The Right (& Wrong) Ways to Lose Weight

Written by: on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
woman strength training

Remember: cardio and strength training are both important parts of your exercise regimen.

Exercise is medicine, what you put into your mouth matters, and there are no quick fixes. These are the key messages worth a reminder as everyone is getting on the weight-loss bandwagon for the New Year. Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs (to say nothing of quality-of-life costs) are staggering, we need to figure out how to turn this ship around. Here are eight truths about diet and exercise that anyone trying to lose weight (or even maintain weight) and stay fit should know:

1) Miracle slim-down diets (aka “crash diets”) do not work. Is it true the less you eat, the more weight you will lose? No. A big slashing of calories poorly predicts how much weight you will lose because your body adapts to perceived “famine” conditions by conserving energy.

close up of broccoli

The secret to weight loss: a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (like broccoli), whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean meat and dairy (if you eat dairy).

In a three-month study, young, healthy women were given a diet to lose weight. One diet had a moderate (-400) calorie deficit; this group lost six pounds in 3 months. The other diet had a severe (-850) calorie deficit; that group lost only 8 pounds. This was far less than predicted and related to a drop in resting metabolic rate. The body’s ability to conserve energy is quite powerful! If you want to lose weight, plan to chip off just a few hundred calories at the end of the day, rather than starve yourself by under eating all day.

In fact, men who want to lose weight should not crash diet, either. They will lose not only muscle but also testosterone (a muscle-building hormone). In a three-week study, soldiers ate a high-protein diet (3 x the RDA; 2.4 g pro/kg/day) but under ate calories by 40% below the amount needed to maintain weight. While the very high-protein intake helped counter loss of muscle, it did not maintain testosterone levels. Remember: chipping off a few hundred calories is preferable to a chopping off a thousand. Two fewer cans of soda or beer a day can make a difference in weight!

2) It doesn’t matter how often you eat; what matters is calories. Are dieters better off eating three small meals plus three small snacks—or eating the same amount of calories but in just two meals? For two weeks, obese middle-age women ate calorie-controlled packets of food either two or six times a day. Either way, the subjects reported being hungry. Eating six smaller meals did not appear to improve appetite response. So take your choice how often you want to eat, being sure to keep the total calories within your daily calorie budget.

Cup of coffee

Coffee has many health benefits—thanks to its antioxidants—but weight loss is not one of them.

3) No, coffee can’t curb your appetite (sorry!). Many dieters drink coffee for breakfast, swearing it curbs their morning hunger pangs. Yet, a study with 12 subjects reported no differences in appetite (and subsequent food intake) when their breakfast and mid-morning beverages were 1) water, 2) water+caffeine, 3) decaffeinated coffee or 4) decaf+caffeine. At lunch (4.5 hours after breakfast), the subjects reported similar amounts of hunger and ate similar amount of calories, regardless of their caffeine intake. The coffee did not effectively curb their appetites.

4) Listen to your body. What happens to food intake when healthy college men who exercise regularly are told to sit for 10 additional hours a week for 8 weeks?  They naturally eat less! At baseline, the subjects ate about 2,600 calories a day (47% carb, 18% protein, 32% fat). When they were told to be more sedentary, they intuitively ate less than baseline. They chose the same foods, just smaller portions. Only 1 of the 8 subjects ate more than at baseline. The moral of the study: If you get injured and cannot exercise, your body can naturally desire fewer calories. The trick is to listen to your body’s cues.

5) Regular exercise does more than just keep you fit. Exercise can impact not only weight but also the kinds of microbes that grow in the gut. In mice, the kinds of microbes differ by 40% between sedentary lean and obese mice. Even mice made obese by a high-fat diet—but allowed to use an exercise wheel—had a lean phenotype compared to the sedentary obese mice with no access to the exercise wheel. The exercised mice had distinctly different gut microbes. We need more research to understand how exercise impacts gut microbes in humans and how those microbes impact metabolism and weight.

