Weight Loss is a Journey, Not a Destination

Over 70 million people in the United States attempt to lose weight each year and spend more than $30 billion in the process.  Many will be successful at losing the initial weight; however sadly most will be unable to keep it off for very long.   Why is this the case?

I believe part of the problem lies within the fact that most people who set out to lose weight do so without anticipating (or perhaps wanting to anticipate) that their weight issues will continue beyond the point of their initial weight loss phase.  We have a sort of euphoric belief that somehow anything and everything will be better once we lose weight- and the issues and/or behaviors throughout our life that brought us to our heaviest weight will kindly go away.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Then sooner or later, the nasty truth begins to emerge, “You mean I have to watch what I eat for the rest of my life if I want to keep it off?”

If you are beginning to grapple with this harsh reality, congratulations!  You are among the minority of people who have discovered that weight management is a journey, not a destination.  People who are successful at losing and keeping off the weight forgo the so-called crash diets mostly because they realize that the faster they lose it, the faster they gain it back.  A healthy rate of weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week.  If you are losing more than that, chances are you are losing more than fat-you’re probably losing muscle as well.  This drop in muscle mass is what contributes in part to the rapid regaining of weight during the maintenance phase, and it’s your muscle mass that is largely responsible for increasing your metabolic rate. 

But the real benefit to losing weight at a slower, healthier rate is something entirely different which has more to do with taking in the sights along the way.  You’ll discover your likes, dislikes, behaviors and habits, that may have contributed in some way to your weight gain in the first place and have an opportunity to address each in a way you wouldn’t normally had you plowed through the weight loss phase of your journey at 100 miles per hour. 

We all want to lose weight quickly.  But if you want this time to be the last time, you have to take the time.  Remember, it’s not about the speed of losing the weight, but about the journey.

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Grillin’ Up Some Color

When we think of summer, we usually think backyard barbeques.  What a better way to gather friends and family to share up some good eats.  This year why not try grilling up more than just the standard fare of burgers and dogs-lets grill up some color.  Brightly colored fruits and veggies can be grilled up and turned into fantastic side dishes (or main dishes) which can add a beautiful touch to your backyard feast.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

Grilled Fruit Kabobs

Alternate sliced fresh peaches, strawberries and canned chunk pineapple on skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 15 minutes.  Lightly grill while brushing with a simple balsamic honey glaze.

Grilled Fruit Kabob Glaze

(makes enough for 8 kabobs)

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of honey

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Firecracker Veggies

Alternate quartered onions, 1 inch slices of yellow squash and zucchini, as well as red and yellow bell pepper along the soaked skewers as above.  While grilling, brush with this tangy sweet sauce that packs a little peppery kick.

Firecracker Sauce

(makes enough for 8 kabobs)

1/4 cup(s) fresh lime juice

1/4 cup(s) honey

2 tablespoon(s) ketchup

2 tablespoon(s) olive oil

2 tablespoon(s) soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon(s) crushed red-pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

These are just a few suggestions, get creative!  Try other vegetables such as mushrooms, potatoes, and asparagus which are all delicious when grilled.  Think outside the box and color up your meals this summer.

To Snack or Not To Snack…That Isn’t The Question

The great snack debate is one that has embattled many of so-called “dieters” for decades.  It’s roots were planted at a time when doctors offered advice to their patients who wanted to shed a few pounds that sounded something like this, “If you want to lose weight, you need to cut out all your snacks in-between meals.”  This may have worked well at a time where most people sat down to three regular meals each day, possibly around a family table (think Ozzie and Harriet) to consume their food.  However, by today’s standard, it’s a rarity when a family has a single meal together, let alone three!  Family members always seem to be going in different directions with their schedules, and most tend to grab food on the run.  And often times what we grab isn’t what we would consider a meal, but rather a snack to hold us over until our next meal.   

New research released last week from the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting indicated that what we consider as snacks (including what we drink between meals), comprises more than 25 percent of our total calorie intake every day.  On average, this equals about 580 extra and usually unaccounted for calories each day.

Most people would probably say at this point, “So what?  500 or so extra calories isn’t that much and besides if I’m really concerned about it, I’ll just do a few more minutes on the treadmill and burn it off in no time.”  To test this theory, let’s apply a little math:

500 extra calories a day (above what you use) = 3,500 extra calories a week

Based on metabolic equations- 3,500 extra calories a week = 1 pound of weight gain/week or 52 pounds of potential weight gain each year!

Now you’re convinced that the extra few minutes on the treadmill everyday will take care of those pesky calories.  The average 150 pound person would have to be on that treadmill 1 full hour extra each day to burn off approximately 450 calories-not even reaching the target of 500.  Most already have difficulties finding a few minutes to sit down to a healthy meal- who realistically will make the commitment to an extra hour or more of exercise?

