Thursday, January 29, 2009

Burn More Calories in the Snow

If you're like a lot of people, just thinking about exercise is a big drag. And if you are trying to lose weight, you wish you liked to exercise because you know that burning more calories will help speed along the process. The key is to make burning calories fun!
Here are seven winter activities that can burn a lot of calories. You can enjoy the beautiful, sparkly snow, get some fresh air, and keep fit without having to drag yourself to the gym and be bored on the treadmill.

1) Downhill Skiing: 535 calories an hour. Seems like you're not doing any work and just along for the ride!

2) Cross Country Skiing: 700 calories an hour. Now this seems like a little more work until you get into the swing of it.

3) Shoveling Snow: 400 calories an hour. It's a necessary evil anyway--you might as well see the benefit of burning the fat while you're out there.

4) Walking in the Snow: 270 calories an hour. A little tougher than walking on flat ground--you'll feel it tomorrow!

5) Building a Snowman: Go ahead, have some fun with the kids and burn 250 calories an hour.

6) Sledding: 420 calories an hour--not if you're sitting on the sled the whole time, but that walking uphill really does it!

7) Ice Skating: Enjoy gliding along as you burn 300 calories an hour (more if you skate faster!)

Go ahead and take advantage of these winter activities while you can. For every additional 500 calories burned each day you can lose another pound each week! If you're trying to maintain your weight, this means you can eat an extra few hundred calories and enjoy knowing you've already burned them off!
Leave us a note with your favorite here. Personally, I just love to shovel the driveway :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All I Can Eat?

OK, so here I am on vacation at one of those all-inclusive places: all I can eat, all I can drink, everything's included. So what's a dietitian to do? My strategy, which I planned out ahead of time, was to try to include 2 fruits and 2 vegetables at every meal (except for the veggies at breakfast), to eat fish at least once a day, and to eat meatless meals as much as possible. My plan was to limit desserts to just a bite or two of a couple of selections (just being realistic, here--I know I can't choose one when there are eight of them staring at me). As for the drinks, it's tough to limit them as well, when you're passing a bar every 5 feet and seeing people walk off to their spot on the beach with chilly-looking blue and pink and purple frozen refreshments!

So far, I'm not doing too badly: Breakfast is easy. It's a buffet and I head right for the cereal, yogurt, fruit and toast. I know I will be tempted with eggs and bacon and sausage, so I concentrate on the selections of fresh breads and the assortment of fruits. I love mango and melons and they are here in abundance!

Lunch can be something from the grill or from the buffet. There is always a variety of salads and I know if I fill up on those I won't have room for too much else. So I choose a small amount of pasta salad, some vegetable sides, and the tasty fish dishes that are always available. Once I add the fruit salad to these, I'm plenty full until later.

When it's time for dessert I am lucky here because they've already portioned everything into one-inch squares. I can choose two or three tastes and know I won't get carried away into eating an entire wedge of cheesecake because there are only two bites there!

Truly, by the time dinner rolls around I'm not exactly starving. There is food everywhere you look and it loses its appeal after seeing it all day. I did have a bag of popcorn from the snack bar yesterday afternoon, and by dinner the entree of little chunks of pineapple chicken on a scoop of rice were plenty to fill me up at the Thai restaurant.

As for the drinks, there is beer and champagne, wine, and frozen concoctions flowing like water.

There are also plenty of other drinks around here, so I'm managing to keep my palate sated with rich, delicious Jamaican coffee, fruit punches, and raspberry-flavored unsweetened iced tea. And my new favorite drink: they put a large pitcher near all the pool areas filled with ice and water and chunks of watermelon and honeydew. Yum! It's very cool and refreshing with a mild hint of sweetness. I'm going to make this when I get home and drink it all the time!

Hopefully, I will come home without gaining weight which, unfortunately, is par for the course on vacations for most people. I'm trying to get to the fitness center everyday for a short stint on the bicycle or treadmill, and mind what I eat and drink during the day. It's not really that hard to do since I'm finding plenty of healthy foods that I like!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Long Must I Suffer?

