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!

“11 confidence-boosting thoughts about being healthy”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
Melissa Juliano: Weight Loss Diarist for Valerielatona.com

I never say "diet" around my girls; I want to teach them about healthy eating so they never have to go through what I'm going through now.

Last week my weight on weigh-in day was 204. Today it is 205 on weigh-in day. I am disgusted. I am frustrated. I am pissed off. I know what I am doing wrong. I’m just not sure why it is so wrong that I gain. I think about throwing in the towel and just eating and being happy but problem is eating didn’t make me happy and neither did being huge. I love how I feel and I want more of it. So the only way to get that is to work harder.

Random Positive Thoughts about Being Smaller and Healthier:

1. My hips fit in most chairs!
2. I can ski with my daughters!
3. Although I don’t go far or fast I am a runner!
4. I weigh less than my husband!
5. I don’t have to buy plus size clothes anymore!
6. I love looking at athletic clothes, buying them and wearing them!
7. I am beating back the physical, psychological, emotional damage of sleep deprivation and being a night worker by eating right, losing weight, and exercising!
8. I am teaching my daughters to be healthy, move every day, to eat when hungry, and to do something (instead of eating) when bored!
9. I have motivated quite a few people to get moving and lose weight. Some are even blowing me away in what they are accomplishing!
10. My patients see my struggles and my successes and know I understand theirs!
11. I feel gooooooood!
That was helpful. Who needs therapy when I have me! Now to plan my workout and dinner. Onward and upward!

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.

 

How to Lose Weight—So it Stays Off for Good

Written by: on Saturday, August 6th, 2011
Woman weighing herself on scale

Go easy on yourself! Your frustrating lack of weight loss may have nothing to do with lack of willpower!

How to lose weight is the number one reason people choose to make a nutrition appointment with me. They express frustration they “cannot do something as simple as lose a few pounds.” While few of my clients are obese, their frustrations match those of dieters in the general population.

At a conference presented by Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center (July 13-14, 2011), researchers addressed some of the issues that contribute to difficulty losing weight. Perhaps the following highlights might offer insights if you are among the many [people] who struggle with shedding some unwanted body fat.

Why gaining weight is so easy
• To the detriment of our health, we are living in a food carnival. No wonder today’s kids enter adulthood 20 pounds heavier than in 1960! By the time kids are 4 to 5 years old, 60 percent of them have lost the ability to self-regulate food intake.

• Most people believe that obesity is a matter of will power, but it’s not that simple. For example, in obese people, the brain’s response to food odors and flavors is often blunted. Compared to lean people, they need more of a food to experience a positive brain response.

French fries

Some people may be more predisposed to eating junk food than others.

 

• When stressed, obese people (more so than their lean counterparts) seek high fat foods. Chips, ice cream, fries…

• Impulsivity, a genetic trait, is a risk factor for obesity. That is, obese people (more than their lean counterparts) tend to impulsively eat, let’s say, the whole plate of cookies.

• Food advertisements are designed to encourage impulsive consumption. Food advertisers know that marketing “works”—and kids who watch TV are a prime target. The average child sees an average of 13 food ads a day on TV; most of these foods are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

In fact, research with children who watched TV with four ads for food ate 45 percent more Goldfish Crackers (100 calories more) when exposed to the ads for food as compared to when they watched four ads for games. The kids who liked the taste of Goldfish ate even more calories!

Plus, foods marketed with a character (such as Scooby-Doo) sell better. Fifty-two percent of pre-schoolers said the character-food tasted better (as opposed to 38 percent who said it tasted the same, and 10 percent who said food without the character tasted better).

• When the calories are listed near a food, as is happening in many fast food restaurants, some people choose the foods with higher calories, believing it will be yummier. That response certainly negates the intention of the calorie campaign!

• People make an average of 200 food choices in a day; all these decisions can deplete our limited mental “resources” that govern self-regulation. That’s one reason why, at the end of a hectic day, you can more easily overeat. You lack the mental resources to say “no” to that tempting cookie…

bags of chips at the supermarket

So many choices...so little nutrition!

