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 :)