Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weight Loss is My New Year's Resolution... Again!

If you find that "lose weight" is your resolution New Year after New Year, it might bring some choice "F" words to mind because it's not working, right? I've come up with a list of  choice F words myself--'do's and 'don't's that will assure you stay on the right track first thing this year, and make sure next year allows you to come up with some really good resolutions that don't involve losing weight again!

Some things you need to do differently this year:

First, Don't be fooled by empty promises of "losing weight while you sleep" or "no diet or exercise needed!" If there were really a magic pill you could take and lose weight with zero effort, we wouldn't see any overweight people on the planet, would we?
Don't put yourself in a financial bind by desperately pouring money into a weight loss scheme that's expensive. It doesn't cost any more to eat healthy, when all you might actually have to do is stop buying soda, chips and sweets.

What you have to do will take some work:

Focus is of utmost importance. In order to start eating differently and being more active, a lifestyle change will have to be a priority in your life. It helps some people to make a list of the top five reasons you want to lose weight. If you can't think of that many, it's not going to be important enough to you to pass up on the snacks and desserts when a craving hits.

Form new habits: If you keep going on a diet--and then going off it when something upsets your normal schedule--it's time to think about making more permanent changes. Learn to incorporate healthy foods, smaller portions, pre-planned meals and more activity into your day. Don't worry about what you "can't" eat--instead, pay attention to things you can add to your diet that will be filling and satisfying. Drinking more water, eating more high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, and finding more ways to be active during the day will keep your calorie intake lower and your calorie burn higher--this is the key to weight loss, after all.

Consider keeping a Food Diary. Simply writing down what you eat has been shown consistently over decades of research to promote weight loss. Of course, the way this works is by helping you think about what you eat, and often helping you realize you aren't really hungry whenyou impulsively reach for something. Writing down the 6000 calories you consume isn't magically going to lead to weight loss!

Set short term goals and rewards to keep feeling good about your accomplishments, no matter how small. If you started eating fruit or walking every day, these are habits to be rewarded, regardless of what the scale says today. Try to make it fun with games and contests, even if you're just playing against yourself. Check out my Healthy Eating Line-up game that plays like bingo: cover a square when you do something to be rewarded and try for a win every day!

Find a plan that's flexible. You should be able to exchange one food for another or one day for another. A diet that says, "this is your lunch on Thursday the 10th" doesn't allow for things that come up: what if you didn't get to the store yesterday or don't like beets?! Rigid diets are difficult to follow and just give another excuse to go off them when the going gets tough.

Finally, look for a plan you could potentially follow forever. Eating balanced meals, cooking at home more, incorporating activity into your day--these are actions that don't require going on and off a diet. If you learn to live healthier you'll naturally achieve a lower body weight and stay there.

Consider joining our Lifechanging! Weight Loss series of teleclasses. We'll follow along with the Beck Diet Solution workbook to learn new skills and techniques, support each other, and think thin. Call in once or twice a week from anywhere in the world, or participate on our chat board. Click here to register and get more information.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Surprising Small Changes Add Up Over Time

Earlier this week I was walking from my hospital job to my car, parked in a lot about 4 blocks away. It was a lovely day, and I was happily thinking about the extra 200 steps I was getting in! Recently the hospital had re-evaluated some of their contracts and decided to eliminate leasing the lot I had been parking in until last month. The lot I now park in is about a block further from the hospital than the other lot. A quick calculation had me figuring I was burning close to an extra 20 calories a day walking back and forth to work. Could this add up over time? It most certainly could. 

Take any example of a small, seemingly insignificant change in your work environment. Maybe you changed jobs and now park farther from your office than in your former job. Maybe your company moves to another floor in the building and you walk up 2 more flights each morning (and possibly each afternoon coming back from lunch). Perhaps there's a change in some email policy, or a restructuring of the chain of command that has you going just another 30 steps further back and forth to your boss's office several times a day. You may actually find yourself more fit over time, one day wondering how this miraculously happened.

The downside is the change occurring in the opposite direction. Beware!!

If you've had a change in the number of steps you take each day because of your office proximity to others or the number of flights of stairs you take, or the number of blocks you walk to and from the parking lot, this can really effect your weight over time. I can't tell you how many people call me out of desperation with a story like this: "I've gained 20 pounds over the past 2 or 3 years and I can't fit into my clothes anymore. I have no idea how this happened. Nothing has changed in my life, absolutely nothing!"