 

• The standard supermarket diet is rich in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. It causes obesity in rats. That is, rats fed standard rat chow maintained a normal weight. But rats fed a standard supermarket diet ended up overweight—until researchers took away that food. The rats then lost weight when they returned to eating rat chow. There’s little doubt that fats, sugar, and salt stimulate us to eat more than we need!

The food industry’s bottom line is always profits. When Pepsi started marketing more of its healthy products, sales of the unhealthy products dropped. The stockholders complained—and that puts the food industry in a bind.

How to lose weight—so it stays off for good

Drugs are not the answer. For the past 20 years, no successful weight-loss drugs have been developed and none are in sight in the near future. Drugs that regulate appetite also impact many other regulatory centers and create undesired side effects. Hence, we need to learn how to manage the obesity problem at its roots—and that means prevent excessive fat gain in the first place, starting in childhood. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

• Reduce your food intake by using your imagination. That is, if you imagine eating a food, let’s say, ice cream, you can eat less of it.

• Technology offers a glimmer of hope in the battle of the bulge. A free application for iPhones called Lose It! has created a thriving weight loss community, as measured by 7.5 million free app downloads since October 2010. The web version, www.LoseIt.com, is just as popular. LoseIt! members can conveniently and easily track their food and calorie intake.

Lose It! includes a social network. Dieters seem to prefer online support from people they do not know, as opposed to involving their family and friends with their dieting progress (or lack there of). LoseIt!’s social groups are created according to goals. Dieters can easily (and anonymously) connect with and get support from others with similar goals. In fact, the best predictor of weight loss success with LoseIt! is having three or more Lose It! buddies.

baby carrots

If an ad campaign can increase sales of baby carrots, imagine what one could do for other fruits and veggies!

 

• Food advertisements are designed to trigger certain pleasure centers. (For example, McDonald’s is associated with happiness.) We now need to learn how to advertise healthy foods. The baby carrot campaign to “eat ‘em like junk food” has boosted sales 10 percent—including a new demand for baby carrots in school vending machines.

• We can change our brain circuits by substituting food with another stimuli, such as exercise. Exercise does more than burn calories to control weight; exercise changes the reward systems in the brain.

Exercise also supports self-control. That is, people who exercise have greater control over what they eat. They also have more control over sticking with their exercise program. Successful exercisers are able to make exercise a habit, and not a choice. Having one less decision to make bolsters their mental resources so they can cope better overall.

A final thought: Somehow we need to change the perception that eating supermarket foods loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated fats gives us satisfaction. A few years ago, we changed the perception that smoking is satisfying. Parents stopped smoking when kids came home and said “Mom, Dad, please don’t smoke.” Today, we need kids to start saying “Mom, Dad, please don’t take me to McDonald’s.” Will that day ever come…?

__________________________________________________________
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD August 2011

 

Why those New Year’s diet resolutions are wavering right about now

Written by: on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
New year's resolutions

Stop focusing on the scale and start focusing on how you feel.

I’m a positive person and I’m a big believer that once you set your mind to something, you can succeed…in most cases, so-called “dieting” is not one of them. There’s a reason the diet industry is huge—and people gain back most of the weight they lost during a so-called “diet”. Let me explain…

Like many women, I’ve been on many diets in my lifetime—you name it, I’ve tried it. The low-carb diet, the low-fat diet, the low-cal diet, the low-food diet…the list goes on. And not ONE of them has worked long term. The reason: you set yourself up to not be able to have something (um…like the food you want or that your body is craving)—and the mind rebels and sets you up for a binge. “If you’re not going to feed me, I’m going to make you unable to resist that plate of cookies, loaf of fresh bread, chocolate cake, bag of chips, pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…” Plenty of research proves that theory. But not being on a formal diet is what has helped me drop 4 dress sizes (I used to be a size 14—and now am a 6—after my toddler daughter was born) and get down to my lowest weight in years.