Dumbbells

Lifting weights boosts bone density and your resting metabolism (which is key to how many calories you burn a day).

6) You’ve got to lift weights. Female athletes commonly have low bone mineral density. Is this related to their being light in weight? Having low body fat? Less muscle? A study of 44 female D-1 athletes (from cross-country, tennis, basketball, and soccer teams) suggests that bone mineral density significantly relates to muscle mass. The more muscle, the better the bone density. Keep lifting those weights!

7) Any exercise is better than no exercise. Does very slow walking (1 mile/hour) on a treadmill desk offer any health benefits? Yes. In a study, 32 college students consumed 300 calories of glucose and then either 1) remained sedentary for two hours or 2) for two hours, alternated walking on a treadmill workstation for 30 minutes then sitting for 30 minutes. The results suggest even very slow walking helped with blood glucose control. Bottom line: being sedentary is deleterious to health.

8) Getting older? Make it a point to move more. Regular leisure-time exercise patterns drop from childhood to adolescence and become unacceptably low in adulthood. One reason may be that we spend many hours at our desks working—with little time for leisure or even vacation. This is why it’s even more important to make an effort to fit in exercise as often as possible. And try to get up from your desk at regular intervals….and walk (even around the office) if you can. Remember, every little bit helps!

“5 Ways My Life Has Improved Since I’ve Lost Weight”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Mother and daughters at Marine Park

I requested, actually insisted, on pictures with me in them! I am living this life now, not hiding behind the camera, documenting the enjoyment of others.

1) I can actually walk around an amusement park without becoming exhausted! Last week my girls and I went to Marineland and I pet a beluga whale, an unforgettable experience. The whale, Isis, was like a marine dog, eager for human interaction. The 3 of us (and my 76-year-old mother) walked miles around this park. It was easy. The last time I had the opportunity to walk around an amusement park I recall it being exhausting.

2) I can play with my children without getting winded. My girls and I spent another day bike riding, playing on a playground, and picnicking at a glorious county park. The same park where I met their dad, just about 11 years ago. The same park where he asked me to be his wife. I played with my kids, hung from monkey bars, ran through a field and biked back and forth up and down hills.

 3) I now seek out fun, active things to do with my family. A couple months ago we put a tandem kayak on layaway. Layaway. The last day of

Melissa Juliano's bikes in a local park

Our bikes after our fun ride in the park.

our vacation we picked it up and went paddling. We also got a zippy sit-on-top kayak for my older daughter, Payton. She named it “Tango.” The four of us spent a few hours exploring a creek off Chautauqua Lake. Certainly not a strenuous outing, but it was active and together. 

4) I can proudly say that I live a healthy lifestyle. For 15 years I have practiced medicine and become more disillusioned with what I am able to do to help people. Lifestyle is everything.  I take care of very old 50-year-old smokers and drinkers. The obese populate my hospital rooms with diabetes, hypertension, wounds that don’t heal, depression, sleep apnea. Patients come to the hospital toting their own C-PAP machines in plastic grocery bags. I dispense insulin with the regularity of Tylenol. I have to lead by example. My patients notice. Last night I walked into a room in the ER to admit a lady who has been my patient for years. Despite her distress, she squealed with delight when she saw me. She told me how good I looked and that I glowed (despite my complete exhaustion). And then she said that if I could do it, with my work schedule and sleep deprivation and stress and kids and home, that anyone could do it. Wow. That was some unexpected, much welcome and very gratifying, recognition of what I have accomplished thus far.

5) I finally have come to realize that you can be happy even if you haven’t reached your “goal” weight. I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down to do this blog post.  An apology to myself and whoever is reading for not losing 5 pounds a week seemed appropriate. But I ended up celebrating that I do not watch TV or laze away days sitting on my butt because I am too heavy and too old and too blah to do anything else. I do not idly hope that healthfulness will settle on me like a golden cloak. I do enjoy my ice cream and have given in to chocolate a distressing number of times, but I also walk, run, bike, paddle, hike, play, and move whenever possible. My lifestyle is so much healthier, active and rewarding. I will lose weight. It is inevitable as I slowly and steadily correct all the wrongs of my first 40 years. But it won’t be quick because there is no such thing as a quick fix. What’s most important is that I’m actually enjoying my life now. And that makes me incredibly happy—happier than any old number on the scale can make me.