But who remembers that week in 2010 when the office moved to the first floor from the third (and you had been taking the stairs like a conscientious health-minded person)? It was just nice to be in that newly designed suite with modernized computers and beautiful carpet. You didn't miss taking those stairs ....

Who remembers that in 2009 there was a new parking lot constructed closer to your building? You may have been excited at the time, thinking "it's so long to those horrible rainy days when I'd be soaked on the way in from walking so far" but not noticed the number of steps you cut out of your typical work day....

How easy it is to forget that we moved to another part of the building in 2008, because nothing has changed (since then)!

Think hard: Have you made a minor change at work (or some other part of your daily routine) that could have eliminated 200 steps (about 10 calories) from your day? Pick a moment today while you're walking somewhere and count 200 steps--it's not much at all! Yet 10 calories a day works out to one pound of body fat a year (3650 calories). One pound of fat melted off, or one pound more stuck on!
Thirty calories a day is 3 pounds a year. Barely noticeable to anyone, since our weight fluctuates 2 or 3 pounds week to week anyway. After 3 years, though--9 pounds may be enough to notice your clothes are suddenly tight!

What's changed in your life that you didn't notice before?
How about sharing a change you can make that will help you lose weight over time? Make the commitment now and tell us about it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eat Or Be Thin: Must We Choose?

A dietitian posed a question on a professional chat board the other day. It went something like this:

 "If you had to choose between eating what you like and being overweight, or giving up foods you like to stay at your ideal weight, which would you choose?"

She was looking to start a fun and interesting back-and-forth between people who said things like

"I would never give up my wine and my cheesecake no matter what--even if I was 100 pounds overweight I wouldn't be as miserable as if I had to give up the foods I love"
or people who said,
 "I would give up everything but water if I had to in order to stay at my ideal weight. Food is never as important as looking and feeling my best 24/7".

But those responses never came.
Because the chat board was for dietitians.

So the responses came in (including my own) like this:

"People don't have to choose one or the other. They can eat foods they like in moderation, and add in a little more exercise when they take in more calories" 
"No one has to give up all their favorite foods forever; it's a matter of limiting them to occasion, planning ahead, and eating more carefully in the days that follow indulgences"
"This is a choice I make each day: some days it's most important to me to eat healthy, exercise enough, and know I'm maintaining my best. Other days it's about a little bit of slack; having dessert or skipping a work out -- and knowing if I don't work a bit harder tomorrow my pants might not button at the end of the week!"

The woman who posed the question made another entry. She expressed her disappointment in us for not having fun with the questions; for making comments that were essentially what she called "slogans we learned in school".

But the fact is, no one has to choose one of these sides and live with it forever.
Many people feel they do have to, and that is so sabotaging to their health, their weight, their diet, and their attitude.
Because they choose to eat with abandon, feeling no other options are available; they feel guilty every time they eat a "bad" food; they feel discouraged every time they get on the scale; they feel out of control when their clothing gets snug; and they feel a sense of failure with the whole cycle.

No one has to make the choice of either/or, all or nothing, fat or hungry, healthy or happy.
And that is one lesson we, as dietitians, are still trying to teach everyone who struggles with their weight.

Now, you know there are three choices: Which do you choose?

(1) Eat whatever you want, whenever you want, never exercise and be overweight and possibly unhealthy

(2) Exercise often, restrict what you eat constantly, avoid any of your favorite indulgences for the rest of your life and maintain an ideal weight

(3) Limit your treats to 4 or 5 a week, eat reasonable portion sizes, exercise 3 to 4 times a week, and be happy, healthy and at a comfortable and pleasing weight


Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Lose (or Gain) 70 Pounds in One Year

This afternoon I was driving home from visiting my brother who lives less than 2 hours away. As I pulled into a gas station to fill up my car, the passenger with me (who shall remain nameless) dashed into the gas-mart for a snack. The first thing I noticed as we pulled back onto the road was, of course, the caloric content of the purchases. Now it seems they are putting calories in even larger print on labels (which I think is a good thing). Here is a closer view:
As you can see, there are 260 calories in the lemonade, and 240 calories in the M&M's. If you look even more closely, you'll see underneath the 240 calorie label "per serving" on the M&M bag that there are 2 servings inside! 
Consuming this little snack on the way home costs 740 calories.  *Gulp*

A little snack.
One which, over time, adds up.
Ten days of this and you've gained 2 pounds. Literally.

