Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Free Does Not Equal "Calorie Free"

Are you trying to lose weight? Looking at labels to find the best foods to eat to help you in your quest? Beware the misleading food labels! One of the most falsely held beliefs is that when you find a food that is fat free, you can eat all you want. And that's often what the manufacturers want you to think. They blatantly advertise in large letters, "a fat free food!" on items like jelly beans and other candies; on salad dressings; even on sodas that aren't diet!

If you know that fat provides calories, you may assume that foods without fat contain fewer calories. But this is not always the case. Calories are provided by carbohydrates, protein, and even some artificial sweeteners. Let's take a look at the calorie content of some fat-free foods.

Candy bars containing chocolate or nuts have a significant portion of their calories derived from the fat content. But there are also calories from the sugar. Candy that does not contain chocolate or nuts, such as lollipops, chewy types like starburst, solid sweets like skittles, or marshmallow-type treats, can still contain hundreds of calories per serving. Even if they are fat free.

Spreads and dressings
Since virtually all of the calories in butter, margarine, salad dressings, or mayonnaise is from fat, it's probably logical to assume that 'fat free' dressings or mayos have no calories--but this is not accurate. The fat is replaced with another substance to give the product the same creamy texture, and often more sugars are added to help the flavor and texture as well. For example, a regular ranch dressing provides 145 calories in 2 tablespoons (about 15 grams of fat and 1 gram carbohydrate). A low-fat ranch has 80 calories (7 grams of fat and 3 grams carbohydrate), and fat-free provides 50 calories, 0.3 grams fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrate. As the fat goes down, the calories drop significantly but not altogether. Using less dressing would help just as much as pouring on large amounts of the fat free kind!
Regular mayo has 90 calories and 10 grams of fat in one tablespoon, while the lowfat variety has 45 calories, half the fat, and a gram of carbohydrate. Fat-free mayo provides 15 calories with 3 grams of carbohydrates.
If you use the same amount of a fat-free product compared to its full-fat (or even low-fat) counterpart, you can save quite a few calories--but if you use all you want because you think the food is free of calories, those calories can add up quickly and sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Snack foods
Probably the most abused category of fat free foods is the snack food items. Products such as chips and cookies that advertise "low fat" or "fat free" (think 'baked instead of fried') can often have a significant number of calories per serving. The bigger problem is that people tend to eat more than one serving, believing they can afford to increase their intake since the food does not have fat.
One example of a low-fat food that doesn't differ much in calories from the regular version is oreo cookies. The low fat cookie has 50 calories; the regular oreo has 54. Hardly an instance where you could afford to eat several more of the lower fat treat.
Lay's regular potato chips provide 150 calories per ounce (from 10 grams of fat and 15 grams of carbohydrate); the Baked Lays: 130 calories, 1.5 grams fat and 26 grams carbohydrate. Slightly fewer calories, again, but more carbohydrates which translate into more calories than you thought.

The bottom line is, if you are watching your fat intake you can reduce the grams of fat by finding appropriate substitute products. But not all those who announce "low fat" on their label are giving you what you expect. Ask yourself what your intent is in trying to reduce your fat intake. If it's to reduce calories, you need to be reading about those on the label, as well as the all-important portion size to be sure exactly what is in the amount you eat. And if you are trying to reduce fat and calorie intake your best bet would be to reduce the frequency and portions of spreads, candies, and snack foods.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Monster Iced Honey Bun

Fridays I work in our local food pantry to aid in dispensing food assistance and nutritional information to folks who could use a little help. We have a number of staple items we purchase from monetary donations, and we dispense eggs, milk, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta and rice and other grain products. We get all sorts of food donations, too, and you never know what a group, a church, or a store will send over. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get loads of noodle soups, boxes of cereal, or cans of sweet potatoes just when we’ve run out.

Yesterday we received a delivery of a dozen cases of monster honey buns with 36 packages in each case. Not the ones pictured here: No, the ones we got were similar–except they were absolutely HUGE! The jumbo ones in the picture are only 4.75 ounces each and probably come in under 600 calories. The ones we got were 6 ounces each. I ventured a guess at the calorie and fat content–580 calories and 30 grams of fat? I was pretty far off. These babies provide 760 calories a piece and 43 grams of fat.