 

 

 

“How I’m Ramping Up My Exercise”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Nobody is impressed by how good your excuses areI am feeling a little bit punchy today.  Yesterday I ran 55 minutes at an average pace of 12 minutes 32 seconds per mile for 4.40 miles. That was a workout. Remember I said I tried to avoid suffering? Well, it has become apparent to me that I will not move into the 100’s on the scale unless I do some suffering.

Lauren, my nutrition advisor from FOODTRAINERS, wants me to do more cardio. I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Today I did 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser that I downloaded from iTunes onto my iPad. Technology can be just plain cool. I would have felt guilty if I wasn’t suffering while watching this show. I followed the elliptical with about 20 minutes of weight work with my medicine ball, hand weights, and weighted bar. There was an Usher marathon on Pandora and my energy level was high.

Very early this morning while at work, I ate not 1 but 2 bowls of some sort of shepherds-pie-like-casserole concoction that the nursing supervisor’s husband made.  I ate it with gusto and had to STOP myself from going for a 3rd because it was so darn tasty and I was STARVING.  I could only estimate the calories…somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. That means the rest of the day is going to require a bit more vigilence in the calorie department. But it was well worth it!

 

 

“Nonfat is nonsense…and other great weight-loss nutrition tips!”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 19th, 2012

My first question is where did April go? I had such plans, so many goals. April got swallowed up by a series of unfortunate events in my life, but I have the reins on my weight-loss program again.

I have been eagerly awaiting my first bit of advice and direction from Lauren, my personal nutrition advisor, of FOODTRAINERS and it is here!

fresh whole strawberries in a cup

Moderation is key when eating anything, including fruit!

1. Fruit but don’t Overfruit. Fruit is low in calories and a part of any healthy regime. However, fruit is sugar and it’s possible to overdo it. I would stick to 2, max 3 1-cup portions of fruit a day. Additionally try to choose lower glycemic fruits such as berries, citrus, cantaloupe, apples, and pears. Also important given family history (and by that she means the diabetes on my father’s side).

I will struggle the most with limiting my fruit. It is just so handy, portable, and satisfying. Clearly, I “overfruit” now. 

2. Nonfat is often nonsense. I would switch nonfat yogurt to low fat. Nonfat to our bodies is higher in sugar. You also aren’t satiated with nonfat in the same way. Same for fat free half and half.

This is surprising, but not shocking. I always believed this but switched to non-fat to shave off precious calories. Fat back in my yogurt and half and half will be delightful and delectable!

3. Try a 3/4 day for portions. I told Lauren that portion sizes were difficult for me, so she recommended I pick 1 day (a non-work day) and do what she calls a “3/4 day”: Eat slowly, chew well and stop yourself 3/4 through your regular portion. Wait 3 to 5 minutes. If you can, stop the meal there. If you cannot, keep going. The goal is to stop and assess, that’s the first skill.

This piece of advice will also be tough but I am trying to model the eating behavior of my daughters who gloriously and unconsciously walk away when done —whether it is scrambled eggs or chocolate cake. I never want them to learn to clean the plate or finish it off just because it tastes  good. Somehow, I never learned to recognize or acknowledge being full enough and satisfied, but it is never too late!

how many grains you should be eating a day

This is how big your daily serving of grains should be...no more!

4. Trade off grains. Keep carbs/grains, cereal, bread, potatoes, rice, etc to 1 meal a day “fist” size (makes me wish I had a bigger hand!)

Prior to a number of stints with the Atkins Diet, I was a card-carrying carb loader. Thankfully, even though that was an impossible lifestyle to maintain, I did take a way a (nearly) firm control over grains, especially cereal. I should have no problem limiting my grains. They are more like treats to me anyway.