So it’s now mid January, right about that time when the most stringent diets followed resolutely since New Year’s Day are wavering. Deprivation has set in (no sweets, no to that snack you’re desperately wanting, no to that second helping of pasta your body is calling out for…) and you’re about ready for a binge—and the downfall of your best weight-loss intentions. I’ve been there—many times. And the keys to losing weight long term are simple. Here’s what has worked for me—put these into practice, whether you’re looking to lose weight or not—and you’ll be guaranteed long-term success (meaning that fabulous pair of pants you love WILL fit you from year to year…a great thing!):

1.) Don’t set a deadline for yourself. I used to mark 2 pounds every week on my calendar with an end “dream” weight day marked with a big star. If you do that—or have set up an ultimate deadline to drop the weight (your wedding, that high-school reunion, etc)—change that immediately. You set yourself up for panic and stress if your body doesn’t drop the amount of weight you think you SHOULD be losing—and this panic and stress can lead to feelings of failure and the “Oh, well, I’ll never get there…so I might as well have that piece of chocolate cake” attitude. Post event, you are also more likely to go back to your old ways of eating—and with that, your old weight.

2) Stop thinking about food every single second of every single day. I can remember logging everything into my food journal (sip of tea with milk and sugar, check; half a cup of milk, check; three carrot sticks, check; half turkey sandwich with one piece of lettuce and one slice (or darn, was it two??) of tomato…and the list goes on). All I thought about was food! “How many calories does this have?” “What time is it” “Is it time to eat that sandwich I packed for lunch?” “What am I going to have for dinner?” I think about all the energy I wasted thinking about what I was going to put in my mouth—and no wonder I found dieting draining. While all the experts say that keeping a food journal is the key to long-term weight-loss success—and it can be, in the short term, for those who need to just understand how much they’re putting in their mouths—I personally have found it to be a waste of time, energy and focus!

3) Eat what you want; just eat it in moderation. Craving a bagel for breakfast, have half, and move on. Want a burger for lunch; have it without a bun and a side salad. Want that plate of pasta for dinner, go ahead and eat it instead of ordering the tasteless and totally unappetizing salad with the dressing on the side. Craving a cupcake, go ahead and have it! And please who invented “skim” or “fat-free” milk??? That is the most godawful tasting drink on the planet. I remember drinking it for years because it was lower in calories and fat—and I hated it. But never again. When I’m drinking milk, it’s 2% or bust for me.

4) Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Learn to love them—and experiment with different kinds. You need to cover at least half your plate at lunch and dinner with veggies (no, you don’t need to measure them out!); just make sure they’re not drenched in butter or heavy sauce! Have fruit or veggies for snacks (with a protein like peanut butter or hummus).

5) Drink plenty of water. Just keep a water bottle with you at all times and do not drink soda. That cuts out a tremendous amount of calories and sugar right there. Once in awhile, I’ll have a ginger ale; I treat it like a treat, rather than a daily necessity. And I drink the full-sugar kind…so it really feels like an indulgence.

6) Eat a good breakfast. I read somewhere to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a pauper. Well, I’m not an advocate of eating any meal like a pauper exactly…but the idea is that breakfast should be your heartiest and healthiest meal of the day. It fills you up, keeps you full until lunchtime, and sets you up on the right path the rest of the day. (I LOVE steel-cut oats with almonds, dried cranberries, a tiny bit of coconut, cinnamon, and agave nectar in the morning: how many calories does it have? I have no idea and truly don’t care in my non-dieter’s mindset.)

7) Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. I found that I really dropped weight when I started going to bed early (I’m in bed by 10 at the latest). The later you stay up, the more tired you feel the next day and the more likely you are to reach for empty calories to give you instant energy. (You’re also less likely to wander over to the kitchen after hours for a snack.)

8) Exercise at least 3-4 times a week, no excuses. This is last, but definitely not least. Get moving and you’ll find—as I have—that your appetite is naturally controlled, your motivation is up, and you want to eat healthier. I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning, before breakfast and before the to-do list starts piling up, is the best way to start you off on the right foot.

The bottom line is listen to your body: if it’s hungry, have something to eat; if you’re tired, go to sleep; and get moving. By listening to your body, you’ll become more in tune with it—and the result will be a body you can feel truly proud of. And by not obsessing, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the weight comes off, and more importantly, stays off.