How many times have you impulsively ordered a dessert, wolfed down a candy bar, or taken a second helping at the dinner table, only to regret it very shortly afterwards? If you take the time to think about what you are going to eat before you eat it, you can save yourself enough calories to start losing weight right now! People eat high-calorie foods for immediate gratification: Those donuts smell so good; that pie looks so appetizing; that chocolate will make me forget how mad I am at my boss.
This week, stop and think about what you eat before you eat it, and think about delaying your gratification and what that will do for you. If you take a deep breath and decide to pass on the morning donuts in the breakroom, for how long will you be regretting that decision? Will you really be dreaming about those donuts until late that afternoon, or will the vision of donuts evaporate from your mind as soon as you are back at your desk? What if you don't have dessert after dinner? Of course you will be craving it and thinking about it at the time, but how long will you have to wait until you forget about it?
If you're like most people, once the temptation is removed you won't be fixated on that food any longer. Figure out how long it takes you to forget about the food after you've decided not to eat it. Maybe it's five minutes, or for some people maybe the thought lingers for a few hours. Now, compare this to how long you are feeling badly about your weight. How often during the day are you wishing you weighed less, wishing you skipped the last treat you indulged in, wishing you looked better in your clothes? How many times during any given day is your weight on your mind? Do you feel crummy when you see yourself (or avoid yourself) in the mirror; get dressed in the morning; go clothes shopping? Which sounds better to you of the two situations: missing a slice of cheesecake for a couple of hours in the evening, or wanting to lose twenty (or more) pounds during most of your waking hours?
This week, try delaying the gratification of empty-calorie treats in exchange for longer term happiness when you lose that weight! Pass on the junky vending machine snacks, the drive-through burger with fries, the ice cream sundaes in the evening. Choose a lower-calorie more nutritious option when you are hungry and another activity (besides eating) when you are bored or stressed.
See how much weight you lose by the end of the week. Start looking forward to the days that your new habit will be fitting into smaller clothes instead of scarfing down a piece of chocolate layer cake!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I just ate HOW many calories?!

If you are a person who has started reading labels to find out how many calories you are eating, good for you! This is a great move towards becoming more aware of what you are eating and whether or not you are choosing foods that are contributing to carrying an extra few pounds on your body.

Most helpful is comparing calorie content from one food to another. For instance, you may have no idea how many calories are supposed to be in a slice of cheese, but if you compare a slice of part-skim mozzarella, or fat free kraft singles, to an ounce of a full fat cheese, you can see the difference: You could be eating 50 calories, 80 calories, or 100 calories, with each slice, depending on the brand and variety you choose.

Now I'll fill you in on the information on the label that is even more important than the calorie content. It's the serving size. Because the serving size that the manufacturer chooses is what all the other information is based on. And if you are trying to figure out whether you're eating a low calorie food, a low fat food, a significant source of calcium, or anything else nutrition-related, you have to know that it is all based on what they call a serving size.

This might be very different from your serving size. At one time a "serving" of Triscuits was three. Three tiny, little crackers. Who eats that much and then stops? What about a serving of Grape Nuts cereal? This has increased recently to 1/2 cup... still a smaller amount than most people probably eat. And when's the last time you measured out 1/2 cup of ice cream from a carton and settled for that much without throwing on an extra rounded spoonful just for good measure!

My favorite calorie story is when my husband came home from work one day and confessed that he had eaten a Snickers Bar earlier that afternoon--even though he was reportedly trying to lose weight--"But it only had 170 calories," he told me, justifying his treat. Well, the last time I checked, a Snickers Bar had about 280 calories. Maybe they came out with a diet version of the candy bar with chocolate and peanuts? NOT! A thought hit me as I was in the supermarket check-out line a few days later and I eyed a King Sized Snickers Bar on the snack shelf. I reached for it to read the label and there it was: "170 Calories" under the nutrition information. All I had to do was look up a little bit further on the label for the serving size and I had the answer to my question: "serving size: 1/3 candy bar". Uh oh. Who eats a third of a candy bar? What would you even do with the rest of it? My darling hubby had unwittingly eaten 510 calories that afternoon between his lowfat lunch and his low calorie dinner.

So here's your tip for the day. When you read the nutritional information on any food label, be sure and check out what they call a serving.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How Fast Can I Lose Weight?

You hear all kinds of fantastic promises from weight loss pills and potions: "Lose weight overnight!"; "Lose 11 pounds in 7 days!"; "Lose inches from your waistline in less than 3 weeks!". But how many of them are true? The scientific fact is, it takes 3500 calories to make one pound of body fat.