5. Drink plenty of water! Get 48 to 64 ounces per day plus 1 to 2 cups green tea (I will need a catheter!)

Water. Well, I guess I will just have to do it even it I don’t like it. I like unsweetened ice tea and make it by the gallons. Even my girls drink it. I will have to ask Lauren if that would be an acceptable substitute. I could always make iced green tea. Of course I don’t want to start out my nutrition tutoring with complaints!

4. Exercise. Work out 150 to 180 minutes a week (total as you go) with one day “longer” 50 to 60 min.

I have come a long, long way in terms of what I can accomplish physically and how often.  Lauren is advising I ramp it up for weight loss.  There are some days that will be very difficult to achieve but One Hour Workout on ValerieLatona.com

 

 

“Eggo Vs. Kashi: My Weight-Loss Breakfast Challenge”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Breakfast of this champion:  2 cups of coffee with 2 Tb fat free Half & Half, 2 Kashi blueberry whole grain waffles with 1 Tb Crofter’s Organic apricot preserves, ½ grapefruit with 1 tsp loosely packed brown sugar.

On Weight Watchers this was a 5-point breakfast. At my present weight I was allowed 30 points a day. Now I follow calories with My Fitness Pal. This breakfast is 283 calories. At my present weight I am allowed 1670 calories a day. I have eaten this breakfast just about every day for the last 13 months. I look forward to it!

I have another app on my iPhone to help me choose healthy foods: Fooducate. I used to eat Eggo Nutragrain Waffles. They were the same number of points as Kashi and very crispy and tasty. But Fooducate told me that Eggo has worse ingredients in it. I checked out the label (at bottom) and decided to switch to Kashi. The flavor is just as good but they aren’t quite as crispy. I can live with that. My children love them too and I don’t have to worry about excess junk in my morning breakfast!

Today’s exercise: 35-minute run on the treadmill. Then I got on the elliptical for 20 minutes more.  According to My Fitness Pal, I burned 778 calories doing cardio for 55 minutes. Holy Moses does exercise pay off!

Success Story: “How I lost almost half my body weight—and transformed my life”

Written by: on Friday, March 30th, 2012
I am SO incredibly inspired by Bryan Ganey; instead of opting for quick fixes, which never work, he opted the hard work route toward weight loss (diet and exercise). And in the process, he’s lost 292!!! pounds. (For anyone struggling to lose 10 or 15, it kind of puts things into perspective, right?)
Just look at these before and after pics!!

Before: 577 lbs

Now: 285 lbs

When I asked Bryan for his 5 tips for success, here’s what he had to say:
1.) Accept and understand the truth: there is no quick fix.  Everyone wants it to be easy, we’re so desperate to find the secret that we fool ourselves into believing there is one. There is not. Sustained weight management is very, very hard and that’s why almost everyone fails at it. However, difficult does not mean impossible, so you can do it. But you need to respect how difficult it is and avoid becoming arrogant when success comes easy, because failure is lurking around every corner. Avoid the trap of wanting it all right now, because that is temporary and temporary is not what you want.
2.) Buy and eat real food from the grocery store. You must walk away from the garbage…forever. Face the facts: you’ve had enough fast food, soda, and junk food to last three lifetimes. You don’t need any more. If you’re a food addict like me (see my “before picture for evidence of this) it is absolutely crucial that you never touch the trash food ever again. People tend to eat junk food not because they are undisciplined, but because they are hungry. You have to do the work and always have healthy food on hand. Pack your lunch and eat it. I stick with what I call “The 6 Food Groups:” fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and water.

3.) You must measure, weigh and write down everything you eat. Many people lie to themselves and others about how much they’re eating, but they really have no idea. Remember: everything you eat counts. Being overweight is being on the wrong end of a math problem, so you must add it up at the end of the day. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. As you eat many of the same things over and over, you will memorize their calorie content. There are websites and smart phone apps you can use to track your calorie consumption, or you can use a notepad and a pen like I do. Either way, you have to write it down. This will keep you accountable to yourself.

