Perhaps you will find the key to getting back to a healthy weight when you remember how you ate and how you exercised. One thing is for sure: sitting in your easy chair and blaming your weight on your age isn’t going to change a thing!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Calories You Save Today Will Be The Weight You Lose Tomorrow!

All it takes is saving 250 calories a day to lose half a pound a week. While that may sound like a measly amount, it means by New Year's Eve you could be six pounds lighter! That's a dress size for some women, and certainly enough to make anyone's snug trousers fit more comfortably. You don't need to go on a diet or start jogging every morning for this to happen. Just start paying attention to those high-calorie items and either skip them or replace them with something less fattening.
Here are six times during the day you can save yourself up to 250 calories:
- Your morning coffee drink. Coffee has about 2 calories. What you put in it could have a lot more. Some non-dairy creamer labels state a serving at 12 calories, but a serving size is a teaspoon! If you use 2 ounces (that's 12 teaspoons) your coffee has 150 calories! And that's just your first cup... If you have a name-brand coffee drink that has whole milk and flavored syrup you could be downing 260 calories without even having a bite of breakfast.
Consider opting for a smaller size, or using skim milk instead of whole milk, cream, or non-dairy creamers.
- Your lunchtime soda. The typical 20 oz plastic bottle of soda has 200 calories. Not what you recall reading on the label? Check again--there are 2.4 servings in one of them! When's the last time you shared one of these?
Try substituting with water, unsweetened iced tea, or an occasional diet soda. Or share your calories with a friend :)
-Your fast food lunch. ALL of the fast food establishments post their nutritional content on the web. Check the calorie content of foods you like. A typical order at Burger King--a whopper and large fries--hands you 670 calories from the sandwich plus 500 from the fries (1170 calories total).
Now, just try having a whopper junior with small fries and you're down to a 370 calorie sandwich and 230 calories from the fries (that's 600 calories for lunch, saving you 570 calories). Most of the restaurants now have healthy side alternatives such as applesauce at burger king or apple slices at McDonalds.... just ask!
Your afternoon candy bar. Looking for a quick source of energy when you start dragging after lunch? How much does a candy bar really help? Most of them contain a high amount of fat, often from nuts in addition to the chocolate, and they can actually leave you with a sugar crash a short time later. A candy bar can have between 180 and 240 calories. That's a medium sized one. Now there are king sized candy bars. They have more calories. Read the label.
Try fending off the drowsies with a glass of ice water, a short walk, or a 100-calorie snack bag. They make some great ones!
-A nice big, juicy steak for dinner. A prime cut of meat is prime partly because of the fatty marbling that makes it tender. The fat also contributes calories, so that each ounce of meat can have at least 75 calories. That means a 16 oz steak can have 1200 calories.
Cut it in half and save 600 calories. Also save having to buy lunch tomorrow when you eat the leftovers.
-Dessert. A relatively small slice of pecan pie can have over 400 calories; other pies without nuts have slightly fewer; a serving of cheesecake over 250 calories; Chocolate cake, 240 calories.
Try 1/2 cup sherbet for 100 calories, or some of the 'light' ice cream novelties that have less than 150 calories (Skinny Cow makes great fudge bars as well as ice cream sandwiches)!
Start reading labels or going online to find out how many calories are in foods you typically eat... you can usually find a substitute you like just as well (poached salmon instead of steak? Grilled chicken instead of a whopper?) and save a few hundred calories a day. You'll be losing weight in no time without having to go on the latest fad diet!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Help for the Dinner-challenged is HERE

INTRODUCING: THE VIRTUAL DINNER COACH (available in download or hard copy)
Designed by a registered dietitian to help you make balanced meals every night in a snap!

Make EASY MEALS IN MINUTES to serve your family at home!

Does figuring out what to make for dinner keep exhausting you?
No time to cook?
Not even time for grocery shopping?
Let THE VIRTUAL DINNER COACH help you figure out what to make every night of the week!

Use the simple list of staples, sample menus, and fast and easy recipes to coach you through an easy assortment of what to make your family for dinner!

Recipes for entrees, starches, "one-dish wonders", vegetables, and desserts
Ideas for what to serve when you don't have time to cook
Sample menus for two weeks (including breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks)
Shopping List Guide

Click here to view more information

Comments from Moms who have previewed the VIRTUAL DINNER COACH

"The dinner coach has some great tips for busy Moms and novice cooks on using shortcuts currently available in the markets, plus easy, family-pleasing recipes."

(I'll keep posting comments here as they come in!)

Think Before You Drink

You may be spending a lot of time watching what you eat, but how much attention do you pay to what you are drinking? Beverages can be adding hundreds of calories a day to your intake and preventing you from losing the weight you would like to lose.