So the answer to "how long will it take to lose a pound" would be "as long as it takes you to deprive your body of 3500 calories". You might do this by eating less and you might do it by exercising more; the best way is probably a combination. So, how can you eat 3500 calories less than you usually eat? Well, most people don't eat 3500 calories in one day, so even if you fast you're not likely to lose a pound a day. The scale may show you losing more weight while you're dieting if you're losing water weight--but that's not really the weight you want to lose. For people who go on crash diets they can lose weight more quickly, but some of it will be muscle weight--that's not the weight you want to lose either. Muscle weight makes you look more tone, keeps you strong, and burns more calories than other body tissues.

To lose fat weight is going to take a little more time. The most common recommendation is to eat 500 fewer calories each day for a total of 3500 fewer calories by the end of each week. This will yield one pound of desirable weight loss. To lose faster you can burn an extra 500 calories each day.

What is the equivalent of 500 calories of food? It could mean eliminating a candy bar and a can of soda each day; an extra fried chicken quarter; a large milkshake or a large frozen cappuccino; a piece of pecan pie. Take a look at the extras in your diet: sweets, snacks, sodas, and second helpings. I would not recommend eliminating a meal like breakfast to try to lose weight--this will slow down your metabolism and work against you in the long run.

As for 500 calories of exercise that will take about an hour of jogging, swimming, or an aerobics class. If you can exercise an hour each day and eat fewer snacks and sweets, you could lose two pounds a week.

I know this doesn't sound like a rate you want to lose weight. Of course you want to get 20 pounds off as quickly as you can. But the rule is, weight comes back on quickly when you take it off quickly. Think about your future. What would you like to weigh in six months? If you lose 20 pounds this month you may easily gain it back next month. If you change your habits to eat more wisely and exercise more often, you could weigh 25 pounds less six months from now by losing only 1 pound a week! Now that sounds like a plan.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Do You Want What You Can't Have?

Does anything in this picture look good to you? How would you feel if you were told you could not have fresh oranges anymore? Or apples, bananas, steamed broccoli or crunchy carrot sticks. Would that make you want them more?

Dieters often focus on what they "can't" have, and this leads to craving those exact foods more and more. When "I can't have ice cream" is on your mind all day, day after day, it just makes you want it more. And you aren't even interested in all those 'diet' foods you perceive as being 'good for you' but undesirable. My theory is, those foods become undesirable merely because you can have all you want.

What if you tried changing your frame of mind: What fruits or vegetables or whole grains would you miss if you were told you couldn't have them anymore? I'll bet you can think of a few foods you take for granted because they aren't forbidden. Believe it or not, there are people who have to avoid many fresh fruits and vegetables because of certain illnesses (for instance, in kidney failure). When you are told you can't have a certain food (or group of foods) you suddenly begin to want it, miss it, savor the idea of having it right now!

So my suggestion is to start thinking of those foods that are good for you that you would really miss if they were on your forbidden list. Enjoy those fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. And let yourself have a no-no once in a while (like a brownie or chocolate chip cookie once a week).

When you change your way of thinking about foods as 'allowed' or 'not allowed', some of them will increase their appeal, and some cravings will vanish. Try it and see :) Let us know by leaving your comments here!

Monday, January 5, 2009

What's Your Problem?

Through 25 years of working with thousands of clients, I have noted that people who are trying to lose weight can usually finish this sentence easily: "My problem is ..."

It may be that you just love sweets, or maybe you snack when you are bored. Perhaps you've never taken the time to plan your meals for the day, or you don't like to restrict yourself from foods you love to eat because it makes you feel deprived. If you're trying to lose weight, give some thought to what your problem is. In what area of your eating pattern do you really know you are eating too much?
It's a tough thing to do, because admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it. And when we say "my problem is, I like to have a donut during my 10 am coffee break", or "my problem is, I am addicted to those 1/3 pound bacon cheeseburgers for lunch", or "my problem is I love a bag of chips to keep me company when I watch TV at night" ... well, then we know we're going to have to give up that comforting habit.