4.) Water must immediately become your beverage of choice. Water has many benefits, including being essential to life but it also will make you feel full and regulate your appetite. Some people don’t like the taste of water, but I believe you can’t have sustained weight loss without it. Try low-calorie drink mixes like Crystal Light or their generic equivalents to make it taste better if you have to. But drink a lot of water. I easily drink a gallon a day. Sodas (diet included) contain caffeine that will make you want to eat. I also associate soda with junk food and fast food, so I can’t have one without wanting the other. Don’t drink your calories.  Water is one of the few things (besides air) that doesn’t have any calories, so drink it early and often.

5.) Stay off the scale. It is tempting to weigh every day, because we all want the fast results. You must stop obsessing and worshiping the scale. Instead, weigh once every two weeks, maybe even once a month. Again, think long-term. You are losing weight for the rest of your life, not next week. Also, the purpose of the scale is to give you an idea of where you are. It’s not an end-all, be-all guide to your success. The scale has the power to make your day and it has the ability to ruin your day. Don’t let it. Weigh once to start, then not for awhile.

 

But cheer him on: tomorrow (March 31) he’s taking part in the Cooper River Bridge Run, a 10-K race in Charleston, South Carolina. Last year, Bryan walked this. This year, he’s hoping to run the entire thing! You can follow his blogs at ganeybypass.blogspot.com, but watch this inspiring news coverage of him before the race.

“My 3 weight-loss mantras…plus my new home exercise tool”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Melissa Juliano on Scale: Weight Loss Diary valerielatona.com

I LOVE this picture!!!

201. 201. 201. 201. 201.

In case you are not keeping up with my blog posts, this is my lowest weight in forever!!! And now I am soooooo close to being under 200 that I can taste it (and it tastes like sweat from a great workout). How I’m doing it:

1) Keep at it—no matter how de-motivated I become. Even when I don’t exercise, don’t get enough sleep (which is the norm), and don’t eat right (which happens sometimes)—I get right back on track the next day.

2) Exercise baby! I’m mixing up my workouts—to keep myself from getting bored and keep the results coming (see below for my new workout tool, which cost me $45—with free shipping from Amazon Prime—from amazon.com). I may not be able to do a half marathon yet  like my friends, but I’m doing the workouts that work for me and my life.

3) Never say diet. With two young girls at home, I want to promote healthy eating not deprivation! I’m eating healthy foods and indulging in sweets in moderation—the way eating should be! And I’m still losing!!! Yeah!!!

Random weight-loss thought for the day: my body doesn’t know and doesn’t care that I get on the scale once a week. My body will show me results when it is ready—and that may not be on weigh-in day! (…though sometimes it is!)

Weighted Exercise Bar on valerielatona.com

You can do so many strength-boosting exercises with this tool!

But I’m determined to kick some butt (and pounds!) with my new weighted exercise bar: 15 pounds. More to come on the workout I’m doing with it!

Eat Pizza and STILL Lose Weight: A new philosophy for bathing suit season

Written by: on Friday, March 16th, 2012
Fit woman in string bikini for valerielatona.com

Looking to look fab in a bikini (or bathing suit)? Try a no-diet approach to eating.

It’s almost bathing suit season. Like most people, you’re probably starting to panic because you’ll soon be shedding layers of winter clothing and exposing your body. Eeek!!!

When you have more flab than you want, fretting about excess body fat can easily lead to thoughts of dieting. And there are plenty of diets out there to choose from: Atkins, Paleo, Jenny Craig, the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Banana Diet,… Unfortunately, none of these diets work in the long run. After all, if diets did work, then everyone who has ever been on a diet would be lean. Not the case. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

Not only do fad diets not work, diets commonly backfire and contribute to weight gain in the long run. A study followed teens from middle school into high school and found that those students who were dieting at the time of the initial survey were worse off five years later. They were fatter, struggled with disordered eating or had an outright eating disorder, and achieved no benefits from their attempts to lose undesired body fat. Futile efforts.