The average soft drink provides about 10 calories per ounce. This means 80 calories for eight ounces of soda, punch, juice (yes, even fruit juice that provides nutrition also provides calories!), milk (actually this is for skim milk--whole milk provides nearly double!), and even more for alcoholic beverages.
Keep in mind these number are for eight ounce servings, which people rarely consume nowadays: a can of soda contains 12 ounces (that's 120 calories), a bottle of beer 12 ounces (providing about 150 calories unless it is a light beer), and the plastic bottles of soda now contain 20 ounces--which bring the calorie content to a whopping 240! Yes, the label may tell you there are 80 calories per serving, but be sure to check what a serving size is equal to, and how many servings there are per container.

Other high-calorie beverages include sweet tea, which may have in excess of 200 calories per eight-ounce serving depending on how sweet it is; egg nog at 340 calories per eight-ounce serving, and a Starbucks Latte (16 oz) at 272 calories. If you order your latte with skim milk (and no whipped cream) that will bring it down to 220 calories.

Check out the measurement of the glasses you use in your home. Use an eight-ounce measuring cup and fill your favorite glass with water to see what eight ounces looks like. You may be pouring yourself a whole lot of extra calories by filling your glass with milk, juice, or a sweetened beverage. Many glasses hold 20 ounces and the calories add up quickly!

What are some lower calorie alternatives? Water, of course, has no calories and may be flavored with lemon or a flavored tea bag steeped for a few minutes. Diet soda has zero calories, but there can be draw backs to drinking excessive amounts. Tomato juice has only 41 calories per cup, and vegetable juice (like V-8) 46 calories per cup. Coffee and tea have less than two calories per cup and can be flavored with artificial sweeteners. However, if you add non-dairy creamers--even sugar free-take note of the serving size (in most cases one teaspoon) and see how fast the calories can again add up!

To prevent gaining weight (or to help with weight loss) keep a few rules of thumb in mind:
1. 100 extra calories per day may cause near a pound weight gain each month, so rethinking your beverage choices and take note of serving sizes.
2. Milk and juice are great sources of many vitamins and minerals but the "serving size" recommended is often 8 ounces or less. Even though they are 'good for you' the calories can turn into 'too much of a good thing' when you drink large servings.
3. Many containers of sodas, sweetened teas, and coffee drinks contain more than one serving. If the calories per serving seems reasonable, be sure to check how many servings are in the container before you drink the whole thing.
4. Even gatorade and other sports drinks are sweetened and contain nearly 10 calories per ounce. No free ride here!
5. Restaurants that serve 'sweetened tea' give you no control over the calorie content; ask for unsweetened and add your own sweetener (there are about 20 calories in a pack of sugar, so use accordingly!)

Bottom line: start paying attention to beverage labels the same way you do food labels. Check out the calorie content and what their serving size is equal to. You might just find this to be the secret to your own weight loss success!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Fast Can I Lose Weight?

How do they lose over ten pounds in one week on these extreme weight loss shows? The answer is, extreme measures. Not only is it easier to lose weight quickly when you weigh over 250 pounds, as most of these participants do, but it's easier to cut calories when you usually eat over 3000 calories a day, which most of them do as well. If you are not 100 pounds overweight, you should expect to lose quite a bit more slowly.

The other end of the equation that helps these people lose so quickly is the amount of activity in which they are participating each day. You see them working with their personal trainers, but did you know they are exercising for up to six hours each day? All they do on this "campus" is eat a light breakfast, then go out and exercise for three hours; eat a light lunch and go to the gym for another three hours. They get a light dinner before having to video tape their thoughts for the day and then collapse into bed! So unless you are planning on an exercise program that includes several hours of activity each day, along with a lower calorie meal plan, you should not expect to lose weight in the double digits.

So what is reasonable? If you can eat 500 fewer calories each day than you normall eat (or exercise to burn 500 more calories than you normally burn each day) you can expect to lose one pound a week. It may be easier to eliminate 500 calories a day from your intake than it will be to work this much off at the gym: It takes about an hour of intense activity for most people to burn this number of calories. It's more likely you can take a look at the labels on a few of the snacks or desserts you eat and find 500 calories to take away from your diet fairly easily.

Here are some typical examples of food portions that provide 500 calories: A slice of pecan pie; a cup of haagen daz ice cream; a 'big grab' bag of doritos chips; a large (or in some cases 'medium') order of fries; four reese's peanut butter cups. A Hardee's thickburger, among many other fast food restaurant sandwiches, provides over 800 calories! So there are plenty of ways to either eliminate these extremely high calorie snacks and desserts, or find much lower calorie selections to replace them.