This opened up a topic of conversation among the volunteers at work. “What else could you eat for 760 calories?” (My entire dinner usually). ”Isn’t 43 grams of fat all you need in an entire day?” (Why, yes, for most people it is). “What if you just ate two of these in a day–you’d get 1520 calories and wouldn’t need to eat anything else at all!” (Except for the fact that the two honey buns would give a grand total of 4 grams of fiber for the day and absolutely no vitamin A, vitamin C or a number of other vitamins and minerals).

My biggest question is, “How many people who eat these take a look at the label?” Do you always look at the food label before you decide “yes” or “no”? What are you picking up for a snack during the day, oblivious to the number of calories, fat grams, and perhaps total lack of any nutritional value it provides? And if people knew the number of calories in one of these, what percentage of them would keep on choosing them despite the outrageous number of calories contained?

I urge you to take a look at the food labels on the choices you are putting into your body. Not that you are going to instantly change what you are eating, or give something up because it’s not “good for you”. But a little knowledge can go a long way. Do you have a cut-off point in mind? A number of calories at which you will put that down and walk away, realizing how far those calories would go towards an entire meal? Thinking about how many hours of exercise you’d have to work through to burn that food off?

In the case of the food product in question, one would have to jog about seven miles–would it be worth that to you in exchange for enjoying a Monster Iced Honey Bun?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Four Steps to Wellness

Today I was fortunate enough to meet a local massage therapist and hear a presentation she gave to our morning business group about maintaining wellness.
She focused on four steps to incorporate into your day to keep you well:
1) Hydration
2) Movement
3) Relaxation
4) Better Nutrition

Please read the transcript of her presentation here http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dhpjx59q_1cpvgmjg9

And if you are local to the St.Louis area, be sure to check out her website and make an appointment for a massage: she will even come to your office to provide chair massages for your staff! http://ww.kylarieger.massagetherapy.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Setting Goals To Motivate You for Weight Loss

Setting goals can be immensely helpful in the process of reaching our target weight. The idea of losing 40 or 50 pounds seems overwhelming moreso than motivating, and can leave us vulnerable to comforting ourselves with food, of all things!

Take some time before beginning your weight loss program to outline some specific interim goals you would like to reach. These will keep you feeling motivated and heighten the awareness of progress as you move towards the larger goal of losing a number of pounds. Here I share some very helpful examples from clients of mine to illustrate those that painted a colorful picture for me.

1. Emily wanted to be able to shop in the misses department instead of the women's sizes for clothing. Even though a size 14 is not her goal, it was a great moment for her when she realized she did not have to shop for larger sized clothing. She told me, "Now I go try on clothes even when I'm not buying, just because I love fitting into the smaller sizes!" A weight loss of only 20 pounds had accomplished this tremendous change in Emily's lifestyle.

2. Sheila had a very specific picture of what she wanted to look like; she pictured herself walking along the beach carrying her sandals and wearing nice-fitting capri blue jeans with a crisp, white button-down shirt. Whenever she was tempted to give in to a craving, all she had to do was picture this look, and she new what was really important to her. She was able to pass on so many high-calorie foods over a few weeks that she reached her first goal quickly and easily.

3. Marjorie's goal was more about getting away from what she was currently experiencing; her thighs rubbed together when she walked and it irritated her, both physically and emotionally. She heard the sound of her pant legs swishing back and forth against each other whenever she walked down the quiet halls at work and was convinced everyone else did, too. More than anything, Marjorie wanted to lose enough weight to let her walk comfortably and quietly. This was enough to motivate her to keep her food diary and continue other actions that led to the weight loss she desired.

4. Pam had an idea of how she wanted her figure to change: She was always proud of her curvaceous physique, but recently as she had put weight on, she noticed her belly protruding far more than made her comfortable. "My goal," she told the group, "is to have my profile show my bust larger than my belly". We all nodded in agreement with Pam's idea. This was by no means her final goal, nor did it involve a number of pounds to lose, but it was a picture in her mind that was going to keep her motivated to get her sneakers on every day after work and hop on the treadmiill for 45 minutes---like she had been planning to do for the past 16 months.