Wake up and look at your labels people! Back away from the candy bars! Drop the soda and run! Take the time to think before making a snap decision like picking up something that looks yummy.

Because the good news is, if you can figure out what you're eating which, like this example, is dumping hundreds of extra calories into your body every day, you can LOSE 2 pounds every 10 days. 

What's packing the weight on you:
Large order of fries? 
Coffee drink (with cream, flavored syrup and whipped cream)?
Little pint of Haagen-Dazs? (hint: that is 4 servings!)
Second helpings at dinner?
Appetizers at the restaurant?

The list goes on and on.

Enjoy a good breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snack. Have a Skinny Cow ice cream treat for less than 140 calories, a 100-calorie bag of kettle corn, a smoothie with fruit and yogurt.
There are plenty of satisfying treats that taste good that don't cost you another pound this week!

Start reading your food labels and replacing 250+ calorie foods with 100-calorie alternatives.
Even just some of the time.
And write me next year when you've lost 50 or 60 pounds :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Just found this super and free shopping guide called "Good Food on a Tight Budget". Shopping tips, lists, menu organizers and recipes, too! Here's the link .

Now go get some good food :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are You Ready to Lose Weight?

Are you ready for weight loss? Simply put, if you are not ready to change something in your life, you are not going to lose the weight (and keep it off).  People give a lot of thought, researching how to follow a specific diet: Whether it’s South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, or The Cookie Diet.  They read about it and talk to their friends about it; they search for information on the internet, and save up enough money to buy the special bars, and sometimes a membership fee. 

But they don’t give any thought to what it means to change behaviors that have become longstanding, lifestyle habits. Any habit is difficult to break. You know that’s true if you’ve ever tried to stop smoking or biting your nails.  It is almost an instinct when you carry out a habit, and it’s very difficult to just stop in your tracks when the urge hits.

It’s the same with eating.  We have established habits like:
-      - reaching into the cookie jar while we read the mail
-      - grabbing a candy out of a dish when we walk by a coworker’s desk
-      - settling into a cozy chair after dinner instead of going for a walk

The good news is, there are many, many habits that contribute to eating too much and not exercising enough.  And you only have to change a few!  The fact is, you do not have to perform a complete diet overhaul and stop eating everything you’re used to and replace it with all the “healthy” foods you’ve never liked before.  And, you don’t have to start going to the gym for 2 hours every day or start jogging two miles every morning.

You didn’t get to this weight overnight, ingesting huge quantities of food daily.  Small habits you’ve picked up over the years:
- treating yourself to a donut in the morning
- cleaning your kids’ plates after supper
- having ice cream while watching TV in the evening
- running through the fast food drive thru window for a quick lunch
- driving down the block to a friend’s house instead of walking
- eating everything on your plate at a restaurant

These all add up to what might be just 50 or 100 calories a day. But over years it can result in five pounds a year weight gain, and after 5 years that’s 25 pounds! That’s what many are looking to lose—10 or 20 pounds of slowly accumulated weight gain that won’t come off now because of bad habits.  They aren’t very noticeable now, because they are part of our daily routine.

The key to making changes is choosing one change at a time so you aren’t overwhelmed and so it will be easier to stick with.  You can’t really believe you will give up all fast foods, chocolate, and desserts and start eating breakfast, packing your lunch and going to the gym every day all at once.  And that you can keep that up for more than a week!  It’s just too much to humanly expect.

So think about this:
-What is one habit you can change? 
-Where is the best (and easiest) place for you to start?

Choose a healthier way to replace something you’ve been doing that you know isn’t good for you. 

Eat more of something good for you, less of something that isn’t nutritious, or find a way to increase your activity.

Next week, you can add another to your list.  In time you’ll have a lifestyle of healthy habits and the weight will come off without you even feeling like you’re on a weight loss plan!

Take the first step and write a comment to commit to making one, easy change: What will you change this week?