It’s All About Choice

Asking people to stop eating snacks and begin sitting down to 3 meals a day at home is unrealistic.  The issue isn’t whether or not to partake in snacking, but rather look at making some smart choices that will work to stretch your calorie budget over the course of the day.  Moral of the story…choose wisely.  If you are among the many that find yourself eating on the run, opt for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.  Choose grilled over fried, fresh over processed, and if weight control is one of your goals-make every effort to include low calorie/high fiber options like fruits, veggies, and whole grain products like oatmeal, popcorn, or whole wheat crackers.  The extra fiber will help keep you fuller longer thus making it less likely you’ll be tempted to grab another snack before your next meal.  Plus, it may also help prevent you from becoming overly hungry which can prove disastrous on a weight loss plan.

Beverage Calories

Make every attempt to avoid drinking your calories.  The calories we get from beverages can really pack a 1-2 punch.  They not only add up and contribute to our overall intake each day, but sweet beverages can spike blood sugar levels and often leave us hungrier in the end as those levels quickly take a dive in an attempt to return to normal.

Size Does Matter

Lastly and probably the most important, portion control.  Our best defense to guard against unwanted weight gain is to keep our portions in check.  A couple weeks ago, I covered information about the new USDA MyPlate educational materials.  One of the major objectives of this program is to help people understand appropriate portion sizes.  Because at the end of the day, all calories not used by the body regardless of whether they come from carbohydrates, protein or fat, will result in potential weight gain.

Is Your Fitness Routine Lapse More Like a Collapse?

Maintaining motivation to exercise is one of those topics that so many have written on because it’s a problem that affects everyone.  Motivation is not like a switch that we can readily be turned off and on.  Rather I see it more like a thermostat with degrees of motivation running along a constant slide.  Once at a predetermined temperature, your internal call to action kicks in and you find yourself willing to get out there and exercise. When we are super motivated, we don’t dread the thought of exercise.  We look at it as an opportunity to get healthier every day.  On the other hand, when we lack motivation, exercise can be the chore that manages quite nicely to get put onto the back burner.  It’s amazing how many things we’ll find to do to avoid exercise; clean the garage, wash the dog, organizing the junk drawer, pay bills, slop the hogs, etc.  And those things we don’t find to do, we’ll just make them up.  

We can joke about this because we’ve all been there.  The truth is motivation comes and goes.  You may find yourself on a roll for a little while then slowly the temperature drops in your thermostat and your exercise bouts begin to get fewer and farther between.  Here’s the key… recognition.  Recognize when your motivation is beginning to wane and guess what- stick it out baby.  Continue your fitness routine any way you can because eventually what goes down must come up.  I guarantee your motivation will pick back up eventually but those who let their exercise lapse turn into a collapse will not be around when the motivation thermostat starts to rise again.  Likewise, those who stuck it out and just continued along business as usual will be that much further down the path towards their goals.  

It’s easy to say, just stick it out and I certainly understand firsthand how difficult it is to actually put that into practice.  My motivation came and went a million times as I was losing my 172 pounds.  When my motivation was hovering somewhere between the dumps and the abyss, I used a number of things to get it going again like trying a different exercise activity, downloading some new music, etc.  I’ve even bought new workout outfits all in the name of motivation of course.  

Lastly, remember to cut yourself some slack.  We are all a “work in progress” and far from perfect.  If you don’t make it out there today, look at some of the motivation tactics and try again tomorrow.  By only concentrating on the things that we are not doing right, chances are we’ll miss the things we are doing right.

Move Over Food Pyramid: It’s Time To “Plate Up” Some New Education Tools.

 

Over the last 20 years, the food pyramid has served as a major nutritional icon.  On June 2, 2011, First Lady, Michelle Obama along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled in a press release the latest tool to aid in the battle of obesity, MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov). 

MyPlate, the new symbol of appropriately balanced meals, will replace the iconic Food Pyramid.  The new graphics are designed to be consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January this year.

The basic messages contained in the new guidelines are as follows:

Balance Calories

• Enjoy your food, but in smaller amounts

• Avoid oversized meals

Foods to Increase

• Aim for half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) dairy products.

• Make at least half your grains the whole variety

Foods to Reduce

• Note the sodium (salt) in various foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and  choose those with lower numbers.

• Aim for drinking water as opposed to sugary beverages.

The idea of using a plate to help educate individuals on appropriate portion sizes is not a new concept.  The truth is that dietitians and nutritionists have been using education tools very similar to these new graphics for years with many of their clients.  The reason being is that a plate is something that everyone can relate to as it’s considerably less abstract than the food pyramids of the past.  It’s also quite adaptable so that no matter what kind of diet a person follows, the graphic can be utilized to illustrate portions in relation to the various food groups.

A major downfall of this new graphic has to do with the fact that it lacks the incorporation of exercise represented in the former Food Pyramid icon.  The figure climbing the side of the pyramid symbolized the need for physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Just as the new icon shows the importance of balance in your meals, we also need to balance a healthy lifestyle with the incorporation of physical activity. 