5. Victoria's goal was to get off her cholesterol and blood pressure medications. "I don't want to be on these for the rest of my life!" She has a doctor's appointment coming up in four months and knows if she can lose weight by then, along with establishing a regular exercise regimen, her numbers will be good enough for her doctor to discontinue those medications.

How do you picture yourself in your dream life? Are you happy and healthy and fit and active? Start living the life you want now! Take actions to eat healthier, be more active, and work towards the goals that will keep you motivated as you help your body take the shape you want it to have.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Pistachio Principle

"Imagine the possibilities," Eastern Illinois University professor and researcher Dr. James Painter proposes "if the restriction and deprivation were removed from the 'diet' picture...." Research conducted on pistachios, of all things, will yield a new approach to weight loss if Dr. Painter (also a registered dietitian) has a say. His suggestion is for people to focus on changing their environment and behavior rather than restricting their food intake to lose weight, based on recent research using pistachios to study food cues.

Subjects in one study were given the choice of eating pistachios they had to shell, or eating those that were already shelled. Participants were allowed to eat until they were satisfied, and those in the group who took the time to remove their own shells ate 50% fewer calories than the others.
In another study two groups both ate nuts with shells; but in group A the shells were left out on the table. Group B had their shells--evidence of how much they had eaten--whisked away. The results: Group A consumed 35% fewer calories.
In both these studies people ate all they wanted, and were no longer hungry. So it appears your mind can convince you that you are full not just based on what you ate or how much, but on how much you see you have eaten, or how much time you spend eating.

Here are a few ways you can change your environment at home to get your mind off counting calories, and just letting it naturally signal you when you've had enough:

1) Keep high-calorie easy-to-munch foods out of sight: shelled nuts, chips, cookies and candy can go down too easily--you keep eating them because they taste good and they're convenient. Why would being full make you stop?

2) Take some time and energy to prepare your food: Instead of purchasing pre-made, pre-packaged and ready-to-eat varieties, put some more effort into making your own--we're talking sandwiches, cut-up fruit and vegetables... Come on, burn some calories when you eat!

3) Put your food on a plate--no more eating out of the box or bag: This will help you visualize how much you are going to eat. You can always go back for more. Eating out of the bag gives you no visual cue and, again--it tastes good so what will stop you? If you have a handful on your plate and the bag is put back in the pantry, you'll run out before you've eaten the entire bag.

4) Stop when you are no longer hungry: Pause and take a mini-inventory every so often. Are you hungry? Are you paying attention to enjoying what you are eating (or mindlessly munching down while watching TV?)

You don't have to eat until you are full. When you aren't hungry, stop. Figure out something else that can satisfy you instead of ingesting hundreds more calories.
Apply the Pistachio Principle to your eating habits for six weeks and see how you find this new approach working for you! Please leave your comments here to let us know what's working for you :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Impress Your Fellow Diners

"I don't want people knowing I'm on a diet," Lauren told me. This was her reason to ignore my suggestion to order sauces on the side. "I'm too embarrassed to ask the waiter not to bring the basket of rolls," said Brenda, as we were going through a list of ways to reduce calories when dining out.

I don't understand. Why is it alright with you to walk around 35 pounds overweight, 24 hours a day? You have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but what stands out in your mind as a drawback is having attention called to the fact that you are trying to eat healthy?

Get your priorities in line: You want to be healthy. That should be number one. Normal blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels. Number two should be to get your BMI (Body Mass Index) into the ideal range: not obese, and not overweight. And third, if you can get to a healthy weight and an 'average' size, you will be impressing your clients and colleagues by being in good shape: When you look like you care about yourself and set forth a good image, you also feel good and project an even better image. The positives build upon each other.

People who are overweight are viewed with prejudice, unfair as it is. People who eat too much are seen as lacking in self-control and not caring about their image. What message does this send to the people you are trying to impress? Earn the respect of your clients by sharing with them and letting them know that your number one goal is your health. Take advantage of using the time at a restaurant meal to display this: Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side; ask for information from the waiter about what you are ordering (is there fat in the sauce?); ask for a take-out container with your meal so you can take part of it home without forgetting your intentions until your plate is cleaned. Demonstrate that you don't decide what you will do based on other people's judgement of you, but rather on what you know is the best decision!