girl on scale holding chocolate cake and an apple for valerielatona.com

Sometimes, choosing the chocolate cake over the healthier food might help you reach your desired weight

Why eating is preferable to dieting

Overweight teens commonly become adults who continue to struggle with food for the rest of their lives. That’s why, starting at an early age, we need to discourage dieting and instead focus on eating healthfully and appropriately. If you don’t go on a diet, you won’t “blow your diet,” gorge on cookies, and gain weight. Eating normally —enjoying appropriate amounts of wholesome foods when your body needs fuel during the day—leads to an appropriate weight.

Normal eating includes enjoying a good balance of wholesome foods, but not limiting yourself to only “healthy foods.” That is, you don’t have to have a perfect diet to have a good diet. A healthy food plan can include 85% to 90% “quality calories” and 10% to 15% “whatever.” Some days “whatever” is an apple; other days “whatever” is a cookie (or two or three).

Striving to eat a perfect diet commonly results in deprivation of foods you truly like to eat. You’ll inevitably end up bingeing on those foods, sooner or later. Think about it this way: If you put a little boy in a roomful of toys and tell him he can play with all the toys except for the green truck, what is the first toy he’ll reach for? Yup, the green truck. Hence, if you like chocolate cake, but tell yourself you shouldn’t eat it, what will you relentlessly hanker for? Yup, chocolate cake.

stack of chocolate chip cookies for valerielatona.com

Love chocolate chip cookies? Eat them...and you'll actually binge less.

How to take power away from food

The way to take power away from a “binge food” is to eat it more often, not stay away from it. For example, if you like chocolate cake, you should eat it every day until you get sick of it. Don’t believe me? Do this experiment: For one week, eat your binge food every day instead of your normal breakfast, lunch, snack, and/or dinner. (Don’t worry: you won’t die of malnutrition in a week.) Observe what happens. Chances are, after three days of chocolate cake, you’ll hanker for shredded wheat again. And even if you want to continue to eat cake, a recent study indicates you can still lose weight on the Chocolate Cake Diet. In this study, the subjects who enjoyed chocolate cake for breakfast had better dietary compliance and ended up losing more weight than the people who were instructed to eat  “diet foods.”

Ideally, you want to learn to enjoy a daily food plan that includes a variety of mostly wholesome foods that are satiating, health promoting, and tasty. You want to eat heartily at breakfast and lunch, to prevent energy lags and cravings for sweets. You want to plan an enjoyable afternoon “second lunch” that helps energize the end of your workday and curbs your appetite for dinner. Then, at night, you want to eat a little bit less—and lose undesired body fat when you are sleeping. The goal: To wake up ready for breakfast, and perpetuate the cycle of fueling by day, dieting by night.

While these suggestions to eat “normally” are seemingly simple, many dieters find the advice is hard to implement. They are afraid that once they start eating, they won’t stop. This over-compensation is “diet backlash,” strengthened by years of “last chance to eat cake so I’d better eat it all now before the diet starts again tomorrow.”

Believe me, there is definitely a more peaceful way to manage weight.

eat pizza and still lose weight for valerielatona.com

Start eating more of what you love and less diet foods...

What is “normal eating”?

The following information offers tips for how to eat appropriately. Please trust that appropriate eating will lead you to an appropriate weight. Eating specialist Ellyn Satter RD (www.EllynSatter.com), author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family offers a great “definition” of normal eating.

NORMAL EATING is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.

NORMAL EATING is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

NORMAL EATING is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored—or just because it feels good. Normal eating is three meals a day…or four or five—or it can be choosing to munch along the way.

NORMAL EATING is leaving some cookies on the plate now because you know you can have some again tomorrow—or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

NORMAL EATIG is overeating at times; feeling stuffed and uncomfortable—or it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

NORMAL EATING takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one [not more than that] important area of your life.