It’s my hope that as this new campaign rolls out over the next several months, the importance of physical activity for weight management, improved health and ultimately disease prevention will be emphasized either through the initiatives set forth in the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign or through additional education tools that support the new MyPlate program.

Lighten Up! Your Meals That Is…

Summer is here and like it or not, it’s time to start thinking about warm weather clothes, getting back into that old bathing suit and possibly shedding a few pounds that seemed to have cropped up out of nowhere.  Whether weight loss is a goal or not, this time of year marks a need for fast, easy to prepare meals, that are light and nutritious with preferably no stove or oven required.

Time is of the Essence

If you find yourself short on time, salads can offer a great way to get you in and out of the kitchen in no time.  It’s now easier than ever to prepare tasty salads at home with the help of convenient offerings in the produce department at your local grocery store.  Salads can easily be prepared using pre-washed salad greens in various varieties and pre-cut items such as carrots, celery, or even jicama sticks.  Additional ingredients that are always helpful to have on hand are pre-shredded cheeses, dried fruit such as cranberries, apricots, or raisins, and packaged nuts such as slivered toasted almonds or walnuts.  Adding meat to your salad can be a snap.  Pre-grilled chicken strips in the package or imitation crab meat are simple ways of getting in a protein punch. 

Leftover Surprise

For a unique twist on the plain old green salad, try adding that something extra with leftovers.  Yes, I said leftovers.  Now, before anyone crinkles up their nose in disgust, think about it.  Leftover beef or chicken can be easily sliced up and portioned into zip top bags before storing after a meal thereby making it readily available to add to the top of any salad at a later time. 

We eat a lot of stir-fry meals at our home for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, they are easy.  Who’s kidding who here…stir-fry is the original one pot meal!  They are quick, tasty and you have the opportunity of introducing a variety of veggies for plenty of color which equals plenty of nutrients.  Best of all, stir-fry meals can be very light in the calorie department which is always a plus!     And in case you were wondering, stir-fry leftovers on a salad? – Why not.  Been there, done it and it’s fabulous!

Ever hear the expression – Cook once, eat twice?  I live by those words.  Who has time to cook full meals every single day-I know I don’t.  I get out of cooking any way I can by planning all meals out at the beginning of the week.  This not only keeps my diet in check but also helps me map out strategies for precooking certain foods while the kitchen is still in an uproar and I’m still in cooking mode.

Variety is the Spice of Life

A sure fire way to lose momentum in a good eating plan is to become monotonous in your food selections.  Eating the same types of foods too often leads to boredom thereby making it more likely that we will abandon our healthy intentions.  Be open to trying out new foods.  Experiment with different or unusual spices that add new flavors as well as textures to your meals.  Remember that a good diet is one that can be followed for many years to come in order to maintain a desirable body weight and optimal health.  Eating is one of life’s pleasures and who wants to eat the same boring things over and over for the rest of their life?

What’s The Real Threat For Women?

Pop Quiz: What disease is the #1 cause of death for women?  If you said breast cancer, you would be wrong – it’s heart disease.  Typically, heart disease and stress related problems were associated with men and their health.  But changes in our society, eating habits, and lifestyles have turned the tables.

Studies show that diet and exercise along with maintaining a healthy weight are key factors in controlling or lowering your risk for heart disease. This includes simple things like reducing your salt intake, avoiding risky habits such as smoking, or learning to control other risk factors and health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. 

In fact, high blood pressure is one of the riskiest symptoms.  Known as the “silent killer, many individuals with high blood pressure don’t feel different – no sickness, no dizziness, nothing till it’s too late.  That’s why diet combined with an overall healthy lifestyle is important in reducing heart disease – it helps control your blood pressure.  It’s best to take a proactive approach and have your blood pressure checked whenever you visit your healthcare provider or clinic.

And, although heart disease does run in families, a person can develop problems or be at risk for a number of other reasons.  The combination of birth control pills and smoking has been found to increase a woman’s risk for heart disease.  Misuse or altering hormones for menopause without your doctor’s knowledge can also lead to problems.

Signs and symptoms that are commonly thought to signal a heart program such as a sharp pain in your chest (known as angina) can differ quite a bit in women.  Aside from this typical sharp pain in the chest, women may also experience other feelings such as extreme fatigue, an achy or tight, heavy feeling.  Also, if there is pain, it could be pain in the back somewhere between the shoulder blades rather than the chest.  Of course, there are other indicators such as trouble breathing or sleeping, constant feelings of nervousness or unusual headaches, or even sick to your stomach.

People often feel a number of these symptoms and the cause can certainly be related to something other than heart problems.  Regardless, it’s best to discuss any concerns with your medical provider to help you avoid one of the deadliest diseases for women.