Recently I met with a client who was trying to work exercise into her time away at a business conference. "We have meetings all day until 4:30 and then we go out for drinks at 6:00 and dinner at 7:00," Julia told me. "And how would you feel," I asked her, "If you told your colleagues at 4:30, 'I'll have to take a rain check on the drinks this afternoon: I'm going to run back to my room and get to the gym so I can get a quick workout in before dinner'". She thought for a moment and then answered, "I would feel good about that". It shows self-determination, dedication to priorities, and taking care of what's important before running off to socialize when you will have time for that at dinner as well. Visualize ahead of time how you will feel calling attention to the fact that you are concerned with what you put in your body. Will people think it's frivolous? Or will they take your cue and try to impress you with how cautious they can be about what they're consuming?

Several weeks ago I was at a networking dinner after a meeting and was impressed by a colleague I'll call Liz. We were all receiving our entrees and I saw the waiter bring Liz a styrofoam container that she started piling half her meal into before she began to eat. I looked around at the other diners. No one noticed Liz's actions because they were all excited, just having received their own meal and busy digging in to taste the first bite. "Aren't you embarrassed to be taking home half your meal in front of everyone," I asked her (with Lauren and Brenda fresh in my mind). "Of course not," she answered. "I don't care what they think--I've just lost 27 pounds and I have 12 more to lose and I'm not going to let anyone else get in my way!" Now that's impressive.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Using a Pedometer to Walk Your Weight Off

A pedometer is a small instrument that clips onto the waist band of your skirt or slacks and tracks how many steps you take each day by sensing the small movement your hips make whenever you take a step. Contrary to popular belief, it does not really matter if your pedometer is totally accurate, or if it calibrates miles walked or calories burned. The part that really matters is that it is consistent. You can find one for less than six dollars at your local department store and it does not have to have any bells or whistles.

The first thing you need to do is find out how many steps you take on an average day. Wear the pedometer from morning till bed time for a few days, being sure to zero it at the beginning of each day. Write down how many steps you take each day. This tells you your baseline. You might walk 500 steps a day because you have a desk job and don't like to exercise or you might walk 5000 steps a day because you go for a walk every morning and are then on your feet all day at work. Maybe your steps fluctuate depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend. Get an idea of how many steps are usual for you and that's where you start.

Then, set a goal for how many steps you want to aim for on most days. The following facts will help you:
- Most people burn approximately 50 calories for every thousand steps.- This means walking 2000 steps burns about 100 calories.
- For the average person, 2000 steps is about one mile.
- For every additional hundred calories you burn each day, you can lose nearly one pound a month.
- This means that for every mile (or every 2000 steps) you start adding to your daily walking, you can lose over 10 pounds this year.
Decide to get out for a two mile walk each morning and lose 20 pounds this year; decide to take 6000 more steps than your baseline, and you can say so long to more than 30 pounds in twelve months.

Now be sure to plan how you are going to add these steps to your daily regimen. Can you take a two mile walk after dinner? This should only take 30 or 40 minutes if you walk briskly. Find ways to start adding steps to your day and get your pedometer climbing into the thousands: take the steps instead of the elevator (even going down stairs uses more steps than the elevator and these count too!); park a little bit farther away when you drive to work or the store; make a few extra trips in and out of the house when bringing in groceries instead of dragging in six sacks at a time; have fun by playing little games with yourself, like taking the silverware out of the dishwasher one piece at a time and walking over to the drawer to put it away. Go ahead, come up with some crazy ones!

You've probably heard that adding more steps during the day helps to burn calories, but with a pedometer you can actually see them adding up and you can know how many more calories you are burning with each activity. Notice how many steps you rack up by going just a little bit further, walking to a nearby friend's house or the store instead of driving, taking the long way instead of taking shortcuts. Have a contest with friends and see who can increase their steps the most. Have fun with it, and try to eventually get your steps up to the recommended ten thousand a day to lose the weight you need to and then keep it off!

Please share your fun ideas to get more steps in, and how many you got up to! My highest was 17,000 on a vacation in Philadelphia's center city with non-stop walking all day long... that's over eight miles :)