But don't despair! You don't have to go without, I promise. There are ways to find acceptable substitutes so you'll be able to have a sweet treat mid-morning, a fast food lunch you'll love, and a snack in the evening that will keep you happily munching away to your favorite reality tv show! Take that first step and figure out where the extra-calorie problem lies, and then you can take the second step--decide what smarter choice you have instead--to start the weight loss ball rolling.

For helpful ways to re-organize your diet if you've identified your problem as fast foods, skipping breakfast, or unwise snack choices, see my new e-books here:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Free Diet Makeovers This Month!

It's the new year; the time where everyone is making new year's resolutions. And I'll bet that "lose some weight" is top on many people's list!

I'd love to help you do it right this year, so I'm offering to help you makeover your diet starting now! It's easy to do--just think of three ways you can change your diet to make it better. How can you eat more foods that are good for you? Fewer foods that are high in calories? How can you be sure to exercise more regularly? Sit down with a pad of paper and jot down some ideas. When you come up with a few good ones, just send them here as comments. I'll add my expert comments to yours and help you refine them so they'll work best.

Here are some examples of what we might see:

1) Eat 3 fruits each day.
comment: have a plan to track them, such as keeping a log on the refrigerator door. After supper, check to see how close you are, and if you are lacking a fruit or two, have one for dessert and another as a bedtime snack.

2) Stop eating fast food.
comment: You don't want to set yourself up to fail. If you eat fast food often for convenience sake, you're going to have a back-up plan that works, like packing your lunch every day--and will you really do this? How about taking a few minutes to research your favorite fast food restaurant on their website for nutritional content of the foods you like best. You'll quickly find that some have hundreds more calories than others. Instead of "no more fast food" it may be wiser to refine your goal as "find the healthiest choices" for when you do turn into the drive through window!

3) Exercise every day.
comment: If you don't exercise every day now, what makes you think things will change so drastically? You need an easy plan! What exactly will you do for exercise, and where and when will you do it? Do you like to walk? Do you like aerobics classes? Can you follow a schedule more faithfully if you have an exercise buddy? Again, you want to set yourself up for success, so make your goal realistic. "I will walk monday and wednesday after dinner with my husband, and meet Barb at the gym on Tuesday and Saturday mornings for yoga classes" might work better for your new routine.

Share some goals with us and we can all get some good ideas to start out 2009 with healthy habits that can last this year!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Win an E-book" contest in January!

I'm running a contest to help me get a collection of e-books written for my "Choose To Lose" series. You see, I've learned that each individual has their own specific 'problem areas' in their dietary habits that prevent them from losing weight. I've identified several prominent ones among the clients I've seen over the years and started writing this series of e-books.
The idea behind the series is to target only the areas that will help you reduce your calorie intake, and not make you read through an extensive diet book that involves changing habits you don't need to change. For example, some people skip breakfast which slows their metabolism and makes them hungry later in the day, leading to overeating. If you're a faithful breakfast eater, you don't need to read about how to overcome the roadblocks that keep people from eating the morning meal (which include, "I don't have time", "I'm not hungry when I get up", and "I don't like breakfast foods").
Some people snack excessively either out of stress, boredom, or hunger due to not planning their meals well. They can take in hundreds of excessive calories through mindless munching any time from the morning coffee break donuts, to the afternoon candy bar fix, to the evening television side-kick bag of chips. If this sounds like something you do, you can get the "Smart Snacking" e-book and solve your weight problem!
Other common habits that lead to over-consumption of calories and subsequent weight gain include: consuming fast foods too often, and making poor choices when you do; dining out for dinner several nights each week and 'splurging' too often; eating out for lunch every day when packing your lunch could save you hundreds of calories; not reading labels to see how many calories you are consuming, etc.
I have ideas for about 10 e-books in the near future: three are already available on the page; each is approximately 20 pages in length; all can be downloaded with adobe acrobat.
Here's what's up with the contest: If you know what your 'problem area' is that is keeping you from losing weight, send it to me and if I write an e-book about it, I'll send you that e-book, plus any other one you choose, for free! You can either comment here or send me a private email at I'll be in touch with you shortly thereafter with an email to let you know whether it's a topic I will include in a future e-book, and if it is, I'll send you a voucher for 2 free e-books good through the end of March (at which time I hope to have several topics completed and ready for download!)
Thanks for your help, and good luck: we can all win!