If your goal is to lose a pound each week you should take note of foods like these in your diet and plan for ways to substitute them with items that are lower in calories. Perhaps while you're at it you will even find some foods that will provide you with more vitamins, minerals, and fiber as well (such as choosing fruits, vegetables, string cheese, yogurt, or a bowl of cereal when the afternoon or evening hungries hit).

If you have a relatively small amount of weight to lose (say, less than 35 pounds) and do not find that you are including very high calorie foods in your diet each day, you may find that you need to watch what you are eating more closely and plan to lose weight more slowly. The current recommendation for healthy weight loss is 10% of your body weight over the next six months. This means if you weigh 180 pounds, for example, you should aim to lose 18 pounds in six months, or approximately three pounds a month. I know this sounds terribly slow, but the plan is you will not be dieting and restricting and suffering to get there. And from there you will continue to lose weight because you have developed healthy new eating habits. Take a look at this equation:

Fast and Temporary = Deprived and Miserable

Now, think about how many times have you gone on a diet, deprived yourself, lost a few pounds, and then gained it back. You know now that way doesn't work! This time do it differently. Make small changes, include more nutritious foods in your diet, pare down the high calorie 'junk' foods (like cakes, candy and cookies, for starters), and learn some new habits! Six months from now you can be thankful and keep heading on your way down to your ideal weight!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Let Me Count the Weighs

Weighing yourself on your bathroom scale every morning isn't the only indicator of how you are coming along on your quest for achieving and maintaining your ideal body weight. There are other ways you can measure your progress, and a few things to keep in mind that the scale doesn't tell you. Here's a list of things to know when you are tracking your weight loss:

1. The scale does not tell you that your weight includes the two glasses of water you just drank (which actually weigh exactly one pound). Try to weigh yourself at the same time every day: for instance, first thing in the morning.
2. The scale does not remind you that you were naked yesterday when you weighed yourself and this morning you are wearing flannel pajamas which weigh exactly 1.5 pounds. Remember to wear the same type of clothing each time you weigh yourself.
3. A typical bathroom scale does not differentiate between water weight, fat weight, and muscle weight. How are you to know when you are a few pounds down that you are not just dehydrated? If you are a few pounds up that it might be water retention because you had a high sodium meal of chinese food yesterday evening? The answer ... a special scale that measures your body composition. There are several brands and types of these scales. See the website of a company called Tanita for one brand of scale and an explanation of how this works. No more guessing about whether you've put on muscle or fat!
4. BMI is another measurement that shows you how close you are moving to a healthy weight. Go here to calculate what yours is, and see how close you are to a healthy weight. A great goal is to move out of the 'obese' and into the 'overweight' numbers, or out of the 'overweight' range and into the 'healthy' range. This gives you an idea of how realistic your weight goal is and how meaningful it can be.
5. Waist circumference is another way to assess your progress towards a healthy body weight. Current recommendations from national health organizations determine at what waist measurement men and women suffer from increased risk of chronic diseases.
Go here for information on waist circumference

Using more than one measurement can give you a better view of how you are doing when you feel like things aren't moving quickly enough. Keep in mind that every week you are moving toward a healthier you. Keep heading in the right direction and don't worry so much about how long it takes. As long as you are eating better this week than last week, better this month than last month, you are successful!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Questions About Sodium

I hear so many misstatements about sodium, including its relationship to weight gain, I'm taking the time to address the facts to clear some of the confusion. One of the first things to understand is the amount of sodium humans need on a daily basis, and then what the recommended limitations are. Once you have an idea of what the numbers mean you can make sensible decisions based on the facts you are reading on the food labels.

First of all, sodium is an essential element in the diet. We have sodium in our body and it must be kept within a specific concentration in our bloodstream for normal body functions. So we definitely need it. In fact, if a person were to try completely eliminating sodium from their diet, the consequences could be quite harmful--even fatal!

That said, the minimum recommended sodium intake is about 500 milligrams. Milligrams are the units found on food labels in regard to sodium so it's easy to find how much sodium is contained in any food with a label. Once you start reading labels you'll find that canned and processed foods do contain quite a bit of sodium. However, foods many people talk about being high in sodium (like soda, for instance, which somehow got a terrible reputation for being high in sodium and terrible for causing fluid retention) are not. Soda averages 25-50 milligrams of sodium--NOT a high source! Bread averages 120 milligrams of sodium. Baked goods will all have at least 100 milligrams of sodium because salt and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are used to make them. Again, not a number to worry about. Why?

Because the recommendations for sodium intake are to limit this mineral to 2400 milligrams per day. Two-thousand, four hundred milligrams each day. Now you can see that a food with 100 or 200 milligrams is not very high in sodium, even though we think of 100 as a high number. In this case, it's not!
Anyone with normal and healthy kidneys, normal blood pressure, and a good daily intake of fluid will be able to flush out all the excess sodium ingested during the day. Eating a hot dog one day is not a likely cause of any fluid imbalance or organ damage in a healthy individual--you usually find yourself more thirsty later on and naturally drink more water to help eliminate the extra sodium.