NORMAL EATING is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Isn’t it time we all start learning how to eat normally? Put this new philosophy into effect—and you’ll find that your weight stabilizes on its own … and that you’re much happier around food … and that you are much happier overall about your body.

Copyright Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD March 2012

 

Be Healthier: Make these 5 simple dietary changes today

Written by: on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

I have a slight confession to make: yesterday (Halloween) I ate WAY too much candy. I could blame the small, easy-to-grab candy sizes that manufacturers make and the fact that high-fructose corn syrup is addictive. But the truth is: my willpower crumbled as I sampled bite-size Milky Way bars, Milk Duds, Mike & Ike’s, Twizzlers, and more—all between visits by trick-or-treaters.

Chocolate holiday candy

Some researchers believe that eating too much sugar contributes to cancer.

Horrible. That’s the way I feel today as if I drank too much yesterday and woke up with a hangover.

But when you fall off the wagon, the next day you just pick yourself up and get back on track. That’s what I’m doing. But something else (besides just feeling like I have a sugar hangover) is motivating me: my dad just had stents put in two of his arteries, almost completely clogged due to coronary artery disease—which runs in the family. (His dad died of a heart attack in his 50s, his mom died of a stroke.) If that isn’t a wake-up call to eat healthier in general, then I don’t know what is.

While slight digressions in diet (ahem…what I went through yesterday) are okay every once in a while, what’s key is following simple dietary do’s and don’ts regularly—and getting almost daily exercise. You don’t need to overhaul everything you eat and become a strict vegan. That’s not it. Just incorporate a few of these changes into your diet, slowly, over time—and you’ll find you won’t feel deprived, you’ll lose weight, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll be healthier!

bowl of garbanzo beans

I love to add fiber-rich garbanzo beans to salads, rice, soups, and more!

1) Limit red meat. Who doesn’t love a juicy burger or steak? But this stuff simply isn’t healthy for you. Cut it out or limit it to once a week, or better yet, a couple of times a month, max. Substitute lean meat (sans the skin) or beans (my favorite) for much-needed protein.

2) Eat more fruits and veggies. Fresh is preferred but frozen works just as well (as long as there are no added sauces, seasonings, or sugar). At least nine (half-cup) servings a day is best.

3) Cut down on the sweets. I know it’s hard, particularly when faced (as I was yesterday) with a giant bowl of Halloween candy. But cutting down on it will give you more energy and make you healthier in the long run (this stuff, as I well know, is crazy addictive). Some researchers even believe that sugar is the food that cancer thrives on—cut it out and you’ll reduce your risk of developing cancer, they say.

4) Skip that white bread in favor of whole grain—and eat more whole grains while you’re at it. Break out of the box: try quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, millet, and more.

fresh herbs

Try adding chopped fresh herbs to all your dishes—and hold the salt shaker.

5) Pass on the salt shaker—or limit your use of it. Salt is like sugar: the more you use it, the more you become “addicted” to it. When you start cutting it out, you realize that you just don’t need much of it any more. Substitute fresh or dried herbs.

But eating the right thing isn’t easy: if it were, we’d have a whole lot of healthier people in this country. What is making it easier for people: just being released today is the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best diets http://health.usnews.com/best-diet, a super-helpful guide to what will help you meet your goals—whether it is to be healthy (which should always be your #1 priority) or lose weight. DASH (think: low sodium) diet ranks #1 http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet, followed closely by my own fave: the Mediterranean Diet http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet. Check it out: this ranking is simple, easy to understand, and offers clear descriptions (charts, scoring systems, recipe links, and more). You can even mix and match: pick a few bits of advice from each diet and incorporate them into your own.

But I digress: the key is that you’ve got to change your eating now—before health problems manifest themselves, as in my dad’s case.

And as for me, I’m tossing out all the leftover candy and taking it out to the garbage bin before my willpower weakens again!

 

The tough love truth about how to lose weight

Written by: on Sunday, October 16th, 2011

It’s New Year’s—and with the holiday and festivities (and holiday hang-overs) come the inevitable resolutions to lose weight. Before you get started on your diet, here are a few basic “tough love” facts about weight that are good to be aware of:

woman weighing herself on a scale

Don't avoid the scale: it can keep you on track.