Monday, July 16, 2012

How To Lose Weight Eating Fast Food

Fast foods are certainly a fact of life. Sometimes we're in a hurry and the drive-thru window is our only option. And of course, we love the taste of our favorite burger joint meals!
Every chain restaurant has their own website, detailing all the nutritionals for each menu item. But that can be quite difficult to plow through while we're sitting in the drive-thru lane. So I've come up with a few easy steps to help you plan meals that are fast, tasty, and low enough in calories to help you actually lose weight:                                                                                                                               

STEP 1:  Make a list of your top 3 or 4 fast food restaurants.     
STEP 2:  Go to their website to get started. (It's important to go to the company website, and not another site that lists calorie content of foods.  Other sites have information entered by  helpful dieters that are often incorrect.)
STEP 3:  Decide what information is most important to you. Calories are likely to be your priority. You may also be watching your fat, carbs, or sodium. These can all be very high, even when calories are not.
STEP 4: Make note of the menu items you are most likely to order. If you don't like chicken salad, it's not worth your time to see that this item is low in fat and calories. Unless you would actually choose an item solely based on the fact that it's low-cal, look at the sandwiches, wraps and salads you are most likely to eat. You will get both pleasant surprises and extreme shocks when you see the actual calorie levels. Amazingly, you will find that you can save hundreds of calories in some cases by ordering a hamburger and fries, instead of what you thought was a healthy fish sandwich! Some of the chicken sandwiches have over 700 calories because they are fried, made with cheese, topped with sauces, and in some cases even have their buns buttered. This is information you have no way of knowing until you look at the website from the fast food chain that gives you this information.
STEP 5: Make your menus. Once you find the lower cal (or low fat/carb/sodium) choices, build a few meals. I suggest printing them each on an index card that will be easy to carry in your purse or your glove compartment. You don't have to remember anything except the note cards: when you drive up to the window, you'll have all the information you need. You'll know what sandwich or salad to order, what you can have with it, what to order it without (such as mayonnaise) and how many calories you're getting, all from your handy notes.
Remember the 100 Calorie Tip: For every hundred calories you save on your lunch, you can lose a pound at the end of this month. I know it doesn't sound like much, but you can easily save 400 calories a day from your new smart fast food choices. This is going to make a four pound deficit this month without going on a diet or being hungry.  That means eating smart will bring a 36 pound weight loss by this time next year, simply by taking an hour this weekend to write out your smart fast food choices. Who wouldn't want to lose that?!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Belviq -- New Weight Loss Drug Approved by FDA

On June 27 the FDA gave the green light to the newest prescription weight loss drug, called Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride), describing it as an adjunct to a healthy diet and exercise for chronic weight management. As with any drug, there are potential side effects; although none serious enough to prevent the FDA from giving the go ahead for use of this drug with people who have a BMI 30 or greater, or a BMI of 27 or greater with concurrent morbidities such as diabetes or high blood pressure. (Ideal BMI range is 18-25 and you can calculate yours here.) When someone has conditions that could be improved with weight loss, the benefits of taking the drug often outweigh the possible complications that could arise from taking the prescription medication. 

I find the results quite disappointing for a prescription weight-loss drug that works by helping to reduce appetite. Trial participants taking Belviq for up to one year lost an average of 3 to 3.7 percent of their body weight. For a 250-pound person this is 7.5 to 10 pounds--hardly a noticeable amount for an obese individual. To make these results even more discouraging, the trial also included counseling for lifestyle modification including a lower calorie diet and exercise. Take note, this means there is no chance that this is the magic pill you've been waiting for!

Another drug expected to receive approval some time in 2012 is Qnexa. This prescription is a combination of two drugs; one (phentermine) that acts as an appetite suppressant and the other (topiramate--prescribed as an anticonvulsant) found to have weight loss properties.  These studies show a little more promise for weight loss than Belviq, with study participants averaging closer to 10% loss of their initial body weight over a year or two. As with Belviq, the drug is supposed to be used in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise program.

Losing 10% of your body weight can, in many cases, improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels, even reducing the need for medication. So it's still a good plan if nothing's worked in the past to promote lasting weight loss. Perhaps taking the pill gives some people the little boost they need to get moving on their new diet and exercise regimen. But if you just eat a little less and move a little more, you could lose more weight in less time. And with zero potential for serious side effects.

For assistance with your weight loss, visit The Diet Coach.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Is the Clean Plate Club Keeping You Fat?