The problem is, the average sodium intake of most Americans is near 4000 milligrams of sodium daily, and some take in amounts near 10,000 milligrams each day. Over time, consuming large amounts of sodium can contribute to elevated blood pressure in some people. This, surprisingly, is rarely from people salting their food. A teaspoon of salt (the main source of sodium) contains 2000 milligrams of sodium. If you were to measure a teaspoon of salt into a shaker and use that to salt your food during the day, the average person probably wouldn't use most of it.

Then where does most of our dietary sodium come from? Start checking the labels on your canned food and frozen foods; start looking up the sodium content from fast food restaurants (frightening!); check out sodium content in processed foods such as lunchmeat (bologna, hot dogs), corned beef, pickles, and olives. Here is where you will find single servings that are providing 500 milligrams of sodium, 1000 milligrams of sodium and even more! One trip to a fast food restaurant can easily put you up to the recommended 2400 milligrams before you include anything else you eat all day! Look at a can of soup, a diet frozen dinner entree, a pizza. This is where Americans are getting their excess amounts of sodium.

It's not a bad idea to watch your sodium intake, and it is certainly a great idea to read labels. But both these efforts are wasted if you don't know what you're looking for or what the numbers mean. Stop worrying about the 40 milligrams of sodium in a diet orange soda when you're having it with a corn dog that contains over 900 milligrams of sodium. Stop worrying about the 240 milligrams of sodium in your high fiber breakfast cereal when you're consuming 800 milligrams in a can of soup for lunch! Don't even think of giving up your morning glass of milk because it contains 120 milligrams of sodium... especially when you pour diet Italian dressing on your salad at dinner to the tune of 470 milligrams of sodium! What about spaghetti sauce you use from a jar? Check it out--one half cup contains over 800 milligrams of sodium!

My point here is not to worry you about the amount of sodium you take in. My point is that a healthy, low calorie food that provides a concentrated source of nutrition should not be avoided because it contains a few hundred milligrams of sodium (like milk or cereal). Especially by someone who is going to have thousands of milligrams of sodium later that day in a sandwich of lunchmeat (which is also high in fat) or a chinese buffet (during which they are likely to consume far more calories than they need as well).

Finally, sodium does not contribute to or cause weight gain. If you eat a high sodium meal you will retain fluid weight until you have consumed enough extra water to flush out the extra sodium (yes, drinking more water will help flush out the sodium faster). So, yes, the scale will reflect a higher body weight for a number of hours. This has nothing to do with how much fat you are carrying, which is presumably what we want to lose when we want to lose weight! Your sodium intake has no effect on your body fat content, or on how difficult it is to lose fat weight.

For now, keep reading those labels, but first know what the numbers mean! Don't ignore the highest sodium foods with a low nutritional content (like a fast food breakfast sandwich with sausage or bacon and 820 milligrams of sodium) and then turn around and avoid a healthy choice (like low fat cheese) because it has 200 milligrams of sodium!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Color Your Thinking

One major reason people go 'off their diet' is a consequence of black and white thinking. We set ourselves up with the unrealistic goal "to eat perfectly forever," and as soon as we depart from the ideal, we feel like we failed. So we stop. We stop trying to eat healthy because once again we are telling ourselves, "I can't do it. I tried again, and I failed again. I'm just destined to be overweight forever," and so on and so on.
You end up telling yourself you failed again, when all you did was eat something that wasn't the very best choice. It's not the end of the world! You don't have to wait until Monday to 'start again'. You can start this very minute. "From this moment on," you can reassure yourself, "I will continue to make healthy choices for the rest of the day". Not for the rest of your life, just today.
Give yourself goals that are doable and you'll be more likely to succeed. Keep succeeding and you're more likely to feel successful. Feel successful and you'll keep making the best choices. What a colorful cycle you can start for yourself!

So, from now on, no black and white thinking; no "on" or "off" your diet; no "good" foods and "bad" foods. Only better choices more often! Start giving yourself positive reinforcement. Listen for the negative comments you tell yourself and challenge them right back with a positive one--or two! Instead of "I can't stop eating chips", you turn right back around and say to yourself, "I will be fine without the chips" and "I am making smarter choices about what I eat every day". When you hear yourself complaining, "I just can't lose any weight" remind yourself, "I am eating more healthy and the weight will come off" and "I am learning new and healthy habits and I feel better about myself--my body will be more fit as a result".

It may sound silly to try to talk yourself up at first, but give it a try and you will notice in a short time that you really can make yourself feel better. You really can be your own cheerleader! Live in a world of colorful thought and keep making better choices every day.