1) Obesity starts with just a 5-pound weight gain. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again. People aren’t born obese, but they can certainly be heavy when they’re young (as we can see from the staggering numbers of children and adolescents now struggling with obesity). It can also happen to anyone at any age—and as you get older and your metabolism starts to slow down, it gets even easier to put on weight. It starts with gaining just a few pounds…and then a few more…and then even more. And that’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about your weight throughout your life; if you put on 5 pounds, work to take it off right away…as the more you gain, the harder it will get, guaranteed. If this means you have to weigh yourself every day or every week, so be it.

2) No one is to blame but you. Yes, we can point to the high fructose corn syrup in so many foods as the culprit; we can blame all those unhealthy fast food companies that make junk food cheaper to eat than healthier fare; we can point fingers at our genetic makeup, our emotions, our lack of willpower, our love of food… And sure, these may contribute to your weight gain, but the truth is: no one is forcing you to overeat. The only person you have to blame for putting on weight is yourself.

 

Weight Watchers location next to Porkys in Lindhurst, New Jersey

A real-life picture about how hard the choices in life are! (Actual picture from Lindhurst, New Jersey)

3) Nothing in life comes easy—and weight loss is no exception. For some reason, people today believe that losing weight should come fast—and most disturbing—easily. All it takes is one look at the preponderance of diet pills on the market, detox diets, miracle cures…and even—to some degree—gastric bypass surgery. The idea is that someone else can provide the cures to our problems, when in fact it all starts from the ability within oneself to change. But so many people today don’t look at their weight issues that way: they want solutions and they want someone else to provide them, fast … and essentially do the work for them. Bottom line is there is simply no substitute for changing, and cutting down on, what you eat and exercising regularly.

 

woman and man exercising outdoors

Make exercise a daily habit and you

4) You don’t like to exercise? Tough. There is no question that exercise—moving your body—is absolutely essential to keeping your body healthy. Yes, it’s hard sometimes—really, really hard—to get motivated, but it’s not optional. Period. And this starts in childhood: the more kids sit around and watch TV or use the computer, the less time they’re outside being active. I notice this firsthand with my son: in the winter, it’s hard to motivate him to get outdoors and he puts on weight as a result. But in the summer when he’s more active, he drops it naturally. I’ve found the same is true for me: if I don’t make it a priority to get to the gym—no matter what the season—I pack on pounds. (And just so you know: I’ve never been a skinny model type who doesn’t have to work out—and most people aren’t.) What it takes is at least 30 minutes of activity (walking, an exercise video, cardio, etc) most days. If you’re able to get in 3 to 4 days a week, that works. The key: this is not a program that you’re doing for 3 or 4 or 5 months to slim down for some event or trip. This is for life.

5) If you’re an obese woman, you will have a tougher time in life than a man. This fact disturbs me too but it’s true. Last year, the journal Obesity published a study suggesting that obesity was a political asset — in men, not in women, despite what people were saying recently about Chris Christie. The truth is: no matter how much you try to deny it, you will be looked at differently than your thinner peers. Rather than getting steamed up about it, use that energy to do something about it. Make a commitment to be healthier for you. And I can guarantee you that you’ll not only feel better about yourself, you’ll be healthier and you’ll exude more confidence. And that goes a long way in your job and in your life.

And for any of you who might get angry by my words here, saying things like: “You don’t know how difficult it is, you haven’t been there,” I can say this: With each of my pregnancies, I gained 50 to 70 pounds. No I wasn’t obese, but I was definitely much heavier after giving birth. And I can tell you that I had to work hard to get my weight back down: it took time (almost a year after each pregnancy), consistent exercise (even on days when I did not want to do anything!), and willpower, but slowly and steadily the weight came off. And the same holds true for everyone who follows these simple tough-love rules.

The beauty of weight loss is that everyone can do it—and keep it off for good.