Last week I was seeing a new weight loss client who brought along her adult daughter, telling me, "We both want to lose weight".  I thought it was great they each had a support system and "diet buddy". They both told me about diets they had been on in the past, and how difficult they found it to lose weight and keep it off--stories I hear every day.
I like to remind my clients of some of the reasons it is difficult to lose weight. Humans, after all, are programmed to want to eat whenever food is available. Our race would not have survived if we did not want to eat at every opportunity, or were just satisfied with a few nuts and berries.
Unfortunately for people who want to lose weight, food is everywhere now, and very easy to get: Drive through fast food, candy bars at every check-out lane, hot dogs and donuts when you go inside to pay for your gasoline, snacks at work, donuts at meetings and appetizers at friends' homes.
And, research shows, the portions are so large now compared to a few decades ago. Grabbing a burger, fries and a soda can mean nearly twice the calories it used to, with double burgers, extra large fries, and 32-oz sodas being the norm. You can see just how much things have changed in this helpful program brought to you by the National Institute of Health called Portion Distortion.

This prompted a comment from the daughter about how large the servings are in restaurants. She told me about a place where she and her husband had dined recently: "We are never going back there. The plate of food he got was so humongous, he actually had to rest halfway through the meal. He had to stop and take a break before he could finish it all. And when we left he was uncomfortably full. We aren't going back there again--it was a terrible experience."

I was speechless. My first thought--which I had to suppress from exclaiming--was, "Am I on Candid Camera?" Did she really just blame the restaurant for giving her husband too much food? Did they actually not see any option, obvious to every other person out there? Have they never left food on their plate or asked for a take-home container?

Yes, it's hard enough in all our fast-paced and hectic lives, to ignore yummy calorie-dense foods tempting us at every turn, to find time to exercise, and to resist craving the immense satisfaction we get from savoring a sweet or salty snack. It's hard enough to stop eating something we like when there's more of it, or to plop down on the couch instead of lacing up our sneakers and going for a walk.

Weight loss is hard. Don't make it harder by persisting to be a member of the clean plate club; by eating everything that is in front of you all the time; by ignoring the signs your body is sending you: "Stomach Ache!!" it screams. "Stop eating now or you'll be sorry in the next 10 minutes!!"

Just listen.

There are a lot of ways to lose weight. Some are tough; they require structure and discipline, planning and changing, hard work and deprivation.
And sometimes it just requires that you stop eating when you're full.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Uncle Sam Whole Wheat Cereal by Attune Foods

I agreed to try a box of this cereal when a dietitian with Attune foods offered it to me. I have to admit, it's not something I would normally reach for on the grocery shelf. With the only ingredients being whole wheat, flaxseed, barley malt and salt, I really thought it would taste like sawdust.

What a surprise! Somehow it tastes like a sweetened cereal. It has lots of crunch, and is very satisfying. As soon as I tasted it, I started thinking of how I could use it in recipes: It would be great as a topper for peach crisp! Then I found out their website already offers dozens of recipes that use the cereal  ( How convenient.

With 10 grams of fiber in a serving, I had to stop myself from pouring a second bowl--I wasn't sure what kind of digestive consequences there could be from all the extra fiber. Happily, my GI tract loved it and I don't have to worry about unpleasant grumblings as is sometimes the case when a new fiber is introduced into the diet.

I still have to get used to those whole flaxseeds in the cereal. I love the wheat flakes, but the little seeds give a different mouthfeel and tend to get stuck in between teeth.

The upsides are plentiful, though: Whole grain, 10 grams of fiber per bowl, 7 grams of protein, and less than a gram of sugar. It's a great breakfast for me with a nice crunchy texture and keeps me full through the morning until lunch time.

I would definitely recommend trying it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies Are Yummy!

 I heard about these Fiber One Brownies and thought I would give them a try. I'm always looking for some redeeming value in a sweet food with otherwise empty calories. It's nice to be able to feel like I'm getting something good-for-you while enjoying a tasty treat. And with only 90 Calories, what have you got to lose?

What a great surprise these were! A really decent sized brownie (I was expecting something half the size) that is moist and cakey. It sure doesn't taste like fiber, but each yummy individually-wrapped brownie--drizzled with peanut butter frosting--has 5 grams of fiber.

I would eat these even if they couldn't boast 20 percent of the daily fiber recommendation, since they have only 90 calories. It's not easy to find something that tastes so good and lasts more than two bites with under a hundred calories.

I will definitely be picking up more of these next time I go to the grocery store.